There are two main types of water softeners available for home use: automatic and demand-initiated regeneration (DIR) systems.
- Automatic softeners regenerate on a schedule regulated by a timer.
- DIR softeners contain a hardness sensor or water meter that triggers regeneration as needed.
Please see Understanding Water Filtration and Treatment Technologies for a brief explanation of how most water softeners work.
Factors to consider before purchasing a water softener:
The best choice depends upon your water usage – including how much and when you use the most water. Automatic (timed) systems allow you to set regeneration for a time of day when you are least likely to need the water. Heavier water usage may require a DIR system to ensure peak performance of the softener.
To determine what size of softener you need, use two simple equations:
- Number of people in the home
- How much water is typically used
- The hardness of the water (measured in grains per gallon, or gpg)
(Number of people in household) x
75 (avg. gallons of water used per person per day
Total gallons of water used per day
Then, use Equation #2:
(Total gallons of water used per day) x
GPG of water hardness (your water analysis will provide this information
Total amount of hardness per day that requires removal.
This will give you the information you need to select the right size of water softener,
so you don’t purchase one that is too small for the job OR spend too much money for more than you need. A water treatment professional will be able to help you select the right model based on your water usage and hardness.
Should you be concerned about sodium in your water?
People who are trying to control or reduce the amount of sodium in their diets may be concerned about the sodium used in the water softening process.
The sodium resulting from the softening process is sodium bicarbonate, not sodium chloride, the “table salt” that we associate with certain health risks in some individuals.
Beyond the chemical difference, the amount of sodium that remains in the water as a result of the process is not enough to pose a health concern.
However, if you wish to avoid sodium in your diet, you may prefer to connect your water softener to the hot water line only, leaving the cold water tap unsoftened for drinking and cooking. Or, you could consider installing a reverse osmosis or distillation treatment system, so you can the benefits of softened water while filtering out the sodium that is a byproduct of the process. If your water analysis reveals other water quality concerns, this may be your best option.