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Water Softener Troubleshooting: 7 Top Issues and How to Fix Them

Any major appliance in your home can break or stop working at any time, including your water softener. If you’re experiencing an issue with your system, here’s a water softener troubleshooting guide to help you identify the problem and either fix it yourself or call a pro.

1. Does it Have Electricity?

Sometimes, the problem is embarrassingly simple, but you’d be surprised how often this happens. Check to be sure your water softener is plugged in and that the outlet is hot. Check to see if the breaker has been thrown.

2. Check the Bypass Switch

Every water softener has a bypass valve that directs water into or away from it. If one of the handles is turned the wrong way, the water you’re using is not being filtered by the softener. Close the bypass valve.

3. When Does it Regenerate?

If the timer is not set correctly or it has failed, your softener could be running at the wrong time of day, or it might not be regenerating at all. A single-tank softener should be set to regenerate at night. If it comes on during the day when water usage is higher, you may get hard water because the unit can’t keep up with you. (Kinetico dual-tank softeners still provide soft water while regenerating.) Test the timer by setting it for a daily regeneration cycle, then listen to hear if the unit comes on overnight.

4. Is There Enough (Or Too Much) Salt?

Generally speaking, the salt level should be 3 or 4 inches above the water level. If salt gets too low, the water system won’t work properly. Maintaining an optimal salt level is the best “fix” here.

Using the wrong type of salt can cause bridges (crusty salt buildup) above the water level in the tank, preventing the water from being treated properly. To remove a salt bridge, tap on it (not on the tank) with something hard and blunt.

If your water tastes salty, the system is using too much salt — or there may be a clog in the drain hose which doesn’t allow all the brine water to be properly flushed away.

5. Is There Enough (Or Too Much) Water in the Tank?

Water must flow into the brine/salt tank and then back out for the water softener to do its job. The water level is regulated by a float switch. If it malfunctions, the tank may overfill and fail to empty. (With proper function, you should not see the water in the tank.) You’ll have to empty it by hand, then clean it. If the float valve is working properly, the problem may be a clog in the drain control or tubing, or there could be a problem with the timer.

If water is not entering the tank, perhaps the float switch is stuck or there is a clog in its tubing. If cleaning doesn’t fix the problem, the float mechanism will have to be replaced.

6. Has the Resin Depleted?

Over time, the resin in the tank becomes depleted, reducing its effectiveness in removing unwanted chemicals from the water. Yes, the regeneration process “revives” the resin beads so they can continue cleaning more water, but the older your softener, the less life it has. After many years of hard water running through the tank, the resin can wear out. When that happens, it’s time for a new water softener.

7. Maybe the Motor is Faulty

If the motor is not running fast enough or not running at all, the unit cannot work properly.

When in Doubt, Call a Pro

Not every fix is an easy one, and not everyone is inclined to do their own repairs, anyway. However, by running through these basic water softener troubleshooting steps, you’ll have some idea to what’s wrong. So, if you have to call us for help, we’ll be that much closer to a solution for you.

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