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Water softeners are an important investment in your home, so it makes sense to keep your softener unit in good condition for as long as possible. Sometimes hard water, or water with dissolved minerals, can cause problems in Sugar Land, TX. Hard water isn’t dangerous and it won’t hurt anyone, but it can cause inconveniences such as dingy clothes, scale and stains on plumbing fixtures, and dry skin or hair. Although water softeners need maintenance, it’s not an arduous or time-consuming process. You can even schedule regular maintenance appointments with your local plumber so you won’t have as much to do.
The Importance of Salt
Water softening systems don’t work without sodium, so refilling the salt supply is priority number one. A water softening system contains resin beads coated in sodium ions. The mineral ions in hard water are removed through ion exchange, which means the ions on the beads enter the water supply while minerals stick to the beads. The resin beads eventually run low on sodium ions. Each softener unit has a brine tank filled with a highly concentrated salt solution. You need to refill the salt periodically to provide sodium ions for the brine tank. Regeneration is the opposite of the softening process. The brine tank rinses mineral ions away from resin beads and replenishes sodium ions.
High-quality salt is better for the regeneration process. There are three types of salt available to refill your unit. Rock salt is usually cheap and contains a lot of impurities. It’s the least desirable type because impurities can clog your softener unit and may contribute to poor performance. Solar salt is evaporated seawater, which is a better option than rock salt. Evaporated salt is mined and processed to achieve over 99% purity. This is the best type of salt. It prevents salt bridges and mush that can interfere with your softener. Ask your plumber if you aren’t sure where to get evaporated salt.
Wait until the salt supply is only 1/4 full before adding more. Add new salt carefully and make sure it stays under the fill line. Ideally, the unit should be halfway to 3/4 full. Most households only need to refill their units every other month. Overfilling can actually lead to less efficient performance.
Cleaning Your Water Softener
Water softeners do create sediment and other waste products over time. The brine and resin tanks should be cleaned at least once every two years for new models. Older models should be cleaned more often. Make sure to clean out any salt or mold that may have built up, then refill the tank with fresh salt and water.
Add a softener cleaner every few months and use a manual refresh to keep resin beads clean. Don’t forget to clean the venturi valve. This valve is responsible for moving brine into the resin tank, and it can be clogged with sediment. The cover is removable so you can clean the internal parts in warm, soapy water. Ask your plumber about regular service checks. It’s best to have a plumbing professional evaluate your system annually to make sure everything is working right.
Most water softeners have at least four settings to adjust. The unit works best if you customize settings to fit your household’s needs. Settings also control your unit’s regeneration cycle. Regeneration frequency determines how often the resin beads are replenished with fresh ions. This varies from every day to every week, depending on the volume of water used. A plumber can help you figure out how much water your household uses daily.
Regeneration time sets the time of day to run the cycle. No water is softened during the cycle, so make sure to choose a time when you won’t need water. Many people choose to run the cycle overnight. A regeneration cycle length is the time it takes for each cycle, which is usually between 30 to 60 minutes. Your plumber can help you optimize settings according to routine water use. Some trial and error may be necessary until you find the best setting configuration.
Salt bridges and salt mush are the two most common problems with water softeners. Luckily, neither problem is difficult to fix. A salt bridge occurs when a salt crust forms a barrier between the salt supply and the water supply. It makes it impossible to recharge resin beads. Low-quality salt and high humidity contribute to salt bridges. Although Sugar Land, TX, has a fairly arid climate, humid conditions can occur at certain times of the year. Use a broom handle or a similar object to break up salt bridges, then remove all the large chunks. You may need to clean the tank if too much crust is present. The salt can be reused if you dissolve it in hot water. If salt bridges seem to form too often, ask your plumber what you can do to improve conditions.
Salt mushing is the term for salt sediment accumulating on the bottom of the brine tank. This salty sludge can interfere with your softener’s cycles. If you see salt mushing, you’ll have to drain the brine tank and remove all of the old salt. Thoroughly clean the bottom of your tank and refill it with fresh water and salt. You can call your plumber for this task if you’d rather not do it yourself.
A well-maintained softener can last up to 20 years. The resin beads are the part that eventually break down. They lose their ability to regenerate and hold a charge. Without that ability, ion exchange doesn’t happen. Although resin beads can be replaced, it’s expensive. A plumber can help you break down the cost of replacing beads and compare it to the cost of replacing the softener with a new unit.
Call bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of West Houston for plumbing issues in Sugar Land, TX. A licensed and experienced plumber can help you install your water softener and perform regularly scheduled maintenance checks. You can always combine services and schedule other maintenance or inspection tasks as well.