Water Softener Installation: What to Expect

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Water softening is a simple, but technical, process. Installing a water softener does require some knowledge of plumbing and electronics. However, it can be a DIY project once you know what to expect.

Installing a water softener can be a relatively simple task that anyone can do. That being said, it does require a little bit of technical know-how to get the process just right. Installing a water softener requires working with both plumbing and electronics, which means you’ll need to have some basic knowledge about both in order to succeed.

Once you know what to expect when installing a water softener, the process becomes only slightly more straightforward. After reading this guide, you should be able to answer more questions your friends may have about installing a water softener in your home.

What do you need to know when installing a water softener?

There are two main options for installing a water softener, a salt-based system and a resin-based system. This article is going to give you a high-level overview about water softeners in general, and then provide some details to help you assess which type is the best fit for you.

Why install a water softener?

Hard water is caused by minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the water. Water softeners are great for filtering out these substances. These minerals can cause rashes along with other issues with your home such as dingy laundry, a buildup of soap scum on your fixtures, and a decrease in the lifespan of your appliances. Softened water is also easier to drink, however, most people choose to install a water softener in order to use it for its laundry purposes.

How to install a water softener

Before you can begin installing a water softener, you need to have a couple of important things figured out. First, the plumbing in your home will need to be in good shape. Depending on where you’re installing the system, you may need to add some piping. You may also need to adjust an existing section of pipe so that it will work with the new system for disposing of the minerals that have been filtered. This process could require some trenching outside of your home for running new piping to and from water tanks and your water supply.

Do I need a plumber for this?

If you’re confident that you know how to do basic plumbing repairs and don’t anticipate any issues with the installation, you may not need a plumber for the project. However, if you’re not familiar with plumbing, you should call in a professional who can handle the entire process.

Things to watch out for when installing a water softener

When you’re installing a water softener, you need to pay close attention to a few things. You’ll want to ensure that your electrical wiring is in good shape, that the area you’re installing in has plenty of space and is free of obstacles, and that both your water supply and electrical box can support the softener you choose. 

Make sure the plumbing is good

As we mentioned, you’ll need to make sure that the plumbing in your home is in good shape. Here are some things to pay attention to. If your water pipes are subject to freezing, your softener may not work. If using a resin-based system, a leak in your pipes might cause water inside them to oxidize which would negate the water treatment. If you notice a decrease in water pressure once the softener has been installed, it may be worth doing a pressure test on your plumbing or checking the resin for flattening caused by chlorine in a resin-based system.

Installing a salt or an ion exchange system

There are two main types of water softeners, each of which will be discussed in detail below.

Installing a salt based system

Salt based water softeners work by adding potassium chloride (KCl) to the water. This process causes the water to have a lower concentration of minerals, and it makes the water more drinkable for humans. The downside to using a salt based system is that the salt will eventually be removed from the water, which means you’ll need to buy more salt in order to keep using it.

Installing an ion exchange system

Ion exchange softeners work by using a resin-based beads that attracts positively charged ions and binds with minerals, leaving behind only pure water. These systems are also referred to as “water conditioners”, since they are treating the water rather than completely removing the minerals through a filtration process.

Which type of water softener should you install?

If you’re looking to install a water softener, it’s best to do a little bit of research before making your decision. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing between the two main types of water softeners. Salt-based systems work by adding a mineral to the water, while the resin-based system don’t add minerals to the water, they bind to minerals through ion-charged beads which treat the water.

What your budget is

The resin-based system has a lower initial cost than the salt-based system. This is because less resin is needed to produce the same amount of soft water as a salt-based system. How much you want to spend on the system is going to depend on a few different factors.

First, what type of water do you have and how much is it costing you in repairs? Next, think about how many loads of laundry you’ll be able to run through the system each month. Last, consider how much you want to spend on the system each year. A good rule of thumb is to budget for 10% of your water bill each year.

Pros and cons of both types of systems

Pros for salt based systems

  • Limescale buildup - While both systems will help with this, the salt-based system is sometimes to be more effective at reducing limescale buildup.
  • Simple maintenance - While sometimes more costly to use (adding salt), they generally require less maintenance and repairs.
  • Longer lifetime - The salt-based water softener is less likely to break down over time than the resin-based system.

Cons for salt based systems

  • Ongoing cost - The salt-based system is filtering minerals through the salt, and ultimately adding a negligible amount of salt to your water at home. Because of this, you will need to replenish and refill your resin bed regularly with more salt on a regular basis.
  • Size - Typically take up more space than resin-based systems.

Pros for resin based systems

  • Lower initial cost - The resin-based system is less expensive than the salt-based system.
  • Less maintenance - You won’t need to add new resin on a monthly basis as you would with salt, and you also have a longer lifetime on the resin in the resin bed.
  • Easier to plumb - The resin-based systems often do not require wastewater plumbing and can be more space efficient.

Cons for resin based systems

  • Timing - Resin-based systems may take longer to begin filtering water than salt-based systems because they require the resin to become “charged” via electricity.
  • Efficiency - The water will be conditioned in your piping, but will oxidize when it meets the air and potentially stil cause limescale building at the faucet or shower.
  • Water pressure decrease - The chlorine in the water may cause flattening of the man-made resin beads in the system, slowing down water flow.

Final Words

Installing a water softener does require a little bit of technical know-how to get the process just right. Installing a water softener requires working with both plumbing and electrical, which means you’ll need to have some basic knowledge about both in order to succeed. Once you know what to expect when installing a water softener, the process becomes only slightly more straightforward than it already was.

If you are looking for a reliable contractor to help with household projects, repairs or maintenance, HireHandy can find you the perfect match.

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