A water softener has become an everyday gadget in our home, but most people still feel the most complicated device. They have a question on how this gadget works and how to efficiently operate it. That’s why we have prepared this article for water softener frequently asked questions (water softener FAQ)
Common water softener frequently asked question
What is a water softener?
A water softener is a gadget that helps remove minerals that make water hard. The minerals present in hard water are calcium and magnesium.
What is hard water?
For you to quickly understand water softener, you must first learn what hard water is.
Hard water is water that contains more mineral than ordinary water. These minerals are calcium and magnesium when they increase in water; it makes your water hard or what people refer to salty water.
The minerals are positively charged, and hard water contains a high level of this mineral. These minerals need to be removed in water, and that’s where water softener comes in.
Is hard water harmful on the human being?
Hard water has no health effect on people, but they potentially damage the plumbing system, cause soap not to lather well, leave spots on glassware, and dry out hair and skin.
How do you know your water is hard and needs a water softener?
Most of the effect of hard water is visible and easy to tell you to have hard water.
When you see limescale deposit on the plumbing system and home appliances, you have hard water.
After bathing you will find white chalky residue on the floor, this is another sign to tell you your water is hard.
Another way to tell whether you have hard water using soap. If your soap does not lather quickly or form a milky color, then your water is hard.
Also fading of clothes, skin, and hair dry out this indicates you have hard water.
The best way to tell your water is hard is by testing your water to confirm whether it is hard is soft. You can do the test at home using a water hardness kit which you can buy at the nearest store or online. When testing at home if your water hardness level is above 3GPG of any minerals (calcium and magnesium) then that water is hard.
You can send the water sample to the water testing laboratory to help test for you.
You can also ask the municipal water department to give the water quality report.
After you have confirmed you have hard water, it is very crucial to make sure your water is treated, and this can only be done by installing a water softener.
Is it a must I install a water softener in your house
Installing a water softener is a personal choice. Hard water has a more negative effect than the cost of the water softener. When you confirm you have hard water make sure you install a water softener. Read more on the negative impact of hard to understand why it is essential to install a water softener.
How water softener work?
There are different types of water softener, and each work differently. These different types of water softener include:
- Salt-based water softener
- Salt-free water softener
- Electronic water conditioner
A salt-based water softener is designed to remove mineral that makes your water hard. The softener removes mineral through a process called ion-exchange. The salt-based water softener has two tank resin and brine tank. The resin tank has resin beads which are negatively charged, and this is where the whole process of water softening takes place. The brine tank has a brine solution which is used for Regeneration.
When hard water enters into the resin tank, the resin beads which are negatively charged attracts hard water minerals which are positively charged, therefore removing them in water, making your water soft.
After some time the resin beads become covered with hard minerals making them not useful or soften water as required. So the resin beads need to be cleaned for it to work effectively and that’s where the brine solution in the brine tank comes in.
The brine solution is a mixture of salt and water. The highly concentrated brine solution is pumped into the resin tank. The high concentrated brine solution attracts minerals that have coated resin beads, making them clean to soften your water. The process of cleaning the resin beads is called Regeneration.
As the name suggests, salt-free water softener does no use salt to remove hard water minerals. This type of water softener uses media/cartridge/ filter to remove hard minerals in the water. The salt-free water softener does not reduce hard minerals in water the media change the hard water structure such that it does form scale build-up on the plumbing and appliances.
The salt-free water softener conditions your water but does not remove minerals that’s why is also called water conditioner/ descaler. Also, salt-free water softener does not use the tank, so it also called tankless water softener. It still does not use salt to condition hard water; therefore, it is also called no salt water softener.
A salt-free water softener is not suitable for water hardness higher than 10 GPG such hardness requires a salt-based water softener.
It is also ideal for a restricted sodium diet
An electric water conditioner is another type of water softener, but it does not remove hard minerals in water but paralyze so as not to form scale on the plumbing system and appliances.
Electronic water conditioner uses electric pulses or magnetic waves to condition the hard water. Electric cable is positioned around a water pipe to alter hard water structure so that it does not form scale build-up on the appliances and plumbing system.
