Moving house is stressful enough. But if you’ve just moved to a hard water area, you’ll have to deal with another problem: setting up your softener.
Working out how often a water softener should regenerate needn’t add more stress to your move. It’s a reasonably simple process once you have a few data points to hand.
Let’s find out how to set up your system and have soft water coming out of your tap in a matter of minutes.
How Often Should a Water Softener Regenerate? Quick Answer
A water softener should regenerate every 2-5 days and at least once every 14 days. If it’s regenerating every night, your softener may be too small. The optimal regeneration frequency for modern water softeners is calculated based on hardness levels, water usage, and softener capacity.
In this article:
Calculating How Often Should Your Water Softener Regenerate (Quick Calculation)
To determine the optimal regeneration frequency for your water softener, you’ll need to consider water hardness, water usage, and resin capacity.
Here’s a standard method to calculate:
Divide the resin capacity by water hardness to get the number of gallons of softened water per regeneration.
Divide this number by the average daily water usage to get the number of days between regenerations.
Adjust salt dosage according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
For meter-demand softeners, follow the same steps as for manual mode, but set the system to regenerate when the resin capacity is exhausted. Adjust salt dosage according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
For a timer-controlled system softener, follow the same steps as for manual mode, but set the timer to regenerate regularly at the desired interval. Adjust salt dosage according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Let’s say your water has 15 GPG (grains per gallon) of hardness, your household uses 400 gallons of water per day, and your softener has a resin capacity of 30,000 grains. Here’s how you’d calculate the regeneration frequency:
- 30,000 (resin capacity) / 15 (water hardness) =2,000 gallons of softened water per regeneration - 2,000 / 400 (daily water usage) = 5 days between regenerations - Softeners work best at 2/3 capacity, so to ensure optimal performance, you'll want to adjust the calculation: 5 days * 0.66 = 3.3 days For safety, let's round down to 3 days between regenerations.
With this information, you can now set the appropriate regeneration frequency for your water softener to ensure you have soft water whenever you need it. Just remember to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for how much salt you need and use the best quality salt you can afford.
How To Calculate How Often A Softener Should Regenerate (Detailed Calculation)
Determining the optimal regeneration frequency for your water softener depends on several factors. Some factors are common for both metered and time clock softeners, while others are specific to time clock softeners.
For both metered and time clock softeners:
Regardless of the type of water softener you have, follow these steps:
Find Out Iron Levels in Your Water
To find out the iron levels in your water, you can use home water test kits, such as those offered by MyTapScore.com. These kits measure iron levels in PPM (parts per million) or mg/L (milligrams per liter).
Iron can cause reddish-brown stains on fixtures and appliances and affect the taste and odor of water. The EPA recommends that iron levels should not exceed 0.3 PPM or mg/L for aesthetic reasons.
Find Out Manganese Levels in Your Water
To determine the manganese levels in your water, you can also use a well water test kit like those from MyTapScore.com. These kits measure manganese levels in PPM (parts per million) or mg/L (milligrams per liter).
Manganese can cause black or brown stains on fixtures and appliances and affect the taste and odor of water. The EPA recommends that manganese levels should not exceed 0.05 PP..
By knowing the iron and manganese levels in your water, you can better optimize your water softener’s performance and calculate the appropriate regeneration frequency.
Find Out Hardness Levels
You can use a home water test kit, like those available from MyTapScore.com, to measure the calcium and magnesium ions and hardness of your water. They provide accurate measurements of calcium and magnesium levels in grains per gallon (GPG) or parts per million (PPM).
How to Test Hardness, Iron, & Manganese Levels Using MyTapScore.com
- Visit MyTapScore and order a well water test kit.
- Follow the instructions provided with the kit to collect a water sample.
- Send the water sample back to MyTapScore’s certified laboratory using the pre-paid shipping label included with the kit.
- Receive your detailed water analysis report, which will include the iron levels in your water.
