New high-efficiency softeners win the battle against hard water (VIDEO)

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
New high-efficiency softeners win the battle against hard water (VIDEO)

If you’re in the market for water softener – maybe you’ve moved to a home that requires one, or maybe you’re replacing one you’ve had for years – new high efficiency water softeners use less salt, water and electricity to do the job.

If you have hard water, it simply means there's a high concentration of calcium and magnesium in the water supply, according to Tom Bruursema, general manager for the Drinking Water Treatment Unit program at NSF International, an independent organization that tests and certifies water treatment products.

Hard water leads to soap deposits in the bathtub, dull-looking laundry and spots on dishes. White, scaly deposits inside faucets, showerheads, and appliances restrict water flow, rob heating elements of their efficiency and shorten service life.

“While hard water is not often an indicator of health concerns, it can be a nuisance,” he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey Office estimates that 85 percent of American homes have problems with hard water, so it’s a widespread problem for many homeowners.

Water softeners work behind the scenes, saving homeowners a lot of work and wear and tear on appliances and clothing.

The most common type of water softener is the cation exchange, which removes the calcium and magnesium ions found in hard water by exchanging them with sodium (or potassium) ions.

Once all the ions are fully exchanged, the water softener undergoes a regeneration process to flush the system of excess ions and recharge with new sodium ions. This process can use 25 gallons of water or more per day, or up to 10,000 gallons per year. Recent improvements in water softening technology, however, have reduced water consumption and demonstrated that there is great potential for water savings.

For instance, Kenmore from Sears launched a new line of high-efficiency water softeners that will hit the market in March 2011.

Nicole Hayden, a spokesperson for Kenmore’s water softener line, told that Kenmore will have three new softeners: high efficiency, extra high efficiency and ultra high efficiency.

High efficiency

  • Up to 20 percent less salt
  • 32 percent less water

Extra-high efficiency

  • Up to 30 percent less salt
  • 34 percent less water

Ultra-high efficiency

  • Up to 35 percent less salt
  • 37 percent less water

Hayden said the new softeners save on water and salt consumption, saving the homeowner money, and perform better than existing softeners.

“These softeners will make appliances last longer, and you can use less detergent for cleaning clothes and dishes,” she said.

Bruursema recommended homeowners ask their water provider for a water quality report, or have well water tested for hardness.
 “These minerals are generally measured in grains per gallon (gpg) or parts per million (ppm),” he said. Hard water can start to become a problem for many consumers when the hardness level detected exceeds 6 to 7 gpg (or 100-120 ppm).

“If your water registers high on the hardness scale, you may be in the market for a softening system,” Bruursema said.

Video: Kenmore Water Softener

For more information, see our Water-Saving Devices Research Center.

Topics: Dishwashers, Washers & Dryers, Water Filtration & Water Quality, Water Quality, Water Saving Devices

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

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