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The Total Beginner’s Guide to Water Softener Parts

Basic Water Softener Functionality

If you are completely new to the subject, here it is in a nutshell:  Hard water causes lime scale buildup in pipes.  This “lime” generally consists of calcium and magnesium ions which form a chalky substance which sticks around in your plumbing rather than dissolving as it is supposed to.  The result is frequent clogging and any number of other problems over time in sinks, tubs, pipes, and even water heating units (although this won’t apply as much in tankless units such as Titan water heaters).  In addition to this, hard water is tough on clothing fibers.  No one wants to replace their clothes every two months as a result of unnatural levels of wear and tear as a result of hard water.  This is where each of the water softener parts come into play, working together to take the hardness ions out of the water.

Peering into the innards, you’ll see that there are a few important water softener parts that make your life easier.  Arguably the most important of these is the resin bed, a reservoir that is generally filled with lots of small beads.  These beads will be coated in sodium ions, an essential part of the basic chemical reaction that occurs when the water softener performs its task.  As the hard water goes into the softener, the magnesium and calcium hardness ions are attracted away from the water toward the beads, and the sodium is likewise attracted into the water.  The resulting water is softer because sodium (salt) dissolves far more easily in water than the hardness ions.

Resin Bed Regeneration

The resin bed’s supply of sodium ions is finite, which means that it’s going to run out once in a while.  Luckily, the water softener has a part called the “brine tank” which holds a fresh supply of salt water.  When the sodium ions run out in the resin bed, the process of “regeneration” begins, and the salt water backwashes from the brine tank into the bed, recharging it with more sodium.  A common problem for people with malfunctioning water softeners is that the regeneration process is not functioning properly, and thus hard water is passing through the softener unaffected.

The Most Important Parts In A Water Softener

The Resin Bed – The container for the sodium ions which eventually trade themselves for the hardness ions in the incoming water.  This is where all the magic happens.

Brine Tank – The backup supply of salt water whose job it is to resupply the resin bed with more sodium ions through regeneration process.

Control Valve – The place where the water first enters the water softener, and usually the first place to look if you’re trying to find a way to stop water from entering the unit while you perform maintenance tasks.

While this is only a basic guide to water softener parts, this information should be enough to get any beginner on track for diagnosing and fixing most problems with their softeners.