Do You Really Need “Soft” Water?

by Linsey Knerl on 14 June 2008 32 comments

Water is a necessity. Soft water may not be. Depending on where you live and how you use water, the cost of processing your water may not be worth it.

What is soft water? Depending on who you ask, it may mean different things. Simply put, “soft” water has been processed so that excess levels of dissolved minerals are removed. Specifically, it is “hard” water (containing calcium, magnesium, bicarbonates, and sulfates) that has been put through a water softener. According to Wikipedia, “A water softener, like a fabric softener, works on the principle of cation or ion exchange in which ions of the hardness minerals are exchanged for sodium or potassium ions, effectively reducing the concentration of hardness minerals to tolerable levels and thus making the water softer and gives it a smoother feeling.”

Why is soft water desirable? The number one argument I hear time and again for soft water is the ability to get a rich soap lather. Soft water proponents will tell you how much money you’ll save by using less soap, detergents, and how nice and smooth your skin and hair will feel. For those of you who use the same amount regardless, you might find that it is preferable to the soap scummy shower mess and the build-up that can cause havoc to your pipes and the elements of your hot water heaters.

Really hard water (like the kind I grew up with) can cause other ill effects. As a young girl living on the Missouri River bottom, I remember running a bath and scrambling to wash up before the water turned a horrible blood orange color. This usually happened within minutes, and my hair was a freakish rust color all throughout my elementary years. It was apparent by just looking at me that we had well water and no softener system. Forget the perks of having fluffy towels, I just wanted my hair back.

Today it is rare to run into families with old wells and that level of hardness in their water. Which brings me to wonder if it really is the necessity that everyone claims it is. Like anything else, there are costs associated with having soft water, and for some folks, it may not be worth it.

Why might you NOT want soft water? With the exception of a few higher tech systems, most water softeners require electricity and an avid supply of softener salt. Depending on the amount of soft water you use, your salt needs may differ. I have known families to go through more than a bag a month, and others go several months on the same bag.

In addition to the “hard” costs of having soft water (no pun intended), there are also some undesirable side-effects that may occur, including corrosion of water pipes. There has also been undocumented “speculation” as to the health risks associated with drinking water treated with high levels of iodized salt. (The easy solution is to make sure softened water is not being supplied to drinking faucets or fridge water dispensers.)

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

You may also not be a fan of the “slippery” feeling that soft water can leave on your skin. The only solution to this is to simply use far less soap, or switch to a synthetic option. (See this link for the chemical explanation.)

How do you decide if you need soft water? Ask an expert. (By expert, however, I don’t mean the guy trolling your neighborhood hoping to sell you a purification system or a softener on high-interest payment plans. He will always tell you that your water is too hard to live with.) By having your water independently tested, you can get a reading into how “hard” your water really is. According to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, “Hardness levels between 80 and 100 mg/L (as CaCO3) are generally considered to provide an acceptable balance between corrosion and incrustation. Waters with hardness levels in excess of 200 mg/L are considered poor but have been tolerated by consumers. Waters with hardness in excess of 500 mg/L are unacceptable for most domestic purposes.”

If you do decide that you need soft water, there are a few things you can do to cut down on the costs:

  • Run soft water only to areas used for washing and cleaning – NOT for cooking and drinking. Not only will this reduce the workload on your softener, it will keep you from ingesting large amounts of softened water (which hasn’t been determined safe or unsafe at this point.)
  • Save water and salt by running the minimum number of regenerations necessary to maintain water softness.
  • Keep your softener maintained and cleaned regularly. If purchasing a newer model, look for one approved with an Energy-Star rating, or consider a non-electric system.
  • Buy your softener outright from a retail outlet, and with cash, if possible. Avoid drawn-out payment plans from water suppliers who make most of their money on the interest from your loan.

Going soft is a decision that every household will need to make on their own. For those in certain areas where hard water is not a problem, it probably doesn’t make sense to pay to have a water softener. In other places, it is a necessity that is impossible to live without. Whichever way you decide to go, just try to be smart and use your resources wisely. Water is precious, regardless of its chemical makeup.

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Guest's picture
Lucille

We were debating getting a softener but after looking at how much electricity and salt it was going to take and the cost we decided against it.

