Here in Las Vegas, most builders have been adding a soft water loop to new homes for the last 20 years or more, due to the extremely hard water we have here. They know most home owners will want to install a softener, conditioner, or refiner to prevent the hard minerals from entering the house and doing severe damage to plumbing, appliances, fixtures, clothes, dishes, towels and sheets, and so on. When they install the loop in the garage, they will also add a connection for the “ice line” under the kitchen sink, so that the homeowner can connect a reverse osmosis (RO) that will feed purified water to the refrigerator as well.
However, there is another way that a system can be installed for the home: on the main line, usually found in the garage. That is where the water can be shut off to the entire home; it is also where a softener, conditioner or refiner can be connected to protect the home. While this connection is not necessarily better or worse than connecting to a soft water loop, there are some key differences that every home owner should know when deciding what kind of system they are buying and how to connect it.
With a loop connection, all water coming into the house will be filtered with the exception of the cold line at the kitchen tap. It’s Las Vegas code to have this single line separated, mostly for ease in accessing the “raw” city water for things like indoor house plants, which need the hard minerals found in tap water. This cold line also feeds the water to the refrigerator, which is why the builder will provide a connection for an RO under the sink so that the hard water will get purified to protect the small water lines to the fridge, as well as give you cold purified water and ice cubes. In addition, you will get a small faucet at the sink for room temperature drinking water, and for cooking, making coffee and tea, and so on. With Las Vegas water averaging between 20 – 25 grains of hardness*, this is imperative for health AND preserving the ice/water line.
With a main line install, every line will be receiving filtered water, including the kitchen sink. While this is helpful for preventing scale at the sink, it also means that the refrigerator is getting soft water, which isn’t always the best tasting and definitely isn’t purified to a fraction of the level that an RO does. Even with the filter inside the fridge, you won’t remove the taste of softened water. These filters are minimally effective and are designed to mostly mask the taste of chlorine. While H2OToGo systems perform a clean rinse to remove salt from our tanks, most mass-produced systems do not, so you may also taste the salt from the tank(s). This is why we always provide a “package deal,” with a home system AND RO to ensure the best tasting and safest water for home owners.
The other aspect of a main line install to consider is that the bibs (faucets) on the exterior of the home will be getting treated water, which is not good for landscaping or for filling swimming pools. It also puts a strain on the water treatment system. A soft water loop treats water only used INSIDE the home, and bypasses the exterior bibs, so that you will be able to use additional hoses or sprinklers for grass and plants. And with every loop install, H2OToGo always provides a soft water bib so that home owners can wash cars and have the convenience of spot-free water for projects like power washing the home, cleaning exterior window surfaces, and hobbies.
Another aspect of a main line install (which incidentally is most often used for salt-free conditioners that don’t remove hard minerals) is that it is generally much more expensive to install at the main line due to added labor hours and materials. And with these types of systems, routine and often pricey annual maintenance is required — and in the case of salt-free systems, the hard minerals are still coming into the house and causing a mess, frequent cleanups, and damaging water heaters and other appliances. This is certainly a concern in a city like Las Vegas where we have water 3 times harder than the rest of the country and harder than the vast majority of filtration systems are designed to handle. But more on this in an upcoming blog.
*The EPA’s accepted hardness guideline for water is 0 – 10.5, with 0 being “soft” and 10.5 being “extremely hard.” Las Vegas ranges from 20-25, which is triple what the vast majority of water filtration systems are designed for; most manufacturers design systems to treat at 7 grains of hardness and offer a 10-year limited warranty, neither of which is beneficial for homeowners here in Las Vegas or in communities with hardness that exceeds 7 grains.