Is a Water Softener Hard to Install?

Is a Water Softener Hard to Install?

Did you just purchase a water softener to solve your bothersome hard water issue? You might be considering having a professional install it if you don’t have any previous experience with plumbing.

Installing a water softener is a moderately difficult DIY project. It requires plumbing skills, special tools, and approximately 4 to 8 hours of time. If you aren’t competent at basic plumbing work, you should hire a professional. Some conditions in your home, such as having an existing water loop or easy access to the main water line, simplify the process of installing the water softener. 

Although you don’t need to be an expert plumber to install a water softener, you need a basic understanding of how water softeners work and some basic plumbing competency. In this article, we explain the basics of residential plumbing and how the water softener works. We also cover the best places to install your new softener, the tools you’ll need, and a basic parts list.

Other articles about installing a water softener:
Is Home Depot Water Softener Installation Worth the Cost
Lowe’s Water Softener Installation Cost: A Comprehensive Guide
Can a Water Softener Be Installed in the Attic?
Can a Water Softener Be Installed in the Garage?

Installing a Water Softener

Before you decide whether or not to install your water softener, it is important to know that the installation procedure is slightly different for each manufacturer. Even within the same brand, each model will have its own requirements. You’ll want to check the owner’s manual for installation instructions to see what’s involved.

However, the basic water softener installation process is the same, and in this guide, we’ll walk you through the major steps.

What you will need

Make sure to have all the right tools and materials at hand before starting. You need to gather the following items:

  • Water softener with bypass valve
  • Pipe cutters
  • Pipe wrench
  • Measuring tape
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Torch and solder (if you have copper pipes)
  • Screwdrivers – slotted and Philips head
  • PEX tubing or copper tubing (to match your existing piping)
  • Adaptors and fittings
  • Air gap fitting

Where should you install a water softener

The best place to install a water softener is at the point where the water enters the house; they have to be positioned at your house’s main water supply pipe and as near as possible to a home’s point of entry, upstream of your water heater.

Did you know that water softeners prevent scale build-ups in your pipes and plumbing structure by removing minerals from your water supply? Hence, the higher up your water supply line your softener can be installed, the more your pipes and plumbing will be protected against scale.

What Is the Purpose of a Water Loop?

Water loops are usually pre-installed while your house is being constructed. They keep water softened by using water softeners inside your home and direct it to your water-consuming appliances like faucets, hoses, shower heads, etc.

If your house already has a water loop, installing a water softener is relatively easy. You only need to spend a few hours installing a water softener after following instructions.

However, if there is no loop, the process becomes complicated, and you might have to hire a professional plumber for that. This is because you must install and connect new pipes to the main line when it enters your house.

Step-By-Step Procedure

A preliminary measure you need to take is to choose a spot that is level and accessible on all sides. A mineral tank and a brine tank are used in all water-softening systems. Both tanks are integrated into one unit in some models. Ensure the selected site has access to an electrical outlet for power and a drain for water discharge.

If you want a detailed video with all the proper steps and guidelines to help you install a water softener, this video can help you out:


Step 1: Preparing to install it

While installing the ion exchange system, the water might escape the plumbing system. Hence you should turn off your water supply. Open all your faucets and hoses to drain all existing water in the pipes.

You should also turn off your electric water heater if you have one installed through its appropriate breaker.

Step 2: Cut the pipe using a pipe cutter

You will be left with two pipes emerging from the wall. One of these pipes will deliver untreated water to your softener, while the other will deliver treated water to your appliances. Cut a segment of your water supply pipe with a pipe cutter.

Make sure you are taking enough careful measurements during and before the process so that you do not hurt yourself. Use a lint-free cloth to remove dust and sand the edges of the cut pipe. Make sure to catch any excess water with a container.

Step 3: Install the bypass valve

Some water softeners already have a built-in valve, so check the manual before proceeding any further in case it already has one.

If it does not, you can add a bypass valve to the unit if you desire. Some devices contain a feature that allows you to turn off the water softener’s flow if repairs or a temporary shutoff are required. Place the bypass valve on the back of the unit and secure it using the clamp provided.

Use silicon to make the openings greasy and insert the bypass valve into the softener valve; apply pressure so you can push it with all the power you have to push it. At one point, it will snap into its place.

We suggest you buy a bypass valve if your water softener does not come with one, as it has many benefits, such as letting you shut off cold water while you are maintaining your softener.

Step 4: Connecting the ports

The next step is to attach the inlet and outlet ports to your water softener’s inlet and outlet without mixing them up, which can create a malfunction in the system.

Water softeners can be hard-piped into the water supply system or connected via flexible supply tubes. Flexible supply tubes are usually preferred since they make it easier to remove or bypass the softener in the future if necessary, and you won’t need to make use of your soldering gun. You can use the tape to seal any connections tightly.

