Does it seem like you’re constantly scraping away soap scum and limescale from dishes, sinks, and bathtubs? Is your hair dull and is your skin itchy after showering? Unfortunately, these are hallmark signs of hard water — a relatively harmless, but frustrating, effect of high mineral concentrations in tap water. The good news? There’s a simple fix for your hard water woes. Installing a home water softener is easy, and the positive results are instantly noticeable.

What is hard water? (And how do I know if I have it?)

Hard water contains high concentrations of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Rainwater starts out soft but picks up these minerals as it flows over limestone rock.

If you’re living in Alberta, chances are you’re living with hard water. Most major towns and cities in Alberta have moderate to hard water with levels of calcium carbonate anywhere from 145 mg/L to 296 mg/L. The North Saskatchewan River averages 165 mg/L. To put this in perspective, Vancouver’s water is much softer; averaging 7.9 – 11.8 mg/L.

Is hard water bad?

While there may not be an immediately noticeable difference in the way hard water looks or feels, it is especially hard on appliances, plumbing pipes, and fixtures — basically anything that comes in regular contact with water. The minerals in hard water build up over time and leave a scaly residue, which reduces water flow and increases stress on pipes, fixtures, and appliance parts.

Hard water also interferes with soap’s ability to lather up and be fully rinsed away. The results? Your dishwasher leaves dishes and glassware streaky and covered in water spots. Freshly-washed clothes look dingy and grey and feel stiff and scratchy. After bathing, soap residue leaves skin and hair feeling dull and dry.

So, while hard water isn’t hazardous to your health, it can be frustrating to deal with. Hard water can reduce the lifespan of washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, and toilets. Mineral deposits in your hot water tank can render it less effective, increasing the amount of energy you need to heat your home’s water supply. Installing a water softener is a relatively affordable solution that is quick and easy to maintain, with noticeable benefits.

Benefits of a water softener

Many people think of water softeners as a non-essential household product; however, for those living in areas with moderate to very hard water, a water softener is incredibly beneficial. The main benefits of a water softener include:

  • Some models can remove taste and odour from water
  • Easier cleaning of clothes, dishes, bathtubs, and sinks
  • Longer lifespan for appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, and toilets
  • Reduced water heating costs up to 30%
  • Improved water flow and extended lifespan for plumbing fixtures and pipes

How does a water softener work?

A water softener eliminates the negative effects of hard water by removing the mineral ions that make the water hard. This process is known as ion exchange.

Raw water runs through a bed of sodium-charged ion exchange resin. Calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged with sodium ions. Over time, the exchange resin will contain only calcium and magnesium ions and will need regeneration. A control valve on the water softener monitors water usage and triggers the regeneration process as required.

During regeneration, the resin is backwashed to rinse away impurities and a strong brine solution is then drawn through the bed so that the hardness ions (calcium and magnesium) are exchanged with sodium ions and are then rinsed to the drain. The softener is now ready to soften again.

Life’s hard enough without hard water!

Many people have come to accept the negative effects of hard water, not realizing that there’s a simple solution available. Living with hard water doesn’t need to be so hard!

At First Call, we carry and install a selection of Novo water softeners, known for being highly efficient because they use less salt and water to regenerate. If you’re interested in learning more about water softening systems and the installation process, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today or schedule an appointment.