Hard water. Have you heard of it? If you are from Ontario or other parts of Canada, you will most likely be aware of the problems it causes. In general, hard water originates in areas with thick topsoil and limestone formations, which can be found in many municipalities across the province. The two sources’ municipalities use for their water are groundwater and surface water. Groundwater is much harder than surface water, rich in carbonic acid and appreciable amount of minerals that must be filtered to make it safe for us to use. There are two different systems homeowners can use to remedy hard water issues: water softening or water conditioning. We discuss both approaches below and will help determine what the best option is for your home.

Water Softeners:

A water softener is a filtration system that uses the ionic exchange to remove the hard minerals of calcium and magnesium from the water and replace them with sodium or potassium. This process completely removes all the minerals, resulting in water that is safe to drink and will not result in build up on your pipes or fixtures. Water softeners are the more common approach when dealing with hard water in Ontario.

Although salt-water softeners are commonplace, there are consequences for using them. Water softening can result in the addition of high levels of sodium to our water. Although there is no direct relationship between sodium and adverse health effects, the Government of Canada and the World Health Organization has recently recommended to avoid using unnecessary sodium in our water supplies.

In addition, water softeners do not filter well or tap water, so most homeowners must install a separate filter to improve the water quality on top of removing the hardness from the water. Water softeners require electricity to run for the ion exchange, and recurring additions of sodium, creating larger maintenance costs.

Water Conditioners

Water conditioners on the other hand, are a conditioning system designed to improve the quality of water, but it does not remove the hard minerals. Rather, it changes the composition of these minerals, making it safe to use and drink, and eliminates scale build up on pipes and fixtures.

There are several types of water conditioners that you can use that all carry the same result: to improve the quality of your water. The three most commonplace are: carbon filtration water conditioners, electromagnetic water conditioners, and catalytic media water conditions.

Since the water hardness is not being removed, there is still a chance that scale build up will occur on your pipes and fixtures, depending on the hardness of your municipal water. Conditioners typically use replacement cartridges, and do not require a continuous source of sodium, making maintenance costs lower than traditional water softeners.

So, which one?

Water softeners and conditioners both have their place, but what one should you use? It depends. Ultimately, there are many factors to consider before deciding.

The short answer: if you live in a municipality with a water hardness rating of 513 mg/L (30 G/L) higher, you should use a water softener. Any rating lower than that, it is recommended to use a water conditioner. This is not the whole story. It is important to discuss what solution is best with local water treatment experts and do your own due diligence to determine what type of treatment you would choose for your water.

TriSon Sales are here to help facilitate discussions with water treatment experts or provide meaningful advice that will help ease your plumbing systems.