How Does a Water Softener Work?

Hard water causes several problems in your home if not attended to in good time. For example, it could lead to the clogging of hot water pipes and calcification of electric kettles. Hard water is also the reason you would need to use an excess amount of soap when doing your laundry. Therefore, it is extremely important to ensure that your home is installed with a water softener. This article highlights the workings of a water softener. By the time you are done reading this article, you are going to be familiar with terms like ion exchange, and regeneration.

Components of a water softener

A typical water softener is comprised of the following components:

  • Resin tank
  • Brine tank
  • Control value and timer

Ion Exchange

A water softener works by doing what is known as ion exchange. This is typically replacing hard minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron with sodium chloride. The valve controls the water that enters the softener and then which leaves it. There are two pipes (inlet and outlet) connected to the water softener. The inlet allows hard water from the house’s main supply to enter the unit for the ion exchange process to begin in the resin tank. The resin tank contains plastic-like beads which are organized in columns known as resin beds. These beads are made of styrene and divinylbenzene and they possess a negative electric charge which serves the role of attracting the positive charges of the mineral ions in hard water.

The result of the reaction in the resin tank is an exchange of the positively charged hard water minerals with the negatively charged sodium ions hence the name ion exchange. During this reaction, the minerals in the hard water stick to the resin beads and the water sinks to the bottom of the tank. This means that the water will already have been softened by the time it reaches the bottom of the resin tank and it is pumped through the outlet manifold and then it leaves the water softener through the cold water pipe. This water is now softened and ready for use in the house.

ion exchange process continues for a while until all the resin beads have been used up to soften water. This happens when all the resin beads in the tank have been covered with mineral hard-water-causing minerals after which the resin tank has got to be recharged. The timer plays the role of determining when a recharge is required. It is worth noting that there are two types of timers in a water softener: the one that recharges the resin tank once a certain amount of water has been softened and another one that recharges after a scheduled time. The latter is better than the former since it only recharges based on necessity and not on a schedule. This means that you get to save salt, water and energy.

Regeneration process

This is the process that involves the flow of salty water from the brine tank to the resin tank. The salty water from the brine tank exchanges its sodium ions with calcium and magnesium ions in the resin beads giving the resin beads a new capacity to soften water again. Once the required amount of brine has been pumped into the resin tank, the excess is rinsed out in two cycles and after which the brine tank is filled with more brine. Once this process is done, the water softener is ready for another water softening cycle.

The water softening process may seem complicated in theory but the fact of the matter is that is a pretty simple process that takes places automatically and in a short time.

About the Author Harry Thompson

Gaining a BSc Honours in building/ property maintenance at the University of Portsmouth Harry went into the field of renovating properties. Along the journey, he has developed a wide variety of home & garden DIY skills such as installing new kitchens and landscaping gardens.