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How Long Do Water Softeners Last?

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:
how long do water softeners last

Water softeners are a critical device if you deal with hard water. In addition to providing you with pure soft water, these systems also extend your appliances and plumbing lifespan.

Speaking of lifespans, that leads many to wonder how long a water softener actually lasts.

Considering the investment that you’re about to make, this is an excellent question.

Typically a water softener will last for 5-15 years. Let’s explore the details.

Do Water Softeners Have a Lifespan?

So, how long can you count on your water softener lasting? The short answer to this question is, “it depends.”

What determines the system’s lifespan?

Several factors, including its type, how well you maintain it, and the quality of the system’s components and construction.

While it would be nice if these appliances lasted forever, you have to plan on replacing them in the future.

On average, you can count on a high-quality system lasting up to 15 years.

Salt-Based Ion Exchange Tanks

Salt-based ion exchange tanks last between 10 and 15 years. These types of softeners exchange hard water minerals, including calcium and magnesium, for sodium ions. The brine tank’s salt supplies the sodium ions.

Salt-Free Conditioners

Salt-free water conditioners last from 5-10 years, and, unlike water softeners that remove hard water minerals, these systems “condition” your home’s water.

The conditioning process involves chemical changes in the water’s calcium and magnesium.

That way, they don’t cling to surfaces and cause scale.

Dual Tank Systems

Like salt-based ion-exchange tanks, these systems also last between 10 and 15 years. In addition to having two tanks instead of one, you’ll also notice that the regeneration process for dual tank systems is different.

For example, when water regenerates in one tank, the system switches over to the other tank.

In doing so, that eliminates having to wait before getting your hands on soft water.

Lifespan Comparison of Different Types of Softeners

Salt-based ion exchange tanksBetween 10 and 15 years
Salt-free conditionersBetween 5 and 10 years
Dual tank systemsBetween 10 and 15 years

Common Signs Your Softener is Failing

common-signs

Homeowners who currently have a water softening system typically don’t think much about it unless they need maintenance. Softener systems are great because of their “set it and forget it” way of running. Unless you have to add salt or clean the tank, these systems pretty much run themselves.

So, how do you tell the common signs your softener is failing? Here are some signs to look for:

Laundry Issues

You might notice that your laundry is starting to have a yellow tinge to it or that it’s scratchier than usual. When your water softener is operating effectively, you don’t have to worry about minerals causing your clothes to feel stiff.

Scale Build-Up

Are you having a hard time washing spots off your faucets or other fixtures?

If so, your water is leaving behind limescale.

That’s a sticky deposit that clings to faucets, pipes, and water-based appliances. Water softeners prevent minerals from binding to surfaces. So, if you notice this happening, that’s a sign that your system is falling.

Soap Doesn’t Lather

Did you know that calcium and magnesium in water prevent soap from lathering well?

You can test to see if your soap lathers well by adding around ten drops of liquid soap into a bottle, filling it up, putting the cap on, and shaking it vigorously. Do you see suds or cloudy water? If you see cloudy water, that’s an indication that the water is hard.

Water Tastes Different

When water contains calcium and magnesium, those minerals change the taste of your water.

Think about when you first installed your home’s water softening system. You probably noticed that your water had a clean and smooth taste. If you start noticing that it tastes chemical-like or chalky, or minerals pass through, then it’s time for a new water softener.

How to Extend the Life of Your Water Softener

Extend the life of your water softener

If you’re worried that extending the life of your water softener is complicated–don’t because it’s not.

Here are some tips for adding some extra years to your system:

Add a Pre-Filter

We recommend adding a pre-filter to your whole home water softening system to extend its life and remove sediment typically in water.

Examples of this sediment include dirt, rust, and sand. If these sediments pass through your system, they can damage its water softening media.

Check Salt Levels Regularly

If you’re not checking the salt levels in your system regularly, they could fall too low. That’s a problem because, if that happens, your system won’t be able to regenerate its softening media.

Clean the Brine Tank

If your system is new, you’ll need to clean the brine tank or resin bed once every two years. If your system is older, then you’ll need to clean it more often. We suggest at least once annually. 

Conduct Inspections Every Three Months

We recommend inspecting your water softener once every three months, so you can determine if there are issues before they escalate into more significant problems.

For example, if bridging is occurring, that can prevent your water softener from working efficiently.

When You’ll Know It’s Time for a Replacement

Just like any other appliance, water softeners have a lifespan. With routine maintenance, your ion exchange system should last up to 15 years.If you notice issues occurring with your home’s water, that could be a sign that you’re using the wrong type of salt. Other issues to check for include:

  • Ensuring the softener’s hardness settings are accurate.
  • Making sure the brine tank or resin bed is clean.

You can also look for other issues that indicate that it’s time for a replacement. Those issues include feeling sand-like particles in your water, the softener failing to regenerate, the regeneration process frequently happening, feeling a change in your water pressure, or the unit doesn’t stop running.

Conclusion

Water softeners are awesome for their ability to solve hard water issues in your home. Not only does this water taste better, but it increases the efficiency of water-based appliances.

However, if your system has been working for longer than you can remember or for more than 10-15 years, it might be time to check for issues or look for a replacement system.

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. He didn’t realize at the time that water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customers swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years and he’s excited to share his wisdom to help other homeowners select the right water filtration devices.