When asking if all water softeners need a drain, the answer is yes. How we get to the yes is a different matter. This is because there are different types of water filters that can help act as water softeners for your house that help prevent scaling in your pipes with no need for a drain.
That is the very small category of water softeners since all other types need drains and drain hoses to work. Make sure it is all installed properly.
The wrong setup or misunderstanding of how water softeners need drains can cause headaches and added costs that no one wants. We will break down the three main parts of water softeners systems with the drain lines, the drain, and the air gap in further detail and shed some light on frequently asked questions.
Table of contents
Why Does a Water Softener System Need a Drain Hose/Line?
A drain hose or line is required to properly take care of the spent water that is being discharged. It allows for the water to go to a drain without issues arising and allows for less maintenance.
Without a drain hose/line you will have problems with discharge and overflow. The drain hose is how the spent water (brine) from the water softener can be discharged without issues arising.
If you were to only have a water line feeding hard water to the water softener, you would have either water overflow all over your floor or water line issues. Waterline issues would occur because of spent water trying to go back into the hard water line potentially.
Type of Drain Required
When getting a drain and drain line setup, there are some specifics to keep in mind to have it run smoothly. The drain line size that is considered the best practice would be a ½” polypropylene drain pipe.
To go along with this, the best drain options will be a laundry tray, a floor drain, or a properly trapped outlet (an example would be a dry well in the lawn). Make sure to check local laws if there are restrictions on drains you can use.
This is what some will call a utility sink, laundry tub, etc. When draining into a laundry tray, it functions as an air gap for you to where you do not need the air gap anymore.
It is versatile and useful for other reasons as well and not just for use as a drain for water softeners. If you have space and time, it may be worth looking into getting a laundry tray installed.
If you have a floor drain, then this is the most common drain that people will drain the water softeners into.
You will need to check codes for your local area to make sure it is allowed, unfortunately. This is due to most of them going to sewer systems. And if they do not go to sewer systems, they can go to sump pumps, waterways that go to the ground outside, etc. It depends on how the water systems have been built in your cities and neighborhoods.
Properly Trapped Outlets
If you are tying directly to an outlet instead of having a drain line, you will need a properly trapped outlet (commonly known in plumbing as p-traps).
This is to keep sewer smells or anything from coming backward in the plumbing. For outlets, you can tie it to a sewer line or create a dry well in the yard with a p-trap.
If using a dry well for the trapped outlets it would need to be under the freeze line (if applicable for your area) and need to be big enough storage capabilities for estimated weekly water output.
This means if you have a system regenerate once a week at 50 gallons of water used, you will need to have at least a 55-gallon drum if not two, to ensure the water has time to leach into the ground between uses.
The last thing you will need to do is get a soil test. This is to make sure that it is not going to be put into clay soil, or gets put deep enough so that it is able to leach water into the ground properly.
Where Do I Drain My Water Softener?
For draining your water softener, you will be looking at a couple of different options. These options do limit where you are able to have the water softener because of regulations in most areas to protect a community’s water from getting contaminated.
The locations to drain them will be to a floor drain, a washing machine, a utility sink, or a sump pit. Keep in mind if you drain it into a sump pit it can void warranties on your sump pump.
How to Install a Water Softener Drain Line
When you are installing a drain line for a water softener, you will need to have two lines.
The first one will be installed to the control valve so that the backwash water is disposed of during the regeneration cycle.
When that line is finished being installed, you will want to connect the other tube to the brine tank and led to the drain that is being used for the water softener. This line will serve as an overflow drain.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answered
How Often Does a Water Softener Drain?
A water softener will change how much it drains depending on how much water you and your family use.
It depends on the hardness of your water and the capacity of your resin tank as well. On average, every three days and up to a week will be the expected time-frequency for how often the water softener will drain.
If you have a more efficient softener, then it will be closer to every 3 days timespan.
If you have an older system, your capacity for spent water will go down, and it will need to regenerate more often, so with an older system, you may have it regenerate multiple times a day.
Can I Drain my Water Softener Outside?
It will depend on what type of laws are in place for your local areas. Some allow it still, and some do not. If it is allowed, you will not be able to grow plants or grass where the discharge is sent. The discharge will make the soil unable to support plant life for most areas in the United States.
The way to do it without killing the lawn is going to require digging a dry well in your yard. This will have the discharge be sent further down into the ground to not hurt any plant life in your yard. Installing a dry well is the only option that does not need to be checked for local laws.
Should A Water Softener Drain into the Septic System?
This is another question that depends on what your local laws are. Some allow it and advise it to track the water softener usage.
While others do not allow water softeners to drain into them at all for fear of them causing damage to the septic systems. From all the information that is out there, if that is the easiest location to do the drain install for the spent water will cause negligible effects.
If you have other options available that are not a hindrance at all, it would be suggested to go with those that are more common drain locations with a floor drain or utility sink or laundry tray.
Can I Drain My Water Softener into My Sump Pump?
While this is a viable option with how it will discharge the brine into the yard wherever the sump pump line ends, it is not suggested. This is due to sump pumps not being designed with materials that will hold up to brine water and will deteriorate the sump pump.
It will most likely void any warranties that you have on the sump pump as well. All the negatives that can happen due to using your sump pump to get rid of the brine water from the water softener would suggest that an alternative should be used.
Not all water softeners require a drain, but ones that do not act more like filters than softeners. This means water softeners will require a drain, and with that comes rules and regulations for how drains and drain lines can be set up.
Some areas will allow for discharge in septic systems; some will not. If not, your best options are floor drains, a sump pit, a dry well in your yard outside, or the laundry tray.