In hard-water areas, water softeners condition water to remove unwanted minerals. Softened water uses less soap, prevents mineral buildup in pipes and extends the life of appliances and hot water heaters.

Keep them on the job with proper maintenance. Most models use a salt-exchange method that depends on a supply of salt pellets or nuggets. Use the type of salt recommended by your manufacturer for best results. Check the brine tank regularly to be sure salt levels are adequate. The salt should sit above the water line. “Salt bridging” occurs when a crust of salt forms over the top of the water in the brine tank; break it up by adding hot water to the tank or by poking the crust with a broomstick if it occurs.

After a period of use, water softeners will need to regenerate or recharge: The unit will flush collection areas of accumulated mineral particles pulled from hard water. If your unit offers an automatic regeneration scheduling, use it — you’ll have soft water automatically. If your unit requires manual recharging, stick carefully to the manufacturer’s recommended time intervals.

Reduce household water usage

A more sustainable and cost-efficient household means conserving water, but green living doesn’t have to be dusty and dry. Try these strategies to cut water use at home:

Load up the dishwasher. Hand-washing dishes may feel authentic, but it’s wasteful; automatic dishwashers use less hot water and energy than washing by hand. No need to rinse, either; most modern dishwashers are designed to remove food without need for pre-rinsing.

Go with the (low) flow. Household toilets can be water hogs; replace older models with low-flow alternatives.

Save in the shower. Keep showers short and sweet to stay sustainable. You can also save water — and money — by installing a low-flow showerhead, which use up to 50 percent less water than older models.

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