Do Water Softeners Waste Water & Cause a High Water Bill?

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You know that water softeners can help you save water by improving appliance efficiency – but do water softeners waste water?

We’ve answered this question, using knowledge from our years of experience in the water treatment industry, below.

๐Ÿ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Water softeners waste water during regeneration.
  • Most water softeners discharge between 25 and 65 gallons of water when they regenerate.
  • You can reduce water waste in a water softening system by using less water, inputting a lower water hardness, or changing regeneration timings.

๐Ÿค” So, Do Water Softeners Waste Water?

Yes, water softeners waste water.

The actual softening process does not waste water. During water softening, hard water flows through the resin bed, and salt dissolved in the resin is released into the water. At the same time, calcium and magnesium ions are captured by the resin beads.

Water is wasted during regeneration, when a water softener sends salty water (brine) from the brine tank into the resin tank to flush out the hard minerals.

Most softeners have a reserve capacity of 20% to 25% when they regenerate, meaning that regeneration occurs when the resin is around 75% to 85% saturated with sodium ions.

This regeneration water is unwanted and can’t be sent through your whole house water pipes, so it’s flushed down a drain connected to the resin tank.

The softening process couldn’t take place without regeneration, and regeneration couldn’t happen without water waste.

water softener drain line
A water softener drain line

๐Ÿ“ฅ How Much Water Do Water Softeners Waste?

How many gallons of water can you expect a water softener to waste?

Most water softeners waste 25-65 gallons of water per regeneration cycle.

However, the exact amount of water wasted during softener regeneration depends on several factors:

  • Your softener size – The bigger the softener and the more resin it contains, the more water will be needed to flush the resin.
  • Your softener age – The older and less efficient the softener, the more water it’ll likely waste during regeneration.
  • Your household water usage and hardness level – The more water you use and the harder your water, the faster the resin beads will be depleted of salt, the more frequent the water softener regeneration cycles, and the higher the volume of water wasted per year.

Learn about the most efficient and best quality water softener systems out there.

๐Ÿ“– Why Do Water Softeners Waste Water?

Water softeners waste water because they regenerate. During regeneration, hard water minerals are flushed out of the resin bed, and more sodium ions are added to the resin.

This allows the softener to continue to produce soft water, protecting your plumbing, water heater, and other water-using appliances from hard water damage.

water softener regeneration process

๐Ÿงพ Does A Water Softener Affect Your Water Bill?

Yes, a water softener can increase your water bill – but not by a lot.

How often does a water softener regenerate? About once every 1-2 weeks, depending on your hardness levels and how much water you use per day.

This isn’t a massive amount. It’s not like water softening systems need to regenerate once a day – and these systems can also help you to save money and reduce your energy bills by improving appliance efficiency.

So, if your water bill is significantly higher after installing a water softener, it might be regenerating too frequently.

๐Ÿ“‰ How Can You Reduce Water Waste In A Water Softener System?

Regeneration is an important part of water softening, and it’s unlikely that any of your actions will result in much less water being wasted in your water softener.

However, there are a few ways to reduce the amount of water wasted by your softener:

  • Reduce your water hardness level. If you’ve programmed your water hardness too high on your water softener, it might be regenerating more often than necessary. Reduce your hardness to the accurate figure to reduce regeneration frequency and minimize water waste.
  • Consider replacing your water softener. Old softening systems (especially those that didn’t receive proper regular maintenance) have higher water use than modern, efficient softeners. Replacing an old softener should reduce the amount of water wasted per regen cycle.
  • Buy an on-demand system. An on-demand softener is typically more efficient than a single-tank system that regenerates on a timer. Rather than regenerating on a set schedule, an on-demand system regenerates based on the volume of water that flows through the unit. That means it only flushes the resin when necessary, reducing water waste.

Reducing a water softener’s regeneration frequency will also mean that less salt is used, so you won’t have to top up the salt level as frequently – another wallet-friendly benefit.

Demand initiated water softener regeneration setup

๐Ÿ“‘ Final Word

There’s no avoiding water waste in a traditional salt-based water softener. During the regeneration process, water containing hardness minerals from the resin is flushed down a drain.

If you really don’t like the idea of wasting any water, consider buying a salt-free water conditioner, which doesn’t need to regenerate and won’t produce wasted water during the conditioning process.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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