Understanding How Water Softeners Work
Whether you’re a new homeowner or looking to replace your old water softener, it’s important to understand how water softeners work. Not only can softened water lower your gas bill, but it also helps prevent pipe damage. Plus, you get a sparkling, clean kitchen without a huge upfront investment.
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When you have hard water, it contains calcium and magnesium ions, which are minerals that are positively charged. These minerals cling to the negatively charged resin beads. When the water passes through the resin beads, the minerals are exchanged for sodium ions. When you use softened water, it feels and tastes different from hard water.
The process of softening water involves three stages: ion exchange, regeneration, and backwashing. During the ion exchange phase, magnesium and calcium are absorbed into the resin beads, leaving sodium ions behind. This is followed by the regeneration phase, which involves sodium being squeezed out of the resin beads. The regeneration phase is followed by the backwashing phase, where excess sodium is rinsed out of the resin bed. The softened water is then delivered to your home.
The ion exchange phase of softening water involves the exchange of calcium and magnesium ions for sodium ions. Calcium and magnesium ions are positively charged, while sodium ions are negatively charged. When the hard water enters the softener, magnesium and calcium ions are attracted to the negatively charged resin beads. Once the hard water has accumulated a certain amount of calcium and magnesium, it is filtered out of the system.
When you have hard water, it can leave stains on your clothing, dingy laundry, and buildup in appliances. Soft water also helps lower your electric bill. In addition, soft water can lower your blood pressure.
Water softeners have a number of different types, depending on what you need. The most common type is an ion-exchange system. It features a mineral tank, a brine tank, and a control valve. The mineral tank holds several cubic feet of porous plastic polystyrene resin beads. The brine tank is filled with a brine solution, which is made from salt. Brine is used to regenerating the resin beads.
When the resin beads become saturated with calcium and magnesium, they need to be cleaned. They also need to be recharged. The resin beads contain sites for potassium and sodium ions. In order to regenerate, the resin beads need to be rinsed through a sodium or potassium brine solution. These two salts are used to recharge the resin beads.
Depending on your needs, you may want to consider an automated water softener. These softeners automatically regenerate according to a schedule, or they can be programmed to regenerate when you need them. The newer style units use a computer-controlled meter and regeneration time is determined based on your actual water usage.
If you’re looking for the most effective water softener, you may want to consider a twin-tank model. This type of water softener works by using softened water to regenerate the mineral tank. You can also choose a single-tank water softener. These softeners regenerate on a set schedule and typically leave one day’s supply of soft water in reserve.