Why Salt Free Water Softeners Make Sense in California
It is commonly known to many Californians hard water is a fact of life. No news here. What is news is this; many Californians live in municipalities that have banned common salt-based water softeners. Banning salt-based softeners is part of an effort by the State of California to keep its water supply clean and usable for home, business and agriculture uses. Basically the State is forcing municipalities to meet guidelines for clean water and municipalities have identified salt-based softeners as a contributor to poor water quality and banning helps meet State requirements for clean water.
How does a salt-based softener contribute to poor water quality?
Salt-based water softeners work on the principle of ion exchange which means this: For every bit of hardness they remove to soften water they add salt to the treated water, salt is exchanged for hardness. The amount of added salt to softened water is pretty insignificant unless someone is on a salt restricted diet.
To keep working ion exchange softeners require a periodic regeneration cycle. Yes, each time the softener goes through a regeneration it wastes a lot of fresh water down the drain but wasted fresh water is not the biggest reason municipalities ban salt-based softeners.
The biggest reason for banning salt-based water softeners is the catastrophic environmental consequences due to the many tons of salt they add to our groundwater through the waste stream they create during their regeneration cycle. Each regeneration cycle requires somewhere between 10 and 37+ pounds of salt depending on factors such as the size of the softener, water hardness and how the softener is set up to operate. Once salt is in the wastewater and our environment it is virtually impossible to remove. Eventually the salt ends up in our fresh water supplies.
The levels of salt in California fresh water supplies are now such a problem they are affecting agriculture. Crops watered with increased salt levels are dying and the soil they are grown in is being ruined. The State of California is forcing municipalities to take action to protect fresh water and agriculture from salt contamination.
Salt waste problems are not unique to California but California may be the most progressive at taking action to curb the problem. The Madison Wisconsin wastewater treatment plant receives more than 100 tons of salt per day. Madison estimates that each house in the sewer district contributes an average of 0.9 pounds of salt per day to the sewer system.
How Can Californians Legally Soften Water?
If you live or work in a California municipality that bans self-regenerating salt-based softeners there really are only two options to soften water;
- Purchase a salt free water softener.
- Join a tank exchange service where your expired softener tank is swapped with newly regenerated tank and taken to an approved regeneration facility to be regenerated and put back into the program.
Finding a Salt Free Water Softener
First let’s be clear, salt free softeners are legal in every municipality in California that has banned salt-based water softeners.
Search the term “salt free water softener” and you will find many different choices based upon different technologies including chemical and physical processes. Chemical salt free softeners add a chemical to soften water. Physical salt free softeners fall into these broad categories electrical, magnetic, assisted crystallization or membrane separation. It is easy to be confused as it seems all claim to be the best, number one or bestselling softener.
Salt free softeners are eco-friendly. They don’t waste fresh drinking water or send salt down the drain. Compared to salt-based softeners most are smaller, simpler, less expensive and require less time and money to maintain.
Our Favorite Salt Free Water Softener
We like PolyHalt® ion bond water softening technology, it is straight forward, simple and works every time. PolyHalt® ion bond softening is also eco-friendly because it does not waste water, use salt or require power to operate.
To be clear, Ion bond softening is not the same as salt-based ion exchange softening. Ion bond softening does not remove hard water minerals during the softening process. The properties or behavior of healthy minerals are changed to make them behave soft but they are left in the water.
The ion bond softening process works by introducing a very small amount of a natural chemical called PolyHalt® into hard water. PolyHalt® readily bonds with hard water minerals to form a new and very stable complex with new properties preventing the minerals from behaving hard, the result is soft water.
Ion Bond Softening with PolyHalt® is really simple. You get to enjoy soft water while being eco-friendly and legal. PolyHalt® ion bond softening does not send salt or waste water down the drain, does not require power and no harm is done to our ecosystem. Healthy but complexed hardness minerals remain in the water safe for consumption and use everywhere throughout the home, business and for agriculture.
Another often overlooked advantage of PolyHalt® ion bond softeners is their ability to treat silica problems. Silica causes spots that look like hard water spots but are actually etched in glass and can’t be cleaned. Silica is very hard and expensive to treat with anything other than PolyHalt®. These are but a few reasons why a salt free water softener makes sense in California .
An advantage particular to PolyHalt® ion bond softeners is sediment and or chlorine treatment is included. This means that one small treatment system for the whole home clarifies by removing sediment, makes the water taste great by removing chlorine and softens the water.
Compare ion bond and ion exchange water softening
Without a technical understanding of water softening science choosing one that’s right for you can be very confusing. All too often sellers don’t understand water softening science and are making unsubstantiated, false and confusing claims. These claims perpetuate confusion about salt free water softeners and even water treatment science. Weeding though the different claims can be very challenging and frankly is preventing consumers from experiencing all the
Bonus: Tips for Finding a Salt Free Water Softener
- Look for a water softener from a reputable manufacturer who has been in business for many years.
- Look for independent 3rd party certifications to back up claims being made.
- Look for clear operating conditions that spell out water quality and flow rate limits.
- Verify your water quality is within the operating conditions of any treatment under consideration.
- Check the manufacturer’s satisfaction policy.
- Don’t buy anything before you get clarity on all questions. Call the manufacturer if their website doesn’t answer your questions.
1 Water Quality Products Magazine May 2016