One of the most common questions every homeowner has when maintaining or purchasing a water softening system is how much salt does a water softener use.
In general, a water softener system that is supplying water to an average family of four with normal water hardness will use 40 pounds of salt per month. The exact usage will depend on factors specific to your home and can vary considerably.
For example, the amount of water used, the hardness of the water before softening, the efficiency of the water softening system, and the purity of the softener salt being used will all impact how much salt is consumed by a given water softener.
In this article, I will cover all of the factors affecting how much salt your water softener uses, how you can calculate your salt usage and ways you may be able to reduce your usage of water softener salt.
Factors That Affect Water Softener Salt Usage
Salt is an essential part of the water softening process that is used to recharge your softener’s resin media that filters the hard minerals from your water. There are a number of factors affecting how much salt your water softener uses.
How Much Water You Use
Water usage is one of the most important factors to determine how much salt your softener uses. After all, the more water you use, the more hard minerals your softener has to remove. A properly sized water softener will take into consideration the average water consumption in a household to minimize wasted salt pellets.
A water softener treats all of the water entering your home, from the dishwasher to the shower head, so every time you turn the water on, your softener is hard at work. This means that the more water is used, the more your softener will need to regenerate its resin media.
How Hard Your Water Is
Over 85% of the United States has hard water. The harder your water is, the more your softener will need salt to remove hard water minerals and regenerate. Water hardness refers to the concentration of calcium and magnesium in a given water supply.
- Below 60 PPM is soft
- Between 61 – 120 PPM is moderately hard
- Between 121 – 180 PPM is hard
- Greater than 180 PPM is very hard
Your water softener traps these minerals in its resin media, which after a while will become “full” and need to be regenerated in order to continue working efficiently. This is where your salt or sodium chloride comes in.
When your resin media needs to be cleaned, your water softener will run a regeneration cycle. During regeneration, it bathes the resin in a brine solution of water and softener salt. Using ion exchange, the sodium ions in the salt are exchanged for the built-up minerals, which are released into the water and washed down the drain. This leaves your softener refreshed and ready to continue trapping hard water minerals.
The harder your water is, the more frequently it will need to run regeneration cycles which means more salt.
Brand Of Softener Salt
Not all softener salts are made equal. Some brands produce softener salts with high grades of purity that work more efficiently than others. In some cases, low-quality salt may even leave behind deposits of residue that can prevent effective cleaning and require manual removal.
On the other hand, people on low sodium diets may want to replace the salt with potassium chloride. That said, because potassium chloride is less effective, you will need to purchase more of it.
This makes choosing a quality brand a must for keeping your water softener running efficiently. Here is a list of top water softener salt brands that have earned a strong reputation for quality.
- Morton: Morton is one of the best-known brands of salt on the planet, and millions of people have their products both in their kitchens and their water softeners. It is no surprise that they have a strong reputation for purity. Each of their products features 99.8% purity or higher, which sets a standard that is hard to beat.
- Nature’s Own: Nature’s Own is a smaller competitor in the water softener salt market, but they offer an incredible product in terms of purity and effectiveness. Unlike their competitors, they only sell potassium chloride cubes. These are an alternative to traditional sodium-based regeneration material, which is an effective sodium-free alternative. The downside to using potassium chloride vs salt is that potassium chloride is approximately 20% less efficient than salt. Therefore, you will need to adjust your hardness level setting to use more potassium chloride than salt.
- Diamond Crystal: Diamond Crystal has been producing salt for more than 130 years, and they have built a strong reputation for quality. With purities ranging from 99.6% to 99.9% percent across more than a dozen product offerings, they are a strong choice for any water-softening system.
Water Softener Hardness Level Setting
The water softener hardness level setting tells your system how hard the incoming water is and, in turn, how often it should regenerate and how much salt it should use. A higher hardness setting will mean more salt used. However, it is important to make sure this setting accurately reflects water hardness and is never lowered just to reduce salt consumption.
How Old The Water Softener Is
As an ion exchange water softener ages, it will gradually become more inefficient at regenerating its resin media, requiring more frequent regeneration cycles and/or larger quantities of salt. Most water softeners will lose efficiency after 10 to 15 years, but the exact lifespan will vary heavily depending on the brand, maintenance, and frequency of regeneration. Additionally, next generation upflow water softeners are much more efficient.
Types Of Water Softener Salts
You have a number of choices for water softener salt, and which one you use is really a matter of preference in most cases. Although, you should look for any manufacturer recommendations. Here are a few of the more common types.
