How to Install a Water Softener? – Diagram Included!

Why You Should Know How to Install a Water Softener

In order to get rid of hard water in your home, it would be a good idea to use a salt-based water softener to protect the plumbing system and household appliances from scaling. But, for a water softening system to function effectively, it would need to be installed properly.

You might have considered hiring a professional plumber, but it can cost you at least an extra couple of hundred dollars. The next best solution is to install a water softener on your own. To be able to achieve that, it would require you to have some knowledge of how to install a water softener.

Thankfully, you’re at the right place to gain this knowledge. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the necessary information you need to know in order to install a water softener on your own. You might not be a plumbing expert at the end of this guide, but you’ll certainly know enough about installing a water softener for your home.

Where to Install a Water Softener

Before you get all excited and start installing a water softener wherever you want to, it is best you understand where exactly you need to place your water softener. Generally, the best place to put a water softener is in your basement, garage, or anywhere that is near the main water line entering your house.

If you are using a municipal supply, we would recommend you to go downstream of the water meter. On the other hand, you should put the water softener right after the pressure tank if you use a well system.

The reason for hooking up your water softener to the main supply is so that the system is able to provide softened water to the whole house and keep as much of the plumbing system as possible from being clogged with minerals.

It is also possible for you to branch off a cold water line for untreated drinking water to your kitchen faucet and refrigerator if you wish to do so. The same can also be done for outdoor taps that you use for gardening and it might be a good idea to do so too because soft water is not ideal for most plants.

What to Consider For your water softener system installation

Here are some of the things that you should keep in mind for an effective water softener installation:

  • After choosing a spot for the water softener, check to make sure the underground is dry and even.
  • If you want to reduce scale buildup, you should consider placing the softener upstream of the water heater, which will also improve heat exchange efficiency and result in lower energy bills. You should also note that most experts recommend that you have a minimum of 10 ft of piping between both appliances as a precaution to prevent hot water from flowing backward into the softener during regeneration because it could damage the system.
  • Keep in mind that the softener shouldn’t be in a position that is too far away from a drain in order for wastewater disposal to rule out air breaks and backflow. Moreover, a floor drain (the preferred choice), utility sink, laundry tub, sump, standpipe, or another viable option can also be used as long as it has the capability to handle the additional water load. Ideally, the unit should be positioned above and within 20 ft of the drain.
  • Remember that modern water softeners run on electricity, so be sure that there is a power outlet nearby.
  • Finally, if a water softener is installed in your house, it would probably be a good idea to place the new one in the same spot, unless the spot is not in a condition to host a water softener.

Soft Water Loop

New homes in hard water areas are usually pre-plumbed with something known as a “soft water loop”. This water softener loop is essentially a copper line that allows you to connect your water softener to your home’s inside water distribution pipes. A short part of this copper line, which is the loop, will protrude from the wall, allowing a softening system to be installed even without any additional plumbing.

One of the main features of this loop is that the outside hose bibs are separated, which ensures that you are not wasting softened water for irrigation or other outdoor purposes. If your home has a water softener loop, it will usually be available next to a water heater and with a 110-volt outlet and a drain line stub nearby. When you’re installing a water softener, the loop will be removed.

Plumbing Diagram

Here is a diagram for your reference to better understand the plumbing of a water softener.

Outside Installation

It is not recommended by any manufacturer to put a water softener where temperatures can drop below the freezing point. This is because it can potentially cause issues with the backwash and permanent damage to the system and as a result, it will void your warranty.

Moreover, it is also wise to stay out of direct sunlight to avoid any unwanted issues. Ideally, the temperature range of where the softener will be located should be between 35° F to 100° F. If in any case, you do not have a choice but to install a water softener outside, you should consider setting up weather protection as you see fit.

Water Softener Installation Step by Step

After you purchase a water softener, it would be a good idea to check if the company requires you to hire a licensed plumber for the installation first. If it doesn’t, then you can go ahead and begin your DIY installation. To do so, you can follow the steps that we’re about to cover and you should also do the necessary preparation before you begin.

