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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRINKING WATER TESTING
EPA GUIDE to WATER QUALITY
FHA WATER TESTS REQUIRED
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPE USAGE GUIDE
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PRESSURE CONTROL SWITCH ADJUSTMENT
REVERSE OSMOSIS CONCENTRATE DISPOSAL
SEWER GAS ODORS
WATER HEATER SCALE REMOVAL
WATER HEATER SCALE PREVENTION
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Diagnose Water Softener Problems: this article describes procedures for diagnosing and repairing water softener or water conditioner problems including water conditioner control settings and adjustment or repair, brine tank and brine tank float cleaning and repair, and the proper amount of water softening or conditioning that is needed.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
In addition to the questions & answers about water softener operating problems presented just below, additional water softener diagnosis and repair Q&As are at Questions and Answers about repairing water softeners and at SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS.
Water Softener Checklist: if the Softener is Not Working Check These Firstif the water softener doesn't seem to be doing anything, check these items:
Before replacing a water softener - a step that may not be necessary, here are some things to try:
Try these water softener diagnosis and repair steps before rushing to replace the water softener itself.
Question: I don't see a brine control valve and the water softener brine tank is too full of water. What should I check?
I did as you suggested and emptied and cleaned out the water conditioner brine tank, I notice that there is nothing in the tank except a 1/4 inch line for water and that is it, when I put it all together again it fill up to 3/4 full again and the salt was all submersed. In other words, my water softener brine tank does not seem to include a brine refill control valve. What else should I try.
When we find that the brine tank on a water softener or water conditioner system seems to be too high, or the tank is flooded, there are several things to check. An accurate diagnosis of what's wrong with your water softener depends on the particular model water softener and what controls it uses.
Here are the most common reasons for finding too much water in the brine tank: 
Here are a few other explanations for too much water in the softener brine tank:
Bottom line: until we are sure we have correctly identified the water conditioner model, found its installation and operating manual, and made sure that it has all of the proper parts installed, trying to debug a problem with water level in the brine tank leaves us just guessing.
Give your water conditioner manufacturer a call - their contact information is right there in the water conditioner operating manual - and ask about your model and just what brine tank level controls it uses.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Water Softener Problem Diagnosis
Question: White Deposits on Faucets: why does my water keep leaving water marks on my plumbing fixtures? Should I replace my water softener?
Reply: Diagnose, clean, adjust, and test your water softener before buying a new one
Watch out: too often a problem that could have been corrected by a simple adjustment, cleaning, or repair, is in stead "repaired" by installing new equipment.
Since a new water softener just installed is more likely to be clean and properly adjusted, the old problem may indeed go away, and you may think that replacement was needed, but if simple cleaning and adjustment of the old water softener would have been sufficient, you have faced an unnecessary expense.
My water softener continues to run when no water is being drawn from anywhere in the house. Why is this happening? - Joe Hernandez, Brighten MI
Reply: What's the difference between normal water softener backwash regen cycle running and "stuck on" running?
Causes of Long Water Softener Run or Regeneration Cycles
Normal Water softener regen cycle usually occurs when household water is not being drawn by occupants
What you describe might be normal if the water softener runs when no water is being used in the house but later stops itself. The water softener itself does not deliver water to your home. That is done by the water pump or incoming water supply. So when a water softener "runs" it is in its regeneration or "backwash" cycle during which the softener pumps water into a salt tank to make brine, then flushes the brine backwards through the water treatment tank, then flushes the brine out of the treatment tank.
Because during the regeneration cycle the water softener is on "bypass", any household water used by occupants during that interval is not treated or softened during the regeneration cycle. Therefore we usually set the water softener timer to process its regeneration cycle in the middle of the night - when no one is using water. That may be what you are hearing.
See HOW SOFTENERS WORK for details about how water softeners work.
See SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS for advice on how to set the water softener timer and salt dose.
Stuck water softener runs continuously: what to do
On the other hand, if the softener actually seems to "run" or to be "stuck" in regeneration mode, running continuously, then its operating control needs to be repaired or replaced. Don't leave the softener running forever - doing so wastes water and if your home is connected to a private septic system it will also flood and damage the drainfield.
In an emergency if the water softener is "stuck" running water continuously I'd just unplug it and also perhaps set the control to bypass while (see Water Softener Bypass Valve) waiting for a water treatment company to perform the needed control repair.
Question: Why does the water conditioner take longer for drawing brine from the salt tank than for refilling the salt tank?
Can someone explain why, during a regeneration cycle, the time for drawing brine from tank is five times longer than refilling water into tank. That part of the cycle is drawing all of the water from tank and continues that cycle long after the brine tank is empty. This system was installed and setup by a water softener company who I'm assuming made all necessary tests. My new job is to maintain this system and insure proper operation. I had a stuck float in the brine tank which was repaired, than I forced a regeneration cycle and noticed the brine tank and cycle setup. - Bob
Reply: The water softener does not re-fill the brine tank with water immediately after drawing out brine
Bob, indeed it sounds as if the water softener control or perhaps the brine tank fill control is not working properly. Or maybe not.
Some water softeners do not pump water into the brine tank until the start of a regen cycle. In that case once brine has been drawn out of the tank you won't see water pumped back into the salt tank until the next regen cycle.
An abnormally long regen cycle past time that brine has been pumped out of the salt tank? Check the float.
But if the cycle is abnormally long compared to the exhaustion of the brine tank liquid, another possibility is the following: the softener is set to use a particular quantity of salt (in the form of brine water) based on water hardness and quantity used.
But if the float in the brine tank prevented sufficient water from entering the tank at the start of the regen cycle, then the softener control could find itself blithely pumping along, having exhausted the undersized salt dose but having no way to know that (the brine float is a mechanical device that has most often no direct communication with the actual electrically powered softener control).
