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What is Water Softener Regeneration?

What is Water Softener Regeneration?

Posted by Discount Water Softeners on Oct 10th 2022

Hard water is rich with calcium and magnesium minerals that can be unkind to plumbing systems. Repeated exposure to hard minerals causes limescale buildup which eventually clogs drains and decreases water quality. Hard water also is known to leave residue on dishes and surfaces, aggravate skin problems like eczema, and result in the breakdown of fabrics. A water softening system is one way to protect your home from hard water. 

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Water Softener Regeneration Cycle 

Inside a  water softener are thousands of tiny resin beads designed to filter out hard minerals before they enter your home’s plumbing. These resin beads attract and bind to the minerals, removing them from the water as it flows through the tank. The process by which sodium ions in the resin replaces calcium and magnesium ions is called ion exchange. The positive (calcium and magnesium) ions take the place of the sodium (negative) ions due to their stronger positive charge. With the hardness minerals trapped in the resin and removed from the water, the water becomes “soft.” Over time, water softener resin saturated with hard minerals will need to be cleaned, or regenerated. During regeneration, a brine solution will clean the resin tank, exchanging the hard water minerals for sodium. The brine solution and hard minerals are then flushed from the tank, leaving it ready to continue removing the hard water from your home. After your system has been regenerated, it is ready to begin the softening process again.

How Do I Know If My Water Softener Is Regenerating?

How often a water softener should regenerate depends on water hardness level, number of people in your household, and your softener tank capacity. Water softener regeneration settings are dependent on the type of softening equipment you’ve chosen for your home.

Timered water softeners regenerate at a predetermined schedule, regardless of how much water is used. This type of softener is best for homes that have consistent water usage and hardness levels, to provide the most effective use of the resin. If your softener is programmed to regenerate at night during low water usage, you may not be awake to hear when it’s happening, but you’ll know if your system is failing to regenerate when the hardness level of your water rises.

Softened water feels silkier and tastes different than hard water. If your softener hasn’t regenerated, you’ll end up with hard water and you’ll soon notice distinct changes. It will taste different, perform differently when used for household chores, and you’ll start to see scale forming on your appliances and surfaces.

High-efficiency, on-demand water softeners regenerate on their own according to the amount of water used. This type of system monitors water usage and begins the regeneration cycle when the resin is full of hard minerals. Regardless of how long a household takes to consume a pre-set volume of water, an on-demand system only regenerates when that amount has been used. The only sound you should regularly hear from your water softener system is the backwashing that occurs during the regeneration cycle.

If you notice changes in your water quality, or your softener salt levels are remaining the same each day, your system is not operating correctly, and your resin bed may not be getting cleaned. A visual inspection of the brine tank when you replenish the salt will let you know if you’re adding enough, too much, or if there’s an obstruction. It’s not uncommon for salt bridges to form inside a brine tank. Luckily, there’s an  easy fix for this. It’s never a bad idea to do a quick check for common problems with easy solutions before spending money on a service call.

How Long Does a Water Softener Take to Regenerate? 

A typical regeneration cycle will take about an hour and a half to complete. During this time, the unwanted dissolved minerals will be removed from your water. The backwashing process to remove sediment lasts about 10 minutes before the next step in regeneration begins. Then, it takes about an hour for the salt brine to be drawn from the tank and pumped backwards through the resin to clean out the minerals. After this is complete, another 10-15 min is required for the softener to flush the salt brine from the media so that it’s ready to treat more water. The final 10-minute step refills the salt tank with water to create more brine for the next regeneration cycle. 

There are times when you’ll need to initiate a manual water softener regeneration. If you’ve run out of salt and you want to regenerate after you add salt to your tank, or, if your softening system appears to be malfunctioning and you need to troubleshoot the issue, you can run a manual regeneration cycle. 

Many modern water softener systems will include a regeneration button right on the control head. Others may have a dial that needs to be turned instead of an electronic display. Either way, you’ll know when your regeneration cycle is complete by the position of the softener controls or the data on an electronic display, or, when your softener system has fallen silent and there are no sounds of water running through your brine tank and into the drain. 

Manually regenerating your softener should be easy to do, but each system is slightly different; always refer to your manual for instructions specific to your unit. Remember that the regeneration of a water softener unit is a necessary step in keeping your home free of hard water. A properly  cleaned and functioning water softener extends the life of your appliances and enhances the water quality in your home.

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