SOFT WATER is water with very few free Calcium ions CA++ and the usual method of extracting the Calcium Ions is called ION EXCHANGE. An ion exchange water softener uses special resins which are called “ion-excange resins”. The surface of these resins when they are fresh, firstly trap the Calcium ions and then release Sodium ions so removing hardness from the water but making the water richer in sodium ions. This ion exchange continues until there are so many calcium ions on the resins surface that they must be removed. This is done by adding a concentrated salt NaCl solution or BRINE and the process is called REGENERATION. The regeneration takes place in a seperate tank and it is here that the collected Calcium ions are removed and replaced once again with new Sodium ions. At this point the Sodium ions now affix themslevs to the resin releasing the Calcium ions which go back into solution and are washed away into a drain.
The resin is often in the shape a column and is itself inside a TANK of water. There is also of course a connecting REGENERATION tank.
The timing of the regeneration is oftened goverened by and timer or clock which sits on the top of the water softener. This timer can be electric or in some softeners like Kinetico the power comes from the movement of the water itself.
Water softeners need to be plumbed in by a professional plumber. The mains cold water feed into the property must be diverted through the water softener BUT a dedicated untreated cold water pipe must go to the kitchen sink to feed a drinking tap since softened water, rich in Sodium ions must not be drunk.
Salt must also be regularly put into the softener. The process of regeneration is accompanied by an alteration of water flow by an internal valve system which redirects water rich in Calcium down the drain.
ALTERNATIVES: Well you can see that the SOFTENER is a fairly complicated bit of kit. It not only needs salt but actually wastes a lot of water so people in HARD WATER areas now often choose an alternative…the electronic descaler. The Little Plumber range is among the most popular of these because not only have they been around along time but they also give a totoally unconditional 12 month full money back guarantee if the customer is not entirely happy with the performance.