Water conditioners and filters are two essential systems for treating the water in your home. Water conditioners remove hard water minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, while water filters remove contaminants such as chlorine, lead, and sediment. While they serve different purposes, they can work together to provide optimal water quality for your household.

Benefits of Water Softeners Versus Water Filters

Before discussing how to maintain water softeners and water filters, it is important to discuss how the role of each differs in your home. Some homeowners believe that if they have a water softener to filter their water, their water is safe to drink.

Unfortunately, this is a misunderstanding. Although water softeners may make your water more pleasant to drink and look clearer, they do not clean water. On the other hand, the benefit of a whole-house water filter is that it removes pollutants from water for bathing, drinking, and cooking.

Besides making your water taste better and more visually appealing, water softeners have other benefits. If you have ever cleaned a bathroom in a house with hard water, you know how difficult it is to remove mineral buildup on fixtures such as shower heads and faucets. These minerals can build up in a homeowner’s plumbing system and appliances like dishwashers. A water softener benefits a homeowner because by removing minerals, water softeners can prevent blockages in their plumbing system and extend the lifetime of their appliances.

Maintenance Requirements for Water Filters

Replace the Filter Cartridge

Filter cartridges are a critical component of a water filtration system. They’re responsible for removing contaminants from the water and must be replaced regularly to ensure the system’s effectiveness. Generally, replacing the filter cartridges at least once a year is recommended.

To replace the filter cartridges, turn off the water supply to the system, remove the old cartridges, and insert the new ones according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Clean and Sanitize Your Water Filtration System

In addition to replacing the filter cartridges, we recommend that you clean and sanitize the water filtration system annually. To sanitize your water filtration system, turn off the water supply and remove the filter cartridges. Mix a sanitizing water and bleach solution, then pour the solution into the filter housing. Allow the solution to sit for at least 20 minutes before rinsing the housing with clean water. Finally, replace the filter cartridge and turn the water supply back on.

Maintenance Requirements for Water Softeners

Check the Salt Level in Your Water Softener

You must check the salt level regularly if you have a water softener. The salt is responsible for regenerating the resin beads that remove hard minerals from the water. Homeowners should check the salt level in their water softer at least once a month.

You should refer to your owner’s manual to check what the salt level should be for your unit. Generally, a water softener’s brine tank should be filled halfway, and the salt should be three inches above the water level.

When maintaining the salt in your brine tank, there are two things to watch out for. Salt bridges are solid layers that may form in the tank. These bridges can suspend themselves and make it appear as if the salt level is where it should be, even though there may not be sufficient salt in the system. You can use a broom handle to break up salt bridges by pushing the handle to the bottom of the tank.

The other issue to look out for is that the salt can form a mushy pile at the bottom of the tank. When this happens, the water in the tank rises around the pile instead of mixing with the salt. You can use the broom handle to break this pile up, but it may be easier to scoop the mush up and pour it into a bucket of hot water to dissolve it. You can then return the solution to the tank.

Adjust the Regeneration Cycle for Your Water Softener

When hard water passes through the resin bed in your water softener, calcium and magnesium ions in the hard water are replaced with sodium ions, and the hard minerals stick to the resin beads. The beads can get saturated with these hard water minerals. The regeneration cycle is when the resin beads are cleaned and recharged using salt.

Many homeowners elect to set their water softeners to regenerate every two to three days. How often you should run the regeneration cycle can depend on the hardness of your water, the amount of iron in it, and how many family members use the system in your household.

Adjusting the regeneration cycle can help optimize the system’s performance and efficiency. For example, changing the cycle based on your household’s water usage can reduce salt consumption and save money on your water bills. A professional can help you determine the optimal regeneration cycle for your system.

Clean and Sanitize Your Water Softener System

If you notice signs that your water softener is not doing its job, such as mineral buildup in sinks, it is time to clean and sanitize the system. Otherwise, with proper salt maintenance and if the system is operating correctly, this only needs to be done about every five years.

The first step is to close the bypass valve. You will then need to empty the water and salt from the tank. You can use hot water to dissolve any salt clinging to the inside of the tank. Remove the brine grid from the bottom of the tank and rinse it with hot water.

Mix a generous amount of dish soap with about two gallons of water to clean the tank. You can use a long-handled brush to scrub the interior. After scrubbing, dump the soapy mixture and rinse the interior with regular water.

To sanitize the tank, pour in about a fourth of a cup of household bleach with two to three gallons of water. Let this mixture sit in the tank for 15 to 20 minutes. After letting your bleach and water solution sit, you will need to dump it out and rinse the tank again.

Replace the brine grid that goes in the bottom of the tank. You can now fill the tank with salt and open the bypass valve. You should wait a few hours after cleaning to run the regeneration cycle to allow the new salt to dissolve in the water.

Have Annual Maintenance Performed by a Professional

While homeowners can do several maintenance tasks on water filters and softeners, it’s also essential to schedule professional maintenance annually. As experienced plumbers and water treatment specialists, technicians can inspect the system, test the water quality, and identify potential issues. They can also advise you on optimizing the system’s performance and efficiency.

Contact the Experts

At Express Plumbing Heating & Air, we have been serving the residents of Boise, ID since 2006. We are plumbing and water treatment experts. We also install, maintain and repair HVAC systems.

We understand that every household’s water treatment needs are unique, and we offer personalized solutions tailored to your specific needs and budget. Contact us today if you have questions about your water softer and filtration system or need to schedule a maintenance appointment.

Brad Jordan

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