Hard water may make you feel overwhelmed. Researching systems can have you learn an entirely new vocabulary. To make sure you know what you’re shopping for and make you feel more confident, memorize these softener-related terms.
Magnesium and calcium are the minerals in this type of water. These minerals become present when water runs through rocks and soil. How hard your water is depends on your location and how much ground the water has to flow through.
Grain Per Gallon (GPG)
Grain per gallon is the most common measurement for hard water. This measuring scale uses one grain of calcium carbonate in the water. It’s much simpler than it sounds. Say you have one aspirin with 10 grains of calcium carbonate in it. Dissolving it in one gallon of water gives you a grains per gallon measurement of 10. Soft water is less than one grain per gallon. Hard water is greater than 7 grains per gallon.
Parts Per Million
Sometimes, while shopping for a water softener, you’ll encounter a system that measures hardness in PPM or part per million. There are 17.1 parts per million for every grain per gallon. However, you only need to know the parts per million of your water if iron is involved. Even an iron measure of .3 parts per million can leave reddish-brown stains on your sinks and tubs. While that stain is hard to remove, you can prevent it with the right softener.
Softener capacities are either measured by grains, cubic feet, or gallons. Before purchasing your system, note how many people are in your house and estimate the water you typically use. That will tell you what capacity softener you need.
Softeners have a resin tank, where hard water endures an ion exchange resin and is softened. The beads in the tank swap sodium ions with the minerals in the hard water. This tank is responsible for this exchange and the resulting soft water.
The brine tank is where you will place salt regularly. You must keep this half full to ensure enough salt to soften the water you use.
During the regenerations process, the softener pulls salt from its brine tank, combines it with water, and produces a type of brine solution. The solution is then forced over the resin beads to recharge them so they can continue to soften water.
Regeneration is when the softener removes the ions left over from the hard water. After the sodium ions have been used to soften water, the resin beads must be recharged. The brine solution uses the same ion exchange principles to restore the sodium ions on the beads during this process.
A softener with time-based regeneration automatically begins regeneration based on a timer that you set. These models are not the best option if you want an efficient system. Underestimating your usage could sometimes give you hard water because your system will not regenerate often enough. However, overestimating your water usage will result in excessive regeneration, which wastes water and energy.
Efficient softeners are ones with demand-initiated regeneration. These have sensors that monitor your water usage. The system automatically begins this process when the resin exchanges sodium ions. These systems only work as needed, and some can further save energy by using AI technology to learn your water usage patterns and predict a regeneration schedule.
When purchasing your softener, you may consider adding a water refiner and creating a whole-house softener and filtration system, which removes chlorine and other impurities that can make your water taste and smell bad. You won’t have to replace any filters with a refiner; they have the same life expectancy as your softener.
Your job is much easier now that you know the basic terms of softeners. But then, all you have left is narrow your options until you have the best fit for your home.