Use Iron & Manganese Levels to Calculate Compensated Hardness
To calculate the compensated hardness, which accounts for iron and manganese levels, use the formula:
Hardness GPG + (iron PPM*4) + (manganese PPM * 6) = Compensated Hardness
For time clock softeners only:
Time clock softeners require a bit more complicated calculation to determine the regeneration frequency. Follow these steps:
- Determine Water Usage: Calculate the average water usage based on the number of people in the house. The more people in the house, the higher the water usage and more frequent regeneration.
Use the formula: Number of people * 75 gallons (average usage per day) = Water Usage.
- Find Out Softener Size: Determine the resin capacity of your softener, which is measured in grains (grains of hardness removed per regeneration). The larger the softener size, the more water it can soften and the less frequent regeneration.
- Calculate Total Grains Per Day: Multiply the compensated hardness by water usage to calculate the total grains per day:
Compensated Hardness * Water Usage = Total Grains Per Day.
- Add Reserve Capacity: Add a reserve capacity to the total grains per day: Total Grains Per Day * 1.2 = Compensated Total Grains per Day.
- Calculate Efficiency Size: Softeners work best and most efficiently at 2/3 capacity. To calculate the efficiency size, multiply the softener size by 0.66. This will give you the ideal size for optimal softening and efficiency.
- Calculate days: Determine the number of days between regenerations using the formula:
Efficiency size / Compensated total grains per day = Number of days between regeneration (round down to be safe).
For example, let’s say you have a time clock softener with a softener size of 40,000 grains, a compensated hardness of 15 gpg, and four people in your house using an average of 75 gallons of water per day each.
- Step 1: Calculate Water Usage
- Number of people * 75 gallons per day = Water Usage
- 4 * 75 = 300 gallons per day
- Step 2: Calculate Total Grains Per Day
- Compensated Hardness * Water Usage = Total Grains Per Day
- (15 gpg + (0.3 ppm iron 4) + (0.05 ppm manganese 6)) * 300 gallons = 14,700 grains per day
- Step 3: Add Reserve Capacity
- Total Grains Per Day * 1.2 = Compensated Total Grains Per Day
- 14,700 grains per day * 1.2 = 17,640 grains per day
- Step 4: Calculate Efficiency Size
- Softener Size * 0.66 = Efficiency Size
- 40,000 grains * 0.66 = 26,400 grains
- Step 5: Calculate the Regeneration Frequency
- Efficiency Size / Compensated Total Grains Per Day = Number of days between regeneration
- 26,400 grains / 17,640 grains per day = 1.5 days between regeneration
Based on this calculation, you should set your time clock softener to regenerate every 1.5 days for optimal performance. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for salt settings and other settings to ensure your water softener operates efficiently.
How to Set a Water Softener to Regenerate?
Setting a water softener to regenerate depends on the type and model of the system, as well as the factors mentioned earlier. The process varies for metered softeners (demand regeneration) and time clock softeners.
How to Set a Metered Softener
Metered softeners have sensors that track water usage and initiate regeneration when the resin capacity is exhausted. This is also known as on demand regeneration. The only setting that needs to be adjusted is the hardness setting, which tells the system how much hardness is in the water and how much resin capacity is available.
To find and adjust the hardness setting on different models of metered softeners, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or user manuals. For example, if your water has 23 GPG of compensated hardness, you would set the hardness setting to 23.
- The Fleck 5600SXT water softener has a digital display that shows the current hardness setting and allows you to change it by pressing buttons. To adjust the hardness setting, enter the master programming mode by pressing and holding the UP and DOWN buttons together for 5 seconds. Then, use the UP or DOWN buttons to scroll to the HARDNESS option. Press the SET button to enter the hardness value in grains per gallon. Press SET again to save the value and exit.
- On the Whirlpool WHES40, press the PROGRAM button once again to display a flashing “25” and the word “HARDNESS”. Press the UP or DOWN buttons to set your water’s hardness number.
- Morton water softeners have s a digital display that shows the current hardness setting. To adjust the hardness setting, press the MENU button and navigate to the HARDNESS option. Press MODE/SET button when the arrow points to HARDNESS. Use the UP or DOWN button to set your water hardness number in grains per gallon. Press MODE/SET again to accept your hardness measurement and exit.
