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Natural Ways to Purify Your Water at Home

boiling water in pot 

Everyone needs access to clean water, but in many areas, the available water supply contains bacteria, chemicals and even sediment. These contaminants can cause everything from an undesirable taste to long-term health problems. Purifying your water can remove these unwanted elements and prevent these problems.

Some purification methods, though, involve adding even more chemicals and can be taxing on the environment. Buying plastic water bottles instead of using tap water is harmful in its own way. Whether you’re concerned about the safety of your water, or just want it to be as clean as possible, you can use these natural water purification methods at home to protect your health and the environment too.

Boiling

You’ve probably boiled your water before if your city issued a water safety advisory. Boiling is a reliable water purifier that’s effective for removing almost every contaminant except dirt.

It’s a simple, natural technique that’s been used throughout history, but it’s not the most efficient technique. It takes a substantial amount of energy to heat water to the boiling point, and you’ll lose some water to evaporation. If you don’t have any other methods available, though, boiling your water can be a smart choice, at least as an occasional solution.

Plants

Plants are natural water filters both above ground and in the water. Hikers and other outdoor adventurers use plants in the woods to get clean drinking water, but you can do the same thing at home. There are a wide variety of plants you can use to filter your water.

Cilantro is one of the most common household items that can purify water. Just grind it up and filter water through it. This herb may even remove heavy metals as effectively as charcoal filters. You can also use lemon peels, the core of a cactus and pine tree branches.

Ceramic

If you’ve used ceramic pots for houseplants before, you know they allow water to flow through them. Ceramic has been shown to filter out water impurities in remote areas such as Cambodia. At home, all you have to do is pass water through the pores in a ceramic material. The water that comes out on the other side will be free of microorganisms. This method, however, is less effective against pesticides and organic pollutants. If microorganisms are your main concern, though, this method should work for you.

Carbon

Carbon filters are another common type of water purification method, which has been found to suppress bacteria. There are several types of carbon filters. Activated carbon, which may be referred to as activated charcoal, has a positive charge, so it’s especially effective at attracting impurities. But block carbon has the benefit of a higher contaminant removal ratio.

Carbon filters are ideal for removing chemicals such as chlorine, benzene and pesticides, as well as unwanted tastes and odors. It’s not the best choice for removing heavy metals. It can remove larger microorganisms, but smaller viruses can slip through.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is one of the most effective ways to purify water, but it is a little more involved than the other methods. This method is used on a large scale to provide clean water to whole cities full of people, but you can have a smaller system installed in your home.

Reverse osmosis is the process of water passing through a semipermeable membrane. These filters, which have a pore size of approximately 0.0001 microns, are very effective at removing viruses, bacteria, protozoa and chemical contaminants. It can even turn salt water into drinkable water.

Solar

This method takes some time, but it’s a completely natural, affordable way to purify water. Just use the power of the sun to evaporate dirty water. The vapor will be clean, while contaminants get left behind.

You can make a solar water purifier at home with two water bottles and a thin PVC pipe. Place dirty water in one bottle, and let it evaporate into the other bottle. See the full instructions here.

If you want to purify your water naturally at home, you have plenty of options, and many of these same methods are providing access to clean water to communities around the world. Whether you want to invest in a long-term solution or just want a one-time fix, there’s a method for you. Using them can improve health and the well-being of the planet.

Photo credit: Pexels.com


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Green Roof on a Root Cellar

 

In 2014 we built an earthbag and balecob/strawbale root cellar on our off-grid urban homestead.  

We’ve been using it since then and last year decided to put a green roof on it as well.  This “Part II” will describe our green roof process and about how the cellar has performed overall.

Root Cellar Use

Our root cellar is right next to our existing home and under twenty feet from our mudroom door - “Zone 1” in Permaculture parlance.  This close proximity is crucial because as things get even marginally more distant use and utility decline exponentially.  On winter mornings it’s still a stretch for me to put on shoes and go farther than the mudroom for our staples.  I find I often bargain with my wife: “If you get the potatoes from the root cellar, I’ll clean them and set them on the stove.” Or, I’ll interrupt my kids at play and remind them this is a small way they can contribute to our family’s continued survival...and that we’ve fed, protected, and sheltered them…and we cleaned diapers, lost a lot of sleep...they get the picture eventually.  

