Make water 'softer,' taste betterRosie Romero
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 14, 2007 11:59 AM
Just about everyone who lives in Arizona has "hard" water at home.
That means your water contains dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
How "hard" your water is depends on how many grains of the minerals it contains per gallon. Water that contains more than 1 grain per gallon is considered hard; water with more than 10.5 gpg is very hard.
A typical glass of Arizona water has at least 15 gpg.
You probably can't taste it, but you can see it. Hard water can cause two noticeable things to happen: The chemicals can cause a chalky film called limescale to form on the inside edges of your faucets and drains. You might see the same thing inside your teakettle. It's almost certainly in your water heater.
Those chemicals can react with soap to prevent it from lathering. It can give the soap a scummy feel and make it difficult to wash off. The solution: Install a water softener. That device, which can cost $400 to $5,000 - depending on how big your home is and whether you want it installed by a professional - will replace calcium and magnesium ions in your water with sodium ions, which do not react badly with soap or cause limescale to form on pipes.
Is it worth the money?
It will pay for itself with what you save on plumbing repairs, new appliances and laundry soap.
Here's what you'll save if you install a water softener, according to a spokesman for Water Treatment Technologies in Phoenix: Your clothes will last longer - up to one-third longer - if you wash them in soft water than if your washing machine runs on hard water. You'll spend 80 percent less on soap and cleaning products if you clean with soft water, because hard water prevents soap from lathering, so you need to use more. Energy bills are lower in homes that have soft water. Studies show that even an eighth of an inch buildup of limescale in your water heater can increase energy bills by 20 percent.
A tip: Don't base your decision to buy a water softener on price alone. The company you buy from is just as important as the equipment you buy.
Deal with a company that rents water softeners as well as sells them, so you have a choice. Look for a dealer who services all brands of equipment, not just one. Choose a dealer that can deliver salt (for the water softener) to your home if you're unable to pick the salt up. Now, what about the taste of your water? That's a different problem with a different solution.
The water supplied by Arizona's cities is clean, safe and usable. Granted, it doesn't taste as good as it could. And there is something you can do about that.
A reverse-osmosis system will give you bottled-water quality with the convenience of your kitchen tap.
Installed under the sink, a reverse-osmosis system is perhaps the most effective form of water filtration. The system removes up to 98 percent of metals, pathogens, chlorine and dirt, so your water smells and tastes like nothing but water.
A reverse-osmosis system is different from a water softener, which removes the minerals that make your water hard - all over the house. A reverse-osmosis system works just on your kitchen faucet because it's for drinking water only.
You'll pay between $160 and $1,800 for a reverse-osmosis system - depending on the size of your house and the quality of the system and whether you're going to hire a pro to install it.
Many Arizona households have a water softener and a reverse-osmosis system. I'd say they're two worthwhile investments.
Romero has been in the Arizona home-building and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in the Valley, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson, and from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KAZM- AM (780) in northern Arizona. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com.
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