Educational Information

Common Water Softening Questions

Q. How can I tell if my water is considered hard?

You can have your water tested locally or you purchase a hard water test kit from The Water Hook-Up for a nominal fee to test the hardness of your water yourself.
Q. What is hard water?

Hard water is generally defined as having more than 1 GPG (grains per gallon) of dissolved minerals in it (usually calcium, magnesium carbonate, and/or manganese). Soft Water = 0 to 1.0 gpg; Slightly hard = 1.1 to 3.5 gpg; Moderately hard = 3.6 to 7.0 gpg; Hard water = 7.1 to 10.5 gpg; Extremely hard water = 10.6 + gpg. We recommend a water softener when hardness is 3 grains per gallon or more. You will feel and see multiple benefits of your water treatment system in your home and water quality!
Q. How is hard water measured?

Hard water is usually measured in either "parts per million" (PPM), "milligrams per liter" (Mg/L), or "grains per gallon" (GPG); PPM and Mg/L are actually the same measurement. If you know your PPM or Mg/L of water hardness and need to determine what your GPG amount is, divide your PPM (Mg/L) by 17.1 (One GPG=17.1 PPM or Mg/L).
Q. Why would I want to soften my water?

Soft water reduces the scaling of pipes, faucets, pots, glasses, tubs, shower doors, etc. You will use less laundry soap, dish washing soap, hand soap and hair conditioners. The water is more pleasant to wash with and less soap scum residue. Appliances will last longer including water heaters, dishwashers to name a few.
Q. Why wouldn't I want to soften my water?

If you're using sodium chloride (salt), then the softener will add a small amount of sodium to the water. For most people this is not a problem. However, if you're on a sodium-restricted diet, we would recommend a separate faucet in the kitchen that dispenses un-softened water for drinking or a Reverse Osmosis drinking water system which will remove a high percentage of sodium in your water. You can also use potassium (potassium chloride) to exchange the hardness off of the resin bed in the softener instead of sodium to avoid all sodium from your water softener.
Q. Will installing a softener reduce my water pressure?

All brands of softeners do have a pressure drop. Think of the concept that water ways (mostly caused by the resistance along the walls of pipes and fittings and changes of directions) must travel through as well as the resin bed in a in a softener. You will feel a slight water flow pressure loss through all plumbing fixtures, from faucets to meters to pipes to water heaters and so on. The average normal service flow of a water softener is around 13 gpm and at that gallonage you "should" experience a 10 psi pressure loss; at 10 gpm a 5 psi pressure loss and at 8 gpm (that would be a typical shower plus kitchen faucet plus a toilet being flushed all at the same time). If you are concerned with the water flow rate in your area, and your home is a large one to a two story home, we recommend a larger flow valve. Softener valves are available with better flow rates from 25 to 35 gallons per minute (gpm). You may want to consider a larger rated valve in order not to compromise the flow rate to your home.
Q. What should I look for in a water softener? Size?

One of the main features you should look for is capacity (measured in grains) and how it determines when to regenerate. Some units have a 40,000 to 68,000-grain capacity and they meter how much water has been used to determine when it should regenerate. Some units regenerate after a fixed period of time regardless of how much water you've actually used.
Q. How long will my water softener last and how long will the resins last?

Of course the quality of the resins and the water softener can make a big difference. The average life of a water softener varies by the make and is roughly from 3 years to 25 plus years. Resin life depends on the amount of chlorine and the quality of resin and number of regenerations, but usually will vary from 7 to 15 years. As long as strong oxidizers (such as high ppm chlorine) do not come into contact with the resin that we offer, the resin will last (under normal "average" operating conditions) for approximately 10 years, possibly longer. For instance, high iron contact with the resin will cause the resin to 'foul' sooner. There are resin cleaners available for that purpose. When your resins finally wear out we do offer new top quality replacement cation resins.
Q. Should I spend extra money for a 1" softener valve even if I only have a 3/4 main?

Even if you have a 3/4" main line, having true 1" waterways will significantly reduce the friction loss that any softener produces. Yes, this might be "overkill" for some, but with the loss of water flow (gpm) you will experience a less flow of water in the shower, sinks, etc. Keep this in mind when shopping for a softener since water pressure can change depending on your local area and water district.
Q. With a flow rate of 18 gpm from a softener valve, how much water is that really?

