How do Water Softeners Work?

Using a water softener can be beneficial in reducing the buildup of lime scale and hard water clogs on plumbing fixtures and appliances. Water softeners work by removing magnesium and calcium from your water supply by replacing them with sodium ions. This is accomplished by using a resin bed that attracts hardness minerals to a chemically-sticky surface. These minerals are then removed by flushing them out of the softener. 

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The water softening process is comprised of three cycles. First, the resin bed is filled with positively charged sodium ions. As the water moves through the bed, the velocity of the water decreases. This results in the salts and other minerals being attracted to the surface area of the resin bed. A water softener then flushes out the minerals through the drain pipe. 

The resin bed is then cleaned. The saltwater solution, called brine, is then pumped through the resin tank. The brine solution flushes the minerals out of the resin beads. In this way, the resin beads can be recharged with sodium ions. The water softener then regenerates or returns to its normal softened state. This occurs at night when the home is not using water. 

When the water softener is in regeneration mode, it passes the brine solution over the resin bed. This is done in order to clean the resin beads and ensure that they are free of hard minerals. The remaining brine plus calcium and magnesium are flushed through the drain pipe. This process is repeated until the entire bed is free of hardness minerals. 

The next component of the system is the exchange medium. The exchange medium is a medium that attracts and pulls the positive ions to it. These ions are then replaced by undesirable ions. The exchange medium is often made of sodium chloride. 

Salt is also used in the water-softening process. Salt can be harmful to the environment because of its effects on the local ecosystem. It can alter reproduction rates and affect species’ survival. It can also alter the chemistry of water. This can lead to elevated levels of lead and copper in your water supply. 

Another component of the water softener is a chemical matrix called zeolite. The zeolite crystals have a negative charge. This means that the ions from the water will be attracted to the crystals. The resin beads will then give up their hardness to attract the positively charged sodium ions. 

The water softener process will typically run for several days, depending on the type of softener. Newer-style units will use a computer-controlled meter to regulate the regeneration time. These models will also determine how long the regeneration time should be based on how much water you use in your home. 

If you want to reduce your environmental impact, you may want to consider using a softener that regenerates based on how often you use it. If you are not sure which type of softener to choose, consult your doctor or water expert.