What is a Water Softener?
A Water Softener is a mechanical plumbing 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. Water Softeners are not water filters and when installed on a well system must have a properly sized filter between the well tank and resin (softener) tank for sediment. Sand and silt will eventually build up in any Water Softener and the abrasiveness can wear out and make seals leak, internal pistons stick, cause water pressure problems and will shorten the life of the control valve. A Water Softener installed on municipal water supplies MUST have a Carbon Filter before the system not only to remove chlorine taste and odor but to prevent chlorine degradation of the softening resin rendering it useless in less than 5 years.
The basic components of a water softener consist of:
How to choose the Best Water Softener
- 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 Water Softeners are constructed are: the size and shape of the resin tank, how much resin is in that tank (dictates the capacity of the unit), whether resin tank is in the brine tank (called a cabinet model 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 its 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.
Salt-Free Water Softeners – THEY DO NOT WORK!
So called "salt-free” or "no salt" Water Softeners are NOT Water Softeners at all and do not actually soften water by removing any calcium or iron from the water and they have no peer reviewed scientific studies proving they work at all. Claims of catalytic processes and anti-scaling properties have no demonstrated validity. Ion exchange Water Softeners are the only type of system any home or business owner should consider purchasing.
Video of how water softeners work!