very basic water softener questions...

shannonazNovember 18, 2012

Is there any way to have a water softener and have the tap water be drinkable without having an RO system or other system under the sink? I don't mind a simple water filter under the sink or in the fridge (that is what we use now with our hard water)

Some companies offer water softener systems, whole house filtration systems and a combination of both. I have always been a little wary of whole house filtration because I know that chlorine serves important purposes and I am hesitant to have my pipes full of water with no sanitation properties...I may not have a clue, though.

I will include the link of one company I am looking at.

I live in an area with very hard water, 12-22 grains per gallon. I have lived here 30 years and been a homeowner for 10 years and I have never had a softener. Some people have water softeners but many do not. Every plumber I have ever trusted has recommended against water softeners, but I don't really remember why...and I have always disconnected them so I didn't have to hassle with it. We are just used to hard water. I don't love the feel of soft water but I see what enormous damage hard water does to pipes etc.

We are doing a total remodel including all new plumbing and I am seriously considering a water softener and/or water filter. We are in a place where we can afford to pay for quality and we don't have to maintain everything ourselves. I was always hesitant to DIY or maintain something that I didn't really understand and didn't want to hassle with and I didn't have the time or money to deal with another house thing...

We may stick with the status quo and go without any water treatment at all...but if money was no object what system would you choose to soften and filter your water?

Thank you!

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Sure - there is a very easy way to do it. Just tee off of your water supply line upstream from your softener and run a line of unsoftened water to your sink. Plumb that to a separate drinking water faucet. You can add an undersink filter there if you want. My inlaws have this setup and it works well for them.

Were money no object, I would have a correctly sized softener and an RO for drinking water (which is what I do have), but I would pay someone to carry the salt bags for me once a month.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 6:14PM
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Alice-thanks for the reply. I really don't want a separate faucet for drinking water and I would love for all the water in my house to be drinkable, even if it doesn't taste great, like it is now in my softener-free house.

So, if you have a water softener you have to do something special to the water in order to drink it and it has to be on a sink-by-sink basis? I will have at least three sinks that will need drinking water plus the fridge etc.

So, there is no way of making all the water in the house drinkable after softening it, right? You can't have the whole-house filter do it's thing after the water is softened because you then have unsoftened water running through your house, right? The water softener doesn't remove the minerals it just treats the water so those minerals don't "stick" or do damage?

Actually removing the minerals without adding sodium is not an option at all?

I think I know the answers to these questions, I am just making sure :)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:15PM
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You can drink softened water. It has additional sodium in it, but this is only an issue if you are on a severely sodium-limited diet for a heart condition. Alternately, you can regen your softener with KCl (potassium chloride) rather than NaCl (sodium chloride - what we commonly call salt) and the water is fine for a sodium-restricted diet.

Some people object to the taste of softened water. I don't care for it myself. However, some folks don't have a problem with it. It is a personal preference thing.

It is perfectly acceptable to have the carbon filter after the softener, just silly to do so - the carbon filter will remove the chlorine/chloramines than can cause premature damage to your softener resin. The carbon filter will not add any minerals so your water would still be soft. The water softener does, in fact, remove the minerals. It removes calcium and magnesium (these are what build up and cause scale) and replaces them with sodium if you regen with NaCl or potassium if you regen with KCl.

To recap: softened water is perfectly drinkable, but may not appeal to everyone's taste.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 9:54PM
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The amount of sodium (or potassium) ions added to soft water increases as the hardness of the water increases so the sodium added to your 22 gpg hard water to soften it is less than the sodium added to my 30 gpg hard water to soften it.

Just for your information...

The formula for sodium added by an ion exchange water softener is 7.85 mg/l (liter, about a quart) of softened water per grain per gallon of compensated hardness.

EXAMPLE 20 gpg * 7.85 = 157 mg of sodium (Na) added per liter of softened water.

This table lists the usual amount of sodium found in common foods for comparison...

Food Amount Mg of Sodium

Ketchup 1 tablespoon 204
Milk 2 Cups 226
Frozen Peas 1/2 Cup 295
Bread 2 Slices 322
Corn Flakes 1 oz. 260
Parmesan Cheese 1 oz. 528
Tomato Juice 4 oz. 504
Tomato Soup 1 Cup 932
Chili 1 Cup 1194
Beef Broth 1 Cup 1152

For your satisfaction you might consider a more scientific method...

1. Install a correctly sized softener and set it up for efficient operation.

2. Live with drinking soft water for a while cause any change takes a little while to get used to.

3. If the taste of softened water doesn't suit you then consider point of use filers or an RO for the kitchen drinking, cooking, and icemaking/fridge duty.

And to recap the recap... hard water is also perfectly drinkable, but may not appeal to everyone's taste.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Great info!! Thank you so much for walking me through this.

I actually have pretty strong ideas about salt in the diet...the low-salt thing is complete and total hogwash! Except in very few cases we can all salt our food liberally and not worry a bit about it. I actually know a lot more about nutrition than I do about plumbing (hopefully I know more about a few things than I know about plumbing...yikes)

So, you filter water then it goes thru the water softener. Then, I can treat the water exactly as I treat my current hard water and just run it thru carbon filters under my sink and in my fridge to remove the salt taste? I am not worried about sodium's effect on my health but I don't like the taste. I didn't really know why houses with water-softeners always had RO systems under the sink...I thought it had to be that way...

Does water softened with KCI taste different from water softened with NaCI? I don't think I'm afraid of extra potassium in my diet either...

Are there valid concerns about filtering water too much before it comes into my house? Am I to worry about the lack of chlorine etc.?

Just for fun I am linking to an article written by one of my favorite nutrition writers on the lack of evidence for salt being bad for us, it's not TOTALLY off topic :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:52PM
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A carbon filter will not remove the "salt" taste from your water. It will remove organics,chlorine, but not sodium or potassium. Potassium will taste different from sodium in water, but only a discerning palette will notice an great deal of difference. Neither will taste like salt.

I'm not particularly concerned about lack of chlorine - folks on wells live without it.

You don't have to filter the water prior to the softener unless you have specific things that will damage the softener - high chlorine, sulfates, high iron, particulates.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:11PM
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