In areas with hard water, a water softener works like magic to make the water drinkable. As with all appliances, though, sometimes a piece is faulty or installed incorrectly, and the machine doesn’t operate as it usually would. The good news is that there are simple fixes for most problems that cause a water softener to make loud, obnoxious noises at all hours of the day.
You’re sleeping, it’s 3 in the morning, and suddenly you’re awakened by a loud noise coming from your water softener. Other than being rather annoyed to be awakened, you can’t think back to any time in the owner’s manual that said this machine was going to be so loud. Is it even working correctly? Great question; let’s take a look.
How Does A Water Softener Work?
Let’s start with the basics; how does a water softener work? While it may seem like it, it’s not quite magic. The purpose of a water softener is to eliminate all minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. The process a water softener goes through is called ion exchange or exchanging the hard minerals for softer ones (such as sodium).
It comprises two tanks, a resin, and a salt brine tank. The hard water is put through a filtration cycle, which is where it exchanges those minerals. It begins with a backwash phase, removing the mineral tank’s dirt. Then, the ion exchange uses debris a bit larger than particles of sand called resin. This exchange filters out the molecules in the water that classify it as hard water, replacing it with soft, clean water. The hard minerals are washed down the drain, and the mineral tank is rinsed and prepared for the next cycle.
Because the resin filters out the molecules in the hard water, it now needs to be cleaned to continue to repeat this process. So, the water supply is shut down, and the resin tank is filled with brine solution created from the salt residing in the tank, removing the hard molecules from the resin.
The machine goes through one more resin rinse, and the process of exchanging hard water for soft begins again.
Is It Normal For Water Softener To Make Noise?
In short, it is normal for the water softener to make noise. Now, we definitely don’t mean to wake everyone up in the middle of the night noise. In that case, there is more than likely something wrong with your water softener. Before discussing that, let’s take a look at what standard noise in a softener sounds like.
During the regeneration cycle, your water softener usually makes a soft humming noise. This is caused by the motor circulating the saltwater. In many cases, the regeneration cycle occurs at night to regenerate when the least amount of water is being used.
This process often occurs at night because if the softener regenerated when the most water was being used (during the day), your hot water heater would be filled with hot water, which, trust us, is not suitable for anybody.
How Do I Fix A Loud Water Softener?
If you’ve determined something is wrong with your water softener, there are several ways to diagnose the problem. A more obvious solution is to contact the softener manufacturer and have someone take a look at it. Now, if the easy way out has never been your cup of tea, roll up your sleeves, and let’s jump right in.
We’ll begin with a problem that has a simple solution. If your water softener is overfilled, there is a good chance it will make more noise than it is intended to. This is because the machine is working overtime and cannot compensate for the amounts in the tank.
Check your owner’s manual for recommended tank levels. If your softener exceeds those levels, that is more than likely the cause of the problem. To fix this, reduce the number of materials to the recommended quantity listed in the owner’s manual.
Low Water Pressure
Low water pressure in a water softener is often the result of gurgling and more noise produced than usual. When it comes to fixing the issue of low water pressure, there are several things to take into consideration.
One being the sediment filter may be clogged. Many water softeners contain filters that capture particles in the water as a part of softening. As it is a filter, it will need to be regularly cleaned and, in some cases, replaced. When a filter gets clogged, oftentimes the softener will have low pressure, causing excess sound.
Another culprit for low water pressure resides in the resin bed. Over time, sediment can elude the filter and will build up in the resin bed or the supply pipes. This inherently restricts normal water flow. To fix this issue, clean the tank, as it helps eliminate any buildup. Adding a mineral cleaner to the resin bed and routinely checking it removes the possibility of low water pressure.
Now, let’s say, for example, you bought your water softener tank, set it up, and haven’t taken a single look at it since. The resin in your tank needs to be regularly replaced. If not, it begins to fall apart and travels throughout the plumbing in your house. This causes a drop of water pressure not only in your water softener but in plumbing, such as your shower or sinks as well. To fix this problem, regularly replace the resin in your tank.
Over time, minerals may begin to build up in the water softener. While, to some degree, this is considered normal, it is not always the case. If your water softener begins to make any banding sound, too many minerals have built up in places they are not supposed to be, causing the softener to function incorrectly.
The minerals causing this type of noise often build up in the control valve and the inlets of the water softener. Grab your owner’s manual (aka map) and locate the control valve and inlets. Remove any residing minerals, and your water softer should function like new!
As time passes, valves begin to crack or break, usually producing a hissing sound in the softener. Check the pipes for any cracks or complete breaks, and replace what is necessary.
While we’re on the topic of types of noises, a squealing noise often indicates a sticky valve. The exact process is if the valve has been damaged, clean it, and replace it if necessary.
Incorrect Salt Use
A very common problem regarding water softeners is incorrect salt use. The machine needs a certain amount of salt to recharge to provide a continuous stream of soft water.
As salt is an essential process of water softening, misusing it has the potential to damage the tank. Adding too much salt causes it to build up and prevent proper regeneration, causing the machine to work harder than what is necessary.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario is a motor failure. The system may be defective or faulty, eventually causing the motor to fail. The machine will begin to make a heavy banging sound if the system is flawed. First things first, check the warranty on the machine. If it is expired, you’re more than likely looking at purchasing a new water softener.
How Do I Keep My Water Softener Running Smoothly?
Our water softener is a considerable part of everyday life, and keeping it running in good condition is essential. You can do several different things to ensure your water softener is running smoothly.
Monitor Salt Levels
This is by no means something you have to or should do every day. If done correctly initially, water softeners are relatively self-sufficient and can run on their own for long periods of time. That said, check the salt levels every 2-3 months to ensure proper usage.
Clean The Brine Tank
When you check the salt levels every couple of months, it is good practice to clean the brine tank as well. Set the softener to bypass mode and disconnect the brine tank. From there, remove any remaining rocks and gently remove salt that has hardened at the bottom of the dank. Clean the tank with cold water and soap, and reconnect it.
Break Up Salt Bridges
In your routine checks, keep an eye out for salt bridges. It is a solid layer of salt on the brine tank, which prevents the loose salt on the top from mixing correctly with the water, causing the softener to malfunction.
To remove salt bridges, use a long item, such as a broomstick, to break them up. If it is difficult to break into pieces, pour hot water over the bridge, and use the broomstick once again.