Learn more about hard water and our water softening systems through these frequently asked questions.
How is the “hardness” of water measured?
The level of hardness in water is measured in grains per gallon (gpg). One grain is equivalent to 17.1 milligrams of magnesium or calcium dissolved into one liter of water. Soft water is lower than 1 gpg, whereas hard water is anything over 7 gpg.
For example, a single aspirin is equivalent to 5 grains — when dissolved into a gallon of water the unit of measure would be 5 grains per gallon. Your local municipal water supply may use mg/L or ppm to measure water hardness. If so then use this calculation: 1 gpg = 17.1 mg/L or 17.1 ppm.
How do I find out my water hardness?
You can find out how hard your water is by reviewing the annual drinking water quality report, contacting your local water municipality (if the report neglects to include a hard water rating), or by using a water test kit.
Why does soft water make my skin feel different?
Washing your body with hard water leaves a layer of soap and minerals on your skin and in your hair. This is the underlying cause behind the “squeaky clean” or itchy feeling on your skin. Soft water can help rinse the soap completely from your skin, allowing your skin’s natural oils to surface. Soaps will also lather better in soft water so you will be able to use lesser amounts.
Is it the salt in my water that’s making my skin feel oily?
No. Softened water helps free the healthy, natural oils in your skin which prevent you from feeling dry and irritated.
Does the salt soften my water?
No, it is the resin bed inside the softener that is responsible for softening the water. Over time that resin becomes coated with hard particles and minerals. When that happens the softener goes into a regeneration cycle where salt in the tank is mixed with incoming water to rid the resin bed of hard particles. After regeneration the resin beds are again ready to soften your water and provide a steady stream of healthier water into your entire home.
What does the grain capacity of a water softener mean?
Water softeners are often measured in cubic feet or grain capacity. The rated capacity of a softener is the maximum amount of grains of hard water the unit can remove prior to regeneration.
When choosing a size you should take into account the number of people in your household, average water use per person, and hardness of your water. For the best results it’s important to know — the more people in your home and water being used, the greater the capacity your water softener should be.
What type of salt should I use?
For the best results choose evaporated salt. Evaporated salt is the purest form of salt at 99.99% sodium chloride, and it is found in pellet form. This salt significantly reduces your chances of buildup so you will not have to clean the tank as often.
As a general rule of thumb, higher purity salt leaves less storage tank residue, lowers the probability of salt bridging, and demands less maintenance. Other types of salt are available for specialized applications. Our water softeners use less salt than most competitive models.
What if I’m on a sodium-restricted diet?
Water softeners using sodium chloride (salt) for regeneration add a slight amount of sodium to the water. Anyone on a sodium-restricted diet should consider this sodium as part of their overall intake. If this intake is a concern, opt for a potassium chloride (KCI) salt for regeneration or invest in a reverse osmosis drinking water system.
What is the difference between an “old” and “new” water softener?
The difference between “old” and “new” water softeners drills down to age, design, salt efficiency, and warranty.
Age: The average lifespan of a water softener is generally 10-15 years and, like any appliance, its efficiency starts to decline after years of continual use. It’s important to note if your water is abnormally hard or full of other contaminants it will wear down your appliance quicker. On the flip side, if your water is low to moderately hard it will not have to regenerate as often — possibly extending the life of the appliance a few years past the average.
Design: A “two tank” softener structure is common for products with older technology. It is normal for two tank units to be engineered by separate companies at separate facilities. This results in components that do not integrate well and work less efficiently. Two tank units typically take up more floor space than newer, single tank cabinet units. Our water softeners are all single tank and designed, engineered and assembled at the same plant in the United States to ensure the highest levels of quality and accessibility.
Sale Efficiency: Softeners use salt to remove the hard minerals collected during regular operation. Older softener technology uses a timer to regenerate at regular, predetermined intervals regardless of hardness consumption. These models do not properly account for varying water usage. Underestimating water usage (i.e. extra loads of laundry, guests) can lead to your softener not regenerating when it needs to. On the other hand, overestimating your water usage will result in too much regeneration, wasting water, salt, energy and money.
Whirlpool’s new water softener technology only regenerates when needed based on your home’s water use. The use of this technology — initiated regeneration — greatly reduces the amount of water, salt and energy Whirlpool units consume.
