Private well owners are quite familiar with the effects of hard water on their home, as groundwater often has high a concentration of magnesium, calcium, and iron.
But choosing a water softener for a home that relies on well water isn't as straightforward as choosing one for a city water system.
Water hardness for well water is unpredictable and can often contain other elements that might need further treatment.
So how should a well owner go about choosing the right water softener for their home?
It takes careful consideration of all the elements present in the groundwater, along with a few other important factors which we'll discuss in this article.
This article will feature the following:
- Reviews of the Best Water Softeners for Well Water
- What is Water Hardness?
- How to Test for Hard Water
- How do Water Softeners Work?
- Water Softeners vs. Water Conditioners
- Benefits of Water Softener Systems?
- Setting Up a Water Softener for Well Water with Iron
- Maintenance and Troubleshooting
30k or 45k Grain
10 or 15 GPM
pH range: 7-11
- Best Water Softeners for Well Water
- What is Water Hardness?
- The Top 4 Water Softener Benefits
- How to Test for Hard Water
- How Do Water Softeners Work?
- Salt-Based Water Softeners vs. Salt-Free Water Conditioners
- Using a Water Softener for a Well Water System with Iron
- Maintenance and Troubleshooting
- How to Size a Water Softener
- Water Softener FAQs
Best Water Softeners for Well Water
A water softener is a large investment and should be carefully researched before purchasing. Water hardness, daily water usage, and the required grain capacity should all be predetermined beforehand.
Selecting the right brand and size along with proper maintenance could mean 10-15 years of efficient softening before requiring any professional servicing.
A water conditioner may be a viable alternative for those concerned with water efficiency and who might prefer a salt-free system.
For those with high iron content, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a water softener with an iron filter built into it rather than purchasing an iron filter separately. Several of the top water softeners reviewed below have iron filters built into them.
Our Top Choice
- 7 Year Warranty on Control Head
- 48,000 or 80,000 Grain
- 12 or 18 GPM
- Premium Bypass Valve
- Chrome Tank
- Quiet and Efficient
- Operating Pressure: 25-80 PSI
Pentair is a leader in the clean water industry, providing sustainable solutions to homeowners, businesses, and NGOs around the world. The Pelican Advantage Series Salt Water Softener provides softened water using salt or potassium.
The Pelican softeners waste less water than most water softeners due to the metered backwashing. This ensures that backwashing is done only when necessary, ultimately waste as few gallons as possible.
The programmable head is a user-friendly, solid state microprocessor with 36 Selectable pre-programmed regeneration cycles. Comes with high capacity resin tanks, and a limited lifetime warranty on the electronic head.
IS IT FOR ME?
The most outstanding feature of the Pelican Advantage water softener is its control head which allows for perfectly-timed backwashing, ultimately reducing water waste. For those concerned with conserving water and want an advanced water softening system, this might be right for you.
- 30k or 45k Grain
- 27 GPM flow rate
- 5-year Valve Warranty
- 10-year Tank Warranty
- Made in USA
Perfect Water Technologies is an American manufacturing company who specializes in home purification products and parts. The Home Master water softener is a well-designed, user-friendly softening system, ideal for city or well-water homes.
With most water softeners, water pressure tends to drop due to limited fitting and circulation. The 1” porting of the Home Master allows for excellent water flow, reaching up to 27 gallons per minute.
The GE Logix Performa control is a fully automatic computer-controlled demand valve that operates only when necessary, so it reduces service frequency, water waste and ultimately saves on salt.
The unique propelling action of the turbulator ensures maximum cleaning by propelling resin beads at high speed to the top of the resin bed, and then allows them to settle back to the bottom.
IS IT FOR ME?
The Home Master water softener is perfect for those who need a reliable water softener to handle high levels of hardness without sacrificing flow rate.
- 3 Stages of Filtration:
- Sediment Cartridge
- Ion Exchange
- Carbon Cartridge
- 48,000-grain capacity
- Service Flow: 9-11 GPM
- 1 year warranty
The salt-based, whole house water softener by Crystal Quest utilizes 3-stages for hardness removal.
The first stage allows water to flow through a 20” sediment cartridge that removes large particles such as sediment, silt, sand, and dirt.
