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How Much Water Should Be in Water Softener Brine Tank

Paul Billings
Last Updated on
by Paul Billings

Water softener systems reduce the levels of minerals in the water. We not only use these systems in homes, but most industrial boiler systems need them to prevent damage to tubes and overheating. Given that 85% of households in America have hard water, Installing a water softener is your best option. This begs the question how much water should be in the tank. Keep reading to find out.

Minerals and Hard Water

Minerals and Hard Water
Minerals and Hard Water

Hard water contains large amounts of minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. These minerals are not necessarily toxic but can be harmful and damaging. The damaging effects range from bothersome to destructive. The mineral deposit build-up causes spots or a thin film on washed dishes. It can also reduce the lather effect of soaps, which can cause skin irritation.

Over time the mineral deposit build-up in pipes can clog valves, restrict the flow of water, and put pressure on the entire plumbing system. Costs for plumbing repairs add up quickly and can be very costly. 

Water Softener

Water Softener
Water Softener

Water softeners come in many styles and sizes to accommodate your needs. They’re installed where water enters the house. They have a tall and narrow softener tank (mineral tank) connected to a short and wide brine tank with a small tube. From the softener tank, a discharge hose connects to a drainpipe. The softener tank is sealed permanently and filled with resin beads. The brine tank contains salt pellets or potassium chloride pellets.

How It Works

Water goes through the top of the softener tank and travels down to the negatively charged resin beads. The negative resin beads and the positive mineral deposits are attracted to each other. The resin draws the mineral deposits out of the water. The now-softened water leaves the tank and enters the house.

The retention of the beads diminishes with use to the point where they can’t draw any more minerals out of the water. This is known as the saturation point and indicates the softener tank needs to be cleaned or regenerated.

A computer calculates how much water has gone through the softener tank and automatically starts regeneration when the programmed settings are reached. Regeneration is every 12,000 gallons for a family of four.

Regeneration Process

The regeneration process has three phases: backwash, recharge or brine cycle, and rinse. The rinse phase is further broken down into the slow rinse and the fast rinse. The backwash phase removes the broken beads, dirt, and debris and preps the system for proper flow. The brine tank holds the solution which flushes the softener tank.

During the recharge phase, the salt water from the brine tank flows into the softener tank and washes the minerals off the beads. In the rinse phase, the mineral deposits in the regenerated water get flushed out of the discharge hose. The system automatically resets, returns to drawing mineral deposits out of the water, and allows softened water into the house.

Over time, the pellets in the brine tank will dissolve. At this point, more pellets will need to be added. The amount of water you use determines how often the pellets need to be replaced; however, this is normally every 4-6 weeks.

Water Level

Water Level
Water Level

Mark or measure the water level in the brine tank before regeneration. This will help confirm the manufacturer’s specifications if you need to troubleshoot later.

Water Level Before Regeneration

For efficiency, the brine tank needs to be 25% full of the pellets which leave about four to six inches from the top. The salt level stays over the water line. Remember to break up the large chunks of pellets and the pieces that get stuck to the sides. Keep the water below the level of salt at all times to have the best concentration (mix of salt and water).

Water Level After Regeneration

After regeneration, the water level depends on the type of brine tank – either moist or dry. The moist brine tank needs three to six gallons of water. The dry brine tank, which most newer systems use, should only have water for about one to two hours.

Water Level Between Cycles

The moist brine tank will have three to six gallons of water at all times. There should be no water in the dry brine tank between cycles.

Tank Maintenance

Tank Maintenance
Tank Maintenance

The brine tank only needs to be cleaned yearly. This includes emptying and cleaning the tank plus changing any filters. The brine tank can be replaced if it gets damaged or frequently clogs without replacing the whole system. There are also water softener repair techs you can call if needed.

Most problems with softener systems are due to imprecise regeneration timing and incorrect flow rates. One way to troubleshoot this is by doing an elution study. The study involves taking measurements over time during the regeneration of the concentration of salt. At the beginning of the study, the salt concentration needs to be 90% or higher.

A water softener system that is adequate will have a 30% salt concentration for 30 minutes. It is still sufficient if the concentration is higher; however, it is uneconomical.

Wrapping Up

Whether you have hard water in your home or an industrial setting, the build-up of mineral deposits can cause damage over time. 

The water softener system was built to combat this build-up by attracting the minerals in hard water into its softener or mineral tank. The brine tank holds the salt solution to clean the mineral tank once it reaches its saturation point.

Operating this system is minimal. The softener tank is permanently sealed so you only need to add salt pellets to the brine tank every 4-6 weeks depending on how much water you use.

Your water level depends on the type of brine tank: either moist or dry.

Remember to keep the water level below the salt level. Water must be touching the salt to obtain an adequate concentration. Never fill your brine tank with water. Although the system is minimal if you have questions or need help troubleshooting, reach out to a professional.

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About Paul Billings
Paul Billings
Paul has operated multiple water filtration businesses throughout the past few decades and brings a lot of practical experience and knowledge about water systems to Water Filter Spot.Jennifer and Paul collaborate on information on this website, research products together, and discuss the state of the industry and what is available to households and businesses for their clean water needs.
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