Hard water can cause problems around the home and affect the efficiency of plumbing fixtures. This is why people turn to water softeners. Not only does it improve the quality of your drinking water, but it also prevents mineral buildup in showerheads, pipes, and faucets. This keeps dishes, clothes, and skin soft and clean. You don’t have to constantly update your pipes and appliances.
But there are so many water softeners that it’s hard to differentiate. Why are the sizes different? Is the bigger one better? This article describes what a water softener does and why hardness and consumption are important in finding the right size of water softener for your home’s needs.
What is a Water Softener?
A water softener is a filtration system that removes dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium from water. These minerals, naturally occurring in our oceans and soils, tend to bind with metals, resulting in hard deposits in pipes and showerheads and also make water hard. Fortunately, magnesium and calcium are harmless to your health.
But the most common problem is the difficulty of lathering hair and washing dishes and cutlery. At worst, mineral deposits block water flow, reduce pressure, and over time corrode pipes, requiring expensive repairs or replacements.
Water softeners attract and remove hard mineral ions from water and replace them with small amounts of salt. The whole process is called ion exchange. Hard mineral ions such as magnesium and calcium have the opposite charge to other salts such as sodium and potassium.
As hard water enters the softener tank, it flows through a resin bed saturated with salt ions. A process of binding and exchange takes place here, during which ions of calcium and magnesium are removed from the water and ions of sodium or potassium are released.
Why Does the Size of the Water Softener Matter?
It is important to choose a water softener that is reliable and cost-effective. However, choosing the right model size is also important for the softener to work efficiently and not refill with new salt as often as possible.
In general, you should buy a water softener that is a little big but not too big for your needs. A softener that is too large may not regenerate well, damage the resin beads, and encourage bacterial growth in the tank. Also, the larger the tank, the more water is used, so the initial cost is also higher.
But don’t undersize your water softener. This can lead to the insufficient softness of drinking water and frequent regeneration. This uses more salt and can shorten the life of resin beads and water softeners.
Choose the Right Water Softener for Your Home
If you are looking for the right water softener for your home, you have to focus on the following factors before selecting the one.
Determine Water Hardness
First, you need to know the hardness of the water. Depending on where you live, your tap water contains different minerals. If you are using tap water, ask for hardness information as well, as your local water company may keep data records.
The best way to determine the hardness of your water is to purchase a water hardness test kit at your local hardware store or online. Results are measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L) or grains per gallon (gpg). Both measurements are given below.
- Soft Water 0-60 mg/L (0–3 gpg)
- Slightly Hard Water 61-120 mg/L (3-7 gpg)
- Hard Water 121-180 mg/L (7-11 gpg)
- Very Hard Water 180+ mg/L (11+ gpg)
Most water hardness measurements are in mg/L (milligrams per liter). To select a softener size, you need to convert mg/L to GPG (grains per gallon). A grain of water hardness is equivalent to 1/7000 of a pound. Divide mg/L by 17.1 to convert to GPG.
Check Your Average Household Water Consumption
The next step is to calculate how much water to use. Analyze your water bill over the past few months and record the liters you used. Seasons can fluctuate, so you can find an average. If you do not have access to this data, you can estimate. Average domestic water usage in the United States is approximately 75-80 gallons per person per day.
However, if your family uses more water (lots of laundries, long showers), the amount of water can reach 100 gallons per person. So if you have a family of four and they all use an average amount of water, their household water usage is probably over 300 gallons per day.
Determine Your Daily Softening Requirements
To find the right water softener size, simply multiply your daily water consumption by the water hardness. The formula is very simple. Multiply the hardness number by the number of gallons per day. For example, if 4 people use a total of 320 gallons and the hardness is 8, the total will be 2,560 he. That means your water softener needs to remove 2,560 grains each day.
Hardness value x total gallons per day = grain removed per day
Example: 8 gpg x 320 gallons = 2,560 grains per day
Note: You have to adjust for iron. If your water is high in iron, add 3 gpg to the total hardness value for each mg of iron before calculating.
Choose the Right Regeneration Frequency
The final step is to compare your daily softener needs with your softener regeneration time. Most water softeners work for several days between regenerations. They either set timers or include sensors to regenerate automatically.
Water softeners generally have enough capacity for 3-7 days between regenerations. Check your chosen product to see how fast it regenerates, then multiply that number by your daily softening needs.
For example, if you know that you need to regenerate your softener every 7 days, you can multiply your daily softening requirement by 7. 2,560 × 7 = 17,920. This is the final number, the capacity needed during regeneration. A family of 4 or 5 people usually requires a water softener with a capacity of 24,000 to 32,000 grains, depending on the situation.
Hardness in Grains Per Gallon
1 to 2 people
3 to 4 people
5 to 6 people
7 to 8 people
Check the Cost
The cost can vary between $300 and $4000, depending on size, brand, and features. Look for models that let you know when to add salt or regenerate at night when water usage is low. You can also get a salt-free model that complies with local regulations and lowers the salinity of your drinking water, but be prepared to pay more than that.
If you need an on-demand water softener, you can also purchase a dual tank where one tank goes offline while the second tank provides softened water during regeneration. However, keep in mind that these units are expensive to run and need to be regenerated frequently.
Purchasing the right size water softener will improve the quality of your drinking water and the efficiency of your water supply. All you need are two simple values: water hardness and daily consumption. You can then use the calculations above to calculate how many grains per gallon you will remove each week and what size will help you do that.