How a Water Softener Works (Simple Guide)

how a water softener works

Have you ever asked yourself, what is a water softener, why water softener? Or maybe wondered how a water softener works?

A water softener is a water filtration system that consists of a tall, narrow tank, and a short, wide brine tank.

It also has a main valve that connects the appliance to your home plumbing system, and a bypass valve that you can use to do maintenance checks without turning off your home’s water supply.

how water softener works

The main valve connects the appliance to your home plumbing system; it allows salt to flow into the brine tank when you’re using the unit, but not when you’re not using it.

It also features the control panels and timers which allow you to set up your machine based on how many people live in your house and how much water they use every day.

In this article we’ll give you a whole in-depth operation of this amazing system. With a good water softener system in place, you can be certain that your hard water problem is solved. Hence water delivered to you is safe for consumption.

How a Water Softener Works

The process starts when salt is added to the first tank—the brine tank—and then flows through the main valve into the second tank—the resin tank.

how water softener works

The resin tank contains sodium polyphosphate beads that remove calcium and magnesium ions from the softened water as it passes through them.

The resin beads resemble a highly porous skeletal structure and each bead varies in size from 0.3 to 1.2mm, containing about 45% moisture.

When hard water passes through resin beads, the calcium and magnesium ions are absorbed from the water and the sodium or potassium ions are released into your water.

After this process, the drain valve closes and the service valve opens up, allowing the softened water to pass through slots and the valve pushes water to your plumbing pipes that eventually supply water to your home.

As these particles are removed from solution, they accumulate on the surface of each bead until it reaches saturation point and becomes saturated with calcium or magnesium ions at which point it will no longer absorb more of either substance.

When it has reached this maximum point, the regeneration process follows.

Water Softener Regeneration Cycle

water softener regeneration

The regeneration cycle is the process of cleaning your softener’s resin tank.

In most cases, a water softener will use approximately 25 gallons of water to go through a full regeneration cycle.

The first step in this cycle is the backwash cycle. In this step, the valve that supplies water to your house closes and the flow of water is reversed.

This redirects the water flow to the collector and pumps up the beads in your resin tank. This allows for a thorough rinsing of all remaining brine from inside of your resin bed without having any effect on your home’s water pressure.

And then comes the brine draw cycle: The valve stays above and the brine valve opens which then allows the liquid to be pushed to the top of the tank again.

Once there, it flows through those same beads that were just cleaned out by reverse flow, making sure there’s no more sodium in there than necessary—and leaving only pure calcium and magnesium ions behind on top of those beads.

Now it’s time for some serious cleansing! The cyclical motion is then sped up as water is given a good final rinse as it flows from top to bottom of resin tank—which compacts any leftover calcium or magnesium into a dense solid at bottom of resin bed during its high speed passage through tank (and also rinses all remaining traces of brine and calcium and magnesium ion).

Usually, during the regeneration process, there is no supply of soft water, that’s why it’s always advisable to set up your water softener to regenerate at around 2.00 AM when the need for water is minimal or even none in some cases. This will ensure that your water softener will go through the regeneration cycle uninterrupted.

Types of Water Softeners

Water softeners can be used in both residential and commercial environments. There are many different types of water softeners, including;

  • Salt-based systems that use ion exchange resins, which absorb hard minerals from the water.
  • Magnetic or electromagnetic energy fields created by copper coils or magnets.
  • Saltless devices that work on other principles such as electrolysis or reverse osmosis filtering.

Nearly all softeners produce the same results, the only difference being their configuration and the kind of process initiated by them. It can be controlled manually, semi-automatically or fully automated.

Advantages of Water Softeners

salt based water softener

Some people have problems with the idea of buying a water softener for their home, mostly because they think it’s a waste of money.

After all, what’s wrong with taking the extra step of washing your clothes in cold water? Won’t that remove any buildup of minerals from the inside of your pipes and prevent build-up on your fixtures and hot water heater?

Won’t it also prevent mineral spots on glassware, prevent or reduce soap films in sinks, bathtubs and washing machines, and even lengthen the life of some appliances? It certainly will do all those things—but it won’t do them as well as a softener can.

If you’re using a top-loading washing machine at home (which most people are), you may have noticed mineral buildup on your washer’s hoses, valves, and other components.

This is a natural progression; even if you wash your clothes in cold water (or use a “prewash” cycle), detergent still breaks down into a basic salt solution when mixed with water.

When this happens, minerals present in your municipal water supply will cling to the dissolved salts and make their way into your washer. Over time, these minerals will build up inside its various components, causing more wear on certain parts. A damaged washing machine will wear faster and ultimately decrease its lifespan.

If you find yourself needing to clean it more often than recommended, you should install a whole house water softener.

A whole house water softener can help out in all these areas, and it can even save you some money by letting you do more with less, like washing clothes in less time or spending less on detergent!

Disadvantages of Water Softeners

No matter how hard you try to keep your water clean, there are always going to be some traces of minerals in it. Having a water softener installed in your home is a great way to reduce the traces of minerals, the amount of soap, shampoo, and detergents you use.

However water softeners have downsides;

  1. The first downside is that it could actually be bad for your pipes. Hard water naturally deposits calcium and magnesium which over time can lead to hard water buildup in pipes. A water softener removes these minerals but it also removes other minerals like lead and copper. While the amount of these minerals removed is small, over time it can build up in pipes and potentially leach into drinking water. It’s important to check your home’s water quality regularly and get professional testing done each year.
  2. Water softeners can affect the environment because they require high amounts of salt to operate, which ends up getting dumped into lakes and rivers as runoff when they run their regeneration cycles.
  3. The added sodium can also increase the salt levels in drinking water, which is really bad for people with high blood pressure or other health problems related to excess sodium intake. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic , drinking too much salt can contribute to heart disease as well as kidney disease and osteoporosis. For this reason, it’s important not only to have your water tested after installation but also to carefully monitor how much salt you’re consuming on an ongoing basis if you live in a place where you have soft water. Unfortunately, most manufacturers don’t offer filters specifically designed for reducing the level of sodium in water from a water softener, so you’ll probably need to purchase a filter designed for lowering salt levels in food instead.

What is soft water and hard water? What does it taste like? How does it feel?

What is soft water and hard water? What does it taste like? How does it feel?

The hardness of water is how much minerals are in your water. It’s a measurement of how much calcium, magnesium and other mineral ions are dissolved in water.

Water hardness can be classified as: soft water, slightly hard water, moderately hard water and hard water.

If the water tests at 1 GPG (17.1 mg/L) or less, it’s considered soft water. This means that there’s very little calcium and magnesium in the water, which makes it easier to use for washing your clothes, dishes, and brewing coffee.

If the water tests at 1-3. 5 GPG (17.1-60 mg/L) it’s between soft and slightly hard water, and if you have 3. 5-7 GPG (60-120 mg/L) in your water it’s considered moderately hard.

Water with a concentration of 7-10. 5 GPG (120-180 mg/L) is considered hard water because it has a high amount of calcium or magnesium ions in it—and these can be difficult to remove from your pipes!

Hard water has a mineral taste and feel while soft water is tasteless and odorless. If you touch soft or slightly hard water, you may see bubbles or suds because there are no minerals in these types of water to cause sudsing.

Marcus Reynolds
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