What is different between salt and a salt-free water softener
The above explanation gives the difference between salt and salt-free water softener.
The salt water softener uses sodium chloride to remove hard water minerals in the water.
The salt-free water softener uses medium/cartridge, electric pulses, and magnetic waves to alter hard water structure.
It paralyzes, so that does not form build up on the plumbing system or appliances. The salt-free water softener does not remove minerals but conditions your water.
How do you know the right size of the water softener do you need-add
As we have learned above the process of softening water requires salt unless you are using other alternatives to condition your water. So which water softener salt question do people ask?
What is water softener salt
It is salt that is specifically designed to be used in the water softener. This is not table salt that people add in the food. Table salt does not work well with a water softener.
Why is salt added to the water softener?
The whole water softening process occurs in the resin tank, which has resin beads. The resin beads which are negatively charged attracts hard water minerals which are positively charged, leaving you with soft water. Over time the resin beads are coated with hard minerals making them not to work effectively, so the beads need to be cleaned, and that’s where salt comes in.
The salt solution prepared in the brine tank is known as a brine solution.
It is pumped in the resin tank to clean the resin bead so that they can start to soften hard water as required.
So salt is added to the water softener to clean the resin beads through a process called regeneration.
Which water softener salt is best for your unit?
Most people commonly know the table salt that is added in the food but is the one used in the water softener. The answer is no there salt specifically designed for water softener. There are two different types of water softener salt, which include:
It is commonly used as a water softener, and there are different types. The different types of sodium chloride salt include:
Rock salt- it is mined on the rock or underground. The rock salt is not best for your water softener because it can leave a mineral deposit in the brine tank resulting in the build-up.
Solar or sea salt –it is mined in the sea where seawater is collected and left for some time to dry up. The solar or sun evaporates the water leaving the salt behind.
The solar salt is not best if you have extremely hard water or large household. Because solar salt is likely to form a salt bridge (salt-forming one block). The salt is sold in the form of pellets and crystals.
Evaporated salt –it is mined from raw salt. The raw salt is heated to remove moisture leaving you with pure sodium chloride. It is best for water softener. Find out best water softener salt.
It is the best alternative of sodium chloride recommended for people on a sodium-restricted diet.
Is it a must you use salt to soften hard water
Unless you are using a salt-free water softener and conditioner the salt-based water softener or ion exchange water softener requires salt to regenerate (Regeneration is explained above)
Is it safe to drink water from water softener/ Is soft water safe for drinking
Soft water is safe for drinking. It contains all the healthy minerals needed in our body what is removed is excess sodium.
How much salt should my water softener use-add
This depends on the size of the tank, level of water hardness, and amount of water your family consumes.
For instance, a family of four with water hardness level between 7-10 GPG will use a 40lbs bag of salt.
Why salt in brine tank dissolves quickly
The salt in the brine tank can dissolve quickly if you have changed the type of salt you are using. Some salt is denser than others.
Talk to water treatment specialists on the kind of salt you are using.
You can read manufacturer manual to check whether you can adjust your water softener setting per type of salt used.
How often should I add salt to my water softener/ how often should salt be added to a softener brine tank
Check inside the brine tank to determine whether you need to add salt.
In the case where the salt in the brine tank is less than half full refill the tank just over half full.
If the water level is above the salt, it is time to refill the salt.
Always make a habit of checking the salt level every month and make sure the salt level is above half full to two-third in the brine tank.
Water softener salt bridge
When you notice your water softener is not using salt, then you have a salt bridge.
The salt bridge is when the salt form a block or hard crust, therefore, create a space between salt and water.
When there is a salt bridge, it prevents salt from dissolving in water; therefore, you won’t have a brine solution used for regeneration.
What causes salt bridge is using the wrong kind of salt, change of temperature, too much salt and high humidity.
How do you break or remove the salt bridge
You can use a broom handle or anything with a long handle. Put the handle in the tank and gently hit the salt bridge until it breaks.
Salt mushing in water softener
Salt mushing is when the dissolved salt crystallizes and form a slurry (something like mud) at the bottom of the brine tank.
It prevents brine solution from cycling in the resin tank during regeneration.
It causes the tank to block, leaving you with hard water.
