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Installing A Water Softener: Your Ultimate Guide

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

If you have little to no experience with plumbing, then installing a water softener is not going to be easy.

However, many people consider it to be a household essential, especially if you want to keep your sinks squeaky clean.

Installing a water softener can be disastrous for the household. Luckily, we are here to help! 

In this article, we will discuss how to safely install a water softener, mistakes to avoid, plus more! 

What Is A Water Softener? 

A water softener is a device that removes minerals from the water supply and replaces them with sodium ions. This process can also remove chlorine, which makes the water safe for drinking. 

What Is Soft Water? 

Soft water is water that has fewer minerals in it than hard water. Hard water contains calcium and magnesium, while soft water does not.

These minerals cause pipes to rust over time and they can also make dishes look cloudy or dull.

You may notice that when you wash your hands, your skin feels rough after using soap. This is because your body absorbs more of the minerals in hard water than in soft water. 

Installing A Water Softener: What You Need To Know 

While you do not need to be a plumber to install a water softener, there are definitely certain things you need to know that are going to help you achieve a smooth installation process. 

Here are some examples of what you will need to know before starting: 

– You should know how to solder 

– You should know how water softeners work 

– You should know if your home has a water loop or not. 

What Are Water Loops?

Water loops keep softened water within the home by directing it to your faucets and water heaters.

Water loops will stop softened water from entering your garden hose, which is very important when it comes to water conservation. 

Sometimes, houses will come with a water loop that has been pre-installed. If you have to install your own water softener, then this is excellent news.

It means that the process of installing the water softener will be quick and will require little expertise. 

However, if your home does not have a pre-installed water loop, then it gets a little more complicated.

You will need to install these pipes yourself, to divert the water from the main line as soon as it enters your home.

You will then need to connect the water softener to this new line. Rest assured, this will all be covered further along in the article. 

Here’s how to install a water softener – both with and without a water loop 

How To Install A Water Softener 

With A Pre-Installed Water Loop 

If your home has a water loop, then you are most likely to find it in your garage. It will be coming out of the wall in a “U” shape. 

You Will Need: 

  • a wrench 
  • flexible tubing 
  • flux
  • soldering iron kit 
  • Teflon tape 
  • pipe cutters
  • measuring tape 
  • elbow fitting 
  • copper pipe 
  • adapters or fittings that come with the water softener 

If you do not have any of these items, you should be able to find them at the local hardware store. 

Once you have all of the items you need, go ahead and follow these steps: 

1. Turn Off The Water In Your Home 

Find the main water valve of the home and activate it. This will shut the water off. You can find this either outside, in the garage, or the utility closet. 

To take extra precautions, you can open some of your faucets to let existing water drain out of the pipes

2. Shut Off The Electricity In The Water Heater 

If your water heater is powered by electricity, then it is best to shut it off to disconnect the power supply. 

3. Find The Most Appropriate Place To Install Your Water Softener 

Now, for this step, you have a few options, but the best place for the water softener is close to where the water will enter your home (and this is a very common option, too.)

By placing it so close to the water entry point, you are protecting the appliances and fixtures in your home from potential mineral damage. 

4. Remove The Connecting Part Of The Water Loop

You should use the pipe cutter to complete this step. You should be left with two pipes coming out of the wall.

One of them will channel the untreated water into the softener, while the other will channel the newly treated water out of the softener, and funnel it to the necessary appliances. 

5. Attach The Elbow Fitting 

The elbow fitting should be attached to the separated main water line. It should face the direction of the inflow of the water softener and outflow valves.

For example, if the water loop is high, then the elbow fitting should be facing downwards, and if the water loop is low, then the elbow fitting should be facing upwards 

Follow these steps to attach the elbow fitting: 

  • Take your measuring tape and decide the necessary measurements of the pipe (to fill the gap between the water softener and the elbow fitting)
  • Cut the pipe to this length 
  • Before you go ahead and attach the pipe, you need to solder any fittings necessary to connect the bypass valve and the pipe
  • Now, you can connect the pipe 

The water softener you purchased likely came with brass adaptors or fittings, and you should use these to connect pipes correctly. 

