Water softeners should last for many years and require little attention as long as they've been set up correctly and are maintained when needed. Running a water softener on the right settings will ensure fewer problems down the road.
Correct salt level is essential
The water softener is working as it's supposed to when it adds less than 8 milligrams of salt (per liter of water) for each grain of hardness removed. If the softener isn't working correctly, more or less salt than needed may be delivered, potentially causing trouble either way.
The problem with too little salt is a given - the water won't be softened by the water softener and problems experienced with hard water can occur. Too much salt, on the other hand, can lead to water that has little or no hardness. While that may sound ideal, such water can be corrosive - not good for pipes or costly appliances like water heaters. Even worse, if lead solder or copper pipes are present, leaching can occur. In a dishwasher, soft water can contribute to etching (a cloudy sheen that can't be removed) on glass. Detergents often have difficulty dissolving in water that's too soft. Switching to a detergent tailored specifically to soft water is helpful, but fixing the problem at the source is best.
How soft is soft enough?
Many experts recommend purchasing a water softener if your water's hardness is above 7 grains per gallon or 120 milligrams per liter. It's safe to say that softening water below those levels isn't necessary, but otherwise, it's all about what you prefer.
Optimize water softener regeneration
If your water softener isn't already equipped with one, install a flow or hardness meter. This will ensure more salt isn't added before it's needed and will cut down on water softener salt waste and extra discharge of environmentally unfriendly brine. To assure longevity, a softener should be regenerating at least every two weeks.
Inspect the brine tank annually for buildup, and have it cleaned as needed. The product manual should provide all the right information on how to do upkeep yourself and when to call in professionals.
Use soft water when and where it's necessary
Not only is soft water bad for vegetation indoors and out, it isn't necessary for drinking, either. Water directed outside shouldn't be softened at all, and a separate hard water tap for drinking water can cut down on the amount you use your softener and all the associated costs.