In this "How to Install a Water Softener" article, I will show you how, you can easily install a water softener, in just a few hours, by following these simple and easy steps. You can use copper or Pex piping for this installation, however, in this article, I will focus on a copper pipe installation.
Unpacking Your New Water Softener:
Remove all instructions and parts as well as packing material from the inside of the water softener
Shutting Off The Water
Shut off the main water supply which is located on or by your water meter (Fig. 2)
Turning Off Your Water Heater
Turn off your water heater by turning off the switch on an electrical hot water tank and by putting the unit on "pilot" for a gas water heater (Fig. 3)
Turning Off your water heater is a precaution, since you will be tying in the cold water line fro your new softener, into the cold water (inlet) line of your water heater, you will want to avoid any excess pressure build up in your water heater.
Open All Your Water Faucets
Open all the faucets in your house and leave them open for now (Fig. 4) (In order to drain the water lines)
Finding A Suitable Location For Your Water Softener
Now you will want to move your new water softener to a suitable location located within an assessable floor drain and level it, if necessary shim the unit in order to make it as level as possible
You will also want to be close to a 110 volt electrical outlet that will provide power to your new unit
Next, insert the rubber grommet into the overflow hole on the back of the unit
Insert the drain elbow through the rubber grommet
Installing the Bypass Valve
Next, install the bypass valve (Figure 5), it may be necessary to install the O-rings onto the bypass valve it they were not factory installed. It’s a good idea to apply a little silicone grease to the O-rings if before completing this installation.
Depending on the model of water softener you are installing, the bypass valve can be installed in the up Fig. 5 (pipes access at the top), or in the down (pipe access from the floor) position. You may also be installing a water softener that has the water inlet and outlet coming straight out the back. You will need to adjust the direction of your lines accordingly
Next, install the retainer clips as shown in Fig. 5, also see your installation manual, directions may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so be sure to follow the directions for your particular brand of water softener
Next, attached the overflow hose to the overflow drain elbow and attached the hose clamp provide with your install package
Installing the Floor Drain
Now run this line to a floor drain, nearest to the water softener. In some municipalities, it is necessary to provide a 2" air gap (Figure 6) between the drain line and the drain itself. This is a simple air gap drain that you can make using PVC fittings and PVC Glue. Fig. 6A shows a simple way to attach the drain hose to a brick and place it over the drain in order to provide the required air gap.
Above Images are all examples of an indirect drain, notice the air gap.
Connecting the Water Lines
Next, we will connect the water softener to the ¾” cold water supply line
[stextbox id="alert" caption="Warning! "]Since this is a copper pipe water softener installation. You should be careful not to solder the copper pipe adapters while they are attached to the water softener, the heat will melt the adapters [/stextbox]
- You can connect the water softener using a direct copper connection to the softener. To do this you will need to use two 1” x ¾” NPT (National Pipe Thread) female adapters
[stextbox id="warning"] Tip: If you have difficulty finding a 1” x ¾” female adapter, you can use a 1” x 1” female adapter and a 1” x ¾” reducer soldered together to create the same thing. [/stextbox]
- You will need to solder (sweat) the 1” adapter, to your ¾” copper line prior to attaching it to your new water softener. Do this for both the inlet and the outlet line.
- Attach the lines to your water softener.
- Once this has been done, you will need to attach these lines to the other end of the water supply line. It may be necessary to use a ¾” coupling in order to achieve this. If you’re not sure how to solder you can check out this great video by Richard Trethewey of This Old House or you can use compression or push on fittings that don't need to be soldered (sweated).
[stextbox id="warning"]Tip: If you plan to solder all the connections to your new water softener, it is advisable to put in a ¾” union joint, somewhere close to the softener , this way you will be able to detach the unit from the supply lines should the need ever arise. Eg., you decide to move the unit to a new location or the unit requires servicing. This step is optional. [/stextbox]
[stextbox id="custom"]Recommendation: I recommend the use of a water softener installation kit that consists two 18" long flexible connectors with a 3/4" Quick Connect end, for the copper pipe hook up and a 1" threaded female end for hooking up to the water softener. You can purchase this online for around $40.00 or from your local hardware or home improvement center and it will save you a lot time and additional work. In addition, it will make it nice and easy to disconnect your water softener from the water lines should you ever have to. This will also eliminate the need for any type of union joint as previously mentioned. Go to Amazon parts # 560372.[/stextbox]
If you are not using the recommended quick connect installation kit you can still use two stainless flex lines approx 15" to 18" long, to do the job. These normally come with two female ends. One end 3/4" for hooking onto the 3/4" copper pipes and the other 1" female end for hooking to the water softener. This type of hook up requires either two 3/4" male copper connectors to be soldered on to the copper pipes or the use of two 3/4" male "Push Connectors" for a faster installation.
