How long do water softeners last? The typical lifespan of a single tank electric softener is 10-15 years, but you can squeeze up to 20 years out of your water softening system with proper maintenance.
Of course, you can’t just install it and forget about it. There is some regular maintenance that needs to be done if you want to maximize your water softener’s lifespan.
Factors That Affect a Water Softener’s Lifespan
Factors that affect your water softener’s lifespan include things such as how well maintained it is, how hard your water is, and how much water you use.
Proper maintenance includes ensuring your water hardness and water consumption levels are set correctly, adding the proper amount of salt at the appropriate intervals (about every two months) and making sure the salt is dissolving well, cleaning your brine tank with a cleaning solution occasionally (at least once a year), and ensuring the resin bed is in good condition.
Hard water requires water softeners to regenerate more frequently, meaning more wear and tear on your system.
Of course, the same goes for water usage. Ensure you have the right size unit for your family size, water consumption needs, and water regeneration requirements.
Using a pre-filter water treatment system may also extend the life of your water softener long term if your water contains sediment, sand, clay or iron.
Is It Really Time to Replace My Water Softener?
Just because your water softener doesn’t seem to be working well doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to replace it. The best indicator of when to replace your water softener is how old the unit is.
It’s also very helpful to keep notes on when various maintenance services are performed on it, as we’ll discuss more further on.
Hard Water Signs
How else can you determine if it’s time to replace your water softener? Pay attention to some of the following common hard water problems and telltale signs your water softener isn’t working properly:
- You’re using more soap! More hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, etc. Hard water requires more soap to lather properly and achieve the desired effect.
- You’re cleaning more often, thanks to those hard water spots of calcium and magnesium mineral deposits and soap scum that shouldn’t be there with soft water, and the cleaning is more difficult, especially in the bathroom around the sink, shower and tub.
- You’re getting white crusty buildup around your faucets or in your dishwasher or other household appliances that are constantly exposed to hot water.
- Your water bill has gone up (possibly because of scale build-up in your hot water tank, making it less efficient).
- Your water pressure has dropped. This can result from scale clogging your plumbing fixtures or from a clogged water softener due to resin beads breaking down or salt mushing.
- You’re getting sand like particles in your water.
- You have dry, itchy skin or lifeless hair. Perhaps your eczema is getting worse again.
- You’re having laundry issues. Your clothing is dull and might be feeling itchy, you’re using more fabric softener than usual, and your washing machine is having a harder time getting your clothes bright and clean.
- You notice changes in how your water feels. Soft water has a more slippery feeling.
- You notice a change in your water taste, as well as changes in how other homemade beverages taste such as your coffee or tea.
- Your water softener system is regenerating excessively (like every day) or not often enough.
- You have to add salt and more salt to your water softener appliance more frequently.
A Few Things You Can Try First
So you notice evidence such as the above common signs that your water softener isn’t working correctly to produce properly softened water. If you don’t already maintain your water softener unit regularly, then there are some things you can try to revitalize your water softener before deciding it’s given up the ghost:
- Test your water: your home’s water quality may have changed! Perhaps your water has gotten harder, there’s more iron in the water, or they’ve added more chlorine to the city water supply, which might degrade the resin faster.
- Make sure the water hardness level is set accurately according to your current water hardness. If you’re unsure, free test kits are widely available.
- Try a water softener cleaner solution. This should be done at least once a year to refresh the resin beads to help them carry out the ion exchange process and trap hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium more efficiently, and it cleans out the brine tank.
- Change the filter if this is applicable to your unit.
- Change the resin bed. Water softener resin can sometimes last as long as the water softener unit itself, but it can become degraded sooner with higher chlorine levels, less maintenance, or lower quality beads. Changing the resin bed can often make your system good as new for at least another few years.
- Make sure there’s no salt bridges or mushing in your brine tank.
- Try a different salt. Maybe you’ve been using a water softener salt that contains additives to reduce salt bridging and mushing and now you’ve unknowingly purchased a brand without additives and there’s now bridging or mushing in your tank. The salt needs to be replenished about every two months on average.
Counting the Cost
A new water softener system can range from $500 to $1,000 depending on the brand, whether you do it yourself or hire a technician, and other associated material costs.
Trying some of the techniques listed above such as changing the resin beads or salt brand can cost a small sum. So you’ll need to decide what’s worth your time and money in trying.
Knowing when your water softener was installed and keeping notes on servicing and operations, such as how much salt is added and when and how often your system is regenerating, will help you determine the best course of action.
If your water softener is nearing the end of its lifespan anyway, you might not feel the need to ty any tips and tricks – just head straight to replacing it. Or if you’re on a budget, you might want to play around a little to see if you can squeeze a few more years out of it.
Old Water Softeners vs New Water Softener Systems
If you’re considering replacing your old water softener unit, luckily technology has improved over the last couple of decades, and water softeners are being made more efficient and environmentally friendly.
Older water softeners use more water and salt. They generally require setting your typical water usage and your system will then regenerate on a set frequency based on this setting.
Newer water softeners have automated meters or sensors that detect how much water is being used and regenerate accordingly. They are also designed to use less salt and less water in the regeneration process.
Check Your State Laws
If you plan on replacing your water softener, it might be worth checking whether your state or area has banned water softeners or certain types of water softening systems.
This can be due to water economy concerns or due to water quality concerns because of high sodium levels in regenerated water and the reduced ability to recycle or reuse the water for irrigation purposes. This could affect the type of system you purchase.
We hope you’ve picked up some useful information here about how to go about deciding whether your water softener needs replacing. Of course, if you’re still unsure, it’s always wise to call in a professional.