Water softeners are common household appliances, but if you’ve never lived in a home with a water softener before or you’re considering investing in one, you might be wondering how exactly these appliances work.
COMMON WATER SOFTENER COMPONENTS
Before we go into more detail about how water softeners work, let’s talk about the different parts of water softeners. While there are a number of pieces and parts in a water softener, let’s keep things simple and focus on the parts you need to be familiar with as a water softener owner:
Control Valve: The control valve is the computer and mechanical controller for your water softener. It monitors your water usage and controls the flow of water into and out of the resin tanks/s and brine tank. Different control valves function at different efficiency levels, and some softener control valves can be personalized and programmed to meet your specific needs (i.e. scheduling routine regeneration cycles when your family is typically sleeping, etc.).
Resin or Media Tank: This is where your water is softened. Your water will enter this tank and go through an ion-exchange process where the hardness minerals are removed and bound inside the resin media inside of this tank. Once the water has been softened, it is sent from this tank to your appliances and faucets throughout your home.
Brine Tank: The brine tank is where highly concentrated sodium brine or potassium brine is stored. To maintain your water softener, you’ll need to periodically refill the sodium chloride or potassium chloride salt in this tank. Smart water softeners utilize "Dry-Brine" technology where they leave the tank virtually empty until it is time to clean; this helps the system stay more sanitary, improves salt-efficiency, and reduces the chances of salt-bridging.
THE WATER SOFTENING PROCESS
When you have hard water, your water is full of havoc-wreaking minerals. Water softeners remove those minerals through an ion-exchange process. But what is the ion-exchange process?
The ion-exchange process--simplified: When hard water enters your water softening system, it contains calcium and magnesium ions. To soften your water and remove these minerals, your water softener replaces the magnesium and calcium ions in your water with sodium or potassium ions that the resin is charged with. The amount of sodium or potassium added to the water is extremely low, and is directly proportional to the amount of hardness you have in your water.. It’s important to note that sodium, which is the ion used to soften your water, is different from regular table or icemelting salt. The chemical formula for salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), and the sodium that replaces the hard water minerals in your water is pure Sodium (Na); this is why water softeners don’t make your water taste salty. It’s also important to note that all water softeners can utilize potassium salt instead of sodium salt to help soften the water.
What happens when the resin and media inside your resin tank become saturated with hard water minerals? Your water softener will need to go through what’s called a regeneration cycle. Think of softener regeneration as a basic cleaning cycle. Once the resin in your softener can’t absorb anymore water hardness minerals, it cleans itself to restore its softening capacity.
During softener regeneration, your water softener will clean itself with the brine solution from your brine tank. This essentially pushes the calcium and magnesium ions out of the resin and replaces them with sodium or potassium ions again so that your water softener can continue softening your water. If you have a Crusader Water Softening System, your system will also use ProGuard during its regeneration cycle. ProGuard is an innovative compound that cleans, disinfects, and protects water softening, conditioning, and filtration systems.
The time between regeneration cycles will vary depending on your water hardness, the amount of water you use, the size of your water softener, and the capacity of your water softener’s media to remove hardness.
HOW A WATER SOFTENER CAN BENEFIT YOU:
Now that you have a better understanding of how water softeners work, here’s how having one can benefit you:
1. It protects your appliances and increases your home's energy efficiency--hello big cost savings! One of the biggest household expenses many Utahns face is having to frequently replace water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers. Water softeners protect all of these appliances from hard water scale buildup and greatly increase their lifespans. This means fewer repair and replacement bills.
Gas and electric bills can also be pocketbook killers--especially during the winter months in Utah. Water softeners protect your water heater from the damaging effects of hard water scale, which can reduce its energy efficiency by up to 30%. Save energy and money with a water softener!
2. It reduces your soap and cleaning product use by up to 80%. Water softeners remove minerals from your water that create soap scum and hard water scale. This can reduce the amount of soap and cleaning products your household uses by up to 80% each year.
3. It makes your dishes cleaner. Dishes washed in soft water have fewer spots and streaks. Say goodbye to hard water film on your glasses and silverware!
4. It makes your clothing cleaner, brighter, and softer. Clothes laundered in soft water are softer, fade less, and last longer because water hardness minerals aren’t breaking down the fibers of your clothes anymore.
5. It saves you time. When your water doesn’t cause soap scum and scale buildup, you’ll save a countless amount of cleaning time. Say goodbye to hard water stains and soap scum and hello to clean water!
6. It saves you money. An average American family of four can save as much as $95.76 EVERY MONTH after installing a high efficiency water softener.