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How to Plumb a Water Softener

The plumbing hookups on a water softener can be confusing, but we'll show you how the connections should be made. You don't have to be a plumber to connect a water softener. We make it easy to understand even for a beginning DIYer.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Water softener hookup

The piping around a water softener can be confusing. A cold water branch before the water softener doesn't necessarily indicate a problem. It's standard procedure to branch off one cold water line to supply outdoor hose connections (and sometimes another to the kitchen sink and refrigerator icemaker if you don't want to drink softened water).

Water for gardens and lawns doesn't need to be softened. The main supply line to the rest of the house continues on to the softener. Once the water leaves the softener, it should branch into two lines: a cold line that runs to interior fixtures and faucets, and a line that feeds the water heater. The outgoing line from the water heater then runs to interior fixtures and faucets that dispense hot water. In addition to those lines, there should be a bypass loop (shown in the photo) with a valve you can open to bypass the softener if you need to disconnect it temporarily without disturbing the water supply to the house.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Tape measure
    • Plumbers tape
    • Slip joint pliers
    • Soldering torch
    • Tube cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Copper pipe
    • Copper tees
    • Valves
    • Solder
    • Flux
    • Fitting brush

Comments from DIY Community Members

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January 09, 10:43 PM [GMT -5]

Often the cold water supply entry is remote from the hot water tank and has local branches near its entry point. Unless you can locate the water softener near that point then you have a more complex install.

You will then need to run a new loop to the Garage/Water Heater (assuming thats where the Water Softener will go) and then back to the entry point. This can be complicated to route and needs to be of sufficient tube size to not compromise flow rates...

You will need to re-route all water over to the softener and then split the post softener supply both to the Hot Water tank and ther return loop back over to the cold feeder branches near the entry point.

Just hope your house already has such a loop plumbed.


June 18, 3:34 PM [GMT -5]

Has anyone installed a Sterling saltless water softner? I installed a Sterling softener along with a Big Blue #10 filter in my house about a week ago. But i have not been able to get to work consistently. The Sterling seems to be fine, but the water does not appear to be flowing through it. I suspect that the water is being clogged at the Big Blue Filter. Does anyone have any advice on this? It would be greatly appreciated.

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How to Plumb a Water Softener

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