A water softener system is an essential household appliance, particularly to people whose water supply contains high levels of magnesium and calcium. This article will provide information on effective water softener maintenance to help prolong your water softening system and reduce extra costs.
A water softening system can go for years without needing any major maintenance. However, marinating regular monitoring will go a long way in improving the lifespan of your water softening system.
Water softener maintenance is among the chief concerns of homeowners that are considering installing a water softener system. The good news is that checking up on the system will not be much of a hassle since it will only require a little of your time.
What’s more, the cost of maintenance for water softening systems is negligible, especially when you consider the negative impacts of hard water on the people living in cities like Phoenix.
Hard water can have dire impacts on your water heating and plumbing systems in your house. The abrasive hard water causes limescale to build up in your water heater and plumbing systems, making them very difficult to clean with soap or detergent.
It, therefore, becomes essential for people living in geographical locations that only have access to hard water. Hard water also leaves hard-to-clean stains on your laundry and might cause stains on teeth if used for extended periods.
If you have decided to get a water softener system for your home, that is great! However, having a water softener system is not all; you will need to keep it properly maintained for it to be included in your home warranty plan. Luckily, we have collected all the information necessary for you to keep your water softener in peak performance.
Below are some facts you need to know about a water softener system and a few tips to keep yours at its best.
How long should a water softener last?
Whether you just purchased a new water softener or moved into your new home, you have to wonder how long you can expect to replace the system. You want to invest your hard-earned money in the longest-lasting water softener.
Water softeners have a lifespan ranging between 10 and 20 years, depending on the quality, brand, and your maintenance practices. A single electric water softener could provide service for up to 12 years on average, while a Kinetico water softener can give you up to 20 years of service.
While these may sound, to many, like a long time, it mostly depends on how you maintain the system. If your water softening system is about five years of age and you begin noticing some elements of hard water, it can likely be repaired and resume service. However, if your system has given you more than ten years of service, it is probably time to get a replacement.
Knowing water softeners settings
Since the market has varying types of water softener maintenance systems and the volume and hardness of water differs from place to place, it is essential to know how to adjust your water softener to give the best results possible. The controls of most water softeners often boast either an analog dial with buttons or electric controls on push buttons.
There are three primary adjustments on a water softener system, whether analog or electric. Some systems need these adjustments done manually by the owner, while others can automatically detect the hardness level of water and configure themselves to produce the most satisfactory results.
The three basic adjustments on any water softening system are:
Regeneration cycle frequency
Water softeners work on the principle of ion exchange. By passing hard water over a bed of resin, the calcium and magnesium ions that cause hardness in water are captured. After a certain volume of water is softened, the resin becomes saturated with calcium and magnesium ions and must be regenerated or recharged to continue absorbing the ions. This cycle is referred to as the regeneration cycle.
It is generally acknowledged that regular regeneration of your system’s resins produces the best and most consistent results. A regular regeneration cycle should take two to three days. However, depending on the hardness and volume of the water, some softeners may need to regenerate once every day or even a couple of times a day.
There are several factors that determine the regeneration cycle frequency of a water softener:
The volume of water you use – Usually, the more the water your homestead uses, the shorter the regeneration cycle frequency. If your home receives a lot of guests, then you will need to change your resin a little more often.
The hardness of your water – The amount of calcium and magnesium ions in your water will determine how fast your resin becomes saturated with ions and hence how often you will need to change them.
The age of your water softener – The older your water softening system, the more often you will need to regenerate them since they lose capacity over time.
The capacity of your resin tank
Your system’s chemical deterioration due to oxidants in your water such as chlorine – Chlorine from municipal water supplies also decreases the capacity of your system to soften water. This will, obviously, call for a more frequent regeneration.
Type of control valve – The frequency at which your water softening system regenerates is also dependent on the type of control valve it features. One type of control valve features a clock. This allows you to set a specific period for regeneration. For this type of control valves, the regeneration period remains consistent irrespective of whether the resin is saturated with calcium and magnesium ions.
Another type of control valve named the “metered valve” bases its regeneration on the volume of water used. When the preset volume of water is reached, the system automatically triggers the recharge process. The “True Demand” control valve is demand operated. It is based on the actual amount of water used, helping you save on wastewater and salt.
Regeneration cycle time
The regeneration cycle time refers to the setting on your water softener that sets the time of day when the system’s softening cycle begins and ends. During the system’s regeneration cycle, the water softener will not provide your homestead with any new softened water.
