Over time, hard water can cause multiple issues for homeowners. It can leave spots and stains on sinks and plumbing fixtures, make it harder for detergents to suds up and even damage pipes, requiring them to be replaced. Plus, hard water can sometimes smell and/or taste bad.
Installing a water softener can help alleviate these common hard water problems. A water softener provides cleaner water, helps to preserve appliances, faucets and plumbing fixtures, and makes hair and skin softer.
Considerations for Installing a Water Softener
If you are a DIYer who possesses basic plumbing skills, such as knowing how to weld pipes and solder them back together, and you have access to plumbing-specific tools, you may be able to successfully install a water softener.
The biggest consideration when installing a water softener is if your home has an existing water “loop,” which is a pre-plumbed option that would have been installed when your house was built. If a loop exists, the water softener can be installed within a few hours. If there is no loop, you’ll need to connect to your home’s main water line where it enters the house and run new pipes to where the softener will be installed.
Without an existing loop, the installation job becomes much more complicated and is best left to a professional. This is particularly because you may need to pull a permit and conform to building codes when installing a softener without the benefit of an existing loop.
No one-size-fits-all water installation
Every home is different, so every installation scenario will be different. You’ll want to understand each step of the process for your home’s unique situation so you can have all the needed tools and parts on hand when you begin.
Most water softeners come with instructions specific to the model purchased. In general, no matter the scenario, you’ll want to install the softener as close as possible to the point where water enters your home, which means it should be near your water heater.
You’ll want to connect the softener so it feeds into the water heater, rather than being downstream from the water heater. That way, the water heater will receive soft water, which can prolong its lifespan, and hot water will not damage the water softener.
Keep in mind that houseplants and your landscape will not respond well to the sodium in soft water, so you may want your softened water to bypass your indoor sinks and external faucets. If your home is on a well, the installation of a water softener will be the same as for homes on municipal water supplies, as long as the water enters the house the same way.
Steps for Installing a Water Softener
Here’s a list of the materials you’ll want to have available before you begin the water softener installation:
- Torch and solder
- Pipe cutters
- Pipe wrench
- Tape measure
- Flexible tubing
- Copper fittings
- Gate valves
- 2 compression fittings
- Tubing or copper pipe
- Teflon tape
- 2 union fittings
- PVC solvent or flux
Step by step for a water softener installation
- Shut off the water and drain the pipes. Turn off the water to your house at the main line and drain the pipe. To do this, open the lowest valve in the house and let the water flow out.
- Turn off the water heater. Then, switch off the power leading to the water heater.
- Determine where the water softener should be installed on the main line. Make sure the water softener sits on the line before the water heater.
- Using a pipe cutter, cut into the main line. Place a bucket under the area to be cut, to catch any water that runs out. Cut the pipe by tightening the cutter onto it and then rotating the cutter around until it cuts through the pipe.
- Install an elbow fitting. The elbow fitting allows you to feed the filter and, if necessary, include a bypass valve to feed water around the filter.
- Measure pipes. Taking measurements from the unit, measure the pipes that will lead to the bypass valve and cut them to fit. Before connecting the pipe to the bypass valve, solder on any nipples and fittings.
- Attach the pipes to the unit. Using brass adaptors supplied with the unit, attach the pipes to the water softener.
- Secure the drain hose with a clamp. Feed it to the drain location and leave at least 2 inches above the drain hole to ensure the water doesn’t back-siphon. Draining options include:
- A floor drain
- Utility sink
- Connect the overflow tube to the brine tank. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for height and placement specifications.
- Remove sediment and debris. Turn the valve to the bypass position and flush water through it.
Plug the unit into an electrical outlet and set the valve to the backwash position. To let in water and release any air in the pipes, slowly open up the valve. Set up the flushing schedule according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, learn how to add salt to the tank.
Trust an Expert in Water Softener Installation
While installing a water softener is doable for DIYers with plumbing knowledge or experience, the best way to ensure you’ll have a properly functioning water softener is to have a professional install it. A professional water softener installer will assess your home’s unique situation and determine what’s needed plumbing-wise to install the unit and make it work for your household.
You can trust an expert to have the proper parts and tools for the job. A homeowner may end up making a dozen trips to a hardware store for parts and materials. Or, if a local store doesn’t have a part, the homeowner may need to visit specialty stores, where it might be difficult to understand their more advanced plumbing vocabulary.
Water softeners are electric and programmable, so a DIYer will need to study to understand the programming instructions. An expert can easily and correctly program the system right away.
An expert installer will also know how to weld certain metals at the right temperatures to get solid connections, eliminating worries about leaks. If a homeowner incorrectly installs a water softener, it could flood the house, causing water damage, the need for clean-up, potential mold and the expense of more money to hire a professional to fix everything.
Best of all, professional installation comes with a warranty. When you hire a professional, you’ll enjoy the many benefits of soft water for years to come.
If you’d like more information about water softener maintenance, care and replacement, contact the experts at Clearwater Concepts.