All the junk our water deposits is a real pain though. Our dishwasher had all this hard white stuff all over it when we moved in. The fiberglass bathtubs get a thick layer of scum that has to be power scrubbed off every month. It also plugs up faucet screens and shower heads. It is also probably the reason laundry never looks great either. I don't even want to look in the water heater tank.

If there was a way we could just provide soft water to the washing machine without running a water softener though I think that would be a good compromise.

We found if we run this citric acid based stuff called Lemishine in the dishwasher we don't have a problem with dishes. Over time it also ate away all that build up in the dishwasher. I use either vinegar or lemishine mixed with water to soak shower heads every so often and it seems to get them totally clean.

If anyone knows a way to deal with the hard water issue just in the washing machine let me know!

Guest's picture
Char

Hi Lucille,

I enjoyed your article on debating whether or not to get a water softener. The fact is, it is more expensive to replace your appliances and water heater. Corrosion from hard water eats away at pipes. Water heater tanks get eaten away and start leaking over time and have to be replaced. Clothing and linens wear out much faster in hard water. Not to mention the cost of extra soap and softeners. I suggest you try to purchase a softener even if you have to cut corners somewhere else to afford one. It will save you in the long run. As for softening the water in the wash, try some baking soda. It may help.

Sincerely,
Charolette

Guest's picture
Kim

I add 1/4 cup of borax powder to each laundry load. It acts as a water softener. I live in Colorado where we have a lot of minerals in our water. When I first moved out here 24 years ago, I stayed with my cousin and his wife temporarily until I got settled. They had a water softener hooked up to their water supply. I hated the feeling on my skin after a shower or bath--that feeling that the soap hadn't rinsed off. I've never had a water softener in my home where I've lived for over 20 years. I use white vinegar to dissolve the hard water deposits on fixtures and add it to appliances like coffee maker, dishwasher, washing machine, etc. It can't take any more effort than maintaining a water softener appliance with adding salt each month. Try the borax powder in your washing machine. You'll find that you won't need to use as much detergent.

Guest's picture
Guest

Really they use about as much electricty as a nite lite about 2 dollars a year , and salt cost for a famiy of 5 is about 16 dollars every 4 months I save more on soap than it takes to operate a softener plus I love my soft clean water

Fred Lee's picture

We have two wells and one had a serious mineral problem. Not sure if it was hard water, but our clothes turned orange and our tub had the classic orange-red residue. AND, it smelled like eggs.

We switched to our shallow well and the problem was gone. I think some people have skin sensitivity issues that require soft water, but I'm not sure. And the equipment to make it soft can be expensive to buy and maintain.

Guest's picture
Brandon

I'm not sure if you can get this over in the USA, but here in Europe we have this product called "Calgon", which is essentially a water softener that you put into with your washing powder/tablets. It doesn't seem to affect sensitive skin at all (I have a young child with particularly sensitive skin), and best of all it's fairly low cost.

Bottom line for me is a simple calculation: how much does it cost to repair the washing machine (and in our case, repair the wooden flooring when the machine goes bang). At the moment this way is cheaper :)

PS: for some reason the Captcha system used on the site really dislikes me :o

Guest's picture

We recently bought a house with terrible water. Stinky and with orange stains everywhere. Apparently, a lot of the orange isn't due directly to dissolved iron, but to iron bacteria, which doesn't get removed by a softener. However, our neighbors recommended we shock the well periodically to get rid of it.

Shocking a well is essentially pouring chlorine (bleach, or the stuff in swimming pools) down the well, then flushing it back out. It made a huge difference - even more than the water softener. I would recommend anyone considering a water softener on a private well try it first.

Guest's picture
Guest

"If there was a way we could just provide soft water to the washing machine without running a water softener though I think that would be a good compromise."

I have read that adding salt each time you wash a load will help soften water without going the route of a whole-house water softener. I been doing this for years.

Guest's picture

My grandparents have soft water and I hate it. I feel like I never get all the soap off of my body or out of my hair. I suppose that it's necessary for some folks, but unless I was forced to, I will never have a water softener.

Guest's picture
Guest

you're probably using too much soap, which is what you have to do when you don't have soft water. Usually that sense of slippery feeling goes away after a month of getting used to it or now I heard Culligan has a softener that lets you dial down the softness to bleed enough hardness that the slippery feeling goes away but you still get the benefits of water that isn't as hard.

