How to Install a Water Softener DIY – The Ultimate Guide

Author: Lisa Keller - Published: 2021/07/16 - Updated: 2021/07/23

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Water softeners are nothing short of blessings for households dealing with hard water, i.e., laden with magnesium and calcium. But if you’re here, you already know that! However, we bet you aren’t sure if you can install a water softener to your existing plumbing yourself.

Yes, it’s possible if you have basic knowledge about plumbing, are comfortable with soldering and cutting pipes, have the appropriate tools and an afternoon to spare. So, sit tight while we lead you through the process.

Here is our step-by-step guide on how to install a water softener!

Water Softener – Where to Install (Plumbing Diagram)

Water Softener Installation Diagram

Courtesy of BOS

If you are replacing an old system, it’s generally advisable to install the new one in its place, so you don’t have to make any additional changes. However, if setting up a new water softener, you must keep these pointers in mind.

  • As a general rule of thumb, water softeners should be installed at the earliest point in the plumbing around your house to protect all pipelines from the perils of hard water.
    Hard water can decrease the life of your plumbing by a long shot due to mineral deposition. On the other hand, most plants thrive on hard water. Therefore, make sure you find a suitable place to hook your system up.
  • In the same way, soft water may not be ideal for those on low sodium diets. It also partially eliminates calcium and magnesium from homeowner’s diets. So, while you are at it, it’s possible to isolate a line of untreated water for your kitchen faucet.
  • There should be enough space to accommodate the softener, and it should be easily accessible for maintenance and repairs. If you install a big unit in a tiny crawl space, it will be a hassle to fill up the brine tank and check for any damages.
  • The ground should be level and dry.
  • If you are using city water, the water softener should be installed next to the water meter. Similarly, for well water, the best place is beside the pressure tank.
  • Not to mention, the unit should be placed upstream of the water heater to increase its efficiency and reduce scale buildup. Remember to have a 10 feet distance between the two appliances to avoid damaging the softener from hot water in case of malfunction and during regeneration cycles.
  • Water softeners should be installed indoors as far as possible since they are prone to damage due to extreme temperatures.
  • Water softeners require a drain to get rid of wastewater. Therefore, it’s essential there is less than 20 feet of distance between the unit and the drain area. While a floor drain is a preferred choice, you could use a utility sink, standpipe or a laundry tub as your drain.
  • Since water softeners require electricity, you need a power source near your unit.
  • If you have a whole house filtration system installed, a water softener should be set up before it.
  • The maximum water pressure at the point of installation should not be more than 120-125 psi.

Outdoor Installation

Water softeners perform best in temperatures ranging from 35 to 100 degrees. They won’t work efficiently in freezing temperatures, nor should they be placed under direct sunlight.

But not all houses have garages or basements. Nevertheless, you can set up the softener outside if you don’t have any other options. Place it under a shed or covered space. Some water professionals dig a hole in the ground to install the unit to minimize exposure to extreme climates.

Soft Water Loop

Fortunately, some modern homes already have a soft water loop in the plumbing system. It’s a pipe section coming out of the wall in the form of “U” and reenters the wall a few feet apart.

If you spot one in your house next to a drain and electric socket, consider yourself lucky. The work has been cut out for you.

A soft water loop helps you connect your water softening system to the internal plumbing of your house. Its main purpose is to separate the internal and external plumbing so that soft water doesn’t flow into outdoor taps and hoses.[1]

In short, just cut the loop and install your softener at the spot.

DIY Replacing of an Old Water Softener

Installing a new softener in place of the old one is super simple. Follow the steps to ensure safe disposal and quick setup.

  1. Unplug the old water softener from the electric socket and use the bypass valve to shut it off.
  2. Next, remove all water from the tank by turning the system on its side.
  3. Remove additional salt left in the brine tank.
  4. Properly dispose of to a recycling unit.
  5. Follow the steps outlined below to install a new water softener.

What Do You Need for a DIY Water Softener Installation

Once you have figured out a place, the next step is to gather essential tools for the DIY install. Some units come with a DIY installation kit to assist you. Nevertheless, you can find all supplies at the local hardware store nearby.

Here is a checklist for general supplies you will need:

  • Copper piping or flexible pipes
  • Drainpipe tubing
  • Hacksaw
  • Plumber’s tape
  • Measuring tape
  • Soldering kit
  • Adjustable wrenches
  • Various fittings and connectors

How to Install a Water Softener – DIY Guide

How to Install a Water Softener Thumbnail

Before you are ready to get your hands dirty (or wet!), make sure you read the instruction manual thoroughly. While the basic steps are similar, there are small details you don’t want to miss.

Not to forget, some filtration and softener system manufacturers consider your warranty void unless you appoint a licensed plumber for installation. Check with your manufacturer for details on this matter.

Let’s get started.

1. Setting Up

Locate your main water supply and turn on the shut-off valve unless you want to deal with potential water damage.

Then, turn off your water heater by shutting off the breaker to prevent damage.

Next, open a few taps around the house to drain the existing water in your plumbing.

Place your new water softener in the location as desired to begin setting it up. It will be best to ask for a helping hand since the systems can be pretty heavy to carry around. You also don’t want to risk potential damage in case of a fall.

2. Measure Required Piping

Cut into the main water supply pipe where you wish to install the unit. Using tape, measure the length between the cold water pipe and the bypass valve on your water softener.

