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Water Softener Problems

Updated: Jun. 30, 2017

Here's how to fix a broken water softener

FH06JUN_WATSOF_01-2Family Handyman
Fix a problem with a water pressure drop and clogged plumbing fixtures. It may be that your water softener needs to have its resins replaced. Here's how to diagnose your problem.

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Water Softener Problems

If you have city water and your water pressure has dropped and your showerheads are clogging, you may be wondering if the problems are caused by your water softener.

To troubleshoot, first check with your city’s water department to see if there’s been a change in water pressure. However, since your showerheads are clogging, either mineral deposits broke free inside your pipes or the resins in your water softener need to be replaced. Remove your showerhead and turn on the water. If the water is clear, the problem was mineral deposits. Clean the showerhead and any clogged faucet screens. If, however, you see any sand-like particles in the water, most likely you need to replace the resins. Don’t confuse the resins with the salt you put in the tank; see Figures A and B. Resins break down over time and get into the water line, clogging showerheads and faucet screens. Once this starts, don’t wait. Fragmented resins (called “fines”) can damage water heaters and plumbing fixtures. Close the valves to the water softener and open the bypass valve. Then ask a water softener service company to inspect the resins and replace them if necessary. Some companies install a new resin tank ($200 to $250).Others clean and refill yours with new resins. You won’t save much if you try to do it yourself, so let the pros handle this. Resins can last 20 years (the lifespan for most water softeners), but chlorinated city water can damage resins in fewer than 10 years.

Figure A: Water Softening

Resins remove various minerals from water and replace them with sodium.

Figure B: Backwash and Recharge

First, water washes the resins (1). Then a salt solution from the brine tank recharges the resin bed with sodium (2).