water softener - glass cup nature

Do I Need a Water Softener (to Add Life to My Water Heater)?

Water heaters typically last about 8-12 years. That’s not a lot for such a big investment.

And there are all sorts of factors that can make that number lower, such as corrosion, neglect, and high water pressure. One potential problem is how hard water (found in most homes) affects the lifespan of your water heater.

In this article, we’ll answer the question, “Do I need a water softener to add life to my water heater?”

The Difference Between Hard and Soft Water

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “well, water is already soft, isn’t it?” You’re right, it’s not like the water coming out of your shower head is going to punch you in the face.

But in this case, we’re talking about water’s mineral concentration. Hard water is simply water that has high mineral content. When water percolates through deposits of chalk and limestone (made up of magnesium carbonates and calcium), hard water is formed.

Unfortunately, hard water in your water heater can lead to costly breakdowns and an increased energy bill. And most of the states in the United States have hard water, which is why people often need a water-softening system.

Soft water, on the other hand, is treated water in which the only ion is sodium. That means no buildup of minerals and calcium deposits on your pipes and fixtures.

Do I need a water softener for my water heater - infographic soft vs hard water
There are clear differences between hard water and soft water. Soft water is clearly superior if maintained annually, making skin feel better, water taste better, your energy bill lower, and even making appliances and plumbing systems last longer (less corrosive limescale buildup).

What is Water-Softening?

A water softener works by using a process called ion exchange to remove things like calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese – replacing them with harmless sodium ions. Hard water minerals stay inside the water heater while soft H20 regulates throughout your home!

do I need a water softer for my water heater - process
The process of softening water is quite simple and safe.

So, Do I Need a Water Softener?

The bottom line is this. Most people (and water heaters) don’t “need” a water softener. It’s certainly not mandatory to have one in your home. Your water heater will work without one.

Some people believe that water heaters only require a water softener if the water system works off a private well with extremely hard water. This just isn’t the case. Even if you live in the city, you could be receiving hot water from your tap.

do I need a water softener - scale buildup on electric water heater
This is what limescale buildup looks like on an electric water heater’s heating element. It doesn’t take a scientist to see how hard water can decrease the life of pipes, parts, and appliances that work in water.

But Should I Get a Water Softener?

That’s really the better question: Should I get a water heater?

If your water’s hardness is greater than 7 grains per gallon, you should get a whole-house water softener system installed. Softening the water will ensure that your water heater and other appliances run well. And it can improve the taste, smell, or look of your water.

A water softener prevents the build-up of minerals (scale) on the inside of pipes, fixtures, and water heaters. It also reduces the formation of soap films and detergent curds in sinks, bathtubs, and washing machines.

As for your water heater, the advantages of having a water softener far outweigh the disadvantages. Dealing with hard water in the home can be a nuisance and detrimental to hot water heaters and plumbing. Any mechanical device or pipe with water coursing through it should perform more efficiently, and longer, with soft water.

do I need a water softener for my water heater - test kit
You can test the hardness of your water at home with a simple test kit or test strips. These cost anywhere from about $10 to $30. Or you can contact your city. They should know the level of water hardness in your area.

Related Resources

Final Thoughts

Obviously, not everyone needs a water softener. But if you live in a hard water area and would like your water heater to have the best chance at a long life, then you probably should.

Even better, you’ll enjoy tons of other advantages to your skin, appliances, energy usage, and sense of taste. All of these should improve with a water softener. And I can personally attest to it as I’ve been using one for well over 20 years.

But before you rush into a purchase, get your water tested first. Don’t just assume you have hard or soft water. And call your plumber if you have any questions.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need a water softener plumbing repair or replacement.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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