After the earth bags I switched to strawbales and the Balecob technique (recent blog article here).  The strawbales provide great above ground insulation and allowed us to plaster over them.  As is normal for us and our process, we’ve given the bales a good rough coat but have yet to give them a true finish coat.

Our food production and homestead knowledge have increased over the years so our root cellar has filled more, too.  With improved shelving we store crates of potatoes and onions, carrots in crates of sand, apples wrapped in paper and keep our jars of lard down there as well.  The temps inside the cellar stay consistently cool in the summer and never go below freezing in the winter.  In short, it works great!  

I should also reiterate in this Part II that our homestead is electricity and fossil-fuel-free (no solar, either) so food preservation is a bigger challenge for us.  Old and “Appropriate Technology” using the coolth of the earth has been essential to our increased sustainability.  Importantly, projects like this are also just plain fun; to build, tinker, experiment, fail sometimes, and ultimately connect more deeply with our land, our climate, our food and the direct role we take with our sustenance.  

The Green Roof

Originally, I roofed the cellar with some salvaged metal roofing and insulated it with salvaged R-30 fiberglass attic insulation.  This functioned fine but the low (4’ to 6’ above grade) metal roof, in a busy “pass-through” space from our house to our back gardens, felt too hard, harsh, and glaring.  In an effort to soften and beautify this Zone 1 area we decided to transform it into a green, or living, roof.  

Over the metal I cut in and placed two layers of inch-thick Thermasheath-3 insulation (acquired from some Burners who used it for a hexayurt shelter).  This served two purposes:  more insulative value while raising the surface above the metal fins of the metal roof so my next layer of vinyl would not rub on them.  

I built up the edges of the roof with 2 x 10’s to make a basin, essentially, into which we could place the soil.  Next, I laid out an old vinyl billboard sign on top of the insulation and tacked it to the sidewalls and to a ramshackle part of our house.  Billboard signs are a great urban resource - contact your local ad company for leftover signs and expect to pay about $20 for a 14’ x 48 ’sign. Finally, over this we put a mix of soil, compost and a few woodchips about 6-8 inches thick.  Thicker is better on top of a roof as they dry quickly but we’re only ever planning for sedums, some flowers, and weeds to grow there.  We were lucky to get a crew from Patagonia for a volunteer work day to do the heavy lifting and initial planting.  Many hands…

Along the bottom, low-side of the roof I placed a wad of rolled-up Agribon row cover against a section of hardware cloth to serve as a filter and catch to prevent soil and debris from leaving the roof.  I added a gutter after that which drains into a perennial bed full of Goji berries and protects the balecob section from drips.  

During our first growing season the green roof met our expectations of softening the environment while also growing some plants.  I didn’t notice a marked improvement inside the root cellar but, then again, I don’t keep very close track of temperatures.  Our biggest challenge was keeping the roof moist through hand-watering but this year we plan to irrigate it with a couple drip lines for consistency.  More flowers, more life, more beauty.  Amen!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

‘Home Power’ Magazine Gets Passive Solar, Off-grid Headquarters

The following is an excerpted from Home Work: Hand Built Shelter (Shelter Publications, 2004) by long-time MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor Lloyd Kahn. The book features more than 1,500 photos illustrate various innovative architectural styles and natural building materials that have gained popularity in the last two decades, such as cob, papercrete, bamboo, adobe, strawbale, timber framing and earthbags. If you love fine, fun or funky buildings, you will want to own this splendid book.

The wide open spaces are the reason we live in the mountains. Our nearest full-time neighbor is more than six miles away.

I first saw Home Power magazine in the 1980s. It was a funky looking yet technically loaded and serious journal of (mainly) solar, wind, and water-generated electricity. Not only has it survived, but it’s gotten increasingly better. It’s now an all-color compendium of the latest in home energy.

Richard and Karen Perez are the heart and soul of Home Power, and after some years of living in funky sheds in the woods, they built their own home-powered home/office/hangout in the Oregon woods. I find it just amazing to look at a place like this: off-the-grid, its heat and power provided by sun and wind (and firewood). And they are running the computers and network that produces their magazine from the same clean electricity. These guys are walkin’ the walk!

Richard’s Brief History of Home Power Magazine

View from the sunken living room up into the dining area. The red tile on the floor covers the solar-heated, concrete slab.

