10 Common Water Softener Problems (& How to Fix Them)
Has your water softener recently become problematic? Some problems or faults could significantly compromise your water softener’s ability to deliver clean, soft, and quality water.
The first step is figuring out what the problem is and then resolving it. This article will discuss 10 of the most common water softener problems and how to fix them.
1. Salt Bridge
A salt bridge can be evidenced by the salt levels in the brine tank not diminishing even though you’re running regular regeneration cycles.
This happens when the salt pellets form a crust, which prevents the water from dissolving them. As a result, the water flowing back to the resin tank does not have any sodium ions for the re-ionization process, and it remains hard.
To determine if there is a salt bridge in your brine tank, pass a rod through the salt pellets. Typically, the salt pellets should be loose, and the rod should pass through easily. If you encounter a hard, impenetrable surface, then there is a salt bridge.
Several factors can cause a salt bridge to form, including:
- Excess salt in the brine tank
- Humid temperatures
- Using the wrong type of salt for your water softener
- Replacing the salt in the brine tank too frequently
How to Fix
Whenever possible, take the necessary measure to prevent a salt bridge from forming in the first place. Below are some steps you can take to prevent the formation of a salt bridge in the brine tank:
- If you live in a humid area, regularly add small amounts of salt to the brine tank
- If you live in humid areas, use high-quality, pure salt such as evaporated salt pellets
- Do not fill the brine tank with salt past the 2/3 level to the top
- Only refill for the brine tank with salt when a significant amount (at least 1/4 way) has already been used up
- Use only the recommended type of brine salt by your water softener manufacturer
- Do not mix the different types of salts, e.g., Pellets, blocks, and cubes
If a salt bridge is already formed, you will need to remove and replace the salt in the brine tank as follows:
- Shut off water flow into the softener
- Using a rod or broom, break the salt bridge and scoop it out
- If the salt bridge is too hard, you may need to pour warm water in the brine talk to soften it. Vacuum out of the water and sediments in the brine tank and then refill it with the appropriate amount of the recommended type of salt.
- Run a regeneration cycle once or twice to recharge the resin beads.
2. Salt Mushing
Salt mushing happens when the salt crystals in the brine tank do not fully dissolve and forms a thick sludge at the bottom. The gel-like sludge clogs the intake valve.
This results in increased water flow into the brine tank and inhibits the efficiency of the regeneration process. Most often, this happens if you use the wrong type of salt for your water softener.
How to Fix
Scoop out the sludge and clean the brine tank. Ensure that you unclog and clean the intake valve too. Replace the salt with a brand that is recommended for your water softener.
Also, avoid rock salt crystals as they have a high mineral content that makes them difficult to dissolve.
Some water softener specialists recommend evaporated salt pellets or solar salt. Although this type of brine tank salt is quite expensive, it is of significantly higher quality as it is purer and easily dissolves in water.
3. Resin Beads Damage
Although resin beads are designed to last for a long time, different factors can cause resin beads, including:
- Mineral build-up causes the beads to clog up
- Exposure to chlorine. Chlorine breaks down the bonding agents that hold together the resin beads, turning them into a mushy gel
- Algae build-up and bacterial manifestation
Damaged or clogged resins can result in other water softener problems, including brown water and low pressure. Furthermore, damaged resins cannot facilitate the ion exchange process, which results in hard water and contaminated water.
How to Fix
Depending on the extent of damage or contamination, you may need to clean or replace the resin beads. Adhere to the instructions provided in your water softener’s manual for cleaning and replacing the beads.
Pay attention to the recommended cleaning products, cleaning procedures, types or brands of resin beads, and resin beads replacement procedure.
4. Brine Tank Overflow
During the regeneration cycle, water flows into the brine tank to dissolve the salt. The brine is then transferred back to the resin tank for the re-ionization process. A valve controls the pistons and injectors to determine how much water gets into the brine tank and then flows out into the resin tank.
If this process is not efficient, too much water can accumulate in the brine tank, causing an overflow into the resin tank.
The following are some reasons that there is excess water in the brine tank and how to resolve them.
- Leaking valves – Replace with new ones
- Clogged injectors or an eductor – remove and clean them. If they are still faulty, replace them with new ones
- Faulty nozzles or venturi – First, check whether they are properly installed to produce adequate suction. Otherwise, replace them
- Worn out or damaged control head piston – Replace
- Clogged brine valve or tubing – Clean or replace
- A drain line that is installed too high or that has a narrow diameter – Hire a water softener specialist to install the correct drain line and properly
- Low water pressure inhibits the backflow cycle. Adjust water pressure settings in the water softener or get your plumbing system inspected
- Clogged backwash or drain line flow controller -clean or replace the part
- Brine line float controller is set too high -Set it lower
5. Brown Water
It is not uncommon to encounter incidences of brown water flowing out of your tap when using a water softener. While the brown water may result from worn-out plumbing or a high level of sediments in the inlet water, the water softener can also be the cause.
