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help me size a softener .. industry standards seem off??

fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
I live in northern NJ and water is hard. Not horrible bit definitely noticeable. I bought test strips and while those aren'ts super precise, the color most closely resembles about 7-10 grains. I'm on well water and don't know the iron content at this point but it's not noticeable in the house - no red rings anywhere.
In any case, I read a bunch of things online on sizing and all of them give you 75 gallons per day per person as a benchmark. I have 5 people in the house and we do more than a fair share of running the dishwashwer, washing machine, long showers etc. However, I averaged the water use for the last year based on water meter readings and it works out to about 200 gallons per day.. that's way lower than the "industry average".. so i'm wondering if I'm wrong somewhere or if my count might be off somehow.

If it IS 200 per day, what would be a good option for softening?

Also, I personally don't like the 'slimy' feeling of ultra-soft water. is there a way to control how soft it is? meaning, is that something a softener can do, or do they just extract as much mineral content as is available? does anyone use mixing valves to control the level of "softness" or anything like that?

thanks!

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    75 to 80 gallons per day is the standard figure for water use used in designing and rating water utilities. Has been for years. It's very conservative in most cases, although in some areas (notably California, but in some northeastern cities with leaky pipes) the use per person is much higher.

    On well water, such as you have, 40 to 50 gallons per day per person would be common -- and still conservative.

    Almost all residential type water softeners are ion exchange -- and, basically anything that's in the water gets swapped out for sodium ions. It's not controllable; either the softener works or it doesn't. Perhaps your best bet on using it -- to avoid that slimy feeling, which I hate too, is to soften only the water going to your domestic hot water system -- if you want to soften the water at all (put the softener before the water heater!).
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,906
    When we size solar DHW the number has been 20- 25 gallons per day of hot water use. It seems odd there would be an additional 50 gallons of cold per person per day? Certainly not every day?

    I agree with Jamie in that softening just the cold supply to the DHW tank, as most bathing dishwashing, etc is hot water.

    That also eliminates you drinking soft water or having all the hose bibs flowing softened water, if you soften only hot.

    Get cheap water meter and see what your family actually uses for month, better than guessing or using an overestimate number.

    Obviously outdoor sprinkling in the summer skews water usage numbers.

    I would also use a demand regeneration softener. It measures usage and backwashes accordingly. Instead of a straight timer type the backwashes whether it needs to or not, wasting water and salt.

    Get a better test kit to tighten the hardness number to better adjust the softener backwash. Under 25 bucks for a better test kit on Amazon.

    Or take a sample to a water test facility and have them check for other minerals or issues. Iron can be tough on softeners and may require a two step conditioning. I have an Iron Curtain brand ahead of my softener to deal with high iron.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • kenjohnsonkenjohnson Member Posts: 57
    I too hate the "slimy" feeling of softened water, and you absolutely can adjust so that water is soft but not slimy.

    I've had two water softeners that allow setting of the hardness of the incoming water (controls the amount of softening that is done) and that also sense how much water has been softened and calculates a regeneration based on the amount of capacity left in the tank (what Bob Rohr referred to as a demand regeneration softener). The hardness setting works really well if you are willing to adjust the settings until you get it "just right".

    For instance, at a house in Central NY, the plumber installed the softener and set it to "25" (assuming this is grains) because "that is what everyone needs around here". Sure enough, the water was slimy. A little experimentation led me to a setting of 17 which felt soft but not slimy and which also eliminated the soap deposits left on laundry. Likewise, at a condo I just installed a softener and the initial setting was 18 (felt slimy) and I adjusted it to 11 and if felt just right.

    After re-generation, it might take anywhere from a week to three or four weeks to re-generate again (depending on water usage and hardness of water). So don't adjust the hardness setting to a lower or higher value more than once before it re-generates, and then leave enough time to flush out the hot water tank.

    It seems that the water softener installers believe that everyone wants 0 grains hardness (hence the initial settings), but I think my experiments show that I want something around 7 grains.

    I don't adjust the preset backwash adjustment - I don't believe that this has any impact on how soft the water gets.

    The Pentair Autotrol 760 and 762 controllers permit hardness adjustment and also auto-sense for re-generation. My older Sears brand softener did the same. The Pentair controllers are used by a lot of independent companies that install softeners.

    Note that the Pentair has a lockout mode on the controller to forestall homeowner adjustments, but the manual indicates how to get around that. I downloaded the manual on-line - this might just be a newer version of the one that I downloaded:
    https://www.pentairaquaeurope.com/sites/default/files/manual_autotrol_performa_263-268_logix740-760_en.pdf
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    Of course, there's a more fundamental question here... do you really need to soften your water? As @kenjohnson said above, many people seem to like it around 7 to 10 grains. Which is what you have.