Water then flows through the brine tank where ion exchange occurs, removing calcium and magnesium particles which cause hardness.
Finally, water flows through a 20” solid carbon cartridge for removing volatile organic carbon compounds (VOCs), insecticides, pesticides and industrial solvents.
IS IT FOR ME?
For those interested in removing water hardness from the entire home with a traditional ion-exchange system, and don’t already have a filter which reduces particles from their well source, this may be the right fit.
- Salt-free water conditioner
- UV-purifier eliminates pathogens
- Filter cartridges eliminate:
- Heavy metals
- Herbicides, pesticides and VOCs
- Industrial solvents
- 90-day Guarantee
Aquasana is a manufacturing company based out of Austin, TX and specializes in innovative filtering technology.
The well water Rhino is a whole-house water filter and UV purifier with the option of adding a salt-free water conditioner for reducing hardness.
The sediment pre-filter catches large particles of silt and rust before entering the SCM salt-free conditioner. Scale Control Media (SCM) uses water flow to naturally alter the structure of hard mineral ions into a crystal structure that prevents the minerals from binding and forming scale buildup.
Unlike salt-based softeners, Aquasana's Salt-Free Water Conditioner will not demineralize your water, harm your pipes with harsh salt, or put excessive amounts of sodium waste into our communal water supply.
The activated carbon filter reduces herbicides and pesticides while alkalizing the water with healthy minerals. Finally, the UV purifier eliminates any bacteria or viruses that may lurk in the water supply.
The water conditioner, UV purifier, and carbon filter make this an ideal filter for homes on well water supply.
IS IT FOR ME?
For those who prefer a single, robust water filtration unit which provides softening and UV purification for the entire house, the Aquasana Rhino effectively address the potential problems a well owner will face.
- Salt-free Conditioner
- Conditioner and Iron Filter Combo
- Removes Hardness, Iron, Manganese, and Sediment
- Lifetime Warranty
- 6-month Money-back Guarantee
- Made in USA
SpringWell is a Florida-based water filter manufacturer with over 20 years of experience in water quality. They have an excellent customer service program and a 6-month money-back guarantee on all their products.
Their salt-free water softener removes up to 8 PPM of Hydrogen Sulfide, up to 7 PPM Iron and 1 PPM Manganese. The FutureSoft system eliminates the need of a salt brine by using a process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), which converts the hardness-causing minerals in the water to a hardness crystal that will not stick to any surface in your home.
The SpringWell AIO System comes with a completely automatic electronic control valve and system settings which can be programmed from an app via blue tooth.
The springwell system prides itself in effectively removing water hardness without dropping water pressure and maintains 12GPM for a 1-3 bathroom unit.
IS IT FOR ME?
For those who want to reduce hardness in an effective manner but would rather not have a brine tank (perhaps because of lack of space), the Salt-Free Water Conditioner by Springwell provides an excellent means to reduce hardness and iron for well owners.
- Salt-Free Conditioner
- Flow Rate: 10 or 15 GPM
- pH range: 7-11
- Operating pressure: 25-80 PSI
- Max Hardness: 75 GPG (1,282 mg/L or ppm)
- 12-year warranty
Pentair’s salt-free water softener provides all the benefits of a traditional salt-based water softener without the need of a brine tank and without the unnecessary waste of water.
Pentair’s Natursoft technology allows for a maintenance free system, allowing continuous water softening without the need for frequent check-ups and management. Because of its closed-loop system, electricity is not necessary to power the system; it works as water flows through it.
IS IT FOR ME?
For well owners who want a reliable, eco-friendly, self-maintaining system powerful enough to remove hardness throughout the whole house, but don’t want a salt-based softener with a brine tank, then this system is for you.
- Salt-Free Water Conditioner
- 4 Stages of Filtration:
- Sediment filter
- Anti-scale media tank
- Carbon cartridge
- Ultrafiltration membrane
- No brine tank
- 1 year warranty
Crystal Quest is a United States manufacturer for residential and commercial filtration products and has been distributing to industries worldwide for over 30 years.
Their salt-free softener transforms calcium into mechanically stable and heat resistant calcite crystals which do not adhere to pipes but are simply washed away. This eliminates the need for a brine tank and salt.
