How hard is the water in my area?
Much of the UK, particularly the south, suffers from hard water.
The map illustrates where in the UK the hardest water is found.
As you can see, the levels of hardness tend to increase the further south east you go.
What is hard water?
Naturally soft rain water flows underground and picks up the minerals Calcium and Magnesium. These are the minerals that make water hard.
Guidance issued under the Building Regulations indicates that where the water hardness exceeds 200ppm, provision should be made to treat the feed of water to water heaters and the hot water circuit of combination boilers to reduce the rate of accumulation of lime scale and the consequent reduction in energy efficiency.
Whilst this guidance only applies to new houses or the fitting of a new boiler, it makes sense to do something before your existing system scales up.
Why should I upgrade my water softener?
There are many reasons why it could be worth upgrading your existing water softener.
For people who already own a water softener, but are fed up with poor performance, expensive running costs or those dreadful sacks of salt. Just as computers have changed almost beyond recognition in the last five to ten years, so have water softeners. The leading brands providing these improvements are Harveys and Kinetico Water Softeners
Can I take a water softener with me when I move?
Most certainly, this is possible with modern water softeners. Installation techniques involve quick fitting connections, similar to those used with washing machines. All that is necessary, is to close off the inlet and outlet valves to the water softener and open up the bypass valve, allowing hard water to flow to the storage tank and household taps. The water softener can then simply be disconnected, moved to its new location and re plumbed as necessary. We offer a deinstallation and reinstallation service if you move within the area we cover.
What are the running costs of a water softener?
The running costs are much less than you might think. Once you have a water softener installed can depend on a few factors. The main one is just simply salt, which creates the brine solution needed for when the water softener needs to clean itself. Depending on which water softener you choose the water usage for cleaning can be as low as two flushes of a toilet in a day.
Some water softeners are more efficient than others. Timer operated water softeners are perhaps the least efficient, (electrical). It is non electric, meter controlled units that produce the most softened water, per pound of salt. These more modern water softeners function by your water pressure alone.
Running costs are also closely related to the hardness of the local water supply and the amount of softened water used. If water is used lavishly, costs will also rise marginally. As the parameters are so wide, it is difficult to give an accurate figure. Generally costs can vary between 15p and 30p per day. It will be found however that the running costs are far outweighed by the many advantages, benefits and cost savings obtained through using softened water.
- Salt – block/tablet/granular
- Water – It depends on the water softener and the water hardness. Electrical water softeners are programmed to regenerate at night time when the household is asleep (due to the single cylinder design, it can not clean and provide soft water at the same time). So if you are on holiday it will be continuously using water and salt. Non electric water Softeners just metre the water being used and will clean at any time of the day, when necessary. If you go on holiday it uses no water or salt until you return.
- Electricity unless you opt for a non electric water softener.
- Servicing – this can be a costly regular agreement and recommended usually with electrical water softeners. Regular annual servicing is not necessary for non electric, with long term proven reliability the need to service is usually minimal if at all during the life of the water softener.
Savings when you have a water softener
Read more on our benefits page but here are a few;
- Product savings up to 75%
- No more scale reducers/cleaners
- No need for abrasive cleaning cloths/products
- Appliances last over a 3rd of the life longer
- Heating is more efficient due to your pipework not being insulated by scale
- Less time spent cleaning
- Bathroom/kitchen stay newer for longer
- Boiling taps stay scale free saving costly annual servicing/descaling of taps and tanks
- Reverse limescale damage
Can I use softened water in my aquarium?
Softened water is satisfactory for most fish and should not have any undesirable or toxic affect on the aquarium. When changing the water, it is always advisable to do so gradually. This is important so as not to disturb or unbalance the aquarium’s environment. Temperature and pH of the water is critical to some tropical fish and any drastic change could result in fatalities. The change from hard water to softened should be undertaken over a month or so, replacing only about 25% of the aquarium’s capacity at any one time.
How much soap and detergent should be used with softened water?
It is always better to use too little than too much. In a washing machine it may be possible to use only a heaped tablespoonful of washing powder for a full, lightly soiled load. You may only need a teaspoonful for a delicate or hand wash cycle. Over a period of time experience will show you what is sufficient in most cases.
You can cut back on your washing powder by up to 75% with the introduction of softened water. Even fabric conditioner is only needed for scent purposes.
Most washing powders contain chemicals that exist solely to remove hard water minerals from your water supply before washing your clothes. When you invest in a water softener, your device will remove these minerals from your water supply and so you’ll no longer need to use conventional washing powders to do this job.
We have developed a washing powder specifically for soft water homes, it’s kinder to your clothes and your skin. If you would like to try a washing powder created especially for soft water just visit our shop.
Can I use softened water in my steam iron or car battery?
Distilled or demineralised water ONLY is satisfactory for use in this type of equipment. Neither hard nor softened water has all the minerals removed. Therefore they should not be used in steam irons or car batteries.
Is softened water safe to drink?
In most instances softened water is perfectly safe to drink. The beneficial minerals essential for good health, come mostly from food in a balanced diet. Neither hard nor soft water can provide a significant proportion of the daily needs for minerals. Although we use low sodium milk powders in the country it is advisable that as softened water can contain up to 300mg/l of sodium, hard water only should be used when making up powdered milk for baby feeds. Please see attached Fact Sheet for more detail.