Step 5: Connecting the drain connection

It is important to connect a drain line as all water softeners produce drain water during the process of regeneration. You will need two drain tubes for most of the water softeners.

Connect the unit’s drain valve to the drain hose and connect flexible tubing to the brine tank and control valve to install the drain line. Secure the drain hose using hose clamps, then attach the bottom end of the hose to a suitable drain and secure it in place.

The risk of back-siphoning increases when the drain line is fully inserted within the drain, so make sure to put an air gap of at least 1.5 inches to prevent wastewater from entering your unit. You can buy an air gap fitting and use it by following its manual.

Step 6: Installing overflow connection

An overflow connection helps stop any overflow from the brine tank; you can locate it on your water softener and use clamps to attach the hose. You can buy another air gap fitting if needed in this scenario.

Step 7: Connecting tubes between tanks

If your water softener has two tanks side by side, you will see that it has a brine tank and a resin tank. You will need to follow the manual guidelines by the manufacturer, which will state that you need to connect the two by installing a brine line so that the salty water flow falls into the resin tank.

Step 8: Finishing up the setup

Once you have installed the water softener, turn on your water supply to check, but make sure that you are doing it slowly, so any pressure does not ruin any fittings or connections.

After checking if it’s working properly, turn on your electric water heater. Again check if there are any leaks in your pipes, fittings, connections, and plumbing, as we want the system to work perfectly without any waste.

You will need to start the start-up processes, including plugging in your appliance. Then you will need to fill it with salt, either Sodium Chloride or Potassium Chloride.

Change the programming settings according to your preference, such as the time of the day, the water hardness level, the process for the regeneration cycle, etc. Make sure to follow the instructions in the manual for this programming. It is also important to check if your water softener needs to be sanitized or not.

You are all finished up now; enjoy your soft water, and do not forget the maintenance for your water softener.

Mistakes To Watch Out For

Installing a water softener requires your full focus and attention to all the details. It’s only understandable that you will make mistakes if you are a beginner with no plumbing experience. Hence, we made a list so that you can avoid these mistakes and ensure full efficiency in your plumbing.

1. Wrong-sized water softener

Every house has its own unique structure, so it might be a good idea to take help in deciding which water softener you need to buy for your home. An undersized water softener can be expensive, work less efficiently, and not meet your requirements.

Vice versa, an oversized water softener can be a waste as well. So it is necessary for you to pay attention to the right-sized water softener.

2. Using wrong water softener fittings

As we discussed before, it is important that you do the right fittings in your water softeners, such as inlet and outlet ports. Wrong fittings and connections can result in leaks or poor to zero softener performance.

3. Using too many sources

We understand that you want to ensure you follow the right and proper guide so that you may look at multiple sources. However, this can be a negative step, as each guide follows its own methods and may end up confusing or misguiding you. Hence, it is important that you stick to only one guide.

4. Wrong drain hose placement

Placing the drain hose in the wrong place or the wrong way can cause flooding in that area, which can also be quite hazardous as it is drain water. You should ensure that it is placed in the right way and where it does not cause flooding and can contain all the drain water.

What Are the Benefits of a Water Softener?

The advantages of using a water softener are numerous. First, they save money. A water softener costs much less than replacing old pipes and fixtures.

Second, they reduce maintenance costs. Old pipes and fixtures require frequent replacement. Third, they improve the quality of drinking water.

Finally, they help protect the environment. Most municipal water supplies use chlorine to disinfect their water. Chlorine is toxic to fish and aquatic organisms. By using a water softener, you eliminate the need for chlorine.

When Does the Soft Water Start Coming out?

The soft water will start coming out as soon as you install the water softener. However, if there is an electric water heater, that will first need to be emptied of the previously contained water. This is so that the soft water can replace the previously stored hard water because of the water heater.

You can turn on all your taps and faucets connected to the electric heater to start using the soft water as soon as possible.

Cost of a Water Softener

It depends on whether your plumbing system is easier to install a water softener. If there is already a water loop or your system does not need any more changes before installing the water softener, it costs somewhere from 300$-500$. However, it can go up to as much as 1000$ if you do not already have a proper system.

Final Takeaway

We can conclude that installing a water softener is not actually a hard process if you have a plumbing-accessible house. However, it is, indeed, a lengthy and time-consuming process. If you can’t manage to do it yourself, you can consult a professional water softener installer or a plumbing expert.

The Filter Guy

Scott Birch is a water filtration installer and designer. He has worked in the industry for many years and is very familiar with and knowledgeable about residential water treatment equipment. Scott enjoys helping people get the most out of their water filtration systems and ensuring that their homes are getting the best possible quality of water.

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