On a Morton System Saver, there's a setting labelled hardness, but no clear indication as to what setting is "recommended" -- or even whether this setting is the desired "output" or "input" hardness (hardness to compensate for). The instructions simply instruct the user to "adjust the hardness setting" as necessary.

My UX intuition would suggest that this is the desired "output hardness." My CS intuition suggests that this is a compensation level. And neither intuition has a clue what "normal" would be.

Is there a "normal" value I can set to get water that leaves minimal deposits but still lets you rinse the soap off your hands easily? Or, do I need to get the water tested and set the hardness according to the test results?

2 Answers 2


The setting is the "input hardness". The zeolite matrix resin (the part that does the water softening) will nearly completely soften the water until it runs out of sodium. The resin in the tank is good for a certain amount of "hardness" (measured in grains), probably in the range 10,000-50,000 grains. The setting is used to calculate when the resin will need to be refreshed (by measuring the quantity of water delivered, or using your estimated water usage).

If you input too low of a hardness, you'll have softened water for a while, then you will start to transition to unsoftened water. At some point, the unit will refresh itself, and you'll have soft water again.

If you input too high of a hardness, it'll refresh too often, wasting water and salt.

There's no "standard" hardness, it really depends on your water source. As an example, where I am in Indiana, it is about 18 grains/gallon of Calcium. If you have iron in the water, that must be factored into the hardness, usually at a rate of 4 grains per ppm of iron.

If you use municipal water, they probably publish the specifications of the water you receive. If you have a well, then you should have your water tested, preferably using a titration method (the paper strips work very poorly for measuring hardness).

  • Excellent! That's more detail than I would have known to ask for. Thanks!
    – svidgen
    May 30, 2013 at 2:20
  • Is there any way to control "how soft" a softener makes the output water? Or is it just "as soft as it can"? Aug 11, 2016 at 1:33
  • The softeners themselves will make the water nearly completely soft, and don't have any adjustment. However, a mixing valve can be added to combine soft and hard water to be some desired hardness.
    – Pigrew
    Aug 11, 2016 at 13:32

The best way is to ask the local softener company what the hardness of the water in your general area is. They usually have been in business for generations and know exactly what your water conditions are. As for Morton System Saver, you can throw that TOY out before it causes you serious expensive problems. Those are considered junk in the business. Expect to get no more then 5-7 years from it when you could buy a REAL softener installed for cheaper that will likely last 20. I know this from personal experience.

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