What Hardness Should My Water Softener Be Set At?

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Hard water is a common issue for many homeowners. Not only does it cause problems with appliances and plumbing, but it can also make bathing and cleaning difficult. 

Installing a water softener can help to alleviate some of the common issues caused by hard water. Setting your water softener to the correct hardness level is important in order to ensure that it is effective in reducing the hardness of your water.

After your water softener is installed, you'll need to set the hardness level. This can be a tricky process, but luckily, we're here to help. Read on!

Factors Affecting Your Water Softener's Hardness Setting and What You Should Set Your Hardness Setting to

There are a few different factors that you'll need to consider when setting the hardness level of your water softener. These include:

Water Hardness

It's important to know your water hardness before setting the hardness level of your water softener. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon GPG. The higher the number of GPG, the harder your water is.

To test your water hardness, you can use a water hardness test kit. These are relatively inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores. You need to make sure that your system is programmed to tackle the hardness your water supply contains. This will ensure that the resin can remove all the calcium and magnesium present in your water.

If your water hardness is higher or lower than your water softener is set to, it may be unable to do its job properly.

Water Softener Uses Excessive Amount of Salt

If your water softener is using too much salt, it could be because the unit is not regenerating enough. When water softeners regenerate, they remove the calcium and magnesium from the resin beads and flush them out of the system. The amount of salt used during this process is determined by the hardness of your water.

If your water is very hard, the softener will use more salt to flush the calcium and magnesium out of the system. You can check the amount of salt your water softener is using by checking the brine tank. When the brine tank contains more water than it should, water softeners start to consume too much salt.

If you notice that the salt level is dropping too quickly, you may need to add more salt to the tank. You can also adjust the hardness setting on the water softener. If you have a water softener that uses potassium instead of salt, you may need to add more potassium to the system.

If you've found out that there is more water in the brine tank than it should, then you could be dealing with two issues. There is a leak that causes water to go into a brine tank, or the head controller is faulty, releasing more water than it should. If you believe there is a leak, you'll want to check the hoses and o-rings for any cracks or leaks.

If everything looks good, then the problem may be with the head controller. In this case, it would need to be replaced. Let a professional replace it with the best water softener shower head. Also, note that excessive usage of salt isn't an indicator that you need to adjust current hardness settings.

Water Contains Iron

If your water contains a high concentration of iron, it can cause staining on your fixtures and clothing. Iron is typically found in well water. The best way to remove the iron is to install an iron filter. Opt for the best whole house water filter to get rid of iron from your water.

An iron filter will remove the iron from your water, making it safe to use. If you have iron in your water, you should also have your water tested for hardness. Most water softeners are also capable of removing dissolved iron from your water, but only if you have a programmed hardness setting.

Make sure you test your water for iron as well as calcium and magnesium. You can easily and cheaply find iron test kits at your local hardware store. Once you know how much iron your water contains, you can work out your water softener's hardness setting.

For every one part per million of iron, add four to your total hardness number. If your test results show that your water contains 1 PPM of iron, add four to your overall hardness number. If you have two parts per million PPM, then add 8 to your hardness number, and so on. Programming a higher hardness number into your water softener means that it should be well equipped to deal with dissolved iron.

Remember that if your water softener's iron content is excessive, then a standard water softener may struggle to remove it, and the iron could damage the softener. In this case, purchase an additional iron removal system if you have a big iron problem.

Age of the Softer

The age of the water softener is also another factor that impacts the hardness level. If you have an older water softener, you'll need to set it higher than if you have a brand new water softener. A water softener contains a resin bead, which holds onto sodium ions and releases them into the water during the ion exchange process.

The resin then swaps the sodium ions for hardness minerals, effectively softening the water. A new water resin is at its peak in terms of efficiency and performance. The resin can hold onto hardness ions and operate until its maximum capacity.

As resin ages, it becomes less capable of holding onto these ions, and this may affect the water softener's performance. That said, you'll need to increase the hardness setting of your water softener to account for the resin's age. This will ensure that the resin is still able to perform as it could when your water softener was new. Make sure you know how to shop for a shower head water softener when you decide to change your older water softener.

How to Find Out Water Hardness Level

There are several ways to find out your water hardness. The easiest method is to do the soap test. Add a teaspoon of liquid dish soap to a plastic water bottle and almost to the top with water. Close the lid and shake the bottle. If you notice bubbles after shaking, then you have soft water.

How to Find Out Water Hardness Level
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If there are no bubbles and there is a milky layer on the surface of the water, then you have hard water. For more insights into your water hardness level, you can buy an at-home hardness test, which measures water hardness in grains per gallon. This type of test uses test strips that you can dip into a water sample. The strips will change color to indicate your hardness level.

If you want to get the most accurate results, then utilize a certified laboratory. After posting a sample of your water, a laboratory will test your water and give an in-depth breakdown of your water hardness in grains per gallon and parts per million PPM or milligrams per liter mg I.

Regeneration Cycle

Setting water softeners make them more efficient. If the water is from the municipality, the community water may be already softened; therefore, there is no need to add a water softener. You must set the softener to the hardness level of the water supply. If the hardness setting is too high, the softener will waste water and cost more to operate.

Regeneration Cycle
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Water softeners have four settings, including cycle frequency, time, length, and salt dosage. Hardness settings also revolve around the regeneration process, which is a critical stage in water softening.

Regeneration cycles are usually set for anywhere from one to seven times per week. This should suffice if water doesn't get hard between cycles. You can choose the best frequency for your softener and water by understanding the amount of water used, the number of contaminants or minerals in your water, and the size of your water softener.

Regeneration Cycle Time

The regeneration process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. The time required is based on the size of your water softener, the hardness of your water, and how often you use it.

If the regeneration cycle is too short, it could result in ineffective resin beads, and if the cycle is too long, it will increase the time you go without soft water.

Regeneration Cycle Length

Most water softeners allow you to set the length of the regeneration cycle. However, the default regeneration cycles take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. This is the practical time frame for most households. 

Salt Dosage

The amount of salt used during the regeneration process is based on the hardness of your water, the size of your water softener, and how often you use it.

If too much salt is used, it could result in damage to your pipes or fixtures. If too little salt is used, it will not be effective in removing contaminants from your water.

FAQs on What Hardness Should Water Softener Be Set at

What hardness level should a water softener be set at?

The hardness level of your water will determine the setting of your water softener. If you have hard water, you will need to set your water softener to a higher setting. If you have soft water, you will need to set your water softener to a lower setting.

What is a good hardness level for a water softener?

There are several factors that can determine a good hardness water level, including the age of your water softener, water hardness, iron and salt in your water, and your personal preference.

How often should I change the setting on my water softener?

You should change the setting on your water softener whenever the hardness of your water changes. You can test the hardness of your water with a water hardness test kit.

Final Thought on what Hardness Should a Water Softener be Set at

Water softener systems are an important part of keeping your water clean and free of contaminants. If you have hard water, it is important to choose the right system for your home and to follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and maintenance. With proper care, your water softener will provide years of trouble-free service.



Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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