Installing a Water Softener


Hard water contains large amounts of minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Telltale signs include reddish stains, white mineral buildup in pipes and fittings, reduced cleaning ability of soaps and detergents, and soap-scum buildup. Hard water also can damage faucets and appliances.

A water softener captures minerals and periodically flushes them away. The more often it flushes, the more often you need to change the salt. The most efficient softener is one that flushes according to the amount of water used or the amount of minerals detected, rather than one that uses a timer.

Softened water contains sodium, sometimes at levels undesirable for people with high blood pressure. You can install a bypass line for drinking water, drink bottled water, or install a whole-house filter.

Prestart Checklist

A day to install a water softener

Groove-joint pliers, screwdriver, tubing cutter, propane torch, flux brush, sandpaper, wire reaming brush

Cutting and joining copper or steel pipe

Plan to install the softener where water enters the house

Water softener, flux, solder

Step 1

Install the bypass valve provided by the manufacturer. Lubricate the O-rings, push the valve into the ports, and slip on the clips.

Step 2

Shut off gas or electricity to the water heater and turn off the water supply at the main shutoff valve. Open faucets on the lowest floor to drain the line. Provide a stable, level surface near the main water line for the softener to rest on so it's easily accessible. Position the unit.

Step 3

Break into the main supply line and install elbows. Make sure that hard water will enter the inlet and soft water will exit via the outlet. If the main supply pipe is larger than 3/4 inch, use reducer elbows. Local codes may require that you install three valves.

Step 4

Install pipes leading down toward the bypass valve. Install the connecting parts supplied by the manufacturer and attach them by soldering a coupler on each line. Do all the soldering before installing any plastic parts.

Step 5

Connect the drain hose to the softener unit using the clamp provided. The drain hose must end at a point at least 1-1/2 inches above a drain, and it must be clamped firmly in place. Also connect the brine tank?s overflow line.

Step 6

If your electrical system is grounded to the cold water pipe, the water softener will interrupt the path to ground. Install the jumper strip supplied with the unit (shown) or use grounding clamps and an 8-gauge or heavier copper wire. If you're unsure how the house is grounded, call an electrician.

Step 7

Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions for expelling air from the water softener. Usually this involves running water past the softener with the valve on "bypass," then pulling the valve out to the "service" position, which runs water through the softener and expels air.

Step 8

Check for leaks in all the pipes. Attach the transformer to the wires for the unit. Plug the softener into a GFCI electrical receptacle. Open the softener's lid and follow the manufacturer's directions for filling with water and salt.

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