An ever-increasing amount of salt is seeping into municipal water supplies through road salting, manufacturing and residential water softening.
For homeowners in hard water areas living without a water softener is unimaginable, but unless salt and water consumption is put in check, a future ban on sodium based softeners seems inevitable. It happened in California, it happened in parts of Europe and it can happen in Canada. Waterloo Region in Ontario is taking serious steps to maintain the integrity of the water supply and individual homeowners can help.
Reducing the amount of salt used by water softeners is a challenge but it can be achieved. Here are three easy steps you can take that will save you money on salt, reduce your water bill and ease the load on municipal water treatment efforts.
Possibly upgrade your water softener
1. If your water is so hard you can’t live without a softener there are still things you can do. Make sure your softener is efficient. That means, upgrade to a newer unit if your softener is older than 15 years. You should be shooting for an efficiency rating of about 1 pound of salt for 4000-5000 grains of hardness.
Older softeners can be as poor as 1 pound per 2000 grains. That means you are using double the amount of salt that a new softener would use. And make sure it regenerates based on your water consumption, not on a daily or weekly schedule.
If you are buying a water softener for the first time, ask about efficiency ratings, and consider a salt-free scale inhibitor as an alternative to a sodium-based unit. Do your research and ask questions. You will have to live with your choice for many years and that choice will impact the drinking water in your municipality.
Don’t help salt dealers earn more profits at the expense of the local water supply
2. Make sure your softener is programmed optimally. If the company that sold your softener also sells salt, double-check the salt setting to make sure it's set at the correct level per cubic foot. Setting the salt dial higher creates more opportunity for dealer profit by selling you a salt contract but you might discover that you can achieve the same level of softness with less salt.
Soften the hot water only
3. Use less water and salt by only softening the hot water and leaving the cold water hard. You probably won't even notice the difference and it will reduce your salt and wastewater by nearly half. It won't harm your dishwasher, as that appliance uses hot water. It won't harm your water heater or plumbing.
You will save money and your back and you might even qualify for a rebate from your municipality. Waterloo Region is offering rebate programs to help offset the cost of having existing plumbing lines switched to softening just the hot water.
If you are purchasing a softener for the first time, ask the installer to plumb into your hot only. Your outside lines (cold) will be hard as they should be. If you have an existing softener it might be a good idea to check those outside lines and make sure they are hard, too.
You might have a trace of calcium build-up around some faucets (simply wipe with vinegar) but isn’t that a small price to pay for having safe, salt-free drinking water for generations to come?
If you have questions about this article please contact Ontario Soft Water in Kitchener, Ontario.