    Evaluate why you are thinking of doing this at all!
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    Thank you all for the feedback. The primary reason i want a softener is aesthetic (hard water stains/buildup in shower, on fixtures, etc) as well as to prolong the life of various appliances and heating equipment.
    With that said, and given my observed use of 200 gallons per day, and the desire to be able to adjust hardness level, what would be a good option for a softener to look at?

  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,906
    The softeners I sold had a Fleck demand brand meter, a 7600 I thing. It had a dial with people figures. If you had 4 in the family you set it at 4, and the grains of hardness.

    Electronic with digital display give you more info, may be easier for you to set or change.

    The size of the softener is based on use and hardness. Some suggest at least 3 days between backwash, the larger the softener the longer between backwashes. We installed 32,000 and 48,000 mainly

    5 people X 70 gallons per day= 350 gpd
    350 gpd X 10 grains= 3500 grains per day

    a 32,000 grain softener/ 3500= 9 days between regeneration
    a 48,000/3500 would be 11 days

    Some suggest no more than 14 days between regeneration to prevent the resin from settling or plugging with sediment, or high iron content :)


    Buy a model that has adjustability, adjust as needed. Some allow you to adjust salt per regeneration. Without and accurate usage you may need to tweak a bit to get to your likening.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    I'm using 200 gallons per day on average over the last year and my apparent hardness according to a strip test is around 7-9 grains
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    Do NOT use softened water in heating equipment. The stuff is highly corrosive, and will shorten the life of the equipment, whether steam or hot water. Your water is nowhere near hard enough to be a problem in heating equipment (unless you have serious leaks -- but that's a different problem). Some appliances don't mind softened water, since the water doesn't sit (dishwashers, washing machines, for instance) -- but they don't usually need it at your level of hardness.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59

    Do NOT use softened water in heating equipment.

    this is news to me.. i thought these systems are typically installed "whole-house" .. i've never seen anything about not installing them before a water heater.

    btw.. here's what my test strip looks like. seems like 7 to me.. or perhaps a touch more..


  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    It's not so much the water heater -- although softened water does mean you'll need to replace the anode more often -- as it is heating boilers, whether for steam or hot water heat.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    right.. i have baseboard heat .. so you're saying that a softener should NOT go to the boiler?? this is rather confusing. some people are saying i should ONLY run to hot, others are saying i shouldnt run to boiler.. please advise
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    OK. Softened water can be used in your domestic hot water heater. It CANNOT be used in your heating boiler. The two, of course, do not connect -- that is, the water in your heating boiler is not the same (I fervently hope) as the water you have for your domestic hot water (some setups -- direct on demand, indirect tanks, etc. to heat the water with the same boiler, but the water is separated internally).
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    so the sediment and whatever else is actually better for boiler than softened water? I recently had 2 stainless indirect heaters fail due to high chloride levels (most probably). does this factor into the equation at all?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    fiddlermd said:

    so the sediment and whatever else is actually better for boiler than softened water? I recently had 2 stainless indirect heaters fail due to high chloride levels (most probably). does this factor into the equation at all?

    Yes it does. Chloride -- which is added along with the sodium in ion exchange water softeners -- is very hard on things like indirects and boilers. And softeners won't get rid of sediment -- all they will do is remove Calcium and Magnesium and some (a very little ) ferrous Iron. If you have sediment, you need a filter -- which can and should be whole house -- not a softener.

    What are your chloride levels? And, perhaps more to the point, where is the chloride coming from, if it is high? Chloride levels in well water should be very very low -- unless you have the misfortune to be down gradient from a highway.

    As to "actually better"? Yes. Is it "good" for the boiler? Not really -- though it's better than softened water -- but you shouldn't be adding enough fresh water to the system to cause a problem anyway (a gallon a week on a steam system is a lot, for instance; almost any addition on a hot water system is too much).
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    i'm on well water and while I don't have measurements of my well, i've seen reports from town that show chloride as high as 250ppm in the area. we are in the northeast and I hear runoff from highway salting does this.
    If you're saying chlorides are added, does that mean the addition of a softener will worsen this issue? I've since moved on to a glass-lined tank but i do worry that other fixtures may get affected in the future
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,509
    That high a level of chloride has to be road salt, and it's not helping at all. Water softeners shouldn't add that much chloride -- it should be flushed out as part of the regeneration process -- but they won't take any away, either.

