How to Tell If Your Water Softener System Control Head Is Working Properly

What You'll Need

The control head of a water softener is basically the air traffic controller of the unit. The control head determines when to run a softener through the cycles needed to clean the resin beads that soften the water. Here are some steps to take to discover whether your softener control head is working the way it should.

Step 1 – Check the Cycles

A control head that is working properly will run the water softener through a series of cycles. First, check to see that the softener is going through its backwash cycle where it reverses the flow of water and drains the debris within. Next, the control head should be activating the regeneration cycle. Also known as the recharge cycle, this phase should pump brine into the resin tank to clean the beads that are in there. This forces calcium and magnesium ions to be knocked off the resin beads and flushed out the drain. Finally, the unit should transition to the rinse cycle. Here hard water is pumped into the resin tank where the sodium ions from the salt become suspended in it as the water softens. A properly functioning control head will cause a water softener to go through each cycle in this order. If the control head is broken, it may skip a cycle or get stuck on one. In the case of the latter problem, the water softener will continue to run without producing any results until the bypass is opened and the softener is unplugged.

Step 2 – Check the Piston

Another easy way to tell if the control head is functioning properly is to examine the piston below it. First, open the bypass valve and turn the dial on the water softener to the back wash cycle. This should keep water from flowing into the unit and release any pressure that has built up inside. Then, using a screwdriver, remove the screws surrounding the control head and lift it straight up to extract it and the valve body below it, this is where the piston is. Finally, slowly turn the dial on the control head while watching the piston. If the control head is working, the piston should smoothly and effortlessly move up and down with the turning of the dial. If the piston sticks or will not move, the control head may be broken.