This process, in fact, removes already-calcified deposits by binding to them. The result is that even after a short time large pieces of deposits are removed. This process continues until the surface is free from deposits.
IS IT FOR ME?
For those who have a water hardness problem from their well supply, but would rather not house a salt-brine tank, this salt-free water softener will remove hardness very effectively.
- Water Softener and Iron Filter
- Removes Hardness, Iron, Manganese, and Sediment
- 32,000 Grain Capacity
- 5 Year Warranty for Control Head
- 10 Year Warranty for Tank
- Made in USA
Fleck is the gold standard in home water softening systems and with good reason. This American based company creates high-quality water softening products which are trusted and used by homeowners and businesses worldwide.
The Fleck Iron Pro 2 is a combination water softener and iron filter which eliminates the need for an additional iron filter to be incorporated into the system. The iron filter eliminates ferrous and ferric iron from the water source while the softener treats calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
Fleck offers great customer service, tech support, and installation, as well as a 5 year warranty for the electronic control head and a 10 year warranty for the tank.
Because most well owners might experience iron in addition to the calcium and magnesium, the Fleck IRON Pro 2 is a highly recommended water softener for solving these problems in the most efficient way possible.
- 24,000 Grain Capacity
- 5 Year Warranty for Control Head
- 10 Year Warranty for Tank
- Made in USA
If iron isn't an issue with the well water system, or if a separate iron filter will be added, Fleck's popular 5600SXT is the most efficient water softener for calcium and magnesium on the market.
Like the IRON Pro 2, the 5600SXT features a state-of-the-art electronic control head which regenerates on an as-needed basis rather than at scheduled intervals. This metered system ensures that regeneration occurs at the most efficient frequency possible to prolong the life of the resin tank and conserve water and salt.
The 5600SXT also features a 5 year warranty for the control head and a 10 year warranty for the tank.
- 32,000 Grain Capacity
- Digital Metered Control Head
- 5 Year Warranty
The Harmony Series Water Softener by Aquasure features a fully customizable control head which regenerates on an as-needed basis. The 3 types of regeneration modes available are: time clock delayed control, meter immediate control, and meter delayed control. This allows the user to have full control over the regeneration process, allowing for maximum efficiency and minimum waste.
Aquasure offers a 5 year warranty for the Harmony Series water softeners.
This water softener is made of durable, corrosion-resistant fiberglass. The tank is lined with polyethylene, comes with a bypass valve, and is prefilled with premium grade resin. It also comes with 5 year manufacturer warranty
- 48,000 Grain Capacity
- Digital Metered Control Head
- Excellent Support Team
- User-Friendly Control Head
In order to compete with Fleck's popular 5600XT model, Tier1 designed a user-friendly digital metering system which makes scheduling regeneration cycles easier and more efficient. Tier1's system incorporates all of the features a high-end softener would expect to have and supports it with a dedicated customer service team and step-by-step set up process.
The Tier is energy efficient as it enhances the effectiveness of soaps, requiring less quantity to use for showering, dishwashing, and laundry. The unit includes brine tank, pre-filled mineral tank with Cation Resin, a control valve, standard drain line, and all mechanical parts needed for easy installation.
- 30,000 Grain Capacity
- Salt-Saving Technology
- NSF Certified
- Made in USA
- 1 Year Warranty
Whirpool's trusted brand offers a the WHES30 water softener with a 30,000 grain capacity for a small family of 1-4 people. Also removes up to 8ppm of ferrous iron.
The NSF-certified design allows for efficient water softening for homes with high concentration of calcium and magnesium. The demand-initiated regeneration system allows for regeneration based on hardness level rather than at scheduled intervals. Comes with a 1 year manufacturer's warranty.
Whirlpool water softeners automatically determine the amount of salt and water needed to regenerate, and only use what is necessary. This eliminates the risk for excessive water usage.
How to Remove Iron from Well Water
What is Water Hardness?
The “hardness” or “softness” of a water supply simply refers to the presence of dissolved minerals in the water.
Water with a higher concentration of dissolved particles is considered hard, while a lower concentration is considered soft.
The criteria for determining water hardness might differ from region to region based on measuring standards, the types of elements present, and testing specifications.
But in general, hard water can always be associated with a higher concentration of dissolved minerals.
