Take a look at your sink, washing machine, and teakettle. Do you see stubborn soap scum and mineral deposits that can only be removed with extra scrubbing? Hard water is the culprit.
To achieve crystal-clear water glasses and streakless pots and pans, many people install a water softener.
“Water softeners are a great investment if your water supply is high in mineral content, a condition known as hard water,” says Paul Abrams, a spokesperson for Roto-Rooter Services in Cincinnati.
A whopping 90% of households have hard water, which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium.
Water softeners work by replacing those minerals with a softer mineral of sodium or potassium, and can transform your everyday water experience.
But a water softener isn't cheap. A high-end water softener will cost about $1,800, while installing it can cost anywhere from $400 to $4,000. So is buying a water softener worth it for homeowners? Here are some factors to weigh.
Pro: Efficient pipes and appliances
Since hard water has high traces of calcium and magnesium ions, it can create limescale and damage your home’s internal heating, plumbing systems, and appliances.
Abrams says hard water can damage water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, ice makers, faucets, shower-heads, and all the parts inside your toilet tank. Switching to soft water can put an end to that.
“A water softener will reduce wear and tear on each of these fixtures and appliances and help to extend their useful lives," says Abrams. "And if you have glass shower doors, they’ll be much easier to clean if you have softer water.”
Con: The cost can be high
The initial price of a water softener, plus installation, can cost homeowners anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
The cost of a water softener depends on how large your household is, the hardness of your water, and the type of system you choose.
Larger homes (in terms of square footage), with more occupants and lots of hard water, will require a more heavy-duty system to remove the minerals.
A high-end 75,000-grain capacity water softener will cost about $1,800, according to Angie's List.
Installation by a professional can also get super pricey, at up to as high as $4,000.
Some experts, though, believe there are ways to stay within your budget.
“There’s no need to purchase a very high-end water softening system," Abrams says. "A simple $300-$400 water softener will do a great job for many years—the average life expectancy is 12 years—and will do almost everything that a $2,000 unit will do.”
Ruben Rodriguez, operations manager at the Texas headquarters of the Bosworth Company, which provides HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services, says some companies will even lease softeners, alleviating some of the upfront cost.
Still, adding a large appliance to your home requires forethought and consideration for your budget.
Pro: Nicer laundry, skin, and hair
“After using a water softener, the brightness of your clothes will stay intact longer, your skin will be softer, and you will use less soap, as soft water will not dilute as much,” says Rodriguez.
Hard water can create build up on your hair and make it look dry and brittle. It can also dry out your skin—so soft water can be better for skin conditions like eczema.
Water softeners require salt maintenance to keep the unit functioning.
“This means lugging up to four 40-pound bags of salt home from the grocery store and pouring them into the softener’s storage tank,” says Abrams.
He says a tank will need to be filled up with salt three or four times a year, and can cost about $25 per fill or $100 per year.
Pro: No more stinky water
Hard water tends to have an earthy or sulfurous scent and a chalky or chemical taste. A water softener will improve the smell, taste, and look of your water. The big bonus: no more mineral spots on glassware.
Con: Slippery feel and loss of mineral content
One of the biggest complaints about soft water is that it leaves a slippery feel on your skin that requires getting used to. It also may not be suitable for drinking or cooking, as there are potential health effects from additional sodium for those with high blood pressure.
And you may be reducing your daily mineral intake, since, according to the World Health Organization, drinking water may be a good source of calcium and magnesium in the diet.
However, this can be resolved by having an unsoftened tap, or by using bottled or filtered water for cooking and drinking, such as through a pitcher filter.
Is a water softener a good investment?
“Purchasing a softener can be an upfront investment, but the benefits will save you money on appliances, clothes, and fixtures in the long run,” says Rodriguez.
Before purchasing a water softener, Abrams suggests talking with friends and neighbors about the water-softening solutions they chose and why.
“Do your homework, check online reviews, watch YouTube videos, and find the unit that is right for you,” he says.
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By: Realtor.com, Anayat Durrani