Myth No. 1 – Water softeners put salt in your water.
It’s easy to understand why people make this mistake. However, you are not drinking salt water if you install a water softener in your home.
It’s true that you you’ll need water softener salts, but you shouldn’t taste salt in your water. Water softeners use an ion exchange process to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium, which make the water hard.
A special media stored in a mineral tank makes this process possible. That media is charged with sodium ions, which replace the hard minerals in your water. So it isn’t salt (NaCl) that gets added to your water, it’s sodium (Na)
Myth No. 2 – The amount of sodium in softened water is unhealthy.
How much sodium a water softener adds to your water depends on how hard your home’s water is in the first place.
That being said, the typical amount of sodium in softened water is too small to have any sort of negative impact on your health. The Mayo Clinic states on its website that “the added sodium shouldn’t be an issue for most healthy adults.”
However, not everyone likes the taste of softened water, but they don’t want to deal with hard water problems either. Thankfully, there are options. You could separate the tap you use for drinking and cooking from your system while still getting the advantages of soft water for cleaning, bathing, and laundry.
Better yet, you could install a reverse osmosis system to get pure and refreshing drinking water straight from a faucet at your sink.
Myth No. 3 – Water softeners purify water.
Water softeners are specifically designed to reduce the hardness of water. They do an excellent job of removing minerals and metals that cause scale and create all sorts of household headaches.
However, water softeners do not filter out all contaminants. This is another reason why you may need a reverse osmosis system for the water your family actually consumes. You can also look in to other types of in-home filtration systems to deal with iron and sulfur issues.
We like to remind people that “sometimes you need to get good water before you can have great water.”
Myth No. 4 – Water softening takes away healthy minerals.
When some people hear how water softeners remove calcium and minerals they think the softening process is taking away important nutrients. After all, calcium and magnesium can benefit things like bone health.
The truth is that the calcium and magnesium deposits in hard water are inorganic minerals, which don’t provide the same benefits as obtaining minerals from food or supplements. The calcium and magnesium in hard water cannot be easily absorbed by the cells in your body.
Plants are able to transform inorganic minerals into an organic state, which is why you need to eat your veggies, but drinking hard water won’t do much for adding minerals to your diet.
Myth No. 5 – Soft water leaves a film on your skin.
Some people notice a different feeling on their skin when they first shower in soft water. It feels slick, and some might even say slimy.
This is not a film being left behind on your skin, and it isn’t soap that doesn’t wash away either. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When you have hard water it does leave soap scum on your skin. What you notice after showering in hard water is not a sign you’re “squeaky clean,” but instead, that you are covered in a sticky residue.
The slickness on your skin when you bathe in soft water is actually your body’s natural essential oils. It’s how clean is supposed to feel! Think of it as having silky smooth skin instead of sticky soap scum skin.
Myth No. 6 – Water softeners waste water and energy.
It’s true that some water softeners can waste water and salt during the regeneration process. This is a cycle your system goes through to re-charge the media with sodium ions.
There are also other ways in-home filtration can help the environment. Soft water is more efficient at cleaning, that means you’ll use less detergent and chemical-filled cleaning products, which in turn reduces water pollution.
Plus, when you have a reverse osmosis system, you can stop buying water in plastic bottles. The environmental impact of bottled water is huge!
Myth No. 7 – Water softeners cost a lot of money.
Putting a water softener in your home will require an initial investment. However, it will save you quite a bit of your hard earned money in the long run.
Yes, your water softener will use electricity, you’ll have to buy salt, and it will need to be serviced on occasion. But in reality, water softeners put much more money back in your pocket.
Perhaps the biggest savings come from your water heater. These appliances operate much better on soft water while hard water makes them inefficient and forces you to run the water heater at a higher temperature. That’s one way a water softener will lower your utility bills while extending the life of appliances.
Water softeners help keep other appliances running longer, too. Soft water reduces the amount of laundry detergent you use to clean clothes by more than 50-percent, and prevents colors from fading.
Learn about other savings in the Water Quality Association’s (WQA) Softened Water Benefits Study.
Myth No. 8 – You don’t need a water softener if you have city water.
This might be one of the biggest misconceptions of all. Water softeners are most-commonly found in homes where there is a private well using ground water. In that case, the water almost always needs softening.
However, municipal water is rarely ever perfect water. In fact, more than 80-percent of all homes in the United States have hard water. Every city has different water quality. If you’re unhappy with your home’s water – whether its drinking, cleaning, laundry, or bathing – there are things you can do that will provide an effective solution.
Single Tank Vs. Dual Tank Water Softeners
Dual Tank Water Softeners, also known as Twin Tank Water Softeners, have been used for decades in restaurants and commercial sites. In recent years they have become popular with homeowners too.
But do they have any “real world” benefits for the average family? Or is it just hype? We’ll review how both Water Softener designs work, and compare the advantages of each technology.
