Frequently Asked Questions

 

What Is Hard Water?

Water naturally evaporates from oceans, lakes, and rivers to form clouds. Pure water then falls to the earth as rain, snow, and sleet cleaning the air, and picking up contaminants on the way down. This water, which falls back to the earth, becomes more aggressive. As moisture hits the earth and filters through layers of rock and dirt, it picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium which concentrate the hardness of the water.

Hard Water

Hardness can cause a variety of aesthetic challenges for homeowners. Hard water creates a mineral buildup on water-using appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers, and laundry machines. This mineral scale decreases efficiency and causes premature ware on the appliances. In addition, because hard water contains contaminants that interfere with cleaning, homeowners find themselves using more soap and chemicals to clean. To avoid these problems, homeowners often invest in a water softening unit to remove the hardness from the water.

Hard water: how "hard" is hard?

Basically water hardness is measured by the amount of hardness minerals (generally calcium and magnesium) in your water. These amounts are measured in grains per gallon (GPG). The following table illustrates the hardness magnitude of water:

Hardness Magnitude Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
Soft Water 0.0 - 1.0 gpg
Moderately Hard Water 1.0 - 3.5 gpg
Hard Water 3.5 - 7.0 gpg
Very Hard Water 7.0 - 10.5 gpg
Extremely Hard Water > 10.5 gpg

Often people say, "I've heard of places that are 30 grains hard, or even 60 grains hard. This scale cannot possibly be all encompassing!" The United States has some areas that exceed 100 gpg in hardness, but this scale is based on appliance tolerance to hard water. Take your dishwasher for example: The softer the water, the longer it will last. Under moderately hard water, your dishwasher will last several years--even though it's not entirely soft water. On the other hand, if you're on extremely hard water, your dishwasher may only last a few years before hard water completely incapacitates the appliance. Certainly the dishwasher will run on 50 gpg hardness, but its lifespan will be dramatically shortened.

Do I have to use salt in my water softener?

While you don't necessarily have to use salt, every water softener uses a cleaning agent of some kind--most use salt.

A water softener can only "absorb" so many hardness ions; and after it has reached hardness saturation, it must regenerate (trade all the hard ions for soft ones to be able to soften more water). When the softener regenerates, it must use a solution of some kind to rinse away the hardness ions. Most commonly the solution is sodium saturated water (salt water). Alternatively a potassium solution can also be used to regenerate the resin.

Perhaps you've heard of magnetic water treatment systems or catalytic converters. Marketers of these water treatment devices are very careful regarding what they say. Truly magnetic systems can change the chemical balance of the water and suspend hardness ions in the water.

However, most neglect to mention is that even though the hardness ions have been suspended, they're not removed from the water. If the hardness ions are not kept in the heavy magnetic field, the hardness ions resume their "hard" effect on the water. Magnetic water treatment units were developed by the U.S. Army as a cost effective way to eliminate the effects of hard water while the water travels through boilers (or other in-line water equipment)--and magnetic water treatment systems do exactly that: while the water's in the boiler it's soft, when it comes out again, it's already rebalancing its chemical composition and becoming hard again.

To maintain the effect of magnetic water treatment system, you would have to install strong magnetic polarity devices every few feet on your household pipes. Otherwise, the water passes through, becomes soft then "hardens" again in your pipes.

Why do I feel 'slick' or 'slimy' in the shower?

If you're not used to soft water, it's not uncommon to leap into a shower and lather up and suddenly feel slimy, silky, or very slick. That slimy feeling comes from the glycerin in soap itself. Soft water is exponentially more effective than hard water for dissolving substances. When you're used to using a certain amount of soap in a hard water shower, when you use the same amount of soap in soft water, you'll be swimming in suds. You're using the same amount of soap, but now that soap is up to 50-75 percent more effective.

Is soft water safe to drink?

Soft water is safe to drink for virtually everyone.

If you participate in a very strict sodium-restricting diet, salt-softened water may not be right for you. To give you an idea how the additional salt affects your sodium intake, consider this: an average soft-water consumer takes in about five grams of sodium through normal eating and drinking. Of those five grams of sodium, one-third of one gram (0.336 g) is from softened water the equivalent weight of half a watermelon seed. A black olive contains 238 times the amount of sodium you'll consume in an entire day from soft water! That's how little sodium is added to your diet through soft water.

Some people mistakenly believe that soft water is salt water. Basically when you soften water it runs through resin beads to remove hardness. When the resin beads can't remove any more hardness, you have to regenerate the resin with a salt solution. Only when the resin is regenerated does water flow through the softener as product water--flowing over beads that have been rinsed with a salt solution. Sodium is contributed to the soft water in trace amounts, but is generally not a cause for concern in most consumers' diets.

How much soap should I use with soft water?

Soft water cleans much more effectively than hard water. To accomplish the same results, soft water requires 50-75 percent less soap or detergent than hard water. This alone creates a great cost savings over time. When you first start using soft water take special care to quarter the amount of soap you typically use. For a lightly soiled load of laundry in a laundry machine, a heaped teaspoon of powdered detergent should be sufficient. You don't need to fill your dishwasher detergent bin to heaping--in fact only fill it a quarter of what you used to. While the 1/4 rule is generally sound, experience is the best teacher in this area.

