Making your house into a home is not always as easy as it seems. At Two Make A Home, we know all too well that no matter how you clean, decorate, and maintain your home, there always seems to be one small element that goes unnoticed that causes problems. One minor issue that can cause unexpected issues is hard water. It can wreak havoc on many areas of your house. However, installing a water softening system can minimize these issues. But, once it is installed, how can you properly drain it?
When you decide to get a water softening system installed, you will need to make sure that you install an air gap to prevent the drain water from getting into your freshwater supply. According to plumbing standards on air gaps, you can’t connect a drain line from a water softener directly to a home’s waste line. Therefore, an air gap must be installed. Improper installation can poison your drinking water by having raw sewage backing up into the clean water source.
Before creating proper drainage for your water softener and how it’s done, let’s look at why you need a water softening system in the first place and how it works.
Impact of Hardwater in Your House
No matter where you live in the United States, you probably have some level of hard water. The hardness of water is measured in grains ranging from three grains that are slightly hard to 15 or more grains that are extremely hard. Southeastern parts of the U.S. and the northeast have somewhat hard water. In contrast, the northern Midwest parts of the country have extremely hard water. Other parts of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, fall somewhere in between.
If you want to get the specifics of your water hardness, it is a good idea to contact your local water utility company for a water quality report. This will give you a general idea of the water hardness in your general area. However, it may not present an accurate picture since the report includes water info before leaving the treatment plant. As water makes its way to your home, it has to travel through city pipes and your own pipes, making your water even harder. You can purchase hard water strips online or at any big box hardware store to determine your precise water hardness.
You may be wondering, “what difference does it make whether my water is hard or not?” That is an excellent concern, and I will tell you why. Hard water isn’t just water. Instead, hard water includes excessive amounts of calcium and magnesium.
Even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal, over time, hard water can damage your appliances, block your pipes, fade your clothes, and stain your sinks and tubs. It can also increase your water bills, cause frequent plumbing repairs, dry out your hair and skin, and leave a disgusting film on your dishes even after they’ve been cleaned in the dishwasher. So, with all these annoying problems, do you still wonder whether it’s a big deal or not?
How to Minimize Water Hardness
If you test your water and it happens to be hard, it may be a good idea to fix the water hardness issue sooner rather than later. While at first, it may only be leaving a film on dishes, in the long-term, it can cause problems with your pipes that could cost hundreds of dollars. If it keeps happening consistently, these few hundred dollars can turn into thousands.
One way to minimize hardness is to boil water. Another is to add additional cleaning agents to dishwashers and washing machines when washing. However, if you want to improve water in the overall house, it may be a good idea to install a whole house water softening system.
How a Water Softener System Works
Although hard water is not a threat to your health, it can threaten your wallet. Over time, the limescale buildup in your appliances can make them break down, and you may even have to replace them prematurely if the hard water is really bad. Also, the limescale buildup in your pipes can make the water go down your drain very slowly, causing clogs more often than it should.
Installing a water softening system may cost a few thousand dollars up front, but the long-term value of such a system is priceless. You will have brighter clothes, less buildup on dishes, lower bills, fewer problems with appliances, clear pipes, and great lather when shampooing your hair or bathing.
So how does this system work to improve or soften your water? A whole house water softening system comes with two tanks. The wider, shorter tank is called the brine tank, in which the salt for the system is stored. Another taller, slender tank with a control valve at its top is called the media tank. Some systems may have both tanks in one instead of them being separate. Inside the media tank are tiny beads that look like caviar which are charged with salt. As the hard water passes through the media tank, the calcium and magnesium stick to the beads in the tank.
After the tank reaches its capacity for water softening, it will go through a regeneration process in which it uses the salt from the other tank to help clean and wash away the excess calcium and magnesium from the beads. The water from this process will need to exit the system and the house to make way for the new salty beads, which will repeat this softening process.
This softening and regeneration process goes on and on, and you will have to keep the process going by refilling the salt brine tank occasionally. As a result, this process will make your water silkier. This system does add minute traces of sodium to the water. However, the water does not taste salty as it would seem.
Can You Run Water Softener Outside?
As mentioned before, there are times when the water softening system will go through a regeneration process, and the water will need to exit the media tank and drain into something. For example, some people discharge the used, dirty water into a laundry tray while others may drain it into a floor drain. Still, others don’t want it to drain in the house and prefer that it exit the house and drain outside. So, how can you drain water from a water softener to a place outdoors?
If you’d like to install your water softening system outside, you can. Just know that you will have to make sure that you reside in a climate that doesn’t get very cold outdoors like southern Florida or Hawaii. Most people will install the system inside a basement or a garage, however. Another thing to remember is that even though you may be a staunch DIYer, doing piping work without a license can get you in trouble. So, it is best to call an expert to install your pipes for your water softener. However, here, I will share the basics of how it can be done.
The system will need to be installed near a power source. It will also need to be installed near a drain so that the calcium and magnesium can leave the house after the regeneration cycle. This cycle happens once every few days. A discharge pipe will be connected to the water softener and run outside by making a hole in the garage or basement wall. The exterior line will need to run the greywater, or domestic wastewater, 10 feet away from the home’s foundation to prevent problems. A trench will need to be built to hide the pipes and keep them from being a trip hazard. The greywater will run through these pipes into a dry well which will also be buried underground. The exposed pipe may be covered with heat tape to protect it from freezing temperatures to finish it off.
Every state has different rules about dry wells, so it would be good to make sure it is legal before getting one on your property. Also, if you have a septic tank, it may not be recommended to drain the water softener into it due to the salt content created by the brine.