How often a water softener will regenerate or recharge, is controlled by the valve of a water softener system. The valve or “control valve” is the ‘brain’ of the softener unit, since it gives the commands as to when the softener regeneration process will occur. But first, let’s discuss WHY regeneration occurs.
Why does a water softener regenerate or backwash?
In ion exchange water softeners, hard water is passed through a bed of softening material called resin. As the hardness minerals in water come in contact with the resin, the resin is attracted to the hardness minerals and holds onto them.
With the hardness minerals trapped in the resin and removed from the water, the water becomes “soft”. Over time, water softener resins get completely covered with hardness minerals and need to be cleaned. That’s when backwashing takes place– to make the system “regenerate” or ready to start the softening process again.
What happens during the regeneration process?
During the regeneration process, the water softener floods the resin with brine water, thereby “cleaning” the hardness minerals off the resin and sending them down the drain.
The softening resin in the water softener is now clean and ready to soften water again. This cycle is repeated approximately weekly, depending on water usage, allowing your home to have consistently soft water.
There are a wide variety of softener makes and models–and a number of different valve types, as well. But a water softener regenerates when the control valve tells it to start the regeneration process. There are two different types of regeneration used in water softening, depending on the type of valve you have: time-initiated regeneration and demand regeneration.
- In “time-initiated regeneration”, the clock on the control valve is typically set to have the system regenerate after a certain number of days and at a time of day with low water usage (default setting is often 2 am). This process will repeat itself at least once a week, at minimum. A water treatment professional will determine the valve’s settings based on the quality of your water, the size of your resin tank, household water usage, number of people living there, etc. If there is a demand for water while the system is regenerating, untreated water is available through an automatic internal bypass feature.
- With demand regeneration settings, the valve keeps track of water usage and sends the softener into “regeneration mode” after a predetermined amount of water has been processed through the softener. It’s sort of like your cell phone–if you have a lot of apps open and are using your phone a lot, you’ll have to charge the phone more often. Demand regeneration works the same way. The more water you’re using, the more often it will need to backwash. For example, if you have guests staying at your home and are using more water than normal, your unit will need to regenerate more often.
Both types of regeneration have worked well over many years. Demand regeneration is often considered more efficient in both salt and water usage because the system only regenerates when it has used up it’s softening capacity instead of simply regenerating on a given day, whether it needs regeneration or not (could happen with time-initiated).
When should I check my softeners’ control valve?
If you experience an extended power outage (over an hour in length), you may need to reset the time of day on the control valve. Most valve’s internal batteries are designed to retain the time of day for up to 24 hours. Refer to your softeners’ installation and maintenance guide for more details.
When should I call a Water Treatment Professional?
Change in Water Quality: If you experience a change in water quality…
- First check to see if your brine tank is empty and more salt needs to be added.
- Check to see if your system has power.
- Check to see if the drain line has a kink that may be restricting flow during regeneration.
- A water treatment professional can test your water to make sure that the constituents in your water have not changed in the past year. Although our public water supply is carefully monitored to ensure water regulations are being maintained, there can be changes at your local municipal plant. Based on water test results, a professional can modify your system settings, install a prefilter, or whatever is needed to ensure you continue to have outstanding water.
- Having your water softener serviced annually will ensure the settings are optimized to save you money.
- If it seems like your softener is regenerating too often, a professional can modify the settings or make needed repairs. If service and/or parts are required, make sure to have your softener manufacturer’s warranty handy. Keep in mind that regenerating more often than needed is costing you money in water usage as well as extra salt.
- A water treatment professional can sanitize and clean your system to make sure your system continues to produce the best possible water for your home.
Looking for a professional who really knows water? WaterTech has authorized water treatment dealerships throughout the country. Find one near you.