Few things around the home make cleaning more difficult than having hard water. You probably already have realized this for yourself if you have purchased a water softener for your home.
These devices work incredibly well at removing calcium, magnesium, and other limescale-causing minerals.
The problem is if you are like many people you may not fully understand how they work and how to maintain them.
That also includes monitoring your salt-based water softener’s brine tank water level.
If this is the case with you, then don’t worry because I am about to cover a variety of topics that have to do with a water softener brine tank level.
This includes answering the question ‘How much water should be in my water softener’s brine tank’.
Table of Contents
So, How Much Water Should Be in My Water Softener Brine Tank?
If you have a salt-based water softener, you undoubtedly have noticed that the system consists of two tanks (some water softeners appear to have only one tank but it’s actually two tanks encapsulated by a one-piece body).
One of the tanks will have a control head and that is the tank where your water softener’s critical ion exchange process takes place that removes calcium, magnesium, and some other trace minerals that create many hard water-related headaches around your home.
A water softener has another tank which is known as the brine tank. This is the tank that produces a highly concentrated salt solution that plays an important role in your water softener’s ion-exchange process.
I have written a detailed article on how water softeners work if you are curious to know more about this.
In the photo above you will see a water softener system’s ion-exchange tank with a control head on the left and the system’s brine tank on the right.
Quality water softeners do a great job of removing hard water-causing minerals but they perform best when their brine tanks are properly maintained.
If you own a water softening system, it will have one of two styles of brine tanks. One is called a ‘wet brine’ tank and the other is called a ‘dry brine’ tank.
The major difference between them is that a wet water softener brine tank constantly has water inside of them and a dry water softener brine tank only requires water to be added a few hours before the ion exchange process starts.
Now I will answer your question as to how much water should be in your water softener brine tank.
Wet Brine Tank
These are the type of brine tanks that are more typical of older-style water softeners. It’s hard to give you an exact number as to how many gallons of water should be in them because that is determined by the size of the tank they use.
Smaller-sized wet brine tanks will usually have around 3 to 4 gallons of water in them and larger size wet brine tanks have 5 to 6-gallons of water in them. There are even exceptions to this rule.
You can read your owner’s manual to figure out what the proper brine level is for your wet-style water softener brine tank or call the manufacturer but there is also a simpler way you can tell if your wet brine tank has the proper amount of water in it.
As a general rule, your wet brine tank should never have a water level that is not within 6” to 16” from the bottom of its tank. These tanks typically use more salt than dry brine tanks.
Dry Brine Tank
Try not to let this name fool you too much. That’s because all water softener brine tanks need water in them to make the brine solution that they use to make the mineral removal process possible in the main tank. It’s no different for dry brine tanks.
If you are not sure if you have a wet or dry brine tank, look to see if it has some sort of digital control valve on the top of the tank or other electric wires going to it.
If this is the case with your water softener’s brine tank, then you most likely have a system that uses a dry-style brine tank.
These digital valves help regulate the water going in and out of water softeners.
The above photo shows a smart controlled, fully encapsulated two-tank water softener with a water-saving dry-style brine tank (note: the small container to the right of this one-piece water softener is a water treatment filter).
It’s a little harder to determine how much water should be in the tank if you have a dry brine tank. That’s because as the name suggests, it only has water in it within one to two hours from the time a water softener regenerates.
So, at all other times, there should be no water in the brine tank. If there is, then you are experiencing a problem with your salt-based water softening system.
Should There Be Standing Water in My Water Softener
Here is a little more information regarding the amount of standing water in the different types of brine tanks:
In Dry Brine Tanks
As was mentioned, if you have a dry brine tank there should never be any standing water in it unless the system is about to go into a regeneration cycle.
A water softener’s regeneration cycle is used to clean out the resin beads that assist with the hard water mineral removal ion exchange process.
During a regeneration cycle, all of the water in the main tank of a water softener is flushed out and that tank will then need to have new sodium chloride or potassium chloride salt pellets added to produce a brine mixture so the resin tank functions properly again.
That’s why a dry-style brine tank gets filled with water just prior to a regeneration process.
In Wet Brine Tanks
It should come as no surprise to you that you have standing water in your water softener if it is a system that has a wet-style brine tank. Hence the name wet brine tank. But that does not mean there should not be some concerns with the water level in this type of brine tank.
Wet Brine tanks that are half-full or less with water are not generally a cause for concern but anything higher than this may require you to call a plumber or other water softener maintenance professional.
This is especially true if your water softener salt tank is filled with excess water almost to the top of it. That’s because it could indicate one of several possibilities related to your water softener’s improper operation.
- It’s a list that includes:
- Problems with the brine filler line
- Issues with the safety floats in the salt tanks of water softeners
- The brine tank has not had yearly cleaning performed on it (encrusted salt or salt clumping can result)
- A malfunctioning or clogged brine tank drain line
- Brine flow control issues
- Formation of a Salt Bridge
- How much salt is in the tank
- Control head problems
- A water injector valve that does not open and close properly
What to Consider When Assessing Your Brine Tank Water Level
Here are some of the main considerations when assessing how much water is in your brine tank:
- The type of brine tank the system has
Whether a system has a wet or dry brine tank will impact how much water is always present in the brine tank.
How efficient a particular model water softener is will also affect the water level in its salt tank. Systems with a higher efficiency need a lower salt level to function properly and therefore use less water.
- Salt mixture settings
A 26% salt solution is what most manufacturers recommend to properly run their water softeners. Deviations from this or tanks that don’t have enough salt could affect the water level in a brine tank.
What to Do with A Brine Tank Full of Water
If your brine tank is over half full, then chances are you are having a problem with your water softening system. When this happens to me, I start by emptying and cleaning out my brine tank and then filling it with fresh salt to see if it corrects the problem.
When the water softener brine tank quickly fills up past the halfway mark again, then I know it’s time to seek professional help to remedy the problem.
Brine Tank Monitoring is Important for Water Softener Owners
If you have water that is considered to be hard coming into your home, that’s not something that you ever want to have to deal with.
By having a properly operating water softener you will never have to because they do a great job of eliminating the limescale buildup that calcium and other hard water-related minerals cause.
The key phrase here is ‘properly operating’. A big part of making that happen is knowing how to take care of your water softener’s brine tank as we discussed here.
This is not hard to do if you follow the advice that I just gave you and combine that with the manufacturer’s brine maintenance instructions for your model water softener.
Even if you don’t want to monitor or maintain your softener’s brine tank yourself, at least have a professional do periodic maintenance on the system for you.
That shouldn’t cost you much and it will help keep your water softener working at peak efficiency.