Hard water and soft water are a couple of terms that can be pretty confusing for everyday Calgarians, and that makes sense. “Hard water” and “soft water” as terms don’t really tell you much about what’s actually being described. In reality, hardness or softness describes how many minerals are dissolved into the water. The more minerals dissolved, the harder the water.
In general, most people prefer to have softer water. Hard water isn’t a health concern of any consequence, though many Canadians find hard water makes it more difficult for them to effectively wash their hair or dishes.
The problem is that water is excellent at dissolving impurities. If you’ve ever mixed sugar or salt into water, you’ve seen its power to dissolve things first hand. However, when water is already full of solutes (like salts, metals, and other impurities), it’s difficult for it to bond with soap. This makes it difficult to wash dishes and to shower. The water may also deposit excess solute causing a mineral build up in your plumbing.
For Calgarians with excessively hard water, we generally recommend a softener. Most Canadians prefer how soft water mixes with soap, and the extended durability and lifespan of your plumbing is also often worth the cost of softener. Softeners work a few different ways, so you can decide which method works best for your home.
Ion Exchange will take out minerals that cause hard water like calcium and exchange them for minerals that don’t affect water hardness, like salt. Ion exchange is generally affordable, and the tiny amount of salt in the water doesn’t pose any problems to sodium intake, so don’t worry! However, water treated in this way should not be used for lawns or gardens as it can lead to soil alkali.
Citric Pseudo-Softening has been gaining popularity in the last few years. Citric is more compact, won’t kill your grass, and costs around the same amount over all. That said, citric filters usually cost a lot more upfront than a bag of salt, but they only need to replaced semi annually instead of monthly, which evens out. It’s worth noting that most citric systems don’t actually soften water — which is to say, they don’t take minerals out. Instead, they change the way the minerals and the water interact, so your water acts like it’s soft.
Do you find your pipes or hot water heater regularly has mineral build up? Or does your soap not foam properly with your tap water? Hard water may be the problem. Contact our professional Calgary plumbers with your questions, and we’d be happy to help you come up with the best water softening solution for your home.