Water softeners make noises all the time, just like any other household appliance. So it’s quite normal to hear all sorts of sounds while it’s running. And while these sounds are nothing out of the ordinary, they are sometimes indicators of a serious problem.
That’s right; you can tell something is wrong with your water softener from the sound it makes. Recognizing what sound indicates a problem is important because it could save you from spending months’ worth of effort and money on repairs.
A water softener runs multiple cycles, creating a continuous cacophony. So there’s nothing to worry about if your water softener is noisy. But now and then, you hear an unfamiliar sound and go, “huh, is that normal?”
It’s especially more concerning if the sounds you hear are during regeneration. This is because regeneration is one of the most important processes in water softening, so a sudden sound is more than concerning.
Sadly, most owners don’t know what regeneration normally sounds like, so it’s hard to tell if something’s wrong. This is why I’ll be discussing sounds regeneration should and shouldn’t make; and how to tell if there’s something wrong.
A water softener continuously emits some form of sound, so it’s possible to confuse the normal from the concerning one.
Regeneration is a simple but lengthy process, so you’ll hear various sounds for at least a couple of hours. A hum there, a gurgle here; they’re all part of regeneration.
But let’s discuss these sounds in detail so you at least know what regeneration should sound like:
The most common sound heard during regeneration is humming/buzzing. The hum or buzz sound comes from the main motor, which controls the water softener and its cycle.
It’s normal to hear a dull lull from the water softener, even when regeneration is complete. This is because lull/buzz/hum indicates the motor is running, which is a good sign.
The motor hums/lulls the entire time it’s on, so you’ll hear the light rhythm throughout the day. However, irregularities or sudden jumps in the hum/buzz can cause concern. I’ll discuss this in detail later.
You’ll frequently hear light sloshing as if some liquid is thrown around in a container. Don’t worry; this sound is completely normal and indicates the softener is doing its job.
The brine tank is the most important part of a softener because it enables ion exchange. The water softener makes a sloshing when the salt moves from the brine tank.
Hearing a sloshing during regeneration is good, and I’ll even say it’s important because it’s a sign that the brine tank has a healthy salt level and is working perfectly.
You’ll hear a distinctly similar sound to when you flush the toilet. As gross as it sounds, hearing flushing is normal, so there is no need to freak out.
Regeneration is basically the water softener bathing the resin bead bed, so it’s a healthy sign to hear flushing.
The salt solution from the brine tank washes the resin beads for renewal; the frequent dipping and rinsing of the resin bead bed in the brine creates a flushing sound.
Although it takes a bit to get used to the flushing sound of a softener, it’s much more concerning if you don’t hear it. A flushing sound during regeneration indicates the salt level is healthy and regeneration is happening smoothly.
It’s important to remember that these sounds are common, and there are numerous that I haven’t discussed yet. Although these common sounds are normal, hearing irregularities or not hearing them at all is a sign of concern.
Regeneration isn’t a disturbingly noisy process, but many sounds can garb together and confuse people. It’s important to tell apart the normal sounds from the abnormal ones so you don’t have to spend money and time on a long-term repair in the future.
Let’s discuss how to distinguish good sounds from bad ones.
A water softener makes a few sounds commonly during regeneration, so there’s not much to worry about if you’re hearing them. However, many common sounds can become abnormal, so knowing what sound is bad and good is important.
The trick to distinguishing sound is observing the rhythm; all normal sounds follow a specific pattern, so there’s no problem as long as they’re in flow. However, a sudden change of rhythm, weird switches, or halts in the sounds may indicate a problem.
The motor of the softener hums or buzzes all the time, so it’s nothing concerning. But the hum/buzz is supposed to be smooth and in flow, so hearing a sudden stop indicates a problem.
The hum/buzz will suddenly drop if the motor turns off. The motor turning off during regeneration is concerning, so you should look into it or call a professional if it happens.
Changes in the volume may also indicate a problem. A hum/buzz louder than usual might mean the motor is exerting itself, while a quieter sound isn’t concerning unless you can’t hear it at all.
A sloshing/splashing sound during backwash cycles, but hearing it when the softener isn’t regenerating suggests a problem. Typically, the softener sloshes if there’s air in the resin tank. However, it might also mean that you need to adjust the pressure tank’s air pressure.
A flush means your water softener is successfully regenerating, so it’s one of the few sounds you should be happy to hear.
However, not hearing a flush when you know the softener has begun its regeneration means it’s not rinsing the resin beads properly. If this happens, you should call a professional or contact the water softener supplier.
Water softeners are supposed to last at least a few years, so it’s concerning to hear weird sounds.
It’s mostly easy to solve a clog or a simple malfunction if you know how to spot it. Even the simplest malfunction can cause long-term damage if you don’t know how to recognize it, so paying attention to the tiniest details is important.
