Just like other home appliances, installing water softener comes with a lot of questions about how it works, and general maintenance. One of the most common questions new water softener owners ask is, “how long do water softeners last?”.
Read on to learn more about this appliance.
What is a Water Softener?
A water softener is a home filtration system that gets rid of minerals like calcium and magnesium that cause hardness in water. Hard water is a devastating problem for homeowners as it destroys water-run appliances, dries out the skin, and leaves a thin slime on home surfaces. Investing in a water softener is crucial as the majority of Americans depend on hard water.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Water Softener
A water softener has endless advantages that come with using soft water, apart from eliminating hardness, using a water softener significantly increases the lifespan of water-based appliances and negates the need for constant repair or replacement. Hard water is responsible for drying out skin and hair. A water softener saves you from this mess.
All good things have downsides, and sadly this is also applicable to water softeners. Water softeners only address the issues of hardness and do nothing about the unpleasant smell and taste, they do not disinfect water too. Another disadvantage of water softeners is that they lead to higher wastage of water since the hardness continually needs to be expelled. The last major disadvantage of water softeners is that it may require constant maintenance, and significant funds might have to be channeled into replacing the salt.
How Long Do Water Softeners Last?
On average, water softeners last between ten and twenty years, although it is highly dependent on the type, quality, and proper maintenance. While a single tank electric water softener can live for as long as 12 years, a Kinetico system could last up to two decades. Generally, it is advisable to repair water softeners that are less than ten years old when they are faulty and replace those that are more than ten years old.
How Does A Water Softener Work?
Water softeners use a process known as ion exchange to remove the hardness causing minerals, calcium and magnesium. The mineral tank contains a bed of spherical resin beads that are made from polystyrene. These beads have a sodium charge. The polystyrene beads are anions; this means that they have a negative charge.
Since the hardness causing minerals (calcium and magnesium) are cations because they have a positive charge, when hard water flows into the mineral tank it is passed through a bed of resins, the positive charge of the resins attract the negative charge of the minerals and stick to them; hence removing the hardness from the water. The product of this reaction is the release of sodium ions. Basically, it works by “grabbing” out the hardness in the water when it is in the tank and letting soft water flow into your house.
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Parts of a Water Softener
A water softener consists of three main parts; a mineral tank, a control valve, and a brine tank. These three parts function together to soften hard water, regulate the flow of water, and clean/regenerate the system. Below is a description of these three parts:
The Mineral Tank
This is where the actual softening of water takes place. The hard water is fed into the tank through a supply line, and hardness is removed when it flows over the resin bead bed, as explained in the section above. The softened water then leaves the tank and flows into your home.
The Control Valve
This component regulates and monitors the volume of water entering your house through the tank. It consists of a meter that lets you observe the quantity of water entering the mineral tank. Another function of the control valve is to initiate a regeneration cycle when the beads have lost their ability to remove hardness over time.
Factors like the size of your house, the number of people in the house, and degree of water hardness determine the frequency of regeneration cycles.
The Brine Tank
The brine tank is a smaller tank that is located next to the mineral tank. It is essential to the functioning of the regeneration system. The brine tank contains a high concentration of the salt solution that replenishes the lost positive charge (potency) of the bead. This salt has to be manually added, and it can be either in pellet or block form. When the resin blocks lose their potency, the control valve triggers the brine tank to push the brine solution through the resin bed and restore its potency.
Tips to Make Your Water Softener Last Longer
The key to getting the best from any appliance maintenance, follow these guidelines carefully to ensure your water softener has a long productive life.
- Read the manual carefully before use: This should go without saying, NEVER use an appliance without first reading the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Change the filter: You will find information about how to do this on the owner’s manual. If your water softener is the Kinetico type, you will have to replace the inline filter occasionally.
- Add Regenerant: The regenerant plays a vital part in the functioning of the water heater and should never run out. Use the water level in the brine drum as a gauge; refill the regenerant before the water becomes visible. Cube or pellet regenerants of higher quality are preferable to rock and solar regenerant because it has much lesser sediment build-up. Although pellets are more expensive than rock or solar, getting them is money well spent in the long run.
- Single electric tank water softeners need to have their resin bed flushed annually to keep the resin beads in prime working condition.
- Always remember to avoid replenishing the salt unless the tank is ⅔ empty, it is also advisable to leave about 4-6 inches of the tank empty when refilling.
- Remove any hardened salt (salt bridge) from the tank before you refill.
- Always adjust the setting to be just enough to remove any hardness properly. An unnecessarily high setting will only lead to premature wear and significantly shorten lifespan. The best approach is to ask your dealer for a recommended setting to avoid overworking the system.
These simple actions will contribute in no little way to make your water softener function properly and last longer.