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Anatomy of Water Softeners

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Anatomy of Water Softeners

There are hundreds of different brands and designs of water softeners available on the market. We can broadly classify them on the basis of operation, i.e., manual and automatic, or design, i.e., sleek design or regular design.

Irrespective of classification, there are few components that are essential for the softener, and without them, a softener cannot perform. These components, along with their functions, are as follows:

  1. Resin Tank: It is the container where ion-exchange resin is housed. The ion exchange resin is the most critical part of the softener, as it replaces all calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. These calcium and magnesium ions, which are present in sulfate, chlorides, and bicarbonate salts, cause hardness in water. The resin used in softening water is strongly acidic cation (SAC) type and typically features sulfonic acid groups.
  2. Brine Tank: The resin has a certain capacity for ion exchange, and when this capacity is fully used, the resin is exhausted and needs regeneration to resume its ion exchange capacity again. To regain the ion exchange capacity, it is required for resin to replace calcium and magnesium ions, which it catches during sofening procedures with sodium ions. The sodium ions in the form of a salt water solution (brine) are passing through the resin bed and, in the process, replacing calcium and magnesium ions.
  3. Sodium chloride needs residence time as it dissolves slowly, and here the brine tank comes into the picture. A brine tank, based on its holding capacity, can also accommodate salt for the next couple of future regenerations.

    During regeneration's brine draw cycle, brine solution is taken away from the brine tank, and during the slow rinse, the water fills the brine tank for the next cycle. There are chances of air sucking during the brine draw cycle if the brine tank gets emptied. There are also fair chances of overflowing the brine tank while refilling during a slow rinse. In manual mode of regeneration, it is very easy for the person doing regeneration to control this air-sucking and overflowing issue. In automatic operation, these air-sucking and overflowing issues are controlled by an additional component, which is known as the brine director.

    So for an automatic water softener, a brine director is also a critical component in addition to the brine tank.

  4. Multiport valve: The multiport valve is the component that runs the complete show of the water softener. It has multiple ports and direct water flow at different ports at different cycles of regeneration as well as during the service cycle.
  5. Apart from the service cycle, which is the predominant cycle of water softener where it softens the water, there are four more cycles that come under regeneration. These cycles are backwash, brine draw, slow rinse, and fast rinse.

  6. Pump: Although a pump may not be an immediate component of the softening system, it is critical. During the service cycle as well as the regeneration cycle, a desired flow rate is required through the softener. A flow that is less than required will result in an incomplete softening and regeneration process. The required flow in softener can be supplied through a main supply pump, a pressure booster pump, or a dedicated regeneration pump, which operates only during the regeneration cycle.
  7. The role of the pump is more critical when the water softener is automatically regenerated. The automatic multiport valve sends on-and-off signals to the pump at the start and end of each cycle of regeneration. To regenerate properly, the pump needs to operate as per these signals, which is not possible without a connection between the pump and the multiport valve. This connection is a lot easier in the case of the pressure booster pump and the dedicated regeneration pump because of their nearby locations, and connections may be a lot more complicated in the case of the main supply pump due to their remote location and distance.

Almost all of the sleek-design softeners are generally imported from China and sold under different brand names. A sleek design incorporates a resin tank, a brine tank, and a multiport valve into a single sleek or compact unit. While sleek design softeners have an advantage as they require less footprint area, they also have limitations in terms of the lesser capacity of the resin and brine tanks, which results in frequent regeneration and salt loading in the brine tank. A sleek design makes maintenance more complicated due to compactness, space limitations, and spare parts availability.

The regular-design softeners, which are simple in design and whose components are independently visible, are easier to maintain due to their simple design, space availability, and local availability of spare parts. These softeners are available in varying capacities in terms of resin volume and brine tank volume, without any restrictions.

In this article, we have discussed various components of water softeners, their utility, and their importance, which gives you a clear picture and understanding of water softeners.

If you are planning to buy a water softener, you may find The Ultimate Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Water Softener for Your Home helpful.

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