Written By: Marjorie Cliff Picard
Compact water softeners can be found in apartments, condos, RVs, boats, mobile homes and regular homes where they can fit into small places, like under sinks and in closets and anywhere a larger water softener cannot go. Some are portable, so you can move them from houses to boats to RVs without a fuss-wherever soft water is needed. They all need a certain amount of care, the amount depending on the model.
Even the most basic water softener needs to have the owner regenerate the unit.
- First, the salt level must be checked every month. The specifications outlined in the manufacturer’s manual must be followed. The right type of salt and the right amount must be used. Salt regenerates the resin beads and gets them ready for more softening. The lid can be lifted to see the brine tank. Or, if an electric model is used, checking the LED display can be done.
- Salt must be added on a regular basis. As a general rule, salt is added when the level is less than half-full.
- The right form of salt must be added. This could be either a tablet, a block, or in granular form. The tablet is most common. It dissolves most completely and does not build up in the brine tank.
- The system should be inspected on a regular basis, usually every several months. This can be done by the owner or a trained technician from a water conditioning firm for a fee. The inspection should include a search for any leaks and any other signs of wear and tear. It can be done at the time the salt is replenished. If there is a solid build-up of salt in the brine tank, this is known as bridging or forming salt bridges. This condition usually develops in areas of high humidity, and needs to be addressed. The salt may not be touching the water, thus not regenerating the resin beads and softening the water. These bridges must be broken up, and the best thing to use is a broom handle. Once a salt bridge is formed, it will happen over and over with increasing frequency. In humid areas, the salt level should be kept lower and added to a little bit at a time and more frequently.
- The brine tank of older units should be cleaned every 6 to 12 months depending on the age and condition of the system. More modern units need less maintenance but should be cleaned at least once a year to assure efficiency. When the tank is cleaned, the salt should be completely dissolved first, then scrubbed with soapy water. This should avoid build-up of residue.
Some compact water softeners can use as little as one pound of plain table salt and nine to ten gallons of water. Cleaning it can be as simple as:
- Shutting off the water supply
- Unhooking the outlet side
- Taking off the top
- Pouring in the salt
- Putting the cap back on
- Turning on the water supply
- Rinsing the unit for 15 minutes
The life span of a unit depends on the water quality of the area as well as the care given to it. It may reach 20 to 25 years. If the unit is not using the salt or regenerating, it may be worth fixing if the problem is simple. If only a few parts need replacing, the unit may not need to be disposed of.