Does A Water Softener Increase My Water Bill?

A sky-high water bill is an unwelcome gift, and if nothing you’re aware of has changed in the last month, it can be incredibly frustrating. So, who do you need to blame for excessive water usage?

Is there a toilet that has constantly been running without your knowledge? Is there a leak behind your water meter? Or could it be the water softener?

Key Points:

  • Water softeners have the potential to increase a household’s water usage, depending on the type and size of the system used.
  • On average, water softeners use between 20 and 65 gallons for each regeneration cycle.
  • The yearly water consumption of a water softener is significantly lower than that of an average individual’s daily shower or weekly load of laundry.

While it could be your water softener, these systems shouldn’t use excessive amounts. We’re here to explain the ins and outs of your water softener’s water consumption, so stick around to learn more!

Does A Water Softener Increase Water Usage?

Whirlpool WHESFC Pro Series – Softener/Whole Home Filter Hybrid, Gray

Water softeners increase your water usage by a small amount. Of course, some water softeners consume more water than others, so in some cases, you might notice a significant influx in your water bill. For instance, a dual-tank or on-demand system may consume considerably less water than a single-tank system, resulting in less usage.

On-demand systems use less salt and less water in each regeneration cycle, so if you’re hoping to cut back on water usage and salt consumption with your water softener, it might not hurt to invest in an on-demand system.

Factors that affect the total water usage include:

  • The hardness of the water: The harder the water, the more frequently your system will need to flush. This is because harder water contains more minerals, which will build up faster and trigger more frequent regenerations.
  • Type of water softener: As mentioned, the type of water softener you have can impact its water usage, as some consume more than others.
  • Size of the water softener: Generally, larger water softeners consume more water during regeneration processes than their smaller comrades.
  • How much water you use: If you don’t use much water in a day, your water softener won’t filter as much water, resulting in fewer regenerations.

How Much Water Is Wasted By A Water Softener?

Unfortunately, water waste is inevitable with a water softener. The water waste is due to the regeneration process that uses fresh water to backwash calcium and magnesium from the system (by ion exchange – it replaces these minerals with sodium). The regeneration process occurs as necessary to remove these minerals when they build up enough to impair the system’s function.

The exact amount of water your system uses to regenerate depends on a few factors, but on average, water softeners use anywhere between 20 and 65 gallons per regeneration cycle. Highly efficient water softeners usually regenerate a few times weekly, whereas some may regenerate twice per month.

The number of regeneration cycles for your particular system depends on how frequently you use it and the hardness of your water.

For example, let’s say you have an efficient water softener that regenerates twice per week. If it uses about 30 gallons of water per regeneration cycle, it will consume approximately 3,120 gallons of water in a year.

Since this number is hard to fathom without anything to compare it to (is that a lot or a little?), let’s look at the average shower water consumption. The average individual uses roughly 17 gallons of water for an eight-minute shower. If you shower every day throughout the year, you use 6,205 gallons of water, nearly double the amount of an efficient water softener.

Or, to put it in a different perspective, let’s look at washing a load of clothes. A standard washing machine uses about 20 gallons of water per load. If you wash a load of clothes three times per week, you’ll go through approximately 21,900 gallons of water per year, which far surpasses the water consumption of a water softener.

So, while the water waste isn’t ideal, it’s considerably less than many folks use for other everyday tasks, like showering, running the dishwasher, or washing a load of laundry.

In the grand scheme of things, the water softener consumes a small amount of water. For example, the average American family consumes an estimated 300 gallons per day. That comes out to a whopping 109,500 gallons of water in a year. So, if you look at the bigger picture, the water usage of your water softener is relatively minor.

How Can I Calculate My Water Softener’s Water Consumption?

There are a few ways you can calculate the effect of your water softener on your water bill. The easiest way is to compare older bills to your most recent bill. This method works if you recently installed a water softener, but it won’t be very helpful if you’ve always had the system.

In addition, it might not be entirely accurate if things have changed in your home (guests adding to water consumption, leaky toilets, etc.). However, try this method if you want a quick and easy way to get a general idea of the system’s effect on your water bill.

On the other hand, you can determine a more exact number using a few pieces of information. Here’s what you’ll need to know:

  • The hardness of water, expressed in grains per gallon
  • Water softener rating, expressed as the number of grains the filter can handle before regeneration, is necessary
  • The amount of water your system needs to regenerate in gallons
  • Your average monthly water consumption, in gallons

While these pieces of information might seem entirely foreign or unattainable, they’re easier to determine than you think. You can ask your water supplier for your water’s hardness information. Contact the manufacturer to determine your water softener’s rating and how much water it uses for regeneration.

Lastly, you can usually find your water consumption, in gallons, on your water bill. Once you have this information, you’re ready to start the equation (don’t worry, it’s not too bad).

To start, divide your water softener’s rating by your water’s hardness (the number of grains in each gallon of water). This will tell you how many gallons of water your system can handle before it needs to regenerate.

Next, divide the gallons of water you use in a typical month by your last answer. This tells you the number of times your water softener will likely regenerate in a typical month.

Now, use that number to multiply by the gallons of water your water softener consumes during each regeneration cycle. The answer you get here tells you a relative estimate of how many gallons of water your water softener uses in an average month.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Much Salt Does A Water Softener Use?

A residential water softener consumes an average of 6 to 12 pounds of salt during each regeneration cycle. Of course, this number depends on a few factors, like the hardness of the freshwater moving through the system.

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