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Does A Water Softener Cause More Harm than Good

Updated on March 26, 2013
I redid the piping for the system because the plumber who did it before butchered it!
I redid the piping for the system because the plumber who did it before butchered it! | Source

The fact that many people enjoy showering in soft water a few weeks after it is installed (some find it slimy at first but get used to it), water softeners have been excellent for ensuring that hot water tanks operate at their best efficiency, dishwashers and clothes washers use half the amount of soap with no spotting or faded clothes, and cleaning scum on shower doors and bathtub surrounds are a thing of the past with a softener. These and a number of other benefits make water softeners an easy choice to install in a home. The average savings on this side of the equation can run around $350/year because of soap, gas for heating water, and cleaning supplies, but we have to take into account the cost of water used to operate a water softener and the salt needed to regenerate them.

There are many who say that water softeners waste water and put too much salt into the waste lines and the waste water treatment plants can't do anything about the salt which eventually gets put into the rivers that feed the municipalities downstream. First off, lets look at the costs against having a softener in your home. With new technologies like meter water softeners the amount of salt used has been decreased significantly. I have a family of seven people in our home and I use roughly 20 cubic meters of water each month. I use about 8-10 bags of salt each year. I go to Super Store and buy the Salt Saver bags at about $6 a bag, making the cost of salt around $50-$60/year. Now for the cost of water wasted. The math gets a little hairy but I hope to make it somewhat understandable. Okay, each bag has 4-5 regenerations in it meaning that my softener will regenerate roughly 40 to 50 times in a year! Each regeneration uses about 120 gallons of water and is put to drain afterwards. So, in total, the number of gallons in a year my softener wastes is about 6,000 gallons! This sounds like a whole lot of water but let me show you the actual costs. There is about 265 gallons in a cubic meter so there is about 22 cubic meters in 6,000 gallons. The last time I checked the cost per cubic meter of water in the city of Calgary is $1.60 and the sewage bill per cubic meter is the same. So the cost per year of wasted water from your softener is about $70. Can you see why I wonder a bit why people are screaming about how much wasted water we have because of water softeners? There had to be more on their minds then just the cost.

So when it comes to the environmental side of the argument, we have to take into account the value of water beyond the monetary sense. Frankly, this can be a subjective argument, many people in Africa would be appalled at the amount lost while we see it as a quality of living trade off. Where do we draw the line? Personally if you are environmentally minded enough to have a conflict internally about the subject then I would suggest that we look at more environmentally safe technologies. Problem is that water softeners are 100% efficient at removing hard water while many of the "gimmicks" like catalytic water conditioners, magnetic water conditioners, template assisted crystallization methods (TAC for short) are nowhere near that efficiency and you lose out on many of the aesthetic features that a water softener provides. Environmentally speaking, water softeners waste water and put salt into the rivers which is not healthy. At the same time they provide the means to using less soap and less gas for water heating, which is good for the environment. Kind of a trade off.

Now I can't do too much about the amount of water that goes to drain from your water softener, but what I am doing is coming up with a device that will separate the salt from the water and putting it back into the brine tank. Crazy, yes, I am still testing it in my house, but if I can eliminate the amount of salt I buy by recycling it and save the rivers from the salt I use, I am going to try. The cost to install and run it is looking close to $1000, so this is not an investment of monetary return, it would take 15 years to recover that cost, no, this would be more about investing in the environmental cause, something I hope people would be happy to clear their conscience with. And really, water is reused over and over again by us and everything else on this planet, it was never lost in the first place, but I do want to make it easier for the people downstream to use that water I just put to drain.

Would You Install A Water Softener in Your Home?

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      Lily 3 years ago


      I was wondering if you've had any luck developing the salt removal system.