Effects of Hard Water
A variety of elements may be present in order to determine hardness including iron, aluminum, and manganese, but the two most prevalent elements are calcium and magnesium.
The presence of calcium and magnesium isn’t harmful to the human body if ingested but can, in fact, be beneficial in moderate amounts.
However, calcium and magnesium can cause limescale buildup in pipes and faucets and ultimately clog up the plumbing system over time.
If left untreated, the damages that hard water can cause to a water system can certainly be costly.
Causes of Hardness of Water
Calcium and Magnesium are particularly prevalent in well water systems. As groundwater flows through porous rock, minerals are gradually collected and introduced into the water supply.
Iron, evidenced by the orange-red tint it leaves in faucets and bathtubs, is another troublesome element that is often present in well water systems.
While iron in low concentrations may be efficiently removed through the softening process, higher concentrations of iron may require additional treatment methods which will be discussed in this article.
Nevertheless, calcium, magnesium, low concentrations of iron, and any other mineral present in the groundwater supply may be treated by incorporating a water softener into the well system.
The Top 4 Water Softener Benefits
Prolonged Life of Plumbing System
Perhaps the most damaging effect of hard water is the limescale build-up it can cause inside of water pipes and fixtures. Prolonged exposure to magnesium and calcium-rich water can cause limescale buildup which can prevent adequate water flow and also cause corrosion.
Water softeners can significantly prolong the life of a home’s plumbing system simply by reducing the damaging effects of limescale buildup.
In addition to the plumbing system, household appliances and fixtures are significantly affected by hard water as seen by scale buildup in coffee makers, sink fixtures, and bathtubs.
Water softeners can eliminate unsightly and troublesome buildup on home fixtures.
Lowered Energy Bill
Most appliances work more efficiently when using soft water as opposed to hard water due to the scale buildup which can prevent the proper flow of water.
Water heaters in particular can perform significantly better with soft water due to less strain on the system that hard water build-up can cause.
The Water Quality Research Foundation performed a study that revealed that water heaters can save up to 27% on energy costs in a single when used with a water softener.
Reduce Soap Usage and Improve Skin Health
Hard water negatively affects the soap lathering process as the ions make it harder for soap molecules to form bubbles. Soft water creates soap lather much easier and is much less harsh on the skin.
Hard water also leaves magnesium and calcium build-up on the skin which can cause itchiness and irritation.
Keep Fabrics Soft, Colorful, and Fresh
Minerals from hard water can damage clothing, leaving them feeling stiff and reducing the vibrance of the colors. Water softeners can have a significant improvement on laundry.
How to Test for Hard Water
The two most common units of measurement for water hardness in the US is parts per million (ppm) and grains per gallon (gpg).
The term, parts per million, is defined as having 1 milligram of dissolved minerals for every Liter of water. For example, a Liter of water which measures as 1 ppm contains 1 mg of dissolved minerals within it.
The term, grains per gallon, is defined as having 1 grain (which is equivalent to about 64.8 mg) of dissolved minerals for every gallon of water.
There are several other units of measurement used for testing water hardness, but in the United States, ppm and gpm are most commonly used. While the different units of measurement can often become confusing in determining water hardness, each unit can be converted to suit measurement needs.
1 PPM = 0.05842 gpg
1 GPG = 17.2 ppm
The US Geological Survey categorizes water hardness into different levels of concentration as explained by the following chart. While there are many other factors involved which ultimately determine hardness, the four categories of soft, moderately hard, hard, and very hard are precise enough for practical purposes.
Water that is less than 60 ppm or 3.5 gpm is generally considered soft in most cases and should be the target range for those with concern for the negative effects that hard water can bring.
Hardness in PPM
Hardness in GPM
Water can be tested by using test strips which are dipped into a glass of water. As the color on the test strip changes, it can be matched with the provided color chart to determine the level of hardness.
Hardness can also roughly be determined by dispensing drops of liquid soap into a glass of water. As a general rule of thumb, the more drops of soap required to produce soap suds, the harder the water is.
How Do Water Softeners Work?
Water softeners work by treating magnesium, calcium, and iron-saturated water through a process called ion exchange. Ion exchange works by replacing these unwanted elements with more desirable elements such as sodium. The entire water softening system, comprised of a brine tank, resin tank, and control valve, can be better understood by explaining the function of each of these components.
