We say water is “hard” if it contains a lot of calcium, magnesium or other minerals. Groundwater picks up these materials by dissolving them from surrounding soil and rock. The industry measures water hardness in terms of grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). A grain is defined as 64.8 milligrams of calcium carbonate. If water tests at 1 GPG (17.1 mg/L) or less, it is considered soft water. Water around 1-3.5 GPG (17.1-60 mg/L) is between soft and slightly hard water and 3.5-7 GPG (60-120 mg/L) is moderately hard. Hard water is around 7-10.5 GPG (120 – 180 mg/L), and very hard water is above that [source: Water Quality Association ].
Salt and/or potassium are necessary to upkeep your medium. Well water may require food grade chemicals and bleach to treat it. Carbon bed systems will become saturated with chlorine and need to be changed. It all depends on the unit’s capacity and how much water your home uses.
If you have noticed spotty dishes, soap scum, soap left over in the washer and stiffer clothes then you probably have hard compact water softener. There is also a noticeable taste difference between hard and soft water. Having soft water will allow you to use less soap in the dishwasher and washing machine and use fewer cleaning supplies getting rid of the hard water stains thereby offsetting some of the cost of the unit itself.
You can also damage your septic system by doing a large number of laundry loads in a short period of time. In standard septic systems, solid materials settle in the tank, while effluent flows out into the ground. If you put more water into the system than it is built to handle, the high volume of water will flood your system, and can also stir up and flush solids out of the tank into the drain field (in fact, septic pumpers use water from their hoses to help break up solids in your tank before pumping them out).
And then, open up the water supply and permit the tank to swill out until the water that is on the exit end of the hose will run clear for a few moments and then you can turn it off.
Be sure to buy for your volume. Automatics are best as they are plumbed to a water softener system line. Pour over units will you need to fill manually! The air pot brewers are the better fits because they brew the coffee directly into the air pots. There are single unit models and double unit models. You will save a lot of time especially in a rush, with a double brew unit.
Associated with the slow spin speed is overloading of the washer. To test for overloading wait until your normal load has completed and come to a full stop. Then remove two or three items and restart the cycle from the rinse position. Let the washing machine fill with water, and go completely through the rinse, drain, and spin cycles. Again let the machine complete the cycle and come to a full stop. If the clothes are now properly spun, suspect overloading.
Water softeners can be installed by the homeowner in most cases, it is an easy project if your are a little handy. Please check your local plumbing code and make sure you do not need a licensed plumber to install your softener before attempting this.