Water softeners are remarkably underrated filtering appliances. Aside from first entering water hardness level, regeneration timing parameters as well as replenishing the salt, they go along and do their task. Even if they are low-maintenance, there are some simple ways to make them more efficient and last for a longer time.
Salt bridges are the hard crust formed in the brine tank that build an empty space between the salt and water, which prevents salt from dissolving in the water to produce brine. When there is no brine, resin beads cannot do their job of softening the water.
Bridging is commonly caused by high humidity, changes in temperature around the water softener or the wrong type of salt. It is possible to have a salt bridge when the salt tank seems to be full but water remains hard.
The more serious problem between the two is salt mushing, which occurs whenever dissolved salt recrystallises to form a sludge at the base of the brine tank. This thick salt layer prevents the water from regenerating, stops the water softener from functioning and blocks the passage of water.
In case the water test indicates a salt bridge though it does not break up when pushed, this is caused by salt mushing. The only way to address the issue is to drain the water in the softener, scoop out the old salt and refill it with fresh salt
Water softeners are available in three basic types: rock, solar and evaporated. The most affordable is rock salt that has high level of insoluble impurities/minerals. Over a period of time, this can cause a muddy tank, decreasing the efficiency of the softener and leaving impurities in the water.
Solar salt, which dissolves faster in water than rock salt, is produced by the evaporation of sea water. It comes in the form of pellets and crystals. Evaporated salt, which is the best choice, is made by combining mining and evaporation. It is considered the purest among all types of salt, at 99.99% sodium chloride.
Generally, it is best to use high purity salts that leave less residue in a storage tank, making it less likely to have salt bridges and salt mushing that will lead to less maintenance. Bridging issues can be eliminated with the help of high quality salts as well as salts in pellet form.
Resin beads are frequently recharged by salt but it would be an advantage to clean the resin bed once every few months using a water softener cleaner so it will remain in top shape. Over a long period of time, a water softener can acquire pollutants like iron, heavy metals, silt and organic compounds, causing it to become less efficient.
To reduce the rate of ineffective resin, this requires pouring the amount of water softener cleaner down the brine as recommended by the manufacturer and manually regenerating the system. The cleaner is released during the usual water softening cycle flushing process. This will let the resin remain clean and absorb the maximum amount of calcium and magnesium during its life cycle.
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