Up until now, you’ve never had to know how to maintain a water softener. With your new home, that’s changed.
Don’t worry, water softeners are easy to run and with a little regular upkeep yours should keep working for years to come. Ben Franklin can show you how.
Set your softener properly and keep it supplied with salt and it should continue to do its job. Periodically, you’ll want to perform basic maintenance and cleaning. We’re here to help Dallas homeowners with all plumbing concerns. We know you have a lot going on with your new home, so we’ll try to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible.
Do I Need a Water Softener?
Chances are, if you’ve moved into a home with an existing water softener, you need it. Water softeners remove excessive calcium and magnesium that make water “hard.” Hard water can wreak havoc on your plumbing and appliances. Problems with hard water include:
- Mineral scale on pipes and fixtures
- Off color laundry
- Difficulty achieving soap lather
- Dry hair
- Spotted dishes
To prevent these issues, your water softener removes hard minerals using ion exchange – a process which exchanges the hard calcium and magnesium ions in your water for soft sodium ions.
Your water softener is equipped with resin beads that supply these sodium ions. By periodically adding salt to your system, you replenish the ions these beads need to regenerate.
Water Softener Maintenance Checklist
Here’s a quick primer on the things you should do regularly and semi-regularly to keep your water softener running properly. These steps will also extend the life of your water softener. We know you want your investment to last.
- Use high quality salt. Your water softener uses resin beads to perform the ion exchange process. For these beads to continue their function, they need to “recharge” periodically with fresh sodium ions. This “regeneration” takes place in the brine tank of your softener where the beads soak in a salty ion-rich solution.
The salt you add to your softener creates this brine. There are three types of salt you can buy:
- Rock salt – cheap and often full of impurities that can clog your apparatus.
- Solar salt – evaporated sea water. A better option.
- Evaporated salt – mined and processed to be 99.99% pure sodium. The best option.
When you use high-quality evaporated salt, you avoid salt bridges and salt mush that can muck up your works. More on those later.
2. Don’t overfill your water softener. Let your softener run low (about ¼ full) before refilling it. When you do fill it, stay below the fill line – about ½- ¾ full. You probably only need to do this every other month.
3. Program your settings for your water use. Most softeners have four adjustable settings that designate how and when your regeneration cycle takes place:
- Regeneration frequency – how often your resin beads regenerate with fresh ions.
- Regeneration time – the time of day the regeneration cycle takes place.
- Regeneration cycle length – how long the regeneration cycle lasts (typically 30-60 minutes).
- Salt dose – how much salt is added during regeneration.
Refer to your water softener’s manual for guidance on the best settings. Regeneration frequency can vary from daily to weekly depending on how much water you use. Regeneration time means that your water during that period will not be softened. Choose a time when you’re likely to not be using water. It may be less disruptive if you set it for overnight.
Some trial and error may be necessary to get your settings right for your home. If your notice scale, bad tasting water or laundry problems adjust for more salt and more frequent regeneration.
4. Clean your brine and resin tanks annually. Drain and clean your tanks about once a year. Scrub out any salt build up or mold that has developed. Refill with fresh salt and water. Add a softener cleaner periodically and perform a manual refresh to help keep your resin beads clean.
5. Clean venturi valve. This is the valve that moves brine into the resin tank. It can become clogged by sediment. Unscrew the valve cover and the internal parts and clean everything in warm soapy water.
6. Have regular service checkups. About once a year you’ll want to have your water softener serviced by a plumbing technician. They can check, fine tune and clean your system to make sure everything is working properly.
Water Softener Problems and How to Solve Them
The two most common issues that arise with water softeners are salt bridge and salt mush. While either can compromise your water softness, neither is difficult to remedy. We’ll tell you how to service your water softener for both.
- Salt bridge occurs when a salt crust creates a barrier between your salt supply and your water supply. It prevents your resin beads from recharging and is often the result of high humidity or low-quality salt. To break up salt bridges, simply use a broom handle or similar rod against the crust. Remove the big chunks and clean your tank if too much crust has formed. You can dissolve the crusted salt in hot water and reuse it.
- Salt mushing occurs when salt sediment builds up on the bottom of your brine tank. This can result in a sludge that compromises your water softener’s ability to cycle. If salt mushing develops, drain your tank and dig out all the old salt. Clean the bottom of the tank and then refill with fresh salt.
How Long Will My Water Softener Last?
Well cared for water softeners can last upwards of 20 years. The resin beads that perform the ion exchange are usually the component that breaks down. Over time they lose their ability to regenerate and sustain a charge.
You can replace the beads, but it may be expensive. Weigh your water softener service cost against the price of a new unit.
Your Dallas Area Water Experts for Homeowners
For questions about water softeners or any plumbing concern, contact Ben Franklin Plumbing. Our punctual plumbers have been proudly serving new and old customers alike in Dallas, Plano, McKinney, Carrolton, Rowlett and Southlake. We want to be your go-to resource for all your home plumbing needs.