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A Homeowner’s Guide to Water Softener Care

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 9:57am

For many homeowners, the water softener is a strange, seemingly-innocuous appliance that sits in a basement or garage. This simple device reduces the mineral content in incoming water, protecting your plumbing from scale buildup and improving the taste and feel of your water. However, your water softener does need regular attention to perform this function properly. Like any plumbing appliance, simple home maintenance will prolong the lifetime and improve the efficiency of your water softener to minimize problems for as long as you own it. If you’re having trouble with your water softener, try the tips below to see if a little routine maintenance is all your appliance needs to deliver the water quality you want; if these solutions aren’t successful, it’s time to call in your Longview plumber for professional evaluation and care.

Salt Levels

The key to water softener care is to check the appliance’s salt levels frequently and compare them with the information in the appliance’s manual. Whenever the salt falls below the indicated level, you’ll need to add salt (your manual will also tell you which type of salt to add) to keep your water softener working effectively and ensure your home enjoys a continuous supply of soft water. Based on the industry recommendation for an average family of four, you should plan to add one 40-lb bag of salt to your water softener per month. However, your water softener may need more or less salt, depending on your water usage and the system’s settings. It’s a good idea to check your water softener every two to three weeks to determine whether it’s in need of additional salt.

Salt Bridges

Salt bridges can form over time as your water softener works, reducing its efficacy and resulting in water that isn’t softened as you expect. If you begin experiencing signs of hard water and your water softener has the correct amount of salt, check the tank for salt bridges, which appear as a solid layer of salt in the tank. A salt bridge can be easily broken up with a broom handle, but indicates the need for tank cleaning to prevent the bridge from re-forming over time.

Tank Cleaning

Keeping your water softener’s tank clean will prevent the formation of salt bridges and promote proper drainage from the tank every time the appliance regenerates. Once a year, pick a time when the water and salt levels are low and check for mushy salt buildup at the bottom of the tank. This can affect the salinity of the brine solution in your water softener and increase the hardness of your home’s water. To remove this mush, simply scoop it out and fill the bottom of the tank with hot water to dissolve any remaining salt, letting it sit for a few minutes before refilling the tank with the correct amount of salt and setting it to regenerate.

Additional Tips

During normal function, your water softener will regenerate periodically, typically in the early morning when no one is using water. Water softener systems operate on a timer, so check the timer system periodically to make sure it is reading the correct time, especially after a power outage. You’ll also need to reset the timer for Daylight Savings Time changes each year. You can control the hardness of your water using the hardness setting on the control panel—if you aren’t sure how to use this setting, talk to your licensed plumber for help determining the hardness of your home’s incoming water.

Do you know how to care for your water softener?

  • I knew I had to add salt, but I admit I’ve always done it haphazardly!
  • I didn’t realize my water softener’s tank needed cleaning periodically.
  • I’ve always called the plumber at the first sign of water softener trouble.

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