Water softeners can be a godsent in areas with mineral-rich water. You might not realize how important they are when you have one, but as soon as your water softener starts to go bad, you’ll notice things like calcium build-up, skin breakouts, or even strange, unpleasant odors.
Fortunately, a good water softener can last more than a decade, but that doesn’t mean it should be out of sight, out of mind. In this article, we’ll teach you about how long your water softener should last, what you can do to keep it in good shape, and problems you should keep an eye out for.
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Water Softener Life Expectancy
How long should a water softener last? Most water softeners last between 10-15 years, but as technology continues to grow and evolve, this number might change. In some cases, water softeners can last up to twenty years. Water softener life expectancy also depends on several other factors, including:
- The size and quality of your water softener
- How much water you use
- How often you service your water softener
- The initial quality of your home’s water
- How well the water softener was installed
Depending on how and when your water softener stops working, you may not notice a change. If it happens gradually, you might not notice something like the smell or taste of your water as it changes. That’s why it’s so essential to perform routine maintenance, check the health of your water softener, and refill it as necessary.
However, just because your water softener stops working doesn’t mean it’s broken. Your water softener may just need a tune-up, a replacement part, or something as simple as more salt in the brine tank. Before replacing your water softener, make sure to have a professional check and see if it requires a full replacement or just a quick fix.
The question, then, is when should you fix, and when should you replace? Generally, if your water softener is running as it should, you should let it be, regardless of its age. However, if your water softener is ten years old or more and is starting to give you issues, it may be time to consider replacing it.
Getting a new water softener can have all sorts of benefits. As with any appliance, upgrading to a new unit — even from one that’s only a few years old — can often improve efficiency, accessibility, durability, and much more. Some water softeners can even connect to your smartphone or another smart device to tell you when it needs maintenance or a refill.
Water Softener Benefits
A water softener, like many appliances, isn’t required for you to live a happy, comfortable life. It’s more an appliance of convenience since a water softener provides many benefits that can make home life more convenient. Some of these benefits include:
- Healthier hair and skin
- Softer, cleaner clothes
- Water-connected appliances that run better (and longer)
- Less hard water build-up on pipes, showerheads, faucets, and dishes
However, depending on where you live, a water softener may not be necessary for you. If you live in an area that receives treated city water, you may not need a softener. Some geographical areas also have fewer minerals in their water naturally.
However, do keep in mind that a water softener isn’t the be-all, end-all for water issues. While they’re great for filtering out minerals, other problems like acidity, heavy metals, and dissolved solids can’t be fixed by a water softener alone. As such, if you’ve fixed your water softener but still experience issues, you may need to invest in an additional filtration device.
Maintenance Tasks for Water Softeners
If you’re looking to get as much life out of your water softener as possible, the best thing you can do is perform routine maintenance on it. Just like with a car, your water softener requires both preventative and diagnostic services to run in tip-top shape.
The maintenance that your water softener requires may differ depending on which type, brand, and model you have. Some examples of maintenance tasks you may need to tackle include:
- Filter replacement
- Flush the resin tank
- Refill the salt supply
- Top off regenerant levels
- Clean the brine tank
If you don’t keep up with these tasks, you could significantly reduce your water softener’s lifespan.
Water Softener Types
Water softeners aren’t all the same, and the different models and types can affect the appliance’s total lifespan. The most common types of water softeners include:
- Ion exchange water softeners
- On-demand water softeners
- Dual-tank water softeners
Ion exchange water softeners are basic and inexpensive, and as a rule, they tend to last the longest (thanks to less complicated parts). However, the drawback of a single-tank ion-exchange softener is that it can run out of soft water. If this happens, you’ll need to wait for the water softener to process another tank of water before you have soft water at your disposal again.
The other two types of water softeners have additional features to help mitigate this drawback, but as a result, they may not last as long. On-demand water softeners do exactly what their name implies: instead of operating on a timed schedule, they soften more water when they start to run low. Similarly, dual-tank water softeners can rely on their second tank of soft water when the first runs out.
The next best way to keep tabs on your water softener (after preventative maintenance, of course) is to keep an eye out for malfunctions. When a water softener isn’t working properly, it’ll allow untreated or partially-treated water through.
The full list of warning signs you should keep watch for includes:
- Dry or itchy hair and skin
- Uncharacteristic skin pimples or breakouts
- Scratchy or stiff clothing after washing
- Strange smell or taste
- Crusty pipes and faucets
- Soap that refuses to lather
- Water spots on dishes and windows
All in all, as long as you maintain your water softener as you would any other appliance, it’ll reward you with a long, useful life. As long as you do this, you likely won’t have to replace your water softener many times throughout your lifetime.