Guest's picture
Ryan

Sorry for the long comment but some context needs to be give to some points made above...

The article mentions that you can get your water tested from an independent source. This is good advice, especially if you are on private well water. However, there are many homes that are supplied by a reservoir via a municipal supplier. I recently installed a water softener and simply downloaded the latest water audit from my water company. These semi-annual reports are audited by the EPA and will clearly state the hardness level as well the specific mineral content. Water softeners are not a one size fits all and should be spec’ed to your specific mineral content.

A comment was made that to help reduce costs you should only run softened water only to washing and cleaning areas. This would require two independent water piping systems, one for soft water to a washing machine, sink etc and another to everyplace else. This would be very expensive to install. The better approach is to run soft water everywhere with the only exception being water provided for gardening. The salt in softened water will do damage to grass and landscaping.

Someone posted a comment above and was concerned about the costs involved both on salt and electricity. In my house, there are 2 adults and 2 small children. My wife is home all day with the kids and we use water (baths are a daily event). I add 1, 40 lb bag of salt per month ($5 per bag) for a total yearly salt cost of $60. The electricity used is minimal. The unit uses a transformer similar to the one you used to charge your cell phone. It may use 4 or 5 watts of power per month, about $20 per year for electricity.

Let’s compare, your one TV uses about $25 per year in vampire electricity just waiting to be turned on. That’s just one TV, now times that by the average 3 TVs in most homes and you’re flushing $75 per year. Same with your DVD player; $25 per year in vampire costs. A lot of people leave their cell phone plugged in 24 / 7, not realizing that even when your phone is not charging that transformer is using power, about $20 per year in vampire electricity. My point is that a water softener is not an energy hog and if you concerned about your electricity usage, unplug your TVs from the socket when their turned off. You’ll instantly recoup the entire cost of running your softener.

Finally, hard water has disastrous effect on many water items in your house, most notable your water heater. Your water heater will build up huge amounts of scale on the inside and will reduce its life by several years. You’re water heater will run much less efficiently than designed when filled with this scale and you’ll have less hot water per BTU input. If you have an eclectic hot water heater the inefficiency will be magnified even more. The heating elements get incrusted in scale and therefore uses much more energy to heat the water to the same degree compared to non-scaled heating elements. So instead of spending $1,200 per year on heating your water, you’re now spending $2,000 and still not getting the hottest water. Net that against the $80 per year to run a softener and you’re $720 in the black. Gas fired water heaters have a bit better story but not much. Scale settles to the bottom of the heater and creates a layer that insulates the water from the burners. If you have hard water and no softener and have noticed less hot water or you run out more quickly, chances are the inside of your heater is incased in scale.

Oh, one more thing. Hard water and smeller water are sometimes two different things with two different solutions. If you have smeller water (it’s actually sulfur in the water) you can eliminate that by installing a very inexpensive charcoal filer under the sink. You may not have hard water but just a high sulfur content.

Guest's picture
Guest

One thing the article failed to mention is that most water softeners are "whole house" systems and there should be a filter to remove the chlorine and other sediments in the water before ever reaching the softener. Outside faucets should also not be receiving soft water.

Guest's picture
justin

I am embarassed to admit this, but I got duped by one of those water softener salesmen people. I had friends who had bought a system an (apparently) absolutely loved it. We fell for the pitch and stupidly bought one. For the past year, the system has never worked properly, doesn't soften our water, the service people are deliberately kept clueless, the people at the office are rude and inconsiderate...

I know that I made a dumb decision, but does anyone think that I would have any recourse as to getting rid of the system? Heck, at this point, they can keep the money I have already paid them if I can just get the stupid thing out of my house...

Guest's picture
Jon Anderson

I would also like to comment on a couple of the above posts. I am a master plumber of 32 years and have seen the ill efects of hard water over the years but never understood the reasons why. I went to water school the fall of 08 and went to work for a local water conditioning company about a year ago as a "water specialist" (cool name for salesperson). I will try and briefly explain what a softer does that shows how a softener pays for itself.

