4 Signs Your Water Softener Is Failing

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Many homes would be stuck with cloudy water, scummy dishes, and stained sinks and bathtubs without a water softener. Unfortunately, water softeners don't last forever, and you will need to replace your water softener occasionally to continue fighting the effects of hard water.

You may notice these signs of hard water and a few other problems if your water softener is losing efficiency. Here are four signs your water softener is failing.

1. You Need Frequent Plumbing or Appliance Repairs

Hard water is notorious for taking a toll on plumbing appliances. Minerals found in hard water can form sediment deposits inside appliances like dishwashers and water heaters. This sediment may damage mechanical and electrical components or, in the case of water heaters, coat the heating elements and prevent your water from heating effectively.

Take note if you need to call for frequent appliance repairs, as hard water could be the hidden cause. Plumbing appliances will continue to perform poorly and wear more quickly until the hard water problem is resolved.

2. Your Utility Bills Are Creeping Upward

Homeowners are often surprised to learn that hard water can have an impact on their utility bills. Your water softener pays for itself over time with returns in energy efficiency and plumbing performance that would be lost with hard water. 

Water softeners reduce scale buildup inside plumbing pipes that contributes to heat loss and clog formation. Many people also find that they save money on soap, laundry detergent, and other cleaning products because they can use these products more sparingly without the detrimental effects of hard water. Since soft water usually leads to less frequent appliance breakdowns, you can save money on appliance repairs as well.

3. Your Water Softener Is Nearing the Average Age Limit

Every individual water softener will wear out at a different rate due to different usage patterns and family sizes between households. On average, water softeners will reach the end of their effective life after 10 to 15 years of use. Your water softener will gradually lose efficiency as it reaches advanced age, and you may notice that it needs salt refills more often.

If your water softener has been installed since you moved into your home, you should do some quick investigating to estimate how many years it has left. Most water softeners will have a model number or serial number on the side that you can use to quickly find the manufacturing year with an online search. Alternatively, if you can speak to the former residents they may be able to tell you when the unit was installed.

4. You Received Positive Water Hardness Test Results

The most reliable way to determine the hardness of your water is to schedule a water hardness test with a qualified plumber or water quality technician. Technicians can use scientific instruments to analyze the mineral content of your water and provide highly accurate results. Professional testing gives you peace of mind that your water is safe and can help you detect a failing water softener.

Many homeowners use professional testing as a second opinion for results they found on their own with a DIY water hardness test kit. There are several such kits commercially available that can detect when your water softener is underperforming. Most DIY water hardness test kits include strips that change color in response to water that contains high concentrations of certain minerals.

If you notice scum buildup or other signs of hard water and a DIY kit seems to confirm it, it's a good time to schedule professional water hardness testing and water softener inspection. These water softener system services can keep your home's water feeling clean and comfortable at all times!