What to Do When My Water Softener Running Water Won’t Stop?

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Water softeners are more complex than many people realize. When they’re operating properly, they’re highly effective in treating hard water and eliminating scale in your pipes and appliances. But when a water softener malfunctions, it may stop working altogether.

One of the most common water softener problems is when the system is stuck on a rinsing mode. You should notice this because it sounds like water is constantly running in the system.

Before you can fix this issue, you need to understand why your water softener could be stuck in the regeneration process. I’ll be covering everything you need to know, including how to solve the issue, in this guide.

🤔 Why Is My Water Softener Stuck in Regeneration?

There are a number of reasons why your water softener could be repeatedly performing regeneration cycles, including:

Broken Circuit Switch

If your system’s circuit switch is faulty or broken, it may be preventing your softener from working properly. Circuit switches regulate a water softener’s behavior, so when they break, they can cause a system to continuously regenerate. Replacing or repairing the faulty component is the only way to resolve this issue.

Control Head Failure

The control head or control valve on your water softener may also cease working eventually. Control heads typically last as long as your system itself, but if you have an older unit, yours may have reached the end of its lifespan. Again, replacing the broken component will solve the issue. It’s unlikely that you will be able to fix the device once it calls it a day.

Improper Programming of Control Head

The metered demand head might not have completely given up on you. Your system may have simply reprogrammed the settings or experienced a blip that has resulted in constant regeneration.

Usually, regeneration takes about 2 hours from start to finish, and happens at around 2 or 3 am in the morning. You may hear a hissing or running water noise during this process. If a glitch has caused the unit to get stuck in regeneration, you’ll hear these noises when you don’t usually hear them.

Check the settings and reprogram the timer if you notice something doesn’t look right. Consult your user manual if you’re unsure.

Clog in Water Lines

Another common issue that can confuse your water softener is clogging in one of several water lines: the drain line, injector/venturi line or brine line. When any of these lines become clogged or blocked, the system may get stuck in a constant regeneration cycle because there isn’t enough water moving between the tanks.

You’re more likely to experience a blockage if you have particularly hard water or high levels of another contaminant like iron. If you use a lower-quality salt, like rock salt, you may also experience more frequent issues with blockages in your water lines.

You can fix the problem by checking your water lines and removing any blockages to allow water to flow freely.

Related: Reasons why a softener isn’t using any salt

Brine Tank Valve Assembly Clogged

The brine tank valve assembly may also become clogged with dirt, salt and sediment. Follow guidance in your user manual to access the valve in the tank and clean anything that needs cleaning. You may have to repair or replace the valve and other components if you notice any cracks or damage. Consider switching to a higher-purity salt to prevent dirt build-up in the valve.

Water Pressure is Too Low

If your home’s incoming water pressure is too low, you might not have enough water for your water softener to regenerate. This may cause the unit to get stuck in constant regeneration as it tries to pull enough water into the resin tank. Water softeners perform best when your water pressure is at least 40 to 50 PSI.

Purchase a pressure meter if you don’t know what your water pressure is. You could also buy a booster pump to improve your water pressure if needed. Note that this will need connecting to an electricity supply to work.

Related: How often should my water softener regenerate, anyway?

✔️ How to Diagnose A Water Softener that Won’t Stop Running

Diagnosing a water softener that won’t stop running can feel a bit like randomly stabbing in the dark. It’s worth following a step-by-step process to check that everything is in order, moving through the potential problems listed in this guide.

Here’s how to diagnose a water issue in your water softener:

  1. First, use your bypass valve to shut off the water supply or program the unit to run in bypass mode.
  2. Bring out your user manual, as this will help you to locate the different components in your water softener. Each water softener is slightly different, so any information you find online might not be exact.
  3. Start by looking at the circuit switch. Check that it is working properly. If it is visibly broken, you’ll need to repair or replace it.
  4. Next up, check the digital metered head. Check that it’s switched on and working, and if so, that there are no error codes on the display screen. Additionally, check that your programming and timer are looking normal.
  5. If you still haven’t found the cause of the problem, it sounds like you might have a clog in your brine lines or assembly valve. If you’re getting no brine draw, drain and detach the valve and lines, then check them carefully for blockages. Rinse them out with water to clear any salt or sediment.
  6. Replace the lines, put the components back together and run a manual regeneration cycle. If you’re getting brine draw, the problem is solved.
how to diagnose a water softener stuck in regeneration

❔ Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a water softener run?

Automatic regeneration usually takes between 85 and 90 minutes. You can check your user manual for regen times. There’s a lot more that goes into regeneration than you might realize: the brine tank fills with water, which then travels into the mineral tank to flush the resin bed during backwashing. Most water softeners are programmed to perform a regeneration cycle overnight, so this water treatment process shouldn’t have an effect on your daily water use.

If the unit is taking longer than usual to replenish the resin tank, or your brine tank doesn’t seem to be fully emptying, follow the steps mentioned in this guide to determine the problem. Your softener may be unable to produce soft water if you have a draining or power issue.

How much water should a softener use in regeneration?

This depends on the type of system you own, including the size of the salt tank/resin bed and the hardness of your water. Some water softeners only need around 20 gallons of water, while others may use up to 65 gallons during the softening regeneration process. Newer water softeners are more efficient, and generally use less water than the older models.

How do I reset my water softener?

Again, this depends on what type of soft water system you own. Most systems, however, will have a “reset” or “regen” button that you will need to press and hold for a couple of seconds. If you haven’t already, set your water’s hardness and the number of days you’d prefer to wait between regen cycles. You should have the option to bypass these settings and manually reset the system if that’s all you need to do.

Could my salt usage affect my water softener’s performance?

Potentially. If you add too much salt to the salt tank, you may notice mushing at the bottom of the tank. This can prevent the tank from draining correctly and cause the system to get stuck in the regen cycle. Cheaper, poor-quality salt can also cause mushing. It’s best to use the highest-purity salt you can get your hands on – as close to 100% as possible – in your water softener.

  • Stephen Evangelista
    Water Treatment Specialist

    Stephen is an expert in the water treatment industry with over a decade of experience. He combines his extensive background in managing water treatment projects with a passion for educating his community on water quality, delivering top-notch installations and service to his customers in Pennsylvania.

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