Does soft water cure dry skin?

First soft water is not a cure-all for dry skin and eczema. That said, dry or itchy skin is often caused by foreign substances on the skin, substances that can be greatly reduced if not eliminated with soft water. Many sufferers of dry skin or eczema report improvement after using soft water. Because so many factors influence the skin, it's impossible to quantify the effects of soft water on the skin.

However, many benefits are unchallenged: soft water requires less soap or detergent and rinses cleaner than hard water, soap curds and other chemicals are rinsed away leaving pores naturally open--allowing the skin to "breathe." With clearer skin, and less chemicals to irritate the skin, dry skin sufferers and eczema patients generally experience softer, healthier skin with continued use of soft water.

How long does resin last?

Under normal conditions, resin (the tiny beads that facilitate the ion-exchange process) should last approximately 20 to 25 years. Resin life can be reduced, however, under harsh water conditions like severe hardness, the presence of excessive iron in the water, or abnormal pH extremes.

Do I need to clean my softener? If so, how?

Your water softening system should be disinfected after installation. The softener should also be disinfected periodically throughout the life of the softener, or as indicated by a plumbing professional according to local water conditions.

The salt tank should be cleaned at least biennially, depending on the grade of salt you're using (Higher grades of salt require less cleaning as it is purer). Cleaning the salt tank every two years ensures your softener will avoid problems associated with salt "mushing" or "gumming." Simply remove the salt and clean out the salt tank and the float assembly with water.

Some salt may become encrusted on the bottom of the tank--this is normal salt crystallization, but it should be removed to ensure proper regeneration. Do not use chemicals in the tank unless the chemicals are approved water softener treatment chemicals--any resident chemicals potentially enter the water supply.

I'm moving, can I take my water softener with me?

Yes you can. While many plumbing fixtures become part of the home, many people choose to take their water softening system with them when they move. You'll have to place the system in bypass (which allows hard water to flow through the valve independent of the softener), then disconnect the system.

You are also the original purchaser so your warranty will still be in force. Alternatively, some people elect to leave the softening system in the home and sell it with the home and purchase a new one when they arrive at their new home.

How much water is used during regeneration?

A properly sized water softener uses an efficient amount of water for each regeneration, based on household water pressure (PSI). Keep in mind that a typical five-minute shower uses between 25 and 50 gallons of water according to the EPA. Oceanus systems have the following regeneration water usage:

Size Regeneration Water Usage (gallons)
Pro eXstream 70 or Premier 70 50 to 75 gal. from 35 to 70 PSI
Pro eXstream 90 or Premier 90 60 to 90 gal. from 35 to 70 PSI

Occasionally a customer will undersize a system to take advantage of lower regeneration water usage, without taking into account the time between regenerations. This is actually less efficient. For example, if a 70 grain system is installed in the place of a 90 grain system, each regeneration uses 15 gallons less water. However, regeneration occurs nearly twice as often.

For this example, in a four-week period the 70 grain system regenerated nine times, using a total of 405 gallons of water. The 90 grain system regenerated four times for a total of 240 gallons. Clearly a properly sized unit is more efficient (almost 2:1 in this example) in the long run based on gallons of water used.

The inverse is not a good idea either. Over sizing a system to take advantage of the most efficient water usage allows too much time to pass between regeneration cycles. This allows naturally occurring bacteria to grow in the system and creates a sanitization problem inside the water softener.

How much salt does a regeneration use?

Size Salt Usage (lbs)
 Pro eXstream 70 or Premier 70 11.5 LBS for Cal.
Pro eXstream 90 or Premier 90 12.50 LBS for Cal. 23.3 Normal Regeneration

How hard is the water in my area?

Hardness varies across the United States. This map should provide at least a general idea of hardness hot spots in the U.S. according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

 

Hard Water in USA

Can I use salt blocks for my softener?

Salt blocks can cause disproportion in the brine solution, and may cause a water softening unit to regenerate inefficiently. We recommend using a cube, pellet, or granular type of salt. These types supply a better brine solution that ultimately contributes to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your unit.

Can I water my plants with soft water?

Remember that both hard and soft water have minerals that will ultimately be deposited in the soil. Most plants don't take to soft water, as sodium is more difficult for a plant to deal with than magnesium and calcium (the hardness ions). Rain, distilled, or deionized water is the healthiest for plants because they generally do not contain elements that are difficult for plants to use.

We recommend leaving your outside hose bibbs tapped to the hard water line as watering your garden with soft water is both wasteful and more difficult for plant survival. On the other hand, other applications such as car washing persuade some consumers to turn one hose bibb soft and leave the other hard.

Can I use copper tubing for my RO?

Due to the aggressive nature of pure water, manufacturers of reverse-osmosis systems recommend that all tubing associated with high-purity water (RO water fits this category) should not be metal.

