Softened and filtered water can be great for drinking, bathing, and general purposes inside your home. Did you know that it might not be the best for your lawn, garden, and pools? A water bypass valve on your whole house filter can save the life of your system, provide uninterrupted water access, and allow you to use it for your garden without harming plants or soil.
- 1 What is a Water Filter Bypass Valve?
- 2 Why Use a Water Filter Bypass Valve
- 2.1 Plants and Soil Don’t Like Sodium in Softened Water
- 2.2 Filling Outdoor Pools and Hot Tubs With Softened Water Can Cause Erosion
- 2.3 A Bypass Makes Repairs and Regular Maintenance Easier
- 2.4 A Water Bypass can be a Better Option than Installing a New Water Line
- 2.5 You Might Not Need Both a Water Softener Unit and a Reverse Osmosis (RO) Whole House Water Filter
- 3 Where to Get a Water Filter Bypass Valve
- 4 Which Bypass Valve Does Your Home Need?
- 5 How to Install a Water Filter Bypass Valve
- 6 DIY Water Bypass Install Instructions
- 6.1 Tools and Parts to Install Your Bypass Valve
- 6.2 1. Choose Your Location
- 6.3 2. Assemble a Practice Run
- 6.4 3. Mark Your Pipes
- 6.5 4. Turn Off Your Water
- 6.6 5. Clean and Prep Your Existing Pipe
- 6.7 6. Cut Your Existing Pipe
- 6.8 7. Connect Your Valve
- 6.9 8. Turn Your Water On and Test it
- 7 Final Thoughts on How to Use You Bypass Valve
What is a Water Filter Bypass Valve?
A bypass valve might not look like much, but the small devices divert water quickly and easily around filtration and softener systems. You attach them to your pipes that enter your water softener unit or your whole house water filter.
A turn of a knob, press of a button, or changing the position of your 3-valve bypass allows you to shut off the water without removing your access in the rest of your home.
However, this water will be unfiltered, so be prepared with a secondary filter for drinking water or bottled water.
Why Use a Water Filter Bypass Valve
Plants and Soil Don’t Like Sodium in Softened Water
Plants typically don’t thrive with high amounts of salt, which your softened water contains.
If possible, using rainwater barrels or buckets to regularly collect rainfall is best. Few areas restrict their use for garden, lawn, and for houseplants.
Filling Outdoor Pools and Hot Tubs With Softened Water Can Cause Erosion
Softened water interferes with the pH balance in swimming pools and hot tubs. Using certain types of softened water can cause the water to damage the pool itself. Over time, your water can eat away at concrete and liners.
Maintaining a proper pH balance is a large responsibility pool and hot tub owners must tackle. Using softened water will make your job harder than it needs to be, and it requires introducing more chemicals to create that delicate balance.
Plus, it puts unnecessary strain on your softener or filtration unit than needed, which could lead to more repairs, recharging, or more frequent filter changing.
A Bypass Makes Repairs and Regular Maintenance Easier
The third reason is for troubleshooting, maintenance, and repairs to the system itself.
Without a bypass valve, you have to shut off water to the entire property in order to swap out filters monthly, send out for recharges, or make any repairs.
If you have to order a part, you could be without water for days or weeks while you wait for it to arrive.
Some models require regular recharging. You take out the part, ship it to the company, they recharge it, then send it back. That could take close to a month with shipping times. That’s a long time to be without water when you could simply bypass your system.
A Water Bypass can be a Better Option than Installing a New Water Line
Another reason is that a bypass valve is cheaper and less labor and time intensive to install than a second unfiltered water line and meter to your pool, garden, or for general outdoor use.
A new water line isn’t a simple DIY job either. It requires permits, and you’ll need to enlist the help of professionals. The labor and equipment costs alone will generally price this option out of many homeowner’s budgets when compared to a bypass.
You Might Not Need Both a Water Softener Unit and a Reverse Osmosis (RO) Whole House Water Filter
A few cases might exist where you will you find you really do require both. Most households will use one or the other. However, a common marketing ploy is to sell complete systems that feature a water softener unit, reverse osmosis, and a whole house filtration system.
You’re likely going to dump bags of softener in the system monthly, depending on how much water your family uses. The problem with all-in-one units or using two separate units is the RO process will remove the softener from the water.
Why do people sell them together? According to sellers, the parts in your RO work better if the water entering them is soft.
We couldn’t find scientific evidence to support this popular theory, but we believe you should consider all angles.
Being better informed gives you more freedom over your water choices. If the water quality is so poor that it damages pipes, then maybe you should consider a dual system. Otherwise you’re throwing money down the drain on a system and the monthly water treatments.
Where to Get a Water Filter Bypass Valve
You can purchase a water filter bypass kit or individual valve at most online retailers or home improvement stores. For the best results, try to locate parts made by your system or certified aftermarket parts.
Common Styles of Bypass Valves
- Push to Bypass: press a button to divert water
- Turn to Bypass: turn a lever to divert water
- 3-Valve Bypass Operation: uses two connections to close access and a third connection serves as the bypass
Some of the top available bypass valves are as follows:
Which Bypass Valve Does Your Home Need?
