If your water is leaving mineral deposits all over your faucets and fixtures, your plumber may recommend installing a water softener. Perhaps because the term "water softener" is confusing -- how can water be soft? -- you may have a few questions about this device and what it can actually do for you. Read on to learn the answers!

1. What is soft water?

The idea of soft water is a bit abstract. You probably can't picture water feeling soft and cozy like a blanket. But the words "hard" and "soft" have a different meaning when it comes to water. Hard water is just water that has a lot of dissolved minerals in it. It's called hard because it contains more solids. Soft water is water that has fewer dissolved minerals in it. Water hardness is more of a scale than a black or white designation.

2. Why is hard water an issue?

You might figure you'll save money by just using limescale remover to remove the mineral deposits around your faucet once a month. That's definitely cheaper than installing a water softener, right? The problem with this approach is that mineral deposits on faucet are only one of the problems hard water can cause. Hard water also leaves limescale behind in your appliances, which can cause coffee makers and water dispensers to fail prematurely. The mineral residue on your hair and skin can make you feel dry and itchy, too. The only real remedy for these problems is to install a water softener.

3. How do water softeners work?

Basically, the water softener is a device that your water runs through as it enters your home. The device contains a lot of round beads, which extract the calcium and magnesium from the water, replacing them with sodium. Only a small amount of sodium ends up in the water, so it won't taste salty. Every so often, you need to flush the water softener, which removes the minerals from the beads.

4. How much does a water softener cost?

You can find a low-cost water softener for about $400 plus the cost of installation, but in most cases, you'll pay around $3,000 for a good-quality system that will last many years with less maintenance. Keep in mind that installing a water softener will save you money on appliances and pipe replacements over the next decade or two, so it's a smart investment.

To learn more, visit Green Living Water Solutions