In addition to the calcium and magnesium which groundwater is naturally saturated with due to the porous rock which it flows through, particles of sand and debris are commonly found in well water systems. Because small particles can potentially damage and clog a home plumbing system, it is reasonable to attach a pre-filter before the water reaches the softening system.
A pre-filter blocks larger particles such as sand, rock, and debris from entering the resin tank and causing further complications to the system.
The resin tank houses the ion exchange resin – tiny beads which conduct the ion exchange process and are pre-charged with sodium ions. As hard water flows through the resin tank, the magnesium and calcium ions come into contact with the resin beads and attach to them, ejecting the sodium ions and releasing them into the water.
The water is now sodium-rich and magnesium and calcium-free. Sodium is a much more preferential element to have in the water as it is less damaging to home plumbing as iron, calcium, and magnesium can be.
The brine tank houses the sodium pellets from which the sodium ions are generated. At regularly scheduled intervals, sodium-rich water from the brine tank is flushed into the resin tank to redistribute sodium ions back to the resin beads and to “clean” them of the hard ions.
The magnesium, calcium, and iron ions that were collected from the hard water can now be flushed out of the resin tank, leaving the resin beads fresh and ready for the next exchange.
These ion-exchange cycles can be controlled electronically through the control valve which dictates the cycling schedules.
Throughout the week, and depending on how much water is used, the water softener system will go through several of these exchange cycles – with hard water first entering the resin tank, being released into the home as soft water, and then “regenerating” the resin tank with sodium-rich water from the brine tank.
Using a water softener for non-consumption purposes such as showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry can be used as-is and won't necessarily require an additional filter. But water intended for drinking will require an additional filter to make it safe for consumption and to reduce the salty flavor.
Because the main function of a water softener is solely to remove hard minerals by replacing them with salt, it doesn't address microorganisms, chlorine levels, and other potential contaminants.
An additional under-sink reverse osmosis system, UV filter, or post-carbon filter will make the water safer and better-tasting for consumption. Find out more on these home reverse osmosis systems and ultraviolet disinfection systems that integrate well with water softeners.
Video: How Do Water Softeners Work?
Watch this informative video by Fresh Water Systems about how water softeners work.
How to Increase Water Pressure from a Well
Salt-Based Water Softeners vs. Salt-Free Water Conditioners
The term "salt-free water softener" is often misleading. While there are applications that reduce water hardness without the need for salt, they are more accurately described as water conditioners.
The reason for this is that these conditioners don't actually 'soften' water by removing the hard minerals (as is the case with traditional water softeners), but instead, they 'condition' the water by reducing the minerals' capability of adhering to pipes and surfaces.
While traditional water softeners use the ion-exchange process to replace hard minerals with salt, water conditioners are salt-free and rely on several methods to alter the structure of the hard minerals, reducing their ability to adhere to pipes, faucets, and other surfaces.
These methods are:
Magnetism/Electromagnetism: Some water conditioners use magnets or electrical devices to change the behavior of the hardness ions, rendering them less likely to calcify.
Electrolysis: This method uses a battery submerged in water which releases zinc ions and electrons. This process affects the hardness ions' ability to calcify.
Electrical Induction: Electrical currents that flow through the water can prevent ions from calcifying.
Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC): This method uses resin beads that change hardness ions into crystalline form, making it much more difficult to adhere to pipes and surfaces. It is important to note that high levels of manganese and iron can affect the TAC resin's effectiveness, thus well owners should either treat the manganese and iron problem first or consider another method of hardness treatment.
Key Considerations of Water Conditioners
- They only reduce hardness - One major consideration of water conditioners is that the nature of its process will only allow water hardness to be reduced but not completely removed. This means that while calcification on pipes and surfaces will certainly be improved, other benefits such as softer skin and softer laundry might not.
- They use less water - Because there is no salt tank that requires backwashing, water conditioners use far less water than salt-based water softeners, making them far less costly in the long term.
- They make water drinkable - Due to the high salt content of water softeners, drinking water from a water softener is unadvised. Water conditioners won't have the salt problem and will even eliminate other contaminants such as chlorine.