Will softened water help dry skin conditions, such as eczema?
Sufferers of conditions such as dry skin, eczema and psoriasis notice benefits from the use of softened water. We hear from many of our customers that the introduction of soft water has really help skin complaints, you will notice this through water softener reviews. Successful reports suggest the following:
- Water softeners eliminate scummy soap curd and result in a cleaner lather which is kind to skin, reducing dryness and itching.
- With softened water, the amount of soap used when washing clothes can be greatly reduced. Also pure soap products can be used with softened water in preference to detergents.
- Hardness minerals simply not sticking to the skin causing irritation.
For more information please read the following information sheet;
Should softened water be used for watering indoor plants?
When using hard or soft water to water houseplants, it should be remembered that both contain minerals which will be deposited in the soil. If allowed to accumulate, plant growth will not necessarily be sustained. Rain, distilled or deionised water is preferable. Hard water is the second choice and softened water an inadequate third choice.
Only a few plants take to artificially softened water in the long term although it is unlikely that any positive harm will result. Watering the garden with softened water can be very wasteful, unnecessary and expensive. It is preferable that outside taps used for garden watering be left connected directly to the incoming hard water main or if this is not possible in most households you can simply bypass the water softener when watering the garden.
How much money am I likely to save with softened water?
A water softener is an investment but it is one that pays back. Dealing with hard water is expensive in time and money. Once you add up descaling cleaners, abrasive cloths, extra detergent and the damage to appliances in the home, it makes more of an impact that you realise. If you have grown up in a hard water area we get used to paying for all of these extras.
Please see the links below, where you can see a rough guide to savings you can experience when you introduce a water softener to your household.
Work out what you can save on your shopping;
Average Household Savings;
Will softening drinking water deprive my family of essential minerals?
No. Food is the primary supply of minerals for our good health. A small amount is absorbed from the water we drink but it is not significant. Most potable water supplies whether hard or soft are unable to supply all the minerals we need. A single pint of milk can supply the mineral equivalent of 3 gallons of drinking water.
My hard water comes from a local bore hole on my farm. Is this likely to present problems?
It is possible to soften a private bore hole supply. The installation of the water softener may be more complicated. Most water softeners operate within a minimum and maximum pressure limit and as most well water must be pumped into the house, it is important that the right kind of pressure pump is fitted. It is also preferable to insert a filter to remove sediment and other water born contaminants, that may be present in the raw water. Most companies marketing water softeners will advise you on the installation requirements and provide the necessary plumbing components.
My rising water main comes up in my hall by my front door. Will this make installing a water softener difficult?
This situation is fairly common and there is usually a simple solution for the installation of a water softener. This is why we advise a survey so you have a full understanding of the work involved.
Flexible piping has greatly simplified this type of installation and enables a softener to be sited in confined locations, often many metres from the water supply. A water softener can be installed in an adjacent garage, utility or store room. In some cases softeners can be sited on an external wall, as long as the appliance is well insulated from extreme weather conditions. It is quite common for external salt cabinets to be fitted in this way. Polystyrene lined boxes for this purpose are available from us. Loft Installations are also a possibility in some cases.
An installation that may seem impossible to the DIY handyman, may easily be tackled by the professional installer who has developed techniques and has the right tools. It can pay considerable dividends to consult the experts. We would be more than happy to visit your home and advise you without any obligation.
Can a water softener be used with lead pipes?
Some of the lead pipework may have to be replaced first. Although lead pipework in hard water areas may not cause a problem, it is advisable to replace it. However, soft water (natural rainwater or artificially softened water) in lead pipework systems may cause the pickup of lead. If your lead pipework has not already been replaced, any pipes that carry softened water must be changed. Grants maybe available for such renovation of pipework for households with low income. Further information maybe obtained from your local authority.
Can a water softener drain into a septic tank?
Yes. Regeneration waste water for a water softener will have no adverse effect on a septic tank, provided both are the right size for the number of people in the family. Softened water can help reduce the amount of detergent discharged into a septic tank.
A cesspit is just a storage tank that stores the sewage for a period of time and is emptied periodically by the municipality (typically every month). A cesspit does not discharge to the ground.
A septic tank is a holding tank that is intended to allow some “anaerobic” digestion of the sewage to start before overflowing to a drainage field. These are the most common private systems in the UK.
There is a third type of “on site” domestic waste treatment and this is usually referred to as “Package Treatment Plant”. These are more sophisticated in that they aerate the sewage. As
you may know, we have had some suppliers of this type of equipment void their warranty if softened water is discharged – but this is for a variety of “alleged” reasons – not just salt. The issue is bigger in the US and there is a big development programme investigating it with the WQA.
Increased sodium in the softened water can actually be helpful to the bacterial organisms in the septic tank.
Do water softeners work with combi boilers and pressurised systems?
Yes, the Infinity T4 and TwinTec water softeners are capable of high flow rates and are designed to work effectively with both the traditional, and the more modern direct feed, mains systems.
When you remove scale from pipes, do they start to leak?
No. The hole in your pipe would have been leaking long before the scale formed and as the scale is porous, it would continue to leak. A hole appearing in a pipe after scale has formed would also leak for the same reason. This also applies to taps and other plumbing fittings.