A water softener is one of those appliances that you don’t think much about. Besides the occasional bag of salt there isn’t much you need to do. So how do you know if it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing? Water softener failure can come in a few different forms some being much more devastating than others. Most times when a water softener fails it stops softening the water. When this happens you’ll notice that your dishes are cloudy or that it’s taking a lot more soap to suds up and get things clean. You also may notice that you’re not putting salt in at the rate that you used to. A simple water hardness test with a test strip can tell you right away whether you softener is still softening your water. The test strips are free and can be found at our retail store in Maple Grove.
Water Softener Backwash
Another issue that can occur is that a water softener can fail and backwash resin beads into your water system. This is the issue that I am going to focus mostly on in this article. A water softener has resin beads inside the brine tank that work to soften the water. The beads are periodically cleaned using the salt that you painstakingly put in the salt holding tank every few weeks. Usually set to go off at night, the system regenerates and cleans the resin beads and washes them clean. If for any reason the membrane breaks that is in place to hold the resin beads, the beads are free to travel throughout you water system. A sure sign of this would be low water pressure. Low water pressure is one of those generic symptoms that we see a lot of in plumbing. One of the main culprits of low water pressure is the water softener.
When the softener back washes resin beads the beads don’t go anywhere until there is movement in the system. In other words they don’t move if the water isn’t moving. Often times what occurs is that someone opens up a faucet in the morning to brush their teeth or to fill up their coffee maker and they notice very low water pressure. There’s little pressure because the faucet is plugged with tiny resin beads. If you notice a sudden change in water pressure shut the faucet off and if possible pull off the aerator and examine it. If the softener back washed you will see little tiny beads like the ones below in the aerator. Immediately go to your water softener and put it into “bypass” mode. Putting a water softener into bypass varies by manufacturer but normally it involves turning a valve off or like on the Mortons softener you push a valve in. This step makes it so the water no longer goes through your softener thus preventing the adding of additional beads.
You now know that you have resin beads in your line and now you need to focus on getting them out which is not an easy or fun job. The first thing that you need to do is to tell the rest of the people in you house not to use ANY plumbing, especially hot water. Next you should shut off the cold water intake valve on the water heater to help ensure that no beads enter your tank. Everything that you run water through will potentially get plugged with resin beads. This includes: faucets, toilets, showers, washing machines, etc. Next you should go to your laundry tub (make sure that it does not have an aerator on it) and open up the cold water valve fully. Try and look for resin beads in the laundry tub to see if you are getting the beads out. If needed try to catch them in a strainer so you can see if there are still beads leaving the system. run the water until it is clear of beads. Now you can move on to a bath tub and do the same procedure over again, running water until it is clear of beads.
If the hot water was turned on that means that there is a good chance that the resin beads are now inside your water heater. You will need to drain the heater to get the beads out. If you do not do this there is a good chance the beads will show up in your system later. Here is a link on how to drain a water heater.
Depending upon how much travel the beads had throughout your water system you may periodically see beads appear later on even after you’ve flushed them out. You may have issues with toilet valves getting clogged. If the toilet valves have an issue they will probably need to be replaced. Occasionally faucets may get plugged to the point where they also need to be replaced. If all of this seems over your head you can always call a professional plumber to do the flushing of your lines. We have seen it all when it comes to the extent of damage caused by a water softener backwash. We can flush your system and replace your water softener so that you can get back to flushing your toilets and taking hot showers again.
LeVahn Bros. Plumbing and Hardware is located at 12700 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove, MN 55369
You can contact us at 763-551-8990 or at firstname.lastname@example.org