After sizing and selecting a water softener, the next most important step is to install and start it up properly.
Many water softeners are similar in installation & start-up procedures. They’re industry best practices that can be used for most other softener designs also.
A few notes:
Water pressure – Excessively low or high water pressure are two of the most frequent reasons for poor performance and equipment failure. Water softeners perform the very best when exposed to static pressure in the range of 50 – 75 psi. If pressure is too low, the resin bed might not rinse properly, and if pressure is too high, the system could be damaged. All homes should have a code-compliant pressure regulating device, and I seriously recommend replacing them every 5 years as part of routine household maintenance.
Water temperature and thermal protection – Unless otherwise specified, residential water softeners are designed to operate using water in the temperature range of 40 – 90 Fahrenheit. As water cools it becomes more viscous, and softener performance will suffer. If water temperature exceeds 90F, the hot water will possibly damage the distributor and riser assemblies in the softener which will cause catastrophic system failure. Always confirm that the water heat has a code compliant heat expansion protection device (I prefer thermal expansion tanks over draining relief valves). Also confirm that the thermal expansion tank is properly sized for the volume of water being heated, as well as the rate at which it heats.
ProGuard – All decent ion exchange water systems will include a ProGuard reservoir. Make sure you fill the reservoir when starting the system to ensure your client enjoys the very best water quality. ProGuard cleans, disinfects and protects the system while optimizing softening performance.
Salt – Water softeners utilize an ion exchange process to physically remove water hardness and other metallic ions. Sodium Chloride or Potassium Chloride salt is the regenerant of choice for ion exchange water softeners. Pellet salt and cube salt tend to be cleaner and less likely to bridge. I prefer pellet salt without additives.
Power protection – It is very important to protect all electronics in a home from power surges,sags, and outages. I recommend a good quality surge protector at a minimum. An uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is the very best choice though, since it will allow the water softener to perform flawlessly during a power failure AND it will prevent damage from brown-outs.
Drainage – A water softener requires adequate drainage to function properly. I like 3/8″ PEX drains for systems that are 3 cubic foot or smaller. Why PEX? PEX is strong, it won’t kink or collapse under normal use, and most plumbers have it on their trucks.
Most softeners can push the drain water a maximum of 10ft vertical and 50ft horizontal. If you need to exceed those guidelines, consult with tech support about up-sizing the drain and possibly installing an in-line booster pump.
Hot water recirculation systems – If the home has a hot water recirculation. system, install a check valve on the outlet of the softener to ensure you never have back-pressure against the outlet of the softener.
Seismic Restraints – Although not a strict code requirement in most areas, it doesn’t hurt to ensure that the softener is safely installed in accordance with regional best practices.
Outdoor installations – Softeners can be installed outdoors in many areas, but the following precautions should be observed:
- Shade the system from direct sunlight.
- Protect the system from rain.
- Protect the system from animals.
- Protect the system from physical damage.
- Protect the system from freezing.