It might also make noise during the regeneration cycle. It is, therefore, advisable to be logical when setting your system’s regeneration cycle as it might keep you and your loved ones awake if set to start at night.
Try to configure your regeneration cycle time to the period of day when you use the least water and will not be disrupted from sleep or daily duties by the potential noise.
Regeneration cycle length
Most water softeners will allow you to set the most appropriate length of their regeneration cycles. However, most regeneration cycles are set in the range of 30 to 60 minutes by default, which is the most practical cycle length for most households in the U.S.
It is recommended that you don’t change this setting unless it is absolutely necessary. An overly short regeneration cycle could mean your resin beads become ineffective. Moreover, an overly extended regeneration cycle could increase the length of time your household stays without softened water.
Ways to maintain your water softener
There are a few elements that are particularly vulnerable to deterioration in your water softener. You will need to check on these elements’ conditions to enable your softener system to serve its lifespan at peak performance. The seven tips outlined below will offer you all the information you will need to effectively maintain your water softener in its peak condition.
1. Check Salt Levels
All the salt filtered from your water softener goes into the brine tank. You should make a point to refill the brine tank every two months or more frequently. Before refilling the brine tank, make sure that the salt is wet and covered by water. If the brine tank contains dry salt and a low water level, then it is time to refill the tank with salt.
It is particularly essential to check on the salt level of your water softener if it is ten years old or more. Checking on the salt levels is one of the most critical maintenance practices in a water softener system. However, you will need some pointers on how precisely to maintain salt levels in your brine tank.
Use Correct Salt & Types of Salt to use
It is critical to the lifespan of your water softener that you use good salt whenever you refill your system’s brine tank. Fortunately for homeowners, water softener salt is pretty affordable.
For the best results, use evaporated salt pellets. They are the purest form of salt available in the market. While any salt except block salt/Rock salt will do, evaporated salt pellets are exceptional and will filter water at the best possible quality.
Block/rock salt should be avoided at all costs unless the system manufacturer recommends otherwise. Solar salt is a much purer version of rock salt, which is fairly affordable. Evaporated salt pellets are more expensive than the former. However, they offer the best quality.
Break up salt bridges and blockages
Depending on the type of water softener you are using, salt tends to form thick layers of hardened salt or “bridge” inside the brine tank. Formation of bridges prevents loose salt from the top from mixing with water below them, preventing your softener from working.
You could use a long broom handle to break the bridges up to allow salt to mix freely with the water in the brine talk. Push the broom stick down through the mouth of the brine tank all the way to its bottom making sure to break up any blockages that have formed.
You could also break up the bridges using hot water. Hot water loosens up the bridges and makes them easier to break. If cleaning the bridge tank is not enough, reduce the volume of salt you use in the tank and let it sink lower between the refills.
Salt can also form a mushy pile at the bottom of your water softener’s brine tank. The mush can cause water to rise above it instead of mixing with it leading to false water level indications.
A broomstick or long rod can be instrumental in breaking up large mounds. You could also scoop out the mush, dissolve it in a bucket of hot water and then pour it back into the brine tank.
2. Inspect Equipment (Clean Venturi valve, Motor, Resin Beads etc.)
Your water softener will likely feature a rod that you can push in to block the flow of water and pull to allow water flow. That is your water softener’s bypass valve. Once or twice a month, temporarily block the water supply, turn the intake and outtake valves off, and then on again. After a few seconds, you can turn the supply of water back on. This exercise ensures that the valves are working in perfect condition.
You may notice a few signs of deterioration as you perform this exercise:
- A leaking valve should be replaced together with any damaged seals and washers
The venture valve is located between the tanks next to a nozzle. Combined, they create the suction that pulls hardened water into the regenerate system. It is recommended that you disassemble these parts and clean them twice a year or whenever you find out that the brine tank is clogged.
Note: Failure to relieve water pressure from the tank before disassembling, the valve could result in damaged parts and injury.
3. Clean the brine tank
Cleaning your water softener’s brine tank should be at the top of your fun activities at least once every year. It is actually a pretty straightforward process. If you notice buildup in your brine tank, you will need to clean it more than once a year. Otherwise, it could malfunction and allow hard water to go into your system.
- By strictly following your manufacturer’s instructions, carefully put your system in the bypass mode as described earlier in the article. Water pressure will be eliminated from the water in the tanks and valves, allowing you to clean the system.
