Water Softener Setting Equal, Less, or Greater than Actual GPG

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I am wondering what the recommendation is for the grains per gallon (gpg) setting of a water softener.
Our city states the gpg is about 23, but a few years ago I had Sears do the water test and they said that the sample (after it had went through softener) was, if I remember correctly, 27. Thus I changed the setting to 25 on my softener since after that it requires increments of 5.
Today I had the water retested and Sears said the hardness was about 3 gpg, which would mean the actual gpg before the softener is 28 gpg.
I called our city water department and spoke with the engineer who said it is 23 gpg and that getting the gpg to 0 is not recommended as water that soft is also not good for pipes, etc. His recommendation was to keep the setting at 25 since it was showing about 3 gpg.
I called GE whose recommendation is to go 5 above the actual gpg and they suggested going from 25 to 30 gpg.
So, knowing that my softener goes increments of 1 until 25 then increments of 5 after that, what is best?
Thanks for your comments,
Ben
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We have a water supply from several sources, mainly Lake Mead, which varies in mineral content over several years. Yet it seems the published water quality figures reflect an average value which may not be true in the short term.
After some unproductive readjustment and some personal testing of softness (which may be of limited precision) I finally decided to monitor the glassware coming out of the dishwasher. If the items show water spots, I need to make an upward adjustment in the hardness setting. For me anyway, that's the item that triggers concern.
Incidentally, if you want to test for hardness yourself, aquarium supply stores should have kits. Get the one that tests for total hardness.
SJF
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I also use the "is the clear glass coming out of the dishwasher spotted or not?" test.
To test your hardness, you should get a sample from a faucet BEFORE it is softened. That will tell you the hardness grains.
My understanding of the softnening process is something like this: 1) by changing the hardness setting you affect TWO things a) how often your softner thinks it needs to soften b) how much salt it uses when it does soften
It takes your hardness setting and multiplies it by the number of gallons of water used to determine total grains. It makes a "guess" as to whether or not you can make it through another day without softening. If not, it sets the softner to recharge that night.
When it is time to recharge, if the hardness is "high" it adds more water to the tank, which disolves more salt, which puts more ions into the recharge media. Some areas, like here in California, limit the amount of salt in order to reduce the salt in the outflow. THis will cause the softener to recharge more often to compensate.
Note that: If it guesses wrong (because you set the hardness too low or because the water changed) then, it will run out of softening ions and draw hard water into your system - if it is hot water, like a shower or dishwasher, then you will have residual hard water in the water heater the next day.
So, your choices are: Save water and Salt by setting the hardness lower Have cleaner glassware and be more resilient to "anomalous high use days" by setting the hardness higher.
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My GE softener, which uses a control mechanism used by most home softeners, injects the same amount of saturated brine containing about 4# of salt each cycle. This is not user adjustable. When you enter the hardness number, the softener's computer calculates the number of gallons the recharge will soften. Then, when the water meter within the softener shows that amount is nearly exhausted, the unit will be set to recharge again the next night. If I go away for a week or two, the softener will not recharge because there has been no water use.
Older softeners used a simple clock mechanism. My previous unit recharged every six days based on my estimates of average use. There was no response to varying use and, obviously, much wasted salt.
SJF
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"... of saturated brine containing about 4# of salt each cycle. This is not user adjustable...."
I agree. I did not mean to imply that it was user adjustable. Some times it is user adjustable in some models. Also, some model varys the amount of salt based on the internal computers' calculation of need. Some models do not do this, because it would contravene the legal efficiency required.
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There's only one or two softener control valves in the US that regenerate based on a varying hardness. They don't work very well or very long.
All other control valves/softeners use a math formula used to establish the "hardness", actually called compensated hardness that a softener must be set up to deal with. Unless the control valve has a variable reserve or calendar override feature, a softener only knows when to regenerate based on days or gallons since the last regeneration and the time or gallons will be programmed into the control based on the math used.
For the formula, see my softener sizing chart page link in another of my replies.
Gray Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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"There's only one or two softener control valves in the US that regenerate based on a varying hardness."
I didn't mean to imply that the unit measured the hardness either of the input or the out put.
Rather, I agree with you that consumer enters an estimate of the hardness which affects the recycle time an in some cases the amount of salt used.
Do you sell any of the units that use TWO resin bed tanks and a separate brine tank? It seems that these would be the most resilient to varying usage and would get every last possible ion out of the water with minimun risk of letting hard water throug.... Phil
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When you say "law", I take it you are from CA and are referring to the minimum 3400 grains per lb salt efficiency they want. To my knowledge, they are the only state with the "law" BUT, anyone selling softeners should be sizing and setting them up for the best salt dose efficiency.