When you mix hard water (anyting over about 5 grains per gallon) and soap it makes a stickey substance called "soap curd" that sticks to everything. Your skin (if it's not slippery, you've got soap stuck on your skin), your clothes (take a clean hard-water-washed wash cloth out and shake it up in a mason jar 1/2 full of water, wring out the wash cloth into the jar and hold it up to a light...still think it was clean? Its discusting!), your dishes (tired of re-cleaning your glasses?), your plumbing fixtures (you can get a bath tub ring with hard water and soap alone...you dont even have to get in!), your hair (squeeky clean is NOT clean, you've got soap stuck in your hair!), it just sticks to everything it touches. A 10 min demo by a reputible salesperson will convince you of this.

You will save about 75% of detergents and soaps with soft water. Calgon is a liquid softener that, along with whiteners and brightners that make up about 80% of a liquid detergent you buy in a store. Only about 20% is actually soap! In soft water you only need 1 OZ of pure soap to do a load of laundry. My last bottle of Tide (large, about $20 in stores) lasted my wife and I 11 months! No Bull!

Water heaters not only last longer, your heating costs about 30% less with no scale built up on elements and sitting on the bottom of gas fired heaters. Only 1/2" of scale at the bottom of a heater can increase heating costs by 20%. (Picture a brick under a tea kettle on the stove...it has to heat the brick before the heat can be transfered to the water).

Clothing lasts 20% longer. Calcium and magnesium that make up most well water hardness is desolved limestone. Thats the stuff thay make CONCRETE out of!! You've got min. rocks tumbling around with your clothes wearing them out faster.

Appliances last longer without the calcium build up also. So does all of your plumbing. Have you replaced a water heater or dishwasher lately? You probabably could have doubled their life on soft water.

What is your time worth? Cleaning times are cut in half when "calcium free-soap curd free" fixtures dont need cleaning as often, and when they do it is effortless. (your time is worth something isn't it? Would you go clean your neighbors toilet for min. wage?)

In conclusion, many people, including myself, will find that a water softener almost always pays for itself. I had a recent customer tell me that she is saving $40/month above the cost of the softener. With large familys this is possible with soap savings alone.

Negetive effects? Yes, a small amount of sodium is exchanged into the water. On 20 grain water it amounts to the same amount of sodium you get in a slice of bread if you drink a quart of water. Septic systems are healthier because of the reduced detergents going into them-proven fact!

Ryan made some very good points. The only one I disagree with is the negetive effects of soft water on lawns. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sprinkling with soft water. For most people it is a capacity issue. I have put in large capacity units for people who have problems with iron staining of expensive landscaping rocks. It is done commonly.

Sorry this got so winded, but there is alot of mis-information out there. Soften and enjoy!!

Jon Anderson

Guest's picture
Kandi Jackson

Hi Jon!
My mom has great water.... she bought an anderson water softner system from a friend at church to help them out. She has had it for 10 years. We have had to spend some time with mom because her husband died this year. Being there we have noticed that her counters, dishes, plasticwear etc. in the kitchen all has a yellow film on it. She has no dishwasher. What would be causing this?

Thanks, Kandi
klynnjackson@yahoo.com

Guest's picture
Guest

Jon, I believe you are incorrect. I just bought a water heater and the instructions specify using Soft Water will corrode the water heater faster, soft water is not recomended.
The artical above also states that soft water corrodes pipes & equiptment.
Your right, you have a fancy salesman tiitle.
Anybody questions this, go to Lowes and look at the instruction sheet, look through it.

Guest's picture
Guest

to the person who got ripped off by the water softener company:
Why don't you just turn off your water at the main shutoff, take
the thing out (unscrew any screw you find, I guess) and hand-carry it over to the company then drop it on the desk of the first person you encounter ? You shouldn't put up with that kind of treatment from any company. Don't let them get away with that, otherwise they'll keep doing it to others. If someone who had to deal with them BEFORE you had taken some action, you would have been spared this misery ~!

Guest's picture

Plumbers Liverpool are gaining huge momentum and growth day by day that has
added more spice in the jobs of plumbers in the
city. More importantly, they were able to convert 50% of the calls into jobs - up
from 38% before. When installing or fixing wash basins in
a bathroom or in a kitchen or dining room it need to select
the place to fix the basins first.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've found the article and comments educational. But haven't located, searching the Internet (yet), any answers to my quest. Re: The residue LEFT by the water softening process.

