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How To Size A Water Softener

Updated on May 20, 2014

Ion Exchange Vs Descalers

First of all it's important that we distinguish between Ion Exchange systems and Descalers. Often times people will search for "Salt-Free Water Softeners" which is actually an incorrect term.

How Ion Exchange Systems Work

By definition water softeners use salt as a method for ion exchange. Resin beads capture calcium and magnesium and when these beads become fully saturated with these hard minerals salt water which has a stronger polarity than these other minerals is used to flush the resin of the hard mineral deposits.

Hence the term "ion exchange".

How Descalers (Water Conditioners) Work

Descaling water conditioners commonly known as salt-free softeners work by breaking down the larger particles of magnesium and calcium carbonate into smaller molecules. These molecules are not as sticky and therefore do not cause scale or lime build up on appliances. It's important to remember that the minerals aren't removed in this circumstance, they are just rendered less damaging.

Water Softeners Are Simple Yet Effective

The image on the right shows you in clear detail how a two-tank softener works. The tank on the right is known as the "brine tank" and holes the salt water used to flush the resin beads in the resin tank on the left. This process of flushing the beads with salt water is known as regeneration.

85% Percent Of Americans Have Hard Water

Is your home equipped with a water softening system?

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How Do You Properly Size A Softener?

What size water softener you buy depends on four primary factors.

  1. How hard you water is (if you don't know go here and test your water)
  2. How many people live in your household
  3. Whether you are drinking city water or well water
  4. The average amount of water used per person per day

How Hard Is Your Water?

What is Grain Capacity?

Grain capacity is the number of grains a softener can remove before it must enter into the regeneration cycle.

Doing The Math

Use the following calculation to determine what grain capacity of a softener you need to buy.

GPG Hardness + Iron Content/mg x Gallons Per Person Per Day x People In Your Household

If you're looking for a shortcut have a look at the size calculator over at WaterWyzard. The table will display help you to make sense of your results so that you buy the right size softening system.

Fleck 5600SXT Is One Of The Most Common Household Softeners

Does The Capacity Really Matter?

In short the answer is yes. Buying a softener with not enough capacity will cause it to regenerate too frequently and cost you more in the long-term as you will constantly have to replenish the salt. A softener that's too big in capacity is only going to burn a hole in a your pocket book as the price between a 24,000 grain softener and 36,000 grain softener can be dramatically different. Watch this nifty video by Superior Water to answer this question in plain terms.


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