3. Bypass Valve

Now, it’s time to install the bypass valve. Push the bypass valve into the softener’s head valve and adjust the screws to secure it.

If your unit does not include a bypass valve, water professionals strongly recommend installing one. This is because a bypass valve or a shut-off valve can help you shut the water supply to the softener without disrupting the whole house.

Skipping a bypass valve is a common mistake that makes maintenance very complicated.

4. Pipe Connections

It’s time to establish the inlet and outlet water connections.

This is the part where most people mess up, so be very careful. First, identify the two ports: inlet and outlet. Mostly, these ports are marked with arrows.

Decide whether you want to use flexible tubing or you are comfortable soldering copper pipes. Flexible tubing requires additional fittings but is easier to install and non-permanent. On the other hand, soldering requires expertise and is more or less permanent.

Connect the inlet port to the water supply pipe and the outlet port to the water lines. If you are soldering, make sure you buff and seal all joints carefully.

5. The Drain

Let’s move on to configure the drain connection. Locate the drain valve on your softener system and connect it to the drain line. Use a clamp to make sure it is tight and does not move when you tug on it.

The other end of the drain line should lead over your floor drain or utility sink. Always leave an air gap of 1½ inch between pipe and drain to prevent backwashing.

Moreover, make sure the drain is big enough to handle large amounts of water. Or else, the area will be flooded.

6. Preparing the Brine Tank

Next, assemble the brine tank overflow grommet if provided with the unit.

Move on to the brine tank overflow connection. Again, this connection is not available in all models. Installing a brine tank connection is similar to establishing the drain pipe connection.

7. Brine Line

The brine line connects the brine tank to the resin tank.

8. Fill the Brine Tank

water softener brine tank with salt

Once all brine tank connections are established, you must fill in salt. Use sodium chloride or potassium chloride and, ideally, avoid salt pellets. Don’t fill more than ⅔ of the tank.[2]

Then, also add water.

9. Turn on Main Water Supply

Remember to keep the bypass valve off while you turn on the feed water.

10. Open By-Pass Valve and Plug the Unit

Don’t open the bypass valve completely. Slowly open to let water pass into the tank. At this point, you will hear some gurgling noises as air is cleared out of the system. Wait for the sounds to stop and then twist the bypass valve to service mode completely.

Once the water starts flowing freely, check for leaks in all fittings. Then, proceed to connect to the electrical socket.

11. Start with Regeneration

Once the system is all hooked up, program the unit according to your water quality. Then, start a regeneration cycle to get soft water all around your house.

We strongly recommend you go through a few water softener installation videos to have a fair idea of how to install your system. Here are a few:

How Long Does it Take to Hook Up a Water Softener and is DIY Installation Possible?

You may be surprised to know that installing a water softener yourself is certainly possible. However, there are a few things that affect the process. For example, if you are replacing an old system, installation won’t take more than 2 hours.

Then it depends on whether you have a water loop installed in your house. If it is, DIY installation is not that complicated. On the other hand, old houses with poor plumbing and no soft water loops can be pretty challenging to work with.

In the same way, cutting into water lines and establishing connections require expertise and the right tools. This is a job that can take up an entire day. So if you never picked up a wrench in your life, we suggest this DIY is not for you.

Finally, it depends on the model of the water softener you plan to install. Some units are designed for easy installation, while others require professional help. Nevertheless, it’s best to take advice from the customer support staff to help you outline the basic steps for your model.

Professional Installation: Who Installs Water Softeners?

Installing a water softener may not be everyone’s cup of tea. In that case, hiring a licensed professional will help you stay above water, literally!

If you decide to hire a professional, consider the following options depending on your budget and locality.

Local Plumbers

Local plumbers are up-to-date with the plumbing in your area and can smoothly install any water treatment system. What’s best is that you can look around and get estimates from a few to get the best rate.

Retail Stores

Large retail stores[3] that sell water equipment offer to install your unit at an additional cost. They have a select range of contractors to do the job who are generally experienced in this area.

Not only is this option convenient, but it is also generally cheaper and time-saving since all burden lies with the retailer.

Water Treatment Specialists

Well, they are specialists and know their job inside out. Reach out to a water treatment specialist to enjoy the best experience. They will help you determine your water quality, the best treatment option and the installation method.

They are also well versed in taking care of malfunctions and possible damages. Of course, they are the most expensive option but the most reliable.

Installation Cost

Installing a water softener yourself will save you a lot of money. Most licensed plumbers can charge up to $1,000-1,500 for a complete setup.

In case you have a water loop pre-plumbed in your house, installation charges go down by a long shot. It will cost you no more than $500 to hook up with an existing water loop

Conclusion

In conclusion, you first need to decide where to install your water softener. The best location is usually the basement or a garage – somewhere at the main water supply line.

Replacing and old water softener is easier than starting from scratch.

So, unless you are familiar with plumbing around the house and are confident to install the unit correctly, it’s best to leave the job to a professional. However, if you decide to DIY, make sure you have all the tools and supplies ready and go through the user manual.

Further Reading

Resources

Meet Lisa Keller

Lisa Keller Lisa has joined the Water Masterz team as a contributing writer. She combines two decades of digital marketing experience with a passion for healthy living.

Lisa’s favorite leisure activities are meeting new people, learning new stuff, and yoga.

Get in Touch with Lisa

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