I did mean that they measure the hardness and regenerate accordingly.
No one should use an "estimate" of the hardness, iron, manganese etc., all of those parameters should be set according to accurate and current data. Otherwise there's little chance the softener will/can work correctly.
Yes I do, they are called immediate regenerated twin tank models; I have some 5-6 different versions. They are sized and setup the same as a two tank model, using the same current and accurate data, and then based on the SFR and other 'things'. Very few homes need a twin tank softener due to not having an hour and a half during the night when water isn't being used so a two tank model can be used.
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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Thanks to everyone who responded. So, it appears that the gpg setting just tells the softener how often to recharge so it can keep the ions clean. If one under estimates the hardness, it may not regen before the ions are in need of cleaning and that may cause hard water untilt he regen. If one estimates higher than actual hardness, it will just regen more often.
Thus, for example, even if the setting was wrong it should be able to soften the water immediately after a regen since the ions will be clean. If the water was tested the day after a regen and it still had 3 gpg would that indicate it is not sofenting correctly? Or, perhaps, is that normal given the accuracy of the tests?
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Not really. The hardness gpg setting is one of the settings. Another is the salt dose. And the salt dose depends on the volume and type of resin being used, the water quality and how much water is used etc..
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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If the water coming out of a softener is not 0 gpg hard, then the softener is not working correctly. Although it's true that man can not get all the hardness out of water; even using DI equipment, in residential water treatment, water is either hard or soft, there's no in between or any such thing as "too" soft. A gpg (grain per gallon) is 17.1 mg/l or ppm.
Every softener in the world has a means to adjust the salt dose. Doing so adjusts the capacity because the capacity is dictated by the salt dose in a given volume and type of resin or Zeolite (they are not the same).
The problem is that many companies and dealers do not tell the consumer how to adjust the salt dose/capacity.
The hardness setting must be based on the maximum 'compensated' hardness the softener is going to 'see' from one time to another. And all other positive charged ions that are in the water will also be removed; such as ferrous iron, copper, lead, manganese etc.. Adding them in determines the compensated hardness.
The vast majority of cities have more than one source of water and over a year will be sending various mixes of those waters to their customers. So use the highest amount of hardness otherwise the capacity of the softener will be exceeded before it regenerates and you'll get hard water through the softener; or the leakage through the softener will be increased.
The water companies say softened water will damage plumbing.... not true. Their water has to be acidic to damage plumbing if the hardness in their water is removed by a softener. They would rather the hardness scale be there to protect the plumbing, which can damage plumbing but the hardness will damage the water using appliances, your clothes and cause premature wear of everything washed in their hard water while increasing your cost to heat water due to higher energy use and replacement costs of water heaters and/or their elements.
To learn how to set up a softener: http://www.qualitywaterassociates.com/softeners/sizingchart.htm
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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I had another Sears store test the water and he got about 5 gpg (previous store got 3 gpg), but I don't think he really paid much attention to when the color changed.
I'm going to contact GE about the water not being 0 gpg and will report back if there is anything of significance.
Thanks,
Ben
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I contacted GE and they too agree that right after a regen there should be no more than 1 gpg. They are scheduling service for the unit.
Any ideas on what could be in need of repair on the unit, which is 5.5 years old?
Ben
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The usual cause is leakage through the resin bed caused by your peak demand being higher than the softener can treat. IOWs the softener is too small based on its SFR. Or... the softener has been run out of salt and not regenerated with the max salt dose for the volume and type of resin used; and then repeated as soon as possible with as little water use as possible between the two regenerations. Or it is setup incorrectly for your water use between regenerations. Check my web site for setup info.
There's no sense in paying for a service call to tell you they can't find anything wrong. Go here www.kemorewater.com and watch the animations and troubleshooting. You can check yours against that and fix it yourself. The only difference between your GE and the Kenmore is the GE uses a different motor; all other control valve parts are the same, along with how it works.
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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Sorry, that should be www.kenmorewater.com.
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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Interestingly, my neighbor just had his water tested through a water softener and his test was 4 gpg at Sears.
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To follow-up with everyone who helped me. Service came out and I watched them test the water, both hot and cold.
Their tests showed 0 gpg.
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Did you have them test your INPUT water BEFORE the softner?
That would be a good data point to tell you what setting to use....
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And my guess is that the unit had regenerated since the last test showed 4 gpg, or 3 gpg or whatever it was. To see if the unit is working correctly everyday, not allowing any leakage (hardness in the softened water), you need to test the softened water daily between regenerations. For the last 16-18 years I've been giving all my softener customers a small test kit to do that with.
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com
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