Whether you just moved into a new house, just bought a new water softener, or you’ve had yours for years, you may be wondering when you’re expected to replace it.
How long do water softeners last, anyway? And do they require some maintenance? You want your investment to last as long as possible. So, here are some tips to extend your water softener’s lifespan.
Today, we’ll explore these questions and more to give you a clear picture of what water softener maintenance entails.
What does my water softener do?
Most of us here in Minnesota have very hard water, thanks to concentrations of calcium and magnesium. These minerals aren’t dangerous, but they can dry out skin and hair, cause spots and soap scum to build up on dishes and plumbing fixtures, make our water taste “off,” and eventually, even clog our water heater.
Installing a water softener eliminates these annoying problems by filtering the hard water through resin beads before it is distributed throughout the house. The beads trigger an ion exchange that converts the hard water into soft.
Do Water Softeners Wear Out?
A water softener is just like any other mechanical product in your home or kitchen. These tools work to soften hard water into something better for your plumbing.
The softening of water can make pipes last longer. Additionally, softened water is less likely to contain high levels of calcium and magnesium that can affect water taste.
Unfortunately, while water softeners are designed to stand the test of time, they’re constantly exposed to hard water, meaning that they eventually become damaged and may need to be replaced.
The expected lifespan for a water softener is about 15 years. Some only last for around ten years, whereas with the right salt for water treatment and maintenance, others can last for as long as 20 years.
Even if you have only had your water softener appliance for a few years and you begin to notice evidence of hard water around your home, then you may need to consider getting a professional to check your system.
While it’s unlikely that most high-quality water softeners will conk out in less than ten years, your system could be facing a malfunction that requires expert support.
How Long Does a Water Softener Last?
Well-maintained water softening equipment will last you for about 10-20 years.
That’s an estimate for a water softener in Phoenix, which has extremely hard water compared to most American cities.
Your water softener may last even longer if you live in a region with softer water, but 20 years is the lifespan you can generally expect.
That doesn’t mean you can leave your water softener alone for 20 years, though; they require regular maintenance and care.
Salt-Based Ion Exchange Water Softener Lifespan
Salt-based ion exchange will typically have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. As long as they are installed and maintained correctly, they do not deviate that much from the 10-15 year lifespan.
If they are not appropriately maintained, it will severely shorten this lifespan and create issues after the first salt refill.
Or issues will surface after a year or two of not maintaining properly and cause added maintenance and costs that could have been avoided that will shorten the lifespan significantly.
Dual Tank Water Softener Lifespan
The dual tank water softener will have a 10-15 year lifespan. It will have a slight deviation from the 10-15 years because it is a salt-based water softener; it just has an extra tank so that you can always use water.
This will be the most convenient set up for water softeners that you can get. When maintained properly, you will get closer to the 15-year lifespan, if not 20-25 years lifespan.
This is because of less stress on the system throughout its life. If treated poorly with no maintenance other than calling someone in to get it working again, you can expect a 3-5 year lifespan.
On-demand Controlled Water Softener Lifespan
On-demand controlled water softeners are much like standard softeners but have an additional level of functionality that helps them operate more efficiently.
Unlike standard water softeners that flood the salt resin with brine water to clean the hardness minerals off on a timed schedule, on-demand controlled water softeners keep track of water usage, and trigger regeneration after a predetermined amount of water has been used. That way, regeneration is always on time — not too soon or too late.
With sufficient maintenance and proper installation, on-demand controlled water softeners can also last 10 to 15 years.
How Long do the Resin Beads Last in a Water Softener
The resin beads will typically last 10-15 years. Chlorine and iron can kill the resin beads early if there are excess amounts in the water.
This can cause the resin beads to have a shorter lifespan than the 10-15 year expected lifespan.
In full maintenance and care, you can have the resin beads last 20-25 years, but if one mistreatment happens, you can kill off your resin bed and all the resin beads with the first cleaning after having your system.
What Impacts Water Softener Lifespan?
Different pieces affect water softener lifespans. One of the most significant aspects of determining lifespan is the frequency of use. This is caused by how hard water you have before softening it and how hard the system must work.
The other most significant aspect for the lifespan of the water softener is how much water is needing to be treated.
If there are only two people in a household, the water softener will have a longer lifespan than for a household of 8.
The last aspect within an individual’s control to extend the lifespan of a water softener is going to be care and maintenance. By doing this, you can open it well past the 10-15 year average.
Common Signs Your Water Softener is Malfunctioning
We’ve answered questions like ‘how long does salt last in a water softener?’ and ‘how long does a water softener last?’ — but now let’s look at some clear signs that something is amiss.
- Crusty Pipes
This indicates that your equipment is not softening the water enough. The crusty substance is the minerals that are not being filtered properly.
- Soap Doesn’t Lather
Properly softened water produces a chemical reaction with soap that causes it to lather. If your soap is not lathering and it isn’t easy to wash off your skin, these are clear signs your softener is not working correctly.
- Your Water’s Taste Changes
Soft water has a distinctly different taste than hard water. Some describe it as being ‘smoother.’ It’s hard to miss your water’s taste changing if you drink it daily.
In most cases, these symptoms indicate that you need to either refill your brine tank with salt or, at worst, replace the resin beads. If the issue persists despite your self-servicing, contact an expert.
How to Prolong the Life of Your Water Softener
- Change the filter: Your owner manual will be able to walk you through this process. If you have a Kinetico water softening system, it may use an in-line filter, which will occasionally require replacement.
- Add Regenerant: You need to make sure your softener never runs out of regenerant. Refill before water is visible in the brine drum or softener cabinet. Use a high-quality cube or pellet rather than rock or solar salt. It costs more, but its higher purity means less residue build-up. That will save you money in the long run.
- If you have a single tank electric softener, you will need to flush the resin bed with water softener cleaner about once a year to retain the effectiveness of the resin beads.
- Don’t replenish the salt supply until the tank is down to 1/3 full. When you refill, leave 4-6 inches (about 1/4 of the tank) empty.
- When you add salt, look for any hardened “salt bridges” and remove them.
- Don’t make the softener work too hard. The setting should be high enough to soften your water correctly, but anything higher will only cause undue wear. Ask your dealer for advice if you aren’t sure, especially since we have such hard water.
So, how long do water softeners last? That depends on you.
A water softener machine can be an excellent tool for any household. However, you need to make sure that you know how to use this system properly.
When well-maintained and not required for too much use, these machines can keep working for decades, usually averaging out with a lifespan of 15 years.
Remember to read your manual if you’re not sure how to maintain your new purchase. Many of the instructions that come with these machines will answer any questions you might have about keeping your device as robust and durable as possible.