How Single Tank Water Softeners Work
A “Single Tank Water Softener”, is a system with 1 resin tank and 1 brine tank. The resin or mineral tank contains resin beads that remove the hard water minerals. The brine tank stores the salt.
“On-demand” single tank softeners count how many gallons you use. Once you reach capacity, they regenerate in the middle of the night. During regeneration, the system goes into bypass. No soft water is available during this time.
If you hit the limit in the middle of the day, you’d run out of soft water.
To avoid running out of soft water, most systems are sized with 30% additional capacity. You still run the risk of running out of soft water during very heavy water use, but your odds are improved.
Another negative with single tank systems is that they use hard water to clean themselves out during regeneration. High levels of hardness and iron can make this less effective. Imagine washing dishes in dirty water – you get the point.
How Dual Tank Water Softeners Work
“Twin Tank Water Softeners” have “2” resin tanks and 1 brine or salt tank.
Dual tank systems also regenerate on-demand. But they have an immediate advantage.
When you hit capacity on 1 tank, the system immediately switches over to the 2nd tank.
No reserve capacity is required. No delayed regeneration in the middle of the night.
You maintain even, soft water under all circumstances.
Twin Tank Water Softeners also have the luxury of using soft water for all cycles during regeneration. Again, think of washing dishes in soft, clean water. Soft water regeneration is much more effective.
Which Softener is Right for You?
Single Tank Water Softeners have been the standard in homes for years. And in fairness they do a pretty good job.
- Overall, you can expect:
- Lower cost from less equipment
- Smaller footprint takes up less space
- Good to better efficiency
- Relatively even water quality
Twin Tank Water Softeners are the rising star for residential homes. They have pros and cons too:
- Higher cost from extra tank
- Require more space
- Highest efficiency for less water and salt waste
- More even water quality
So which system is right for you? Many of our customers are happy with single tank systems. However, more and more are looking for something “better”, or more efficient. For those clients, twin tank is the way to go.
"ARE THERE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF WATER SOFTENER SALT DISCHARGES ON HOUSEHOLD SEPTIC TANKS?"
Here are the answers to that question and the effects of using a water softener with a septic system.
It is not true that water softener regeneration discharges pose a problem to septic systems or to the leach field. Studies have shown that water softener regeneration wastes do not interfere with the septic tank system drain field soil percolation, but because of the polyvalent water hardness cations in the regeneration discharges improve soil percolation particularly in fine-textured soils.
WQA has research reports by the University of Wisconsin and the National Sanitation Foundation on septic tanks and water softeners. This research was completed in the late 1970s. It was about that time that numerous regulatory agencies were contemplating restriction on the discharge of water softener wastes to private sewage disposal systems.
More recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed this research report, and an expert in on-site waste treatment wrote October 1993 that he “does not believe that the conclusions of the earlier study would change since the chemistry and physics of soils have not. “He also goes on to say that he knows this work to remain scientifically excellent“.
These studies conclusively show that water softener waste effluents cause no problems for septic tanks.
The allowance of water treatment system discharges to hundreds of thousands of septic tank systems is practically universal now. It has not caused damage or hazards but it has provided convenience and economic savings to many homeowners. This conclusion is supported by the Ten States’ “Recommended Standards for Individual Sewage Systems” The states have concluded that even in Montmorillinite clay soils, the disposal of brine wastes from water softening equipment does not have a significant effect upon the permeability of soils suitable for soil absorption systems.
The addition of sodium to a septic system by use of soft water actually has beneficial effects on the digestion of wastes by bacteria. the volume of waste from a water softener that is added to the septic tank is not of sufficient volume to cause any deleterious hydraulic load problems. In fact, they are lower in volume and rate of addition than wastes from automatic washers. The calcium and magnesium in softener regeneration wastes contribute to good air and water movement (improved soil percolation) through the septic system drainage field.
The University of Wisconsin and the National Sanitation Foundation reports clearly indicate that when the sodium content from the softener regeneration cycle is discharged into the soil via a septic system along with other salts such as calcium, magnesium, and iron the result is an improvement in the soil’s percolation rather than a detriment.
A letter from Dr. Fred P Miller, Professor of Soil Science, Department of Agronomy, University of Maryland indicates this same conclusion. Dr. Miller points out that when the septic system is receiving water only, containing a very low mineral content, and not receiving the mineral salts from the backwash cycle, this condition “might result in swelling and dispersion of clay and lowered hydraulic conductivity in the absorption field”.
There are other advantages that are directly related to the use of ion exchange softened water when the hardness minerals calcium and magnesium are removed by softening, The homeowner uses less soap — studies have indicated as much as 50 – 75% less. There are also less biodegradable products discharged into the system which relieves the loading on the system.
It is a known fact that many homeowners do not maintain a septic system properly, not pumping the system at proper intervals allows detergent solids, as well as other solids, to be carried over into the drainage area causing clogging. Also, by having soft or stain free water available the homeowner’s fabrics are cleaner and the amount of water used can be reduced. This reduces the loading on the septic system a great deal.
