Is hard water staining your faucets, dishes, and windows? Hard water contains excess minerals that can cause problems within the piping of your home. The minerals build up and reduce water flow, eventually requiring new plumbing throughout. Water softeners have resin filters that soften the water by removing the minerals.
Beyond improving the taste of your water, water softeners also:
- Result in softer skin and hair
- Provide better quality drinking water
- Reduce the amount of soap you need to create a lather
- Keep your clothes softer and your dishes free from cloudy discolorations
- Eliminate hard water build-up, which extends the life of your home's plumbing
- Lower your energy bill because the water flows more efficiently through plumbing that doesn’t have mineral buildup
How Water Softeners Work – Ion Exchange
Water comes in through your main supply line, running through the water softener tank which contains resin beads. The resin is a filter that removes hard water contaminants before the system re-routes soft water throughout your home.
Water softeners also have a section that holds a bit of water and salt, creating a salt brine solution. This salt brine cleans the resin beads that hold onto excess minerals. Once the rinse is complete, this water flushes through your waste system line.
Ion exchange is what your typical salt-based water softener is built to do. It pulls minerals away, leaving you with soft water, and regenerating the resin by flushing it with a brine solution.
Upflow Regeneration vs. Downflow Regeneration
Upflow uses around 75% less salt, and 65% less water, but is a more complex system than downflow. With a water softener that uses upflow regeneration, the brine flows through the system from the bottom to the top, which is the opposite direction of water flow (counter-current)
Most water softeners are downflow, where the brine flows from top to bottom in the same direction as the water (co-current). This system requires backwashing to fluff the resin filter as it becomes compacted with use.
A water softener brand such as Novo has options for both upflow and downflow systems, as well as salt-free water conditioners.
Sizing Your Water Softener
- The first step in determining which size water softener you need is to calculate your daily softening requirement. This is done by comparing your water hardness level and your water consumption. At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we offer free water testing to determine how hard your water is.
- To establish your household water consumption, you can look at a water bill to get a general idea. You can also multiply the number of people in your home by 75 gallons per day for an average estimate. Then, take your water hardness level and multiply that by your daily softening requirement.
- Now that you’ve got an indicator of how much softening is required per day, you can understand the size of water softener you need by how often the softener regenerates (flushes the excess minerals). Most water softeners regenerate once per week, so you simply multiply your daily softening requirement by 7 days to get the number you need for total softening capacity.
Considerations for Your Water Softener
When researching which water softener will be best for your home, here are items to take into consideration:
- How much salt does it take? Some water softeners require more salt than others. The efficiency of your water softener dictates how much salt you buy.
- Types of water softeners: There are two types of water softeners: two-piece and one-piece. Generally, a two-piece softener is the better choice if you have the space for it. It’s typically going to be more affordable and keeps the electronic components away from the brine solution within the tank that softens the water. However, there are one-piece softeners that keep the electronic components separated. These take up less space than two-piece units and use less salt and water, but typically are more costly.
- Components of the unit: You’ll want to ensure the water softener you purchase is made from non-proprietary components so that replacement parts are more easily attainable.
- Location of bypass valve: These valves allow you to let water bypass the softener when you don’t need to use it. One example is filling a swimming pool because it doesn’t need soft water. You’ll want an easily accessible bypass valve with clear instructions on how to use it.
Do you still have questions about which water softener is best for your Minneapolis home? Our team can assess your hard water, test it for free, and recommend a system that fits your needs. Call (612) 430-6547 today!