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We live in Florida and have had white crusty buildup for years in our dishwasher and on our shower heads and faucets and in washing machine. 3 years ago we bought an "Easy Water" thing for $300 and it is supposed to use electrical ion charge or something to change the water molecules so they won't cause hard water buildup. We really have not noticed improvement since installing it and we still have buildup in our dishwasher, washer, faucets, and showerheads.

Yesterday we bought $500 Whirlpool WHES44 water softener from Lowes. We have 3 bathroom home w 5 people living in it. There is no loop or drain in the garage & the hot water heater is in the attic not the garage, so my husband says there is no choice but to install the softener outside at the water main and build a shed over it. He thinks a shed will protect it from sun and freezing. It only freezes here once a year or so. He is an experienced carpenter (30+ years) and can do anything but he is not a plumber so maybe he needs a plumber to tell him some tricks to be able to set it up in our (very overcrowded) garage. Or maybe we should put it outside. That will mean We'll have softened water inside and outside faucets. I want to be able to wash the car with softened water but don't want softened water in the hose for yard watering because I was told it will kill your plants and grass. We have a lawn sprinkler system my husband installed that is hooked up at the water main outside the house. Can we just switch the bypass switch on the water softener when we want to use the hose or lawn sprinkler system for watering plants or yard? Or does bypass mean you are still drawing already softened water out of the tank before it starts drawing hard water out of the pipes?

On a city website our water hardness is 17 to 20. It just dawned on me that we have that Easy Water thing hooked up to a pipe in the attic where our hot water heater is running and I wonder if it is bringing down the water hardness any and if it matters in regards to setting up the new water softener and entering in the water hardness level. If it does bring hardness down, we would enter a lower hardness number and maybe we would use less salt or potassium to soften the water. We don't want to drink too much sodium and read about it and seems we would have to drink 4.8 gallons of softened water a day to go over the max of 3200 mgs of sodium recommended per day. I read that if you buy Potassium at $25 per bag you won't have sodium in your drinking water. Salt is $5 or $6 a bag. From what I read we will use about 12 to 17 bags per year for a family of 5. (My husband put the hot water heater in the attic thinking it would save us on electricity because our attic is so hot here in Florida. He built this house 16 years ago.)

Should we get the water tested to see if that "Easy Water" thing is indeed lowering the hardness any? Or should we just turn it off and chalk the $300 as a waste of money and lesson learned? Maybe it is lowering the hardness some and maybe we should set the new water softener not to 17 to 20 but a lower number and save money on salt or potassium and on salt discharged into waste water and have less sodium in our drinking water? What do you experts think? I don't want to have to pay someone to come test water and don't want salesmen in here being annoying. Do you think the Easy Water thing does something good? Should we keep it on? Is it just wasting electricity? Will I be able to get unsoftened water out of the water hoses and lawn sprinkler system if we switch unit to bypass?

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You can get hardness test strips online for $10-20. You need them to properly calibrate your softener anyway, and it helps to test how effective it is after. Depending on the water source (even the city uses well(s) and/or lake/river intake(s)), you may also have some seasonal variation, so it doesn't hurt to check it a couple times a year or if you notice build up or that the water is too soft. You'll also be able to use one to see that the electronic softener is in fact a scammy, useless waste of money. –  gregmac Apr 24 at 15:25
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2 Answers 2

Easy water does not lower hardness. It is some wires you wrap around the pipes that cost $1500 and "magnetize" the limestone so it "will not stick to you pipes and fixtures as much". Look it up under scams, fraud etc...

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Don't install the water softener in a place that you cannot guarantee will be above freezing. If it freezes, than many internal components will be damaged. You could insulate and install an electrical heater in the shed, but it would be the first part of the house to freeze if your house looses electricity. Conversely, most water softeners use electronics which are not happy at very high temperatures. For example, the Fleck 5600 valve is rated for water temperatures up to 110 F.

In addition to the water connections, you need an electrical outlet. This is probably easier to wire inside the house, than outside. You also need a sewer connection. The water softener periodically expels very salty water. You wouldn't want to discharge this outside.

The bypass valve will instantly shift the water between soft and hard, though you'll still have some residual water in the pipes, so you may need to run the water for 30 seconds (or so) after switching on the bypass. In my house, I have all inside water taps use soft water, except for my utility room sink. My water heater uses soft water. My outside faucets are permanently connected to my hard water supply.

As for buying advice, the all-in-one water softeners, such as the Whirlpool WHES44, are difficult to service, and are generally replaced completely when they fail. Units that have a "valve" connected to the resin tank, and an external brine tank, are generally much more easily serviceable.

The prevailing view is that the "magnetic anti-scaling" devices like the Easy Water, do not provide a benefit. If you use metal pipes, they must be grounded, so the pipes would shield any effect that they have. Even with plastic pipe, the studies I've seen suggest that there's minimal (if any) beneficial effect. See this question about these devices.

Assuming that each calcium atom is replaced with one sodium atom in the softener's effulent, 20 grains per gallon of calcium (1.3 g/gal) would yield about 0.715 g/gal of sodium. But, most people drink less than a gallon of water daily, so drinking soft water isn't that huge of a concern (except for people with dietary restrictions due to medical conditions).

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