Read our Related Article:
The Best Well Pressure Tanks for Homesteading
Using a Water Softener for a Well Water System with Iron
It is not uncommon for well systems to contain magnesium, calcium, manganese, and iron. While these minerals can be effectively treated with a water softener, higher levels of iron may need an iron filter in addition to the water softener.
How to Set up a Water Softener with a Well Pump
Because well pump systems rely on an accurate reading of water pressure in order to properly pump and distribute water to the house, there shouldn’t be any interference between the pump and the pressure tank. The water softener system should therefore be placed AFTER the water flows from the pressure tank and BEFORE it is ready to be distributed to the house.
Typically, the step-up should be in this order:
- Well Pump
- Pressure Switch
- Pressure Tank
- Pre-filter (optional)
- Resin Tank
- Iron Filter (optional)
- Fine Carbon Filter (optional)
For well systems with high sediment content, optional sand filters can be placed before and after the water softener to reduce debris.
How to Treat the Iron Problem
As mentioned before, small amounts of iron will be treated in the resin tank along with the calcium and magnesium, producing soft water for the household.
Regions with iron concentrations of 1 ppm or less may not need additional treatment and can rely on the water softener to treat all of the minerals in the water. There are some regions, however, where iron concentration can reach 10 – 15 ppm or more and may need the help of an iron filter.
There are three main types of iron issues that homeowners may experience: ferric iron, ferrous iron, and iron bacteria. Ferric iron, also known as “red water iron”, are insoluble iron particles that are visible to the naked eye and can be easily filtered through the proper media.
Ferrous iron, also known as “clear water iron”, is dissolved into the water and invisible to the naked eye. Iron bacteria, on the other hand, aren’t iron particles at all but tiny microorganism which feeds on iron and can be evidenced by the red slimy residue which remains in toilet tanks and pipes.
How Iron Filters Work
Dissolved, ferrous iron in low concentrations (1 ppm) can be softened with a standard water softener. Ferric iron, iron bacteria, and higher concentrations of ferrous iron will need an iron filter or a water softener with an iron filter built into it.
Iron filters, which look very similar to water softener tanks, work by filtering out the different forms of iron through the necessary media filters. Most iron filters will contain the media required to treat all three types of iron issues and can be incorporated into a water softener system.
The most cost-effective and space-efficient way to solve an iron problem is to purchase a water softener that includes an iron filter. Many water softener manufacturers have built-in iron filters which eliminate the need for an additional tank. Read our article on the best ways to remove iron from a well water source.
Maintenance and Troubleshooting
Proper maintenance of a water softener can prolong its life and save time and money in repairs. These are some of the best maintenance and troubleshooting tips for ensuring a well-managed system.
Maintain the Brine Tank
To ensure that the brine tank is in good order, be sure to check the salt levels once per month. As a general rule, the brine tank should be at least half-full with salt and about 3 inches above the water level. Salt bridges, or layers of hardened salt within the brine tank, can form over time and need to be periodically broken to ensure proper water flow. They can be broken up by pouring hot water to dissolve them and stirring it with a clean stick.
Clean the Brine Tank
While older water softener models can benefit from an annual cleaning, newer models can endure 5-10 years without the need for cleaning if proper maintenance has been kept. Brine tank cleaning may be required if the softener has lost the ability to remove hardness and if troubleshooting methods have failed.
- To clean the tank, use the bypass valve to shut off water intake and dump, the entire contents of the brine tank, salt, and water together.
- Wash the entire inside of the tank with a generous amount of soap and water. Use a hose to thoroughly rinse.
- Pour a ¼ cup of bleach and 2-3 gallons of water into the tank and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Rinse the tank once more and refill with salt. Wait a few hours before restarting the tank so the salt can dissolve.
Use Proper Salt
Each water softener will have its preferred type of salt to use in the brine tank and can be referenced in the manual. Only the manufacturer’s recommended type of salt should be used. While rock salt is less expensive, it also contains impurities which may decrease the efficiency of the system. Evaporated salt is the purest form available.
Cleaning Iron-fouled Resin Beads
For water softener systems without an iron filter, high deposits of iron can eventually cause the resin beads to have too much iron deposits and may require cleaning. In order to clean iron-fouled resin, iron removal solutions such as Iron Out or Rust Out. To clean iron fouled resin beads, pour the cleaning solution into the brine tank and regenerate the resin tank as normal. Heavily fouled resin tanks may require several cycles.
