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One of the most common water quality issues that a homeowner encounters is hard water. Hard water can ruin your appliances, dry out your skin and hair, and leave filmy soap scum across your kitchen and bathroom. Considering that 85% of the water in the United States is hard, homeowners should definitely consider getting a water softener.
When you invest in a water softener, you won’t have to worry about ruining your faucet heads, water heaters, or your skin. But how does a water softener work? And what does it actually do?
Continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
What Is a Water Softener?
Hard water is primarily made up of calcium and magnesium mineral. A water softener is an appliance that uses the process of ion exchange to remove those minerals that make water hard.
What Are the Components of a Water Softener?
The primary components of a water softener are the mineral tank, where the resin is, as well as the control valve, which tells us when to regenerate. That valve is also counting how much water goes through it because these are demand-initiated controllers.
The mineral tank is where the hard water gets softened. The water supply line moves the hard water into the mineral tank. The water then seeps through a bed of resin beads and magnesium and calcium ions are extracted.
The water then leaves the tank soft and flows into your pipes and out to your appliances.
As time goes on, the ability of the resin to effectively soften water is reduced. Before the beads lose all of their effectiveness to remove magnesium and calcium ions, the control valve will automatically begin a regeneration cycle.
The maximum capacity of the resin beads is pre-programmed into the onboard computer of the control valve.
There is also the brine tank. This component helps the water softening system with regeneration. The brine tank contains a highly concentrated solution of salt that is able to restore the positive charge of the resin beads.
Salt is added manually to the brine tank in the form of blocks or pellets. These pellets dissolve in water at the bottom of the brine tank. When the control valve recognizes that the softening capacity of the resin beads is diminishing, the heavy brine solution is removed from the tank and flushed through the resin that’s in the mineral tank.
If the brine tank runs out of the salt, then the water softener will no longer be effective.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
Water softeners work on a principle called ion exchange. It involves a tank full of resin beads, with each bead being charged with a sodium ion. As hardness minerals flow through the tank, they are currently in an ionic form.
They will be attracted to the resin beads. The resin bead will grab hold of the minerals and get rid of the sodium ion. As the water flows through this column of resin, it’s removing all of the hardness minerals.
Co-Current Regeneration Cycle
During a co-current regeneration cycle, the brine solution goes into the mineral tank in the same direction as the service flow. This solution will flow down the depth of the bed of resin beads and the ion exchange process will occur again. Except, this time, it occurs in reverse.
As the brine flows over the beads, the beads are forced by the salt to release the calcium and magnesium ions in exchange for the sodium ion. As the brine flows through the resin, an increasingly-concentrated amount of hardness minerals forms and passes through the entire system.
As more hardness materials are forced through the bed by the brine, continuous exchange and re-exchange of regeneration ions and minerals takes place. By the time the water leaves the tank, the strength of the solution is greatly decreased.
During this kind of regeneration cycle, the highest charged beads will be found at the top of the tank. This type of regeneration uses more salt and water to complete the process of regeneration than counter-current.
Counter-Current Regeneration Cycle
In this kind of regeneration cycle, water goes into the tank through the bottom of the mineral tank. The countercurrent cycle pushes the brine up the resin bed, starting at the bottom where the resin beads are the least depleted.
By the time the brine reaches the top of the resin beads, it’s less depleted. This kind of regeneration cycle uses much less water and salt than co-current cycling. It also spreads the recharging sodium ions out more equitably.
This is an extremely efficient way to soften water.
Is Soft Water Safe to Drink?
Drinking softened water can sometimes be good for you, but it can also sometimes be bad for you. That’s because some types of treatment systems can actually increase the amount of sodium in your water.
The Importance of Knowing About Water Softeners
A water softener can be an effective way to remove harmful minerals from your water. This can in turn lead to more efficient household appliances an also softer skin and hair.
However, it’s crucial that you understand the answer to the question, “How does a water softener work?” so that you know what kind of system you’re getting. That’s because an ineffective system could end leading to water that’s more harmful than helpful.
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