Woodbury's water hardness is approximately 13.5 grains. While individual water softening is not necessary, many individuals choose to have private water softeners.
The calcium from limestone is the major contributor to the hardness of Woodbury's water. Hardness can appear as a nuisance when water is boiled or dried from a drip because it forms a white powder residue when all the water evaporates. It also interferes with soap and detergent use. People with very soft water can use smaller amounts of soap and detergent for washing.
Things you should know if you soften your water:
Do you get blue, green or pink stains in your sinks at home?
For some Woodbury residents this may not be a problem, but for others the problem just will not go away. Those blue and green stains could be a sign that your water softener is regenerating too often. Over-regenerating has a tendency to make water become corrosive toward the copper pipes and faucet fixtures in your home. The pink stains may be caused by the kind of salt you're using in your softener. Don't worry though; these problems are easier to correct than you think!
Why do we soften water?
Woodbury's water naturally contains 13.5 grains of hardness, which is considered hard. Hardness is a measure of the concentration of calcium and magnesium minerals in water. Hard and soft waters are both satisfactory for human consumption. However, consumers may object to hard water because of scaling problems it creates in household plumbing fixtures and appliances such as dishwashers, water heaters, and coffee makers.
The easiest way to remove the hardness is by filtering your water through a water softener. Softening your water down to the optimal level of 6 grains of hardness is ideal for household use because the water remains less corrosive than over-softened water and is free of scale producing hardness.
How do water softeners work?
Water softeners use the process commonly known as ion exchange. Ion exchange actually exchanges the hard calcium and magnesium ions with soft sodium or potassium (sodium alternative) ions. This is accomplished by filtering the water through a resin filtering medium located in the water softener. As the water runs through the filter medium, the calcium and magnesium ions are stripped away by the tiny granular resin beads and exchanged with sodium or potassium ions.
Unfortunately, when water is completely stripped of calcium and magnesium to become soft, it often becomes corrosive. Corrosive water causes leaching of copper pipes and faucet fixtures, especially in areas where water sits for long periods of time. Although this is not a health concern, it is the main cause of the blue and green stains being left in your bathroom and laundry room sinks.
What can I do to fix the problem?
Woodbury, along with many other communities and organizations, has found the best way to prevent these stains from occurring is by reducing the number of times your water softener regenerates. "Regenerating" refers to the way softeners clean all the calcium and magnesium mineral deposits out of the filter medium when it becomes "exhausted" or full. However, many water softeners regenerate too often, when the filter medium really isn't full. This can be corrected by simply resetting your water softener to remove less hardness or to run longer between regeneration cycles.
Recommended regeneration time
To obtain the optimal level of 6 grains of hardness, the average Woodbury family of three people should be regenerating their softener once every eight to twelve days, depending on usage. Resetting your water softener to this recommendation will still allow your water to remain plenty soft for household use but also less corrosive toward your pipes and fixtures. This calculation is based on the following:
The amount of hardness in the water (13.5 grains).
The actual amount of water being softened (goal = 75 gallons/person/day).
Number of gallons a softener can soften before becoming exhausted (average = 2,600 gallons).
Calculate your own regeneration time.
1. Multiply the number of members in your household by 75 gallons.
2. Then divide that number into 2,600 gallons.
Example: 3 people x 75 gallons = 225 gallons per day
2,600 gallons / 225 gallons per day = 11.5 days
(Water usage will vary between households.)
How do I reset my water softener?
There are many different brands of water softeners on the market but every softener can be reset by referring to the owner's manual. The owner's manual will classify each softener as either a time-initiated or a demand-initiated softener. Both styles are equally effective at softening water, yet there are distinct differences when it comes to efficiency and resetting them.
1. Time-initiated softeners regenerate according to a fixed timer that is prescheduled. These softeners may occasionally waste water and salt by unnecessary regenerating - when you're away from home on vacation, for example. Resetting this type of softener only requires the user to change the day that is desired for regenerating. Some older softening units may not have the capability of being preset beyond seven days, which is acceptable. If you are away from home for an extended period of time, unplug the softener to save on salt and from over softening the water.
2. Demand-initiated softeners regenerate when they sense their softening capacity is low as determined by a preset number entered by the user. The preset number represents the amount of time between each regeneration. For instance, a lower selected number means your softener will regenerate less often. If you are experiencing stains, try selecting a lower number until you find one that meets your needs. Demand-initiated softeners are more popular and efficient than time-initiated softeners.
Are there different types of salts I can use in my softener?
Yes, there are three main types of salts that can be used in softeners.
1. Sodium Pellets are the most commonly used type of salt in water softeners. They are manmade and usually come in a yellow bag. Some softeners may recommend rock salt, which is actually mined, over sodium pellets. However, it's the same type of salt.
2. Potassium Pellets can be used as a sodium substitute and is recommended for those who are watching their sodium intake. Potassium pellets are compatible with any water softener and can be purchased at many of the same stores where sodium pellets are sold for about the same cost.
3. Solar Salt comes from evaporated seawater and may sometimes leave a pink "bio-film" or stain in sinks and tubs. The pink film is actually a harmless bacteria that comes from the sea salt. If this stain is an annoyance in your home, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends switching to one of the other two types of salts. Once the new salt has had a chance to completely replace the solar salt in your system, then purchase some water softener filter cleaner to clean out your softener as instructed in your owner's manual or on the cleaner label.
What else should I know?
New homes built with copper pipes are especially susceptible to corrosive water conditions because the copper pipes have not had a chance to become coated inside. As recommended by the MDH, it is best NOT to soften the water in a new house for a period of three to five months after occupancy. This can be done by simply bypassing the water softener's filter medium. See your owner's manual for directions on bypassing your softener. Many new homes are built with PEX and not copper.
The MDH also recommends NOT softening the cold water supply to your kitchen faucet or your outside hose connections. This will significantly decrease the amount of sodium in your diet and save you money by not softening water unnecessarily.
Having your water softener properly set for household size and 13.5 grains of hardness will reduce salt use and increase efficiency in water use by avoiding unnecessary regeneration.