Septic Pumping
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Salt Water Softeners vs Water Conditioners: Which is Right for You?

By byronwade

When it comes to water softening systems, homeowners have two main options: salt-based water softeners and saltless water softeners. Both types of systems have their own pros and cons, and it's important to understand the differences between them in order to make an informed decision.

Salt-Based Water Softeners

Salt-based water softeners are the most common type of water softener on the market. They work by removing hard water minerals (such as calcium and magnesium) from the water supply, and replacing them with sodium ions. This process is known as ion exchange.

One of the biggest pros of a salt-based water softener is that it effectively removes hard water minerals, resulting in 'softer' water. This can lead to a number of benefits, such as:

  • Improved lathering and sudsing of soap and shampoo
  • Easier cleaning of dishes and laundry
  • Longer lifespan of appliances that use water (such as dishwashers and washing machines)
  • Reduced buildup of scale in pipes and fixtures

However, there are also some cons to consider. One is that salt-based water softeners require regular maintenance, including adding salt to the system and cleaning the resin tank. Additionally, the discharge water from a salt-based water softener can contain a high amount of salt, which can be harmful to plants and septic systems. If you're on a municipal sewage system, the high level of sodium in the discharge water can also be harmful to the environment.

Saltless Water Softeners

Saltless water softeners, also known as 'water conditioners', work differently than salt-based systems. Instead of removing hard water minerals and replacing them with sodium ions, saltless water softeners use a process known as 'template-assisted crystallization' to change the physical properties of the hard water minerals. This process makes it difficult for the minerals to stick to surfaces, effectively preventing the buildup of scale.

One of the biggest pros of a saltless water softener is that it requires very little maintenance. There's no need to add salt to the system, and the resin tank doesn't need to be cleaned. Additionally, the discharge water from a saltless water softener doesn't contain high levels of salt, making it safe for plants and septic systems.

However, there are also some cons to consider. One is that saltless water softeners may not be as effective at removing hard water minerals as salt-based systems. Additionally, some homeowners may not be happy with the taste of the water after it has been treated by a saltless water softener.

Making the Right Choice

Ultimately, the decision between a salt-based water softener and a saltless water softener will come down to your individual needs and preferences. If you're looking for a highly effective system that can remove hard water minerals and improve the quality of your water, a salt-based water softener may be the way to go. However, if you want a system that requires little maintenance and has a minimal impact on the environment, a saltless water softener may be a better choice.

If you are considering purchasing a water softener, it is recommended to consult with a professional plumber for a proper evaluation of your water supply and recommend the best solution for your home.


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