A water softener is an important addition to your household in eliminating hard water.
Outlined in this post here are the effects hard water can have in your household and how a water softener can address them.
How Does Water Softener Work?
Water softeners use ion exchange to soften your water.
Hard water containing calcium and magnesium goes into a mineral tank where it passes through resin beads charged with sodium ions.
When the hard water passes through these beads, the hard water minerals are attached to the beads, thereby releasing the sodium resulting in soft water.
To properly do its job of softening water, your water softener has to be maintained accordingly, and it goes through a timely water softener regeneration cycle to recharge the resin beads.
What is Water Softener Regeneration?
The constant exchange of magnesium and calcium ions with sodium ions during the water softening process exhaust the limited supply of sodium ions in the mineral tank.
An exhausted resin bed will be full of magnesium and calcium ions, and that is when your water softener needs to regenerate.
During regeneration, the resin bed is flooded with sodium-filled brine solution from the brine tank, essentially reversing the process of the ion exchange process.
Magnesium and calcium ions are flushed out and sodium ions attach to the resin beads. The water softener is regenerated and is ready for use again.
Factors Affecting Water Regeneration Frequency
Various factor affects the rate at which you have to regenerate your water softener system.
- Water Hardness. If your water supply contains too much magnesium and calcium ions, more sodium ions are needed to soften your water.
This means you have to regenerate more frequently. Very hard water may require daily regeneration as compared to slightly hard water.
- Water Usage. If you use more amount of water daily, you will need to regenerate your resin bed frequently.
The number of people in a household must be considered when setting up regeneration cycles.
- Iron Amount in Water. While water softeners usually remove magnesium and calcium, they can also remove irons in water.
However, too much iron in water can cause damage to your water softener due to rusting.
If your water source contains high levels of iron, exchanged iron must not stay inside your water softener system for a long time and you must regenerate often.
- Resin Tank Capacity. A larger resin tank can hold more resin beads therefore more sodium ions.
A larger resin tank capacity will not require regeneration often compared to a small one.
- Resin Deterioration. As your water softener ages, its resin beads also age and that deterioration of the resin beads means that you have to regenerate more often.
Most resin beds can be used for 6-8 years. Deteriorated resin beds cannot hold too many sodium ions compared to what they used to.
- System Age. Much like resin beads deteriorating, your overall softener ages and that leads to frequent regeneration.
Even with proper maintenance, the normal wear and tear can have your system last 15-20 years at most before you will need a replacement.
- Presence of Other Contaminants in the Water. Other contaminants may cause chemical deterioration of the system and that will affect your regeneration cycles.
- Type of Control Valve. This determines the setting in which your water softener will regenerate.
You can either time it, or have it metered. Whichever way you do it is totally up to you and how you use water within your household.
When Should You Regenerate Your Water Softener?
While many factors affect the regeneration cycle, these factors must be properly taken into account when deciding which type of regeneration cycle you will employ in your system to fully optimize your water softener system.
You have two choices when it comes to regenerating your softeners:
- Timed Regeneration. In this setup, the water softener regenerates at a specific time.
The preferable time of day to regenerate is at the middle of the night until 2 AM when water usage and demand are low within the household.
This may be set once a week depending on the condition of your hard water. You can increase the frequency accordingly.
If water is needed during the regeneration process, hard water will be available through the automatic internal bypass feature.
- Metered Regeneration. For this setup, the regeneration process is initiated when a certain amount of water has passed through the resin bed.
This is ideal for those who are not constantly using water.
The regeneration process usually takes up two (2) hours before the resin beads are fully replenished.
While you can still use water during this process but you will have to use hard water through the internal bypass feature.
The hard water will not pass through the system and it will be readily available for use, though it is not recommended to so as hard water filling up the water heater can cause lime build-up in the equipment.
Want to Know if Your Water Softener Properly Regenerates Your Resin Beads?
Do the soap test. Use the soap using the water from the softener and see if it bubbles and lathers up nicely.
If it did, then your water is soft, if not, then that means that your water remained hard and the regeneration is not successful.
How Can I Setup the Regeneration Cycle of my Water Softener?
Most water softener system has a control valve from which you can set up a time when regeneration occurs.
You can also set it up depending on the water processed through the softener. Deciding when or how much is entirely up to you.
If you are having trouble with setting up your control valve, you can call in some professional help to assist you and make sure that your softener regenerates properly.
When to Check the Valve of Your Water Softener
It is important to check on your water softener valves every now and then to make sure that the regeneration setup is calibrated to your set schedule or meter.
Do this especially when there was a power outage so that you can recalibrate your valves properly.
Maintenance of Brine Tank
Part of maintaining your water softener is knowing how to maintain your brine tank.
It contains the softener salt that is used when regenerating the resin beads. As you regenerate your resin beds, more salt is being used.
It is recommended to keep your brine tank at least one quarter (¼) full of water softener salt.
The salt level must be a few inches above the water level.
Frequently check your brine tank for crystallization and bridging, and make sure to physically break up build-up to avoid clogging your brine tank.
Depending on the regeneration cycle setup, salt must be replaced once or twice a month.
The most residential setup uses about 10-15 lbs of softening salt in their softeners. Always check your brine tank at least once a month.
Can I just regenerate my water softener whenever I want to?
We do not recommend regeneration when you wish to since it may lead to over deterioration of your resin bed if regenerated too late, or to salt wastage if regenerated too early.
It is better to stick to the programmed schedule or meter for regeneration.
What to do if your water softener keeps in the regeneration cycle?
This may mean that the timer or switch has become defective. Replace the timer switch, if still not fixed, replace the whole control head.
No. Is it ok if my brine tank runs out of salt?
We do not recommend keeping your brine tank on low levels of salt. It will cause long-term damages to your system.
It will cause overflowing of your salt tank and will also halt the softening process of your water softener.
Is it normal to have residual water in my tank?
Yes, it is normal to have about 10 inches of water in your tank as it is being used to mix with the salt and create the brine solution used to replenish resin beads with sodium ions.
How does my water softener ‘know’ when to regenerate?
It is through the setup you have initially put, whether it is time-induced regeneration or demand-induced regeneration.
You can also manually initiate a regeneration if needed.
Proper use and maintenance of your water softener will save you thousands of gallons of water in its entire life.
Many factors such as the hardness of water, water usage, presence of irons and other contaminants, resin tank capacity, affect the overall age and deterioration of your system.
These must be taken into consideration in making a decision on whether to set up your water softener regeneration cycle on timed regeneration or on metered regeneration.
Always make sure to maintain your brine tank properly as well to keep the soft water coming and make the most of your water softener system.
Proper maintenance of a water softener will save your household thousands of gallons of water and ensure the optimal life span of your system.