We started Home Power in 1987 and to date, have published 90 issues. Prior do doing Home Power, I spent 10 years as an installing dealer of PV systems. I solarized our predominately off-grid neighborhood by installing more than 200 systems. I realized that folks had no idea of what current solar energy technologies could do for them — they were still running generators to power their off-grid homes and businesses.

I also saw an emerging renewable energy industry which had no way to contact their potential customers. Hence, Home Power was born.

Currently, we are entering our 15th year of publishing. Including folks who download our current issue for free from our website, we have more than 100,000 people reading each issue. We print 38,000 copies in our paper edition and about ⅔ of these are sold on newsstands worldwide.

For many years, we lived and worked in a 560-square-foot “plywood palace.” This uninsulated building was chock-a­block with the necessities of life and computers. Our site is six miles off-grid, and we’ve been powering all our electrical stuff using solar and wind electricity for decades now.

Home Power Gets a Custom, Employee-built Home

Our wood stove, which uses a secondary catalytic converter to increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution. Last year we burned less than ½ cord of wood, thanks to the solar heating systems.

In summer of 2000, we did a total rebuild — the original cabin disappeared into the center of a new 2,300-square-foot building.

The new building has two stories. The ground floor is split-level, with a four-foot drop along its east/west axis. Thus, the building follows the contour of the south-facing hillside on which it rests. The building was designed and constructed by the Home Power crew.

Passive home design. Energy efficiency was our major design criteria. We employed both passive and active solar heating tech­niques. On the passive side, we insulated the hell out of the building — R-30 in the walls and R-60 in the roof. We installed many south-facing, double-glazed windows, a few east-facing windows for an “early morning wake-up,” and very few windows on the west and north sides of the house.

Solar hot water. Computer-designed overhangs prevent all these windows from overheating the building during the summer. On the active side, we installed four, 4-by-8-foot solar hot water collectors on the roof. These collectors directly heat a six-inch-thick, concrete, thermal slab on the ground floor.

Wood heat. The combination of passive and active solar heating, and super insulation have reduced the amount of wood we burn in our backup heater from five cords per winter to less than one-half cord per winter. We increased the size of our home/office by a factor of four and reduced our wood consumption by a factor of 10, which overall increased performance by 40 times.

Solar heat retention. Besides finally having enough space to not be crowded, the new building is very comfortable — warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We are located at 3,320 feet elevation in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon. It gets cold here in the winter. Nighttime temperatures are often in the teens, and it’s not uncommon to have several feet of snow on the ground. Inside the building, it’s always cozy. The thermal slab stores enough heat for around four days of continuously cloudy weather. Proof of wintertime perform­ance is that all our dogs and cats prefer to sleep on the solar thermal slab instead of any other place in the house.

Passive cooling. During the summer months, when the outside temperature is often in the high 90s, the inside temperature never rises above 76 degrees. We open the many operable windows after sunset and allow the cool mountain air to chill down the house. In the mornings, we simply close the windows and allow the super insulation to keep the house cool during the day.

Power room, which houses our batteries, inverters, and other renewable energy equipment

Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home WorkTiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the Mother Earth News Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitter, and Facebook, and read all of his Mother Earth News posts.


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The Most Eco-Friendly Home Construction Materials

bamboo eco-friendly 

Bamboo. Image Source: Pexels

If you’re building a home or an addition to your existing home, be sure to choose eco-friendly construction materials.

There are really two ways to be eco-friendly in your home building materials. The first is to choose materials that minimize environmental impact.

Using recycled materials, for example, always causes less environmental impact than using new materials. If you use a wood construction with new timber, you are essentially putting in an order for trees to be cut down. The harvesting will use energy and remove green trees from the environment. If you use salvaged or reclaimed wood, the construction uses already-cut trees, yielding much less environmental impact.

The second way is to choose materials that will promote sustainable energy. Sustainable, green building naturally insulates homes from both heat and cold. It, therefore, cuts down on energy consumption, leading to less use of natural resources that cause climate change warming, such as oil and gas.

Here are eight of the eco-friendliest home construction materials.

Recycled Steel

Producing and smelting steel takes a lot of energy. Just think of forges and smelters, with sparks flying up to the sky. That’s one of the reasons recycled steel has become an enormously popular green building material. It utilizes steel already in existence for structural use in a home, in beams and girders, for example. The reclaimed steel from six junked cars provides enough recycled steel to build a 2000-square-foot house. Recycling saves 75 percent of the energy costs utilized in making the steel.

