August 2006 House-Building Home Page

Water and Water Softners
For New Homes



  1. Introduction
  2. Water Sources & Testing
  3. Water Hardness
  4. Water Softeners
  5. Water Softener Solutions
  6. Summary
  7. Thought for the Day
  8. Subscriptions/Removal Instructions
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The subject of this month’s newsletter will cover some of the issues associated with hard water and what you can do to mitigate some of the effects. As a prospective new homeowner (planning to design and build your new home), water is something we often take for granted. However, your water should be evaluated and a water softener installed, if the testing dictates.

As usual, in this newsletter, we will provide a number of links that will provide you with additional information concerning these subjects, which you can refer to for more information

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Water Sources & Testing

Many consumers take the source of water as a given in North America , particularly if you are hooked up to a city water system. City water systems can provide you with appropriate measurements concerning the quality of your water and, in particular, the hardness of the city’s water. Generally speaking, water that comes from a river or lake will be, what is considered, soft water, while water from wells will contain calcium and other minerals that may require treatment.

City water is also tested regularly for various sources of contamination and the appropriate steps are taken to ensure that the water is treated. If you have your own well, then you alone are responsible for the quality and health of your water. Although this particular article is focusing on water softeners and water hardness, we have included an excellent link with information regarding testing water for various contaminants, as well as steps to consider.

Consumers planning to build a home in the country on an estate or away from city water distribution have no choice. They must have a well drilled or arrange for water to be trucked in, which is not something seriously considered by most owners. Most consumers will arrange to have their new well drilled at the same time their home is being built so that it will be ready for them upon moving in.

One of the steps that some new owners will consider is to have their well drilled ahead of time to determine if there is a source of water on their property and also to allow them to have the water tested prior to having their home built. During the design of your home, you can then arrange for the appropriate water treatment equipment to be installed, such as a water softener.

Some Useful Links:

Water Testing

Water Softeners

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Water Hardness

Hard water is usually caused by calcium or magnesium dissolved in the water. The source of your water will usually determine if your water is considered hard or not. For example, well water is often hardwater,since it has many minerals that have been dissolved into it, whereas, water that is taken from a lake or river and treated is often much softer. In fact, you can talk to a local resident were you will be living to find out if water hardness is going to be an issue before you build. However, proper water testing is always encouraged. The United States Geological Survey indicates that 85% of U.S. homes have hard water.

The classification of water hardness is indicated in the following chart.

Classification mg/l or ppm


Soft 0 - 17.1

0 - 1

Slightly hard 17.1 - 60

1 - 3.5

Moderately hard 60 - 120

3.5 - 7.0

Hard 120 - 180

7.0 - 10.5

Very hard 180 & over 10.5 & over

Your local water company can often provide information and advice to you regarding the hardness of your water and the steps you might take to treat it. Consumers should also have their water tested from time to time, as well, for hardness and other minerals, such as sulfur or bacteria, especially if your water is coming from a well on your property. Another way to tell whether or not your water is hard is by the following types of symptoms.

  • Dish soap and soap in the shower does not lather
  • Scaly deposits in the sink, your kettle and dishwasher
  • Your skin is dry and your hair appears dull
  • Your dishwasher leaves spots on the glasses and dishes
Anyone who has these symptoms and does nothing to treat the water will find that the life of their appliances will be reduced due to the scale deposits, over time the water flow in your plumbing will be restricted and it can even increase the cost of heating your water as the water heater becomes coated with calcium deposits inside. It should be noted that drinking and cooking with hard water is not considered a health risk.

Visit some of the links below for more information on water hardness and testing.

Some useful links to check out

Hard Water Testing


Information on Hard Water

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Water Softeners How They Work

For those of you who would like a little more technical information about water softeners, this section should suffice. Hard water has a combination of calcium and magnesium ions in it, which can leave stains on glasses and clothes and build up deposits inside your appliances and plumbing.

Water softeners have a bed of small plastic beads in them, which are coated with sodium. Some will use a chemical mix called zeolite, which is also rich in sodium. As you use water throughout the day, it passes through this bed of beads and the calcium and magnesium ions swap places with the sodium leaving the water much softer. You will notice an immediate difference in the amount of lather, soap will generate in your sink, dishwasher and clothes washing machine. ( Note: if you are using water for the first time from a water softener, you will want to cut down on the amount of soap you use to avoid too much soap suds.)

