Updated: April 7, 2021 by Zac Harding
The water in your home may contain many minerals, such as magnesium carbonate, calcium, and manganese making it “hard”. Hard water can cause scaly buildup on pipes and appliances, and make soap less efficient. A whole house water softener is an appliance used to remove these minerals or change the way they build up, so that your pipes are clear and your appliances last longer.
Making major purchases for your home, such as a water softener, can be full of pitfalls if you are not educated on how to go about it. Knowing your needs, doing your homework, avoiding impulse purchases, and getting comparison quotes are all factors that are important in the process of meeting your household’s water needs with a softener.
Here are the top things to look for when buying a water softener so you can avoid ending up with a unit that is not big enough, is too expensive, or simply does not do what you want it to do!
Know Your Needs
Just like most products, water softeners are created to meet the needs of different people. Assessing what your needs are is the first step in deciding which water softener will work for your household.
You want to purchase a product that is able to handle the needs of your household, but not spend more money on capacity that you do not need. It’s pretty simple to determine what your needs are by taking a look at your water bill. You need to know two things:
The first one you can find out by accessing your water bill — how much water use does your household average daily? This does not include any kind of outdoor watering such as lawns or flowers. Add the gallons of water per month and divide by the number of days in the month. Use a few bills from different seasons to find an accurate average. (Hint: the average number of gallons used per person, per day in North America is 75.)
Another thing you need to know when considering a purchase — what is the average grains per gallon of water hardness in your tap water? This will depend very much on your region. If you live in a city you might be able to find this information online, but if you have a private well then you’ll need to have the water hardness and iron tested in order to calculate these figures of Grains per Gallon (GPG). Do it yourself test kits may be purchased at many home improvement stores.
Once you know what the grains of hardness are in your water, you can find out what your daily need is with this formula:
Grains per Gallon (GPG) x Average daily water consumption = Grains of Hardness Needed to be Removed Daily
As a gauge, typical homes need around 32000-grain water softener, for up to four people with two baths. A good goal is to obtain a product that will work for three days before needing to regenerate. This way, the product can handle usage that is greater than usual, for instance, if you are having houseguests. This also causes less stress on the unit if it doesn’t have to constantly scramble to keep up with the use of a too large household. This way the product with work for you for many years to come.
Do Your Homework
In this day and age, comparison shopping can be simple because so much of it can happen online. While you used to have to go to a brick-and-mortar store, now doing your research can be pretty easy without even have to get off of your couch!
There are a few options for features including those that use salt or those that are salt-free; those with timers or Demand-initiated-Regeneration (DIR); those you can purchase or those available for lease; some that have better warranties than others; and those that have higher or lower annual costs of operation. Learn about all of these options before making a decision.
Another factor in understanding the cost of a new unit is whether or not you will be able to install yourself or if you will need a plumber.
Just because the manufacturer says that you can install it yourself, does not always mean that a typical person can! Also, some companies require a plumber installation in order to keep the warranty intact. Reading reviews can help with this as well because average people will often report of a particular model was difficult or expensive to install.
Avoid Impulse Purchases
Although there may be more of this that happens in the auto industry, there are those salespeople who may try to force you into making a decision before you are ready. Major decisions that are made under pressure because “this deal won’t be here tomorrow” are often found to be regrettable. So take your time to make your comparison, check reviews on different brands and models, and if you are talking with a live salesperson, then be willing to say “no” until you are absolutely sure.
If you are the organized type who needs to see everything in front of you, go ahead and make a chart of various types of softeners to compare. (OR take a look at ours!) Do be sure to compare “apples to apples” when getting quotes so that you know how the prices you are being quoted measure up.
This means that if you are looking at a dual-tank salt unit with Demand Initiated Regeneration, then check out quotes for two or three brands of this same style in order to know how the prices actually match up. If you are considering a salt-free version, make a comparison between them to determine the best cost and if that will better meet the needs of your family.
Educating yourself, comparing models, and deciding on a water softener is a process that can give you great confidence if you have done your due diligence as a consumer. Using these tips on top things to look for when buying a water softener will help you to make a purchase decision for your family that is effective, efficient, and affordable–and hopefully one that will last you for many years to come!