How much salt you use in a water softener will be determined by the hardness of the water you are softening. The more minerals present in water, the more salt you will use. For an average family with ten grains per gallon of hard water, you are likely to use 20 kg of salt each month.
Hard water refers to water with a lot of minerals due to contact with gypsum, limestone, or chalk. Though hard water has some health benefits, it has an equal share of problems, such as causing limescale on water heaters or kettles. When washing with hard water, soap doesn’t lather quickly, and in industrial settings, hard water also causes a breakdown of equipment, thus the need to soften water.
Water softeners are used to soften water and reduce adverse effects of hard water. They work through retaining minerals such as magnesium and calcium present in hard water. Water softeners exchange the hardness ions (calcium and magnesium ions) with sodium ions drawn from salt. In this guide, we take a more in-depth look at how water softeners work and take you through everything you need to know about softening hard water. Read on
How does a water softener work?
For you to understand the importance of adding salt to your softener regularly, you need to know how things work. Water softeners have tiny resin beads or zeolite crystals that are negatively charged, and they hold on to positively charged ions. You need to add salt in your water softener for the beads to hold onto positive sodium ions. Hard water contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium, whose ions are positively charged. When hard water passes through the beads, the magnesium and calcium ions displace sodium ions and attach to the beads since they are stronger ions. When these ions are left on the beads, the resulting water is free from calcium and magnesium, making it soft water.
It is essential to note that softened water will contain sodium ions but will not be salty water. When all beads are full of magnesium and calcium ions, your water softener runs a cleaning and regeneration cycle, and that’s why you need to add salt. In this cycle, water is added to salt to form brine, which goes through the softener tank. At this stage, there’s a reverse ion exchange where mineral ions on the beads are replaced with sodium ions leaving these beads refreshed and ready for softening more water. Water containing hard minerals is then flushed out of the tank to the drain. This regeneration process takes place about once per week for most water softeners. Regeneration mostly happens when nobody is using water, especially at night.
What is the difference between traditional and salt-free water softeners?
Lately, we’ve seen the emergence of tankless or salt-free water softeners in the market. In case you’ve questioned how effective they are, we are here to help. Traditional water softeners use salt to remove the mineral ions, which cause hardness, thus leaving you with soft water. Saltless water softeners, on the other hand, condition these hardness minerals by altering their structure. In essence, these softeners do not remove ions but reduce their impact.
If you want to keep using your appliances for a longer time and maintain plumbing in your house, we recommend using a traditional water softener that uses salt. If you are looking for a temporary solution such as less scum when using soap, you can opt for the saltless softeners.
Factors that affect how much salt your water softener will use
When researching how much salt you will need for your household, you need to consider a few factors. Every home’s need is different with different levels of water consumption. Here are some key pointers to how much salt you will use in your water softener:
1. Level of water hardness
The more minerals your water has, the more salt you will use to soften it. Anything above 10.5 grains per gallon of hardness will require more salt since its above-average water hardness.
2. Size of your family
Having more people in your house translates to more water consumption. If you have a larger family or use more water than average, you will need to add salt to your water softener more often. More water consumption will make your water softener regenerate more frequently, thus the need to add salt.
3. Type and size of softener
A new water softener is more efficient than its older counterpart and may require more salt as it ages. Some systems also have larger tanks meaning they need more salt to function efficiently. A good practice is to ensure you always have a half-filled tank with salt. Doing this will ensure you still have soft water even between salt additions.
How will I know when my water softener runs low on salt?
It is advisable to check salt levels in your water softener every week. You can use a salt monitor attached to your water softener, which alerts you when the brine needs more salt. If you do not have a monitor, you can check manually to ensure your salt tank is always above the half-full mark. When salt is less than half full, add more salt.
Water treatment experts recommend adding salt until the salt level is about 4 inches above water level in the softener tank. If you cannot tell where the water level is, add salt until the brine tank is half full. You can opt to fill up your tank with salt but ensure you wait until salt level goes low for you to refill. Refilling your tank without waiting for the salt level to drop is not recommended because it can cause salt to form lumps. Having clumps of salt in your brine tank might cause maintenance issues and block your brine well, resulting in hard water. The brine well is a tube with holes that allows water to flow in and out of the salt area to brine wand. When it gets blocked, there’s less brine doing the cleaning, making some ions escape, and this results in hard water.
Best salt for my water softener
Most water softeners have a manufacturers recommendation of the best salt to use. Ensure you read your user’s manual carefully for such instructions. You can also consult a water specialist before deciding on which salt to buy. The best salt for your water softener is one with least impurities. You can choose between solar or evaporated salts and rock salts. Evaporates salts have a purity rate of up to 99% but are pricier compared to rock salts.
Debunking common water softener myths
Water softeners make life in areas with hard water easier and more convenient. Most homeowners appreciate water softeners, but some won’t use them because of what they’ve heard. There are some myths we need to bust about these gadgets for you to embrace them. Let’s dive right in!
- Myth 1: Water softeners make your water salty
Some people think that because these gadgets need constant addition of salt, they make water salty. It’s easy to assume that the salt goes into your water when you don’t know how a water softener works. As we discussed earlier, ion exchange takes place, and only sodium ions get into your water. If your water tastes salty after using a softener, you need to consult a technician since that could indicate a blockage.
2. Myth 2: Water softeners also purify water
Water softeners only remove ions that are responsible for water hardness and no impurities. If your water has sulfur, iron, or other impurities, you might need a filtration system before a water softener.
3. Myth 3: Water softeners are expensive
You might need to part with some few bucks for an initial installation of a water softener, but in the long run, you end up saving a lot. Appliances such as water heaters consume much energy when using hard water. Using a water softener makes work more comfortable and save on electricity and costs you would have used to unclog or replace pipes. Soft water also needs less detergent when washing and keeps fabrics from fading. All these benefits, when taken into account, reveal how efficient water softeners are.
4. Myth 4: Softened water contains unhealthy amounts of sodium
Since water softeners work through ion replacement, sodium ions are left in soft water. Our nutrition expert says these amounts are not significant in our diet and cannot affect our health. If you are skeptical about sodium in your water, consider a water softener with a reverse osmosis system. This type removes sodium ions and purifies your water, making it safe and refreshing.
Soft water helps us save on costs and comes with benefits such as longer-lasting appliances and pipes. Suppose your water contains calcium and magnesium; it is not all doom for you. You can invest in a water softener to enjoy the great benefits of soft water.
We hope you find this information helpful as you maintain or install your water softener.