How Eco-Friendly is a Water Softener?

If you’ve ever thought about having a water softener and care about being eco friendly then this summary of the latest research is for you.

As the Attenborough effect takes hold major supermarkets are introducing reusable cotton bags for veg and take your own tubs.  We’ve taken the opportunity to dig into the question, ‘How eco friendly is a water softener?’

Water softeners are used in the UK to combat the natural effects of hard water.  If you’ve ever been on holiday in Cornwall, Northumberland or Wales you will have felt with your own hands what a difference soft water makes.  They work by removing the hardening minerals from tap water and returning it to a more rain like state. So let’s look at what that means for the environment.

Soft Water Reduces the Consumption of Fossil Fuels

The independent research foundation for water quality conducted the Energy Savings Study known colloquially as the Battelle Study.  It’s focus was the difference in home heating systems fed by soft and hard water supplies. The report also covered common home appliances which we will consider later. 

Less limescale means more efficiency

During the laboratory testing appliances fed on hard water clogged up with timescales before the end of the testing periods.  This was not seen in any appliance fed on soft water. So aside from the obvious benefit of longer living appliances leading to a reduced need for the  manufacturing (and purchase!) of boilers and heating systems there are everyday impacts too. On average a heater using hard water needed attention to address the limescale build up every 1.6 years after seeing a drop of 8% efficiency during that time.

More Efficiency Means a Lower Carbon Footprint

In practical terms water tank storage systems say a “reduction in carbon footprint of 14.8% over a fifteen-year water heater service life with softened water”.  Based on the ONS the average annual gas bill in the UK for 2018 was £676.  Let’s falsely assume that gas prices stay stable over the next 15 years.  That would give us an average saving of £1,500.72 on our gas costs. We know, of course the true saving is much more than that. 

 

Solely due to lower gas consumption there would be 671.92kg less carbon for an average home per year.

Boilers live longer with soft water

If you’re a boiler engineer work the Lincolnshire patch!  With some of the hardest water in the country you will provide the average customer with one extra boiler over their lifetime.  Most people will replace a boiler every 15 years. As homeowners its something we plan for and not a major worry to most people.  But to my mind, one less boiler is one more cruise! 

Kitchen appliances and white goods live longer too

The Energy Savings Trust states, “Kitchen appliances, such as kettles, dishwashers and washing machines – together with taps use 22% of household water”

Testing of taps in the Battelle Report shows that after the equivalent of 19 days continuous flow taps clog due to limescale.  Thats inside, not taking into account the cleaning that happens to remove the watermarks externally. I know from my own big clean on a Friday that I have to empty our kettle of limescale each week. 

BBC reports last year showed that “in 2017, 525,000 tonnes of household appliances and equipment were collected as waste electrical and electronic equipment in the UK”  That’s a lot of John Lewis trips!

Shopping joy aside, the eco-conscious consumer is looking for ways to reduce their guilt of consumption.  And a huge movement back to the days of make do and mend seems to be gaining a lot of traction. Our ‘disposable’ society is quite used to dumping the things that no longer serve us.  But we know the ethical way is to be prudent in our choices. 

Remove stains and get whiter whites

Stack of freshly laundered towels and washcloths

Laundry is undeniably one area we consume a lot of resources.  Laundry detergent, water, and heating of that water are all affected by water hardness.  Hard water minerals actually prohibit the effectiveness of even the best laundry detergent.  The minerals attract the active enzymes and therefore make stain removal more difficult. Naturally we then up the temperature a little demanding more from our fossil fuels. 

 

Soft water reduces detergent use by up to 25% 

 

One of the first things our customers notice is the additional bubbles from their washing machine.  We recommend starting with half the normal detergent or using our award winning Softly laundry powder designed exclusively for soft water.

This applies to your shampoo, shower gel, and skincare too.  With less contaminants you’ll need much less of everything soap and cleaning.  A saving of plastic bottles under the sink in the bathroom and ultimately in the oceans.

In conclusion then a water softener directly impacts some of our most prolific carbon footprint factors.  From reducing fossil fuel consumption, to reducing the demand on manufacturing and transporting household appliances and decreasing demand for detergents and plastic bottles.  Soft water is eco-friendly. That leaves us with two options, search cottages in Cornwall or consider a water softener… 

https://www.wqa.org/Portals/0/WQRF/ResearchStudy_BenefitsOfSoftenedWater_ExecSummary.pdf
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/annual-domestic-energy-price-statistics
https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/biomass-energy-resources/reference-biomass/facts-figures/carbon-emissions-of-different-fuels/