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Why Does My Water Softener Keep Running

Why does my water softener keep running

Water softeners play a crucial role in maintaining the quality of water in homes, especially in areas with hard water.

These systems help prevent scale buildup in pipes and appliances, leading to longer lifespans and better efficiency.

As Calgary is abundant with hard water, we have installed water softeners throughout the city for decades.

However, when a water softener keeps running continuously, it wastes water and indicates underlying issues that need to be addressed.

What Does It Mean When a Water Softener Keeps Running?

A water softener typically goes through a regeneration cycle to recharge its resin beads, which involves several stages: backwash, brine draw, rinse, and refill.

If the system is stuck in this cycle, it may result in constant water flow, increased water bills, and potential damage to the system.

Understanding the normal operation and symptoms of continuous running is the first step in diagnosing the problem.

Common Causes of Continuous Running in Water Softeners

  1. Control Valve Issues The control valve is essential for managing the regeneration cycle. When it malfunctions—whether through leaks, wear, or getting stuck—it can cause the system to run continuously. Repairing or replacing the control valve is often necessary to resolve this issue.
  2. Faulty Timer or Control Head The timer and control head regulate the regeneration schedule. If they malfunction or are improperly set, the water softener may not cycle correctly. Resetting the timer or replacing the control head can fix these issues.
  3. Clogged Brine Line or Injector The brine line and injector are critical for moving brine into the resin tank during regeneration. Blockages due to salt, sediment, or low-quality salt can disrupt this process, causing continuous running. Cleaning or replacing these components is necessary to restore proper function.
  4. Low Water Pressure Adequate water pressure is vital for the regeneration process. If the pressure drops below 40 PSI, the water softener might not function correctly, leading to continuous running. Checking household water pressure and using a booster pump if needed can resolve this issue.

Diagnosing the Problem

  1. Inspecting the Control Valve and Float Start by examining the control valve and float for signs of damage or leaks. If you find any issues, repair or replace the defective parts to ensure proper operation.
  2. Checking the Brine Tank Verify that the brine tank has adequate salt levels and is free from salt bridges. These hard crusts of salt can obstruct water flow, leading to regeneration issues. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the brine tank are essential.
  3. Testing Timer and Control Settings Ensure the timer is set correctly and the control settings match your household’s water usage patterns. Accurate settings are crucial for proper regeneration cycles.
  4. Measuring Water Usage and Hardness Use a water meter and hardness test kit to monitor daily water usage and hardness levels. Compare these readings with the water softener’s settings to ensure they are aligned. Adjust the settings as needed to optimize performance.

How to Fix Common Issues

  1. Replacing a Defective Control Valve If the control valve is defective, follow these steps to replace it:
    • Shut off water and power to the softener.
    • Relieve pressure and open the brine tank.
    • Disconnect the inlet and outlet plumbing connections.
    • Remove the old valve and install a new one, ensuring all seals are fresh and connections are secure.
    • Reconnect plumbing and restore power and water. Test for leaks and proper cycling.
  2. Unclogging a Blocked Brine Line To clean a blocked brine line:
    • Disconnect the brine line from the control valve.
    • Remove and disassemble the line for cleaning.
    • Flush out debris with water and pipe cleaners.
    • Reassemble and reconnect the line. Run a manual regeneration cycle to test flow.
  3. Fixing a Stuck Float If the float in the brine tank is stuck:
    • Drain and remove the old float.
    • Clean the mounting area and install a new float with smooth movement up and down.
    • Adjust the float height if necessary and test through a full cycle to ensure proper operation.
  4. Adjusting Timer Settings Reset and reprogram the timer to the correct time of day and regeneration frequency. Ensure the hardness level setting matches your actual water hardness to prevent continuous running.

Preventive Measures and Maintenance Tips

  1. Regular Maintenance Schedule Establish a routine inspection schedule every three to six months to check the control settings and brine tank. Regular cleaning and upkeep can prevent many common issues.
  2. Proper Installation Practices Ensure your water softener is installed correctly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Proper installation prevents leaks, pressure issues, and other operational problems.
  3. Choosing Quality Salt Use high-purity salt to avoid clogs and build-ups. Avoid low-quality salts that can lead to sediment issues and maintenance problems.

This comprehensive understanding and troubleshooting guide should help address the issue of a continuously running water softener, ensuring it operates efficiently and effectively.

Advanced Troubleshooting Tips

  1. Checking for Small Leaks in Plumbing Even small leaks in your household plumbing can cause your water softener to run continuously without you realizing it. Inspect areas like toilets, pipes, outdoor spigots, and water heaters for any signs of leaks. Fixing these leaks can often resolve the issue of continuous running.
  2. Inspecting the Resin Bed The resin bed in the water softener plays a crucial role in the softening process by exchanging ions. Over time, the resin can become fouled or damaged, leading to regeneration issues. Examine the resin bed for signs of discoloration, debris accumulation, or broken resin beads. If necessary, clean or replace the resin beads to ensure optimal performance.
  3. Assessing Brine Tank Overflow Issues An overflowing brine tank can be caused by several issues, including malfunctioning brine lines or float assemblies. Ensure that the brine line is properly connected and free from obstructions. The float, which regulates the water level in the brine tank, should move freely and be properly adjusted. Cleaning or replacing these components can prevent overflow and continuous running.
  4. Dealing with Low Water Pressure Low water pressure can severely affect the regeneration process of a water softener. To diagnose this, use a pressure gauge to measure the water pressure. If the pressure is below 40 PSI, it might be necessary to use a booster pump or check for issues in the pressure tank if you have a well. Ensuring proper water pressure is critical for the efficient operation of your water softener.

FAQs Section

  1. Why is my water softener stuck in regeneration mode? Several factors can cause a water softener to get stuck in regeneration mode, including issues with the control valve, timer, brine tank, or water pressure. Regular maintenance and proper troubleshooting can help identify and resolve these issues.
  2. How often should my water softener regenerate? The frequency of regeneration depends on the hardness of your water and your household’s water usage. Typically, water softeners regenerate every 2-3 days, but this can vary. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations and adjust settings as needed.
  3. Can I manually reset my water softener? Yes, most water softeners allow for manual resetting. Refer to your user manual for specific instructions on how to perform a manual reset. This can help resolve minor issues with the timer or control head.
  4. What type of salt should I use in my water softener? It is recommended to use high-purity salt such as evaporated salt pellets. Avoid using rock salt or other low-quality salts that can cause buildup and clogging in the brine tank.
  5. How do I know if my water softener is working properly? Signs of a properly functioning water softener include soft water, no scale buildup in pipes or appliances, and regular regeneration cycles. You can also test the water hardness to ensure the softener is effectively removing hardness minerals.


George Pinel
George Pinel

Master Plumber

I have been involved in this family owned business for 33 years now.

It has always been and will continue to be the core focus of Instant Plumbing & Heating to provide a long lasting relationship with our customers based on trust and integrity of our service and products.

This achieved by using the best quality materials. I as a business owner continue to mentor and treat my staff with the highest regard and respect, this interns helps them deliver to the client great quality workmanship and service.

It is our professional goal to leave a situation better than when we arrived both in how we do our work and in how you feel for having chosen us to do your work, we are in the anxiety reduction business using plumbing and heating service work to do it.

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