Water Softener Installation

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Water Softener Installation - Getting Started

This how to, water softener installation article, is not a brand specific, and is meant to be used along with your softener manufacturer's installation manual.  It really does not matter what type of kind of water softener you are installing, the basics will be the same for most brands.  

To start I'm going to assume that you have already made the decision to purchase or have already purchased a water softener and now you are ready to proceed with the installation.  

Obviously you will need to find a suitable place to install your water softener, usually in the utility or furnace room, or if you live in a warm climate, it may be installed in a garage or outside, close to your place of residence, for easy access.  

1. You will require access to your water supply line, be it a municipal water supply line or a line coming from your well pump, water reservoir of other water source.

2.  You will also require an electrical source to plug in the unit. The use of an electrical extension cord, is not recommended. 

3.  And finally you will require a drain outlet that will allow you to get rid of the salt water or potassium, coming from the unit after regeneration.  

Determine The Installation Type

 I don't want to spend much time here except to say that you should know what type of installation you want to perform. The typical residential types are as follows, you should check your municipal building codes, for what is allowed where you live.  

 1. Copper pipe installation: Copper pipe installation will require that you either sweat (solder) the joints, use compression fittings designed for copper or that you use push fittings like "Shark Bite" or some other brand of push fittings.  In my opinion, push fittings are the simplest to use, in case you are not comfortable with the previously mentioned methods. 

2.  CPVC  (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) normally requires that it be cemented together.  You can tap into copper, pex or other type of piping with CPVC; the required fittings are generally available at most building supply stores or plumbing shop.  

3.  PEX (crosslinked polyethylene), is my personal preference, it's inexpensive, easy to use, can be adapted to most other types of residential plumbing and uses fewer fittings. It can either be crimped or joined using push type fittings which is quick and easy to use. 

Preparing To Install A Water Softener

Residential plumbing hook up



If this is what your plumbing room looks like, relax, hooking up a water softener is not that complicated.

Water softener Hook Up


Installing a water softener is as simple as hooking up the cold water line coming from your water meter or well pump to the inlet side of your water softener and hooking up the outlet side, to the rest of the house.  


Water softener installation diagram

Here is a typical water softener installation diagram showing the water line coming in from the water source or supply.  Secondly, you can see an "Untreated" water line going to the outside faucets, of the house, this should be used for watering lawns and gardens. 

Next the "Untreated" water line continues to the water softener, the water enters the water softener as "Hard Water" and comes out the other side, as cold "Soften" or "Treated Water".  The cold soft water goes to the sinks, tubs, showers and toilets in the whole house. This same line also continues to the hot water heater, where the water, will be heated up and directed through the hot water lines to the rest of the house. So now you have Hot and Cold "Softened" water throughout the entire house.  While at the same time you have "Untreated" hard water going to the outside of the house.  

Sometimes, people will run a "Hard Water" line to the kitchen sink, to be used for cooking and drinking water.  Personally, I prefer to use a water filter on the soft water line, to remove any excess salt. Otherwise, you end up with hard water stains on your kitchen sink and faucet.  

Since the diagram shows a "Bypass Valve", I will mention it briefly, most water softener, these days, come with their own "Bypass Valve" as part of the unit. The bypass can be used to bypass the softener and send hard water through the system whenever this is desirable, for instance, if you don't have a separate bypass water line to the outside of your house and you want to water the lawn. By putting the unit on bypass and opening any outside faucet, you will bypass the softened water and only have access to the hard water, for as long has the unit is in the bypass state. Once you are done with using hard water only you can flip the bypass valve back to the soft water state. 

One word of caution, DO NOT TURN ON ANY FAUCET OR FLUSH ANY TOILET, INSIDE YOUR HOUSE, WHILE THE UNIT IS IN THE BYPASS MODE, or you will allow untreated water to enter the softened water lines and it may take some time for the soft water to return normal. 

Water Softener Bypass Valve


If your water softener does not have or did not come with a "Bypass" valve, you can easily make your own by following the setup shown in this image. All you need are three water valves, of the type suitable for your application. The illustration on the left is showing copper tubing, brass valves and sweat or soldered joints.  You may also use Pex or  CPVC for this application, if you prefer.  


The above diagram shows you just how simple a water softener installation can be, that is except for running the plumbing, of course. The cold water line is shown in blue and the hot water line is red. The only lines missing from this diagram are, the water softener overflow, and drain tube.  I will be explained in more detail further on.


