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What does water treatment have to do with green living?

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I have heard this question in various forms since I first became involved in the field of water treatment back in 1980. Only then, it was simply, why would I need a water softener or purifier, we have city water. At that time, we had not even heard of green living or green homes. I worked in almost every aspect of the water business for 18 years, the last 15 as an owner, until selling my business in 1998. During that time I serviced, installed, designed & sold systems. I trained salespeople, installers, service people, etc. I built what became one of the largest water treatment companies in Illinois. I was a WQA Certified Water Specialist since 1985 and maintained that Certification until selling my business.

After selling my water company I became involved in the field I originally went to school for, construction management. It is currently the field I am still involved in and I have wore many hats in this field as well; IL State licensed lead abatement supervisor, Project Manager, and the Owner of a Rehab Company, Building Products Company, and a Custom & Spec Home Building Company. I am currently a consultant to the Green Building Industry and I am an accredited LEED GA.

I realized that while I really enjoy the building industry and will always be involved in it on one level or another, I have a passion for learning about this new trend called green building. Living healthier and saving money is the ultimate goal and for the past several years I have found myself reading and learning everything I can that pertains to green building methods and green living. This does not mean I am a fanatic or tree hugger, but I do believe in common sense ways to live better and more comfortable.

I believe if you truly believe in something you do not just preach it, you live it. That is why I am so passionate about green building and I would not have a home without additional water treatment.

Purified and softened water is an important part of green living and with that comes more and more people selling the latest gizmo with little regard for anything but how much money they can put in their pocket. The majority of water treatment companies are honest and reputable. Make sure your dealing with a reputable company.

Now why is water treatment and conservation so important?

The reason that the green building industry and eco friendly products have become the fastest growing segment of the building & home improvement industry is because of an ever-growing concern over health and the conservation energy & natural resources. This is not a FAD, it is the new paradigm in building and it is here to stay and will continue to grow into the future. This is going to happen whether we want it to or not, due to the fact building and energy codes are changing to include many of these energy conserving building methods and products.

Most people have just not been properly educated in the importance of soft & purified water.

30 years ago when I started in the water industry, air or water quality was of little concern to most people. That was because even though it was a growing problem, we would not see the effects of population growth, advancing technologies, new building products, and chemical use until several years later. We are just now seeing effects from many of the things we did and products used years ago. Green living and building is one of the answers to these issues. Now green building goes far beyond the scope of this article, but that is another topic.

Fast forward to today and it is no longer a question of whether or not we have created a problem, but what can I do about it and how does water treatment help with saving energy, conservation of natural resources or my health?

While water treatment is certainly not the only aspect or solution of a healthy, energy efficient home it is an important part. Would it surprise you to find out that you could add a water softener and purifier with money spent in the average household already?

According the Green Building Industry 3 priority issues are:

1. Energy Efficiency

2. Preservation of Natural Resources

3. Air & Water Quality

Now while every green home has some aspect of all of the above, your home is only as healthy as the air and water quality in it. Let’s start with water.

Next to the air we breathe, and that’s a major concern that we will address later, water is the most important thing to your health for more reasons than you may realize.

The most obvious is the water you drink; I never thought I would see the day when bottled water would rival soft drinks in cost or consumption, but it happened. While the quality of some of the water being sold in bottles is questionable, the biggest problem has turned out to be the waste created from multiple millions of plastic bottles that do not decompose in the environment. This has become such a serious problem some states are considering banning them.

A much better solution is to make your own bottled water, you could buy the most sophisticated drinking water purifier on the market for what you spend in a couple of years on bottles and have a much higher quality of water as well. I would be willing to bet that most of you would be shocked if you added up what you actually spend in the course of a year on bottled water. So for the same amount we are spending on bottled water in just a couple of years you would have better quality water and help eliminate waste and natural resources that are used in the manufacture of plastic bottles. We also would eliminate another risk which comes from the bottles themselves as many leach BPA or other impurities into the water.

