Why Should You Know Your Water Softener’s Lifespan?
Water softeners are a necessity in many areas, especially for places like Phoenix and Arizona which are known for hard water supply. Buying and installing water softeners isn’t the end of it as you need to ensure regular maintenance so that the water softening system works the way it should.
One part about keeping good care of your water softener is to first know how long do water softeners last and what are the indications of when your water softener needs to be replaced.
What Are Water Softeners?
Quality water softeners help eliminate hard water but remove water hardness ions like calcium and magnesium. While these minerals are not dangerous, showering in water with high concentrations of such minerals can dry out skin and hair.
These can also cause spots and soap scum to build up on dishes and plumbing fixtures eventually leading to a clog. The water softener filters hard water through resin beads via an ion exchange process to convert hard water to soft water before distributing the water throughout the house.
How Long Do Water Softeners Last?
Well-maintained water softeners can typically last about 20 years, even for a place with extremely hard water like Phoenix. If you live in a region with softer water, your water softener may even last longer than 20 years.
While 20 years is the typical water softener lifespan that you can expect, it doesn’t mean that you can just leave your water softener alone without any care as they require regular maintenance too.
Maintenance for Water Softener
A water softener works by replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. This process is achieved through the water softener resin beads that will conduct the exchange as the hard water passes through them.
The beads will eventually be saturated with calcium and magnesium ions and need to be regenerated to continue converting hard water. The regeneration process is usually set to happen automatically and it removes mineral ions and restores sodium ions to the beads.
How Long Does Water Softener Resin Last?
Resin beads can continue to be regenerated over and over again before they lose their effectiveness. The salt beads’ typical lifespan is about 20 years, which is the same as a water softener’s lifespan. However, the lifespan will also depend on your water quality.
You can expect your resin beads to have a significantly shorter lifespan in areas with water that is rich in chlorine and iron such as if you’re in Phoenix or Arizona.
One way to determine whether your resin beads are spent is when your water softener keeps regenerating every day. Machine with healthy resin beads usually only regenerate once every 12,000 gallons for a family of four. Nonetheless, resin beads are just one component of water softeners, there are still many other components that require regular attention.
How Long Does Water Softener Salt Last?
Other than water softener resin beads, another important aspect to ensure that the water softener is functioning properly is to look at the salt. Resin beads get their sodium ions during regeneration from brine water.
The brine tank is usually completely separate from the tank that holds the resin beads. Salt water needs to be refilled once every two to three months. The salt can either be in coarse or pellet form, both of which can be found at your local grocery store. You can expect to use about two 40-pound bags of salt for every refilling period.
What Are the Common Signs of Malfunctioning?
Not sure whether your water softener is working properly? Here are some of the top indicators that could let you know whether your water softener needs some TLC:
Crusty Pipes – Crusty pipes indicate that your water softener has not properly softened water enough. The crusty substance is the minerals that were not filtered. Pay attention to your faucets when cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. A chalky substance build up around them could be a sign that you need to take a look at your softener.
Soap Not Lathering – Softened water will produce a chemical reaction with soap that causes it to lather. So if you realize your soap is not lathering as it used to and it’s beginning to get increasingly difficult to wash the soap off your skin, you may want to check your water softening system to see if it’s still working properly.
Different Water Taste – Soft water has a distinctly different taste compared to hard water and it’s hard to miss it if you drink your tap water everyday. If the taste of your drinking water noticeably changes, it could be a sign that your water softener is beginning to fail.
Stiff and Scratchy Clothes – Washing clothes in hard water can result in stiff and scratchy clothes. Yes, you can always count on fabric softener to counteract the stiffness but a more effective solution is to soften the water by removing minerals that make the clothes stiff. Not only that, but hard water can also damage a washing machine and other appliances over time. It’s therefore important to check that your water softener is functioning properly to protect your home appliances.
Additionally, here are other symptoms of hard water:
- Scale buildup in electrical water-based appliances.
- Reddish/brown stains around drains and faucets.
- White crust buildup on faucets.
- Mineral spots in bathroom and dishes.
- Clothes feel scratchy.
- Lower water pressure in the shower.
- Require more soap to lather hands and wash dishes.
These are some of the few symptoms that you can keep an eye out to check whether you water softener is still functioning properly. If you notice any of these happening, it may be high time to refill your brine tank with salt or replace the resin beads. If the issue persists even after making the changes, you might want to consider contacting an expert.