- Dismantle the hoses between the brine tank and the water softener.
- Pour out or siphon the water out of the brine tank (away from grass, or plants).
- Scoop out any of the remaining salt and discard it
- If there are salt bridges already formed in your brine tank, heat some water and pour it over the bridge to loosen it and make it easy to break.
- If your system features one, pull the brine grid out. It should be located at the base of the brine tank. However, not every brine tank will have one.
- Create a soapy mix by pouring a few spoons of dish soap in 1 or 2 gallons of water.
- Pour the soapy mix into your system’s brine tank ad scrub the inside thoroughly using a long-handle brush. Rinse the tank out with clean water.
- Mix a quarter cup of household bleach into 2 to 3 gallons of clean water and pour it into the brine tank. Let the solution sit in the brine tank for at least 15 minutes. Scrub the inside of the tank again using a long-handled brush and chlorine water. Dump the bleach water and rinse the tank.
- Put the brine tank back in its place and reassemble all the lines to the water softener and drain them.
- Take the system out of bypass mode.
- Place 5 gallons of water in your brine tank
- Add salt to the brine bag as instructed by the manufacturer and keep the tank at least quarter full of salt all of the time. It is recommended that you leave about six inches of space from the top of your brine tank for the best performance.
4. Clean the resin tank
Resin cleaners can grow rusty and alter the chemical composition of your water. Cleaning your resin will need a resin cleaner that can clean out the iron and rust accumulated in your resin tank before flushing it out.
Cleaning out your resin tank regularly protects your water softener and enables it to remove water hardness efficiently. Using a product like Rust Out, you could make your resin tank more effective in reducing water hardness as your resin beads will be able to recharge during the set regeneration cycle.
Use the steps below to remove iron and rust from your resin tank:
- Dissolve a cup of Rust out into 0.5 gallons of cold water
- Pour the solution into your resin tank. Some softeners do not feature a resin tank. If yours does not, pour the solution into the brine tank. Make sure that the salt levels are low when you add the resin cleaner into your brine tank. If the tank has dry salt when you add the solution, it will not mix efficiently with the water.
- Use the control valve to initiate a regeneration cycle. By initiating a regeneration cycle, your softener will force the rust out chemical throughout its mineral tank, washing out all the accumulated iron and rust particles from the system.
- Taste the water. If your water still has a chemical aftertaste or has a discoloration, continue the regeneration cycle until the water that comes out is clear and clean. Resin tanks with heavy build-up of iron and rust may need a few regenerations before they can produce clean water.
5. Add a prefilter
Whether or not you need to install a prefilter will be determined by the quality of water you are getting from your water softener. A water test can help you determine whether the water you are receiving from your water softener is softened.
Your water softener cannot filter out every type of contaminant on its own. It only removes the calcium and magnesium minerals that make your water hard. You will need to install a prefilter to clean out any other impurities in your water.
Below are some potential reasons to install a prefilter:
- When your water carries sand and sediment
- When your water has iron impurities and rust particles
Signs of water softener trouble
If you suspect that there is something wrong with your water softener, it is essential to get the issue resolved right away. Hard water, as stated earlier, can lead to additional costs in plumbing maintenance down the line. There are signs that you should look out for to indicate something is wrong with the softener:
You can see signs of hard water – Signs of hard water include stiff clothes, build-up of crusts in your pipes and faucets, water spots, and failure to form lather when mixed with soap. If you notice any of these signs, the water is not being softened. You can confirm this using a water test.
The water is salty – You may need to clean and refill your brine tank with salt if you can taste salt in your water. Check the manufacturer’s guide to see how yours should be cleaned.
Your skin feels squeaky as you wash it – Calcium and magnesium ions in water tend to form a film on the skin, making it feel squeaky, itchy, and dry, even with soap. Soft water lathers easily.
Your water softener is not working at all – Failure of a water softener to function or even turn on could mean electrical plugs or wires are not working. If your water softener is older than 10 years, it is probably time to replace it.
A water softener maintenance system is a must-have for residents of regions that only have access to hard water. It prevents your appliances from being choked by build-up of scales and allows your laundry to be bright and soft.
Part of making sure you enjoy the benefits that come with installing a water softener is making sure the system undergoes regular maintenance and cleaning. By following the instructions laid out above, your home can enjoy clean and clear water, regardless of how hard the water from your source is.