How to Size a Water Softener
Each water softener will have its own grain capacity, a measurement of how much ion-exchanging the resin tank can perform before needing to be regenerated with sodium. An improperly sized water softener can result in too much water and salt usage and/or oversaturation of the resin beads.
In order to avoid excessive water and salt usage, a water softener should ideally regenerate no sooner than every 3 days. And in order to preserve the life of the resin, it should regenerate no longer than 14 days in between cycles. On average, a 7-day regeneration cycle is ideal for most households.
In order to calculate the required grain capacity for a household, one would need to know the amount of water used per day measured in gallons, and the amount of hardness measured in grains per gallon (GPG).
- Determine Water Hardness - For those using city water, hardness is usually made public in online annual reports. Well owners can test their water with a test kit to determine hardness. Hardness should be measured in GPG and can be converted from mg/L by dividing by 17.1.
- Determine Daily Water Usage - In order to get a rough estimate of the amount of water used per day is count the number of people who live in the household and multiply it by the average number of gallons used per day, which is 70 in the US. For example, a household with 4 people uses about 280 gallons of water per day (4 x 70= 280).
- Calculate Daily Softening Requirement - To calculate the daily softening requirement, multiply the water hardness in GPG by the total amount of daily water usage in gallons. For example, a water hardness of 10 GPG multiplied by a daily water usage of 280 gallons, equals 2,800 grains. The water softener will need to regenerate 2,800 grains per day.
- Select a Water Softener with the Appropriate Grain Capacity - Because the target regeneration frequency for water softeners should be every 7 days, selecting one with the correct grain capacity is important. If the required daily softening requirement for our example is 2,800 grains per day, we'll need to multiply that by 7 days, which is 19,600. The water softener required should have a grain capacity of about 19,600.
Most water softeners are sold at 24,000, 32,000, and 48,000-grain capacities. In most cases, rounding up to the nearest grain capacity would be efficient. For our example, the water softener with the 24,000-grain capacity would suit the 19,600-grain capacity requirement.
Water Softener FAQs
Can You Mix Different Types of Salt in The Water Softener?
Mixing different types of salt together in the salt tank isn’t necessarily harmful but it may complicate the softening process and potentially damage the water softener system. Each water softener system is designed to use a specific type of salt and should only be used with what is recommended by the manufacturer.
Substituting a different type of salt may not allow the system to function properly. IF a particular system allows for more than one type of salt at a time, it is best practice to drain the unit of one type of salt before adding the other.
How Much Sodium is Ingested from Softened Water?
The amount of sodium ingested from a water softener unit largely depends on the hardness of the water, but on average, less than 3% sodium uptake comes from ingesting softened water. This estimates to about 2 teaspoons of table salt per day which is very minimal in comparison to the daily amount of sodium that should be ingested from foods.
Do Water Softeners Make Water Safe to Drink?
Water softeners do not purify water of contaminants and therefore should not be relied on to make water safe for drinking. Water softeners merely reduce the number of minerals in the water, not harmful bacteria or viruses. A purification device such as a fine carbon filter or UV filter will make the water safe from contaminants.
When do the Resin Beads Need to Be Changed?
If a water softening unit is maintained properly, it may not need to have the resin beads replaced in its lifetime.
Why Does Soft Water Feel Slick and Smooth When Taking a Shower?
Hard water, which is high in calcium and magnesium, greatly affects the lathering ability of soap and prevents it from dissolving properly in water. This interaction makes soap scum adhere to surfaces more easily, including clothes, dishes, and skin. Soft water allows soap to slide off the skin more easily, as it is designed to do. This may make showering feel smoother.
Hard water is a term that many might not have a full understanding of, but as we've discovered, water hardness isn't a health concern in terms of consumption. The danger of hard water is mostly related to the calcification of plumbing and household fixtures. Iron, an element that is often present in most well systems, can present its own set of problems. While low concentrations of iron can be remedied with most water softening systems, higher concentrations will need an iron filter.
It is important to properly size the water softener according to the level of hardness and the daily amount of water being used in the household.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article on the best water softener for well water with iron. We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. If you've found this article to be useful and are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
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