Water Softening in the Village of Merrimac

The Village of Merrimac -- like many of our municipal neighbors -- is trying to reduce the amount of salt we all use in our water softeners.  That's because the "Chlorides" in salt can harm the groundwater, lakes, and rivers.  It's so important that DNR requires us to report our Chlorides concentrations to them every month.  Lately we've been exceeding our 250 mg/liter limit -- for us, that's 120 pounds of salt per day!  Because there's no economical way to remove chlorides from our water, DNR encourages villages to reach out to residents, regarding the correct usage of water softeners.  

The correct setting for softeners in the Village is 18 grains.  Even though there are many different kinds of softeners, there are just three most common kinds, and adjusting the settings on most softeners is pretty easy.  


Fleck 5600 Econominder

This little workhorse was the standard, starting in the 1980s, until the advent of electronic softeners, so chances are pretty good you've got one of these in your basement.  It meters all the water that goes through it and only regenerates when a set amount of water has passed through it.

To set the Grains of Hardness:

  1. See the two little people, followed by 1 2 3, on the middle dial? That's the People Dial.  Find the digit indicating the number of people living in your home.   Let's say you're a family of 3.  
  2. Where the "3" appears on the People Dial, look at the corresponding number on the innermost dial, which is the Hardness Dial
  3. On this softener, 3 people lines up with 20-21 grains.  For the Village of Merrimac, this softener would be set slightly too high.  (On the other hand, it's just right for a family of 5, since the "5" lines up with the tick mark for "18" Grains)
  4. So, to adjust the Grains hardness...
  5. With one thumb on the outermost black gear (by the "CAPACITY" arrow), hold with moderate pressure.
  6. With the other hand, pull out the People Dial slightly, and turn, until the # of People in your home lines up with 18.
  7. No need to add a factor of safety here, even if your family uses a lot of water.  The 18 grains of hardness has a built in factor of safety!    

Here's a Video showing how to adjust the dials.

Here's the Owner's Manual.

If you want to dive into the nitty gritty of how softeners in general work, this is a great resource.

Here's the Econominder Flyer we've created for the August 2022 utility bill mailing




Example Electronic Softener Control

Electronically-Controlled Softeners

Models vary widely as to the ease of adjusting the settings.  The benefit of electronically controlled softeners is that, in addition to setting the Grains, you can also select a "Salt Efficient" setting. The softener will use far less salt per regeneration, but will regenerate a bit more frequently.


Please consult your owner's manual.  


Here are some common electronically-controlled softener Owner's Manuals:

Hellenbrand ProMate6

Hellenbrand H-125

Culligan Models

Morton Models

Fleck 5600 SXT

Fleck 12-Day Timer

Fleck 12-Day Timed Softener

The water softeners described above keep track of how much water has passed through the softener, and will only soften when necessary.  However, this timed controller regenerates after a set number of days.  So, even if the homeowner is away from home (using no water) the softener will regenerate. Obviously, that's salt that is wasted.

Even worse, many timed softeners are set by the installer to regenerate every 3 days.  For the large majority of Merrimac households, regenerating every 6 or 12 days would be more than sufficient.  

To understand the timed softener setting, take a look at the innermost wheel of the dial.  See the numbers? Each corresponds to one day in the 12-day cycle.  If the metal pin is pushed outward, regeneration will happen on that day; if the pin is pushed toward the center of the dial, no regeneration will occur.  In this picture, all pins are pushed toward the center, so no softening would occur.  

If you have a Timed softener, please call us.  We can help you determine the best setting for you, based on your usage and configuration of your plumbing.


Here's an Easy Programming Guide.

Here's the Owner's Manual.  

Here's a Video explaining how the Timer works and how to set the number of days between regenerations

Here's the Flyer on Timed Softeners sent with the July 2022 bills