What You Need

Tools: Needle nose pliers, screwdriver, kitchen baster.




Material taken from
Black and Decker "Home Repair"

A water softener is a fairly simple appliance that lowers the content of "hard" minerak in water—magnesium and calcium—and replaces them with sodium or potassium. Removing hard minerals can prolong the life of pipes and appliances.

The actual softening process takes place in the resin tank, which is filled with plastic beads containing sodium. The brine tank contains salt or potassium pellets and is designed to recharge the sodium in the mineral tank when the plastic beads become depleted.

A water softener has just a few mechanical parts—valves to control water flow in and out of the tank, and a timer, which regulates the regeneration process during which the mineral tank is recharged by the brine tank.

If your water becomes hard, it may be because the brine tank needs additional salt or potassium pellets. Depending on usage, pellets need to be replaced every couple of months. Because household demands vary, check your supply every week until you can determine roughly how often your salt or potassium supply should be replenished.

Hard water can also be the result of an improperly set timer. Adjusting the timer to run more frequently may be all that's needed to ensure a constant supply of soft water. Iron content also is a cause of hard water. From time to time, the iron content of your water supply should be measured. Adding a water filter can prevent problems by reducing the iron flowing into the water softener.

Repair problems generally arise either in the brine line or in the control unit. The brine line can be inspected and cleaned (opposite page). If the control unit needs servicing, remove it and bring it to your nearest dealer. Removal instructions for your particular unit should accompany your owner's manual.

Inspecting & Cleaning Brine Connections

The brine line can be blocked by the buildup of sediment from the water supply or by foreign particles in the salt or potassium. As the line becomes restricted, the movement of brine into the resin tank slows down. When the brine water can't reach the resin tank, calcium and magnesium accumulate, hindering the ability of the salt or potassium to soften the water. For this reason, it's a good idea to inspect the brine line every two years.

Begin by unplugging the softener. To divert the water supply, turn the bypass valve or close the inlet valve and turn on the nearest faucet. Turn the timer dial to BACKWASH.

With needle nose pliers, remove the compression nut that connects the brine line to the control unit. Inspect the line for obstructions (photo A).

Remove particles or residue from the line, using a small screwdriver (photo B). Then flush the line with warm water—a funnel or kitchen baster is useful for this task—then reattach the brine line.

Next, inspect the brine injector. Don't reconnect the power or make any changes to the supply or control dial. To gain access to the brine injector, which is often directly below the brine line connection, use a screwdriver to remove the cover. Unscrew the injector from the housing (photo C).

Pull off the injector filter screen that covers the injector (photo D). Wash the screen with soap and water. Clean the injector by blowing into it or wiping it out with a soft cloth. Don't use a sharp object that might scratch the metal and damage the injector.

Reattach the screen and screw the injector back into the water softener. Attach the cover.
Return the bypass valve to its original position (or open the inlet valve and turn off the faucet). Reset the control dial and plug in the water softener.