Home Advice A 4-Step Guide on Buying the Perfect Water Softener

A 4-Step Guide on Buying the Perfect Water Softener

A 4-Step Guide on Buying the Perfect Water Softener
Image by WD Herron on Flickr.com

Choosing the perfect water softener for your home is extremely important since it will determine softening efficiency, water flow, and maintenance costs. While a softener that’s too small won’t satisfy your needs, a larger system will burn a hole in your wallet.

Here’s a step-wise guide on selecting the right water softener depending on your water needs.

A Step-by-Step Guide On Choosing The Right Water Softener

While the best water softener might be different for each household, the standard procedure for selecting one is pretty much the same.

Step 1: Size Up The Water Softener

Being the most integral step will give you a clear idea of the water softener you need. First off, you have to determine how hard your water is. Don’t make any guesses here since you’ll end up choosing the wrong softener size. The hardness of water is determined by the amount of calcium carbonate in it. The mineral’s levels are measured in grains per gallon or parts per million. Now, there are different ways to measure your water’s hardness:

  • Conduct a hardness test at home using one of the many kits available online.
  • Pay an independent lab to test your water hardness.
  • If you’re using city water or get your supply from a local supplier, you can ask for a free report.

If the calcium carbonate levels are 0 – 3.5 gpg (grain per gallon), the water is considered soft. Thus, you don’t need a softener. On the contrary, anything between 7.06 – 10.51 gpg indicates hardness, while a value above that range means the water is very hard.

Secondly, you have to calculate your water consumption. As a rule of thumb, multiply the number of occupants in the house by 80 if you conserve water and 100 if you use it excessively. It will estimate the number of gallons of water used every day in your house. Or, you can check your water bill for this information.

Calculate Daily Softening Requirement

To calculate the daily softening requirement, you need to multiply the number of gallons used every day with the hardness level you got from the test results. For instance, if you use 200 gallons a day and your water hardness level is 10, it will look something like this:

200 gallons per day x 10 = 2000 hardness grains per day

After doing this, you also have to calculate the total grain capacity of a water softening system before it needs regeneration. As the water is softened, a point will come with the resin will be saturated, not binding with more mineral ions. Regeneration will discard these minerals and recharge the resin with potassium or sodium. On average, you’re required to regenerate your water softening system every week.

For a precise calculation, multiply the per day grain number by 7. For instance, if a water softening system has to remove 2000 hardness grains per day, it will have to remove 14000 grains per week.

All these calculations can be pretty tricky, especially if it’s your first time choosing a water softening system. To make things easier, you can use a water softener calculator.

Step 2: Check The Requirements

Nowadays, the market is filled with several options to reduce hardness, with some water softening systems being more advanced than others. Here are some requirements you should keep in mind for installing any kind of water softener:

First, you need two one-inch NPT (national pipe thread) taper female connectors. Plus, the tubing should be long enough to allow a connection between your plumbing and the water softening system. Depending on the plumbing – chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, polyvinyl chloride, copper, cross-linked polyethylene – you’ll need a different material for an installation.

Secondly, you need a drain for regeneration. Most water softening systems come with a drain tubing that’s ten feet long. However, if the drain in your plumbing system is far away, you’ll need a little more tubing to access the drain. Make sure the drain line isn’t at more than an eight feet elevation from the floor. Plus, it should be less than 30 feet away from the softening system.

Thirdly, there should be an outlet to plug the power cord. Normally, water softeners come with power cords up to ten feet long.

Step 3: Select The Type

While ion-exchange water softeners are most common, there are other options too. Here’s a detailed overview of some types of water softeners that can be used at home.

Salt-Based Ion Exchange

These water softeners have two tanks, one containing brine while the other is filled with resin beads. The system follows the ion-exchange principle, replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium.


Some people are concerned about excessive sodium intake. For them, a salt-free water softening system is a better choice since it substitutes hard minerals with potassium chloride rather than sodium. However, such a system is more like a ‘conditioner’ since it merely prevents the buildup and deposition of minerals on surfaces. It doesn’t remove said minerals from water.

Dual-Tank Softeners

photo cylinders for water softener 801x1024 - A 4-Step Guide on Buying the Perfect Water Softener
Image by pixy.org

If you have a large family, you might not want to wait for the water softener to generate more soft water. In this case, dual-tank softeners are a preferable choice since they eliminate this problem. While one tank is recharging, the other supply soft water to the household without a break in supply. Such tanks can be a bit expensive, ranging up to $2000.

Step 4: Other Considerations

Some water softeners come with additional features that might increase their appeal. For instance, modern systems have timer controls that automatically recharge the tank on a preset time and date. However, this feature can be wasteful if you’re often away from home and don’t need the system to regenerate automatically.

An alternative to this is demand-initiated regeneration. These controls sense that the tank needs recharging through a meter or electric settings. Thus, they only recharge the resin if there’s a need for it.


There are four essential steps to choosing the best water softening system for your home. It might be a bit time-consuming, but all this hard work will pay off in the long run when your water softener works efficiently without any mishaps or inconveniences.

Featured Image by WD Herron on Flickr.com

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