Question: Water softener output smells like rotten eggs
Water softner just put in action after three years of sitting idle!cleaned filter"!now water smells like rotten eggs. - Terry 8/9/2011
Terry, if water coming from your well smells like rotten eggs there is a problem with sulphur in the water supply and you probably need a separate water treatment system for that problem.
But if water from the well does not smell like sulphur, then the problem could be iron & bacterial contamination in the water softener itself. See SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING for the steps to solve this problem.
Question: water softener overflows
water overflows - citation, 8/31/11
Citation, see in the article above the section titled Water Softener Keep Running Longer Than it Should - your system overflowing may be due to
Question: water softener brine tank not draining
Water softener has water stuck in tank, not draining. - Amy 9/19/11
Amy, at DIAGNOSE SOFTENER BACKUP / FLOODING we describe how to diagnose & fix a water softener that is not draining properly. Typically the problem is a crimped drain line, a control not operating properly, or a stuck brine control float that is not allowing the regen cycle to function properly.
Question: discolored water after water softener regen cycle
AFTER REGENERATION CYCLE DISCOLORED WATER GETS IN THE SERVICE LINES TO HOME. CLEARS UP AFTER THE WATER IS USED FOR A LITTLE WHILE - Rodger 7/31/12
Rodger, have you checked inside the brine tank to see if it's filthy - you may need to remove salt to see the crud collected at the tank bottom. See SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING
Question: sudden increase in water softener salt usage
I have a twin tank and all of a sudden I am using tons of salt. Any ideas? - Joanne 8/16/12
Check for a change to the salt dose or water softener backwash/regen cycle frequency on the unit controls
Question: Lindsey Ecodyne Water softener settings
I have an Lindsey Ecodyne Water softener and I have cleaned out the brine tank and tubing. I can't figure out why my brine tank is not getting any water? The control head has only 2 knobs. One with the days and times and the other that says extra cycle. The day/time knob says "loosen and tighten" a assumed this was to set the time and day b/c this allows you to rotate the knob. This knob also has 7 peg/buttons (at 2am) that can be pressed in an pulled out. I assumed these were for choosing what night you wanted your system to run.
I pushed 2 of the buttons in bc I need about 40000grains to refresh and it's a 20k grain tank, so i figured 2xs a week. The parts I really have no idea about are the "white plastic screw/knobs that can be screwed in and out with a wrench" Are these valves? There's one on the back side of the control head area that is just before the "out". Then there are 2 more small ones on the same side(right side if looking at it head on).
Then I also have a three valve bypass(with handles) that has been installed in the piping in the house before the 2 pipes go into the softener tank. Is there something I'm missing: tubes attachments in service position? White plastic screw looking valve adjustment? Do I need to refill my brine tank after emptying it? Any help would be great! I can send pictures if needed. Thanks - Adam 8/22/12
Reply: how to contact Ecodyne for water softener information
Adam, I'm not sure what parts you're looking at. Often a time control on some water softeners has pins or screws that are set up or down through a round rotating dial or timer face plate so that as the timer plate rotates (under clock control) as a pin encounters (or does not encounter) a trip lever it will cause the system to process a regeneration cycle.
Use the contact-us link found at page top or bottom to send us photos of the part you are asking about and we can look it up in the Ecodyne Water Softener Manual for you if needed - but we'll need the model number
Ecodyne produces a range of water conditioning equipment including models sold under the Whirlpool brand as well as industrial water softeners & equipment.
For Whirlpool brand water softeners made by Ecodyne, use this contact information: Tel: 1-866-986-3223 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For direct contact with the company and for their commecial equipment see:
Ecodyne Industrial, 1270 Frontenac Road, Naperville, IL 60563 Tel: 1 800-228-9326 (USA Only) Tel: +1 630-961-5043 Fax: 1 800-671-8846, Customer Service: 1 800-228-9326, Email: email@example.com, Website: http://www.ecodyneind.com/
Question: water softener brine tank does not empty fully
I just noticed today that there was still some water in my salt tank after the cycle completed this morning (the drain hose is fine). Is this something I need to worry about? The softener (Kenmore) is 12 years old now. - Scott 8/27/12
Scott, possibly the float control valve in the brine tank needs cleaning, or the whole tank is due for a cleanout. See see How to Adjust the Float Level in the Water Softener Brine Tank - if your water softener brine tank is overflowing the float control may be stuck. Also see SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING for the steps to solve this problem.
Question: very poor water flow and brownish yellow stuff comes out of faucets
There is hardly any water coming out of all my bathroom sinks, toliets, and showers. When a little water is disbursed there is a little of brownish yellow stuff that comes out with the water. What is the problem? - TJ 9/10/12
TJ - with so little information any guess would be wild arm-waving. Try cleaning the faucet strainers, any water filters in the system should be replaced, check water at a tap closest to the input; if you are on a private well we want to start there: is the incoming water clean or dirty? Thus, is the problem part of your pluming system or is it due to the water source itself?
Question: backwash observed when water softener returned to service
I moved into a new house 3 months ago to find the softener to be "out of service" meaning my inlet outlet valves to softener were closed and bypass open. When I lined softener up I noticed that water was running out of my backwash line this continued for 15-20 min. It was not in a regeneration cycle? Any answers would be great thanks - Josh 10/5/12
Josh, I'm guessing you bumped an extra regen cycle switch on the control; But it's just a guess. If the system was put out of service and on bypass it might be because the system was stuck in regeneration mode and needs cleaning or repair.
Questions & answers or comments about how to diagnose water softener operating problems: how long the softener runs, how much water is in the brine tank, how much salt, how salty or soft is the household water, more.
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