Water is an integral part of your home life, but concerns about tap water quality lead many families to consider installing in-home water treatment systems. But what are the real benefits of these systems? Do they just improve the taste of your drinking water, or is there more to it? According to Dennis Friedrichs, a long-time provider of commercial and residential water treatment in Chicago, improving your home’s water quality is about more than just removing sediments for a better taste. Today’s water treatment systems are about achieving optimal water quality for all household uses, from drinking to cleaning and bathing.

Friedrichs works for Chicagoland Water Conditioning & Purification in Morton Grove, Illinois. “At Chicagoland,” Friedrichs says, “we focus on more than just water softening and filtration. Our water treatment systems are about optimizing water quality to improve the efficiency of your home, provide healthy drinking water and improve your family’s quality of life.”

The term “water treatment,” Friedrichs explains, is a generic term. “It simply refers to improving water quality. This can be done through softening, filtration, purification, or a combination of all three.”

Water Softening

According to Friedrichs, the most common type of home water treatment system is a basic water softener. The purpose of a water softener is to replace harmful calcium and magnesium ions in water with sodium. When too much calcium and magnesium are present, your water is “hard.” Hard water causes a number of problems, including soap scum, dingy clothes, soapy residue on your skin and hair, and spotty or filmy dishes. Water hardness, says Friedrichs, is reported in grains per gallon, a measure of the concentration of calcium and magnesium in the water.

“In Chicago,” he says, “Lake Michigan provides about 90% of the city’s water. Chicago’s water is about eight grains hard, and anything above five grains is considered moderately hard. So if you live in the city, you would definitely benefit from a water softener. If you have a well, a water softener is an absolute necessity. Water from a well might be 25 grains per gallon.”

Hard water, says Friedrichs, especially when heated in a dishwasher or water heater, causes limescale. This limescale builds up in pipes and causes a decrease in your appliances’ efficiency. “If you allow limescale to build up in your pipes,” says Friedrichs, “after just a few years, that limescale can fill up to 1/3 of the pipe’s width. That means your appliances are working overtime to get water through your pipes.”

A water softener offers benefits that extend well beyond your appliances’ efficiency, says Friedrichs. Soft water is much better for your skin and hair. Most people also find that their shampoos and soaps produce more lather, making showers and baths more efficient and productive. Appliances use less energy and less detergent when water is softer. “In fact,” Friedrichs says, “most people find that they cut their dish soap and laundry detergent use in half after installing a water softener.”

Water Filtration and Purification

“I’m often asked the difference between water filtration and purification systems,” says Friedrichs. “At Chicagoland Water Conditioning & Purification, we use two methods to remove contaminants from water – mechanical filtration and reverse osmosis,” Friedrichs explains that mechanical filtration systems remove contaminants by passing the water through a very fine screen. This screen removes chemical and sediment particles, even very tiny ones, to produce better tasting, better smelling and more healthful drinking water.

“Although different contaminants are present in the water in different parts of the country,” says Friedrichs, “nearly everyone can benefit from a water filtration system.” According to Friedrichs, most water filtration systems effectively remove three of the most dangerous contaminants in water – lead, chlorine, and bacteria.

Water purification systems, on the other hand, take clean water to the next level,” he says. “For those clients who want completely pure water, we use a reverse osmosis purification system,” Friedrichs explains that a reverse osmosis purification system uses filtration, but also uses a semi-permeable membrane to eliminate even more contaminants. Originally developed by the U.S. Navy as a way to make seawater potable, he says, reverse osmosis is the only way to remove sodium from the water. Reverse osmosis also removes minerals from water. According to Friedrichs, water that has gone through a reverse osmosis purification process is almost completely stripped of foreign substances. “Almost like distilled water,” he says.

The benefits of clean, pure drinking water are many. Filtering out bacteria can reduce your family’s exposure to gastrointestinal diseases, says Friedrichs. By removing lead from your drinking water, you can protect your children from ingesting this known toxin. Excessive lead in drinking water has been linked to brain damage, and problems with the kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. Pregnant individuals and young children are most at risk. Chlorine too, says Friedrichs, is associated with some very serious health effects. Studies show that highly chlorinated drinking water may even increase your family’s risk of some types of cancer. A water treatment system can virtually eliminate these harmful substances from your drinking water so that you can stay hydrated without worrying about any adverse effects.

“Plus,” says Friedrichs, “water treatment systems are much more economical to operate than buying bottled water. And they’re much better for the environment as well.”

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