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A water softener is an incredibly useful system to have in your home. There are so many benefits to soft water that thousands of homeowners invest in this hard water softening solution on a yearly basis.
If you do consider investing in a water softener, you’re probably keen to know exactly what you’re money’s being spent on. Buying a water softening system that has a reputation for being reliable and effective is one thing, but having a long lifespan is equally as important. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the typical lifespan of a new water softener, and how to tell if it’s still working properly – and when it’s time to buy a replacement.
Do Water Softeners Have a Lifespan?
So how long does a water softener last?
The majority of the best home water softeners last for a minimum of 10 and up to 20 years.
The actual lifespan of your water softener depends on how well you maintain the system, and the quality of the materials used in the system’s construction. Keep in mind that no water treatment appliance lasts forever, and while water softeners have impressively long lifespans, there will come a time when you need to replace yours in the future.
Common Signs Your Water Softener is Starting to Fail
If you currently use a water softener in your home, you probably don’t think much of it. It just quietly gets on doing its thing to soften your water, and, aside from occasional maintenance, you just leave the system to it. So you probably don’t know how to detect when a water softener is reaching the end of its lifespan.
If you’re not sure how to check for a failing water softening system, here’s what you need to know:
Drinking Water Tastes Different
Hard water has a distinct alkaline taste, which comes from the hardness minerals, namely calcium and magnesium, in the water. When you get a new water softener for your home, you will notice that your water taste is smoother and less distinctive than it was before. If water starts to take on a more chalky or chemically taste, you might need to replace your home water softener – it’s a sign that your softener isn’t working as effectively as it used to, and hard water minerals are slipping through.
Soap Won’t Lather Well
One of the most obvious characteristics of hard water is that its minerals, calcium and magnesium, prevent it from lathering well with soap. You can test your water’s lathering abilities by filling a water bottle or glass container with water from your faucet, then squeezing about 10 drops of liquid soap into the water. Put the lid on the bottle and shake vigorously, then check your results. If the water doesn’t get many suds, or it looks cloudy, this indicates hard water. It’s likely that if your water isn’t lathering well, your water softener isn’t working as well as it was before.
Problems with Laundry
Another hard water red flag is stiff, scratchy and yellow-tinged laundry. With a softener, water no longer contains the minerals that make clothes stiff. When your water softener is starting to fail, it won’t remove all of these minerals from your home water supply, leading to the laundry problems you probably experienced before installing your new water softener. This is easily resolved by buying a new softener to replace your old one.
Scale Buildup on Pipes and Faucets
When your water contains hardness minerals, these minerals will leave streaky deposits on your pipes, faucets and water-based appliances, known as scale. Using water softeners should eliminate your scale problem, as with softeners, water is treated to eliminate the minerals or prevent them from being able to bind to surfaces. If you’re noticing a new scale issue in your bathroom, which may present itself as white spots on your faucets or dull grey markings in your sink and bathtub, it may be time to consider replacing your water softener.
How to Extend the Life of Your Water Softener
There are several simple things that you can do to get more value out of your water softener investment and add an extra few years onto how long your appliance will last. Some of the best practices to put in place are as follows:
Adding a Prefilter
Adding a whole home prefilter is one of the best ways to ensure water softeners can last a long time – 15 years minimum. A prefilter can remove any suspended sediment that’s commonly found in drinking water, like sand, rust and dirt. These particles can damage your water softener’s softening media, impacting on how long it can last. With a prefilter, your water softener should last longer because it isn’t being exposed to these particles. You can buy prefilters for water softeners online, and they generally cost between $20 and $50, depending on which brand you buy from.
Using the Right Kind of Regenerant
The type of regenerant, i.e. salt, that you use in your water softener is really important when it comes to ensuring your system can last over the years. Rock and block salt aren’t recommended for use, as rock salt has a high calcium sulfate content that can cause maintenance issues down the line, and you may not be able to fully submerge rock salt in the water in your brine tank. Solar salt pellets and evaporated salt pellets are best, and solar salt is especially good for particularly hard water.
Regularly Checking Salt Levels
Making sure there’s enough salt in your water softener is also very important. Being essential to the water treatment process, if salt levels fall too low, a water softener won’t be able to regenerate its softening media. Your system will become less effective until, when there is no salt left in the tank at all, the system will only be able to regenerate with hard water. As a result, your water softener will stop producing soft water, and the water you use in your home will contain hardness minerals once more.
Cleaning the Brine Tank or Resin Bed
For a brand new water softener, you need to clean out the brine tank or resin bed approximately every two years. If your water softener is older than this, you should clean it more often, roughly once a year. The mushy gunk in the bottom of your brine tank will decrease the efficiency of your water softener’s performance, making it work harder for less results. That’s why cleaning it out is so important – you’ll keep the system working in top form and prevent it from needlessly overworking for the same results.
Inspecting the System Every 3 Months
Inspecting your water softener every 3 months can give you a chance to check that everything looks good and help you to diagnose problems before they’re given a chance to escalate. Bridging, which is characterized by a hard crust in the brine tank, preventing salt from dissolving in the water to make brine, can stop your water softener from working properly. But the problem is easy to diagnose and resolve with regular checks.
Water softeners are a great way to tackle a hard water issue in your home. Soft water doesn’t only taste better; it also improves the efficiency of your water-based appliances and gives you cleaner dishes and laundry. But if you’ve been using your water softener for longer than you care to remember, the system may be long overdue a check for potential faults and issues.
Following the above tips to assess your water softener and ensure it lives a long life will help you to benefit most from your investment. A relatively small amount of effort can make all the difference when it comes to extending the lifespan of your softener and ensuring it keeps water taste and quality at its very best.