If you live in an area with especially hard water, then you may need to invest in a water softener. However, the softener that you use will require maintenance in the same way as any other appliance. If you do not maintain your water softener, then you are basically paying for nothing.
Here are the steps that you should take to maintain your water softener, improving the health of your home and reducing the amount of money that you will spend on your water overall.
Salt Bridges and Salt Mushing Problems
When a hardened crust solidifies in the water softener brine tank, a salt bridge can form. If there is an empty space that forms between the salt and the water in the tank, then the bridge is complete, and you have a legitimate problem. This salt bridge keeps the brine tank from releasing the resin beads that actually soften your drinking water. When this occurs, you are basically getting no service whatsoever from your softener!
The Possible Causes of a Salt Bridge
A salt bridge can easily occur if the humidity in your surrounding environment changes quickly. High humidity is usually the culprit. If the temperature undergoes a huge change around the water softener, then you may also end up with salt bridge. A bridge may also occur if you use the wrong type of salt in your brine tank.
The Symptoms of a Salt Bridge
You will know if you have a salt bridge if your salt tank looks like it is full but your water is obviously hard. If you need to test for a salt bridge, one of the fastest ways to do so is with a broom handle. Use the handle of the room to push gently on top of the salt. This will help to the salt bridge if it has solidified in your brine tank.
When compared to a salt bridge, salt mushing is actually a much more serious problem. Salt mushing occurs when salt that initially dissolved in your tank crystallizes again. This salt forms an unattractive sludge on the bottom of your tank. It becomes a very thick layer of crud that keeps the water softener from getting through its entire process of regeneration. Not only does this cause a block in your brine tank, but it also leaves your water completely hard.
Symptoms of a Salt Mushing Situation
This condition is worse than a salt bridge because it does not dissipate with the broom handle test mentioned above. If you perform the broom handle test on a salt mushing situation and nothing happens to the solid build up, then the condition is likely salt mushing, not a salt bridge.
How to Fix a Salt Mushing Problem
In order to fix a salt mushing problem, you may have to actually dig out all of the old salt in your brine tank. Replacing this with fresh salt will fix your problem in most cases.
Avoiding Salt Mushing as Well as Salt Bridges
The preferred method of maintaining a water softener is to avoid salt mushing and salt bridges before they have a chance to make your life difficult. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to completely avoid them both.
If you start out your brine tank with high quality salt pellets, you have a much lower chance of salt crystallizing into a bridge or a layer at the bottom of your tank. Make sure that the humidity level remains within normal parameters around your water softener. Finally, be sure not to fill your tank with too much salt in the first place. Any one of these conditions can cause a problem, but if two or more of them occur, you have a much greater chance of the salt bonding and causing a problem for you.
As for the type of salt that you put inside of your water softener, you will usually have three basic types. Evaporated salt is the type of salt that you should always use. Although it is the most expensive, it will allow you to avoid the most problems over the long term. Rock salt is the least expensive; however, it has the highest levels of impure minerals that can cause crystallization over time. Even if the salt is not crystallized, you increase the risk of your tank becoming muddy because of the impurities in the salt.
Solar salt is a better choice than rock salt, but evaporated salt is still slightly better if you can afford it. Solar salt, which comes about from evaporating seawater, is much more soluble than rock. Evaporated salt is simply more pure, resulting in much less overall maintenance throughout the life of your tank.
Cleaning the Resin Bed
Under normal conditions, the resin beads that are in your water softener will be recharged on a routine basis by salt. Again, evaporated salt is the best product for this process. However, even if you have evaporated salt in your tank, you will gain additional years of use on the tank if you completely flush the bed of resin every few months. This will help to keep your water softener mechanism in its best form. No matter what you do, your water softener will eventually become polluted with heavy metals, iron and silt if you do not clean it by flushing it.
You will also need to reduce the possibility of an effective resin. In order to do this, you should look in the manufacturer’s notes for the amount of water softener cleaner that should go down the well of the brine at any one time. Make sure that you never overload your tank with more cleaner than is recommended by the manufacturer. You should also be sure that you clean the water softener on a consistent basis. If all of this is done correctly, your resin will be able to store more calcium and other hard metals that would otherwise find their way into your water.
Venturi Valve Cleaning
Your venturi valve is very important as the suction that moves the brine from its initial location into the resin tank of your water softener. Because it is around so many sediments and dirt, the valve itself can sometimes become contaminated with these materials. If the valve is not clean, then there is no way that it can help to clean the rest of your tank.
In order to clean the valve, unscrew the cover and remove all of the parts inside. You will need to clean all of these parts in water and soap at least twice every year. Make sure that you do not have any extraneous dirt on any piece of the valve when you place them back into position.
If there are any other loose pieces in your water softener mechanism, you should clean them in the same way that you clean your valve. Maintain this process at least twice a year and extend the life of your water softener exponentially.
Although you may initially be remiss to take the time needed to properly clean your water for drinking, the health cost of hard water is definitely much higher than maintaining a simple water softener for your home. Maintain yours using the steps that were outlined above for healthier water as well as a reduced cost of home resources.