Water softeners are a common appliance in many homes. They work by removing hard minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from the water. If your water softener has been taken out of service or is just sitting idle, you may be wondering how long it can sit unused before it needs to be serviced.
In most cases, you can use your water softener even if it has been out of use for a few years. As a precaution, you should replace the ion exchange resin because scale and other deposits may have formed on it. You should also inspect the backwash valves and the seals to verify they are in good condition and working properly. A water professional can provide a comprehensive inspection of the water softener and service any components that need attention.
Many homeowners wonder how long their water softener can sit unused before it needs to be serviced or replaced. If you’re not sure how to navigate this situation, we have the perfect guide for you in this article! Read on to learn how long a softener can sit, what conditions warrant action, and how to know if the resin needs replacement!
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After How Long Can I Use My Water Softener Again?
Normally, your water softener operates continuously without any down time. If you have a vacation home or only use your water softener seasonally, then it may be sitting idle for an extended period of time. If your softener has been out of service for some time, you might be questioning if it is safe to use it again.
Check the ion exchange resin
The main concern is the condition of the ion exchange resin. This is the media that removes the calcium and magnesium (the hardness) from your water. When the resin isn’t in contact with water, it can dry out.
Fortunately, the resin can dry out and it will still function properly. This is because most resin media is made of plastic polymers that are very resilient.
You will want to inspect the media to see if it has scale or other deposits on it. It is possible that the hard water evaporated and left behind a film or coating on the resin beads. This layer of minerals can prevent the media from contacting your hard water, resulting in reduced treatment.
Inspect the valves and seals
You should also check the backwash valves and seals to verify they are working properly. The valves can become seized or corroded after sitting idle for an extended period of time. The gaskets and O-rings sometimes become brittle and leak if allowed to dry out.
In general, the valves and seals can safely be taken out of service many times with no ill effects. However, if you notice any problems with them, it is best to have a water professional inspect the softener and make any necessary repairs.
How to Tell if You Can Use a Water Softener Again
If you have a water softener, this guide will help you decide what to do depending on the situation. If any of the following conditions occur, it means that your water softener may not have been properly turned off and may not be suitable to put back into service.
1. It was turned off but not prepared for storage
If you unplug your water softener, it doesn’t mean that the resin bed inside will automatically stop working. Leaving water in the resin tank can degrade the media and possibly lead to scale or other deposits forming on it.
If you turn the machine off, then the resin won’t be able to regenerate because the electronic parts will also be turned off. This causes the minerals to cover up the resin and cause damage.
You can use a water softener in this condition, but the resin will need replacement.
2. It was properly bypassed
If you anticipate taking your water softener out of service, you can divert the water so that it no longer flows through the water softener. This is called bypassing. When your softener is bypassed, no water flows through it and it is inactive. This is the best-case scenario if you want to keep using your water softener after it has been offline.
Here’s a video showing how to bypass a water softener:
Since no water was flowing, all the activity on the resin stopped and no additional water flows into the unit. This means you will not have to replace the resin, but it is a good idea to get an inspection done just in case.
3. Was it fully functional before taken out of service
If your water softener was in good condition when you shut it down and put it away for storage, chances are that it will be able to work just fine when you use it again.
If you didn’t properly take care of your water softener or it was already damaged, putting it away for a long time could make the existing problems worse and making the machine function less effectively.
4. If it was exposed to extreme heat or cold
In extremely hot or cold climates, water softeners don’t last as long, especially if they’ve gone a while without being used.
The high temperature can affect the inner components of the water softener, and it can also impact the resin. Similarly, extremely cold temperatures can also lead to long-term damage.
If that is the case, there is a solid chance the machine may not be able to work after you use it again. It is always best to get it inspected by a professional, so you are aware of the scale of the damage.
5. If it was exposed to harsh chemicals
Being around harmful and corrosive chemicals can be detrimental to your water softener. When you take the softener out of storage, make sure there is nothing around that can damage the treatment unit.
If there are any signs of damage, keep yourself safe and replace the water softener. This could be a health hazard, so remember to wear protective gear when examining the softener.
6. If it was used without salt
If you allowed the salt to be depleted, then the resin may have become embedded with iron or other minerals. This occurs because the salt cleans and restores the resin beads.
Without it, the resin will become fouled quickly and won’t function as intended. You should also add new salt to the brine tank to ensure that your water softener will work properly in the future.
Overall, it is essential to remember that a water softener that has not been used for a significant amount of time may not work as effectively as before.
It is always best to get an inspection done and possibly replace the resin if necessary. This way, you can avoid potential damage and hard water entering your water pipes. Also, check the environment and conditions where the softener was stored to avoid more damage.