Durability is a big factor whenever buying any expensive home appliance. This is especially true for ion exchange water softeners, which all basically work the same (saltless water softener systems are a bit different, however). The difference in quality between models often comes down to the durability of the materials. So, how long do water softeners last? It depends.
The Average Water Softener Lasts About 10-15 Years
The average salt based water softener system lasts about 10-15 years. However, they can last much longer than that, especially if maintained properly. Things that typically end the service life of a softener are problems with the brine tank, general inefficiency, or simply a series of minor issues that tip the balance in favor of replacing the system.
Once a system gets to be about 10 years old, you have to carefully consider whether it’s still worth repairing. As with an older car, the cost of repairs can add up and make you wish you’d bought a few model instead of pouring money into something that’s only going to get worse. Many newer water softeners also have efficiency features that can save you money on water and salt.
As for saltless water softeners, it’s harder to say how long they last because the technology is relatively new and all the systems are different. However, since they don’t have tanks and are generally simpler in design, it’s reasonable to assume that they last longer than salt based systems.
With any water softener, the amount of softening it has to do is going to impact its longevity. In fact, the amount of water that goes through a softener is a better measure of its age than number of years. In areas where water is extremely hard, you can expect a water softener to not last as long.
By the same token, the settings you use make a difference. If you set your water softener to produce very soft water, it’s going to work harder over the years and wear down sooner. This fact makes it hard for home buyers to judge how long a water softener will last. If you don’t know how extensively the previous occupants used the softener, it’s hard to gauge how much wear and tear might be on it.
New salt water softeners are all about equally effective at softening water. Nevertheless, some brands do have better reputations than others. Why is that? Well, fancier systems may have a lot more features, better water efficiency, more compact, and all that. But the difference often comes down to the longevity of the system. Cheap water softeners often save manufacturing costs by using less expensive materials. The water softener companies with the best reputations build their systems to last.
Time to Get a New Water Softener?
If your water softener is becoming less efficient or requiring a lot of repairs, you may want to consider replacing it based on whether it’s:
- 10 or more years old
- used heavily
- made of cheaper materials
Don’t pull the plug too soon, though. Sometimes a water softener can perform poorly overall due to a very simple problem such as resin beads that need replacement. If the system is otherwise sound, getting it repaired could be a cheap way to get years more service out of it.