If you live in Edmonton, you have hard water. Hard water can wreak havoc on faucets, toilets, and water heaters. It also leaves a film in the shower and on glassware, is difficult to clean with, and can be hard on you skin.
Fortunately, installing a water softener can give you the soft, appealing water your home deserves. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about water softener installation now.
Water’s hardness is a traditional measure of how water will react with soap. The harder the water, the more soap that is required to build a lather, the softer the water the easier it will lather.
Who Needs a Water Softener?
Almost every home in Edmonton and the surrounding areas that is using municipal water will benefit from installing a water softener. Water is considered generally hard if it has between 3.7 and 7.0 grains per gallon of minerals. At approximately 10 grains per gallon, Edmonton’s water is quite hard.
This level of water hardness can cause:
- Scale build-up in pipes
- Scale build up and deterioration of water heaters
- Reduction of water flow through home piping systems
- Scaly build up in faucets and appliances
- Dry, rash-prone skin
Water softeners protect your pipes and appliances from unnecessary wear, which can lengthen their lifespan. It also makes dishes, clothing, and other items easier to get and keep clean.
Plumbing fixtures and appliances exposed to hard water tend to require far more maintenance and repair than the same fixtures or appliances with a soft water source. The scale buildup from hard water effects all water bearing parts in them including all the cartridges, valves, orifices, nozzles, and sprayers and wears them out prematurely.
If you have concerns about any of these things, a water softener may be a great investment for your home.
Types of Water Softeners
Water softeners come in several different styles. How complicated your water softener installation will be depends on which style you choose.
Salt-based systems contain beads made of resin. They use salt, typically in the form of pellets or nuggets, to ionize your water as it flows through the system. Ionized minerals get caught in the resin bed, leaving only clean, soft water flowing out into your home’s pipes.
Salt-based systems are highly effective and affordable. They require occasional restocking with fresh salt.
These systems can be somewhat difficult to install due to the very specific plumbing requirements involved.
Salt-free systems are sometimes alternatively referred to as descalers. There are many salt free softening systems available on the market with all kinds of convincing articles about their effectiveness. It is our opinion that they are ultimately not effective in reducing the hardness of water.
Magnetic water softening systems claim to use magnetic fields to soften water. Although they are marketed as “safe” because they use no chemicals and are easy to install, they are rarely a good choice. The science behind these devices is not well established, and there are currently no standards in place to universalize or guarantee them.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
Reverse osmosis systems are generally used to purify your drinking water for those who are concerned about what is in our water supply. Reverse osmosis systems are water filtration systems consisting of a 4 phase filtration process. While RO systems are able to be installed on a large scale for whole home solutions, this is relatively rare due to the size and cost of the equipment for whole home use. Many homes have them installed for drinking water purification as they are very effective in purifying water as long as filters are changed with regular frequency.
RO systems work better on softened water as there is no hardness to prematurely clog the filters. RO systems installed on hard water sources still work very well, but the filters / membrane require replacement about twice as often when compared to soft water.
Water Softener Size
In addition to choosing which style of softener you need, you will also need to take size into consideration. On average, each person in your home will use between 50 and 100 gallons of water per day. Your actual use may be higher or lower due to variations in lifestyle and household composition.
To determine the minimum size water softener appropriate for your home, multiply the total number of gallons your home uses per day by the number of grains per gallon in your water supply.
For example, Edmonton’s water hardness is about 10 grains per gallon. If you have five people in your home, you will need a tank that handles approximately 55,000 grains per day. Your plumber can easily determine the right size for you as well.
How to Choose the Right Water Softener for Your Home
Once you know the basics of water softeners, choosing a water softener is often easier than you might expect. Most households will find a standard salt-based system to be the best combination of cost and value for their needs.
Salt-free systems are tempting in homes where members of the household are highly sensitive to salt, but remember, these units are not effective in softening water. If you want untreated water at the kitchen faucet this can be arranged. The other alternative is to install a Reverse osmosis system which will remove essentially everything from the water for drinking.
RO water is so pure that even your ice cubes will be crystal clear!
When is a Water Softener a Must?
If you have any of the following a water softener is a must for you:
- High end plumbing fixtures
- Tankless water heater
- High end water using appliances
If you have invested a lot of money into fancy faucets or toilets a water softener will help preserve your investment. If you would like to purchase fancy fixtures but don’t want to soften your water, we would recommend you save your money and pass on the high end fixtures because the just won’t last with our hard Edmonton water.
If you have a tankless water heater a softener can really extend the lifespan of your unit. Our hard water will cause scale buildup in the tankless water heater’s heat exchanger. This will reduce the amount of flow it can handle and will reduce the unit’s ability to heat the water. The problem will get worse over time until it completely plugs off the heat exchanger or the unit just stops producing hot water. Repairs on these units are expensive and many can be prevented by softening the water.
Where to Install Water Softener
Where to install water softeners is one of the first questions homeowners usually have once they’ve decided on a system. There are a few easy-to-follow rules that can help you decide where to position your system.
If you are replacing a water softener, you may be able to simply put the new device where the old one was. Changes to the size and style of softening unit or other plumbing features may require a change of position, however.