Installing Your Water Softener

Water Softener Installation


The first thing you have to do is to decide on the location for your new water softener.  It should be within access of your water supply line.  There should be a drain somewhere nearby, or you can run a line to the drain if it's not really close to your installation.  You will also need access to the drain for your overflow line.  Lastly, you will need an electrical outlet nearby in order to plug the unit in. If you don't have an electrical outlet that is close you will need to have an electrician install one.   


Water Meter Shut Off Valve




Before you begin, make sure to turn off the water at the meter or other source.

Attaching Water Lines To Water Softener

After you have turned off the water, you will need to connect the water supply to the water softener.  There are a number of accepted ways of doing this.  As shown, you can connect the copper lines directly to the water softener. However, this does make it a little more difficult should you want to remove or change the water softener at some future time. A good idea would be to install a couple of unions in the line to make the connections easier.  As previously mentioned you can use copper, pex, cpvc or tread water lines to hook up the unit.  

Cutting into a water supply line

In order to hook up the water lines you will need to use a pipe cutter to cut into the water supply line, close to the to the water source. This line should not be any less than 3/4" in diameter.  Most homes have a 3/4" or 1" line coming into the house from either a municipal water meter or from a well pump.

Don't forget to run a bypass line to the outside of your home, for watering lawns and gardens. 


The images below, show a number of different ways, a water softener can be hooked up, to a water supply line.  Keep in mind, that it does not matter, whether you use a copper line, a pex line, cpvc or a flexible stainless steel line. Just as long as you can connect, the incoming water line, to the softener, and have it flow to the rest of the house.

Water Softener Hook to Water Pump



This image shows how a water softener can be hooked up to a well pump storage tank.  Different pumps and tank size will have different types of hook up, but will follow the same general principle.  



Water Softener Hook Up to Water Source


This image shows how the water source can be either a well pump/storage tank or a municipal water supply. Also shown is a separate water line going to the outside of the home that is installed before going through the water softener. You can also see one thing we have not talked about before and that is a ground wire and clamps, going from the inlet side (copper only) pipe to the outlet side of the water softener.

Grounding 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.

Water Softener Hook Up Using Flex Lines

In this image the water softener is hooked up using flexible stainless steel lines that are equipped with unions on both ends, making it fast and easy to install or remove from the unit. This is my preferred installation method since you can use "Shark Bite" type push fittings on the 3/4" end of the supply line (copper, pex, or cpvc) and then screw the one inch end directly to the water softener without having to add any other fittings. 

If you prefer, the 1" FIP flex lines are also available with a push on fitting attached, rather than having to purchase the push on and the flex line separately. 

Important:  If you are installing a brand new water softener, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions, that came with your new water softener.

Installing The Drain Line

Water Softener Drain Line

The water softener drain line can be made of any type of material capable of carrying water, it can flexible or rigid,  it can be clear or a solid color, it should measure a minimum of 1/2" inside but can be larger.  The idea is that it should be capable of carrying the full discharge of water from softener to the drain.  

The drain must be an indirect drain, also known as an "Air Gap Drain", that is, it should not allow water to be siphoned back into the household water supply. 


Indirect Floor Drain

Definition: • Indirect waste pipe: A waste pipe that does not, connect directly with the drainage system, but that discharges into the drainage system, through an air break or air gap into a trap, fixture, receptor or interceptor.
Waste Receptor - Concord, NH

Adding The Overflow Line

Water Softener Overflow Tube

The water softener overflow tube, which is typically 1/2" in diameter, is used to carry any excess water, away from the water softener, in the event of a malfunction.  It, along with the drain tube should discharge into an "Indirect Drain", for the reasons explained earlier. 

The overflow tube is usually installed on the outside of the salt storage tank or brine tank. (See your manufacturer's instructions manual for more details)

Final Stage

There you have it, you should now be able to follow your manufacturer's installation manual, as well as understand the process involved, in installing a water softener.  One of the biggest problems I find, when people try to install their own water softener, is that they get hung up on not so  important details, like the color of the water line, the outside diameter, or the exact length of of the hoses. What's important is that the water flows in and out and that it has a proper place to drain. If you keep this in mind you should have no trouble installing your new water softener.  Thanks for viewing this article and good luck with your installation.  

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