My main driver for soft water was for washing my vehicles. A couple of classics. I've plumbed lines to two garages on diagonally opposite corners of two acres along with the home in the middle. The softener is high end using salt. It has been in and working for two years. The company has 'tuned' it up twice. The residue I'm seeing, build ups at faucets, seen as water spots on sinks AND the vehicles, is said to be 'normal' per the company owner. Small town here. I asked if putting in a filter might help. No he says! Something 'sounds' fishy. Either my residue is unique to me and no one else has a problem. Or??? Thanks for listening.

Guest's picture
aikanae

That's salt you are seeing. You are over-conditioning your water. Try setting it lower. Your company should have known that, but that's also why you don't hear of the problem from others. Conditioned water won't feel like naturally soft water. It'll feel slick and some don't think that's "clean".

Guest's picture
Guest

First of all, if your softener is working and rinsing properly it will never be salt that is in your lines like so many think.... it will be Sodium (which isn't salt) Sodium Chloride is a type of salt, but sodium is just an ion of that compound. It would be like calling Oxygen water just because DiHydrogenOxide (H2O) has Oxygen. Compounds are different from ions.

Spotting from water occurs when dissolved solids are left after water evaporates. The more dissolved solids you have in the water the more spots that are left behind when the water evaporates. When you soften water all you are doing is swapping Calcium, Magnesium, etc (hard ions) for Sodium (soft ion) but you still have in essence the same amount of dissolved solids, just that they are a sodium now. However, the misconception is that soft water doesn't leave spots, but it will.... but the thing is, soft spots are easier to clean off than hard water spots or in the worst case, spots caused by silica in the water. Other spots also occur from dust coming to rest on the water droplets and then again, the water evaporates leaving the solids from the dust.

If you want to lessen TDS (total dissolved solids) you need an RO (Reverse Osmosis) which will reduce about 90% of TDS or you get Deionized water which should reduce your TDS by 99.999% or pure H2O. These both are very expensive for a whole house application and therefore not a recommendation, but some people get systems for washing their expensive vehicles.

You're not getting fooled, spots will still occur, they're just easier to wipe away when they are caused by soft water.

Guest's picture
aikanae

Salt will leave a residue. Salt is also corrosive - think about what salt does to the underside of cars in an area where they use salt on snowy roads. Water softeners add salt to water and it's the same stuff, with the same effect. It's a no-win problem.

I live in an area of EXTREME water hardness (the desert) that I'm burning my evap pump out and changing 8" pads every 3 mos rather than a min. of 2 yrs (according to the manufacturer). So I'll be saving >$1500 in repair costs. So I guess I'm getting a water softener. I'm also buying an appliance made by a local manufacturer because most of the nat'l brands aren't made for the extreme hardness of our water. Our water eats water-softeners too.

I wouldn't buy a water softener without seeing the damage first though. Who needs to add something else to maintain around the house even if it is just a bag of salt a month? If someone doesn't see scale building up in a couple of years then there probably isn't a problem.

It's easy to add a little vinegar to washers and dishwashers to prevent calcium build up. A pinch of salt helps to melt the copper in the water too. That's my solution for cleaning too. Whether someone can use misters and drip irrigation without clogs is another test for water supply hardness.

One of the problems I have with pulling city water test results is that often they quote averages (at least mine does). This city is very long and narrow with multiple water supply's and treatments (some private, some public). There's a huge variation on the numbers. The city passes EPA for arsenic with an average of 22ppm - but that also means some folks get 10ppm and others can have 30ppm in their water.

Guest's picture
Guest

"Salt will leave a residue. Salt is also corrosive - think about what salt does to the underside of cars in an area where they use salt on snowy roads. Water softeners add salt to water and it's the same stuff, with the same effect. It's a no-win problem."

Salt is corrosive because of the chloride content when dissolved in water. Softeners do not add salt to the water. Softeners exchange calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. Yes chlorides are added to the brine water, but these will not enter the supply water directly. These are flushed down the drain during regeneration.

It is a myth that all soft water is corrosive. Corrosion of pipes and water heaters is due to pH, dissolved oxygen, TDS, chlorides, sulfate, etc. Soft water will dissolve scale. The other factors in combination with minimal hardness levels may cause corrosion.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've lived in my home for 20 years. We have well water that contained limestone which left a lot of white powder residue on the water dispenser and ice dispenser on our refrigerator, scale in the hot water tank, etc. -- basically, all the things that Jon Anderson and others wrote about.

