When to Replace Your Water Softener
Here’s the good news: If you buy the right water softener, it’s likely to serve you well for a long time. That said, there are many reasons why at some point, you may need to replace your water softening system. Perhaps you moved into a home with an older or non-working softener. Maybe the system you chose isn’t delivering all the benefits you’re looking for – or it could simply be that newer, higher-tech options are available offering more features and advantages.
Regardless of your reasons, it’s helpful to understand the signs of an aging softener and some of the ways quality soft water systems have improved since yours was installed.
What Water Softening Systems Do For Your Home
First, take a step back to remember why you—or your home’s previous owner—likely purchased a water softening system in the first place. Softeners are primarily used to remove calcium and magnesium from water. High concentrations of these minerals create water hardness that can negatively impact you and your home.
Hard water can make it difficult for soaps to activate properly, for example, so dishes may be harder to clean, clothes may be scratchy, and you may feel a filmy residue on your skin and hair. Likewise, hardness in water can cause damaging mineral buildup in water-using appliances like your washing machine, dishwasher, coffee maker and hot water heater. It can also clog pipes, leave spots on glassware, and cause scale on shower heads, faucets, and shower doors.
Softeners can reduce the minerals that make water hard and the problems they cause. The units can also reduce dissolved iron, which can give water a metallic taste and create unsightly red or brown stains around toilet bowls, sinks, shower walls and bathtubs.
How Do You Know When Your Water Softener Needs to Be Replaced?
One simple clue to start with: Today’s water softeners typically have digital timers. If yours has a mechanical timer, that’s a sign you have an older system that probably isn’t working very efficiently. It likely regenerates (i.e., does its softening work) based on a fixed time interval that may or may not be aligned with your actual water usage. When systems regenerate more frequently than they should, they end up using more salt, water and electricity than necessary. In contrast, newer systems can regenerate based on how much water is actually used.
How do you know when your water softener is not working? There are multiple indicators to keep in mind. Your water may seem soft on some days but not on others – so you may start to see some of the issues that caused you to get a softener in the first place return.
Salt levels can offer clues as well. If your salt tank is always full, that means the softener isn’t using any salt, which it needs to function. On the flip side, there could also be a problem if you’re replacing the salt more often than in the past. At the same time, you may have trouble finding parts for your system when repairs are needed, necessitating a replacement.
High-Value Features to Seek in Your Next Water Softener
Many of today’s top-notch softeners provide an array of benefits beyond what traditional versions deliver, especially when they are embedded with smart technology and can connect to the internet. When it’s time to do your research, look for a system that offers:
- More operating efficiency. Some softeners can use a sensor to automatically adjust to changes in your home’s water conditions and regenerate only when needed, which reduces operating costs. This capability is particularly useful if your municipal water system frequently switches to different water sources that have varying degrees of hardness.
- Customization. Quality systems offer programming flexibility. For instance, you can adjust the softness level of the water. You can even decide when the unit regenerates; many choose a time when water isn’t being used in the home.
- Water and salt usage tracking. Some water softeners allow you to use an app on your smartphone or tablet to access real-time status updates that include your water usage patterns and changes in the salt level. You can also receive alerts about issues that need to be addressed like leaks or, more commonly, how many days remain until your system runs out of salt. Some smart water softeners even allow you to set and track water usage goals to help promote water conservation in your home.
- Ability to remotely manage your softener. Sometimes you want your softener to take a break, like when you water the lawn. Irrigating for an hour requires a lot of water, and maybe even more than your household uses all day. You likely don’t want to waste your soft water capacity—and money—on plants that won’t care about hardness. While you can typically put the unit in bypass mode by turning a knob on the softener, the task becomes much more convenient when all it takes is a tap on an app. Some softeners even allow you to set a timer for the bypass so you don’t have to remember to restart the process.
- Less hassle to maintain. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by buying a softener from a water expert who specializes in these systems and can help keep yours in perfect working condition. Some soft water systems offer the option of having remote diagnostics and service notifications sent to your dealer. Your trusted partner should also have service programs available that offer regular maintenance and salt delivery.