Home Water Softener - How Does a Water Softener Work
How Do Home Water Softeners Work?
Home water softener systems are pressurized water conditioning devices in which hard water is passed through a bed of cation exchange media for the purpose of exchanging the objectionable calcium and magnesium ions, which makes up the total hardness in your water, for sodium or potassium ions. This process results in softened water, which is more desirable for home use.
Water softeners are rated in terms of grains of capacity. This capacity refers to the ability of the unit to remove the stated number of grains of hardness from a supply of water. The capacity of a water softener depends on the amount of salt used to regenerate it, plus a variety of other design factors such as regeneration flow rates.
How long does a water softener last? Good home water softener system, such as a Fleck water softener
, will last many years. Home water softener systems that were installed in the 1980's are still in operation, and require little maintenance, other than replenishing the salt.
Basic Mechanics of How Home Water Softeners Work
- The body of a water softener is a tank filled with resin beads that are covered with sodium ions. As hard water passes through, the resin beads act like a magnet, attracting the calcium and magnesium ions, or hardness, in exchange for the sodium ions.
- Eventually the resin beads become saturated with mineral ions and have to be "re-charged". This process is called regeneration, and is conducted by the control valve on the top of the tank. The control valve is the brains of the system.
- During the regeneration process, a strong brine solution is flushed through the resin tank, bathing the resin beads in a stream of sodium ions which replace the accumulated calcium and magnesium ions.
- Softened water is delivered through out your home.
- The brine solution, carrying the displaced calcium and magnesium ions, is then flushed down the drain by fresh water. The regenerated resin beads can be used again and again.
Salt is added to the brine tank when a home water softener regenerates. Higher salt settings result in greater softening capacity up to a point. Typically, water softeners are checked once a month and is recommended that the salt level be kept at least half-full at all times.
Why Do I Need a Home Water Softener?
Home water softening systems offer many benefits for your household. Below are a few common advantages of using a home water softener.
Household Cleaning Products: Hard water impairs the cleansing strength of detergents. Conditioned water delivers greater washing power by reducing soap requirements up to 70%. Softening also protects the mechanics of your washing machine at the same time.
Laundry and Garment Care: Your clothes will be softer, cleaner, whiter and colors will be much brighter. Using conditioned soft water also increases the life of clothing, towels, and linens up to 33%
Dishwashing and Glassware: Dishes and glassware will clean easier and be spot-free, without the gray film glasses get when etched by mineral laden water. Additionally, your hands will feel softer and look better, as conditioned soft water is much easier on your skin. It will also extend the life of your dishwasher.
Bathing and Showering: In the bathroom, your soap and shampoo will lather better and with less effort. Your hair and skin will feel noticeably cleaner, softer, and not as dry. Also, there will be noticeably less soap scum, grime, and/or mineral deposits to clean off sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets.
Scale Prevention on Plumbing and Piping: Over a period of time, scale forms to clog your plumbing. As the pipes clog, water flow is restricted and water pressure can be reduced dramatically. Water softening reduces these problems significantly.
Stain Eliminator: There will be no more unsightly rings, stains or mineral build-up to darken your bathtubs, showers and sinks, and softening will preserve the beauty of your faucet fixtures.
What is Hard Water?
Almost all of the water found in the United States is hard water, to varying degrees. Hard water is water that is contaminated with dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, lead and limestone that can have a negative impact on your health, your household appliances and your pocketbook.
More About Hard Water
Just like when purchasing any water filtration system, when considering a water softener for your home, it is important to know the hardness levels and composition of your water. Using our Hard Water Test Strips, you can quickly evaluate your water to ensure proper sizing when selecting a water softener.
Softening will not deprive your drinking water of essential minerals. Home water softener systems only reduce minerals that cause hard water, such as calcium, magnesium and iron.
Buying a Home Water Softener Online
Shopping for water softeners on the internet can be an overwhelming task, but there are a few options that should be factored in before deciding which system you order, and who you order it from.Bypass Valve, Stainless Steel or Plastic:
A bypass valve is always a good idea in case there is an issue with your softener. You will still have water available to the house while the softener is being fixed. The stainless steel bypass utilizes a rubber boot which may restrict the flow, as opposed to the noryl plastic bypass valve.Brine well:
The brine well is a cylindrical barrier that keeps the salt or potassium chloride away from the safety float and air check valve which allows them to operate without any obstructions.Brine Tank Safety Float:
A safety float is included inside your brine tank to ensure that salt water does not overflow onto your floors if the injectors on your control valve get blocked up.Grid plate (salt platform):
A grid plate is placed at the bottom of the brine tank. The grid plate acts as a tool to displace the water in order for more water to be placed into the brine tank to ensure that enough brine solution is available during the regeneration process.
Water Softener Calculator
If total hardness is expressed in mg/L or PPM, divide by 17.1 to convert to GPG. Use 60 gallons per person for normal usage per person, or 75 gallons per person for high usage. Days to regeneration ranges from 3 days to allow for reserve capacity between regenerations, or 7 days to limit regeneration to once a week.
General Residential Water Softener Installation Checklist
- Adding Salt: Ensure that the salt level in the brine tank is always above the water line.
- Water Pressure: Water pressure range of 20-125 psi is required for regeneration valve to operate effectively.
- Electrical Facilities: An uninterrupted alternating current (A/C) supply is required. Please make sure voltage supply is compatible with unit before installation.
- Existing Plumbing: Condition of existing plumbing should be free from lime and iron buildup. Replace piping that has heavy lime and/or iron build-up. If piping is clogged with iron, install a separate iron filter unit ahead of the water softener. Location of softener, drain and brine tank: Locate the softener close to a clean working drain and connect according to local plumbing codes. The brine tank should be located within 20 feet of the water softener. Drain cannot be elevated more than 36 inches or exceed 20 feet in length.
- Bypass Valves: Always provide for the installation of a bypass valve if unit is not equipped with one. If valve is leaking, turn bypass from In Service to the Bypass Position. NOTE: lf the valve continues to leak after turning the bypass to bypass position, shut off the main water line and call your local service technician (preferably the one who installed the system) IMMEDIATELY .
Water Softener Repair Troubleshooting Guide
|Water Softener Problem||Possible Repair and Solution|
|Control valve fails to regenerate||Check for power outage and verify unit is plugged in. lf this does not work contact your local water service technician (preferably the one who installed the system)|
|Water does not feel or appear soft softener||Check salt level in brine tank & maintain salt level above water level. If problem still exists contact your local water service technician.|
|Water Softening System uses to much salt||Contact your local water service technician.|
|Loss of Water pressure|
|Iron in conditioned water|
|excessive water in brine tank|
|other problems with water softener|
|Power Outage||Reset the Time of Day in the event of a power outage/failure. See "Setting the Time of Day" page.|