6. Configure The Drain Hose And Brine Tank Of The Water Softener 

Many people like to use a clamp at the start of the drain hose, but this can actually stop the water from flowing back into the unit.

And, if you clamp it to the other end of the hose, then this can result in a floor or utility sink drain. 

So, it is best to refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on how to set up the brine tank.

Normally, you will need to connect it to the water softener unit with some piping, and from there, fill it with salt. 

7. Connect The Brine Tank And The Overflow Tube 

Next, you will need to connect the brine tank to the overflow tube of the water softener.

Instructions on how to do this will be provided in the water softener manual. 

8. Reactivate The Water Supply 

The last thing you need to do is switch on the bypass valve and activate the water supply for your home. 

However, do not forget that when you activate your water softener, you should also set it to “Backwash.” 

Without A Pre-Installed Water Loop 

If your home does not have a pre-installed water loop, then installing a water softener gets a little more complicated. The first thing you need to do is install a water loop.

Don’t forget that water loops are vital to conserving water, and while you can install a water softener without a water loop, this is actually very wasteful and something you want to avoid if it can be helped. 

Installing A Water Softener: Your Ultimate Guide

When it comes to installing a water loop system, then it is better to not do this yourself.

Instead, you should contact a contractor from a local home water system and organize for them to come and install it for you. 

Installing the water loop may require some work with drywall, but once it has been installed you can go ahead and follow the steps in the section above. 

Congratulations! Whether you have a pre-installed water loop or not, you have now successfully installed a water softener (see also ‘How To Clean Water Softener‘). 

Common Mistakes Made When Installing A Water Softener 

Here are some common mistakes people make when installing a water softener (see also ‘How Often Should A Water Softener Regenerate?‘)! 

Too Many Guides 

Ever heard the expression, “too many cooks?” Well, there are many guides, handbooks, and tutorials on how to install a water softener.

However, it is best to find one guide that you like and stick to it. Swapping and changing guides will only cause confusion and make the process much more complex than necessary.

(We kind  of like our guide, so we think you should stick to that!) 

Using The Wrong Fittings 

Most of the time, a water softener will come with the correct connections / fittings, so it is best to use those.

If you use the incorrect ones, then this can lead to many leaks and poor performance from the water softener

Incorrect Placement Of The Drain Hose 

The drain hose needs to lead to a place that is capable of dealing with a significant amount of water because a significant amount of water will come out of it.

If you allow it to shift thanks to incorrect placement, then this can result in floods. 

Choosing The Wrong Water Softener 

There are many different types of water softeners out there. Sometimes, many individuals will choose a water softener that is the incorrect size.

Therefore, you will need professional advice on the right-sized water softener for you and your home. 

This is very important, since choosing a water softener that is too small for your home will not be able to work efficiently and will be more expensive. 

An Important Note On Installing Water Softeners 

After reading through all of this, you may decide that the DIY route is not for you. Not to worry!

There are many professionals out there who will be able to install the water softener for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Fill The Brine Tank With Water When Installing The Softener?

Typically, no. You should fill the brine tank with salt, and the water will be taken care of by the regeneration process.

However, if you are unsure, you should read your unit’s manual to double-check. 

How Long Do I Have To Wait For Soft Water After Installing A Water Softener?

Generally, you will be able to receive soft water through the faucets once an installation and regeneration cycle has been completed.

However, this only applies to your cold water faucets, and your hot water faucets will not receive any soft water until all the hard water has disappeared. 

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Water Softener? 

It will usually cost $200 or less to install a water softener, but prices can vary so it is worth checking before you begin the process. 

Where Should I Install My Water Softener?

You should try to install the water softer next to the water loop. This will permit soft water for your entire water supply. 

Will I Be Able To Install A Water Softener Myself?

Yes! If you’re good with tools, can follow instructions to a T, and have done the necessary research, then you should be able to DIY your own water softener with or without a water loop.

However, if you’re unsure, then you should always call a professional to do this for you. 

Final Thoughts 

Whether you have a water loop or not, you will be able to install a water softener with relative ease.

With a pre-installed water loop, you will simply need to follow the instructions above.

Without a pre-installed water loop, you will need to contact a professional to install one for you before you can begin the water softener installation process. 

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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