Tools and Supplies to Prepare

To ease the water softener installation process, you should prepare the following tools and items:

  • A copper/flexible (PEX) tubing.
  • Solder and torch
  • Pipe cutter
  • Drain tubing (along with air gap fitting)
  • Plumber’s tape
  • Measuring tape
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Various valves, tees, adaptors, and fittings

Part 1: Pre-Installation

Here’s what you need to do before you begin installing a water softener:

  1. Turn off the water supply. The first thing that you should do to prevent a major leak in your house is to shut off the main water supply.
  2. Turn off the electric water heater. If there is an electric water heater in your home, it would be a good idea to turn it off for the time being to protect it from possible damage.
  3. Drain water in all involved lines. The last thing to prepare is to open all the faucets and other outlets that are nearby for the purpose of draining away all remaining water. This might be a small precaution but it can save you a ton of money in the event that something goes wrong during the setup.

Part 2: Hook Up

For the second part of your water softener installation, you can follow these steps:

  1. Install the brine tank overflow grommet. You can begin by installing the brine tank overflow tube or grommet to the brine tank. Usually, it requires you to install the brine tank overflow tube or grommet and elbow in a hole at the back of the salt storage tank sidewall and you should follow the installation manual provided for the proper height and placement of this tube. You should take note that this tube that connects to the brine tank is not for all systems.
  2. Put the softener at the desired location. This part is fairly straightforward as you are only required to set the softener in the position you want it to be in and ensure that it stands level.
  3. Cut into the main supply line. With a pipe cutter, cut into the main line and use a bucket to catch the water that may come out of the pipe if you don’t want to make a mess. Once it’s done, be sure to sand down the edges.
  4. Install the bypass. Even though most water softeners nowadays come with a built-in bypass valve, there are still some that don’t and you will certainly recommend you install it yourself if the model you bought doesn’t come with a bypass. To do so, grease the bypass valve O-rings with silicone and push the bypass valve into the softener valve as far as it can go, and secure it with the holding clips. With the bypass valve, you can easily shut off the water supply to the softener if you need to service or repair it, without cutting off the supply in your entire home. Some areas even require a bypass to be installed so you can easily disconnect it in case of an emergency.
  5. Connect the softener’s inlet/outlet ports. After that, you will need to connect the incoming and outgoing water to the inlet and outlet port respectively. It is crucial that you get the direction correct, otherwise, you will not be getting any soft water. Be sure to check the connections thoroughly. For connecting the pipes, you can use hard or flexible tubing, while the latter will need more adapters but is also easier to set up and remove. You can also consider using fittings to avoid soldering. Don’t forget to seal all the threads with the plumber’s tape, unless instructed differently.
  6. Connect the drain hose. As mentioned above, salt-based softeners need a drain connection. To do so, connect the drain hose to the softener’s drain valve fitting. After that, use clamps to hold the drain hose static and route the other end of the drain hose to any one of the nearby drains and secure it.
  7. Complete the overflow connection. Now that we’re nearing the end of the water softener installing process, it is time to add an overflow connection to prevent the brine tank from overflowing. To do so, connect a separate hose to the overflow valve and use a clamp to keep it secured. Then, similarly to the drain hose, route the overflow to one of the drains. You should keep in mind that an air gap may be needed.
  8. Install the brine line. This isn’t one of the essential steps as it is only applicable for side-by-side softeners only as it allows the system to suck brine from the brine tank into the resin tank. You do not need to install the brine line if you are using a cabinet-style softener.

Part 3: Post-Installation

Here are the steps that we recommend you refer to after you install the water softener:

  • Fill the brine tank with salt. What you need to do now is put the well inside it and fill it with salt and possibly, water. Most softeners will need you to fill it to about two-thirds.
  • Sanitize. Not all systems need it, but you might have to fully sanitize first before using it.
  • Put the water softener in bypass and slowly turn on the water supply. Avoid the sudden increase in pressure as it can damage your plumbing system.
  • Check for leaks. Be sure to check all the connectors, fittings, and valves for any leaks.
  • Plug it in. Plug in your new water softener.
  • Regenerate. Let it go through a full regeneration cycle.
  • Configure the system. Follow the instructions given to complete the setup.

Final Verdict: Can I install a water softener by myself?

With the information provided above, we believe that you now know how to install a water softener with ease, especially if you have basic plumbing skills, to begin with. Installing a water softener might not be as hard as you think as long as you’re following the proper guidance and instructions.


How do I replace an old water softener?

Replacing an old softener is fairly straightforward since all the required plumbing is already present. What you need to do is unplug the old one and put it into bypass. Then, separate it from the plumbing. Next, make sure all the water is drained before disposing of it.

How long does it take to get soft water after installing a water softener?

Your cold water faucets should be receiving softened water as soon as the unit is installed and the regeneration process is completed. However, it will not reach your hot water faucets yet until your hot water heater is clear of the unwanted water that was there.

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