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How Long Do Water Softeners Last?


Every water solution is an important investment — one you need to be able to count on for years to come. That’s especially true for your home’s water softener. But how long do water softeners last?

Here’s the good news: If you buy the right water softener and keep it maintained, it’s likely to serve you well for 10-15 years, maybe more. That said, there are many reasons you may eventually need to replace your water softening system. Perhaps you moved into a home with an older or broken softener, or maybe your existing softener isn’t delivering all the benefits you’re looking for.

Even if your system is handling water hardness just fine, you might be eyeing newer options that offer more features and enhanced performance that could save you money on operating costs. Regardless of your reasons, it’s helpful to understand the signs of an aging softener and how to choose the right upgrade.

What a Water Softening System Does For Your Home

To understand the true value of softened water, let’s go all the way back to the beginning — before you (or your home’s previous owner) installed a water softener. What was the original goal of adding a water-softening solution?

how to know when to replace water softenerTechnically, a water softener is used to remove calcium and magnesium. Of course, when you go looking for a soft-water solution, you’re probably not thinking about these hard-water minerals. You’re more focused on the problems they cause.

Everything You Need to Know About Water Softeners

Hard water can make it difficult for soaps to activate properly, so shampoo doesn’t lather as much as it should, dishes are harder to clean; clothes may be scratchy and you might even feel a filmy residue on your skin and hair. Similarly, hardness in water can cause damaging mineral deposits in water-using appliances like your washing machine, dishwasher, coffee maker and hot-water heater. It can also:

  • Clog pipes
  • Restrict water flow and water pressure
  • Leave spots on glassware
  • Cause buildup on shower heads, faucets and shower doors

In short, hard water is an irritating — and potentially expensive — issue.

Luckily, softeners can address these problems by reducing the presence of those hard water minerals in your water supply. Some water-softening systems can also reduce the presence of dissolved iron, which can give water a metallic taste and create red or brown stains around toilet bowls, sinks, shower walls and bathtubs.

How Do You Know When Your Water Softener Needs to Be Replaced?

Once a water softener is installed and your water looks and feels clearer and cleaner,, you’ll probably want softer water for life — which is why it’s important to know when your system is starting to fade. Let’s take a look:

Mechanical Timers

Today’s water softeners typically have digital timers. If yours has a mechanical timer, that’s a sign you have an older system that probably isn’t working as efficiently as it used to. It likely does its softening work based on a fixed time interval, and that may not be aligned with your actual water use. (In contrast, newer systems can regenerate based on how much water is actually used.) 

When systems regenerate more frequently than they should, they end up using more salt, water and electricity than necessary. Culligan high-efficiency water softeners, for example, can save you up to 46% on operating costs.*

Performance Issues

How do you know when your water softener isn’t working? Your water may seem soft on some days but not on others, creating an inconsistent water experience. You might also see the return of some common hard-water issues, like mineral buildup or dry skin and hair. 

Salt Levels

Salt levels can offer clues as well. If your salt tank is always full, that means the softener isn’t using any salt, which it needs to function. On the flip side, there could also be a problem if you’re replacing the salt more often than in the past. 

Repairs and Maintenance

If your water softener needs constant work, a new system is probably in your future. After all, repairs and maintenance can get costly if your softener is out of warranty or never had a service agreement with a reliable manufacturer. You may also have trouble finding parts for your system when repairs are needed — and at that point, an upgrade will be almost inevitable.

High-Value Features to Seek in Your Next Water Softener

Let’s say your water softener is on its way out. How do you choose a new system that will provide soft water for years to come?

You’re in luck: Many of today’s top-notch softeners provide an array of benefits beyond what traditional versions deliver. That’s especially true when they have all the latest smart technology and can connect to the internet. 

When it’s time to do your research, compare water softening systems that offer:

More Operating Efficiency

Some softeners can use a sensor to automatically adjust to changes in your home’s water conditions and regenerate only when needed, which reduces operating costs. 


Quality systems offer programming flexibility. For instance, you can adjust the water’s softness level. You can even decide when the unit regenerates; many households will choose a time when water isn’t being used.

Water and Salt Usage Tracking

Smart water softeners allow you to use an app on your smartphone or tablet to access real-time status updates that include your water usage patterns and changes in the salt level. You can also receive alerts about issues such as leaks or low salt levels. Some smart water softeners even allow you to set and track water-usage goals to help promote water conservation in your home.

Remote Management

Sometimes you want your water softener to take a break, like when you’re watering the lawn. Irrigating for an hour requires a lot of water–maybe even more than your household uses in a day. You likely don’t want to waste your soft-water capacity on plants that don’t care about hardness. While you can typically put a water-softening unit in bypass mode by turning a knob on the softener, the task becomes that much easier when all it takes to do so is a tap on an app. Some softeners even allow you to set a timer for the bypass so you don’t have to remember to restart the process.

Less Maintenance

You can save yourself time and effort by buying a softener from a water expert that specializes in these systems and can help keep yours in perfect working condition. Some soft water systems offer the option of having remote diagnostics and service notifications sent to your dealer. Your trusted partner should also have service programs available that offer regular water-softener maintenance and salt delivery.

Ready to Upgrade Your Water Softener?

Is your water softener system on its last legs? If so, don’t worry — you don’t have to say goodbye to soft water. The latest generation of water softeners can deliver all of the benefits you’ve come to depend on plus new technology that offers even smarter management of your home’s water quality.

If you’re ready to upgrade your water softener, the first step is to have a home water test performed so that you know which system will meet your home’s current needs. Get started today by scheduling your free, in-home water test and consultation.

*HE Softener versus a time clock regeneration softener and when used with Culligan’s Aqua-Sensor® technology.

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