How to treat hard water in Northeast Ohio
Eric Kashdan hears complaints about hard water regularly: dry skin, stained clothes, hair color changes and built-up corrosion around pipes and faucet fixtures. Homeowners often call his business with complaints like these, hoping to reduce mineral buildup with a water softener, says Kashdan, owner of highly rated K & K Plumbing of Louisville, where water is classified as hard. “It makes your appliances last longer, it makes your pipes last longer,” he says. “It also cuts down on the amount of soap and detergent you use.”
Soft water allows people to clean with less soap, shampoo and detergent than hard water. It also helps extend the life of appliances that use water, pipes, faucets and shower heads by removing minerals such as calcium, lime and magnesium, which build up and can reduce water flow or pressure.
Akron member Mike Singleton noticed a decrease in the amount of soap he used after paying Davis Water Treatment $100 to restart a water softener installed by a previous homeowner. “It dissolves your soap in your dishwasher and in your sink, on your body like it’s supposed to,” says Singleton, whose water comes from a well.Depending on the source, well water can be extremely hard and contain iron, which stains countertops and sinks, Kashdan adds.
A typical water softener averages $1,200 to $1,700, says Bill Haight, water director at highly rated The Plumbing Source in Cleveland. Some companies offer water softener rentals as well.
Depending on the size, water softeners use 40- to 80-pound bags of salt, or sodium chloride, which can be purchased through the company or at retail stores. Salt delivery from The Plumbing Source averages $9.70 per bag, which retail for about $7 each.
Kashdan and Haight contend that salt-free water softeners don’t actually soften water because salt is needed to remove minerals. Instead, it conditions water by reducing limescale. Haight says he often hears concerns from customers about consuming residual salt from the softening process, but says it doesn’t significantly increase sodium intake. People on sodium-restricted diets or those who are concerned about salt intake may want to add a reverse osmosis system to treat drinking water, he says. “There’s salt in your raw water,” says Haight, adding that another option is using potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride in your softening system. Potassium chloride costs more, with a 40-pound bag retailing for about $25.
Water softeners treat water through a process called regeneration, which usually lasts about 90 minutes to two hours. Some softeners regenerate based on how many gallons have been used and others at a set time — usually in the wee hours of the morning when residents are less likely to use water. Water used during the regeneration cycle will be untreated. A double-tank system, which alternates between two tanks of softened water, forestalls any interruption of softened water, also are available.
Akron member Roy Belknap recently replaced for $1,100 one of the tanks on his double-tank softener with a newer and more efficient model that uses less salt. Unlike the old model that regenerated at any time of day based on how many gallons of water used, the new one does so on a timer at 3 a.m. “Before, I would use approximately a bag a week,” says Belknap, whose home also draws water from a well. “Now, I only put salt in about once every three weeks.”