What are the benefits of having soft water? Why is it important to have soft water in your home? Professionals in the water treatment industry have seen the benefits of soft water first hand over the years. Water softeners allow for the long, efficient life of water-using appliances and fixtures. Not to mention the additional savings gained by less use of soap and detergents. Are you skeptical? Where’s the proof?What’s interesting is before the Battelle Study, the last evaluation of data was over 20 years ago! Think about how much technology has changed since then. Do the savings still hold true in today’s world of high efficiency appliances?

To answer this question, in 2009 an arm of the professional organization for water treatment dealers, the Water Quality Research Foundation, contracted with an independent testing agency to test the water softener scientifically. The organization, the Battelle Memorial Institute, has worked with various agencies and companies to test everything from wind turbines to armored vehicles to brain inserts for spinal cord injury patients. They are committed to rigorous, scientific evaluation. Here’s their statement before they will work with you:

 

Battelle

 

The Battelle Institute Study tested devices fed with softened and unsoftened water under controlled laboratory conditions designed to accelerate scaling and quantify performance. One of the questions to answer scientifically was; are water heaters more efficient at heating water using softened water. They tested 30 water heaters over a 90 day period.

10 gas water heaters, 40 gallon- 38,000BTU/H burners
10 electric water heaters, 40 gallon-4500 Watt elements
10 tankless water heater, 199,000 BTU/H burners

Each water heater was instrumented to measure inlet and outlet water temperature every 15 seconds, how much hot water was produced and the amount of energy required to heat the water.

Here’s what they found:

  • Gas water heaters & tankless water heaters maintained the original factory efficiency over the 15- year lifetime when operated on soft water. By contrast, hard water led to as much as 48% loss of efficiency in the gas heater.
  • The tankless heater failed in 1.6 years due to scale build-up downstream. None of the heaters; gas, electric or instantaneous made it through the entire testing period on unsoftened water because outlet piping became clogged with scale build-up.
  • For every 5 grains per gallon (gpg) of hardness, there is a 4% loss of efficiency and 4% increase in cost for gas water heaters to heat 50 gallons of water per day. For every 5 gpg of hardness in electric heaters- there is 0.4 lb. of scale accumulated each year.

The data is clear. Softening your water saves energy and in turn saves you money.

What about dishwashers and clothes washers?

Six dishwashers were set up in the lab to cycle 8 times in 24 hours, three on soft water and three on unsoftened water. The detergent was dispensed automatically. The feed water was 216 gpg hard with almost 1 mg/L iron (0.99 mg/L). The photos were taken after 30 days. The dishwashers on softened water looked brand new.

 

dishwasher

 

All diswashers completed the 240 wash cycles but the build-up inside the unsoftened shows they need to be delimed and cleaned due to deposits and scale.

 

dishwasher2

 

The clothes washers showed similar results after 240 cycles: scale build-up and deposit needed to be delimed and cleaned out of the drum. 15 of the 32 nozzles inside the drum plugged with scale.

 

cloths washercloths washer 2

 

Low flow showerheads and faucets on unsoftened water became clogged after 7 days to the extent that testing could no longer continue because of the reduced flow rates in these devices.

It’s reassuring to water treatment professionals that the most common water treatment device in homes and businesses, the water softener, has shown unequivocally to be one of the greenest appliances in terms of energy savings and carbon footprint. Do you have soft water? Ensure that your water-using appliances are operating at their highest efficiency for as long as possible and avoid unnecessary, premature replacements and repairs.

For further detail on how the carbon footprint is calculated and the statistics on energy savings, pick up the Battelle Institute’s final report on the benefits of soft water.
It’s a good read.

*Photos taken from Final Report: Study of Benefits of Removal of Water Hardness from a Water Supply (Battelle Memorial Institute)

By, Jill McDonald of Hellenbrand Inc