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How a Water Softener Works

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Got hard water? The simple solution is to remove the calcium and magnesium in the water, and while you can get chemical treatments to do just that, it’s much easier to use a water softener instead. 

Why do we need water softeners?

As rain water falls it’s free from contaminants, in other words, ‘soft’ water. Once it passes through the earth, though, it starts to absorb minerals like magnesium and calcium from the ground making it ‘hard’. Hard water has an impact on many of water’s functions, reducing the effectiveness of detergents in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry, and damaging plumbing systems with build-up, for example.

Effects of Hard Water

How a water softener works

Water softeners work on the principle of ion exchange, where they exchange the ions that cause hardness (magnesium and calcium) for something else, most commonly sodium. A major part of any water softener is the resin tank which contains resin beads covered in salt ions that carry a negative charge, and this is where the exchange takes place. As magnesium and calcium in water carry a positive charge, they’re attracted to the resin beads and stick to them.

This is when a regenerating cycle begins in the unit, consisting of three phases. In the first phase, the water flow is reversed to flush any dirt from the tank, this is the backwash phase. In the recharge phase, the strong sodium solution flows through the resin tank from the brine tank, and the sodium replaces the magnesium and calcium on the resin beads, which are rinsed down the wastewater drain.

This flushing and recharging process can be controlled by electric timer, where the process happens regularly, or by usage monitoring (either electrical or mechanical) so it’s only done when needed – but whichever one of these methods is used the result is the same, soft water for your home or business.

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