Many modern water softener systems automatically regenerate the spent resin that softens hard water. There can be times, however, when your water softener is failing to regenerate and allowing hard water to flow through your pipes. What is causing this, and how can it be fixed?
Incorrect settings on a water softener’s automatic regeneration timer can cause the system to fail and leave water hard. Clogs in a water softener’s lines or valve injector can also cause a system to fail to regenerate automatically. Solving these problems is not difficult, and generally can be completed by the system’s owner.
Keep reading to learn more about why your water softener may not be working effectively, how to fix the problem, and how to prevent future service issues.
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What Causes a Water Softener’s Automatic Regeneration to Fail?
Typically, your home water softener system will automatically regenerate the ionic charge of the resin, which helps to pull away calcium and magnesium from your water and soften it. But if this automated system fails, you’ll have hard water flowing through your pipes.
The simplest solution may be to check the timer on your water softener. If this timer is not configured properly, the resin in your brine tank will not regenerate when it is supposed to, and you’ll have hard water coming out of your faucets.
How frequently your water softener should regenerate depends upon how much water your home uses, but two to three times a week is typical for many households. On models that use a timer, you’ll have to adjust the frequency of regeneration to suit your household’s needs or replace the timer if it’s no longer working.
Metered water softener systems are becoming increasingly common, wherein a water softener will regenerate on its own, based on household water usage. Systems such as this can save you quite a bit of energy and money and won’t be reliant on a timed system.
If your timer or metered system isn’t the problem, this issue could be a clogged water line, brine line, or injector valve. Next, you’ll want to inspect and clean all lines and valves in your system.
How Can I Clean My Water Softener Lines?
The next step to getting your water softener system running optimally is to check for salt deposit clogs in your lines and valves. These components are small yet important, and any blockage or damage can cause your system to fail. These components are:
- Water line (which feeds water into your resin tank)
- Brine line (which feeds water out of your brine tank and into your resin tank to help the resin regenerate)
- Injector valve (helps create suction between the brine tank and the resin tank)
Turn on your system’s bypass valve to make sure that no water is moving through your system and unplug the unit.
Disconnect all lines, inspect them for salt deposits, debris, or clogs, and flush with water to clean thoroughly. Refer to your owner’s manual to discover the location of the injector valve and use canned air to remove any deposits or build-up in the valve.
Allowing the injector valve to soak in white vinegar may also help loosen deposits but be careful not to insert any object into the valve, as this may damage it. Remove, wash, and reinsert the injector screen, making sure to replace all panels and screws afterward.
If you discover any damaged lines or a damaged valve, be sure to replace them. Once your lines and injector valve have been cleared of any blockages, you can turn your attention to the system’s brine tank.
Check out this interesting YouTube video on why a water softener isn’t regenerating.
Empty and Clean Your Water Softener’s Brine Tank
Your brine tank may need to be cleaned out and refilled with fresh salt. Over time, the salt in the brine tank that is used to regenerate your resin tank can become solidified, and this prevents water from softening properly.
Siphon out or dump all water, though avoid allowing this water to come into contact with grass or plant life, and dispose of leftover salt. If your salt has solidified into a salt bridge (a giant block), use warm water to loosen and dispose of it.
Add two tablespoons of water to 1 gallon of warm water, and swirl thoroughly. Use this soapy water to scrub the inside of your brine tank of all salt residue, and flush with warm water.
Replace your lines, refill your tank with 5 gallons of clean water, and replace the water softener salt with the quantity appropriate for your model. Most brine tanks will take two 50-pound bags. Allow at least 6 inches of space between the sodium and the system’s lid.
Next, plug in your water softener, and reverse the bypass valve. Your system should be ready to go, and capable of softening water once again. If this process hasn’t fixed the problem, you may be dealing with insufficient water pressure.
How Does Low Water Pressure Affect a Water Softener?
If your water pressure is insufficient, the sensors on your water softener may be unable to detect when regeneration needs to occur and can either fail to regenerate or get stuck on a perpetual regeneration cycle. The result is the same: hard water.
To fix this problem, you can have a booster pump installed upstream of the water softener, to help increase flow and power. A high-quality booster pump can cost anywhere from $500 – $1,000 and should be professionally installed.
Once water pressure has increased, your water softener’s systems and sensors should begin working normally, and the regeneration cycle will kick in as needed or as scheduled.
If your water softener system is failing to regenerate automatically, first check the regeneration timer, as it may need to be reconfigured or replaced. Next, unplug your system and activate the bypass valve to check the systems’ water line, brine line, and injector valves. Clean them if you notice blockages, and empty, clean, and refill your brine tank.
Finally, should none of these methods work, you may have insufficient water pressure for the regeneration sensors to work properly. Installing a booster pump upstream from the water softener system should fix this issue and allow your water softener to work as it should.