Basic Water Softener Repair and Maintenance At Home
The appliances we use at home, the water softener among them, can sometimes stop running and give us an adrenaline rush.
If at any time you wake up to a non-functional water softener, what should you do?
Don’t always rush to call an expert to fix it. These machines aren’t as complicated as we tend to think. And you’d be surprised to learn that you can easily fix most of the issues they bring up and make them run smoothly again.
BUT…it’s also worth noting that taking good care of your water softener can prevent the occurrences of such issues in the first place.
With that said, I’d like to take you through a number of basic repair and maintenance tips that you can do on your own to keep your unit doing its job efficiently and smoothly.
Let’s start with the maintenance bit:
Water Softener Maintenance Tips
“Does my water softener really need any maintenance?”
I don’t understand why homeowners aren’t always sure about taking care of their water softening units.
Get this clear from me: you MUST show your unit some care if you want to keep it running as required and for a longer period of time (with near-zero cases of breakdown and failure)
This is how to keep your water softener healthy:
Refill the salt regularly
Having used your salt-based water softener for months, or years, you already know that salt is one of its key components. It helps pull the ion responsible for water hardness out of your hard water so that you can enjoy 100% soft water and all the benefits it comes with.
Since the salt gets consumed as your unit continues softening water, it’s important that you keep replenishing its levels on a regular basis. Some professionals recommend that you replenish the salt water when water in the brine tanks becomes visible.
This is similar to saying: don’t add salt to your system until the current amount gets consumed. And when refilling, ONLY add up to two-thirds full.
Don’t just add any salt
Another important tip that can will increase the lifespan of your unit while keeping it fully functional revolves around the type of salt you add to its brine tank.
Using the wrong salt might damage your unit.
Most manufacturers today clearly spell out the type of salt you specific to their units to ensure you don’t damage your water softening machine without knowing it.
What if your manufacturer doesn’t specify what salt to use?
Well, in such cases, always look for the purest salts available. This ensures that they don’t leave huge loads of residue in the brine tank which might result in salt bridging and mushing cases which directly affect the functionality of your unit (as we’ll see later in the post).
Additionally, make sure the salt you use is in pellets form- to further reduce the likelihood of salt bridging.
Always look for possible salt bridges and salt mushing occurrences
Let’s start with salt bridging…this occurs when the salt you add to the brine tank solidifies. This forms a wall between water and salt, preventing the two from mixing. As such, regeneration does not take place and your unit will stop softening your home water.
Possible causes of salt bridging include high humidity levels, using low levels of salt or water, and using potassium chloride.
Good news- you can easily fix this issue, and set your system running again, by breaking the wall with a stick or broom handle. If the wall proves too hard to break, you might consider using some hot water to make it dissolve easily.
I believe salt mushing is more serious that salt bridges. It occurs when salt that has already dissolved recrystallizes and forms some sludge at the bottom of the brine tank. And as you can guess, this will create a serious blockage that limits your unit from running an efficient regeneration process.
If you encounter this issue, you’d want to use a stick or a handle to break the salt loose…and add some hot water to quicken the dissolving process.
And if that doesn’t work, simply drain your brine tank, dig out all the old salt present, and replace it with fresh salt.
Clean the resin bed regularly
Once every few months, I’d encourage you to make a habit of thoroughly cleaning your resin bed. Yes, this is quite important, even when you think that the bed gets recharged by salt every now and then.
Let me tell you why:
As your unit continues operating, it might become polluted with silt, heavy metals, iron, and other organic compounds. These might end up affecting its overall efficiency.
Gladly, you can give the resins a new life by pouring the amount of water recommended by manufacturer down the brine tank and regenerate your unit manually.
Believe you me, when you do that, you’ll leave the resins “clean” and ready to absorb as much magnesium and calcium ions as possible for years!
Give the brine tank a thorough cleaning once a year
Not only the resin bed, the brine tank also needs some cleaning at least once every year, even if you only feed it with pure salts (sadly, these salts have some degree of impurity too).
The process is simple and fast and will take you a few minutes only.
And once the tank becomes clean, be sure to refill with the manufacturer recommended salt- up to two-thirds level.
Clean the venture valve too
Only after getting some explanation on what the venture valve will make you see the point of cleaning it regularly as well.
The venture, together with the nozzle, are responsible for creating the suction that moves brine from brine tank into the resin bed during the regeneration process. This means that the valve can catch some sand, dirt, and sediments, which might affect the way your unit runs.
For that reason, don’t even think twice about cleaning your venturi at least twice every year as it will keep your water softening system running efficiently.
Replacing the filter cartridge on time keep your system on top of the game
If you water softening system comes with a filter, this is your part. First, let’s acknowledge the fact that the filter does a good job of trapping any solid materials that might damage your unit.
Now, if your house has high rates of water usage or the water you used usually comes with high amounts of particles, say well water, then you’ll need to keep changing the filter cartridge more regularly.
Most manufacturers are generous enough to ship their units with an extra cartridge…but if you’re not lucky to get one, you can easily obtain one at your local home improvements store.
The process of replacing the cartridge doesn’t require a professional plumber; you only need to follow the directions outlined in the manual and you’ll be done in about half an hour.
One more thing…
In addition to these maintenance tips, I’d highly advise you to consult your unit manual. It will give you more information on how you can take care of your specific model. It will also give answers specific to your unit.
Basic DIY Water Softener Troubleshooting Guide:
After following the above maintenance tips, I doubt if your water softener will ever malfunction.
But in case it does, you can also get it back to its path with the following troubleshooting and repair guide:
1. If your water softener gets blocked, the main suspects could be salt bridges and salt mushing we discussed earlier, check for them and fix them as we discussed earlier. You can tell there’s a blockage in your system when the amount of water getting softened become less.
2. If you discover some particles floating in the already softened water or your unit requires more recharges frequently, there could be issues with the resin beads. Cleaning the resin tank will solve the issue. And if they’re broken (which causes particles floating in water), refer to your manual on how to replace them.
3. If your system fails to restart after turning it on, you’d want to check all the connection, including all the cables to ensure they’re not damaged. However, if you can’t find any issues with the connection, it could be a motor issue and you’ll need to replace it (you can do this on your own or hire a professional).
Proper water softener maintenance is quite important. It makes your unit run smoothly and efficiently, without any issues. It extends the lifespan of your unit, so you don’t have to buy a new unit every year. And it minimizes malfunctioning issues which might require you to hire a professional to fix it.
Follow my expert advice above on how to start taking good care of your unit today and it will save you a lot.
The process is extremely simple and fast, but very important!