Warranty: Many older softeners offer warranties solely for parts and materials while hidden costs like trips to your home and labor are unaccounted for. Whirlpool units come with a minimum 1-year in-home parts and labor warranty (warranty varies by model).
How do I extend my full-coverage warranty?
Water softener extended warranties can cap out at 5 years. For full warranty details, check your installation and operation manual here. Extend your 1-year warranty by purchasing 1 bottle of Whirlpool Water Softener Cleanser (model WHE-WSC) every 4 months and uploading your receipt to your customer account.
What makes Whirlpool water softeners more salt efficient than other models?
Other water softeners use salt to “clean” themselves of the particles collected during the softening process. This is also known as regeneration. The amount of salt used in regeneration is called a “salt dose.” Some softeners have a defined salt dose, which means they have to be set to either “high capacity” or “high efficiency.” High capacity means the unit will regenerate less often but will use a significant amount of salt to regenerate. High efficiency means the unit uses less salt per cleaning cycle, but regenerates more frequently. No matter the setting, the unit will consume a substantial amount of salt and water.
Our units employ a “variable salt dose” where the amount of salt used to regenerate the system varies depending on the amount of hardness it has collected. Similar to the benefits of demand initiated regeneration, the variable salt dose helps to reduce the amount of salt and water the system uses. Whirlpool units also contain exclusive technology that learns water usage patterns to employ a predictive algorithm that anticipates the level of water and hardness particles that will run through it. This feature helps the system regenerate when it is most optimal and also prevents the consumer from dealing with hard water.
Whirlpool units are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), an independent third party. Our units are certified for structural integrity, grain capacity and efficiency. Other units may be NSF certified, but they generally only carry the certification for structural integrity only, not efficiency or capacity.
Why does a softener need to recharge?
Softeners need to recharge to rid themselves of mineral particles they collect in the resin tank during the water softening process.
How much water does each recharge use?
Generally as much water as it takes to wash a load of laundry — it equates to about $4 per year.
How much electricity does a water softener use?
Water softeners use as much energy as an alarm clock — it equates to less than $5 per year.
How often does my water softener recharge?
A water softener will regenerate every 3-7 days for a typical household. All Whirlpool Water Softeners utilize demand initiated regeneration and regenerate only when needed — saving water and energy.
How long does a water softener take to recharge?
A softener takes two hours to recharge.
What happens if the power goes out?
Whirlpool water softeners are built with a battery-free, power interruption backup feature that maintains the clock settings for eight hours in the event of a brief power outage. If the power outage is longer the clock may need to be reset but all other settings are retained.
Does the recharged water from the softener harm my septic system?
Whirlpool water softeners use demand initiated regeneration — their efficiency with salt usage will not overload the septic system and will not impact drain field soil percolation. An undersized septic tank or exorbitant use of cleaning products is more likely to disrupt the general operations of your septic system.
Can I install it myself?
Yes, Whirlpool water softeners come with detailed instructions and everything needed to hook up to 1” NPT plumbing, including a bypass valve. You will need the appropriate connectors and enough tubing to connect the water softener to your existing plumbing, as well as access to a 110V electrical outlet and drain. Please refer to your installation manual or give us a call for further details. Don’t want to install the system yourself? Professional installation for select models is available at Lowe’s. Ask your local Lowe’s associate about installation services to find out more.
Will water softeners take out iron?
Whirlpool water softeners remove clear water (ferrous) iron from your water supply. You may not notice this iron right away because it completely dissolves into water.
You can see the presence of clear water iron in many places around your home — it is the reddish-brown stains on your sink or toilet and the yellow-tinged look on any water that has been sitting out. Our water softeners are equipped to remove varying levels of clear water iron to keep the rings off of your toilets, sinks and showers.
There are currently no available water softeners capable of removing red water (ferric) iron from your supply.
Can Whirlpool water softeners be installed outdoors?
Yes. To ensure a longer lifespan water softeners should use some type of cover to protect them from weather and damage. Notice — they should not be placed under a roofline where rain water poses a threat.
Where are Whirlpool Water Softeners built?
They are built in Ripley, Mississippi.
Can a water softener be installed in conjunction with a Whirlpool Central Water Filtration System?
Yes, together these units will definitely enhance the water running through your entire home. Water softeners are used to remove calcium and magnesium while central water filtration systems are used to remove sediment, chlorine, taste and odor. In combination your water will taste better and be less harmful for your home and your family.