Just how long does a water softener last? Well, water softeners last long enough that if you move frequently, you may never have to replace one. If you stay in the same house, on the other hand, you could expect to replace your water softener at least once in your lifetime. That being said, you do have some control over how long your softener lasts.
In theory, proper care and maintenance should help your system reach its maximum lifespan but their lifespans aren’t always predictable. Generally, you should get 10 to 15 years out of your water softener.
The hardness of your water and the frequency at which you run your softener can also impact the system’s lifespan so as your system ages, you might start paying attention to the quality of your water. There are several signs to watch for.
Signs of an Aging Water Softener
Age is, of course, the biggest sign that your water softener needs to be replaced. If it’s under 10 years old, any problems that you have may just indicate that your system needs to be serviced. However, if your softener is having problems after the 10-year mark, you might want to start preparing for the replacement.
Other signs that you need to pay attention to your water softener include:
- Soap scum is collecting more frequently and your dishes are spotty after cleaning them.
- When your water softener isn’t working, you might get itchy skin.
- Hard water also makes laundry stiff and scratchy.
- You might see crusty buildup around your pipes and faucets.
- Your water tastes different.
Again, these could be signs that your water softener needs to be serviced or refilled but if it’s older when these things start to happen, you might have a hard time getting it back to normal.
How to Extend the Life of Your Softener
Ideally, you want your water softener to last as long as possible and with a little bit of strategy, you should be able to do it. Even if you only extend its life by one year, that’s still a success and it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. Taking care of your softener is mostly about making the right decisions when it comes to filling and using it.
Get the Right Size Softener
If you are getting ready to purchase a new softener, make sure that the softener you buy is appropriate for your needs.
You don’t want to go too big nor do you want to go too small. Obviously, a water softener that is too small won’t be able to keep up. You’ll overwork the softener and its life could end more quickly than you want it to. On the other hand, a water softener that is too large won’t regenerate effectively. In this case, it’s not doing enough work and bacteria can grow in the tank.
Before you buy a water softener, find out its capacity rate and compare that to how much water you use.
Adjust the Settings
Sometimes, if you have a water softener that is too large, you’ll be able to adjust the settings so that it regenerates as often as it should. Regardless, you should pay attention to these settings and make sure that your softener is set to for optimal performance.
The softener’s settings should allow you to control when the unit regenerates, how frequently it regenerates, and how much softening it does. You can also control the amount of water the softener treats.
The manual that comes with the softener will explain each of these settings and provide some insight into how you should adjust them. Sometimes the manual will tell you exactly what you need to do; other times, you may need to adjust the settings according to your specific needs.
Use High-Grade Salt
The type of salt you use can impact the life of your softener as well. Using a high-grade salt at least minimizes the amount of maintenance that you need to do on your softener.
This is because low-grade salt can lead to a few different problems. For example, there is something called a “salt bridge” that can form in your softener. A salt bridge is simply a hard crust that forms in the tank, creating a space in between the water and the salt. When this happens, salt can’t dissolve, which means that your softener won’t soften the water. Humidity and excess salt may also create a salt bridge.
It’s recommended to use high-grade salt or potassium chloride in your softener to prevent the bridging. If your softener brand specifically recommends a type of salt, then go with that one.
Don’t Fill it All the Way
Water softeners tend to run into issues when the salt tank gets too full. The softener will be forced to work harder and it typically won’t soften the water as effectively so remember to never fill your softener to the brim.
In fact, don’t go above three-quarters of the way full. You can safely stop filling your softener when it reaches the halfway point but once you go above three-quarters, you might run into problems. Usually, there will be a notch or a “don’t fill above this level” sign on the inside of your softener.
Call a Plumber
Plumbers often handle water softeners so if you suspect that there’s an issue or you simply want to have your softener inspected, you can call your plumber to take a look.
Plumbers can also clean your equipment to remove the sediment and waste that naturally builds up over time. Keeping your system clean is another great way to protect it from aging and this is especially important for older softeners. A new softener should be cleaned once every two years but an older softener will need to be cleaned more often.
While your plumber is cleaning the equipment, he or she can also keep an eye out for any issues. If you can fix problems before they cause damage, you’re much better off. Your plumber would also be able to tell you whether or not your softener is running efficiently.