AEEM Guide Buying a Water Softener
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Household water is created equal. Unlike water collected from rainfall, water that has soaked through the earth picks up a number of elements that can change its taste and color, compromise its safety, alter its feel (make it slippery), reduce its capacity to wash, and may even clog up your house's plumbing.

Water with high concentrations of minerals like calcium and magnesium is labelled "hard." Water softeners neutralize the minerals by exchanging them with sodium that comes from a saltwater brine. Though a relatively simple process, it requires a complex apparatus that houses the little beads that make up the salt water exchange medium and a pump that can flush the exchange medium when it has become saturated with the minerals you are trying to remove.

When comparing water softeners, check these details:
  • Capacity - units have different sizes to correspond to different degrees of water hardness (measured in units called grains) and demands for water. Test your water for hardness to get the right size for your water hardness and the number of residents in your house.
  • Dimensions - units come in different sizes and shapes from ones that look like one or two small water tanks to those that look like large dehumidifiers. Pick a unit that fits with where you will connect it to your household water supply and how much clearance you have off the floor.
  • Reloading - because a saltwater solution recharges the exchange medium, your unit will require reloading with salt (how often you reload a unit is determined by how hard the water is, the salt capacity of your unit, and how much water your household uses -- typically, it is about once a month). Bags of salt usually weigh about 25 pounds, and lifting them can be a challenge for many people while they try to pour them into the unit. The lower the unit and the larger the opening to pour into, the easier and neater the job.
  • Timing and noise when it regenerates - some units regenerate on a regular schedule, others when they have determined that the exchange medium is about exhausted. The regeneration

    itself can take several hours and make as much noise as a loud dishwasher. You want the process to be as quiet and fast as possible and work in the middle of the night when no one is using water.

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