By Rehan Iqbal
In order for a water softener to function, the softening resin needs to be regenerated. As the resin beads collect hard minerals, they become saturated and are unable to take up any more calcium and magnesium. The sodium needs to be regenerated for the system to continue softening the water supplied to your home. This process is also known as backwash as it reverses the water flow, sending the hard water out of the drainpipe.
If you own a water softener, you need to be aware of the maintenance that is required. This isn’t too complicated once you understand how your water softener works. Essentially, you need to ensure that the brine tank has enough salt to regenerate the softening media and that it regenerates regularly according to water usage and softening requirements.
You probably want to know how much salt you should use and how often to add salt. To help you come to grips with using your water softener most effectively, I’ll be explaining how the regeneration cycle works and answer all of the most frequently asked questions about water softeners and regeneration.
How Does Water Softener Regeneration Work?
Sodium in salt ionizes the hard minerals in order to soften your water. For every part of sodium, an equal part of magnesium or calcium is trapped in the resin. The amount of hard minerals that can be removed is equal to the amount of sodium in the resin. Once all the sodium is neutralized, by the ionization process, it needs to be regenerated.
At a predetermined time, or after the maximum amount of water has been softened, your water softener will automatically begin the regeneration process. This involves flushing the hard minerals from the resin. Your brine tank is filled with water and salt. The brine in this tank is then forced into the resin tank and the hard minerals are flushed down the drain.
Flushing the resin is achieved by a very simple process, using the venturi effect. A valve opens to release the hard water from the resin tank. This creates a vacuum that sucks the sodium-enriched water from the brine tank into the resin tank. The saltwater moves quite slowly through the resin beads in order to ensure that they thoroughly rinsed of hard minerals. Once all the hard water is replaced with salt water, your water softener is ready to continue supplying soft water for another cycle.
During the regeneration process, the water softener should not be supplying water to the home. For this reason, water softeners have a programable function that allows you set a time for the regeneration cycle. You want to set a time when no one is likely to be using water. Typically, this is late at night when everyone is asleep.
How Often Does a Water Softener Need to be Regenerated?
A water softener is limited by the amount of water it can supply based on its size and the amount of water you use. Water softeners differ in their capacity and the amount of water people use in their homes differs. Consequently, there is no definitive way to tell exactly how long it takes between water regeneration cycles. In areas where water is particularly hard, you will need to regenerate more frequently.
Typically, an average home will regenerate the water softener every 12 to 14 days. The valve allows you to decide how many gallons of water is used before the system regenerates. More frequent regeneration will maximize the softening ability of the water softener. However, regenerating your water softener more often will increase your water consumption. You need to decide between improved water economy and your water softening requirements when determining how many gallons of water are used between regeneration cycles.
How Much Salt Does a Water Softener Use to Regenerate?
Salt consumption used when backwashing a water softener is relative to the size of the system and how hard the water is in your area. For a 1 cubic foot water softener, you can expect to use between 6 and 15 pounds of salt each time the system regenerates. In areas with a lot of iron in the water, the salt requirement will be higher – closer to 15 pounds per 1 cubic foot.
How Long Does it Take to Regenerate a Water Softener?
Depending on the volume of the tank and the efficiency of the machine, the time it takes to regenerate a water softener will vary. Different makes and models will regenerate at different rates. You should check your user manual for the time it takes to regenerate your water softener, this can be up anything from about 1 to 2-hours. If it takes longer than 2-hours for the system to backwash, you may have a problem and should have it checked by a professional.
What Happens if You Use Water While Your System is Regenerating?
Using water while a water softener is regenerating is not recommended because hard water will be supplied to the home. As a result, you will using water that is exceptionally hard.
How Much Water is Used to Regenerate a Water Softener?
The water used to regenerate a water softener is dependent on how much water you’ve used and the hardness of your water. The efficiency of the water softener can also contribute to how much water you use to backwash the system. In some cases regeneration can use about 20 – 25 gallons of water. Others can use as much as 35 to 65 gallons.
How Do You Know if Your Water Softener is Regenerating?
The process of regenerating a water softener is to ensure that it functions properly. If it is not regenerating, your water will be hard, and you’ll notice any of the following signs: