Comprehensive Guide To Water Softener Maintenance, Adjustments And Controls

Instructions For Water Softener Operating And Maintenance:

How To Set And Adjust A Water Conditioner Or Water Softener

In this guide, we provide information on controls for water softeners, what each control is, how they operate, and the correct way to adjust or set them. We also provide water conditioner or water softener maintenance advice, including the salt dose used in water softeners, and how to adjust a water softener for the backwash-cycle or regeneration frequency. 

We give information on the regen cycle, salt dose, brine-tank float-level adjustments, and the hardness setting. We also cover the settings for the clock or timer on a water softener

Water Softener Maintenance

We give information on the regen cycle, salt dose, brine-tank float-level adjustments, and the hardness setting. We also cover the settings for the clock or timer on a water softener

4 Basic Tasks Or Adjustments Required To Successfully Use A Water Softener

Since the water volume and hardness will vary from house to house or building to building, a water conditioner or water softener comes with controls that provide a way for the homeowner, business owner, or installer to adjust or change the system so that it works properly. 

Controls for water softeners and water conditioners generally include levers, analog-type dials that come with pins, or buttons. 

The two main adjustments on all water softeners, whether conducted automatically by the water-hardness sensors or manually by an installer or owner, are found below, and then followed up by two maintenance tasks. 

#1 Set The Backwash Or Regen Frequency

This is the frequency of a “backwash” cycle or a water-conditioner regeneration cycle. 

#2 Setting The Salt Dose

This is the salt amount that is required to run through a water conditioner or softener during each “backwash” or regeneration cycle. 

#3 Add The Salt

Since water softeners and water conditioners use salt during backwash or regenerations cycles, it becomes necessary to add a certain amount of salt to your brine tank now and again. It is easy to determine when you should add more salt by checking to see when the salt level is low in your brine tank. You can also hire a company that provides maintenance services for water softeners to install and deliver the salt on your behalf. You can also try using a saltless water softener as well.

#4 Cleaning The Water Softener Or Water Conditioner

The brine tank in a water softener should also be emptied out and cleaned now and again. A regeneration or “backwash” cycle must complete to sanitize a water softener. 

Clock Or Timer Setting For Water Softeners

How To Set The Water Softener Regeneration Cycle And Clock

# Frequency

Since water softeners along with their control will vary in each model, we will cover different methods on how to determine and how to make the required adjustments or settings on this type of equipment. 

The third maintenance task for your water conditioner or water softener involves setting the timer or clock. 

How To Set The Clock On A Water Softener:

The clock setting on a water softener is essential for two different reasons. The first reason is that it won’t bother you by hearing the system run when it recycles if you are not at home or asleep. The second reason has to do with the recharge cycle that uses a lot of water, which is why the discharge should be sent into your septic system when you are not using other plumbed fixtures. This will spread out your wastewater load on your septic system over longer periods. 

Make sure your clock dial is set to the right time and your water conditioner regeneration time is set to a time (the hour) when you won’t be using a lot of water. We suggest 2 am, which is usually the standard pre-set factory regeneration hour. 

Our units come with clock dials that have a silver-colored section that matches up to the daytime hours, while the black-colored section matches up to the nighttime hours. In most cases, you can adjust the “clock dial” by opening or lifting it to turn the dial to the right position. On some models, you can turn the dial so that the indicator arrow lines up to the right hour-of-the-day. 

Water Conditioner Control Adjustments: 6 Easy Steps On How To Achieve Soft Water

#1 Measure The Hardness In Your Water

You can measure water hardness by either buying a testing kit or asking your service technician to test the water. 

The number that you get is expressed in PPM (parts per million of minerals in the water), or GPG (grains of hardness per gallon of water). 

#2 Adjust The “Hardness” Setting On Your Water Softener

Adjust the “hardness” setting on your water softener to the number that you measured from your water supply. If for example, the measured water hardness was 30 GPG (30 grains per gallon), then set your “hardness” setting to 30. If you used the PPM measurement, divide the PPM by 17.1 to get a GPG reading. PPM/17.1 = GPG. 