    Winter road salt is a real conundrum for highway departments. On the one hand, they are fully aware that it contaminates the groundwater -- and wells in the vicinity -- not to mention killing roadside trees etc. On the other hand, they are also fully aware that if they don't use some form of deicing, the motoring public will be all over them. There are other deicers which can be used (urea, for instance), but they are much more expensive and are only used where corrosion is a serious problem, such as airports.

    Do you have hot water heat? If you do, I would seriously consider filling the system next time you have to with deionized or reverse osmosis water, and adding any one of the corrosion protection compounds. That level of chloride isn't helping your boiler at all.

    The glass lined water heater should last much better than the stainless steel ones did.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,906
    Not to confuse Road salt, rock salt with de and anti icers. Magnesium chlorides, calcium chloride and other blends of chlorides are the issue for metals, stainless especially. These blends run off the roads and into the aquafers. Most every state DOT has studied the issues caused by chloride used on highways. Minnesota has the biggest problem as these chemicals are changing the water quality in their lakes and stream.

    These chlorides are also destroying bridges, after the I35 collapse most every bridge is being checked and reworked.

    And of course we all live downstream 😳
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • kenjohnsonkenjohnson Member Posts: 57
    Everyone has their own threshold for how "soft" water should be. Mine seems to be about 7 grains or so (higher feels too hard). My wife's threshold is a little higher (based on my iterative hardness setting changes). Yours and your family's may be lower.

    If I had 10 grains of hardness I'd probably put in a softener, but that's me. I could live with the feel of the water at 10 grains if I had to, but the soap stains on the laundry would be annoying.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,906
    I guess water hardness is in the eye of the beholder :)

    If you soften hot only, and blend some cold as you shower the GPG will come up a bit as you rarely use 100% hot while showering. But the dishwasher and cloths washer will see the benefit of the 100% softened hot.

    Here is the common hardness scale.

    Most every boiler manufacturer I know accepts 7 gpg or less, larger commercial models may spec 5 gpg or less.

    Viessmann has a sliding hardness scale based on BTU size of the boiler.

    The lesser of two evils for boiler fill water. In parts of Canada the water exceeds 30 gpg, I would defiantly soften that water before putting liquid stone into a boiler :)

    Fernox and other hydronic additives will counteract the down side of the softening. Soften boiler water is required in the UK. with additives, they are open systems for the most part, so they probably take on water occasionally.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    so after all this, i'm still confused.. i'd like my water to be a little software (But not completely since i dont like the slimy feel). mostly for aesthetics (water spots, build in shower/faucets).
    I'd like to reduce the potential damage to fixtures / water boiler / water heater etc..
    my various numbers are listed above. what's the recommendation?
  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,921
    Hello, The National Association of Corrosion Engineers suggests leaving 60-120 ppm (roughly 3-6 grains) of hardness in the water so as not to damage metal piping. One way of doing this is to plumb in a bypass to your basic softener so some percentage of hard water is always mixed in with the softened water. Softeners have become smarter in recent years, but you might want a local rep for setting up and dealing with that relatively more complex unit. As has been said before, don't soften cold water to bibbs, boiler supply, or even any sink you might drink water from. With your glass lined tank, softening will greatly increase the corrosion rate of the anode rod. I've seen them completely used up in six months in over-softened water. So frequent anode checks are necessary with softened water. Hope that all helps!

    Yours, Larry
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,906
    My suggestion from years of installing softeners would be to soften the hot only. That way when you shower you blend some of the 7 gpg with the soft hot water. So you don't end up bathing with "slimy" 0 gpg water.

    From you usage a 24,000, maybe a 32,000 softener for less backpack cycles, would be adequate.

    Buy a brand or model with a demand regeneration meter.

    Are you purchasing and installing it yourself? If not the local plumbers or water softener companies would have the best advise as far as what is commonly installed in your area, and give you good better, best options.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • fiddlermdfiddlermd Member Posts: 59
    if I'm only softening hot water, wouldn't the capacity be greatly reduced? so if i'm using 200 gallons per day, i'd imagine no more than 60 of that is hot.. maybe 80? ..
    yes, i'd like to install it myself
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,906
    Probably, I suggested above that average folk use around 20- 25 gallons of hot water per day. Others suggest 25 for the first, 20 for additional family members. The only way to know for sure would be to meter your hot water for a month or so.

    If you run the cloth washer daily, take tubs not showers, run the dishwasher daily, that changes the numbers, of course. The sizing formulas are all rule of thumb.

    If you go the hot only route, use the formula I showed above and size. Your water is not all that hard and with hot only use, I suspect the smallest size available would work fine.

    But regardless of what the sizing result, I think a 24,000 is about the smallest softener you can buy.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
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