Bamboo

Bamboo is increasing in popularity as a building material. It has a great deal of tensile strength and can be used in walls and flooring. It is an ideal building material because it can be used behind the scenes — underneath another type of flooring, for example — and as wall screens and mats. Bamboo is very sustainable since it grows quickly. While trees such as pine and cedar can be reforested, growing them can take years. Bamboo can be reforested much more promptly and grows throughout the world.

Sheep’s Wool

Sheep's wool, of course, can also be regrown quickly. After shearing, sheep inherently produce a new crop. Clothing manufacturers have long-known the insulating properties of wool, which make very cozy sweaters and socks. The same insulating features can make sheep’s wool an energy-efficient insulator in walls, ceilings and attics.

straw bales eco

Source: Pexels

Straw Bales

Straw bales also have fantastic insulating properties. Straw bales are placed in walls, attics and ceilings to contribute to cooler temperatures in the summer and warmer temperatures in the winter. Straw can be harvested and re-planted easily with minimal environmental impact. The making of straw into bales also has a very low influence.

Precast Concrete

Concrete is a natural material that can be recycled, making it an appropriate choice for eco-friendly homes. Also, pre-cast concrete is eco-friendlier than concrete poured on site. It is poured into pre-made molds over rebar or wire, then cured. Once the concrete has hardened, it can be shipped and placed into multiple structures. As a result, precast concrete achieves economies of scale that concrete which is poured on-site cannot.

Reclaimed or Recycled Wood

As mentioned in the introduction, reclaimed or recycled wood has much less of an environmental impact than harvesting new timber. Since many homes and other structures have used wood for several years, it’s relatively easy to reclaim those structures for new home building. Wood can be used in the construction of a home — reclaimed and recycled wood can also be used to make unique floors or exposed beams with an antique look.

pic of earth

Source: Pexels

Earth

Many cultures throughout the centuries have used earth for building. Just think of adobe, which can be dried and painted colorfully for an aesthetic treat. Homes built of earth are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. While earth homes are frequently produced in China and parts of South America, they are far less prevalent in the United States outside the Southwest. Be sure to check that local regulations and zoning will allow an earth home and that local contractors know how to work with it.

Plant-Based Polyurethane Rigid Foam

Rigid foam is often used as insulation material in building. Think of what surfboards are made of — but that material is not environmentally friendly. Enter plant-based polyurethane rigid foam. Yes, it’s quite a mouthful. It’s made from kelp, hemp and bamboo. Because it is rigid — and relatively immovable — it can be used in insulation. It offers protection against mold and pests, as well as sound insulation and heat resistance.  

Eco-friendly home construction materials minimize the environmental impact and can insulate homes well, promoting energy efficiency and reducing reliance on unsustainable resources like oil and natural gas. These eight green and sustainable building materials will make your home ready for a green future.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Design a Practical Log Cabin

 Log Cabin Overlooking Valley

Photo by Tony Basilio

Designing a practical and usable log cabin isn’t easy. The planning stage of a log cabin build is the single most important stage. Spend enough time on this stage and your build will be successful. Rush it, and you are likely to hit many hurdles. These hurdles will increase the cost and the duration of your build. The three most important design considerations for your log cabin are:

1. The location

2. The exterior

3. The floor plan

Location

Most people make the mistake of jumping into the planning process at the floor plan stage. Instead, you should decide where you want to build your log cabin, and then design the cabin and floor plan around the specifics of your land.

The natural habitat your cabin is placed upon will heavily impact the design and layout of your cabin (i.e. your plot of land is crucial to the design of your log cabin). It is nearly impossible to design your cabin without knowing where it will be situated.

You need to think about the orientation of your cabin and how best to utilize your land. Knowing your location allows you to plan where best to place your windows to make the most of the suns’ natural energy:

• If you live in a cooler climate, position your log cabin so it is south facing, and put most of your windows on the south wall too. Avoid using north facing windows.

• Conversely, if you live in a hot climate orientate your cabin so its south-east facing and have counterpart windows on the north side to save on cooling costs.

If the land you have chosen has natural slopes, you have the option of building the front half of your cabin on stilts or incorporating an under-cabin garage to make the most of the natural grades.

