A common question that pops up from both commercial and residential water softener owners is "how long do they typically last?". The answer is not so simple because it depends on quite a few things: the quality of the build, the materials used to soften the water, and most importantly, the maintenance.
Still, for a residential water softener, you should expect it to last 10-20+ years with minimal upkeep. For a commercial application (especially a custom-built system) you can expect it to last even longer with proper upkeep. Here are some things that factor into water softener life expectancy.
Water Softener Maintenance
Water softeners work by removing calcium and magnesium ions with a small number of sodium ions. This is achieved through the use of resin beads that conduct the exchange as hard water passes through them.
Eventually, the beads become so inundated with calcium and magnesium ions that the tank must be regenerated. This process, which removes those mineral ions and restores sodium ions to the beads, happens automatically.
How often this needs to be done is depended on how much calcium is in your water. You can easily get a water test kit from a home improvement store or by calling a water treatment professional.
How Often it is Used
This is determined largely by the hardness of the water that is being treated. The more mineral deposits in the water, the harder and more frequently the water softener system will have to work at filtration to provide the water quality you’re looking for.
And, as with almost all machines, the more they are used - the faster they break down and need servicing.
Incorrect Salt Usage
Each water softener uses a particular type of salt, from pellets to crystals and large blocks. If you use the wrong form of salt or salt not considered to be high quality, maintenance and repair issues could arise. Clogs, inefficiency, and motor malfunctions are just a few of the problems that stem from using the wrong salt.
Additionally, you should work to maintain the sodium levels in your tank regularly. Check the tank monthly and keep the salt level at least half full.
If you’ve noticed insufficient drainage in your tank, a damaged motor could be the culprit. Check on this by following the instructions to put the softener into manual regeneration mode. Look for water flow at the floor drain.
If water is flowing correctly, that means the motor is working. If there is no flow, your motor is likely damaged or incorrectly connected to the camshaft. Fortunately, a water softener’s motor is just one component of the overall system, and it is repairable or, at worst, replaceable.
If you notice a flow problem you should call a local water softener service professional to take a look and see if the motor is damaged.
How Much is the Service or Repairs for a Water Softener?
Servicing your water softener to make sure its settings are correct can be relatively cheap. They can also tell you how everything looks and when you can expect more servicing or repairs that may be needed.
Repairs depend on the part(s) that fail. Some parts of the water softener are relatively cheap while some can set you back a couple of hundred dollars. Whether or not it makes sense to repair or replace the entire softener should be discussed with your service tech.
Since they are whole-house appliances, water softeners are generally covered under home warranties that include whole-house systems (always check the specific policy to be sure). The best way to prolong the life of any appliance is good, consistent maintenance that prevents small problems from turning into big ones
Signs Your Water Softener is in need of Repairs or Replacement
There are many signs to look for that your water softener may need repairs or replacement
- Less effective cleaning: Hard water makes it more difficult to lather soap in the sink or shower. You may notice you’re going through shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent a lot faster. You could also find your clothes seem stiff and scratchy even after using a softener.
- Mineral buildup: The minerals that are naturally present in hard water can cause crusts to build up around your taps and pipes. Look at your plumbing components when cleaning your bathroom and kitchen, and watch for white residue.
- Different taste: Hard minerals in your drinking water aren’t necessarily dangerous but can affect your water taste. You might find your water tastes a little unusual or metallic. Excess water hardness could also cause scale buildup in your kettle.
- Skin issues: If your water hardness levels are too high, you don’t just end up with stains on your shower walls and bathtub; you could also suffer from itchy and uncomfortable skin. Minerals in your hard water can irritate your skin and make your hair feel dry or brittle.
- Appliance issues: If your washing machines and dishwasher don’t appear to be working properly, this could be a sign your new water softener isn’t working as well as it should be. Hard water can make your clothes stiff and cause various laundry problems. It can also leave calcium and magnesium deposits on your plate.