My New Water Softener

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A few years ago I wrote about how we’ve got hard water. I thought I had fixed the issue, but our old water softener had gone kaput.

So over the Memorial Day weekend I headed up to Lowe’s and bought a new A.O. Smith 35000-Grain Water Softener System.

Sizing the System

To size a water softener system, I needed to know two things: our average daily water usage (in gallons) and how hard our water was (in grains per gallon).

To see how hard our water was, I used a test strip. These test strips work similarly to those ph test strips you may have used in Chemistry class back in high school or college. You get them wet and then compare the color to a chart. You can even get these test strips for free online - just do a search for free hard water test strips.

According to the test strip I used, our water was somewhere between 7 and 15 grains per gallon (or gpg). For calculation purposes, we’ll use 15gpg.

Figuring out our average daily water usage was a bit harder. According to the EPA, the average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day or the average American uses 82 gallons of water per day.

However, our highest monthly water usage over the past year has been 400 cubic feet - at least according to our water bill. Typically we use either 200 or 300 cubic feet in a month, but for calculation purposes we’ll use 400 cubic feet.

400 cubic feet divided by 30 days in a typical month means we use about 13⅓ cubic feet of water per day. Multiply that 13⅓ by the 7.481 gallons in each cubic foot means that we use about 100 gallons per day (99.74⅔).

Take the grains per gallon (15) and multiply it by our daily gallon usage (100) to get how many grains our system will have to remove daily (1,500).

Installing the System

Installing was simple since I used SharkBite connectors - I just had to be careful not to install the system backwards. I did have to cut some of the old pipe away.

I also slightly cross-threaded one of the connections to the water softener:


I was worried it was going to leak, but, thankfully, it hasn’t.

The water softener.

Playing with the System

One thing this water softener does is show your water usage:

the screen on the water softener showing gallons remaining

So, for fun, I checked the usage before and after a few things to see how much water each used:

  • My wife & I showering together → 19 gallons
  • Another show my wife and I took together → 13 gallons
  • Me showering by myself → 20 gallons
  • Dishwasher → less than 1 gallon
  • Shaving → 5 gallons
  • Clothes washer on “normal” soil level → 39 gallons
  • Clothes washer on “light” soil level → 21 gallons
  • Hall toilet → 2 gallons

Another things that’s nice about the water softener showing usage is that I can use it to check for water leaks in the house.


I did measure the water hardness after I installed the system, and yes, the test strip showed that I have basically no hardness in my water now. So it works. And I think I can tell the difference in the shower.

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