Save money and help the environment by checking on your water quality

Bruce Farrar didn’t like what hard water was doing to his home.

“Our dishes in the dishwasher were terrible,” says Farrar, who lives in Newport Beach, Calif. “The inside of the dishwasher was just covered with calcium. Also, our showers had glass doors and I had to put a special cleaner on them because of the calcium buildup.”

But the problems didn’t end there. Hard water was also preventing the family’s clothes washer from functioning properly, requiring the use of more soap and hotter water, which increased Farrar’s grocery bill and energy costs. The added energy needs were also putting more wear and tear on his hot water heater, decreasing its lifespan.

Nearly 90 percent of American homes have hard water – water containing high levels of calcium and magnesium, according to The U.S. Geological Survey. The hardest water is commonly found in the states that run from Kansas to Texas as well as in Southern California. How can you tell if you have hard water? If your shampoo and soap don’t lather up like they should, if you see scaling on your pipes and showerheads or if you have nasty brown rings in your sinks and toilets, your water is probably hard.

To know exactly how hard, and what to do about it, you should have your water diagnosed by a water quality professional. The Water Quality Association has several resources on its website to help you locate a reputable company, and many offer this service for free.

In order to make hard water into soft water, you have to remove the calcium and magnesium and the only way to do that effectively is with a salt-regenerated water softener. These work by running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium in the water, as well as any iron, manganese or radium ions by replacing them with sodium ions, which must be occasionally recharged.

There are other products that claim to condition water using an electro-magnetic charge instead of salt ions, but they do not really soften water. These devices cause the hard minerals in the water to attract and form into an amorphous sludge which remains in the water.

According to the Water Quality Research Foundation, there are many benefits of true salt regenerated water softening including cutting detergent use by as much as 50 percent and allowing washers to clean clothes with cold instead of hot water. Soft water also helps dishwashers clean better, sometimes allowing you to use half the detergent. Finally, water heaters that don’t have to work as hard retain their factory efficiency standards for a full 15 years as opposed to those subjected to hard water which lose almost half their efficiency over the same time period.

With ever-increasing household and energy costs facing American consumers, many are looking for ways to save money. A water softener that helps homeowners use less energy not only saves money, but also benefits the environment by allowing you to use fewer fossil fuels. Washers that use less detergent because of soft water also end up dumping fewer chemicals down drains. Finally, water softening keeps appliances out of landfills.

Eventually, and like many other Americans, Farrar made the decision that enough was enough and decided to invest in a water softener and saw immediate results. Speaking of the issues he was experiencing in the past, “All of that is fine now,” says Farrar. “The water softener works well.” For more information on the benefits of water softening, visit