How Long Do Water Softeners Last? (+ Tips)

Water softeners are often referred to as one of the smartest investments homeowners can make. But the truth to the matter is that water softeners don’t last forever. The obvious question here is this one:

How long do water softeners last?

It is 5, 10, 20, or 30 years?

The number that is being thrown around is this one: Water softener lifespan is about 20 years.

And, admittedly, some water softeners do last 20 years and even more. However, when buying a new system, you want to avoid those that reportedly last a lot less than 20 years.

limescale in pipes because of water hardness and calcium and magnesium deposits
Water softeners effectively prevent limescale build-up but, on their own, they rarely last for 20+ years.

We’ll look into how long should a water softener last. The fact to the matter is that you rarely see an average and badly maintained water softener that would last 20 years.

That’s why we’ll check which water softeners are the best lifespan-wise. In addition, we’ll share some based tips on how to maintain in order to prolong how long a water softener will last.

Water Softener Lifespan

“I bought a water softener in May 2008 and it stopped working in 2019. I thought it should last 20 years”.

This sentiment is more common than you might think. The consequence of throwing ‘every water softener last about 20 years’ inevitably leads to high expectations about the water softener’s lifespan.

The honest observation about how long do water softeners last is this: About 15 years.

Even less, if you pick a lower-quality older model. For example, a single tank electric water softener could last you up to 12 years.

Of course, that ’20 years’ has to come from somewhere. In most cases, it comes from a generalization by water softener installers. They are proud to work with some water softeners that lasted for 20+ years; who don’t be?

But the fact to the matter is that while some softeners with incredible longevity can be used for 20 years, most of them cannot.

In order to ensure you get a softener that will last for 20+ years, you have to do 2 things:

  1. Choose a high-quality water softener; preferably a salt-free model. We have gathered and compared the best water softeners in a list here to help you out.
  2. Proper maintenance. Water softeners are often taunted as a ‘no maintenance device’; it’s mostly true. But implementing a few good practices goes a long way.

Tips On How To Prolong Water Softener Lifespan

After you install a water softener, you don’t really need to do anything else, right? Well, almost.

If you have the upgraded salt-free water softener, there are only two things that you have to do:

  1. Use an in-line filter before the water softener, and change it once a year. The in-line filter serves as a pre-filter; it will remove sediments, rust, and so on. These will, in turn, no longer harm the softener.
  2. Don’t push the water softener too hard. If it has 10 GPM maximum water flow, don’t push it to 12 GPM. Most softeners can handle that but the chances of softener becoming damaged increase with the high GPM and water pressure. This can reduce the longevity of the whole system.

Older salt-based water softeners present more of a challenge simply because you have to use salt for ion exchange and regeneration process. In order to properly maintain the integrity of the water softener, here are some practices you might want to adopt (in addition to the in-line filter and lower GPM):

  • Don’t replenish the brine tank right away. Wait till the tank is at 1/4 full or less. When you do replenish the salt, leave few inches (2-5 inches) space on the top.
  • Use specialized water softener cleaner to flush a resin bed every 6 months. Especially the standard 8% resin beds can clog quite fast. Regularly removing those clogs will relieve the pressure that might otherwise build-up due to lower flow through the mineral tank. In turn, this will prolong the life expectancy of the whole water softener.
  • Be aware of ‘packed salt‘ in the brine tank. After some year, you may see sections of hardened/packed salt-forming. Break them up gently in order to ensure that the salt usage won’t be partially blocked.

In short, the water softener does wear out, but you can prolong its lifespan by picking the right one and with little proper maintenance.

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