Can a Water Softener Cause Low Water Pressure?

You’ve installed a new water softener or perhaps inherited one with your home when you bought it. Over time you become plagued with low water pressure. It may happen suddenly, or it may come on slowly. Could it be your water softener? Or is it your whole house water filtration system, or even pipe corrosion?

Understanding your fresh water plumbing lines goes a long way to spot where the low pressure is coming from.

What Are the Causes Low Water Pressure?

  • All the neighbors have low water pressure. This is a municipal problem and needs to be addressed by your local water department.
  • Corroded pipes that have severely narrowed the inside diameter of the water pipes in at least one place. This is very common in older houses with galvanized steel pipes. If it is the steel pipes, you may need to repipe your system to resolve the issue. While repiping falls under the category of a major plumbing repair, many times it can be done relatively quickly and cost-effectively.
  • A water softener system that cannot deliver on the household needs will hold back the flow and lower the pressure of any water that goes through the line. Also, clogs in the system can be to blame.
  • Your water softener system may be recharging or stuck in an automatic recharging cycle and not passing through enough unsoftened water during the recharging time.
    If the water pressure is low at only one fixture, the problem is often due to a clogged aerator screen or a partially closed water supply valve. It may also happen that a washer slips and blocks some of the lines. Shower heads can easily clog without lowering the water pressure anywhere else.
  • The main water supply shut off lever outside your house may be partially closed.
  • Water pressure regulator set too low. This brass valve can be found on the main water supply line before it connects to the water softener. Increase water pressure with care. Too much pressure may bring on a whole new set of problems. Loosen the nut at the top of the valve and then turn the slotted nipple on the top clockwise. If possible, turn a faucet on nearby so you can check the effects of incremental adjustments.
  • You have a hidden leak somewhere in the water line. This is a serious issue as it can lead to considerable damage if not found and handled.

How Your Water Softener Can Cause Low Water Pressure

It’s a good idea to become familiar with your water softener manual. At least be aware of when and how to perform periodic maintenance and how to troubleshoot should it fail to operate properly.

  • Manufacturers may say that water softeners will not lower your water pressure if their capacity is balanced with the needs of the house. If a four bathroom house with a large kitchen and laundry room is being fully utilized by a large and active family, your water softener will need to be able to serve that much more water to the appliances and fixtures than it would to a much smaller house.
  • Dirty sediment filters. These are filters that remove any dirt that is carried suspended in the municipal water supply. It is important to keep the water as free of sediment as possible before it flows through the resin beds where element exchange will take place to remove the calcium and magnesium from the water and replace it with sodium.
  • Dirty or clogged resin beds that make it difficult for the normal volume of water flow to occur. This is usually a problem with the recharging cycle.

But is it Your Water Softener? Ways to Check.

  • Turn the valve on top of your tank that says “bypass.” This will allow water flow straight into your house without going through the water softener system. Now check some of the faucets that had low pressure. Are they back to normal? If so, it is your water softener that is the problem.
  • Check the sediment filter that catches dirt and debris from entering the treatment system. Do this by removing the top of the softener. If it is clogged, replace it.
  • Although the resin bed in the softener tank should not need to be replaced, highly chlorinated water can break down the resins and turn them to mush. Eventually, the tank restricts the flow of water. This can also happen from algae build up. If you’ve narrowed down the problem to the softener. If the resin has been destroyed, you will have to dump the resin bed, clean out the tank and re-bed with new resin. However, we recommend having a professional service to handle this.

Other Water Softener Complications

The performance of the water softener is to no small degree affected by the way it is regulated and regenerated. There are three basic types. Although they have all been proven to be dependable, if you continue to have low water pressure issues caused by your water softener tank, your system may need adjustment or replacement.

  • The automatic regeneration system is among the most popular because of its simplicity. It is controlled by an electrical timer that sets up a regular schedule for the flushing and recharging of the system. While this is happening, your water into the house will be unfiltered hard water.
  • A computer controlled system actually records how much water is flowing through the tank. It can anticipate when the resin will be depleted of sodium and initiates regeneration. While this is happening, your house will be served with a reserve of soft water.
  • A mechanical water meter measures water usage and triggers regeneration. No electrical devices are used, and the mineral tank is only recharged when it needs to be. This system is often equipped with two mineral tanks so when one is being recharged the other tank is servicing the house and there is no downtime.

The Other Water Filter

A water filtration system can lower the water pressure if the housing demand is greater than its ability to filter water. While these filters normally do not impede pressure and flow, they can if they are not properly maintained or if they malfunction.

If you have unusually low water pressure in your house that has happened suddenly, we highly recommend you call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in the Bay Area. We will resolve the exact cause of the problem quickly and cost-effectively – we are very familiar with all of the issues that can affect water pressure, including all types of water softeners.