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Just because your home has access to a constant supply of water doesn’t mean that’s good enough. Hard water is an important issue to consider both for the integrity of your home and your family’s personal use. So consider the buyer’s guide below when in the market for a better understanding of what to look for.

Introduction to Water Softeners

If you think the water that comes directly out of your pipes is clean and pure, you’re mistaken. While it may be fine to drink, that water can cause you plenty of problems if it’s “hard.” This means that the water is infused with minerals like calcium, manganese and magnesium carbonate. The amount of these minerals in the water is measured by “grains per gallon.” Just one GPG is considered hard, but it generally isn’t an issue at all until you get between 3.5 GPG (relatively soft) and 10.5 GPG (extremely hard).

Hard water typically isn’t a health issue. However, it can wreak havoc on your pipes. The minerals cake onto the piping, causing calcium deposits and other issues that can reduce water flow and even get into the devices you use like coffee makers and dishwashers and incapacitate them. You’ll also have a difficult time getting hard water to build into lather, making it useless for showering or cleaning. Water softeners essentially work through ion exchange. When water flows through the tank, sodium chloride (salt) is substituted for the aforementioned minerals that cause the problem. This now “soft” water is then allowed into your house.

Size and Capacity

One of the most important things to consider when researching water softeners is the actual size and capacity of the machine. On the one hand, if you buy one that is too small, it won’t be able to keep up with the water demands of your home.

However, on the other hand, if you buy one that is unnecessarily large, it won’t have any issue supplying your household’s water, but it will cost you far more than you’d otherwise need to pay. You want a system that can adequately remove hardness from your home’s water without having to regenerate frequently.

When you begin shopping for water softeners, you’ll notice that they are rated by the amount of hardness they can remove (typically measured in grains) between regenerations. Ideally, your water softener should be able to make it three days before it needs another recharge. It also helps to find a machine that will be able to handle above average usage from time to time.

Find Out Your Water’s Needs

Every home will have slightly different water softener needs depending on a number of factors, including the region in which they are located. For best results from your water softener, then, you’ll want to have your home’s water tested.

There are a number of professional companies and labs in the Phoenix area that can test your water so you know what exactly you need from a water softener (i.e. many people find out they have uncommonly high amounts of iron).

As a rule of thumb, you can calculate the size of the machine your household needs by taking the number of people in your family and multiplying it by 75. This will give you the average number of gallons your home uses per day.

Then, once you know how many grains per gallon (GPG) of hard water minerals you’re dealing with, you can simply multiply that number by the gallons of water your home consumes per day.

That final number is the amount of minerals your softener must remove every day to fight off hard water.

Dual Tank Water Softening

Every water softener needs to recharge at a certain point in order to continue operating efficiently. When it does this, the water softener is designed to disengage from your home’s water system.

During this time, then, any water that is used will still be hard. Typically, water softeners are scheduled to regenerate like this at night, when it’s unlikely the home’s occupants will need water. If this becomes a problem or if your home is simply subject to a great deal of hard water, you may want to consider a dual tank water softener. In this setup, one tank will regenerate while the other one is in use. This way, your home always has soft water available.

Furthermore, this “on demand” setup means you can use smaller than normal tanks. The Fleck 9000 is a good example of a water softener with two tanks where a valve switches one off when it reaches capacity and then activates the other. You can choose tanks that range in size from 24,000 all the way up to over 100,000 grain capacity. This will run you anywhere from around $1,000 to $2,000.


One of the main things to consider when buying a tank is the space you have to offer. You want to connect it to the main water line into your home. However, there needs to be enough room for the tanks, as well as a drain for any backwashing that occurs.

Look for tanks that come with NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification. Ask your installer about how your tank will affect your home’s water heater and any measures you can take to ensure it won’t cause a malfunction to that important device. Lastly, look for warranties that cover your control valve for at least three years and the mineral tank for at least 10. With a good warranty and proper maintenance, your tanks should last at least 20 years.

While this may seem like a lot of information, it will go a long way in helping you make the right decision where a water softener is concerned. If you’d like help purchasing or installing your unit, contact us at Deer Valley Plumbing Contractors. We have over 25 years of experience helping people like you make the right choice. So, what are your questions about water softeners? Leave a comment and we’ll answer it for you.

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