One of the most frequent problems with water softening systems is salt bridging in the salt/brine tank. There are several reasons for salt bridging to occur. This generally occurs when pellet type salts or potassium chloride is used to regenerate the water softening system. Pellet type salts contain binding agents that in turn give the salt a very starchy consistency when wet. As water evaporates in the brine tank the pellet salts partially dissolve, bind together and form a "salt bridge" in the tank. Potassium chloride (Kcl) acts in the same way. Excess water in the salt tank, with high salt levels, can also cause salt bridging. Improper softener brining and lack of proper brine refill will cause bridging to occur as well.
What is the best way to alleviate these problems?
1. When using pellet type salts or potassium chloride only keep the salt tank about 1/2 full. This prevents too much compaction of the salts and helps to prevent bridging. When using potassium chloride get the salt tank off the floor on a wooden platform to prevent wicking of moisture from concrete floors.
2. Use a high grade of salt. Most water treatment dealers use either
DuraCube or HardiCube water softener salts produced by Cargill Corp.
Cargill has a link to find dealers in your area.
Solar Salt is another option as the crystal structure is very hard and virtually impossible to bridge. This is also available from many Cargill salt dealers and in stores.
3. Let the salt tank run down to 80-100lbs of salt or potassium a couple times per year to help prevent buildup of dissolved salts in brine tank.
4. Yearly maintenance of the water treatment system helps also. Restrictions in the brining system (injector/eductor assembly) caused by sediment and oxidized iron buildup cause improper brining and too much water in salt tank during refill. Have this assembly cleaned yearly. Have the water tested to see if the water chemistry or usage have changed and adjustments to the system are necessary.
5. Avoid using rock salts to prevent buildup of sediment in brine tank (which causes service problems).
Practice these tips and you will have fewer water softener problems and more consistent quality softened water.
I wish you good water!