Is A Water Softener Worth It?

Welcome to another Water Filter Geek deep dive; this time we’re talking water softeners. Specifically, is a water softener worth it?

If you’re asking that question, you probably have some problems with hard water in your home. And you’re wondering if a water softener will solve the problem; and if so, at what costs.

That’s what we’ll answer, completely and fully for you today. It’s what we do.

We’ll look then at whether water softeners work, what they give you and any downsides to buying and installing one.

Let’s get on with it!

Is A Water Softener Worth It

Introducing ‘Is A Water Softener Worth It?’

Let’s talk about water softeners and get to the bottom of whether it’s worth it for you to get one.

Firstly…

Do water softeners actually work?

That’s a clear question with a clear answer. Yes, they absolutely do.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of water softeners are bought and sold every month – that just wouldn’t be happening if they weren’t working effectively for a lot of people.

If you know anyone that’s got one, they’ll probably have told you how surprised they were how quickly and effectively their water softener fixed their problems with hard water.

FYI, we’ve gone in-depth on how do water softeners work (UK).

To know if getting a water softener is worth it, we’ll have to work out how much of a problem hard water can actually cause you. To that end…

What problems can hard water cause to your home/the people in it?

  • Limescale on taps, boilers, dishwashers, kettles, showerheads, and any other appliances which come into regular contact with water.
  • Higher heating bills (as much as £180 per year) – that’s because limescale is building up in your pipes, reducing the efficiency of your heating system to deliver heat.
  • Limescale on pipes can also damage the pipes and lead to major plumbing costs to get it fixed.
  • Higher detergent, washing powder and soap costs – due to the poor lathering capabilities of hard water, you’ll spend more on these kinds of products.
  • Washing machine issues – a black residue in the drawer and a dulling/greying of formerly pristine white clothes.
  • Skin complaints can be aggravated, and hair loses its shine.

So what are the advantages of using a water softener?

Water Softener Pros

Let’s check out the benefits.

1) Reduced heating costs

Softened water flowing through your pipes instead of hard water makes a major difference to your heating system. The reduced limescale means it doesn’t need to work so hard to deliver heat – so your heating costs will be reduced compared to if you hadn’t fixed your hard water problem.

Not only that, but the softened water can be highly effective at removing existing scale that had built up in your pipes, in time. So it’s not just preventive, it’s a cure too.

2) Healthier skin and hair

Softened water leads to healthier skin and hair for you and your family. Anyone with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema will see a noticeable difference, and hair returns to its smoother, shinier self.

3) Reduced service and replacement costs on appliances

Washing machines, water heaters, kettles, dishwashers, showers – all will keep better, they’ll work better and require less maintenance. They’ll break down less, reducing potential plumbers fees.

And they’ll last longer, they won’t need replacing so often. So your costs to replace items like these are reduced.

4) Less scums, marks and staining on bathtubs, basins, sinks

That means less time spent cleaning them = more free time for you.

These types of residue stain these items over time. Softened water means they’ll stain less and will remain brighter and fresher-looking for longer. So they won’t need replacing so often!

5) Reduced expenditure on cleaning detergents, powders, soaps

With softened water, you’ll notice a significant difference in how well all types of cleaning product and shampoos etc. lather.

It’s estimated you can use up to 50% less, meaning your cleaning/bathroom/kitchen product costs can be reduced as much as 50%.

6) Brighter laundry

With softened water, your washing machine will start giving you clothes that maintain their lustre for much longer.

Whites will be whiter and all your clothes will be brighter and fresher looking.

7) Shinier cars

If you clean your car at home, you’ll find that softened water reduces the streaks and spots that appeared after cleaning when your water was hard.

Not only that, it’ll be easier to clean with softened water.

Those were the advantages of installing a water softener on your water system.

How about the drawbacks, then? Is there anything that may make a water softener not worth it…

Water Softener Cons

Let’s check out the disadvantages of using a water softener.

1) Increased sodium in the water

Water softeners work by an ion exchange process. They remove the unwanted minerals, calcium and magnesium, and add some sodium or potassium (most commonly sodium) to the water.

There are studies showing that too much sodium intake can be harmful (particularly to those suffering from hypertension or babies).

But water softeners add a very small amount of sodium, much less than many dietary sources of sodium.

MYTH ALERT

It’s a myth that water softeners add more salt to the water. They add sodium (Na), whereas salt is sodium chloride (NaCl).

2) Some waste water is produced

The ion exchange process that removes the harmful minerals (magnesium and calcium) results in a solution called brine, which is sodium dissolved in water. Water softeners need to be regenerated every few days, which means there is some waste water that goes down the drain.

Potentially this increases the salinity of the water in your area but the effect is minimal, and any environmental effects are vanishingly small.

3) The water softener unit will take up some space

Water softeners aren’t huge by any means. In fact, modern softeners are really not too large at all. But if you don’t have much space, you’ll need to make room for it.

It goes wherever your main water inlet pipe is. For some people, it’ll be under the sink, but it could be elsewhere.

There are a few other ways to fix hard water problems.

Let’s now check out cost considerations, is a water softener worth the expense?

Costs Of A Water Softener

The costs to consider are the following:

  • Cost of the water softener unit
  • Running costs

The water softener unit purchase is not as intimidating as it was a few years ago. A few years ago, you’d probably need to pay £1000 and upwards.

Luckily, with increased competition among sellers, you can get a quality water softener from £350-650. How much you pay depends on your needs in terms of size, how much water you use, the number of people in your household.

We’ve got a resource to help you make your decision, our article on the best water softener UK.

Regarding this expense, remember that fixing your hard water problem will save you money in numerous other ways:

  1. reduced soaps, shampoos, cleaning product costs
  2. reduced maintenance, service, replacement costs for boilers, washing machines, dishwashers
  3. lower heating costs

As a result of these savings, British Water say that payback for a water softener purchase is within 2 to 4 years. So it really doesn’t take that long for you make your money back in savings.

Running costs are twofold. Firstly, the electricity costs to run the unit. This is really small expense, equivalent to some small electrical item.

Secondly, the salt, which needs replenishing every now and then. That will set you back around £20-70 per year, depending on how much water you use.

Summing Up ‘Is A Water Softener Worth It?’

Hopefully, you now have a clearer view on your question ‘Is a water softener worth it?’.

To work that out, we talked about the extent of the problems hard water can cause, both seen (such as limescale on taps, kettles, dishwashers; higher heating costs; higher appliance replacement costs; ill effects on skin and hair) and unseen (such as limescale building up over time on your pipes).

Then we looked at the ability of a water softener to solve those problems and brighten your life (literally in the case of your laundry!).

We discussed the potential downsides (such as more sodium in the water).

All things considered, if you’re able to make the initial investment on a water softener, you’ll find that the cost savings will make you your money back fairly quickly. And the effect on your water has benefits to you and your family that are highly likely to be quite excellent, in terms of health, convenience and ease of living.