Brown water may be an indicator that the inlet water has high levels of minerals. Although this is unlikely for municipal water, it is common for water to come from wells.
Well water has high levels of iron which makes the water brown, yellow, or reddish. The ion accumulates on the resin beads forming a brownish slug. Over time, the slug causes resin fouling, which causes the water to brown further and restricts water flow and overall softening efficiency.
How to Fix
Install sediments filter in your plumbing systems to filter out the water coming into the water softener. If iron is the main cause, have your water tested to establish the levels.
Implement equipment and methods to remove the iron from the water, such as iron filters, air injectors, and oxidation filters. It is best to avoid using water that has high iron levels in your house.
The regular regeneration and draining cycle does not clean out soluble iron. You will need to clean the water softener with a rust remover using the procedure below:
Add one cup of the rust remover into half a gallon of water.
Pour the solution into the brine tank and initiate a regeneration process.
Continue to regenerate until the water coming out of the tank is clear and clean.
6. Low Water Pressure
Ideally, the water softener should not lower the water pressure. However, this can happen if:
- The water softener is not appropriately sized
- The water softener was installed wrongly
- The control valve is clogged or broken.
- The resin beads are damaged by mineral build-up or chlorine
- The rotor discs and pistons are broken
How to Fix
First, ascertain that the water flowing into the house does not have low pressure. This can be done by bypassing the water softener and monitoring whether the water flowing out of faucets has adequate pressure.
If the issue is the main water supply, have a plumber resolve it or report to the Municipal Council.
If the water softener is the cause of the low pressure, check whether the resin beads are damaged and replace them. In the case of broken rotor disks, valves, or pistons, replace them with new ones. If the valves are clogged, clean them out.
If the above steps do not resolve the issue, consult with a water softener specialist or a professional plumber to ascertain that the water softener is the right size and is properly installed.
7. Motor Failure
A water softener uses a motor to operate the valves and switch between the regeneration and softening modes. If the motor fails, the water softener will not operate effectively, or the system may shut down completely.
How to Fix
If you suspect a motor failure in your water softener, contact the supplier or a professional plumber. They should inspect the water softener to confirm the motor failure.
You will most likely have to replace the motor. Check your water softener warranty documents to determine if it covers motor replacement.
8. Clogging and Blockages
The parts of a water softener that are most likely to block include:
- Brine line
- Resin beads
- Drain line
How to Fix
These parts often clog as a result of mineral build-up. It is important to clean the various parts of the water softener regularly to prevent blockages and clogging.
Check your user manual for the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning the various parts.
A water leakage problem in a water softener can be caused by:
- Loosely connected water line
- Cracked tank
- Damaged valve seals
While in some cases the leakages are obvious and may even cause flooding, in other cases, you need to inspect them carefully to notice them. The sooner you identify the leak, the less damage it will cause, and the easier it will be to fix it.
How to Fix
If the leak results from loosely connected water lines, fix the installation yourself or get a plumber to do it. In the case of a cracked tank, you may seal the crack or have to replace the entire tank if the crack is extensive. Also, replace any damaged valve seals as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
10. No Display or Computer Error
You might notice that your water softener display is not working, or there is an “error” on the display. This can be caused by a number of factors, including:
- Power outage
- Faulty water softener electrical system
- Damaged power cord
- Computer memory loss
- Faulty timer
How to Fix
The first step is ascertaining that power is being transmitted to the water softener. If you are unsure whether the socket is faulty, unplug the water softener and plug in a different electronic device. So if the outlet is dead, reset the circuit breaker and try again.
If the outlet is working, check the water softener power cords for any loose connections or wire damages. Otherwise, contact a plumber or water softener specialist to investigate if the electrical system is working well.
In case of a prolonged power outage, restart the timer. If the timer is faulty, you will need to replace it. A faulty timer can cause problems in the regeneration process and the overall water softener operation.
While some water softener problems are easy to fix, others are more complex, costly, and require the expertise of a professional plumber or water softener specialist.
Proper maintenance of the water softener will help to reduce the chances of various problems arising. Regularly inspect all the water softener parts to catch the problems or faults in the early stages. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendation when fixing or replacing parts.