How to Set a Time Clock Softener
Time clock softeners have timers so that your water softener regenerates the system on a regular schedule, regardless of water usage. There are two settings that need to be adjusted: the regeneration interval and the regeneration time.
To find and adjust the regeneration interval on different models of time clock softeners, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or user manuals. Some systems have a digital display that shows the current interval and allows you to change it by pressing buttons, while others have a dial or knob that you can turn to set the desired number of days between regenerations. Set it using the regeneration interval that you calculated earlier.
- The GE GXSS17 water softener has a digital display that shows the current interval. To adjust the regeneration interval, press the “regeneration day” button until you see the day you want to set (e.g., “su” for Sunday). Press the “set/clear” button to turn regeneration on or off for that day. Repeat step 1 and 2 for each day of the week that you want to set. Remember that if the system is set to “ON,” it will regenerate on that day regardless of your programming.
Optimizing Regeneration Frequency
To ensure your water softener operates efficiently, it’s essential to optimize the regeneration frequency and settings for each mode. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your water softener:
Schedule Regeneration During Low Water Usage Periods
Set up your regeneration schedule to regenerate your water softener at night or when household water usage is low to avoid interruptions or pressure drops in your water supply.
Use High-Quality Salt
Choose high-quality salt pellets or crystals for your water softener to prevent clogging or bridging in the brine tank. High-quality salt will help maintain the effectiveness of the regeneration process.
Monitor the Salt Level
Regularly check the salt level in the brine tank and add more salt as needed to maintain a sufficient brine solution. This will ensure that the resin beads in your water softener continue to function effectively.
Clean the Resin Tank and Valve
Periodically clean the resin tank and valve to remove any dirt or iron buildup that can hinder the water-softening process. Regular cleaning will help prolong the life of your water softener and maintain optimal performance.
Test Water Hardness Regularly
It’s important to test the water hardness in your home regularly to monitor the performance of your water-softening system. If you notice a change in water hardness, adjust the settings on your water softener to compensate for the change and ensure that your water remains soft and free of unwanted minerals.
How Long Does Water Softener Regeneration Take?
The duration of water softener regeneration depends on the model and settings of the system but typically ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours. The regeneration process consists of four main steps: backwash, recharge, regeneration, and rinse. Let’s take a closer look at each step and what happens during each one.
Four Main Steps of Regeneration
During the backwash step, the system reverses the water flow to flush out any debris or sediment from the resin bed.
The recharge phase involves the system drawing brine solution from the brine tank and replenishing the resin bed with both salt and sodium ions.
In the regeneration step, the system flushes out any excess brine and hardness minerals from the resin tank.
Finally, the rinse step ensures any remaining salt or brine is rinsed from the resin tank and valve.
Examples of Regeneration Times for Different Models and Settings
The length of each regeneration step can vary depending on the model and settings of your water softener. Here are two examples based on the manufacturer’s specifications or user manuals:
- Fleck 5600SXT water softener: This model has a default regeneration time of 90 minutes, which can be adjusted by changing the cycle step times. The default times for each step are as follows:
- Backwash: 10 minutes
- Recharge: 60 minutes
- Regeneration: 10 minutes
- Rinse: 10 minutes
- Whirlpool WHES40 water softener: This water softener has a regeneration time of about 2 hours.
How Various Factors Affect Regeneration Frequency
There are several factors that influence how often a water softener needs to regenerate. Some of the main factors include:
Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). The hardness level impacts the ion exchange rate within the water softener. To determine your water hardness, you can use test kits or send a water sample to a laboratory. Once you have this information, adjust your water softener settings accordingly.
Presence of Iron or Manganese in the Water
Iron or manganese can interfere with the ion exchange process and reduce the resin bed capacity. They may also cause staining, clogging, or fouling of the water softener. To test for these elements, use test kits or send a water sample to a laboratory. Even the best softeners can only deal with small amounts of iron, so special resins or iron filters may be utilized to effectively remove iron or manganese from the water before softening takes place.
Water usage, measured in gallons per day (GPD) or liters per day (LPD), impacts the resin bed capacity and, consequently, the regeneration frequency of your water softener. Estimate your water usage by considering the number of people in your household and their daily water consumption. Adjust your water softener settings accordingly.