Finally, your site may provide natural shelters or wind breaks (e.g. wooded perimeters) that will reduce weathering and protect your cabin from extreme natural forces (e.g. wind, rain and snow). Using natural shelter can combat against south-facing gable weathering due to direct sunlight, wind and rain exposure.

Orientation, grade, and natural shelters will all impact the design and practicality of your log cabin.

Exterior

Before you start thinking about the interior of your log cabin, you will need to decide what you want to achieve from the exterior. Do you want a traditional log cabin to use as a home? A small weekend trapper’s cabin? A large glamourous ski-in ski-out cabin? The exterior of your log cabin will likely be determined by its future use.

Many prospective cabin builders forget to think further ahead than the finished log cabin design. But one of the most important exterior aspects is to decide upon the construction method (i.e. notch type) and the logs’ profile (i.e. cut and type of log).

There are over 700 species of trees in the US, but, only two dozen of them are used for building log cabins. Your choice of log will most likely come down to appearance, cost, energy efficiency and availability. The most popular choices are Pine, Cedar, Cypress and Oak.

Once you have selected the lumber, the next design consideration is your construction method (i.e. notch type), each of them has a distinct design appearance. There are three main notches which will determine your cabin’s exterior appearance, full dovetail (Appalachian log home), Scandinavian saddle notch (traditional log cabin) and butt and pass (DIY log cabin).

If a contractor is building your cabin, the decision will most likely fall down to which is more aesthetically pleasing to you. If you are building your own cabin, you will want to consider your carpentry abilities, butt and pass is the most preferable method if you are a novice.

Floor Plan

 Practical Log Home Floor Plan

Floor plan by David Woods

After you’ve decided upon your cabin’s location and exterior appearance, it’s time to start on the exciting part: the floor plan! A floor plan is vital to ensure space maximization, good flow and practicality. There are two places I recommend starting at during your floor plan design: pre-designed floor plans and your current home.

You will know what size cabin you want (i.e. square feet). This will be determined by three factors:

1. How many people will live in or use the cabin

2. How many function rooms you want

3. The purpose of the log cabin

Start off, by looking at similar sized floor plans for inspiration. Use them for inspiration and guidance. Look at how the rooms flow from one to another and really imagine yourself living in a space just like that. Do you foresee any problems?

Then think about your current home, what works well, what doesn’t? Are there any aspects you want to carry over to your new home? Once you get some ideas about the layout of your cabin, you can start to think about the practicalities of the room layouts. Write down all the rooms and spaces you want to include in your home, and start thinking about how each of them will connect.

Do you need particular places to be open plan? If you like entertaining, you’ll likely want a large open plan kitchen and living space. Do you need quieter areas? If you work from home, you’ll probably want a quiet office space away from the main living area.

The more thought you give to your lifestyle, the more you can ensure your floor plan is practical and flows well for you, your family and guests.

A Successful Log Cabin Build

If you give thoughtful consideration to each of the points covered above, you will end up with a practical design for your log cabin — practical in its use and practical in its design for energy efficiency and weatherproofing.

Remember, what is practical for one person, may not be practical for another. The important thing to ensure when designing your cabin is that it fits your lifestyle and your needs. If you take two things away from this article, they should be, to design your cabin around the land you are building upon and to design your floor plan to be practical for you.

David Woods is a carpenter, outdoorsman, and author with more than 30 years of professional woodworking experience. He is the author of best-seller How to Build a Log Home and has educated more than half a million people on how to build a log cabin via his blog, Log Cabin Hub. Connect with him on Facebook.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Using Toilet Paper to Save the World

paperWho Gives a Crap, a toilet paper company dedicated to helping the environment, has created a clever infographic to help audiences understand the real-world impact of using too much toilet paper. The team behind Who Gives a Crap presents some facts – and not so fun facts – to shed a little light on the toilet paper statistic of America.

The recycled toilet paper company began when the pun-loving three co-founders discovered the not-so-funny reality that roughly 2.3 billion people across the world have no access to a toilet. This means that about 40 percent of the global population struggles over something as seemingly basic as going to the bathroom, causing around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhea diseases cause by poor sanitation.

So what has such a punny toilet paper company done to help this problem? More than you would think. Who Gives a Crap contributes half of their profits to sanitation projects, which includes building toilets for those without access, with help from WaterAid. Since their beginnings in 2013, this company has donated over 1,100,000 Australian dollars to charities and to the production of more toilets. They have also become a B Corporation, all of which promise to use their business platforms to address social and environmental issues.

