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1. What is hard water?

We call water "hard" if it contains a high level of calcium or magnesium dissolved in it. Hard water causes these two major problems:

  • It can cause "scale" to form on the inside of pipes, water heaters, and dishwashers. The scale is formed when dissolved calcium and magnesium converts into a solid and starts to stick to things. The scale doesn't conduct heat well and it also reduces the flow through pipes. Eventually, pipes can become completely clogged.
  • It reacts with soap to form a sticky scum, and also reduces the soap's ability to lather. Since most of us like to wash clothes and our bodies with soap, hard water makes doing laundry or showering less productive.

2. How does a water softener work?

The solution to hard water is to simply soften the water through an ion exchange to remove the calcium and magnesium by using a water softener. 

The idea behind a water softener is simple. The calcium and magnesium ions in the water are replaced with sodium ions. Since sodium does not stick to pipes or react badly with soap, both of the problems of hard water are eliminated. To do the ion replacement, the water in the house runs through a bed of small plastic beads called resin. The resin is coated with the sodium ions. As the water flows past the sodium ions, they swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the resin beads contain nothing but calcium and magnesium and no sodium, and at this point they stop softening the water. It is then time to regenerate the beads. 

Regeneration involves soaking the resin beads in a stream of sodium ions. Salt is sodium chloride, so the water softener mixes up a very strong brine solution and flushes it through the beads (this is why you load up a water softener with salt). The strong brine displaces all of the calcium and magnesium that has built up on the resin beads and replaces it again with sodium. The remaining brine plus all of the calcium and magnesium is flushed out through a drain pipe.

3. What does it mean when people say  “grains of hardness” or “grains per gallon” (GPG) ?

A grain is a measurement of the amount of hardness (calcium and magnesium) contained in a specific volume of water. When dealing with water softeners we talk in grains per gallon for units of measurement. The abbreviation of GPG is used most often for convenience.  Please refer to the following general guidelines to gauge water hardness in your area:

4. How do I know if my water is hard? And if so, how do I find out how hard it is?

Determining how hard your water is can be very simple. If you get water from a source other than your own private well like your local city or town (if you get a water bill) you can usually just call your local municipality and ask them for the hardness of the water in GPG. They should know the amount of hardness in the water when it leaves the treatment plant. If you get your water from your own private well (you don’t get a water bill from your city or town) you will need to have your water tested.

Wether you have a private or city well, Discount Water Softeners can send you a very simple water test that you can do at home for FREE. Just click here to request a free water test kit and then email or fax us your results with our interactive form. Or contact us and we will do a full analysis.

5. Can I install my own water softener?

Yes you can. But, Discount Water Softeners always recommends having a licensed plumber install your water softener. If you have a basic understanding of plumbing and know how to sweat copper or work with PVC, you can install the water softener yourself. We provide a full set of simple and detailed installation and programming instructions for a do-it-yourself installation. We also have customer support available available for even the most simple questions. Discount Water Softeners assumes no responsibility for improper installation or injury.

6. How do I reach customer service?

Please call (847) 462-9000 or email us at sales@discountwatersofteners.com

7. What do I need to do after my water softener is installed?

After your water softener is installed and programmed properly, your only real ongoing maintenance is to make sure that there is always salt in the brine tank. If the salt runs out, the brine solution cannot regenerate the resin beads and you will not have soft water.

8. What if I have a problem with my water softener?

All of our water softeners come with a full warranty. The fiberglass tanks carry a 10 year warranty, softener valves 5 years, and brine tanks 5 years. If anything should happen to your water softener prior to arriving we will be more than happy to help and replace anything determined to be damaged or not operating properly. As soon as you find that there might be a problem with your water softener, contact us immediately. Failing to do so may prevent us from repairing or replacing you system at no cost to you.

9. What is the difference between a timered system and an on demand type system?

The timered system is older technology that still works today. Basically the water softener is set up to regenerate after a predetermined amount of days regardless of the amount of water used. This is fine but, you may not use the same amount of water each day. So, the water softener could regenerate early or late depending on how much water is used resulting in higher costs over time. A timered system is lower in cost when purchased. An on demand or metered system is newer technology that actually counts every gallon of water used so that the system can regenerate only when needed. If you use twice as much water or half as much water as usual the system will know it. These systems cost more when purchased but save on operating expenses in the long run.

10. Why should I buy a water softener from Discount Water Softeners instead of another online company or a local company?

You can buy your water softener locally if you feel more comfortable doing so. If you decide to buy a water softener from us you can save $400-$800 dollars over buying it locally. Even if you have to pay a plumber to install it, they only typically charge $250-$350 to install a water softener. As for our online competitors, we are an established full service water treatment company in Illinois since 1998. We have our own building with warehouse and service vehicles. Why should this matter when you are possibly hundreds of miles away? Service! We have unsurpassed customer service since we install, service, and support all of our own products on a daily basis. Most of our online competitors cannot say that. If you have a problem today, tomorrow, 5 or even 10 years down the road we will be here with support as well as a full line of replacement parts that can be replaced by you very easily with our customer support. We think that makes sense! Don’t you?