What should my water softener hardness be set at?

Last updated on: December 1, 2022.

Hardness levels in water are not always the same. For instance, the hardness level is greater than seven grains per gallon or 120 mg/ L; you might need a water softener that is suitable to that hardness level. If the water is also contaminated with iron, the hardness settings can be adjusted accordingly. This adjustment can be made by turning the dial or selecting the right program.

When should you adjust the hardness setting?

settings in softener

Water softeners are used to eliminate hardness. But, the settings may need to be adjusted if the water turns out to be too soft, or you are beginning to use a lot more salt than usual, or you find that there are other contaminants in the water. 

However, these indicators may not always be accurate, and changing the settings based on these factors may not be a good idea. For instance, you can never have water that is too soft. Water either has hard minerals that create limescale, or it doesn’t. As far as household appliances are concerned, there is no such thing as too soft water.

Similarly, as far as drinking water or water used for washing and bathing is concerned, water that doesn’t leave a sticky residue or make the skin feel dry is good. People accustomed to hard water may need some time to adjust to soft water. But that’s all it takes to see the difference between hard and soft water. 

If you find that the water softener is using an excessive amount of salt, you may think of adjusting the hardness setting. But, that is not necessarily true. Excessive salt consumption has more to do with the brine tank or the controller-head. Checking the level of water in the brine tank will be a start. If there is more water in the brine tank than necessary, the water softener will consume more salt.

Ideally, water levels should not be more than an inch higher than the salt platform. Sometimes, there could be a leak that causes water to go into the brine tank, or the controller is releasing more water than it should. Therefore, salt consumption may not be reason enough to adjust the hardness setting.

A more legitimate reason for changes to the water hardness setting is the existence of iron in the water. This is more so in the case of well water. Water from the well should be tested every six months as it is hard water and contains minerals and iron that need to be removed.

While water softeners can remove iron from the water, they are not specially designed to handle high concentrations of it. So, you may need to adjust the hardness setting.

What is a good hardness level for water?

testing for bubbles

Water softeners are used to eliminate hardness. But, the settings may need to be adjusted if the water turns out to be too soft, or you are beginning to use a lot more salt than usual, or you find that there are other contaminants in the water. 

However, these indicators may not always be accurate, and changing the settings based on these factors may not be a good idea. For instance, you can never have water that is too soft. Water either has hard minerals that create limescale, or it doesn’t. As far as household appliances are concerned, there is no such thing as too soft water.

Similarly, as far as drinking water or water used for washing and bathing is concerned, water that doesn’t leave a sticky residue or make the skin feel dry is good. People accustomed to hard water may need some time to adjust to soft water. But that’s all it takes to see the difference between hard and soft water. 

If you find that the water softener is using an excessive amount of salt, you may think of adjusting the hardness setting. But, that is not necessarily true. Excessive salt consumption has more to do with the brine tank or the controller-head. Checking the level of water in the brine tank will be a start. If there is more water in the brine tank than necessary, the water softener will consume more salt.

Ideally, water levels should not be more than an inch higher than the salt platform. Sometimes, there could be a leak that causes water to go into the brine tank, or the controller is releasing more water than it should. Therefore, salt consumption may not be reason enough to adjust the hardness setting.

A more legitimate reason for changes to the water hardness setting is the existence of iron in the water. This is more so in the case of well water. Water from the well should be tested every six months as it is hard water and contains minerals and iron that need to be removed.

While water softeners can remove iron from the water, they are not specially designed to handle high concentrations of it. So, you may need to adjust the hardness setting.

The rule of thumb is that a good hardness level should not be higher than 120 to 170 mg/L, i.e., seven to ten grains per gallon of water. An accurate water analysis report should show you the hardness level. You can get the water tested in a lab, or do it yourself at home with a water hardness test kit. If you are using city water, you should be able to get a water analysis report from the city.

Hardness is measured by assessing water’s capacity in reaction with soap. For instance, if the water is hard, you would need more soap to create lather. You would also need to use more cleaning solutions in your home. The reverse is also true, i.e., if the water is soft, you will find that you use less soap and still get enough lather and bubbles.

Water is considered hard when it contains high amounts of magnesium and calcium. The total hardness is the sum of magnesium and calcium concentrations, or calcium carbonate, in milligrams per liter (mg/L). You can find your water’s hardness level based on the below concentration levels.

Concentration Levels:

• Anything below 75 mg/L would be considered soft
• Between 76 and 150 mg/L makes the water moderately hard
• From 151 to 300 mg/L means the water is hard
• Anything over 300 mg/L means that the water is very hard.

What happens if you set water softener incorrectly?

Setting water softeners correctly makes them more efficient. If the water is from the municipality, the community water may already be softened. You may not need to add a softener. So, the softener must be set to the hardness level of the water supply. If the hardness setting is too high, the softener will waste a lot of water and cost more to operate.

Water softeners usually have four settings: cycle frequency, time, length, and salt dose. Hardness settings revolve around the regeneration process, which is a critical stage in water softening.

