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Do you need a water softener with a tankless water heater?

tankless water heater

When switching from the rusty old-style tank water heater to the new, efficient and compact tankless water heater, the water quality is an important consideration. You want to save money and energy while ensuring your faucets deliver sparklingly clear bath water. For homeowners in Fairbanks, AK, it’s essential to have a water softener system to make the water taste better.

Unfortunately, many of our customers struggle to understand why tankless water heaters would need water softeners, yet they have no tanks. To give you a comprehensive answer to why it’s essential to bundle a tankless water heater with a water softener, the experts at Prospector Plumbing will look at both systems and what they do.

Tankless water heaters

Tankless water heaters are ideal for most modern homes as they provide water on demand, whereas traditional water heaters with tanks hold a limited amount of water. That also makes tankless water heaters energy efficient as they only heat enough water for immediate use without wastage.

The lack of water sitting idle in the tank also prevents the buildup of mineral deposits that you’ll see in traditional tanks. However, a tankless water heater won’t make your water softer. Even worse, hard water reduces the useful life of your water heater and might incur more maintenance costs.

Water Softeners

A water softener is a water treatment system typically installed in traditional heaters to remove water hardness and prevent mineral buildup. Hard water is a prevalent and devastating problem for most homes in Fairbanks, Alaska, as it causes scale buildup in your pipes, clogging them.

When you install a water softener system, it eliminates hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium in a process known as ion exchange. Without a water softener system in your home, dishes come from your dishwasher stained and streaked. Laundry also requires more detergent to ensure it doesn’t look dingy.

Bathing in hard water also leaves your skin dry and itchy, with your hair looking sticky and lifeless. The amount of energy, money and time needed to repair the damage done by hard water is dizzying. Water softeners are a great solution to removing hard minerals and getting softened water in your home.

Why are water softeners necessary for tankless water heater systems?

If tankless water heaters don’t have a tank, why would they require water softeners? Because there’s still water flowing on your heater, there will be some mineral buildup, especially in areas like Fairbanks, Alaska, where water has high amounts of calcium and magnesium.

A recent water quality report shows Fairbanks, Alaska, has hard water levels of 142 ppm, with higher levels in some areas. The hard water leaves many homeowners dealing with devastating results like skin infections, clogged pipes, bad-tasting water, yellowed clothing, and high utility bills.

There are good reasons to add a water softener to your new tankless water heater, especially when dealing with hard water.

  • Water softeners will save you a lot of wear and tear on your tankless water heater.
  • Using water softeners helps you stop limescale buildup due to minerals like magnesium and calcium in the water.
  • Water softener systems increase the lifespan of your tankless heaters as there’s a reduction in risks.
  • Soft water eliminates spots in the dishwasher.
  • It dramatically improves your hair and skin, as you’ll bathe with softened water.

Not all homeowners in Fairbanks, Alaska, like water softeners that use salt, so marketing companies are developing products known as “salt-free water softeners.” Some even claim they can soften the water while leaving all the useful minerals in the water. Salt-free systems don’t truly exist, as removing the minerals is the only way to soften water.

Should you place your water softener system before or after the tankless heater?

Choosing whether the installation of your water softener should be before or after your tankless water heater can be a tricky one. You’ll find plumbers advocating for installing it on either end, but the decision depends on your plumbing situation.

When you install a softener, sodium ions replace magnesium and calcium ions. Now, if you place your water heater after the hard water softener, the heater will receive water with sodium, which excellently conducts electricity.

The average tankless unit lasts 10–15 years, as it doesn’t get corroded like traditional heaters. Traditional tank water systems have anode rods that absorb metals and protect the tank’s lining from corrosion. However, the sodium-rich water from the softener increases the tank’s decay speed by five times.

Tankless models have a heat exchanger inside to provide hot water, so the sodium-rich water doesn’t negatively impact their useful life. In fact, a softener can increase the useful life of your tankless models by 15–25 years.

Ideally, you should install your water softening system as close as possible to your water supply. You’ll want to remove hard minerals from the cold water to prevent them from building up and damaging your plumbing system. Installing the softening system after your tankless model gives it hot water, which might damage the components inside.

Can you run softened water through a tankless heater?

Yes, you can run softened water through your tankless water heater. However, many homeowners prefer to fill the main circuit with hard water through the by-pass valve to ensure it doesn’t cause corrosion sooner.

Should you hook up cold or hot water to your water softener system?

Many homeowners like to soften all the water used by their entire house. However, that’s not necessary for cold water taps like the basement and toilets. As such, you can hook your water softener only to your hot water tap.

Looking to add a water softener to your tankless water heater in Fairbanks, AK? Call Prospector Plumbing today!

Having seen the many benefits of bundling a water softener with a tankless heater is beneficial, it’s time to call Prospector Plumbing for the installation process. Our plumbing experts have years of experience installing water softeners in the Fairbanks area, guaranteeing you energy efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. Call (907) 322-5763 for a free quote on softener installation today!