After 5 years I had enough and we purchased a water softener. Best thing! My dishwasher, side-by-side refrigerator, and hot water tank -- the originals when we built this home 20 years ago -- still continue. The only appliance I've had to replace is my washer -- which was 23 years old. And, it was replaced only because the knobs and mechanism that controlled the washing cycles broke.

I also have a separate line for drinking water on my sink...it eliminates the salt but does purify our drinking water. It's part of our water softening system.

I'm spoiled...I love my water softener....never thought I'd say that. I grew up on city water and loved it....no more.....I just can't get past the chlorine taste and its hardness for bathing and washing items.

,

Guest's picture
Guest

This lady has absolutely no idea of what she is talking about. Try doing a little research before you write such an article next time.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have had a wate rsoftener for over 25 years, it came with the house. I have replaced my hot water heater 3x, and the softener unit 2x. I found that all the pipes leading into & out of these units corroded. I believed that it was because the softener corroded them. I had to disconnect the waterline to the freezer as well, due to build up in it. I disconnected the softener about 6 months ago. I finally figured out that I don't need it. We hooked up to the sewer system 2 years after moving into the house. What a waste of money over all these year!. This water isn't hard!

Guest's picture
Maria

It sounds like the author in this article was dealing with iron in water, and not just hard water. Many people mistakenly believe that a water softener will remove iron from water. It may remove a small amount, but it will not remove the large amounts this author obviously had in her water. To remove iron, you will need a specific system to address it. Same goes for sulfur (rotten egg odor in water) and manganese, which leaves black stains on your toilets, sinks and other fixtures. You can learn more about the topic by visiting a blog on water filtration option at www.puriteam.com/blog.

Guest's picture
susan e

not only do i not want orange hair, i don't like all my clothes turning orange; we have extremely high iron content in our well water and it turns every thing orange and leaves high iron and calcium deposits in all our pipes. sle

Guest's picture
Nancy

By far, the most convenient means of softening ones water is to opt for exchange tank service. The soft water service (Rayne, Servisoft, Culligan) brings a new tank of regeneration resin two to four times a month. The customer doesn't have to do anything but pay the bill. These companies also have 24-hr emergency service for problems--- something you don't get when buying your own softening unit.

Guest's picture
Dan

Other commentators have mentioned that many municipalities report the hardness of their water. Often this is listed in "grains." The conversion from grains to mg/L as listed in this report is 1 grain = 14.254 mg/L (or ppm.) Thus, as in the article:

80-100 mg/L (acceptable) = 6-7 grains
200 mg/L (poor) = 14 grains
500 mg/L (unacceptable) = 35 grains

My experience lends me to agree with this assessment.

Also for Lucille, it would be very easy to plumb a water softener solely into a washer, especially if the two were right next to one another. Easier than a normal cheap installation, softening everything. Much easier than the usual idealized setup, which is to soften water to the whole house, except for cold to the kitchen and icemaker and the external spigots. That can require several runs of plumbing.

Guest's picture
Guest

Please don't be fooled by all this talk about electricity. Even the poster who attempted to downplay the electric costs didn't go far enough... Water softeners use almost no electricity, they work on the pressure of the water and only need to use electricity for the valves during regeneration and for the display. At 5 watts (which is what that poster quoted), you are looking at about $5 per year in electricity costs. $7 if you are in a high cost area of the U.S.

5 watts x 24 hours/day x 365 days/year
= 5 x 24 x 365 watt hours
= 43,800 watt hours
= 43.8 kilowatt hours

with electricity being, on average 10 cents per kilowatt hour, that would be

$4.38 for the year.

So please, anyone (including the writer of this article) who talks about the power consumption of a water softener being a consideration, it really isn't, unless you live somewhere where you have to run a generator 24/7 to power your water softener. :o)

Guest's picture
Sharon

I am 61 years old. I have been drinking softened water my entire life. I have been cooking with it at my parents home and now through my adult life. My entire family is in excellent health, no high blood pressure or internal problems. In fact, my in-laws who never had a softener had high blood pressure and neither lived to be 80 years old. I find this report to be somewhat ridiculous. A water softener timer uses no more electricity than an alarm clock. The salt usage concerns are also not relevant. Do you eat bread or eat a banana? That is about how much residual salt may be in soft water. I dare this group to find anyone who has lost their life to a water softener.