What is Water softener regeneration

Water softener regeneration is a common term used in the water softening process.

Water softener regeneration

What is water softener regeneration?

In an ion exchange water softener, hard minerals pass the resin tank which contains resin beads.

The resin beads which are negatively charged attract minerals that make your water hard (note resin does not filter but attracts) — the hard water minerals which are positively charged stick firmly on the resin beads, therefore, providing soft water.

Over time the resin beads get overly coated with hard water minerals causing them not to soften the water.

In such a case, the resin beads need to be cleaned to remove the minerals that have entirely covered.

The process of cleaning the water softener resin to regain its effectiveness is called water softener regeneration.

Most people confuse water softener resin cleaning, backwash cycle, and regeneration.

Regeneration is the process of cleaning off hard minerals that have entirely coated the resin beads.

Resin cleaning also happens to the resin beads, but this is different.

Let me explain water softener resin is meant to remove hardness present in your water, but there are contaminants present in your water which resins are not able to clear.

Such contaminants include iron, manganese, silt, metal particles, and organic compounds.

When the above contaminants enter your resin tank, the resin beads are not capable of removing them from the water.

Over time they will coat the resin beads causing the failure or inefficiencies.

In such cases, the resin beads need to be cleaned to restore and peak its efficiency which is only done using water softener cleaner which is well known as water softener resin cleaning. 

That’s why it is advisable to install water filter before water softener to remove contaminants that resin beads cannot reduce.

Backwash cycle

During the backwash cycle the water flow to the resin tank at a high-speed rate to flush out the accumulated contaminants (iron, sediments, and dirt) on the resin beads and into the drain.  During the backwash cycle, no chemical is used just plain water but when the contaminants become stubborn that when you need resin cleaner.

Why does a water softener regenerate?

Water softener regenerates to remove hard minerals that are stuck on the resin beads so that you can always have soft water for use.

How do you know it is time to regenerate?

Nowadays most water softeners have a control valve that is programmed when to regenerate. 

How to set the control valve is dictated by various things such as water softener capacity, number of hard minerals in your water and number of people in your household.

 The control valve has two different features on how to set it to regenerate. The water softener features include:

  1. Timed regeneration

The timed regeneration, the control valve is set to regenerate after a certain number of days. The timed initiated regeneration can have a problem on days when you have visitors. During those days you may have more laundry, more dishes cleaned or lots of showers. By the time the regeneration occurs all soft water could have been finished and start delivering hard water on your faucet.

On another case, you might have been traveled, or you have less consumption of water the system will regenerate when the day you have set reaches even if you were not using water leading to loss of salt and water

It is advisable you set the water softener in bypass mode in case you are traveling to reduce the wastage

  1. On-demand regeneration or metered

On-demand regeneration is set to regenerate after a specific amount of water has been softened. It is most economical because the valve keeps track of water softened and regenerates when needed.

The on-demand regeneration saves over or under the regeneration process when water usage varies.

What do you need for regeneration?

During the regeneration process, you only need a brine solution which is in the brine tank.

The brine solution is prepared using water softener salt either potassium chloride or sodium chloride. Some people use potassium chloride solution; this is effective for people on a restricted sodium diet or if at all you do not need sodium content in your water. Others use sodium which is common in most homes.

To prepare the brine solution, the brine tank is filled with water softener salt and water to make brine which takes 10 minutes to do this.

Water softener regeneration steps

Usually, water softener has two tanks –brine and resin tank. The brine tank is where brine solution for the regeneration is stored while the resin tank is where resin beads which attract hard minerals (calcium and magnesium) are stored.

When the water softener reaches the time for regeneration, the brine solution in the brine tank travel to the resin tank, the brine solution has a high concentration of sodium that overwhelms the hard minerals coated on the resin beads. The water hardness ions on the resin beads are cleaned off by the strong concentration of brine solution.

When the hard minerals are flushed out from the resin beads, the brine tank valve closes, and water starts to flow the same path as during brining but without brine. The water flushes out the hard minerals and brines out of the resin tank using the drain pipe.

After this, you can run the backwash cycle to flush out other contaminants on the resin beads (read above what is backwash cycle)

Lastly, rinse out the resin tank using the fast flow of water and return water softener in its service mode (back to its normal operation)

Bonus video on how to program your water softener

How long does it take for the water softener to regenerate?

Regeneration process takes 50-60 minutes depending on the distance of the piping.

What is the best time to do the regeneration?

The most system comes with a default setting at 2 am. The regeneration time should be set to happen late at night probably between 2am – 4am. At this time is when water is not being used in your home. In case you have a dual tank water softener you can regenerate any time of the day.

Water softener regeneration noise

When water softener is regenerating on its own, it will make noise.

Water softener regeneration frequency

Ideally, a water softener is supposed to be sized such that does not regenerate frequently. In standard cases, it should regenerate after every three days to reduce water and salt wastes and no longer than 14 days IF it takes longer days than 14 days it can cause resin compacting and fouling with sediment or iron. Seven days between regeneration is the best regeneration frequency mainly if the iron is present.

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