You might hear some unusual sounds from the water softener during regeneration. Not all unusual sounds are troubling, but it’s best to keep an ear out for:
A water softener will emit a long high-pitch sound if there’s a clogged valve. Water softeners use a combination of valves to control the flow of water and minerals removed, and it’s crucial they work properly.
Too much mineral buildup can clog a valve, stopping it.
Clogged valves prevent the softener from working and may even cause permanent damage. You must be able to instantly tell if there’s something wrong with the valves.
One of the biggest signs of a clogged valve is a high-pitch stretch, almost as if something metallic is being dragged on the floor. It can also sound like a high-pitch screeching.
Unusual squeaks from a water softener also indicate a problem with the valves. Some valves can rust from the mineral buildup, so they’ll squeak when moving. You can solve this easily by cleaning the tanks and valves properly.
Sometimes, you’ll also hear a squeak if the gears have a problem. You’re supposed to adjust the gear according to the hardness of the water level. The harder the water, the higher you’re supposed to move the gears.
The softener works according to the water level, so you won’t get the desired results if you don’t adjust the gears correctly. This can impact the quality of the water softener, reducing its lifespan.
Sometimes, damage to the gears can automatically adjust the water to the wrong level. It’s important to assess the situation before the gears stop working altogether.
You can tell the gears are cracked or damaged if the softener begins to squeak. Squeaks, squeals, or similar high-pitched sounds indicate damage to the gears.
Have you heard a loud metallic clunk or bang from your water softener? Clunks or bangs indicate a serious underlying problem with the water softener, so it’s best to call a specialist if you hear them.
Unfortunately, you can’t single out the cause because water softeners can clunk or bang if there’s a problem with the motor, gears, valves, or other components.
You can prolong damage to the softener while trying to figure out where the sound is coming from, so it’s best to contact a specialist.
Hearing moans or groans typically suggest there’s a problem with the gears. You can replace the gear to see if the sound goes away.
Contact a specialist if the sound persists and you can’t tell from where it’s coming.
I’ve discussed some of the most common and unusual sounds, but let’s look into a few others. Some of these sounds are normal, while others indicate a problem:
It’s normal to hear sounds similar to water flowing. Water-flowing sounds indicate the softener is regenerating successfully and water is simply moving from the tanks to the pipes.
Don’t worry if you hear a whirr that’s creepily similar to a flying insect; that’s just the machinery of the water softener working. The motor and other parts (including the main control) make a low whirring sound when they’re on, so it’s a relief if you hear it.
A water softener regenerates by backwashing, sending water to the resin tank, and reversing the flow to remove the impurities from the resin beads. The softener will make a rushing or gurgling sound during the first backwash cycle.
The softener will gush loudly when the control valve forces water at a high pressure toward the resin beads. This is a normal sound and typically happens during fast rinses.
Water softeners will make a trickling sound during a slow rinse when the control valve moves the water slowly toward the beads. You can also hear trickling during brine draw when removed minerals flush down the drain and exit the softener.
Draining often accompanies trickling during the brine draw, so it’s a normal sound.
There are a few reasons why the softener hisses, but they’re all signs of an underlying problem.
A softener may hiss if there’s a problem in the pressure setting; this hissing normally goes away when you adjust the pressure, so it’s not too serious.
However, a softener might also hiss when it’s working with a broken valve or has excess material buildup. Although these problems are simple to resolve, they can reduce a softener’s lifespan if not readily investigated.
Finally, a softener has built-in alarms that beep or ring to let you know there’s something wrong. The alarm rings/beeps mostly when the salt level is low, but modern models might also have alarms for other problems.
I’ve discussed the good and bad sounds, but here’s a quick overview for you:
|Sounds||Normal or Abnormal?||Source||Indications||What to Do|
|Hum or buzz||Normal||The main motor||The motor is working fine||Nothing to worry about|
|Sloshing||Normal||Brine or main tank||Regeneration is going smoothly||Nothing to worry about|
|Flushing||Normal||Resin/mineral tank||Brine is washing the resin beads||Nothing to worry about|
|High-pitch stretches||Abnormal||Valves||Valves are clogged||Check and change the valves|
|Squeaks||Abnormal||Valves or gears||The valves or clogged, or the gears are cracked||Check and replace the valves and gears.|
|Clunks or bangs||Abnormal||Unspecified||The problem might be unspecified||Call a specialist|
|Moans or groans||Abnormal||Gears||The gears might be cracked||Replace the gears and call a specialist|
|Water flowing||Normal||Tank and pipes||The softened water is being transported||Nothing to worry about|
|Whirring||Normal||General machinery||The motor and control valve are working||Nothing to worry about|
|Rushing or gurgling||Normal||Resin and brine tank||Regeneration is taking a backwash cycle||Nothing to worry about|
|Loud gushes||Normal||Resin tank||The softener is doing a fast rinse||Nothing to worry about|
|Trickling||Normal||Resin tank or brine tank||The softener is doing a slow rinse or a brine draw||Nothing to worry about|
|Draining||Normal||Brine tank and drain||The softener is drawing the brine||Nothing to worry about|
|Hissing||Abnormal||Pressure setting or Valves||The pressure isn’t adjusted correctly. There’s a broken valve, or the softener has excess mineral buildup||Adjust the pressure. Check the valves and remove mineral buildup. Call a specialist if the problem persists.|
|Alarms||Abnormal||Softener||The salt level is low, or the softener requires repair||Check the salt level in the brine tank. Call a professional if alarms persist.|
How to Troubleshoot Regeneration Sounds?