Many people may be under the impression that water conditioning equipment regenerates quite frequently and puts a high loading of sodium salts in to the waste water. This , of course is not true, the average family of four people would require softener regeneration approximately four to five times a week.
The Water Quality Improvement Industry has earnestly sought to sort out the factual information on softener effluent. The septic tank study clearly indicates that there are no adverse effects when water conditioning effluent is discharged into properly installed private septic systems. There are a few additional reports that also explain further evidence of the hardness ions in a softener’s regeneration wastes causing less clogging and maintaining higher permeability than the regular septic tank effluent.
SEPTIC TANKS AND SOFTENING, TO SOFTEN? OR NOT TO SOFTEN?
Certainly Shakespeare didn’t have the problem of deciding whether or not to use a softener with his septic disposal system. However, with 20 million on-site household disposal systems, this question has been asked by many homeowner. Can softened water cause problems for consumers on a septic system? After targeted research, the answer is NO — soften with confidence.
On-site household sewage disposal system work simply. The main soil pipe from a home’s plumbing system empties into a concrete or steel tank buried a prescribed distance from the house and beneath the frost line. The common single-compartment tank has a baffle near the inlet pipe which prevents the effluent from backing up, and reduces the turbulence of the incoming waste. Once the effluent enters the tank, the heavier solids sink to the bottom, while more buoyant substances rise to the surface. Various bacteria present in the effluent, as well as other organisms which have been introduced to the tank, digest the waste material and chemically change it. the bacterial action, working in the absence of oxygen, is referred to as an anaerobic process. Another vented system is operationally similar, but the decomposition is aerobic, i.e. requires air.
After the bacterial action occurs, relatively clear water is discharged through the outlet pipe of the tank, It flows to a distribution box, where is is diverted to the drainage field through perforated, loosely connected pipes. The loose joints and perforations permit seepage into the surrounding soil. To enhance the water dispersion, the pipes are generally laid in beds of gravel or loose rock.
This covers the disposal system side of the story. The other side concerns water before it gets to the tap, and features the water softening system.
A typical water softener uses a resinous material that attracts sodium ions. The ion exchange resin reacts with the influent water exchanging the sodium ions for the calcium and magnesium ions. Calcium and magnesium are naturally occurring minerals present in many water sources. The presence of these ions makes water “hard” exchanging the calcium and magnesium ions for sodium or potassium ions “softens” the water. During the regeneration cycle, the hardness ions are removed from the softener exchange resin, and discharged with the backwash and some excess regenerant salt (sodium chloride or potassium chloride) that is necessary to drive the regeneration reaction.
Faulty Assumptions: In the 1970s, a number of counties and states became concerned about the effects of the softened water on septic systems. Although the assumptions proved wrong, there were three primary reasons for what turned out to be unfounded concerns and false assumptions. It is commonly known that bacterial life forms are threatened if their surroundings have too much or too little salt. It was feared that the higher concentration of salt in the effluent or softened water would be harmful or fatal to the tank’s bacterial action.
The second concern was that the backwash flow rate during regeneration would introduce water faster than the tank could handle. This would force effluent out of the tank before the bacterial action could be completed. In other words, “unprocessed waste water” would be sent out into the drainage field.
Finally, it was feared that the salt brine produced by the softener would lower the drainage field’s ability to absorb water. This assumption came from agricultural studies on irrigation systems with high sodium content.
These were “common sense” arguments about a suspected problem, and weren’t verified facts resulting from scientific testing. As a result of these assumptions, legislation was passed in some areas preventing softened water from being used on a septic system. To address this situation, the Water Quality Association (WQA) sponsored research at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and at the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). These groups conducted comprehensive studies to confirm or reject these assumptions.
Results Favor Softening
The opposite of the assumptions listed above were shown to be true as a result of scientific testing.
First, “the effect of softened water on bacteria was actually beneficial rather than detrimental”. The normal salt content found in “unsoftened, hard” effluent is less than ideal for bacterial growth. The addition of sodium to the system was found to bring the bacterial environment closer to the optimal range. Soft water was, in effect, “healthy” for the organisms.
Second, the volume of backwash during regeneration did not disrupt the time involved in bacterial processing of effluent, it was easily within the limits that the tank could handle.
It was noted that an automatic dishwasher would pose a greater threat on these grounds than would a water softener!
Concerns about salt and soil absorption rates were also dispelled. The increased sodium content in the tank’s discharge was shown to have no detrimental effect on the soil’s ability to absorb water in a normal drainage field. Interestingly, certain soil conditions benefitted from it. Additionally, when the softener’s calcium-rich regeneration backwash emptied into the septic system, the discharge could actually improve the soil’s percolation. (Gypsum, a high calcium mineral, has long been used to increase the porosity of clay soils.)
The conclusions drawn from these tests are that softened water is NOT harmful to a normally operating septic system or drainage field. Obviously, this is good news to anyone who has suffered through dingy dishes or clothes, or struggled with precipitate build-up in pipes due to hard water.