When your water softener is not using salt, it can be incredibly frustrating — especially given how pricey these systems can be. Thankfully, there are a few common and relatively simple explanations for a water softener that’s not using salt. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about troubleshooting the issue and solving it.
As far as water softener troubleshooting goes, checking for salt bridges is ridiculously easy. Salt bridges occur when the pellets inside your softener form a crusty layer that makes you think the tank is full. In reality, underneath the salt bridge lies air. In other words, there isn’t enough salt for the system to do its job properly.
As a rough guide, you should expect to refill your softener’s salt tank once every month. If it’s been a long time since you refilled it and you find yourself wondering, “hm, why is my water softener not using any salt?” here’s what you do.
Take a shovel or broom handle and jab lightly at the topmost layer of salt in the tank. A salt bridge will collapse and reveal the empty space underneath. Note that there may be additional salt buildup on top of the bridge, so be sure to continue poking gently until you reach the bottom of the tank.
To avoid salt bridges in the future, lower the humidity of the room your softener is located in and only fill the tank halfway.
If there appears to be no bridge, continue on to the next water softener troubleshooting method.
Another very easy troubleshooting method involves ensuring you’ve been using the right salt in your softener. Fine-grained salts tend to dissolve too quickly for your water softener while pellets that are too coarse form bridges.
Your softener’s manual should give some indication of what salt you should use in the system. If you lost the manual or it isn’t clear on this, contact the softener’s manufacturer or the company that installed it for you. Many companies will even deliver the right salt to you on a regular basis.
Quality water softeners can last decades without needing any real service. To learn more about how to prolong your water softener’s life, check this article.
Issues can still pop up with softeners before then, though, and these may result in a softener that doesn’t use salt.
One possible culprit is the timer. This component is responsible for triggering the regeneration process that actually depletes your salt.
Every model of softener will have its own procedure for testing the timer. Typically, you’ll need to enter the system into diagnostic mode. This should identify whether the timer is malfunctioning.
Another possibility is the valve motor. When this fails, the rotor valve does not get positioned properly and water will not adequately flow through the entire system.
Lastly, another type of component failure that can leave you asking “why is my water softener not using salt?” involves the venturi. This component occasionally gets clogged and also hampers water flow through the softener. Unclogging this tube is fairly easy to do on your own. Just refer to your softener’s manual to ensure it’s a user-serviceable part. You will also likely need to put the tank into a bypass mode.
Most water softener resin beads last about 15 years. Beyond this timeframe, they tend to lose effectiveness and cause a number of issues, including improper use of salt. Most resin tanks are non-serviceable, so you’ll need to call a service company and have them inspect the beads.
Knowing whether or not your softener is functioning properly is much easier if you have a set schedule for refilling the brine tank. You’ll want to check the tank at least every month, which is roughly how often you should need to refill it. There are several variables that might impact this, though, including:
- the water hardness in your area
- how much water your household uses
- what type of system you have (newer ones are typically more efficient, using less salt)
If you feel like the diagnostic methods mentioned above are beyond your pay grade, it’s worth contacting a professional. If you’re in Phoenix, Arizona, American Home Water and Air are very popular. You can find them at:
23439 North 35th Drive #7
Glendale, Arizona 85310
If you’re located elsewhere, consider contacting the company that installed your softener. They should be most familiar with it and the solution may even be covered under warranty.
If you find yourself wondering, “why has my water softener stopped using salt?” you can take comfort in knowing that the solution is typically simple. First, check for salt bridges. Then, ensure you’ve been using the right type of salt in your softener. If neither of these seems to be the culprit, have the timer, valve motor, venturi nozzle, and resin beads checked. Issues with these are rare but can happen, even with newer softeners.