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HVAC & Water > Water Softening
  Product Basics
  Brands & Features
  Costs & Considerations
The idea that the water coming out of your tap is "hard" is difficult to understand on an intuitive level. After all, it feels like regular water. When you take a shower or wash your hands, there is nothing particularly hard about the liquid flowing out of the shower head or the faucet. So what is this idea of water softening all about? 
Most of us are more concerned with the temperature of water than its chemical composition. When the hot water goes out, that has an immediate and profound effect upon our comfort level. Similarly, when you turn on the hot water and accidentally scald your skin, you take rapid steps to adjust the temperature setting and correct the situation. As far as whether the water is "hard", or "soft", most people have no idea. It looks clear and feels like any other water, so as long as it's the right temperature, most of us are all right with it.

However, at the microscopic level of chemical composition, not all water is created equal. Although it may look the same to the naked eye, some water contains various additional compounds which affect its properties. In turn, this has an effect on everything with which the water comes in contact, ranging from plumbing to home appliances to soiled clothes to human skin. In many cases, these additional compounds may worsen the natural properties of the water, increasing its wear and tear on everything it touches.

The idea behind water softening is to remove the harmful additional compounds which are present in the water that is piped into your home. Imagine that a water contains millions of tiny pebbles. By passing the water through a sieve with small enough openings, all of those pebbles could be removed, leaving behind only the pure water. That is the general idea behind water softening, although the actual chemical process through which water softening is achieved is a bit more complex than our metaphor.

As with the rest of our site, this part of the site is divided into topical areas, each of which stands alone and none of which require any specialized knowledge on your part. All of the information is presented in easy-to-understand, accessible form, even if you have had no prior exposure whatsoever to the subjects of plumbing and water softening.

The "
Product Basics" section provides an introduction to the idea of hard water and explains the benefits of water softeners. We describe the technology and basic operating principles behind the water softening process. We devote a separate discussion to the different types of water softeners, including ion exchange, magnetic, and reverse osmosis based. This section is most useful if you would like to learn what water softening is all about, whether it may make sense for you to consider acquiring a water softener for your household, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different types that are available on the market.

The "
Brands & Features" section offers a comparative analysis of the different brand manufacturers of water softener products, considering both objective measures of quality and performance and more subjective, but highly relevant feedback from consumers. We also discuss capacity and present a calculation methodology for evaluating your home's water throughput. In addition, we explore water softener features, including controls, regeneration, and bypass valves, among others. This section provides an essential buying guide and is definitely useful if you are considering purchasing a water softener for your home.

The "Costs & Considerations" section comprises information regarding average prices, professional services associated with installation and repair, and purchase options available for buying a new water softener. As you may imagine, specific prices will vary by region, by technology type, by brand, by fuel, and by capacity level. However, on average, prices will still generally fall within a certain range which will give you an idea of what to expect and how to budget for the expenditure. This section provides a useful planning tool if you have decided to purchase a new water heater, but would like to have a better idea of the pricing, installation costs, and potential servicing and maintenance needs down the line.

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