Many homes in the United States now use a water softener to improve the quality of water that their family uses.
As a result, some of the most common questions asked are when do you need to add salt to a water softener, what signs to look out for, what kind of salt should be added, and how often should I add salt to the water softener.
We’ve put together the most important information below to help answer these questions and make using a water softener so much easier.
- How does a water softener work?
- Factors affecting how often you will need to add salt
- How to check if you need to add more salt
- How much salt should I add?
- What kind of salt should I use?
How does a water softener work?
A water softener is designed to tackle the issue of hard water. Despite advancements in technology and improving quality levels, many homes still suffer from hard water which means it has more hardness-causing ions such as calcium and magnesium ions.
When your hard water flows through a water softener, the process of ion exchange occurs by attracting any positively charged ions and removing them from the water supply.
Factors affecting how often you will need to add salt
There are several factors that affect how often you need to add salt to a water softener and it isn’t an exact science.
This is because every household, office, or shop is different in terms of usage, so you need to think about what is right for your specific needs.
We’ve listed the top three factors that affect how often you will need to add salt.
The size of the brine tank
Water softeners will generally use either sodium chloride or potassium chloride and this means you need to assess the size of the brine tank for your system.
Depending on your chosen system it will either come with a built-in brine tank or a separate one.
Whilst we appreciate space and budget may limit your choice, having a separate brine tank will mean a larger tank and longer life before needing to add salt.
It isn’t the end of the world but does mean maintenance is more frequent on the built-in brine tank systems.
Your water usage
An obvious factor to consider – if you use a lot of water, then more hard water flows through your water softener, and as a result, the salt will be used quicker.
It is so important to think about this when you’re buying a water softener because if you choose the wrong type, you could be replacing the salt far too frequently.
There are plenty of websites out there to help you estimate your household water usage and all water softeners will come with recommended usage levels for you to check. A larger household or a high usage household will require the softener to regenerate more frequently and this is the point where salt is added.
Water hardness levels
We’ve put together some guides on the best and worst quality states for water quality in the United States of America, but you can find plenty of reports online or via your local authority. If you live in a region with harder water, then this will require more salt to be used as part of the ion exchange process.
You can perform home test kits or pay for a professional to assess the level of hard water around your home and it is a great idea to get this done prior to buying a water softener.
How to check if you need to add more salt
There are some quick and easy ways to check if you need to add more salt to your water softener.
Once you learn these processes and develop a habit of checking periodically, then you will always have higher quality, softer water for your family to use.
Inspect the brine tank
A quick and easy way to check when to add salt to a water softener is to inspect the brine tank.
As soon as you open up the tank, you will be able to see whether it is at the required level or not. In general, make sure that it is up to at least half full at all times.
Check for signs of salt bridges
Salt bridges are a natural result of the ion exchange process and they occur because salt ends up covering up an air pocket in the tank.
This in turn; makes you think the salt level is higher than it is. If you have concerns about this, you can simply get a shovel and poke the layer of salt and it will instantly reveal if there are any salt bridges.
Consider usage and age of softener
As with any piece of equipment or technology, its performance levels will deteriorate over time.
However, if you maintain and use the water softener properly then you can prolong its performance for as long as possible.
In many cases, you can get a softener to work well for more than 10 years but as it gets older, it will use more salt to achieve the same results.
How much salt should I add?
You will find advice and guidance out there that varies but we believe as the minimum is keeping the brine tank at one-quarter full.
In an ideal world, aim to keep it up beyond the halfway point but no higher than 4-6 inches from the top of the tank.
Many of the newer systems will come with sensors in the form of an LED screen or light to tell you when to add salt to the water softener but it’s always best to regularly check for yourself.
Prior to adding new salt, you should also make sure to break up any salt bridges or encrusted salt around the edges. If you don’t do this, the water softener will operate at a lower performance level.
It is hard to estimate how much salt you will need to use because it depends on a range of factors, but for the average-sized house, we would estimate you will need around 40 pounds of salt every month.
What kind of salt should I use?
The most common reason for choosing potassium chloride is that it is 99.9% sodium-free and so perfect for those households wanting to limit their intake of potassium as part of their diet.
However, these are generally more expensive so it is a trade-off that you need to decide if it is worth it.
Fortunately, standard water softener salt can be bought at supermarkets, local stores, and online shops very easily. Long gone are the days of struggling to find some salt to top up your water softener.
We hope this short guide has helped you understand when to add salt to a water softener. As always, utilize the instructions and manufacturer website for specifics about your own water softener but they are relatively easy to use and maintain. After Reading How