Regeneration cycle

Setting water softeners correctly makes them more efficient. If the water is from the municipality, the community water may already be softened. You may not need to add a softener. So, the softener must be set to the hardness level of the water supply. If the hardness setting is too high, the softener will waste a lot of water and cost more to operate.

Water softeners usually have four settings: cycle frequency, time, length, and salt dose. Hardness settings revolve around the regeneration process, which is a critical stage in water softening.

Regeneration cycles are usually set for anywhere from one to seven times per week. This should suffice if the water does not get hard between cycles. You can choose the best frequency for your softener and water by understanding the amount of water used, the number of contaminants or minerals in your water, and the size of your water softener.

Regeneration cycle time

Setting the right time of day for the water softener to begin a cycle is important, as it affects the amount of water output.

During the regeneration cycle, the system will not provide new softened water. Moreover, a water softener may be noisy during the regeneration cycle. For best results, you may want to schedule a regeneration cycle at a time when water is not being used. 

Regeneration cycle length 

Most water softeners allow you to set the length of the regeneration cycle. However, the default regeneration cycles take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. It is a practical time frame for most households.

If the regeneration cycle is too short, it could result in ineffective resin beads, and if the cycle is too long, it will increase the time you go without soft water.

Salt dosage

The manufacturer’s specifications should tell you how to determine the optimal salt dose for your water softener. Once you set the dose to the recommended setting, you can run the softener through a manual regeneration cycle. Then, measure the hardness of the water. You can increase the salt dose if the water is still hard. 

If your water contains very high amounts of minerals, it might require a higher-than-normal salt dose. 

Learn how to adjust the hardness on water softener?

Adjust the water softener “hardness” to the same number as the hardness that you measured for your own water supply. For example, if you measured your water hardness as 30 grains per gallon (30 GPG), then the “hardness” setting will be “30.”

Your water softener hardness setting should ideally be set to the amount of hardness in your water plus 4 for every ppm of dissolved iron in the water.

For instance, if you have 1 PPM of iron, you must add 4 to the hardness number, and if you have 1.5 PPM of iron, you must add 6 to your hardness number, and so on. You may have to set your hardness a little higher on an older water softener as the resin becomes less efficient.

The resin bed inside of a water softener can only remove so much hardness from your water before it needs to be regenerated. The hardness setting tells the unit how many gallons of water can be used before regenerating its resin.

Many electric water softeners will use the hardness number set in your water softener to calculate how frequently the water softener will have to regenerate. The hardness number also controls the salt dosage needed to regenerate the amount of water softener resin inside of its tank.

The salt dosage can be set manually based on your particular water situation on some more basic water softeners.  

How often should you change the settings in water softener?

Regular regenerations are essential because they keep the resins active. Every two to three days would work, although some softeners may degenerate every day. There are several factors that determine the regeneration frequency:

If the initial hardness level is high, the unit may need to regenerate two to three times a week. If there is iron in the water, more frequent recharging will be required. When the household water usage increases, the water softener may need to regenerate more often than usual.

It also depends on the resin tank capacity, where you can decide the required quantity of salt. The salt settings will change as the system grows old and shows signs of wear and tear.

Finally, the control valve that is demand-initiated or time-initiated can trigger the regeneration process. The former is flexible and saves water and salt by regenerating only when it is necessary, while the clock on the control valve controls the latter. You would be setting a time for regenerating at a specific time after a certain number of days. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is 25 ppm hard water?

25 ppm in water means that there is only 25 mg/ L of hardness causing minerals per liter.  Water that has less than 60 ppm is considered soft. Therefore, 25 ppm makes the water soft.

2. How much salt should you put in a hard water?

How much salt you put in a water softener depends on the hardness levels of the water and the quantity of water usage in the household. An average family of four with hard water will use about 10 pounds of salt each week. 

3. How can you remove the hardness of water?

A water softener can help remove the hardness of water by removing the calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. 

4. Can water be too soft?

Water cannot be too soft. You may need time to adjust to soft water if you are accustomed to hard water as soft water. From using too much soap to get a lather, you may find that you are using much less. The same is true of all other cleaning solutions. 

5. In which ways you can test if water softener is working properly?

A simple way to test if your water softener is working properly is to do the soap test. If the Pure liquid soap is mixed with soft water lathers and forms bubbles, the system works properly. If the same soap doesn’t produce sufficient lather, it means that you still have hard water, and the water softener is not working properly.   

Conclusion

Setting hardness levels in a water softener is key to having the system work effectively and efficiently. Whether the water softener has the option to set it manually or it comes programmed, the water softener must work to remove the hard water-inducing minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and iron.

Since the objective is to get softened water for consumption, it is imperative that the hardness levels are set accurately keeping the hardness of the water in mind.

You can start by testing the water in your home, be it well water or municipality water supply. Once you have the report, you can invest in a water softener and set the hardness level accordingly to ensure an uninterrupted supply of safe and soft water.

About The Author

Our Web Producer

Judith— a passionate water treatment specialist — is a waste water management enthusiast, clean drinking water advocate, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about various water equipments. Her work was mentioned in countless notable water associations. Previously she was an editor at Water Alliance.