Now that you know what sounds are concerning, let’s look into a few easy troubleshooting steps. You should take these steps when you hear a concerning sound before calling a specialist:
Most abnormal sounds come from broken valves or cracked gears, so your first step should be to check the brine and resin tank.
It’s quite common for both tanks to have a minor malfunction; they frequently handle large amounts of salt and minerals, so it’s easy to crack a gear or clog a valve due to buildup.
Most abnormal sounds from the tanks go away if you turn off the softener, thoroughly clean it and restart it. However, you may need to contact a professional if the sounds persist even after rebooting the softener.
Sometimes, you’ll have to check other parts before requesting assistance.
The softener will ring an alarm or make weird noises if there’s a problem with the system settings, so you should check them. Wrong settings make it impossible for the softener to work properly, so it’ll trigger an alarm or try working on its own, causing weird sounds.
Checking the control head for damages or wrong settings will tell you what to do; you can switch the settings or call for assistance.
As I said before, the brine and resin tank can easily get dirty from large amounts of minerals, so it’s easy for a valve to clog. Cleaning and replacing all system components after hearing a weird sound typically makes it go away.
You can call for assistance if the sounds persist even after you’ve inspected and done everything.
Many people make the mistake of ignoring unusual sounds coming from a water softener because they assume it’s nothing serious and will go away on its own. While there’s a slight chance this could happen, you should never ignore unusual or weird sounds because delaying this could worsen the situation.
There are other reasons you should take weird sounds seriously; ignoring and delaying inspection can affect the softener’s lifespan, so you’ll get stuck with an appliance that no longer works. It can also put a dent in your wallet.
Here are a few more reasons why it’s important to immediately address these sounds:
Weird sounds usually mean there’s something wrong with your water softener. A water softener will work despite its current problem, so it’ll quickly exhaust its machinery and system.
Such exhaustion can damage the machinery to the point of no return, so your softener will frequently break down and stop working efficiently if not checked in time.
It’s important to address any unusual sounds coming from a softener because you risk losing its working efficiency if you don’t. A timely inspection protects your system and keeps the softener running smoothly.
A water softener that works with malfunctions or potential damage will only harm itself more. A softener can’t keep running with damaged parts for more than a few weeks, so you’re looking at an appliance that will permanently break down soon.
Timely inspection and immediately addressing concerns will save your water softener, so paying attention is necessary.
Sometimes, mineral buildup or cracked gears prevent water softeners from working correctly. The softener will work despite these problems, but it won’t guarantee the quality it originally promised.
The softener won’t be able to soften your water to a great extent, which could be dangerous because drinking hard water excessively can put your health at risk. It’s best to address any sounds and take the proper steps to avoid risking your health.
I’ll be blunt here; ignoring potential damages to your softener will only hurt you, so it’s best to pay attention when you sense something’s wrong.
You risk losing your water softener altogether if you force it to work with potential damages. You’ll either have to pay a lot to repair the softener or buy a new one, which will upset your budget, so it’s best to take action where you can.
Conclusion | What Does Water Softener Regeneration Sound Like?
Water softeners work continuously, so it’s not unusual to hear a sound or two when they’re regenerating. Most sounds heard during regeneration are a sign your softener is working as it should.
However, a water softener might make an unusual sound if there’s a problem. Clogged or broken valves, cracked gears, excessive mineral buildup, damage to the machinery, and other serious problems might cause a water softener to make a noise.
It’s best to assess the situation immediately and inspect the softener when you hear an unusual or weird noise. Most of the time, the problem goes away with a general cleanup or part replacement. Yet, some serious damages or problems might require professional assistance.
You shouldn’t ignore any sounds you hear from your water softener because delaying repairs can affect its working efficiency and drastically reduce its lifespan. You’ll be forced to spend hundreds of dollars on repairs or replacement if you delay inspection, so it’s best to pay attention the minute you hear an odd sound.