How Long Do Water Softeners Last? Tips to Extend Their Lifespan

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A water softener system can make a world of difference to the water quality in your home

It offers many benefits, such as filtering out hard water minerals from your supply, protecting your pipes from lime scale buildup, and alleviating dry skin.

Since it does all that and more, how long do water softeners last?

Answering this question can help you determine whether it’s worth getting one installed in the first place.

Today, we’ll talk about the expected service life of a water softener system and share some tips on extending it further.

How Long Do Water Softeners Last?

A water softener system’s serviceable life varies from one household to the next.

In most instances, you can expect a good water softener system to last anywhere between 10 and 20 years.

That said, the hard water your home receives is a significant factor in determining how long it will remain functional.

Obviously, the more hard water the system has to work with, the more strain it will be put under.

It can lead to signs of damage earlier than expected, sometimes within a 10-year timeframe. In these instances, you may need to consider repairs.

On the other hand, if you have begun to notice your water softener failing after 10 years of service, you might want to consider replacing it instead.

How To Tell if a Water Softener Needs Maintenance

Fortunately for most homeowners, there are noticeable factors that can help you determine whether it’s time to repair or replace your water softeners.

The main indicator is when you start getting hard water from your system. Here are different hard water signs you should keep an eye out for:

  • Dry Skin

Have you noticed your skin drying out after showering or washing your hands? If so, it is likely time for a water softener repair or much-needed maintenance.

  • Dry Hair

Like dry skin, dry hair is another common sign that proper care is required for your water softener.

Because of hard water, you might notice your hair is frizzier than average, especially during the colder months.

  • Weird Water Taste

Unlike hard water, softened water is known to have a less chlorine-like taste.

So, if you have begun to notice mineral buildup in your drinking water, there’s a good chance your unit isn’t working as properly as it should be.

For those with little plumbing knowledge, you might be able to do some maintenance and repair tasks yourself.

Others are not as lucky and may need to contact a pro to have their water softener checked.

  • Scale Buildup

Scale buildup is easy to see on your plumbing fixtures, especially as it has everything to do with hard minerals, like iron.

As minerals like calcium and magnesium build up around your fixtures, they leave a hard-to-remove crust or soap scum. It could make your clothes stiff as well.

  • Laundry Changes

Some of the first things that make most homeowners realize it’s time to replace their water softener are laundry problems.

You might notice your clothes don’t feel as clean from soap as they once did, or they may appear duller.

Some soft fabrics will also feel harder because they are being washed in water with a higher hardness level.

  • Soap

Soft water makes soap lather considerably easier and feels softer against the skin.

If you find your softener isn’t working, soap won’t lather as easily nor help you feel as clean.

Standard Maintenance for Water Softeners

With a good idea of the things to look for when your water softener is on its way out, let’s explore top maintenance tips to maintain your home’s water quality.

You can do plenty of things at home to keep your softener working properly before calling a technician.

If you find none of the tips below help, it could be time to get some professional help.

water softener
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1. Refill the regenerant.

In a nutshell, water softening is possible with the use of two tanks: the brine tank and the resin tank.

While the brine tank holds the salt, the resin tank is responsible for water softening.

Regular use makes it only natural for the resin tank to accumulate hardness ions, such as calcium and magnesium.

When that happens, you will need to perform the water softener regeneration process.

During this process, the brine tank’s regenerant (or salt) is pumped into the resin tank to rinse the buildup of hardness ions and replace them with sodium ions.

Over time, the system’s regenerant will eventually run out.

Fortunately, there are different types of regenerant for you to choose from, such as pellets and cubed regenerants.

Some also prefer coarse salt or rock salt because they are significantly more affordable compared to other processed regenerants.

That said, the higher the quality of your regenerant, the longer the typical lifespan of your water softener.

Replenishing your regenerant regularly will help reduce buildup, which, in turn, can save you money in the long run.

However, it is a good idea not to add too much salt to your softener, or it could result in serious issues.

The general rule is to add salt when the tank is 1/3 full. After that, there should be 1/4 of the tank (about four to six inches) of empty space.

2. Change the filter.

The vast majority of water treatment systems for hard water will have a filter you will need to clean or replace regularly.

Depending on the new water softener model, the user manual should give you a good idea of how to replace the filter.

You must also pick the right filter for your unit to help protect the rest of your water softening system.

3. Flush the resin bed.

You will find a collection of small beads (resin beads) inside the resin bed in your softener.

One of the most critical maintenance tips is to flush the water softener resin bed at regular intervals to help remove hard water minerals and other types of buildup.

Ideally, it would be best if you do this at least once annually.

With flushing, you can maintain the quality of your resin beads, which is essential for homes with particularly hard water.

It also ensures your appliance works efficiently, providing the same results even after years in service.

4. Choose the right settings.

If you want to learn how to give your softener a long life, make sure you customize its settings.

You will likely rely on a technician for this, as they will know the perfect settings for your average water consumption and home size.

You won’t want your water softening system to make too much water that doesn’t get used, nor do you want too little water either.

By tailoring your water softener to your home’s demands, you can ensure you are not putting undue wear and tear on it.

How To Tell if a Water Softener Needs Replacement

In most instances, you will be lucky if your water softener just needs a little bit of maintenance.

That’s because getting a brand-new unit up and running can be costly, especially for large homes.

That said, make sure you have your water treatment system checked by a professional before you replace your water softener.

Here are a few key things to look for that should give you an idea of whether a replacement is necessary or not:

  • Reduced Water Pressure

A lower water pressure could mean contaminants like magnesium and other minerals have clogged your unit beyond repair.

It could also mean certain parts have deteriorated to where your home is getting less water through the softener.

  • Zero Regeneration

Water regeneration is key to a water softener working efficiently.

If your unit is either never regenerating or constantly regenerating, it is likely time to consider a replacement.

  • Sand-Like Particles

Aside from the taste of the water, if you notice sand-like particles, it is time to reach out to a professional.

This could mean contaminants make it into your faucets and through your system.

With Water Softeners, Maintenance Is King

There is much to consider when answering, “How long do water softeners last?

In most instances, they can last up to 20 years and offer a good supply of soft water to your home.

However, without regular and proper maintenance, their operating life can shorten significantly.

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