Water softeners have a life expectancy just like any other device. While it’s a bit difficult to get an average number because there are so many different companies and models on the market, we can still make a pretty good estimation of how long most softeners will last you by comparing the information that’s available online.
The average life expectancy of a decent whole-house water softener will be somewhere between 10-20 years. Portable water softeners have a lifetime of around 5-10 years, which is reasonable considering that they’re generally much cheaper than whole-house models.
Regardless of which source you trust, all of them will agree that an average water softener should last you 10 years at the very least. However, remember that this applies to full-sized water softeners that come with a resin and brine tank.
Of course, these are all averages, and like any other device, some water softener models will last longer than others, while some can break down unexpectedly quickly – there’s always that risk with any appliance.
Factors to Consider
There are two reasons why your water softener might not last as long as most sources say it should – frequency of use and water quality
The more you use a device, the faster it’ll get worn out. If you live in a several-story home and there are 7-8 or more people living there, then you will be using the softener quite a lot.
The large quantities of water passing through the system will naturally put a strain on all of the components after a while. They are designed to treat water, yes; however, keep in mind that the water going into the system is full of hard minerals as well, and the harder it is, the more it wears these same components.
Speaking of water hardness. Certain states and areas will have water that’s harder than others. If you live in an area with particularly mineral-rich water, then the components of your system that bring the water to the main tank will be a lot more prone to limescale buildup.
If you use your unit a lot and the hardness of your water is above average, proper maintenance and prevention become even more important if you want to make the most of your softener’s lifespan. Picking the right model for your particular needs is equally as important
To illustrate, larger systems aren’t as affected by how frequently you use them. If you ensure that you get a softener that’s the right size for your home, then you can use it as often as you like.
As for the issue of water quality, simply maintain or replace the components that bring the hard water to the main tank when necessary. The limescale buildup will happen no matter what, but you can clean it out or get a new hose or valve if the current one is too far gone.
When to Replace a Water Softener
There’s an easy answer to this question. When it starts to break down.
Hard water causes a lot of problems. Limescale forms a lot more easily due to high mineral content, the clothes in the washing machine start to lose their color more quickly, you can’t lather soap as easily, and so on.
Water softeners prevent all of this from happening, so if you’re seeing these issues crop up, then that means that your device isn’t doing its job properly anymore.
Parts can be replaced, but if enough of them stop working or there’s an issue with the main tank or controls, then the price of the repairs might just be too costly to be worth it.
After a certain amount of time and a certain amount of water has passed, even the resin stops being able to hold sodium ions. Even though the resin can be replaced, at some point, it just starts making more sense to get a new water softener.
You’re obviously going to want to get as many years as you can from your water softener, but when the repair bills start mounting up, sometimes it’s cheaper to get a newer model than your old one.
In the best-case scenario, a water softener can serve you faithfully for up to 20 years. However, it’s definitely not going to get that old all by itself.
Neglecting your device and not maintaining it is a good way to cut its life expectancy by half or more.
Luckily, there are several ways to ensure your water softener stays with you for as long as possible.
Replace Small Components
Water softeners have a ton of connectors and small components that hold everything together. These are the items that break first and need to be replaced the most frequently.
If you were the one that put the water softener together, then you already know what can be replaced. However, if you’re unsure which components are removable, your manual should tell you every single one.
The most commonly replaced items on a water softener are the valves and the hoses. These are very cheap items and very easy to detach and reattach again.
Your system can run relatively effectively even if a few components are slightly damaged or are not working as intended.
For example, sodium buildup in the brine intake hose can cause the brine to be delivered to the main tank at a reduced rate. This might not seem like much of a problem, and in the short run, it’s not, since it only makes the regeneration process take slightly longer.
However, this constant strain on the hose will also affect the pump and the components inside the brine tank. Additionally, the sodium buildup might soon start affecting the connecting valve as well, causing it to get blocked up.
This is only one example, and there are a lot of other components that can break, aside from the hoses and the valves. However, the point that we’re trying to make is that all of these items need to work together.
If you notice that a connector, a valve, or any other small component is damaged or has issues, then it’s a good idea to fix or replace it immediately.
Try to do basic maintenance on your water softener as often as possible.
The brine tank can cause a lot of trouble if you’re not careful, so we’d direct most of our maintenance efforts in that direction if we were in your shoes.
Check to ensure there’s always enough salt for the regeneration cycle. You don’t need to replenish the salt until the tank is only ⅓ full, and you don’t need to fill it up all the way to the top.
You might also want to check that the salt hasn’t congealed into one hard lump at the bottom. If it has, all you have to do is take a hammer or something hard and break it up so that the pump has an easier time collecting the brine.
Speaking of the pump, the entire mechanism in the brine tank cylinder should be checked once every month or two. Make sure that there’s no buildup anywhere and that the hoses are all clean. If they’re not, take the pump out, soak it in warm water, and use a brush to get rid of any salt.
Maintaining your water softener is vital for extending its life; however, sometimes, basic maintenance just isn’t enough.
If you’re having problems with your softener that you can’t figure out, we recommend you get a professional to check it out.
Not only can they more easily diagnose and fix potential issues that you wouldn’t have even noticed, but they can also look it over to ensure everything is as it should be.
As to the question of which repairman to call, it’ll depend on which company you got the water softener from.
Full-sized water softeners will last you anything between 10-20 years, whereas the average lifetime of portable models is between 5-10 years.
While every model is different, this is the general baseline.
Getting the right size of water softener for your house and properly taking care of it is a good way to ensure that it easily lasts for more than a decade.
And finally, once the writing is on the wall and the upkeep costs start getting unreasonable, it’s probably time to bite the bullet and get a newer model.
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