If you need to convert from PPM hardness to GPG hardness, multiply GPG (grains per gallon) by 17.1 to get PPM hardness. PPM: GPG x 17.1 = PPM. 

#3 Set The “Capacity” On Your Water Softener

Set the capacity setting on your water softener by referring to your owner’s manual, and from the example that we discussed earlier. 

The capacity for most water softeners is between 1 to 99 kilograins. This is the hardness amount measurement in grains that your softener will remove before it has to re-generate again. 

#4 Determine The Size Of Your Treatment Tank On Your Water Softener

Let us assume that the treatment tank includes a 1-cubic foot capacity unit. Refer to the table-column under the 1.0 Ft3. (the 4th column from the left of a water softener salt-dose table). the tank size refers to the “resin volume” in cubic feet. This is usually between 0.74 cu ft and 2.0 cu ft. 

#5 Read The Suggested Salt Dose In Pounds

If you read across from the 30 kilograins-of-hardness in the first column to the 4th column (the 1-cubic foot softener size), you will see that 15 pounds-of-salt is recommended. 

#6 Set Your Brine Control/ Salt Dose

Adjust the dial or lever to 15-pounds of salt. If you live in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or the UK, or any of the other countries that mark and measure equipment or machines using the metric-system, the salt dose on your water softener is measured in kg or kilograms of salt. 

Another Approach To Water Softener Settings For Regeneration Frequency And Salt Dose

If you are unable to find the instructions or own a manual for your water softener (and you want to avoid calling out a service technician) do not adjust your salt setting and rather send your unit through a “backwash” or regeneration cycle before measuring the water hardness again. 

From here monitor the hardness in the water on days between the regeneration cycle and your next automated regeneration cycle, during periods of average water-quantity usage. If the water displays hardness levels that are unacceptable before the next softener regeneration, we suggest increasing the regeneration cycle frequency. 

The usual frequencies for a manually-set water conditioner regeneration are either once weekly, every 3 to 4 days, every 2 days, or daily. 

If you run your system every day, and the hardness levels are not decreasing, we suggest increasing your salt dose. Try not to add too much salt, as you may end up with salty water, which is both an aesthetic and health issue. 

Subjectively Judging Water Hardness

It is important to measure water hardness. The kits are not expensive, while certain service providers often perform these tests for free. 

If your shampoo or soap is not lathering in the shower or bath, your water is probably still too hard. If on the other hand, you find it difficult to rinse off soap or the water feels slightly slimy, your water may be too soft (other issues can also result in this particular symptom). 

Water Equipment Or Water Softener Adjustment Tip

Many of the water treatment businesses will gladly send a technician to your home or office to test your water hardness (or for other contaminants). They will offer advice on the settings and condition of your current water treatment unit, or give you advice on an alternative if you have decided to buy a new water softener. 

The Regeneration Cycle Frequency On Water Conditioners

How Often Should A Water Softener Run A Regeneration And Backwash Or “Recharge” Cycle?

Water softener manufacturers provide a Frequency/Salt Dosage Chart along with maintenance and installation instructions. 

Here is an example of a water softener salt dose and recharge frequency provided by Culligan:

For a family of 4 with a total water hardness of 18 GPG (grains per gallon), salt dosage for each recharge in a water softener should be 2.5kg or 5 pounds, and recharge frequencies should be every 2 to 3 days. The salt usage over a month, according to these figures is around 37.5 kg or 75 pounds. 

IBC in Australia also uses a basic formula used to calculate regeneration cycles in water conditioners, provided you are aware of each required parameter:

The number of days between each water softener regeneration cycle is = N

The maximum capacity of a treatment tank measured in grams of NaCL or CaCO3 is = C

The water volume that passes through a treatment tank every day is = Q (Gallons per day) or (Kiloliters per day). 

The hardness of incoming water that is measured in mg/L (micrograms/Liter) or in PPM is = H

N=C / (H x Q)

This formula is only a rough guide or calculation. We suggest setting the backwash frequency on your unit to the number you arrive at from the calculation or fewer days. 

An added regen cycle is sometimes required for certain circumstances.

