To Use Salt or Not to Use Salt? That is the Question!
If you’re considering purchasing a water softener you’ll naturally be wondering whether to use a salt-based system or an alternative non-salt based water softener. While there are many factors to consider, let’s cut through all the noise and focus on one simple question: should you use salt or not?
What are the Benefits of Salt-Based Water Softeners?
In recent years the tide of opinion has turned against the use of salt to soften water. But is that negative opinion justified? Are we forgetting the benefits of salt-based water softeners in preventing the harmful effects of hard water? Or is salt simply old news?
Well, the main benefit of salt systems is a big one: they work. If you purchase from a reputable manufacturer, you can be pretty confident that the system will tackle your hard water problem. That is, it will remove the minerals that cause those ugly white deposits of scale around your home.
Mission accomplished then? Not quite.
While a salt-based system will usually help with your hard-water problem, the question you should be asking is: at what cost to you and the environment?
Salt of the Earth, But Does it Cost the Earth?
First let’s look at the all important dollars. A salt-based water softener requires you to top up the amount of salt in the tank periodically. Apart from the inconvenience of this, it means you have yearly maintenance costs of around $250 just for bags of salt. Non-salt systems typically have much lower annual maintenance charge – anywhere from 50% to 100% less than a salt system.
Non-salt systems also do not normally use electricity, reducing your bill if you’re converting from an old salt water softener. While we’re talking about household bills, a non-salt system like the nuvoH2O can use about four times less water than a traditional salt system. Over the course of one year, that is a significant reduction in your water bill.
And finally, because of the complexity of salt systems, they are much more difficult to install. This means you’ll need a professional plumber and installation is likely to set you back between $300 to $500.
Let’s look at a salt-based system and a salt-free softener and compare year one costs:
|Brand||Unit Cost||Shipping||Yearly Maintenance||Installation||Total Yr 1 Cost|
Salt and Your Health: Please Don’t Pass the Salt
Using salt to soften water is going to increase the saline levels in your water, but on its own that will not likely harm your health. Although with that said, if you’re on a severely restricted sodium diet, then it’s recommended that you avoid salt-based water softeners. But even for those of us that don’t have a known medical reason to watch our salt intake this closely, salt levels are already far too high in our diets.
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks and heart disease is one of our biggest killers. Reducing sodium has been proven to be one of the best ways of lowering high blood pressure.
There is no need to be overly concerned, using a salt-based water softener is not going to drastically increase your salt intake. But, anything that reduces you’re salt levels can only be a good thing for the health of you and your family.
Salt systems also remove the minerals that cause the hard water, but these are actually good for you. It’s not the minerals themselves that are the problem, it’s the deposits of these minerals that causes you all the issues. Magnesium and Calcium are important parts of our diet and so removal of the minerals from this point of view is not desirable.
An Inconvenient Truth
Salt-based water softeners have the inconvenience of requiring regular topping up of the salt level. This either means buying heavy bags of salt each month when buying groceries, or stock-piling a large number of bags somewhere in your home.
Non-salt systems have a distinct advantage over their salt rivals. There is no need to regularly buy or store bags of salt, in fact many of the non-salt systems require very little attention.
The nuvoH2O, for example, is much easier to maintain than any of its salt rivals. Once you have installed it you will only need to change the cartridge every 6 months or so. Other than that, you really can leave it to do its job of solving your hard water problem.
And let’s be honest, you’re busy – in fact, we’re all busier than ever before – so anything that makes dealing with your hard water easier is always welcome.
Impact on the Environment: Where Does all the Salt Go?
The environmental impact of releasing salty brine from household waste into our rivers and waterways can be considerable. Unnatural levels of salt affects the plant and animal life in local ecosystems.
The wastewater you create in your home is also reused by industry and agriculture. Because plants, like us, only have a certain tolerance to high salt levels, wastewater used for irrigation reduces the yields farmers are able to generate from their crops. Or they have to use lots more fresh water to wash the salt away from the roots of the plants.
This damage has been enough for some states in the US to ban the use of salt-based water softeners, encouraging homeowners to convert to non-salt systems with financial incentives.
Arizona State University studied the effects of increased salt in reused wastewater. They said that with salt based water softeners consumers are reducing hardness but increasing salinity levels in reclaimed wastewater. They describe the practice as ‘not sustainable’.
Salt-free systems seem to be the future for those of you with hard water problems. The old salt based technology is harmful to people, the environment and is more expensive.
Salt Vs Salt-free: in Summary
- Salt systems do work but at a cost to you and the environment
- Salt systems can be much more expensive to buy and operate. The total year one cost for the best salt-free softener, the nuvoH2O, is nearly half that of the salt systems.
- Salt systems increase the amount of salt in your diet. Although this is don’t directly dangerous to your health, we all should be reducing our salt intake as it leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. Salt-free systems avoid this problem entirely.
- Salt systems also remove the minerals (calcium and magnesium) from the water. This prevents scale deposits around you home but removes these minerals that are essential to our diets. Salt-free softeners prevent these minerals doing damage but keep them in the water.
- You have to regularly top up the salt levels for these systems. With salt-free versions, like the nuvoH2O, you can install and forget about it (only requiring a quick cartridge change every 6 months or so).
- Salt water softeners waste water and release this salty brine into our waterways, damaging wildlife and our local farmer’s crops.
There are a number of salt-free water softeners on the market these days. Just make sure you put in some time researching your product of choice. There are some great ones out there, like the nuvoH2O. The nuvo is easy to install, effective and overall probably the best value for money water softener you can buy. And, importantly, it pays for itself within one year of use, something no other softener can claim.
If the only choice you had was either hard water or to use a salt-based water softener, then perhaps you would think the environmental and financial costs were worth it to have softer water. But now you do have a choice.
If the only real benefit of salt systems is that they work and now we have new technology that also works (but doesn’t come with the negatives), then it makes the argument for using salt very hard to justify.