Water softeners have become an essential household appliance for many homeowners, especially in areas with hard water.
By removing the excess calcium and magnesium ions that cause water hardness, these units not only protect your plumbing and fixtures but also prolongs the life of your appliances and improves the effectiveness of the soaps and detergents you use on a daily basis.
However, for your water softener to function optimally and have the longest operational lifespan as possible, regular maintenance is crucial. The nice thing is these tasks are super easy!
Here are some of the best tips for maintaining your water softener
Table of Contents
- 1 Regularly Checking Salt Level
- 2 Choose the right salt
- 3 Clean the brine tank
- 4 Regularly recharge the resin bed during times of low water demand or no water demand.
- 5 Check incoming water quality and ensure no adjustments are needed to softener capacity.
- 6 Keeping the resin clean
- 7 Maintaining the softener’s control valve
- 8 Monitor for leaks and malfunctions
- 9 Preventive options- Backup power supply
- 10 Outdoor softeners- Fiberglass inspection
- 11 Salt-free softeners
- 12 How Often Should You Perform Matinanence on Your Water Softener?
- 13 Final Thoughts
Regularly Checking Salt Level
The salt in the brine tank plays a pivotal role in the water-softening process. It helps in the regeneration of the resin beads within the softener tank that are responsive for removing calcium and magnesium ions from your water source.
Your salt level should always be at least one-third full within your brine tank. By regularly checking If your salt level is low and topping off when necessary you can ensure uninterrupted softenering, barring any other equipment issues.
It is important to make sure you don’t overfill the brine tank with salt, as they say too much of a good thing can be bad. Filling the brine tank all the way to the very top can cause salt bridges to form.
Salt bridges occur when the salt hardens and forms a layer above the water within the tank, which prevents the salt from dissolving into the water and creating brine.
When this happens, the softener will not regenerate properly as there is no brine solution to enable the ion exchange process to take place. If you notice a significant reduction or complete halt in salt demand for the softener with no reduction in water usage, this will typically indicate a salt bridge has formed in the brine tank.
If salt bridges have formed, no worries. A quick poke with a broom stick should do the trick. If that doesn’t work, a few taps to the exterior of the brine tank should do the trick.
Choose the right salt
One might think salt is salt, what’s it matter if I choose one over the other? Well, it actually does matter, and certain types of salt can cause some undesired issues.
For most water softeners, evaporated salt pellets are preferred due to their purity. These salt pellets contain less water-insoluble components, which means less buildup of excess scum and debris in the brine tank itself.
The binders from some pressed pellets and insoluble particulate from natural rock salt over time will cause this scum to form which can eventually cause issues within the brine tank’s makeup water float valve. If the debris makes its way into the softener, this scum and debris will also negatively impact the resin’s capacity and final water quality.
Solar salt is also a good choice, especially if it is over 99.5% pure.
Clean the brine tank
At least once a year, you should clean the brine tank to prevent the buildup of undesirable salt mushing, impurity buildup and scum. Salt mushing occurs when salt recrystallizes and forms a sludgy layer at the bottom of the brine tank. This buildup inevitably will cause the brine tank’s makeup water components to fail, especially if the system utilizes a water level float.
To clean the tank:
- Empty the tank.
- Clean with soap and water, and rinse thoroughly.
- Refill the brine tank with the appropriate amount of salt.
Regularly recharge the resin bed during times of low water demand or no water demand.
The resin bed is responsible for removing the calcium and magnesium ions from the water, and can get exhausted if the system is left idle for too long.
Most softener controllers have the ability to be programmed to allow for an automatic backwash to take place at set intervals. Typically, you do not want a softener system to sit idle for more than 5-7 days.
Alternatively, if your system does not have the ability to have this process automated, it is good practice to manually regenerate the unit especially if you know the unit has not been regenerated due to low or no recent water usage.
Check incoming water quality and ensure no adjustments are needed to softener capacity.
One might think the water that’s supplied from a city or the water that comes from a well always stays the same. The reality is it is always fluctuating in conductivity, pH, calcium and alkalinity.
To what degree these fluctuations amount to greatly depends on many factors. Fluctuations in water provided by a local municipality could vary depending on changes in where water is being drawn from i.e. surface water or groundwater.
For well water, the same holds true in the potential for changes. Weather patterns and the amount of rain impacts all of these.
It’s a good practice to check the calcium hardness levels of your incoming water twice per year. Once in the dry season and once in the wet season based on the area you live.
What you may find is that there is a substantial difference in calcium hardness levels between the two times of year. In this situation, you would want to be sure and adjust your softeners capacity to allow for the highest hardness level.
This will keep your water soft all year long without having to worry about any hardness slipping by.
Keeping the resin clean
Maintaining clean resin is very important, because it directly impacts your softener’s performance and resin is arguably the biggest hassle to remove and and replace in a softener system. It is typically required every 5-7 years but to get that full lifespan out of it, you have to prevent contamination.
We discussed the potential for brine tank fouling to make its way into the softener, and the fact that it will lead to reduced performance, but that’s not the only thing you have to watch out for. Another big contributor to resin fouling is iron. Don’t worry though, there’s a wide range of resin cleaning salts as well as rinse tank additives that are safe for potable softener systems and will properly maintain clean and long living resin.
Maintaining the softener’s control valve
While most of the work done by a softener is done by the resin and it’s ion exchange process, you still have some moving parts with a softener system.
The moving parts of a softener are primarily located in the softener’s control valve. In the valve there are typically pistons that move in and out of position during the regeneration process.
Over time, the seals in the pistons begin to become brittle as a result of chlorine and just normal wear and tear. Using the lubricants approved for use by the original equipment manufacturer is an easy way to really keep the system in tip top shape and running smooth.
Monitor for leaks and malfunctions
During your routine checks of the softener system, a quick check of all the main connections and fittings for any leaks is a great way to stop any sort of water damage as a result of a unknown water leak. This is especially important to do upon initial installation of a new softener system.
Preventive options- Backup power supply
If your home or area has occasional brownouts, blackouts or power surges it is recommended to have your water softener electrical line protected with a surge protector with a designated backup battery.
What this does is prevents the programmed settings in your softener’s controller from being erased during these electrical anomalies. At the same time, make sure that when you do have a new softener installed you keep notes of the settings that are programmed into the unit just in case.
Outdoor softeners- Fiberglass inspection
A lot of outdoor softeners come with a cover over the fiberglass or are painted to keep sun damage to a minimum. If you have an outdoor softener, it’s good practice to annually inspect the fiberglass to ensure the unit doesn’t show any signs of weakening.
While salt-free softeners don’t have as many things to inspect, it is worth mentioning that these systems will still inevitably require resin changes. One can expect to anticipate resin changeouts every 5-7 years, similar to a traditional salt-based softener system.
How Often Should You Perform Matinanence on Your Water Softener?
Below is also a chart to help you stay on track with your softener maintenance.
|5 – 7 Years
|Salt Level Check
|Brine Tank Cleaning
|Evaluation of Incoming Water Calcium Hardness
|X *or as needed
|Piping and Connection Point Leak Check
|X *or during salt additions
|Outdoor Softener Fiberglass Inspection
|Salt-Free & Salt-based Softener Resin Replacement
A water softener is an investment in your home’s plumbing system and your overall well being. Regular maintenance not only ensures consistent soft water but also prolongs the life of the unit. By following these tips, you can ensure that your water softener serves you effectively for many years.