How much water do most fixtures in my home use? A toilet will normally use about 2-3 gpm, a shower 1 1/2-3 gpm, a bathroom or kitchen faucet 2-3 gpm, a dishwasher 2-4 gpm, a washing machine 3-5 gpm. When you start running more than one fixture (sink/dishwasher/toilet/etc) at a time, the gallons per minute add up quickly and those extra gallons from 1" waterways can make quite a difference in overall water flow to each fixture.
Q. I have a small amount of iron in my system, will that damage the metering system?

A small amount of iron will not damage the metering system of the softener we sell.
Q. Why does the water softener need to use salt for its regeneration cycle?

The softener works by passing the hard water through resin beads, which have soft sodium/potassium ions attached to them. While the water is in contact with the resin beads an ion exchange takes place with the hard mineral ions (typically calcium and/or magnesium) trading places with the soft sodium/potassium ions. After a period of use the sodium ions are depleted being replaced by calcium and magnesium. The resin then needs to be regenerated with the sodium ions so the resin will again be able to exchange the hard for the soft. Basically, the sodium cleans the resin bed in the softener and drains out the hard water. The resin beads are now recharged in order to remove hard water flowing to your home until its next cleaning cycle.
Q. Should I be concerned about corrosion from sodium in the water?

No. Over a long period of time it may have some effect on exposed steel surfaces. Most of the metal in a home that comes in contact with softened water is either coated, painted, stainless steel or plastic. All which would be unaffected.
Q. How long does a softener take to regenerate?

Most softener's regeneration time will be between 1 to 2 hours. Most units are factory set to regenerate at 2:00 a.m. but, can be reset very easily if this is not convenient for the homeowner.
Q. What type of salt should I use?

We recommend salt pellets instead of rock salt. Salt pellets are processed from rock salt and is a cleaner salt leaving fewer residues in the brine tank. Salt pellets can be purchased from your local home improvement or grocery store. They are sold in 40 to 50 pound bags at an average cost of $3.50 to $5.00 per bag.
Q. Can salt kill bacteria?

I do not want the level of good bacteria in my septic system to be affected. Very high concentrations of salt can kill some bacteria; however, the concentration of salt that is used in a softener is never high enough to kill bacteria in septic systems. There is also some evidence, which indicates that low salt levels can improve bacterial action in a septic system.
Q. What is the difference between demand versus solid state timers?

The difference is a demand softener only regenerates when you use enough water to cause it to regenerate. The "solid state" (sounds good but....) time clock unit will regenerate at a specific time even though you have not used water or used very little. If you go on vacation and don't use water, your unit will regenerate even though no water was used. The savings are in a demand valve which ultimately will save you money in salt and water usage. There is the BIG difference!
Q. What type of warranty do you offer on the units you sell?

We have selected the components in our softeners from two major leaders in the industry. GE/Autotrol valves and Fleck control valves (the manufacturer of the head) are sold nationwide. There is a limited five year warranty from these manufactures. These two manufactures have been manufacturing water treatment systems for many years and are the leaders in water treatment today. They are committed to provide home owners with the best quality water conditioner and filtration products available. These valves are widely used by many water softening companies and their distributors.
Q. How easily is it to install a water softener?

If you have some plumbing experience, we think you'll probably be able to install our softener. You can also contact your local plumber in your area who can install your unit usually between 2 to 6 hours in most cases.
Q. What makes water softeners better than others? Some charge as much as two to four times the price?

All softeners, regardless of price, should soften your water (i.e. reduce the hardness to 0 grains). We have found that paying a higher price for a unit does not necessarily guarantee a better system. Water softeners come in all types and configurations. There are cabinet models (which I don't recommend) due to the difficulty in cleaning the brine tank with the softener tank inside of the brine tank. A separate brine tank can be simply disconnected usually by one connection and removed for easy cleaning. Some softening units may require multiple service appointments in the future due to lower grade components used in the valves/electronic controllers. The unit may be cheap at first but, service in the future can be very costly. The key to purchasing the best overall water softener is to consider the following: How long will the unit last? How often does it regenerate? How large is the grain capacity? What is the warranty? How long has the company been in business? Does the softener regenerate base on time rather than how much water has been used? How easy is it to change the settings and service the unit? How quickly can you get your questions answered and your problems solved? Are replacement components readily available when needed versus complete valve/controller replacements? Can anyone work on my unit and will that void my warranty? Our experience in the softening industry over the years has proven without a doubt GE/Autotrol and Fleck valves are the most highly rated in performance, quality and reliability. That does not equate necessarily to a more expensive unit. We feel you should be able to purchase a water treatment system with top of the line valves that offer excellent warranties at an affordable price. GE/Autotrol & Fleck valves have continually exceeded the standards in water treatment and are committed to being leaders in the industry with continual improvement of their products through research and development.

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