This pretty much defeats the purpose of buying bottled water doesn’t it?

There is no good environmental or economical reason to use bottled water with the affordable technology we have today to produce our own.

Now let’s talk about something that experts in the water quality field have been talking about for years. It is without a doubt the most overlooked way you come into contact with impurities or unwanted chemicals (including chlorine) from your water supply. It is the water you bath and shower in. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and it absorbs whatever it comes into contact with, so whatever may be in your water will absorb into your skin with long enough exposure . If you shower or bath every day, that adds up to considerable exposure. Now this is still not as bad as inhaling the steam from a shower, which concentrates various chemicals that could be in your water and should be safeguarded against if possible. There are many inexpensive shower filters available on the market today that will take care of this but a whole house system is still more efficient.

The other problem you will have if your water is hard (and the majority of the country is considered hard-anything over 10.5 gpg is considered very hard-the Lake of the Ozarks area averages 21 gpg) is the fact that hard water plugs the pores of your skin and when mixed with soap forms a film that stays on your skin. This is the biggest reason for dry and irritated skin. Now I can hear some of you already, many of you will find this hard to believe or doubt it entirely; I understand because I used to think the same thing. Some of you will say that you don’t like soft water because you can’t get the soap off and it feels slick (some even say slimy). Sorry, but the opposite is true, that slick feeling is your pores opening and your body’s natural oils lubricating your skin like it is supposed to. This was the biggest selling point for me almost 30 years ago, and it is fact not theory, and in my 18 years as a water professional I have never failed to be able to prove this fact to anyone, with a simple test. I always had dry, irritated skin when I was a kid growing up and had to have prescribed medicated lotions. I was almost immediately relieved of any skin problems and haven’t had a problem since I began using softened water. Many people, like me, can eliminate lotions of any kind, another big savings, when you allow the body to naturally soften the skin. I would never be without a softener again for this reason alone, even though there are many other benefits to having soft water.

If you look at the ingredients in body soaps, detergents and cleaners and if you will research what they are, you will find that almost 80% of the active ingredient in any type of traditional cleaner is to soften the water so the water itself will work better at cleaning. The cleaner and purer the water the more aggressive it becomes and therefore better at cleaning. So you are already softening your water chemically or it wouldn’t clean anything very well.

There are two methods to soften your water; one by addition chemically and the other is by subtraction mechanically with the use of a water softener. Which do you suppose is the safest and most eco-friendly?

The addition or chemical method is not environmental friendly, it also further helps to irritate our skin, because just as the soap film doesn’t come off your skin, it will not come off of your clothes or towels entirely either. And these chemicals are much harsher than soap made for your skin. No wonder we have skin problems. This is also why clothes washed in soft water last much longer than clothes washed in hard water, another eco friendly benefit.

If this were not true or you have doubts, ask yourself why we have a so called gentle detergent for babies (Dreft, etc), if all the soap came out it wouldn’t matter now would it?

So why do we even use harsh chemicals for cleaners? It is because pure cleaners will not work very well with even slightly hard water and not all with hard water. And keep in mind the harsh chemicals are not to clean the clothes, etc. they are to clean the water.

Chemicals (traditional cleaners) are also very expensive, pure cleaners are not and it takes less than half the amount with soft water. So the amount you can save on cleaners alone will usually more than pay for a water softener.

What are some of the other benefits of soft water?

There are really many more I could list, but some of the major ones, in addition to the ones we have just touched on are savings of the energy required to heat water, soft water requires approximately 30% less energy to heat water, not to mention the maintenance savings of all water using appliances, elimination of special spot free rinses in dishwashers etc.

Now if you could have soft quality water like this and it didn’t cost a dime more than you are spending right now, what would be the reason for not having it?

Water purified for drinking at the point of use and water softened at the point of entry is one of the most eco friendly products you can have in your home.

Water treatment and water conservation will always be a major component of an eco-friendly home.

For more green building tips, go to greentite.com

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