More than 23 million households in the United States use and rely on private wells. Well water comes from the ground and is untreated. Many are growing concerned and wonder, “Do you need a water softener for well water?”.
You don’t really need a water softener to use well water. However, consider getting your home a water softener to protect your plumbing from buildup.
While well water is usually hard water, it isn’t always the case, especially if you live somewhere where hard water isn’t prevalent. Installing a water softener would depend on your personal preference and the actual hardness of your water.
Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about well water, water hardness, water softeners, and whether you should install one or not.
What is Well Water?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 23 million households across the United States rely on private wells to provide water to the rest of their homes.
Homeowners with private wells are responsible for the quality and safety of the water they use. Especially because EPA doesn’t regulate or provide standards or criteria for private wells and their use.
Well water, also known as groundwater, comes straight from the ground. This means well water is untreated, unlike regulated water provided in most cities and municipalities.
Because well water usually comes straight from the ground and passes through soils and rocks found underground, various minerals can also be present.
Well water is not inherently hard water but it usually is. The presence of the minerals calcium and magnesium make well water hard. These minerals are naturally present beneath the Earth’s surface, which well water passes through to get to your home.
The presence of these minerals can cause a build-up of white scales deposits. This can affect your plumbing fixtures, faucets, sinks, and bathtubs.
Hard well water may also have a high iron content. High iron content in water affects the way it tastes and could leave brown, rusty stains on clothes and fixtures.
Calcium, magnesium, and iron are not harmful to health but can be a nuisance to your plumbing fixtures and to your home.
Concerns on the Use of Hard Well Water
Hard water quality isn’t usually harmful to your health. It does have damaging effects on the rest of your home:
Hard water leaves white scales deposits
The presence of minerals like calcium and magnesium in hard water causes mineral deposits. Hard water leaves white-scale deposits everywhere it touches and it is not a good sight to behold.
The deposits can be anywhere from plumbing fixtures, utensils, cutlery, pots, kettles, and more.
What’s more, these white-scale deposits can build up inside water supply lines and water pipes. In the long run, too much buildup will restrict the flow of water through the pipes and will cause low water pressure.
Hard water can damage appliances
The white-scale deposits hard water seemingly leaves behind its trail will also be present in any of your home appliances that use water. This includes coffee makers, dishwashers, washing machines, and so much more.
These deposits will cause damage to these appliances and would force you to discard and replace them earlier than their supposed lifespan.
Hard water doesn’t make soap lather
Soap reacts with the magnesium and calcium present in hard water. This makes soaps less likely to lather. Instead, it leaves behind a build-up of soap that feels like a thin sticky layer of film. You might have to get a specific shampoo to deal with this, or your hair might feel like it isn’t clean over time.
Hard water stains bathroom fixtures
Minerals in hard water like iron and other sediments can stain bathroom fixtures. This can come off as a thin gray film on faucets or rusty brown stain on bathtubs and toilets.
Hard water leaves skin and hair dry
Hard water leaves skin dry and the hair dull and brittle after a shower. They can also feel sticky like there’s a film of layer of soap or residue you can’t seem to wash off.
Hard water stains clothes
The use of hard water in washing clothes can stain them and leave them looking dull due to the presence of iron, a common hard water contaminant.
Hard water affects the taste of drinking water
Lastly, hard water can affect the way your drinking water tastes. It’s not exactly a cause for health concern but it can definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth.
What is a Water Softener?
Water softening systems are whole-house filtration systems that can soften hard water.
This system attaches to your home’s water system filtering incoming water before it reaches your home. Water softeners remove the minerals calcium and magnesium found in hard water. This makes water soft and makes them more efficient for home use.
The softening process: how water softeners work
Water softeners use a process called ion exchange.
All water softeners have three basic components that help them work their magic: a resin vessel water tank, a control valve, and a brine tank.
When hard water enters the resin tank, the ion exchange resin attracts the calcium and magnesium ions and removes them from the water. Then, these are replaced with sodium ions (which also cover the resin).
While magnesium and calcium ions are flushed out to remove the hardness of the water, sodium ions and the now-softened water flow into your home.
Helping You Decide: Do You Need a Water Softener System for Well Water?
Now, the question remains – do you need a water softener for well water?
No home ever really needs a water softener. It’s all about preference and how hard your home water is.
Water hardness is a measure of the amount and concentration of calcium and magnesium ions present in the water. It’s usually measured in grains per gallon, gpg, or milligrams per liter, mg/L.
Refer to this scale in determining whether your water is in need of a water softener or not:
- Less than 1.0 gpg: soft water
- 1.0 – 3.5 gpg: slightly hard water
- 3.5 – 7.0 gpg: moderately hard water
- 7.0 – 10.5 gpg: hard water
- Greater than 10.5 gpg: very hard water
Water softener manufacturers often sell water testing kits so you can test and find out your water’s hardness level yourself. You can also look for the hard water telltale signs we detailed above. From there, you can decide whether you should install a water softener for your home or not.
The Pros and Cons of Using a Water Softening System
Next, we have all the pros and cons of installing a water softener can offer to help you make a sound decision for your needs:
Water softener pros
- It removes mineral deposits on the plumbing system, water pipes, and water supply lines.
- It reduces the amount of soap, detergent, and shampoo your household uses.
- It doesn’t leave a sticky film of residue and soap scum around your home.
- It encourages healthy skin and hair.
- It lengthens the lifespan of appliances that use water to function.
Water softener cons
- Water softener units can be expensive. Depending on the brand and model you’re eyeing, expect to pay anywhere from $600 to $1,500 plus installation fees.
- It requires regular maintenance including regularly checking and adding salt, cleaning the water tank, and regularly checking for leaks.
- It uses quite a lot of salt and it’s not exactly eco-friendly.
- You need to regularly test your water to ensure the unit is working fine.
Well water is prevalent across the country with well over 23 million households across the country relying on their own private wells. While well water isn’t inherently hard, it usually is. With growing concern over the use of hard water, many often ask if water softeners are essential in a household.
Truth is, not all homes that use well water need to install a water softener. It all depends on personal preference and how hard your water actually is. If your water begins to affect many aspects of your home – white-scale deposits, stains on plumbing fixtures, damages on appliances, and dry skin and hair – then you might want to consider getting a water softener installed.
And that has been our detailed guide on the question, “Do you need a water softener for well water?”. You can reach out to us below with more of your curious queries!