Building Your Own Bypass
I know that some of you out there will want to install your own additional bypass valves. If you would like to do this, it's just a matter of installing three (3) additional shut off valves in the system. See Fig. 7 for details. Again, these can be soldered (sweated) or you can use push on fittings. All of these parts are available online from Amazon.com, amazon part # BA-485B - 34.
Connecting the Drain Hose
Next, connect the drain hose to the valve drain elbow using the clamp provided with the unit. Please keep in mind that this drain hose is a pressurized and should not extend any longer than 30 ft., nor any more than 8 ft high. This line should drain to either an indirect floor drain or a laundry tub. See Fig 6 & 6A for an indirect drain line attachment.
Some municipalities do not allow this drain to be inserted directly into a drain without providing an air gap, this is to prevent the backflow of sewer water back into the unit. See Fig 6 and 6A as well as my article on “How to Properly Vent a Drain Line” for more information.
[stextbox id="warning"]Tip: If your drain hose is not long enough It is not necessary to use an extension piece that looks exactly like the one that came with the unit, you can use any type of hose design for water as long as the interior dimension is the same. I have seen many people going from store to store looking for a water softener drain house that looks identical to the one that came with their unit. This is just a waste of time and effort “ANY HOSE WITH THE SAME INTERIOR DEMESION WILL WORK JUST FINE”.[/stextbox]
[stextbox id="alert"]Warning! You should install the ground clamp that came with your water softener. Failure to do this, if you are using metal pipes can cause serious injuries and in some case even death.[/stextbox]
Installing the Ground Clamp
Grounding Fig. 8 & 9 is necessary whenever two copper or metal pipes in the same system are broken up by some kind of appliance hook up or other means that prevents the continuous flow of an electrical charge through the pipes. This happens when a water softener is installed or when a water heater is installed. The pipes coming in and out of a water softener must have some type of metal connection, that allows the transfer of an electrical current from one side of the pipe to the other. Same goes for a water heater, the cold water line going into the water heater needs to be connected to the hot water line coming out of the water heater by some king of external metal wire or clamp connection.
These rules can vary from one municipality to another, especially when the plastic or Pex piping is involved, be sure to check with your local building inspector for the proper installation guidelines for your area.
Checking for Leaks
You’re almost done. Slowly open the water supply and shut off the faucets that you had previously opened. Now would be a good time to check for any leaks. Should you find a leak it will be necessary to either tighten the joint or re-solder after turning the water back off and re-opening some of the faucets to reduce the back pressure and re-drain the lines.
Assuming all is well, you can now re-open the inlet valve to your water heater and turn off the faucets that you had previously opened in your home and slowly re-open the bypass valve to the softener. Double check for leaks.
New Water Softeners come from the factory clean and ready to use, but it is still a good idea to sanitize the unit before putting it into service in your home. This is very simple to do. Before you add salt to the unit, open the salt tank lid and pour in approximately 3 gals. (12L) of cold water, which is approximately 2 to 3 inches deep in the bottom of the tank. Now, open the brine well, cover and pour in 3 oz. (6 tablespoons) of unscented household bleach and replace the cover. Make sure the bypass valve is open or in the "service" position and start the recharge process.
Once the recharge cycle is completed, you will need to rinse the unit of any bleach. Open the nearest cold water faucet downstream from the unit and let the water run for approx 20 minutes. This should take care of the rinsing and make the unit ready for use.
You should add approximately 3 gallons of water to the salt storage tank before adding any salt. Then you should pour in 3 to 4 bags of salt enough to bring the salt level up to approximately (2/3) two thirds, of the tank.
Programming Your Water Softener
Next, plug the unit’s transformer into a 110-volt outlet and begin the programming. Follow the programming instructions provided by your water softener manufacturer.
You will also want to sanitize the unit prior to using it. See your owner’s manual and follow the instructions for sanitizing.
Tip: Now would be a good time to go through your house opening and closing all your water valves to get rid of any trapped air in the system. This will prevent your facets from spitting and sputtering the next you go to use them.
- It may take a few days to replace the water in your water tank and water lines with newly softened water but once this has been done you should begin to enjoy the luxury of soft, smooth water.
Things you will need to - Install A Water Softener
- ¾” Copper Tubing (Length to be determined)
- ¾” copper elbows (Quantity to be determined)
- Two 1” x 3/4" female (threaded internally) NPT connectors, copper or brass
- Above available from your local Hardware Store
Sediment Filter (Optional)
Stainless Steel water softener installation line requires two lines. (Recommended)
Soldering Flux (paste)
Solder paste applicators
Additional Resources For This Project
How to Solder Copper Pipes by Richard Trethewey of This Old House