Is Hard Water in RV Plumbing a Problem?
Since we all travel from one location to another in our RVs, we encounter water from many different sources and with very different qualities. Some water comes from a municipal water supply, some comes for wells on the property, or shared wells in the area.
Water in RV parks and campgrounds may also come from filtered water pumped from a lake, stream, or other body of water, or it could be collected rainwater. We have no real control over the quality of the water we allow to enter our RVs and that may have disastrous consequences over time.
What is hard water?
Hard water is the result of certain minerals like calcium magnesium, iron, and manganese dissolving and entering the water supply as positively charged molecules. These minerals can build up in our pipes, on the surface of sinks, counters, showers, toilets, and even on our skin.
The mineral-laced water flows through our RV’s washer, dishwater, coffee pot, hot water heater, and toilets, leaving dangerous deposits that can shorten the lifespan of our appliances, damage our pipes, leave deposits on our skin, and dull the shine in our hair.
Hard water comes in degrees. The more molecules of metal in the water, the harder it is. You can see the impact of this hard water if soap scum builds up quickly in your sink or shower or if you feel like you’re always cleaning up water spots, then you probably have a hard water problem. If the water is very hard, it may even be difficult to get shampoo to lather and it can dry out your skin or leave scaly residue in your hair.
Since we don’t have any control over the quality of the water we introduce into our RVs, it makes sense to add the appropriate filtration systems to improve our water quality.
Don’t be misled. Municipal water facilities do not generally soften water. The minerals are not considered a health hazard so municipalities are not required to remove the metallic content and may only filter out harmful particulates.
What to Know About RV Water Softeners
There are several different types of RV water softeners that can be installed in your rig. To oversimplify the process, the most common water softening systems use weakly charged saline crystals that have a negative charge. The negative charge attracts and trap the positively charged metallic particles in a medium through which your water supply flows.
The system traps as many positively charged particles as it can hold. Then, the water softening system goes through a process of regeneration. It removes contaminants. Cleaning and recharging is next. This regeneration process usually occurs at night, when there is no demand on the system.
The actual process is a more complicated chemical exchange at the molecular level, but the basic idea for all water softening systems is to remove the metallic molecules so the water becomes softer. There are other types of water softening systems besides the salt systems, including electrical, magnetic, and chelation systems.
The entire process occurs inside a cartridge. The device softens up to 10,000 gallons of water before the entire unit needs replacement. This is unlike salt-based water softening systems that only require replacing consumable crystals.
Why is an RV water softener important?
The price for RV water softeners ranges from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. There are some that require more complex installation and the frequent resupply of consumables. But if hard water is damaging systems and appliances in your RV, it’s a small price to pay.
Removing and replacing damaged pipes or a toilet with low water inflow can generate some significant repair bills. Also, consider how inconvenient it is if your hot water heater or washer quits working in the middle of a long road trip.
RV water filter and water softener systems can be confusing:
- Water filters remove bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and other water born particulates that get trapped by a carbon filter.
These water filtration and water softening systems are not the same thing. However, one of the models listed below does both.
Are combined RV water filtration and water softener systems better?
Is it a good idea to combine the filtration and softening processes in your RV water system? Personally, I don’t think so. The two processes will undoubtedly not be on the same use cycle. You may need to replace one system before the end of its life cycle. More likely you’ll wait for both systems to be fully spent before replacing the whole unit. The softening system will cease to function while you wait for the filtration system to be fully used up. Or the reserve is true. In either case your water quality is compromised.
I recommend installing two unique water systems, each designed to do one specific thing. When the filtration or softening unit needs replacing then you can address that one system. Afterward, disregard the other until it also needs refreshing or replacement.
What is the best RV water softener?
Here is a short list of some RV water softeners for RVs. This is not a comprehensive list. There may be other systems that fit your needs better and use less chemicals. Some function for a longer period of time, or are more environmentally responsible.
You’ll need to compare the systems to see which one meets your unique needs. It doesn’t matter what system you choose. The benefits of having a water softener in your RV outweigh the expense and hassle of installing it.
- Aquios AQFS 220 – A salt-free softener and filter with a 40,000 gallon capacity.
- Watts Portable Water Softener uses common table salt and costs less than $200.
- NUVO H2O for RVs is a salt-free system using chelation techniques to trap metal molecules.
- Mobile Soft Water Model – This is also a salt-based system and costs less than $400.
- APEC Water Systems FUTURA-10 Premium – This system costs about $1200 and may need professional installation.
Learn more about RV water filters
- RV Water Filter Battle: It’s Green vs Blue and Solid Carbon Block Wins
- What Is The Best RV Water Hose?
- Your RV Coffee Maker Wants Filtered Water – So Do You
Get more tips from the RV community
RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com
Dee Phillips says
Good article! Thank you for explaining water softening so well. We need to look into purchasing one of these systems.
Dalton Bourne says
As an RV owner, I think you would want to invest in the best equipment for your recreational vehicle. An RV water softener is a valuable device that you can install in your recreational vehicle as it works in softening water by getting rid of certain minerals that trigger the formation of hard water. Water can be considered as hard if it has a higher amount of minerals, like calcium and magnesium, compared to ordinary water.
Dalton Bourne says
Another water softener that I think does a pretty good job when used in softening hard water in recreational vehicles is the Mobile Soft Water 16,000-grain portable water softener.
Keith Krejci says
I’ve been full timing for over 15 years and have used an “On the Go” water softener (less than $300) with good results. Some of your examples are over the top – one is 4′ feet tall!
Samantha Nichols says
I installed this device on the water line for a model park in South Texas where the water is extremely hard. we are going to use it here, then take it offline and install it again within the camper for 3 months. Adding this oil improves the taste of the water, the power to get rid of soap from skin, hair, clothes, and dishes, further as countertops and stovetops. This water softener made an incredible difference and is de facto easy to use, just follow the instructions to refill the salts.