Why Should You Know How Much Water Should Be in Your Brine Tank?
Water softeners were created to solve hard water. While the minerals in hard water do not necessarily make the water unhealthy, they can cause water spots on dishes and glassware, skin and limp hair as well as damages to your plumbing system, fixtured, and water-based appliances.
Water softening systems work to soften water through an ion exchange process by replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions on a resin bed. However, the resin tank will become saturated over time and will need to be regenerated with water softener brine water.
The brine tank is one of the most essential parts of a water softener and it’s also one that will face the most problems. A standard water softener brine tank should have water in it all of the time except when during the regeneration process.
One common issue that many home owners face is knowing just how much water is to be put into the water softener brine tank. The water level required in your brine tank will depend on the type of water softener you have and the characteristics of your water supply. In the sections below, we will be discussing how much water should be in your brine tank.
How Much Water Should Be In My Water Softener Brine Tank?
Traditional water softener brine tanks should contain about 3 to 6 gallons of water. However, the amount of water in your brine tank will depend on the type of tank you have. There are two types of water softener brine tanks in the market: wet brine tanks and dry brine tanks. Both have different water requirements and may vary from brand to brand.
Wet Brine Tank
Wet brine tanks are usually found in older water softener systems, so if you have had your water softener for 5-10 years, you most likely have a wet brine tank. This type of water softener brine tank should hold water 24/7 and the size of the tank will determine the amount of water it stores.
Wet brine tanks typically contain 3-6 gallons of water at a time with standing water of up to 10 inches above the bottom surface of the tank. Wet brine tanks retain water even when the system undergoes its routine regeneration cycle.
There are many possible reasons why your wet brine tank may contain less water than it needs, such as a blocked or frozen drain. The system may also be facing a mechanical issue or maybe there’s no problem at all as it might be normal to not see the top of the water level when the tank is filled with salt.
Dry Brine Tank
The easiest way to identify a dry brine tank is to check if there is a digital valve used to regulate it. Dry brine tanks only have water a couple of hours before the regeneration process starts and the tank will be empty of water once the regeneration cycle has been carried out.
If you notice some water in your dry brine tank when there shouldn’t be any, you can try cleaning the injector to prevent it from filling the water unnecessarily. Injectors tend to clog easily but cleaning them shouldn’t take too much time as you only need to brush the injector screen.
Is It Normal to Have Standing Water in My Water Softener?
While standing water in your brine tank is normal, depends on the type of system you own and seeing water in your tank might be a sign that something is wrong. There are a few reasons why you may see standing water in your water softener brine tank.
It could simply be because the tank needs water for regeneration. But if there’s too much water and it isn’t emptying from your tank, then you may have a problem with the system. Excess water in the brine tank can be caused by:
- Issues with incoming brine line.
- Brine tank drain line malfunction.
- Clogged salt inside the water softener tank.
- water softener drain line and brine line flow control issue.
- Water softener system malfunction.
- Safety float valve issue.
- Blocked injector.
If you notice an issue with your water softener, it is recommended for you to diagnose and resolve it as quickly as possible to continue enjoying clear, healthy water for your family. Issues with the system not only impact water quality, but it can also affect the water softener’s performance and lifespan over time.
How Often Do Water Softener Brine Tanks Need to be Cleaned?
The recommended frequency for cleaning your water softener brine tank is once a year to keep it in good working condition. But if you notice clogs are preventing water removal, you should clean it ASAP. To clean the tank, you need to disconnect the water connection and to siphon water out of the brine tank before cleaning it.
You can use a garden hose to siphon the water out of the tank and remove salt rom the bottom. Then combine dish soap with 2 gallons of water and pour it into the tank. Use a sponge or hand towel to scrub the inside of the tank.
Once you’ve scrubbed the entire tank, pour the soap water out of the tank and dump in another 2 gallons of freshwater with bleach and let it sit for up to 20 minutes before dumping it out. Now your water softener is clean and you can reconnect the water supply.
How Much Salt To Add In The Brine Tank?
Another important aspect of the brine tank is the salt. You should fill your water softener brine tank with salt up to a quarter of the tank’s level and refill it twice per month to properly coat the bottom surface of the tank. You can tell that it’s time to add more salt once you notice that the water level in the brine tank is more than the salt.
