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Understanding Your Water Softener

posted Oct 14, 2009, 11:16 PM by Mike @Dawson   [ updated Jun 3, 2014, 7:33 AM by Dawson Designers, Cabinets, Property Managers ]
Many o four customers have asked us how a water softener works. Living in Northeastern Illinois, whether you're on a city well or youw own well, you probably have a water softener.  As water passes the ground, it dissolves minerals, especially calcium and magnesium which makes the water hard.  Hard water is not a health risk, but a nuisance because of mineral buildup on fixtures and unsatisfactory soap and/or detergent performance.  Water softeners have a mineral tank, salt tank and a timer.

The Mineral tank removes the calcium and magnesium from the water as the water passes through the mineral tank.  Inside the mineral tank are plastic beads made of polystyrene or some type of plastic.  These beads attract calcium and magnesium removing elements from the water, making your water soft.  

The Brine tank, where you add salt, is a plastic tank that contains the brine- water saturated with salt.  The salt is used to clean the minerals that capture the calcium and magnesium.  At night, usually between 1-3 AM when water is not being used in your house, your water softener runs in reverse sending the brine solution into the mineral tank purging the calcium and magnesium.  This brine solution, along with the calcium and magnesium, are discharged normally into a sump pump near the water softener.  

The timer is set to regenerate in intervals based on the water usage in the house and the amount of calcium,  magnesium and other minerals in the water.  Once the beads are saturated with calcium and magnesium, they are ineffective until the mineral tank is purged with the salt water.  If you find your water to be harder than normal, check to make sure that there is salt in the brine tank, and /or adjust the recharge interval on the timer.  
Is drinking water softener bad for you?  Most plumbing systems in homes built in the last 25 years are set up so that the cold water for the kitchen sink and the water for the outside faucets are not softened.  There is no risk to drinking unsoftened water and the risk to drinking softened water with added sodium is minor.  However, problems may result if you are on a restricted low sodium diet, in that some sodium is transmitted into the drinking water.


Dawson Designers, Cabinets, Property Managers,
Jun 3, 2014, 7:36 AM