A water softener is an apparatus that removes undesirable ions of calcium hardness, iron, manganese and other positively charged constituents in a water supply by exchanging them for more desirable ions of sodium or potassium in a complex process called ion exchange.
The basic components of a water softener consist of:
- A pressure vessel (tank) that contains a bed of cation exchange resin which does the actual softening of the water.
- A tank or separate compartment used for salt storage and to hold the brine solution needed for regeneration of the resin.
- A control valve that directs the flow of the water as the unit goes through it’s various regeneration cycles and into the service mode.
The major differences of how a water softener is constructed are mainly due to the size and shape of the resin tank, how much resin is in that tank (dictates the capacity of the unit), whether the resin tank is actually in the brine tank (for saving space), and the type of control valve used. Control valves used in water softening equipment range widely in size and quality depending on the price of the system and it’s intended application. Basic time clock controls regenerate the softener on a given day or days and at a predetermined time regardless of how much water is used.
This configuration is reliable and simple, but wasteful of salt, water, and over time can prematurely wear out the valve. Water softeners with an “electronic demand” or “demand initiated regeneration” control valve have become the norm for consumers looking to save on salt, water consumption, and lengthen the life of the entire system.
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