How to Install a Water Softener
Water softeners are not a luxury but a necessity.
Installing a water softener can be as simple as finding connecting the unit to the main valve to as difficult as pre-plumbing, laying of pipes, soldering, and all the stuff you don’t understand about plumbing.
It all depends on the location site, the state of plumbing in your house, and the type of water softener you want to install.
The difficulty level depends on the type of Water Softener on a Scale of 1-5 (1 being the easiest and 5 the hardest)
- Magnetic systems- 1-2
- These are the easiest, and anyone can install them.
- Salt-Free Units- 3-4
- These units are more difficult to install than magnetic systems, but it will also depend on the electrical parts and the piping.
- Salt-based softeners- 5
- These are the most difficult to install, and often times require professional installation if all you have ever done is jiggle the toilet handle a few times.
Best Place to Install a Water Softener
Your water system should be out of the way but easy to connect to the plumbing system. It can be the basement, garage or utility room. You will want to install it where there’s enough room around the unit for maintenance and repairs.
The water softener should not be exposed to the elements such as freezing conditions. Being in a location where temperatures go below 40F can increase pressure in the unit which can cause unrepairable damage.
When locating the water softener outside, it should also be protected against direct sunlight, insects, and vandalism for all its components. And if your state is prone to earthquakes like the state of California, it should be strapped in.
A whole house water softener should be near the main supply line and at least 10ft from the water heater. If you have outside taps like those that supply the garden and swimming pool, their pipes should be on hard water to avoid soft water wastage.
For well water, find the point where the water leaves the pressure tank. Water connected at the primary water inlet helps distribute soft water to the whole house. It prevents hard water from running into much of your plumbing as it leaves the main supply line. The water softener should not block access to the main valve or the water heater.
A water softener should also be near a drain. The regeneration process requires flashing out of the brine water. After your water softener becomes concentrated, it needs rinsing, and that water has to go somewhere that’s where the drain comes in.
What is a Soft Water Loop?
For new homes located in hard water areas, you will find a copper line sticking out of the walls. It is the line that connects to the water softener and in turn, distributes the water to the rest of the house. It saves you from additional plumbing which means you can install the water softener yourself.
This line is usually near the water heater. It prevents soft water from running throughout all the pipes such as those outside.
Step by Step Guide to Installing a Water Softener Yourself
It takes 1-4 hours to install a water softener in a pre-plumbed house. This means the location site is easy to access and your plumbing is ready for the water softener.
You will Need:
- Tape measure
- Tubing- it connects the unit to the primary inlet and drain piping
- Pipe cutter
- Solder and torch
- Teflon tape
- Slip joint pliers
- Pipe wrench, and
- Fittings and valves included in the water softener package
1. Find a Dry, Clean Position
Clean the area you want to place the water softener. Orient the water softener correctly so that the inlet will be from the water supply and the outlet will be to the pipe that leads to the rest of the house. At this point, you’ll want to measure the connection pipes.
The two water tanks should be side by side.
2. Shut off the Water Supply
Turn off the main water supply and the power to the water heater.
3. Drain the Water Lines
Turn on all the faucets and outlets to drain the lines of remaining water.
4. Cut into the water supply line with a pipe cutter.
This will allow you to install the elbow fittings which enables you to run two lines to the inlet and outlet ports of the bypass valve. If you want to have hard water to run to the outside, you will want to have a T-fitting at the point before water from the main supply reaches the inlet to the water softener.
5. Install the pipes
Cut the pipes that lead to the bypass valve. Next, solder the nipples and fittings to the pipes before installing the pipes to the pipes to the bypass valves. If you have pipes of different sizes, you may want to use a small-size fitting to get the right size that will go with the plastic valves.
You will also want to use compression fittings when attaching the pipes to the softener.
6. Connect the Drain Pipe
Next, attach the drain pipe to the softener. Use clamps to hold it in place and direct it to the drain or the utility sink. Make sure that the drain pipe is 2 inches and above from the drain hole. This will prevent brine water from back siphoning back to the softener.
7. Connect the Overflow
To prevent the brine tank from overflowing, an overflow tube needs to be attached to the overflow valve. It will also require clamping and directing to the drain. Make sure that it does not whip, and it is above the drain hole.
8. Install the Brine Line
We are still talking about side by side tanks. The brine line allows the brine to flow into the resin tank when regeneration is happening.
At this point, you will be set to start using your water softener. Check that all the connections are secure and that the pipes lead to where they are supposed to.
9. Put Softener in Bypass
Turn on the water and run it through the softener. This process ensures the pipes are free of sediments and you can also check for leaks at this stage.
10. Change the valve to backwash position and plug in the softener
Press and hold the regenerate button, let the unit cycle until it reaches the backwash position.
11. Open the bypass valve partially
Let the water flow into the resin tank and allow it to go out the drain. When the water starts flowing without spurts, and it’s not making any noise, open the main supply all the way.
Fill the two tanks with water and salt as directed by the manufacturer.
12. Plug in the Softener
Use the regenerate button again and let the unit go through the full cycle until it indicates that the service setting is on.
13. Configure the System
You will want to follow instructions from the manufacturer to program the water softener according to its type, water hardness, and the regeneration period. Some water softeners regenerate of demand which will save you from frequent re-filling of the salt.
How Much to install a Water Softener?
Lots of factors affect the installation of any particular water softener. These factors vary from the type of water softener to its size, plumbing status of your home, and whether you install it yourself or involve a professional.
Magnetic systems are the least expensive to own and install while dual tank systems cost more to own and install. If your piping does not support installing of a water softener, you have to lay the relevant pipes which will increase the overall costs.
DIY is also cheaper as long as you have basic plumbing skills. This is because if you go at it on a trial and error mission, it may cost you more if you have to involve a plumber after all.
You can expect to buy a water softener from as cheap as $400 to over $1000. Plumbing should be no more than $1000 including buying the necessary fixtures for a small home. For large homes where plumbing has to be made to accommodate the new water softener, you should not go above $2500 including buying the unit and the money you pay for the service.
In every installation, you have to plan ahead. You must have all the necessary fixtures, pipes, and connections before any work can be done. Prior preparation saves you from abandoning the installation and running back to the store.
Another cost consideration is that of the salt and resin. Make sure to pick the correct size that does not require frequent regeneration. The more a system regenerates, the more salt it uses. You should replace resin after 10-15 years from the day of installation. This is unless you are using a model that uses fine-mesh resin in which case you it will require replacing after 6-7 years.
It is essential to check with your city’s building codes before installing a water softener. Some states have restrictions on salt-based systems because of the salt that ends up in the environment.
Remember that features can vary depending on the water softener. We may not have represented every aspect of installing the water softener you pick. It is important to double check instructions for your particular water softener.