Water softeners help remove minerals and other unwanted materials from your water supply before the water reaches the rest of the house. These devices contain salt, which "softens" hard water and reduces mineral buildup on shower heads and appliances. But because water softeners are installed at the beginning of the plumbing, they can cause low water pressure throughout the entire system. Understanding the causes of these problems will help you solve them.
Identifying the Problem
You first want to verify that the water softener is actually causing the lost water pressure. Turn the valve on top of the softener that is labeled "bypass," which will allow water to flow straight through the pipes without passing through the softener. Turn on a faucet after turning the bypass valve to see if the performance has improved. If it has, the water softener is the cause of the low water pressure; if not, the problem is likely located somewhere else.
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All water softeners contain a sediment filter that traps dirt and debris from entering the system. If the filter becomes dirty, it may slow down the flow of water to the rest of the plumbing. Remove the top of the softener, and inspect the filter to see if it has become clogged. If so, replace it with a new one to improve the flow of water and the overall amount of water pressure that's available to your house.
The water that enters the water softener is still considered "hard" with mineral deposits. This water can slowly cause mineral buildup over time on the inside walls of the pipe, that enters the softener. If the filter in the softener is clean, you may have to clean the inside of the supply pipe that connects to the softener. Use a plumber's brush to scrub the inside of the supply pipe to remove as much of the mineral buildup as possible. If the problem is deep inside the pipe, you may have to hire a professional to clean the system.
Adjusting Water Pressure
If the water softener filter is clean and the supply pipe appears to be in good condition, the softener may simply restrict the flow of water by design. You can increase the amount of water pressure to your entire house, including the softener, by adjusting the water pressure regulator. The brass valve is located on the main supply line just before the water softener. Loosen the nut at the top of the valve, and insert a screwdriver into the nipple that sticks out of the top. Turn the nipple clockwise to increase pressure, checking the performance at a faucet as you turn.