Water softeners can only effectively remove minerals from the resin beads if there’s a consistent level of salt in the brine tank. Some homeowners may just pour a bag of salt into the brine tank every month, but it’s actually advisable to top off the salt level more than twice or thrice a month to ensure that your tank never go without salt.
The exact amount of salt to be used in your brine tank will depend on your water softener system. The amount of salt could vary between 40 to 50 pounds a month, so it is best to check with a professional or the seller.
One of the ways to check if your salt is lower than it should be is to check your softener’s amount of calcium carbonate. If it exceeds 60 mg, then your brine tank could be experiencing low salt levels.
Considerations when Assessing Brine Tank Water Level
As mentioned earlier, the amount of water in your brine tank unit will depend on several factors. There are many different water softeners in the market, which can make it difficult to determine whether your water level is normal for your system or not.
Typically, the water level should be a couple of inches lower than your salt level. This makes it even more challenging to determine the exact amount of water required in your softener. Nonetheless, one thing is for certain – the salt tank should never be full of water. Here are a few things to consider when determining just how much water is needed in your water softener:
Type of Softener
Pre-fill water softeners, or dry brine tanks, usually contain almost no water until right before the regeneration cycle. If you own one of these water softeners, keep in mind that it is completely normal to see very little water in the water softener dry brine tank. The amount of water these softeners need for regeneration will depend on the amount of salt they can hold.
Those with a wet brine tank should make sure that their tank is at least one quarter full at all times. But you may not always see the water, especially if you have just recently topped up the tank with salt.
To check whether you have supplied the tank with enough water, you can run a quick water test to check for hardness minerals to determine whether the water softener regeneration cycle is taking place properly.
How efficient your water softener is will also affect how much water it requires. More efficient water softeners do not require too much salt to regenerate. And systems with less salt required will also need less water.
Water softener brine tanks in high efficiency water softeners tend to be a lot smaller in size. In spite of that, you still need to make sure that the salt-to-water ratio is the same compared to less efficient softeners.
Water Softener Settings
Most water softeners have an option for owners to program their own settings for the regeneration cycle including the ability to choose how much salt is used per regeneration. But if you’re not familiar, you don’t need to worry as all modern systems are smart enough to auto-program these settings according to your water usage, tank capacity and hardness levels.
Ensuring your tank has the correct settings will ensure that you have constant access to scale-free water without wasting too much water and salt. In the event where you have an older unit with no auto-program setting, you can run a water test to check calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron levels.
You will then need to input the results into your control head and the softener will do the rest of the work.
As a general rule of thumb, a single gallon of water can absorb about 3 lbs of salt. So if your water softener needs 6 lbs of salt in the regeneration cycle, you need to add in approximately 2 gallons of water to make the brine solution.
What To Do If You Have a Brine Tank Full of Water?
You need to add at least one-quarter full of salt in your brine tank and never fill past 4-6 inches below the top of the tank in order to properly maintain your water softener. If you’re facing wate issue, It may help to empty the tank, flush the softener out, and pour in a new batch of salt. Regular cleaning of the water softener salt tank will also be helpful.
If you noticed that the amount of water in your brine tank is too high and all your self-diagnose efforts are not helping, it’s time to seek help from an expert. Calling a plumber or handyman should be able to help you with the problem. For bigger issues, it’s recommended for you to arrange for a professional to visit your home and fix it for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my water softener brine tank filled with water?
Your brine tank should never be completely filled with water. If it is, you may be facing a clog problem with the drain flow control or a safety float valve that’s too high. Water softener brine tanks may also fill with water if the unit is getting too old or have become ineffective.
How often does the ion exchange process take place?
Water softener’s regeneration cycle normally occurs once every 2-3 days if there are no interruptions. The entire process may take up to 90 minutes. If your water softener loses power, you may need to bypass the cycle with a valve.
How long do water softeners last?
Most water softeners can last up to 10 years, and with proper maintenance, they could even last up to 20 years. Make sure to clean your water softener and brine tank once or twice a year to maintain good condition.
Why does the brine tank smell?
A sulfur buildup in the brine tank can create a foul odor. Sulfur bacteria can appear thanks to the sodium in the water softener salt. And if you do not fix the problem, the smell can worsen over time. The only way to eliminate the foul odor is to conduct a thorough cleaning of the brine tank with dish soap, water, and bleach.