Rock salt is a very common choice due to its low price. However, unfortunately, it contains a lot of impurities like calcium sulfate. Due to this issue, it can require a lot of maintenance. So, although rock salt may look like a great value, it can be made up of only 80% actual sodium and 20% impurities.
Solar salt is created naturally from seawater that is evaporated by the sun, which is how it got its name. This type of salt can have an outstanding level of purity and is highly soluble, and it works very well for systems that have problems with salt, either mushing or bridging.
Evaporated Salt Pellets
Evaporated salt is an extremely pure variety of softener salt. It has a very high concentration of salt with very few impurities. Because it has such a high concentration of salt for your softener to use in treating hardness, it needs less of it to properly remove calcium and magnesium ions from the softener’s resin. As a result, this is the most efficient form of salt when it comes to dissolving into a brine solution to eliminate hard water problems. Evaporated salt pellets can also be beneficial for those with sensitive skin or hair.
You will not want to use block salt unless your owner’s manual specifically tells you to. This type of salt contains a large number of impurities, which could inhibit your resin’s regeneration or even cause your water softener to malfunction.
Water Softener Salt Usage Calculation
Most water softeners use somewhere from 20 to 80 pounds of salt per month. But, it can be useful to calculate how much salt your water softener uses. This can help ensure you have enough to keep your water softener running well and help keep you from wasting money by using too much salt. However, you will need to know a few things to calculate this number, such as:
- The capacity of your water softener
- The hardness of your water
- How often you would like your water softener to regenerate
Once you have this information, you can use the following formula.
Salt Usage (pounds per month) = Capacity of water softener (grains per pound) / Efficiency (percentage)
As an example, suppose you had a water softener with 2,000 grains per pound of salt with an efficiency of 75%. You would have a salt usage of 26.67 pounds per month. You could use this information to determine the amount of salt you need to add to your water softener by multiplying the salt usage by the number of months you want the salt to last. If you want to add enough salt for four months, you would add 106.68 pounds. (26.67 lbs. * 4 = 106.68 lbs.).
How To Use Less Water Softener Salt
There are a number of things you can do to decrease the amount of water softener salt you use, and here are a few of these ideas.
- Use Less Water. This suggestion probably seems obvious, but if you use less water, then you will also use less salt. This isn’t always easy. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to try and use less water. Look for leaks in your plumbing system, such as leaky faucets or pipes, and have them repaired. You can do the same for your appliances. If your water heater or dishwasher leaks, try to get it repaired. You can use less water on a daily basis, such as by turning off the water while brushing your teeth.
- Choose a Salt-Free System. There are other types of water softeners beyond a traditional salt-based ion exchange system. If you haven’t purchased a system or are replacing an existing softener, a salt-free water softener alternative may be practical. These systems use a crystallizing media rather than a softening resin. Aside from using no salt or chemicals, there are other benefits to choosing a saltless conditioner vs a salt-based water softener.
- Purchase a More Efficient System: Water softeners rapidly depleting salt levels is a sign it may need to be replaced. High efficiency water softener systems being sold today utilize an upflow process to improve overall efficiency of the system. Most of them utilize on-demand regeneration, which has the system conduct a regeneration cycle only when needed, rather than on a set schedule. Another improved feature is smart brining. This process computes the precise amount of brine solution necessary for a regeneration cycle so as not to waste any.
Water softener features can vary, but it is important to consider that the cheapest system upfront may not be the cheapest system in the long run.
How Much Does Water Softener Salt Cost
The cost for water softener salt will vary depending on the type of salt you buy as well as the level of purity. A standard 40 pound bag of sodium chloride will sell for as low as $4 plus taxes. On the more expensive end, you could pay approximately $30 for a 40 pound bag of potassium chloride.
|Water Softener Salt Type||Bag lb||Average Cost|
|Morton Pure And Natural Water Softening Crystals||40 lb||$25.99|
|Morton Clean & Protect Rust Defense Water Softener Pellets||40 lb||$9.99|
|Diamond Crystal Water Softener Salt Bright & Soft Series Pellets||50 lb||$27.95|
|Morton Salt Clean Protect System Water Softener Salt||40 lb||$8.85|
An average home will go through 1 or 2 bags of salt per month, so it will cost between $5 – $60 per month to maintain an appropriate brine tank salt level. It is important to factor in these ongoing maintenance cost when considering the total cost of the softener over its productive life. Although it may be tempting to buy the cheapest salt option, most of the time it will cause more headache than benefit.