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​When to Regenerate a Water Softener

Mar 5th 2019

For most of the U.S., hard water is a fact of life that often comes with a high price. Minerals in hard water are tough on plumbing, your skin, and your budget. A water softening system provides homeowners with better quality water, while counteracting the effects of iron, calcium and magnesium minerals.

While a small amount of these minerals isn’t necessarily harmful, too much leaves spots and stains on dishes, clothing and toilets, and reduces the efficiency of water heaters. Installing a salt-based water softening system in your home will extend the life of your appliances and make household chores easier to manage.

Why Does A Water Softener Regenerate?

Hard water enters a home from a main water pipe or private well, then travels to your water softener where thousands of tiny resin beads inside the tank attract and hold fast to the hard minerals, effectively removing them from the water supply. The newly softened water exits the tank and continues along throughout the plumbing, flowing into your home.

During the softening process, sodium ions on the resin beads are exchanged for hard water minerals in the water. Over time, the resin beads become saturated with hard minerals and need to be cleaned, or “recharged” so they can continue attracting and collecting the minerals that cause hard water. The cleaning of resin beads is called the regeneration cycle.

To regenerate a water softener, salt is added to the tank of the softening system. The recommended level of salt in the tank is three to four inches above the water level. The amount of salt needed each month is determined by the mineral content of the water supply and the size of the brine tank. During regeneration, a salt-water solution, called brine, is made with the salt that is added to the softener.

To create the brine needed to clean the hard minerals from the resin beads, water flows into the salt storage area. The brine solution then enters the resin tank, rinsing the beads and exchanging new sodium with the hard minerals that have been collected. After the brine solution and hard water minerals are flushed from the tank and down the drain, the resin beads are recharged and ready to once again collect hard water minerals.

How Often Should My Water Softening System Regenerate?

There are several variables to consider when setting the frequency of regeneration in a water softener, including water hardness level, number of people in the household, and tank capacity. Correctly sizing your new softening system is an important first step; if you don’t currently own a softener but would like to purchase one, look to a water treatment professional for guidance. For more help in choosing the right softener for your needs, here’s a helpful link:

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.

A timered softener system is set based on an estimation of the average water usage per person in a household. Regeneration typically occurs in the middle of the night when no water is being used, to avoid a lapse of softened water. If water usage is overestimated, a timered softener will regenerate unnecessarily, wasting water and energy. Or, if too much water is consumed before regeneration, homeowners are left with no choice but to use hard water until the water softener regeneration steps are completed.

An on-demand or metered softener system will regenerate on its own according to the amount of water used. This softener technology monitors water usage and begins the cleaning 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. This saves money, salt, and water, as well as prevents over or under regeneration of the softener, even when water demands rise or decline.

Metered softening systems regenerate just before reaching capacity, making them the most efficient and economical choice to eliminate hard water in your home. These systems are reliable, easy to install, and take the guesswork out of soft water supply and demand. On-demand softening offers the best value for your money and assures an uninterrupted flow of clean and softened water at all times.

A Well-Maintained Water Softener

Provided your system is functioning correctly, the optimal amount of salt required is dependent on water usage, water quality, and resin capacity. Matching your water conditions to a sufficiently sized system minimizes salt and water usage and maximizes softened water capacity. The mineral content of your water supply can change over time; therefore, periodic adjustments may be needed to maintain the same level of softness.

For ideal salt consumption, softener systems are programmed for the regeneration cycle to match the demands of the resin. The more often your softening system regenerates, the more often you’ll need to add salt to the tank. Check your brine tank monthly to make sure the salt is at the appropriate level.

If you notice changes in your water quality, or your softener salt levels are remaining the same each day, your softening system may not be going through the regeneration cycle. 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.

High-efficiency water softeners prevent scale build-up from destroying plumbing and from turning your shiny faucets into a crusty mess. They also increase the lifespan of your pipes and water-dependent appliances. If hard water symptoms return- spots on dishes and laundry, itchy skin and limp hair- it’s time to have your system professionally inspected. With some basic care and maintenance, a properly sized and installed water softener will deliver years of good quality, softened water to your home.