Resin Tank Capacity
Water softener size and capacity are measured in grains or liters of resin. The size and capacity of your water softener influence its regeneration frequency. Selecting the appropriate size and capacity for your home and water needs ensures optimal performance and regeneration intervals.
Resin deterioration can occur over time due to factors such as chlorine, iron, bacteria, or mechanical wear. This chemical deterioration can reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of the water softener. To prevent or treat resin deterioration, use resin cleaners, sanitizers, or replacements.
The control valve regulates the flow of water and salt through the water softener. It can malfunction due to dirt, debris, corrosion, or wear. Troubleshoot and repair the control valve by cleaning, lubricating, or replacing parts as necessary.
Age of the Water Softener
The age of the water softener can affect its performance and efficiency. Older water softeners may have outdated technology, lower capacity, or higher maintenance costs. Determine if your water softener needs an upgrade or replacement by comparing features, benefits, and costs.
Clogged Brine Line
The brine line delivers saltwater from the brine tank to the resin tank during regeneration. It can become clogged due to salt bridges, salt mushing, or sediment buildup. To unclog the brine line, break up salt formations, flush out debris, or replace parts as needed.
Common Problems and Troubleshooting
Water softeners may encounter some problems related to regeneration, but most can be resolved by the user. For other problems, check out our post on common water softener problems and their fixes.
Here’s a list of common regeneration-related problems, their causes, and fixes:
Water Softener Regenerating Too Often
This issue could indicate incorrect water softener settings or a system malfunction. Possible causes and fixes include:
- Check and adjust the water hardness level on the control head
- Inspect and replace the timer or sensor if they are defective
- Examine and clear any clogs in the brine line or injector
- Inspect and replace the resin if fouled by iron or bacteria
Water Softener is Stuck in Regeneration
This problem might indicate that the water softener is unable to complete the regeneration cycle due to a mechanical or electrical issue. Possible causes and fixes include:
- Inspect and replace the timer or sensor if they are defective
- Check and clear any clogs in the brine line or injector
- Examine and replace the water entry valve or float valve if they are faulty
Water Softener is Not Regenerating at All
This issue could mean that the water softener is not receiving power or salt, or that the system is malfunctioning.
- Ensure the unit is plugged in and that the power is on
- Check and add salt to the brine tank if it is empty
- Examine and clear any salt bridges, salt mushing, or sediment buildup in the brine tank
- Inspect and replace the timer or sensor if they are defective
- Check and adjust the timer or sensor settings if they have been reset
Frequently Asked Questions
There are some common questions that users may have about water softener regeneration. This section provides answers to these questions:
How Does My Water Softener Know When to Regenerate?
Most water softeners have either a timer or a sensor to determine when to regenerate. Timer-based water softeners regenerate on a set schedule, while sensor-based softeners track water usage and regenerate when the resin capacity is exhausted.
How Do I Know If My Water Softener is Regenerating?
Most water softeners have indicators on the control panel that show when the system is regenerating. You may also hear water flowing through the system or notice a temporary drop in water pressure during the regeneration process.
Can I Use Water While My Softener is Regenerating?
Most water softeners have a bypass valve that allows untreated water to flow through while the system is regenerating. This means you can still use water during the regeneration process, but it will not be softened.
What’s the Problem with Regenerating Too Often?
Regenerating too often can waste salt, water, and electricity, and reduce the lifespan of the system. It can also cause salt buildup in the brine tank and resin tank, leading to reduced efficiency and potential damage to the water softener.
Should a Water Softener Regenerate Every Night?
Regenerating every night is not necessary or recommended for most water softeners, as it can waste salt, water, and electricity, and reduce the lifespan of the system. The ideal regeneration frequency depends on factors like water hardness, usage, and the capacity of the resin bed.
How to Stop Water Softener Regeneration?
Stopping water softener regeneration is not advisable, as it can cause hard water problems and damage the system. It should only be done temporarily for maintenance or repair purposes.
To stop water softener regeneration, turn off the power and water supply to the system or use the bypass valve. Remember, stopping the regeneration process should only be done temporarily and not as a long-term solution.