Once you’ve surveyed the different options and picked out the best water softener for your home, your next concern is installing it. In fact, before even making the purchase, it’s important to understand what’s involved in installation and whether you will need to hire a professional to do it for you. The complexity and expense of water softener installation should be part of your buying decision.
When in doubt, you should always opt for professional installation. There are a number of pitfalls involving in installing a water softener, and a botched job could void your warranty, make your softener operate inefficiently, or even cause damage to your home. But even if you don’t plan to do the installation yourself, it helps to understand what’s involved so you can make sure the installers do the job right.
Water softener installation tends to be similar across different systems, with one notable exception – saltless water softeners have different parts and follow their own installation procedure. They’re also often easier to install, lowering the bar for would-be do-it-yourselfers. In fact, many magnetic and electronic systems can be installed by just about anyone in only a few minutes.
Doing it Yourself
If you’re thinking about installing a typical ion exchange softener yourself, make sure you’re comfortable dealing with plumbing and parts assembly. It goes without saying that you should read completely through the manual before beginning (and ideally, before you decide whether you’re up to the task). This isn’t a detailed step-by-step guide, but here are some of the tasks you’ll probably have to do:
- Turn your home’s water off and on
- Connect new water lines
- Solder pipes
- Assemble the water softener and connect it to the water lines according to the instructions
- Perform initial configuration of your water softener
Before beginning, you’ll want to make sure your water softener came with all the correct parts. Also, be sure to have all the necessary tools on hand. Assuming the manual is a good one, it should contain a section somewhere in front telling you everything you will need. Unfortunately, some manuals may be overly technical and assume a lot of knowledge, on the assumption that only professional contractors will be installing the system.
Getting Professional Water Softener Installation
If installing the water softener yourself sounds like more than you can (or want to) handle, then hire an experienced professional to do the job for you. If you buy your system from a large retailer like Sears, they can schedule installation when you make your purchase. Similarly, local dealers often include installation as part of the package. In both cases, make sure you understand what the cost of installation is before agreeing to anything – sometimes unscrupulous salespeople attempt to hide this cost.
If you have any special requirements, make sure the installers know about them in advance. For example, many people choose to have the softener bypass water running to the kitchen tap in order to avoid adding sodium to their drinking water. Similarly, you should make sure the installers bypass outside water – softening it is a waste of salt and may actually harm grass and plants.
An experienced installer should be able to perform initial configuration of your system as well. However, depending on the system and your installer’s level of expertise, it might help to know your home’s water hardness (in grains per gallon) and daily water usage (gallons). You may also want to think about how soft you want your water to be. All these things could affect the proper configuration settings.
Water softener installation is pretty routine for most experienced water service professionals. Still, cases of improperly installed water softeners do happen. The more you know about how installation works and what the end result should look like, the less chance there is for a mistake. If you’re paying for installation, you should demand that it be done right.