When water flows down a stream it gradually gathers particles and moves them downstream--producing erosion. As a matter of physics; the higher the purity (concentration) of water, the more aggressive water is. The more aggressive water is, the quicker it erodes materials. Metal particles very gradually shave off in RO water, which is why plastic (which will not shave off) is recommended. If you use metal piping such as copper, you will likely be paying for water damage to your home (due to a leak) within ten years.

Chapter 6 of the 2001 California plumbing code (UPC) allows for piping changes in aggressive water situations.

How much water should the salt tank have in it?

At any time outside of regeneration completion, the unit is designed to hold 12 to 18 inches of water with the salt in the brine tank. This amount of water maintains the proper salt saturation in the water (brine). Immediately after regeneration, the salt tank will still maintain 2 to 3 inches of brine. This is to ensure the softener does not suck in air if there is any time left in the regeneration.

If the power goes out, will it hurt the softener?

No, power outages will not damage the softener in anyway. The valve head has non-volatile memory to remember your water usage patterns even if the power goes out. The clock is digital and will be affected by power outages lasting longer than one hour, so you will need to reset the time on the controller. All other settings will remain as unchanged.

I don't have room inside, can I install it outside?

Yes you can install a softener outdoors. Be aware however, that while brine will not freeze, water inside your softener will. Water that freezes inside a water softener can crack resin beads and even the softener tank--obviously rendering the unit less efficient and potentially destroying the unit. Do not allow the unit to freeze. Some customers elect to keep the unit inside and then run piping from the unit to the brine tank outside. This can conserve some space inside while still ensuring your unit will not freeze. An outside brine tank also allows for easier salt loading.

If you live in a climate that does not reach freezing temperatures, the unit can remain outside indefinitely. In order to avoid sun damage, try to keep the unit out of the weather and out of direct sunlight. A simple enclosure generally remedies the problem.

What's covered under the warranty?

The softening system is guaranteed for life to the original purchaser of the equipment. The valve, mineral container, resin, and salt tank are all covered under the lifetime warranty. Workmanship and materials are guaranteed for five years at the original installation site. After five years anything that fails on the system will be repaired for a maximum charge of $75.00 plus shipping (labor not included).

Make sure you register your warranty to validate it!

Keep in mind that the unit must be installed properly to validate the warranty. That means the softening system must be installed as follows:

Water Pressure No less than 20 PSI
No greater than 120 PSI
Water Temperature No less than 40 (F)
No greater than 120 (F)

The warranty is void if the unit is subject to misuse, neglect, alterations, accident, damage caused by fire, flood, acts of God, or any other casualty.

Can I use soft water in my aquarium?

Most freshwater fish acclimatize to soft water without incident. Remember however, that a fish's world is entirely composed of water. Minute changes in pH, temperature, or salinity can result in aquatic fatalities. The best course of action to expose fish to softened water is to gradually replace the water in the tank over approximately one month. Replace approximately 25 percent of the tank every week. In this way fish will gradually become familiar with the new medium in which they live. At the end of one month replace the entire water volume with clean, fresh softened water.

Reverse osmosis water is comparable to soft water for its benefits, but flow restrictions generally bar it from household use except for drinking water. However, for a standing application like a fish tank, reverse osmosis high-purity water is the best solution. Softened water runs a close second.

Can I use soft water in my steam iron?

Steam irons operate best using water devoid of minerals. Soft water removes calcium and magnesium, but leaves other minerals suspended in the water. In most applications these minerals do not present a problem, which is why soft water is nearly always a superior choice for water. Because steam irons evaporate water rapidly, you will develop encrusted mineral deposits if you use any water grade other than distilled water.

I've heard a softener "pays for itself," is that true?

Because soft water is so effective at maximizing the efficiency of your water, you will not have to use nearly as much detergent or soap as you would with hard water. Using soft water allows you to save 50-75 percent of your detergents and soaps; or to put it another way, you can go 50-75 percent longer without purchasing detergent or soap again. A bar of soap that lasts for three weeks in hard water will last longer than five weeks. If your laundry detergent lasts you for two months, you'll be able to go three and a half months before purchasing again.

Also soft water saves you time as you clean. If it takes you thirty minutes to clean your bathroom or kitchen, it will take less time because soft water cleans better than hard water, and leaves little to no mess (in the form of water spots) in the first place! If you were going to pay some one to clean your home, how much would you pay them? That's how much you're saving by doing it yourself--and simplifying.

Your water heater and other water using appliances (dishwasher, laundry machine) will last longer in general and will not require as much maintenance. You will also see improved performance (or maintained performance) in your water heater because scale caused by hard water decreases heating efficiency exponentially over time. Because soft water prevents that scale, you'll maintain efficient heating--saving you money on your energy bills.

Your plumbing will also see the benefits of soft water. All your fixtures and pipes will last longer (extremely hard water can clog a faucet or toilet in as little as five years!). Hard water scale builds up in your pipes and decreases flow rates; so with soft water, you'll maintain your high flow rates.

Most softeners pay for themselves after five to seven years depending on a range of variables including original price, cost of living in your area, household size, water hardness, and frequency of cleaning. Think of a water softener as an investment. How many investment strategies pay themselves out in five years? Not many.