To remove salt mushing, you need to drain all water clean the brine tank and replace with fresh salt.
Single tank water softener/dual tank water softener
Single tank water softener means the tank has only one resin while dual tank the tank two resin tank.
The dual tank provides softened water 24/7 365 days because when one tank is regenerating the other one is softening water.
Do you need a water softener with city water?
If the city water does not contain hard minerals, there is no need for water softener. You can request a water quality report from the municipal water department to confirm whether your water is hard.
What size of the water softener do I need/ size matter when choosing a water softener
When buying a water softener size is one main thing you should consider. What size is best for your home? The size depends on the amount of water consumed and water hardness level.
For example, for a family of four and hardness level of 10GPG.
The average water a person consumes per day, including bathing is 75gallons per day. So a family of four will use 75×4= 300 gallons per day
The amount of water need to be softened in a day is 300×10=3000 grains.
A water softener is required, and most are sized to regenerate once per week average. Why one per week it helps keep resin fresh and prevent the valve from tearing easily. It also helps reduce water consumption during regeneration.
If you take daily water, need to be softened using the example above of 3000. You need a water softener that can soften 21000 grains per week (3000×7=21,000)
Which size is best?
So as not to run out of softened water, you are not supposed to buy a water softener that will treat exactly 21,000 grains. You need a water softener that has a large size so that during regeneration you still have soft water for use.
In case you buy exact size, your system will regenerate before seven days this can lead to too much water and salt use.
Choosing a water softener that has capacity higher than 21,000 will help save salt and water. The best softener is like 30,000-grain capacity.
You can check the water softener sizing chart at discount
What are the benefits of a water softener?
Read more to find out the benefits of the water softener.
How often should a water softener regenerate?
The manufacturer recommends water softener to regenerate after 7-days or once per week.
It will help keep resin fresh, prevent the valve from tearing and reduce salt and water usage.
Why does my water softener smell bad?
Why water softener smell bad is because is infest by sulfur bacteria. The sulfur bacteria are attracted to the salt present in the water softener tank. As the bacteria grows, it produces gas that smells bad called hydrogen sulfide gas.
That’s is why it’s essential to clean your water softener tanks (both resin and brine tank) at least once per year.
There is time your water is smelling bad not softener this indicate your water has iron. Make sure you install an iron filter before water softener to remove iron.
How many PPM is considered hard water?
Water hardness is either measured in ppm or GPM
0-60ppm = 0-3.5GPM which is soft
61-120ppm=3.6-7.01ppm which moderately hard
121-180 ppm=7.6-10.51 which is hard
Above 180ppm=above 10.51 is very hard water
What is a good water hardness number/ what level of water hardness is acceptable
If your water is above 60ppm or 3.5GPG is considered hard, and you need to install a water softener.
What happens when water softener regenerates
Most water softeners are set to regenerate at 2:00 am. During regeneration, the system is put in bypass mode
In bypass mode, the hard water will be allowed to pass into your house without going to the softener system so soft water won’t be available.
Once the system regenerates, it goes back in regular operation, and you get soft water in your house.
It is not recommended to use water during regeneration because you will get hard water.
Different between the backwash cycle, regeneration and resin cleaning
Regeneration- water softener uses resin beads to remove hard minerals in the water. After some time the resin beads are coated with hard minerals making them not to soften water properly. So the beads require to be cleaned. So the cleaning of resin beads using brine solution is called regeneration.
Resin cleaning– resin beads are meant to remove hard minerals in the hard water. There are other contaminants present in water like iron and sediments which resin beads are not capable of removing. The contaminants coat the resin beads, making them ineffective. The resin beads require to be cleaned to remove contaminants, and this can only be done using resin cleaner.
The backwash is mostly done before you run regeneration. During backwash water runs through resin tank upward at a fast speed to flush out iron, dirt, and sediment from resin beads and out to the drain.
This help removes iron and sediment out of resin beads.
What is fouling in a water softener?
Fouling is the gathering of sediment, iron, dirt, organic compound, and metal particles on the resin beads.
What is scaling
If you have any question to ask, please let us know in the comment section below.
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- How to clean water softener resin
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