Factors Affecting The Average Lifespan of a Water Softener
Water softeners are built to withstand everyday water usage. However, there are a few things that can make them reach the end of their usable life faster, including:
Frequent Use – The more often the water softener is used to soften hard water, the shorter its lifespan. The more mineral deposits there are in the water, the more difficult and more frquently the water softener needs to work harder to produce good quality water.
Water Supply Quantity – In addition to frequency, the amount of water being softened will also affect the water softener’s lifespan. A larger family will require more daily water usage compared to a couple with no kids. This ultimately means that the water softener needs to run more frequently to match the higher volume demand of water.
Water Softener Cleaner
Investing in a bottle of softener cleaner and pouring it into your water softener brine well every 4 months will ensure that your system runs efficiently. The water softener cleaner is an acid-based solution that works to clean the inside of your system, including the valve and resin bed. The cleaner effectively removes contaminants, iron, and scale buildup to maximize performance.
Correctly Set Water Hardness Level
Another important thing to make sure your water softener is working properly is to make sure the water softener is not overworking itself by regenerating more than required. If the hardness setting is too high, the water softener will regenerate more often and use up more salt than necessary.
On the other hand, if you set it too low, the system won’t regenerate often enough and you may periodically get hard water and bad water taste in your home.
Thus, it is important for you to know the water hardness level in your area and to set the water softener accordingly. Depending on your water softener, you can adjust the regeneration period electronically via a program or by turning a dial.
Check of Salt Bridges
A salt bridge will prevent the water from touching the sale in the system. This will then stop the creation of brine water which will recharge the resin bed in your water softener.
If you see a salt bridge in the brine tank, you can use a broom handle to gently break up the layer of salt. You may also consult the owner’s manual on how to begin a new regeneration process after breaking the salt bridge.
In addition to using a water softener cleaner, setting the softener’s hardness level correctly, and conducting periodic checks for salt bridges, other typical maintenance tasks should also be in your checklist to optimize the performance of the water treatment.
Tips for Longer Lasting and Healthier Water Softeners
Here are a few tips that you can adopt to ensure better water softener longevity:
Change the filter at regular intervals. You may refer to your owner’s manual on the filter replacement process. Water filters with an in-line filter may require occasional replacement.
Add Regenerant. You need to also ensure that your water softener does not run out of regenerant. Make sure to refill it regularly before you see a layer in the brine drum of the softener cabinet. It is recommended to use cube or pellet salt rather than rock or solar salt. Although it will cost more, the higher purity will mean less residue build-up in your system, hence saving you more money in the long run.
If you use a single tank electric softener, remember to flush the resin bed with softener cleaner once a year to retain the effectiveness of the resin beads.
Don’t replenish the salt supply too frequently. Only replenish salt when the tank is down to ⅓ full and also leave 4-6 inches of the tank empty when you refill the salt.
Ensure proper setting so that your water softener does not work too hard. The setting should be high enough to soften your water without causing undue wear. If you’re unsure what’s the right setting, you may ask your dealer for advice.
A little care and maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of your water softener, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of soft water for many more years. Other than proper maintenance, making the right choice when picking a water softening system for your home will also help you ensure better longevity. While single tank electric systems are cheaper, they require more time for maintenance.
Add a prefilter. Your water may also have excess iron, chlorine, sediments or sludge that makes your water softener cannot handle. Adding the right prefilter will help you handle these additional water issues.
Benefits of Getting a New Water Softener
If you find that your softener is still not working as effectively as it should, maybe it’s time for you to consider getting a new water softener instead. Replacing an old water softener with a new one can make your life much easier since new softeners are easier to maintain and allows you to take advantage of updated features and technology in water treatment.
Modern-day appliances will definitely be more efficient than old ones from 15 years ago, providing you with softer clothes, better hair and skin, as well as protecting water-using appliances.
Some new water softeners come with advanced technology that could automatically program the settings to refresh your system proportionally, helping you save on salt and conserve water. Softeners with salt monitors can also alert you when you need to replenish salt, while chlorine generators can keep your system clean.
However, before you go out and get a new softener, you need to first keep in mind a couple of things. Some assume that water softeners can fix a variety of water quality issues when in reality, these systems are only designed to remove hard minerals. Other quality issues like excessive iron, acidity, and level of total dissolved solids will require other filtration systems.
The best way to achieve high quality drinking water in your home is to install a reverse osmosis system that can reduce most contaminants present in water. Finally, the quality of water supply changes over time so it’s a good idea to get your home’s water tested before going out to the store to get new treatment equipment.