How Long Does a Water Softener Last

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A water softener is an incredibly useful system to have in your home. There are so many benefits to soft water that you can enjoy by investing in this hard water softening solution. If you consider investing in a water softener, then you should know exactly what you're spending your money on.

Buying a water softening system that is efficient and effective is one thing, but having a long lifespan is also important. Knowing how long your water softener should last and knowing when you need to replace your water softener will go a long way in ensuring you have properly softened water. Plus, helping you optimize your home water system.

Here's everything you need to know about the average lifespan of a new water softener and how to tell if it's working correctly, and when it's time to buy a replacement:

What Does a Water Softener Do?

A water softener is a device that is installed in your home's plumbing system to remove magnesium and calcium ions from hard water. These ions are what cause hard water deposits, or scale, to build up on fixtures and appliances.

The removal of these ions also prevents hard water stains from forming on surfaces that come into contact with water. Installing a water softener in your home eliminates these hardness minerals by filtering the hard water through resin beads before it's distributed throughout your house. The resin beads trigger an ion exchange that converts the hard water into soft.

How Long Do Water Softeners Last?

Water softeners work at an optimal level for 8 to 12 years if they are properly maintained. On average, a single tank electric water softener can last up to 12 years, while a Kinetico water softener system can as many years as 20 years. Also, investing in the water softener parts, such as the best water softener shower head, can help you increase the lifespan of your water softener.

Kinetico water softener system
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Also, note that no water treatment appliance last forever, and while water softeners have impressive long lifespans, there will come a time you'll need to replace your water softening system in the future.

Signs Your Water Softener Isn't Working Properly

Here are the telltale signs that your water softener needs immediate attention:

Drinking Water Tastes Different

Hard water has a distinct alkaline taste, which comes from the hardness minerals, which are calcium and magnesium in the water. When you get a new water softener for your home, you'll notice that your water taste is smoother and less distinctive than it was before.

Drinking Water Tastes Different
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If your water starts to take on a chalky taste, you might need to replace your home water softener, as this could indicate that your softener isn't working efficiently as it used to, and hard water minerals are slipping through.

Using More Soap to Lather Hands and Dirty Dishes

If you find yourself using more soap to lather your hands or getting dirtier dishes even after pre-rinsing them, this is another sign that it might be time to replace your water softener.

You can test your water's lathering abilities by filling a water bottle or glass container with water from your faucet, then squeezing about 10 drops of liquid soap into the water. Put the lid on the bottle and shake vigorously, then check for your results.

If the water doesn't get many suds or looks cloudy, this indicates hard water. This means that your water is lathering well, making your water softener less effective. When hard water minerals aren't properly removed, they can leave a film on your skin and dishes that are difficult to remove, no matter how much soap you use.

Problems With Laundry

Other hard water symptoms are stiff, scratchy, and yellow-tinged laundry. With a softener, water no longer contains the minerals that make clothes stiff. When your water softener is starting to fail, it won't remove all these minerals from your home water supply, leading to the laundry problems you probably experienced before installing your new water softener.

Scale Buildup Inside Water Using Appliances

When your water contains hardness minerals, these minerals will leave streaky deposits on your pipes, faucets, and water-based appliances. Using water softeners should eliminate your scale problem, as with softeners, water is treated to eliminate the minerals or prevent them from being able to bind to surfaces.

Scale Buildup Inside Water Using Appliances
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If you're noticing a new scale issue in your bathroom, which may be white spots on your faucets or dull grey markings in your sink and bathtub, consider replacing your water softener.

How to Extend the Life of Your Water Softener

There are several things that you can do  to help extend the life of your water softener, such as:

Adding a Prefilter

Adding a whole home prefilter is one of the best ways to ensure water softeners last for a long time. A prefilter can remove any suspended sediment that's commonly found in drinking water, like sand, dirt, and rust. These particles can damage your water softener's softening media, impacting how long it can last.

With a prefilter, your water softener should be able to last longer because it isn't being exposed to as much wear and tear. If you live in an area with particularly hard water, a prefilter can also help lengthen the life of your softener by trapping minerals that would otherwise cause scale buildup.

Cleaning the Brine Tank or Resin Bed

Another way to make your water softener last is by regularly cleaning the brine tank or resin bed. Over time, these parts of your water softener can become clogged with dirt, sand, and other sediment. This can not only reduce the efficiency of your water softener but also shorten its lifespan.

You should clean the brine tank at least once a year, and the resin bed should be cleaned every few years. If you notice that your water softener isn't working as well as it used to, it's probably time for a cleaning. This will keep the system working in top form and prevent it from needlessly overworking for the same results.

Using the Right Kind of Regenerant

You might not think that the type of salt you use in your water softener would make a big difference, but it actually can. The wrong kind of salt can clog up your machine and reduce its efficiency. It can also shorten the lifespan of your water softener by causing it to work harder than necessary.

The best type of salt to use is solar salt pellets and evaporated salt pellets. Solar salt is especially good for hard water. Rock and block salts are not recommended as rock salt has a high calcium sulfate content that can cause maintenance issues.

Regularly Checking Salt Levels

In order to keep your water softener working properly, you need to make sure that the salt level is always full. Most water softeners have a built-in sensor that will alert you when the salt level gets low, but it's still a good idea to check it regularly.

If the salt level gets too low, your water softener won't be able to work properly, and your water will start to harden again.

Inspecting the System Every Three Months

Inspecting your water softener after every three months can give you a chance to spot any small problems before they become big issues.

You should check the hoses and connections for any leaks, check the brine tank for any sediment build-up, and make sure that the system is operating smoothly.

FAQs on How Long Do a Water Softener Last

How long should a water softener last?

A water softener should last between 15 to 20 years if it is properly maintained.

What is the average life of a water softener?

The average lifespan of a water softener is 8 to 12 years. Once your softening system has reached this stage and it's working as it should and regenerating normally, it will become less effective and may require more salt for effective performance.

Final Thought on How Long a Water Softener Should Last

Water softeners are a great way to handle hard water at home. Softened water doesn't only taste better but also improves the efficiency of your water based appliances and gives you clear dishes and laundry. However, if you've been using your water softener for longer than 12 years, it may be time to start shopping for a new one.

A small amount of effort can make all the difference when it comes to extending the lifespan of your water softener. Regular maintenance, such as checking the salt level and using high quality salt, can add years to your unit's lifespan.




Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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