How to figure out if you need a water conditioner and then what type?

Hard water is a pain in the bum.  We spent years chipping white “glass” fragments our of our very poorly performing dishwasher before i finally read up on it to figure out that the problem was super hard water.  About 17 grains per gallon.  That is hard.  What i learned in trying to come up with a solution is that there are a lot of guys trying to sell you a water softener and a lot of choices that don’t pass the ” actually effective” standard.  As with everything, i don’t every believe anything someone who is trying to sell me something says, without at least two sources that are NOT trying to tell me something, confirm what the first salesperson said.

That said, here is what I found after I did extensive research into this topic several months ago and came up with the following conclusions:
1. We have very hard water in the Silicon Valley, mostly above 17 grains per gallon.
2. Scale busters and pH modifiers, magnetizers or other unique, untested solutions for sale out there that supposedly change the ionic nature of the salts in the water, do not work when tested by 3rd party testing organizations. They typically only work for people trying to sell them.
3. Water softeners, using either NaCl (sodium chloride or Table salt) or KCl(Potassium Chloride), are the predominant effective and cost effective systems that are not managed by a company, (Culligan,Life Source, etc.).
4. NaCl is about 25% the cost of KCl, but NaCl, because it contains so much sodium from the salt-NaCl, is hard on the waste water treatment plants, the bay ecosystem, cannot be reused for greywater or recycled water and basically ruins future use of that water until the NaCl is diluted out with unsalted water. KCl, however does not have any of these drawbacks and actually functions as a fertilizer that can be used for greywater and recycled water systems(purple pipe).
5. Managed systems work well, have a life span of approx. 2.5-4 years between changes of tanks(about $800/tank change), and are much less work than purchasing your own KCl or NaCl and adding it to the tank every couple of months. If you cannot comfortably lift many 40lb bags of salt, this may be the best option for you.
6. The scale in the water faucets, washers, dishwashers, etc.will eventually be destroyed by the hard water deposits. The soft water will largely prevent this type of degradation on these appliances.
7. You can use less detergent in washing, shampooing your hair or washing your hands. Your skin will feel slick and slimy(personal perspective).
8. Systems that have a flow rate guage that can determine how much water you actually use are much better at conserving water than systems that are based only on timers because the resin needs to be cleaned, chelated specifically, after a certain amount of minerals have been removed from the water and actually measuring this amount of water is much better than just guessing based on the number of days and the average water used per day.
Hope this helps you make an informed decision that is best for you and yours,

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