How Water Softeners Can Reduce Energy Consumption & Costs

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In a world where the cost of living continues to rise and energy costs are sky-high, many of us are looking for effective ways to reduce the amount of energy that we use at home.

In this guide, we’ve shared all the possible ways that a water softener system can reduce energy consumption in your home.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • A water softener can reduce energy consumption by improving water heater efficiency, extending appliance lifespan, enhancing washing machine and dishwasher performance, and more.
  • Water softeners can help you to reduce your energy use by up to 30%.
  • A water softening system uses energy, but an efficient system uses only about 70 kWh of energy.

📉 4 Ways Water Softeners Reduce Energy Consumption

Let’s look at the different ways that water softeners reduce energy consumption – and therefore energy costs – at home.

Improves Water Heater Efficiency

One of the biggest ways that a water softener can reduce energy consumption is by helping your water heater to maintain an efficient performance.

Hard water causes scale buildup on your water heater tank, which acts as a layer of insulation and requires the heating elements to work longer to heat up the water inside. This means your water heater uses more energy than necessary every time you need hot water.

This is proven by a Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF), which found that hard water reduced performance efficiency by 24% in gas storage tank water heaters.

On the other hand, the study found that gas tank-based and tankless heaters maintained their original factory efficiency rating when used with soft water over a lifetime of 15 years.

That means your initial investment in a water heater is much better value if you have a water softener, since soft water has been proven to have no effect on your water heater’s intended efficiency throughout its entire lifespan.

Preventing limescale damage on water heater element

Promotes Longer Appliance Lifespan

Hard water mineral buildup also reduces appliance lifespan because appliances have to work harder and are at a higher risk of becoming burned out.

The same WQA study found that using hard water caused premature failure of tankless water heaters, caused by scale formation in the downstream plumbing within just over one and a half years.

The study also found that hard water usage reduced the lifespan of the heating element in electric water heaters, due to limescale deposits that increased the temperature of operation.

Soft water, on the other hand, can’t form limescale deposits, which means it shouldn’t affect the performance of your water heaters or other appliances due to a buildup of minerals.

So, if you want to avoid expensive replacement costs and the energy expenditure of a failing appliance, a water softener appears to be the answer.

More Effective Washing Machine & Dishwasher Performance

A water softener can help your washing machine to run as effectively as possible because soft water allows for better stain removal, with less soap and less water required.

The WQA study found that reducing water hardness in a washing machine water is up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than using more detergent or increasing the water temperature.

We can apply the same idea to dishwashers. Since soft water doesn’t react with soaps and detergents to form soap scum, you should be able to wash your dishes more effectively with less detergent and a colder, shorter running cycle.

That means you won’t have to rely on the extra energy required for a hot wash to remove stubborn stains, and you won’t have to waste water and energy by repeating a washing cycle after discovering that your clothes or dishes weren’t washed properly the first time.

Clean dishware from dishwasher

Shorter Showers

You might not think that your morning shower times make a massive difference to your home’s energy consumption, but if you have hard water, they certainly can.

You’ll probably take longer showers with a hard water supply because you’ll have to spend longer washing your hair to achieve a good enough lather.

Hard water doesn’t lather well with soap, so you’ll likely have to do a double rinse with shampoo – something that many hairdressers now recommend to first remove mineral deposits and other buildup on your hair, then cleanse and rinse, resulting in cleaner hair. Double shampooing takes extra time, so you’ll spend longer under the running water. There’s more energy needed to provide hot water for this extended time.

Plus, your water heater will be working harder due to the scale buildup caused by hard water minerals, which will add to the daily expense of showering.

You can reduce your shower time by installing a water softener. Soft water lathers easily with soap, so you can spend less time washing your hair and cut down your shower times by a couple of minutes each day.

Even spending 1 minute less in the shower per day will reduce your shower time by 365 minutes in the year – helping you to conserve water and make some big energy savings.

🤔 What Is A Water Softener?

Now we’ve answered the question you came here for, you might want a recap of what a water softener is and how it works.

A water softener is a point-of-entry water treatment system that tackles the common water quality issue of hard water. This system is installed at your main water line, upstream of your water heater, so your entire home’s plumbing system and appliances can benefit from a soft water supply.

Water softener systems use a process called ion exchange to remove calcium and magnesium, replacing them with equal amounts of sodium ions.

Sodium, or salt, is unable to form mineral deposits, so a water softener is the best solution to preventing scale buildup, saving energy in the process.

Installing water softener home prevents limescale buildup on faucet

💰 How Much Energy Does A Water Softener Save?

On average, installing a water softener in your home can help you to reduce your energy use by 10-30%.

The reason why it’s impossible to give a solid figure is that your potential energy savings depend on a few factors, including:

  • The type of water softener you buy
  • The water softener age
  • The softener’s efficiency features (such as demand-initiated regeneration)
  • The age and energy efficiency of your appliances

If you want to learn more about the energy-saving features of a particular water softener, reach out to the manufacturer and ask if they can provide you with any data or study results that offer proof of the system’s ability to reduce energy costs.

🚰 How Much Energy Does A Water Softener Use?

You know the ways that water softeners can reduce energy consumption – but in the interest of a fair and balanced argument, we should also consider the additional energy that a water softener will use.

The good news is that water softeners are efficient devices that use minimal energy. Modern water softeners on the market today use demand-initiated regeneration, which means they only backwash and flush their resin beads when absolutely necessary, based on your pre-programmed hardness and water usage. That limits the energy used to regenerate the system throughout its lifetime of operation.

The average water softener uses only the same amount of energy as an alarm clock to run throughout the entire year.

This is about 70 kWh – nothing in the grand scheme of things. The annual energy cost of running a water softener is about $10, based on current energy rates in the US.

So, installing a water softener won’t massively increase your energy bill, and the energy savings of this system significantly outweigh the additional energy required to run the system.

And if you want proof of this, the same WQA study that we’ve referenced in this article found that tankless water heaters running on soft water can produce enough energy savings for a water softener to pay for itself within a single year.

Setting the water softener to regenerate and plugging the system

📑 Final Word

If you live in a hard water region and you’re keen to save money and reduce your energy usage as much as possible, a water softener is one of the best solutions.

Water softeners improve the efficiency of your water heater, enhance the performance of your dishwasher, washing machine, ice maker and help your appliances last longer with normal use. They also reduce appliance replacement costs, limit the expense of soaps and detergents, and prevent a drop in water pressure or flow in your plumbing system.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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