The Inside Components of a Water Softener

The Technology that Makes Up a Water Softener

What is a water softener? How does a water softener work? And what’s inside of it? These are questions commonly asked by people who want to know if and how technology really works before they spend their hard-earned money on it. This post aims to inform you on the intricate parts of a water softener and how they all work concordantly. 

What are the Components of a Water Softener?

Salt-based water softeners are simple things, really. They all work the same way having the purpose to turn hard water into soft water. And yes, they do so very effectively. The overarching goal is to reduce scale buildup to extend the lifespan of your home appliances and plumbing system which in turn lowers maintenance and repair costs. Other benefits include healthier-looking hair and skin, less staining on fixtures, sinks, toilets, glassware—you name it—and better lathering soaps and detergents.

A water softener system consists of 3 main components:

The resin tank—The tall resin tank is where the actual softening takes place. It contains a bed of resin, covered with sodium (respectively potassium) ions.

The brine tank—The shorter brine tank stores salt – up to 300 pounds and more. It is used to mix a highly concentrated salt water solution called “brine” that is required for regeneration (more on this below).

The head valve—The head or control valve usually sits on top of the resin tank. It is the brain of every softener and operates the entire system, putting it through its various cycles and controlling water flow direction and rate.

Other important components are:

Built-in bypass—Turns off the water supply to the softener for regeneration, maintenance, and repair; the house is supplied with unsoftened water while the valve is in bypass position; does not come with every model

Valve motor—Rotates rotor valve to perform different operation modes such as softening and regeneration

Flow meter—Measures the amount of water passing through softener; does not come with every model

Softening resin media—Synthetic or natural, sand-like material; usually polystyrene compound 

Riser tube—Riser tube a.k.a. distribution tube located in the center of resin tank; channels water out of resin tank to head valve; has a basket on the bottom which prevents resin from entering your home’s plumbing system

Softener Diagram

SaltMixes with water to form a highly concentrated sodium chloride solution

Brine float assembly—Safety float shuts off the water supply when it gets up to a certain level to prevent overfilling

Fill tube—Connects brine tank to head valve; used to draw brine during regeneration and also to refill the brine tank

Brine injector/Venturi valve—Suck brine into resin tank; make use of a mesh net or another type of screen to trap dirt

Grid plate—Placed inside brine tank; the height of salt grid sets the volume of water in the brine tank for a measured quantity of saturated salt brine containing a fixed amount of dissolved salt per gallon

Optional Pre-filter—Traps larger particles like sand and silt to prevent premature failure of the softener; especially important for well supplies

How Do These Parts Work Together?

You now know about the different parts a water softener contains. But how exactly do they work together so that soft water comes out of the system in the end?

It all starts with hard water being distributed to your home. It’s hard because it contains so-called “hardness minerals“. These are primarily calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions, and to some extent iron (Fe2+ or Fe3+) and manganese (Mn2+ or Mn3+) among others.

The hard water comes in from the main supply line, passes the bypass, and enters the softener’s head valve. From there it is directed into the resin tank all the way down to the distribution tube.

On its way to the tube, the hard water gets in contact with the resin beads that are supersaturated with sodium ions (Na+) or in rare cases potassium ions (K+). These small beads are responsible for removing the hardness minerals from the water by a process called “ion exchange” – cation exchange to be more precise. By the time the water reaches the bottom of the water softener tank, it’s soft.


What is ion exchange?

The ion exchange process is fairly simple:

The hardness ions which are positively charged attach to the negatively charged resin beads that act as a magnet. Thereby, they substitute the loosely held Na+. This is because calcium, magnesium, and the like carry a stronger positive charge. Basically, all hardness minerals are removed from the water and the sodium goes into solution. It comes up the riser tube, flows back into the head valve, and is finally distributed throughout your house.


What Local Company Has The Best Prices and Products?

Great question—look no further than c and j water for all your treatment needs. We understand these intricate water softener parts and how to make them work properly. We are certified WQA specialists as well with decades of experience dealing with water issues in Central Indiana—contact us today!

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