It is estimated that over 85% of homes in the Unites States reside in a hard water area. The most notable signs of hard water are a buildup of calcium on appliances, spots on dishes after washing or soap that doesn’t tend to lather well. Once it’s determined you have hard water, you might consider purchasing a water softener. The most common water softening system is salt-based. It is important to remember that a water softener is a complex piece of equipment that requires proper maintenance to work at its best. Understanding the issues that may arise owning a water softener system and how to handle them will save you time and money. Let’s look at the most common water softener problems.
Excess Sodium in the Water
For the tank to run properly sodium chloride (salt) will need to be added to the unit. Sometimes too much salt can be ingested into the body which can be harmful. To safeguard against this consider installing a pipe to be used for drinking water only.
A Salt Bridge Has Formed
Occasionally the sodium in the water softener tank will form hard deposits. When this buildup occurs it creates a salt bridge which leaves a hard crusty coating covering the water. At first glance it may appear that the tank is full of salt. Upon closer inspection you will see the salt bridge layers the top but is empty underneath. Although the system will still function, the salt bridge will not allow it to soften the water or go through the regeneration cycle. The tank will need to be cleaned and refilled with salt. It should run normally within two to three days.
Broken or Damaged Brine Line
Damage to the brine line is often a common occurrence. However, the brine line is an integral part in keeping the unit running properly. It must be maintained at a particular pressure at all times. If you suspect a problem, a few things should be checked first:
• If the pressure to the line seems off, inspect it for any damage or breakage.
• Inspect the filter screen and the injector by flushing the brine line. If they appear defective or damaged read the owner’s manual for proper replacement.
The Unit Stops Working Properly
There could be several reasons why the water softener has stopped working. Some problems are quickly resolved, while others may need professional help.
• Needs more salt – You will want to flush all of the water out of the tank. If the salt level is low, add more and then refill it with water.
• Check the plugs and circuits – These may seem obvious but oftentimes are overlooked. Make sure the water softener is plugged in to a working outlet and the unit is turned on. You may have tripped the circuit breaker at some point so check that it is in working order.
• The motor may be the problem – If everything else seems to be working properly and the unit still won’t start, the motor may be dead. Call a technician out to inspect the water softener to determine if it should be fixed or replaced altogether.
Broken Resin Beads
Resin beads could last as long as the life of the unit. However, if you find particles of resin bead floating in the water or the water softener needs charging more than usual, the beads may be the problem. In some cases they will only need a thorough cleaning or they may need to be replaced. The owner’s manual should give step-by-step instructions on how to clean or replace the beads.
High Iron Content in the Water
The iron content in the water does have a maximum limit. If it exceeds it you will want to check the following for trouble:
• Check to make sure the filter doesn’t need to be replaced
• Confirm the bypass valve is in working order
• Inspect the plumbing lines to be sure no leaks exist
As with any system that requires manual operation, mistakes can happen. A water softener system can be a complex piece of equipment that entails a fair amount of knowledge on how it runs. Read the owner’s manual fully to insure proper maintenance and refer to the troubleshooting guide if questions arise. When all else fails call the manufacturer or a professional technician.