Suggested Settings For Water Softeners

Tips On How To Set The Salt Dose On Your Water Softener And What Settings To Use

Question: What is the salt dose recommended for my water conditioner?

I own an Autotrol 460i water softer. The hardness of water that goes into my home measures 10. What settings should I use to make sure the water-hardness reading is about 1 or 2 for water coming from my faucets. (Walter Schwartz)


The salt dosage for water conditioners will depend on a few variables. Here is one of the examples for water conditioner salt dose tables as a reference. 

Some water softener or water conditioners will automatically track the usage of water and the water hardness, which means they adjust themselves automatically. But many of the models will require manual adjustments according to the water quantity that you use and water hardness. 

The right settings on your water softener will depend on the water hardness, the model or brand, and the amount of water that you use. Here is some advice on how to set the regen frequency and salt dose on a water conditioner:

Many of the owner’s manuals that come with water softeners will include a guide or table of the suggested settings. We suggest starting with your manual. If you have lost the manual contact the manufacturer and ask to speak to their technician service department. Provide your model number and ask them for setting advice and to send you a new manual. 

The “Hardness Setting” On Water Softeners

On this water softener, you can set the regeneration time (the factory setting is 2.00 am) to make sure it runs during the hours when you are not using a lot of water. 

Below are instructions on how to adjust the “hardness setting” on this equipment:

Water Softener Hardness Setting: Turn the jumper to the pin set that features the word HARDNESS (Figure 11). 

Press the TIME SET button until the right hardness displays. 

Hardness levels range from 1 – 99 GPG (Grains per Gallon).

To change your water hardness displayed in PPM (parts per million) to GPG (grains per gallon), here is a formula you can use:

PPM / 17.1 = GPM

Water Conditioner /  Softener Capacity Setting

The typical capacity for water softeners has to do with how much hardness the system removes before regeneration becomes necessary. This is a number that ranges from 1 to 99 kilograins. 

If for example,  the capacity setting on your water softener is set on 30 kilograins (The 1st column on the lefthand side of a salt dose table).

Turn the jumper to the pin set that says “CAPACITY” (Figure 12). 

Press your TIME SET button until you reach the desired capacity value. Capacity ranges from 1 to 99 kilograins. 

Check on the Suggested Salt Dial Setting Table (displayed below). 

Turn your jumper back to the top pin set with the word “TIME” displayed, and replace your access door. 

The other 3 pin sets are dedicated to factory testing and are not used for normal operations. You should not leave the jumper on any of the other pins, except on the top pair that displays the word “TIME”. Otherwise, your unit might not function.

Side Note: You should also have a spare Jumper, found on the bottom pin set. 

When your capacity of hardness setting requires an adjustment, follow the steps we gave above. 

How To Set The Salt Dosage On A Water Softener

Here are a few excerpts that summarize the salt usage in a water softener

The salt dose or brine control along with the regen cycle frequency along with any other setting will vary according to the water softener control type on your unit. Yet the basic concepts remain the same:

If you have high levels of hard water supplying your home, you will need a larger salt dose so that your water softener can regenerate itself. 

As the water quantity usage increases, so will the frequency of the regen cycle. 

Brine Control: How To Set The Salt Dose In Your Water Softener

The instruction manual for your water softener (from the manufacturer of the water conditioner service company) will give you advice on how to set the salt dosage on your softener according to the “grains of hardness” of the water supply. 

A salt dosage scale on most water softeners will indicate how many salt pounds are used for each recharge cycle. 

Setting your water conditioner recharge frequency: The instruction manual will indicate how often your system needs to recharge according to the estimated amount of water that you use daily in gallons. 

To the left is the standard water conditioner recharge-frequency chart used for the Culligan System 19 or 23 Water Conditioner. 

In most cases, water softener controls will include a 7-day recharge frequency dial that comes with tabs that you can either pull out or push in to force the unit to conduct a recharge-cycle on the same day. High quantities of water use and harder water will mean that more frequent recharging cycles will be needed. If you have a water softener that comes with an automated sensor that monitors the water hardness that leaves the treatment-tank (like the Culligan Soft-Minder®) the machine decides when a regeneration or recharge cycle is required.

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