Another huge problem that this toilet paper business noticed is the extreme overuse of toilet paper across the world, causing more and more trees to die for the toilet paper cause. This is why Who Gives a Crap use recycled paper products to make their toilet paper, that way, no more trees need to die, and consumers still have access to a high-quality toilet paper product.

The company team wants to make a greater difference by attacking the problem of overusing and wasting toilet paper at its largest source: America.

With the following infographic, Who Gives a Crap points out the different averages of toilet paper use around the world, and the environmental effects of producing and using such an excess amount of toilet paper each year. The infographic also highlights an under-discussed epidemic round the lacks of toilets worldwide.

infographic

Who Gives a Crap has worked hard to bring more toilets and better toilet paper to the world, and to create more awareness about the serious problems hidden behind the endless stream of toilet jokes.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase. 

How Hard Water Affects Appliance Efficiency (and What to Do About It)

 

Water contains many dissolved substances we can’t see, so we’ve developed simple terminology to describe its specific condition. Hard water is one: Hard water can smell and taste bad. It also can lead to mineral deposits on your appliances and within their workings, which can make them less effective and less efficient over time.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is so named due to its high content of dissolved minerals. You can’t usually see that content, but you can taste or sometimes smell it. While water can contain any number of minerals and other substances, the primary offenders are calcium and magnesium.

The minerals in hard water cause us problems when they bind to other substances. Soap, for instance, won’t foam up as well, which makes washing our bodies and clothes less effective in removing dirt or bacteria — you may have noticed clothing ending up with odd stains or dishes come out of the dishwater spotty.

How Does Hard Water Affect Appliances?

Appliances which use water, such as our dishwashers and hot water tanks suffer the most from hard water. Minerals in the water (think dissolved rocks) build up on the heating elements and slowly bring down the efficiency of the appliance.

A hot water tank has to work much harder to heat water to the desired temperature when it is coated with minerals. It draws in more energy and raises your utility bills in the process. It can cost almost 30% more to heat the same amount of water when it is untreated, hard water.

Mineral deposits from hard water can coat our pipes with an unsightly substance called scale. Over time, it often restricts water flow and clogs pipes and appliances. Even a tiny layer of scale, 1/16th of an inch, can increase the energy consumption of an appliance by 10% or more.

And guess what happens when the appliances have to work hard? They break down more frequently and require more maintenance to remove the mineral buildup and maintain efficiency cause, costing you to repair them.

Industries which use hard water in their processes require an increased amount of detergent to clean their equipment. Detergent isn’t as effective against hard water, so it takes more of it to produce the needed suds. For every increase in water hardness, detergent use goes up 2% to 4%.

That means a waste of detergent and increased costs. And all that detergent-polluted water goes into our sewers and water treatment plants. They have to work harder to clean it up before it can be reintroduced into our water supply.

What’s the Solution to Hard Water?

You can avoid this waste and expense by investing in a water softener. Water is “softened” by removing the mineral content. Softening is done in a variety of ways, usually through a process called ion exchange using a special salt. Water is passed through tiny beads called ion exchange resins. In a chemical process, two sodium ions are exchanged for each calcium or magnesium ion. The result is better-tasting water which is “softer” on your skin, clothes and appliances.

Softened water won’t produce scale or cause buildup in your pipes or on your appliances’ heating elements to the extent hard water will. Since they won’t be compromised by mineral buildup, appliances won’t require as much maintenance and they won’t break down as often.

Disadvantages of Softened Water

You wouldn’t put so much effort into getting rid of the minerals in your water and making it soft if there weren’t benefits to doing so. But while soft water is often better for your plumbing, appliances, some drawbacks exist.

Because water softeners use salt to change the water, they can increase the sodium content of your drinking water. Not by much, but it’s worth considering. If you’re someone who has to monitor salt intake for health reasons, you may want to take that into consideration before adding a water softener.

It’s up to you to decide if treating your water is worth the expense. It’s a matter of how high the mineral content of your water is and how it is affecting your appliances. Softer water may mean less energy use and longer-lasting appliances.

Photo by Skitterphoto

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook  and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity TheoryRead all of Kayla’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.