Popular Brands of Water Bypass Valves
Some water softener units have built-in bypasses, but you might want to install a secondary one just in case the first fails. If your unit has one already, you should read the owner’s manual for instructions on how to use the bypass, troubleshooting, and maintenance related information.
The video below displays some popular models and bypass systems.
How to Install a Water Filter Bypass Valve
As previously stated, major water softener and whole house water filter brands generally have secondary bypass valves built in. Others come with kits with some included parts, or they offer a set of instructions on how to build the bypass system based on additional materials you’ll have to purchase.
Before You Begin
You will decide on the type of valve and system to install. We shared popular styles and brands above, but your choice should fit your needs and existing equipment if applicable.
Your Softener Unit Has a Built-in Valve, But You Don’t Want to Use It
The alternative to the factory-installed valve is to build your own 3-way valve frame using new and existing pipe in your home. The most common method is to build a 3-way frame as seen in the video below.
The pros and cons of this project do require your consideration.
It could require purchasing tools and basic soldering or sweating skills, and it takes far more work to build than simply connecting your system to your pre-existing line.
The upside is that you’re free to place it anywhere beyond the system in your existing lines. This allows homeowners with less available space more freedom in where they choose to locate it.
Choosing Your Pipe Material
You also need to choose the type of pipe you’ll use to connect to your existing line.
Keep in mind some housing codes limit you to copper, depending on where you install the system. You should check with your local permit office before purchasing materials.
The video below explains the differences in popular pipe materials, their uses, and includes a rough price estimate on PEX, copper, and CPVC.
Choosing Your Fitting Material and Type
The next video talks about various fittings used for water lines. If you decide on copper pipes, you might want to choose that material for fittings too. However, the video does offer alternative methods that require no soldering.
If you would rather solder your copper pipes, this video tutorial offers you excellent tips for connecting your pipes and fittings from start to finish. It also provides you with a rundown on common tools and their uses.
DIY Water Bypass Install Instructions
Below is a general guide suitable for intermediate level plumbing knowledge. Always refer to your whole house filter or water softener manufacturer’s instructions.
Tools and Parts to Install Your Bypass Valve
- Pipe cutter
- Lead-free solder
- Reaming tool
- Bypass valve
- Extra pipe if needed for building a frame
This list varies depending on the type of valve you’re installing and whether your system came with the valve prebuilt.
1. Choose Your Location
Make sure the site is easily accessible and close to your shutoff valve if possible.
2. Assemble a Practice Run
Also called dry-fitting, you will pre-assemble your parts before you begin. If a part is missing, you don’t want to be in the middle of the job when you discover it.
3. Mark Your Pipes
This step gives weight to the old adage of measuring twice and cutting once. Valve length’s vary, but you can typically find exact measurements in your instruction manual.
If you’ve bought a secondhand unit, you can contact the manufacturer. Provide them with the model number. They should be able to assist you.
4. Turn Off Your Water
This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s a crucial step during the installation process. Be sure to have water on hand before you begin for drinking and flushing toilets if other people will be in the home. Expect the job to take at least two or more hours.
5. Clean and Prep Your Existing Pipe
This step is crucial for the health of your copper pipes. Clean your pipe before you cut.
Use sand paper and a reaming tool to clean and smooth copper pipes and remove burrs. Leftover debris inside pipes can cause issues years later, such as leaks and corrosion.
6. Cut Your Existing Pipe
Following your manufacturer’s instructions, cut into your existing pipe. Have a bucket handy to catch the excess water.
Your manufacturer’s guidelines will ensure that you remove enough pipe for the proper sized fittings, bypass, and filter. In most cases, you’ll want to cut as close to the main shutoff valve as possible. However, this isn’t always possible.
7. Connect Your Valve
Slide a nut, then compression rings onto each side of the existing pipe. Hook in your valve and tighten the nuts. Repeat on both sides.
If you decide on no-solder connections, you should be able to attach the pipes that feed into your system and test it.
Soldering Your Pipes
You will solder your pipes in place after attaching the valve, repeating on both sides. The video from This Old House provides a basic idea, but it doesn’t provide the detail you might need if you’re new to soldering.
We prefer the video we previously shared to guide you through the process of soldering your connection and fittings.
8. Turn Your Water On and Test it
At this point, you’re safe to test your connection and valve. If leaks occur, you can shut off the water supply and begin troubleshooting. Work backward from the source of the leak and be sure to tighten each pipe and connector.
Final Thoughts on How to Use You Bypass Valve
We hope you enjoyed this guide on installing your water bypass valve. While we wrote the guide initially as an intermediate project, we rounded up plenty of tips and tutorials that will allow a beginner to gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence required to tackle installing their new whole house filter or water softener unit.
Remember, your bypass valve allows you maintain a supply of water during repairs and maintenance. Unfiltered and un-softened water keeps your garden and soil healthy and extends the life of pools and hot tubs. Installing and using your valve is an easy solution for all three issues.