Water Entry Point
The most basic rule for choosing a water softener installation point is to put your unit as close as possible to the main water line through which water comes into your home. This works for two reasons.
First, your water heater and other plumbing appliances are likely to already be there. This makes plumbing, installing, and connecting your water softener easy.
Second, this minimizes the amount of piping exposed to untreated water. This protects your pipes from buildup. In every case, install your softener between your home’s main water entry point and your water heater.
Sizing and Other Considerations
If you chose a particularly large system, you may have to choose its position primarily on where it will fit. Most units also need to be positioned near drains.
Water softeners should be placed inside, as exposure to freezing temperatures can ruin them. Exposure to direct sunlight is also not recommended.
Finally, it is helpful to consider connection points. Whenever possible, softening units should be placed when it is cleanest and easiest to make and maintain the necessary piping and connections.
In most homes, water softeners are best placed in the same room as the water heater, although this is not always the case.
Never install a water softener where it can receive water from a hot water heater as this can ruin your unit. There are a few rare scenarios where you may need to soften hot water. In this case a special hot water unit is required.
Preparing to Install a Water Softener
When looking at how to install a water softener, there are a few key steps to take before getting started.
First, clean up the area if necessary. Remove clutter and debris that may pose a safety hazard during installation. If appropriate, sweep the area or bring in extra lighting so you can see clearly.
Second, if you are doing the installation yourself, gather the tools you will need. If you have a homeowner’s toolkit, grab it. You should also round up:
- A tape measure
- Plumbers tape
- Pliers and a pipe wrench
- Piping, fittings, and an appropriate cutter
- A soldering torch, solder, and flux
If you have hired an Edmonton plumber to do the job for you, they will bring all the supplies they need.
Third, if you are installing the unit yourself, be sure to read the instructions that came with your system. Read them from start to finish at least twice to be sure you understand them and have not missed anything.
How to Plumb a Water Softener
Water softener installation for standard salt-based units will vary somewhat based on size, style, and position. In general, however, the installation process looks like this.
1. Double Check the Unit
Make sure that you have correctly identified the inlet and outlet points. Position the unit so that the inlet is facing the water supply and the outlet is facing your water heater.
2. Shut off the Water
3. Drain the Water
Turn on your faucets and let them run until they go dry. This will empty the water out of your pipes and prevent a mess when you start cutting.
4. Start Cutting
Use a pipe cutter to cut the pipe where the water supply comes into your home after your main shut off valve. Apply elbow or T fittings so that you can put in two lines, one to the inlet port and one to the outlet port.
5. Cut and Solder Piping
Cut your piping stock to length and affix the pipes to the bypass valve using the fittings. Solder fittings carefully. Then attach the compression fittings that came with your softener per unit instructions.
6. Attach the Drain Hose
Clamp the drain hose into place on the softer. Secure it at least 2 inches but not more than ten feet above the drain.
7. Connect the Overflow Tube
Connect the overflow tube attached to the unit’s brine tank. Follow manufacturer instructions specific to your unit for this step.
Backwashing and Finalizing Setup
To finish setting up your unit, you will need to backwash the system.
First, set the valve to the “bypass” setting and turn on your home’s main water supply. Allow it to run for several minutes. This will flush your pipes.
Restore power to your water heater and relight it if needed. Check the piping connecting the softener and the heater to make sure there aren’t any leaks.
Plug your water softener in, turn the valve to the “backwash” position, and hold down the “regenerate” button.
Open the bypass valve inlet slowly to release any built-up air. Once the water is flowing smoothly, open both the inlet and outlet controls fully. Allow the tank to fill with water.
Add Salt and Program as Desired
Add salt per the instructions provided with your machine. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to complete any final setup on your unit’s controls that is required.
How Long Does Water Softener Installation Take?
Professional plumbers can typically install a water softener in just a few hours. Installing a system yourself takes longer. If you have all of the right tools and are confident working with pipes and solder, you can budget about five hours for the job.
More complex systems or less experienced DIYers should plan significantly longer to get the job done.
Hiring a Professional
Hiring a professional plumber to install your water softener is always a smart move. Experienced professionals not only know how to plumb a water softener, they also have the experience and training necessary to tackle challenges and unexpected problems as they come up.
They know how to make water softener connections work even when your pipes change sizes, your water heater is set up strangely, or the equipment has to go in an odd, hard-to-move-in space. They offer other benefits, as well.
Codes and Inspections
In many areas, any work done on your home that relates to your water lines must meet specific code requirements. It must also pass inspection.
Even experienced DIYers typically aren't familiar with all of these codes. Very little is worse than getting the whole job done only to discover it isn't up to code and has to be ripped out and redone.
Edmonton plumbers will get your system installed up to code the first time around, hassle-free.
Warranties and Insurance
Hiring a professional is often necessary to keep the warranties on your water softener and water heater intact. Doing the job yourself may compromise your coverage.
Your homeowners' insurance also may not cover any accidents that happen if you do the job yourself and do something wrong.
Hiring a professional protects you and your home and provides you with peace of mind.
Get a Quote
Having a professional handle your water softener installation is more affordable than you think. Contact Edmonton's top plumbing professionals today for a quote and discover just how convenient getting a water softener for your home can be.