Monday, July 20, 2009

My Water Softener quit working...what should I do ?

Remember when you bought your water softener ? Was it 15 years ago, or was it last year, last month or last week. You had it installed or installed it yourself, added salt and wow, what a difference. Your water was great...until now. Troubleshooting your softener can be difficult if you don't know what to look for, or look at for that matter. In this blog, I'm going to cover some basic things to look for that you can easily correct and may solve your water problems, without an expensive service call.

1. If your water softener is an electric version, is it plugged in ?

I know what your thinking, but I have run many service calls and found this problem. Check that first. Another thing. If you softener is plugged in to a light (via a pull chain adapter) is it controlled by a switch ? This is another common problem I see in the field. You go upstairs and turn off the light and bingo, you just shut off the electric to your softener. Check this also and make sure that the light you plug it into or the outlet that you plugged it into is NOT controlled by a switch. If your softener is plugged into an extension cord, make sure it is working properly, this can also be a problem.

2. Is the salt in the brine tank (salt tank) mushed up or bridged ?

I see this all the time in one form or another. The best way to correct this is to completely empty your brine tank (salt tank) and start from scratch. Measure the water level in your brine tank before you start so you can add the proper amount of water when you are done, this is important. Do not reuse the salt you took out unless it is completely dry and not mushy or even soft. If you do, your just putting the same problems back in and not correcting anything. Mushy salt can also lead to a high water level in the brine tank. If you have noticed higher water levels in your brine tank, this might also be part of the problem. When you clean out your brine tank you might notice a salt platform or salt grid plate in the bottom of the tank. Make sure you remove this and clean out any mushed salt below the salt grid plate. Mushy salt and salt byproducts (i.e binders, etc.) build up over time and can hinder the operation of your softener. This usually happens after two plus years of operation.

3. Is your softener on bypass ?

This is another common and frequent problem I saw out in the field that causes numerous service calls. A lot of people bypass their softener in order to water the grass and forget to put it back into service afterwards. Check your bypass valve (if you have one) or if you have three valves in the plumbing, make sure the one that bypasses the system is not open.

4. Is there salt in the brine tank ?

I know this sounds stupid, but it happens. More is not better. Always let your salt level go down low (not out) till you can see the water before you add more. If you add salt every time there is room to add more, you will end up with a brine tank full of mushed salt or a salt bridge. Refer to question #2 if this is the case. Unless you are a family that uses a lot of salt a month (100-200 pounds) you should never fill your salt tank to the top.

5. Is the time of day set correctly ? (only if your softener has a time clock)

This can be a big issue. Why ? Let's look at it like a alarm clock. Let's say you get up every morning at 7 am. That's the time your alarm goes off. Now if the current time of day is not right, your not actually getting up at 7 am are you ? No. The same with your softener. If it's set to go off at 2 am (most of them are) and the time of day isn't right, it won't go off at 2 am. So why can this cause a problem ? If your softener runs during the day or evening and your using water, your getting hard water. Softeners automatically bypass themselves during a regeneration and will give you hard water while they are running. If your in the shower, you will fill the hot water tank with hard water and this can lead to the next two or three showers to be hard. Consult your owners manual for proper time settings.

6.  Is the drain line coming from the softener kinked or restricted ?

This is another problem I used to encounter in the field.  Every softener has a drain, and if the drain of the softener becomes restricted, your softener will not draw brine, and you will not get soft water.
Sometimes things get moved around and someone sits a bucket or paint can on the drain line.  Double check the drain of the softener and make sure it flows properly to the drain.

These six things can cause your softener not to work properly, or not even work at all. I know some of them seem quite simple, but I would guess that 30% or even higher of the percentage of all service calls have one of these problems wrong with them. Hope you enjoyed this blog on how to troubleshoot your water softener. If you have any specific topics you would like discussed or questions answered, please just let me know.

Rolly North--a.k.a--The Water Guy.


  1. I just wanted to add a comment here to mention thanks for you very nice ideas. Blogs are troublesome to run and time consuming thus I appreciate when I see well written material. Your time isn't going to waste with your posts. Thanks so much and stick with it No doubt you will definitely reach your goals! Have a great day!

  2. Such a great and informative post. Thanks for sharing this to us and keep posting.

  3. this is an awesome blog about water softeners. this can be used to filter the water. thanks for sharing such an important article with us. all the best. keep on posting.

  4. You really give great post here. I really enjoyed reading this post. In this way, we can look for and can easily correct and may solve water problems, without an expensive service call.