Jun 032012
 

HouseWater softeners can take up a lot of space – especially conventional systems with their bulky tanks. Not everyone has a large utility room that can house a softener in addition to washing machine, dryer, water heater, and other large appliances people like to keep out of the way. For this reason and others, many homeowners would love to install an outdoor water softener. However, there are some challenges to consider before following through with such an idea.

Challenge #1: Cold Weather

You might be tempted to skip right past this point if you live in a temperate region. Not so fast. Obviously, you wouldn’t want an outdoor water softener in someplace like North Dakota, but water can freeze even in warmer areas of the country (even if just on rare occasions). If water freezes inside the water softener tank, it can cause serious damage. To avoid this, you can build an insulated lean-to over the unit or possibly even bury it in the ground.

Challenge #2: Durability

Besides freezing temperatures, the environment can damage your water softener in other ways as well. If you plan to install a water softener outside, be sure to get a protective covering for the valve and any other components that may wear or become damaged when exposed to the elements. While many systems may be sold for both indoor and outdoor use, they may not all be able to hold up the same in sun, heat, wind, and rain. Also, make sure your system’s warranty still applies in case of outdoor installation.

Challenge #3: Access

Connecting an outdoor water softener to your home’s water supply usually isn’t too much of an issue. In fact, many people choose to install outdoors because their water enters the house at an inconvenient location. However, there’s also the issue of electricity to keep the system running. You’ll also need to plan on where the softener will drain.

Alternatives to an Outdoor Water Softener

If you can overcome these challenges, installing your water softener outside can indeed save a lot of space. It also saves you from having to lug large bags of water softener salt inside your home. Still, given the disadvantages, outdoor installation generally isn’t recommended until you’ve considered the alternatives.

And what are those alternatives? If space is an issue, you could consider getting a compact water softener. This could mean getting a smaller system, or a model that’s simply designed to maximize its use of space. Or it could mean getting a tankless water softener – in other words, an electronic or filtration system that doesn’t require salt to function.

Another option is to get one or more point-of-use systems to battle hard water where its effects are most obvious. For example, you can find shower head water softeners that attach to your shower main. There are also dishwashers with built-in water softeners to deal with one of the most problematic areas for hard water.

Unfortunately, these alternatives have their own downsides. A smaller water softener may not meet your home’s softening needs, and point-of-use systems are no substitute for a whole house system. If these other options don’t work, then installing your water softener outside may be the best option for you.