Buying a water softener presents a lot of different options – salt based vs salt free, large vs small, timed vs metered, and so on. Yet another question to consider is whether you should get a whole house water softener, or one that softens only a portion of your water. Hard water problems may be more noticeable in some parts of your house than others. So why get a whole house softener if your hard water concerns don’t affect your whole house?
Whole House Water Softener Systems vs the Alternatives
When it comes to water softeners, whole house systems are the norm. Typically, a softener filters your water supply at the point where it enters your home. It often sits next to your water heater in a utility room or some other out-of-the-way place.
However, there are options for softening water on a smaller, point-of-use basis. For example, some high-end dishwashers have water softeners integrated into them. But perhaps more notably, you can buy a shower head water softener – a small shower head/tank combo that attaches to your shower main and softens only the water you use for showering.
The advantage of these systems is obvious. By only softening the water in problem areas, you avoid a lot of the inconveniences of a whole house system – the need for lots of salt, maintenance issues, sodium added to your drinking water, and so on. Besides that, these systems are usually much cheaper than buying and installing a whole house system. And at least in the case of shower head water softeners, you can take them with you when you leave.
The Problem with the Alternatives
Now the downside. If you have hard water in one part of your home, then you have it in all of your home. Even if spots on your dishes or soap scum in the shower may be the most obvious signs of hard water, there may be other, more serious problems going on that you can’t see. You could have deposits forming inside your pipes or appliances that could be increasing your utility bill every month. If that’s the case, then buying a point-of-use system like a shower head softener is a bit like putting your head in the sand.
On the other hand, there are cases where one of those systems could be the better option. For example, if you’re only temporarily living at your current residence, then getting a portable system makes sense. Also, if you know that your water isn’t hard enough to cause scaling – but you still want the softest water possible for showering – then you are free to get a shower head water softener without worry that you’re ignoring a problem elsewhere.
If you notice signs of hard water in your home, the best thing to do is get it tested. If you have very hard water, then you really need to get a whole house water softener. If, on the other hand, your water is borderline or on the soft side, then one of the alternatives could suit your needs.