One of the main issues with water heating and water heaters are the sediment and lime-scale build-up at the bottom of the heater’s tank, heat exchangers, tubes and other components. Using the water softeners in heating systems is one of the easiest and probably the most economical ways to protect the unit from sediment and lime-scale buildup.
Water softeners are to be used if water in your home plumbing is hard. Hard water is water rich in minerals and such water has 12-grains hardness or more… and is usually found in water wells.
If the water softener is not used, the mineral deposits and scale build-up might clog the narrow passageways in tankless heat exchangers, cover the bottom of the metal tank in tank-type heaters, or cover the heating elements in electric units and reduce the efficiency and longevity significantly. The reduction in the efficiency, for example, can be up to 30%.
The sediment build-up can also clog the plumbing pipes or hot water taps and reduce the water flow significantly or damage it.
Other advantages when buying the water softener are; cleaner and smoother water, showers are healthier and more comfortable, dish-washers and washing machines will operate longer and maintenance is cheaper and shorter.
If your tap water or municipality water is not hard and is within the range from 7- to 12- grains hardness, there is no point of buying the unit to soften the water, as it would be too expensive to buy and use it, while the damages made by untreated water will be insignificant.
The main disadvantage when using the water softener is that water that runs through it, results in very soft water that is corrosive, when compare to hard water. It affects some elements in the water heaters, such as the anode rod. The anode rod protects the metal tank from the aggressive water action while it depletes itself during this process and if working in the soft water environment, soft water will speed up its depletion and shorten its life.
When buying a water softener, there are several options and different sizes; the new are always better than the used ones, but more expensive; and there are units with the demand regulating and non-demand regulating. Non-demand water softeners are controlled by timers, are less efficient than demand models which are cheaper.
Water softeners with the demand regulating valves are more efficient because they use the more sophisticate features such as the control valves with the flow meters or sensing probes and resistance sensors, making them more complex and expensive.
When it comes to choosing the right size of water softeners… it depends on your home size, but buy one which can provide at least several days of supply. Keep in mind that damage to the water heater resulting from mineral deposits is not covered under warranty.