The water softener must also regenerate the beads with sodium from time to time and discharge the calcium and magnesium. Usually the beads will be soaked in a strong brine solution and then the left over brine and calcium is flushed down the drain. Water softeners come in a variety of models in terms of capacity, as well as manual and automated. The most basic is one that you will need to trigger regeneration yourself whenever you notice that the water is becoming harder, which means the sodium has been used up. Others can be programmed to regenerate every couple of days, while more sophisticated water softeners will regenerate based on demand and will only regenerate when needed. These systems can produce savings in water, as well as the amount of salt you need to use.

From a practical point of view, consumers designing their new home must allow for a location in their home to connect their water softener. Generally speaking, the following guidelines apply, although you should check with your water softener supplier for any special requirements and build these requirements into your design. Here is a short checklist to consider:

  • Unit must be located were it cannot freeze
  • Must be hooked up to your incoming cold water supply
  • Unit should stand upright, be inside and out of the sun
  • Allow a plumbing connection that bypasses the softener for outside watering
  • If you use evaporator cooling, check with your supplier for any concerns
  • Have your electrician add one 110 volt outlet were your water softener will be located
  • In addition to cold water supply, you also need a minimum of a ½” drain

Your local plumbing supply store or your general plumbing contractor can usually assist you with location and selection of a water softener. However, planning all of the above factors during the design of the home will ensure a smooth installation of your water softener.

Useful Web Links

Water Softener Installation

Water Softener FAQ’s

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Water Softener Solutions

New homeowners have several choices and design considerations once they have decided they need a water softener. The best time to install a water softener is while the plumbing is being initially installed in your new home for a number of reasons.

  • Locating the water softener in an out-of-the-way corner, with easy access
  • Integration with both hot water and cold water systems
  • Ensuring that plumbing for outdoor connections bypasses the water softener
  • Adding water softener plumbing after basements have been finished can be problematic
  • Adding an electrical outlet is also best completed while the home is under construction

Once you have decided that you need to purchase a water softener based on having your water tested, the next step is to select a water softener with the appropriate capacity for your home and your family. Some of the factors that you need to take into account will be:

  • How hard the water is
  • How much water will you and your family use
  • Future size of your family and water usage
  • What is the pressure of the water in your system?

Some of the other factors that you will want to consider before making your purchase include:

  • Evaluate different systems for
    • Cost
    • Maintenance
    • Warranty
    • Ongoing support provided by the dealer from whom you will be purchasing your water softener
  • Is installation included?
  • Will there be a bypass for your outside water taps?
  • Will the unit meet the needs of your growing family?
  • Are you buying or leasing?
  • Dealer references and local support
  • Do you need, or want, a maintenance contract?
  • Have you reviewed the warranty?

Many new homeowners will arranged for their homes to be built with the plumbing roughed in for a water softener connection and then arrange to have one installed after the home is built. With the plumbing, the drain and the electrical connections already in place it can be a simple matter for your plumber to hook up the water softener.

Useful Web Links

How Stuff Works – Water Softeners


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Hard water causes scaling in appliances, leaves marks on glassware, and can leave scales inside your plumbing. Soap will not lather, making dishes and clothes seem less clean. Although hard water poses no known health issues, many people would prefer soft water for washing and showering in.

Homeowners designing and building a new home should enquire about the hardness of their water available on the property or have it tested to determine if a water softener is going to be needed. Regardless, if you think that you may need a water softener, it will cost relatively little to have the plumbing, the drain and an electrical outlet roughed in during construction of your home for a water softener to be installed later. Anyone planning to have their basement finished, should always have the connections for a water softener installed before the basement is finished.

Standard purchasing provisions apply with respect to water softeners. Warranty, installation, maintenance, etc., should all be addressed before an agreement to purchase is made. Sizing of your water softener should also be considered based on the size of the family, the numbers of bathrooms and faucets. Your local water treatment company will be able to assist in this assessment.

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Thought For The Day

"There is no such thing as a "right" to do a wrong. - Abraham Lincoln


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