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Basics of Water Softening Systems

Abhay Burande May 13, 2019
Water softening systems are used to replace the ions in hard water. In spite of its uses, there are certain problems that need to be kept in mind before using these.
Hard water usually consists of calcium and magnesium ions, along with other dissolved metals, sulfates, and bicarbonates. It is not dangerous, but it may cause some problems, like scaling and deposit of limescale. Therefore, we need to soften hard water. The machinery used to turn hard water into soft water is known as a water softener.
A water softener removes the ions that make the water hard. Not only calcium or magnesium, but iron may also be removed. This softener has to be directly connected to the water supply. These can work in automatic, semi-automatic, or manual mode.
Every type is rated on the amount of hardness it can remove, prior to regeneration. A good softener can be used for several years, without the need for much maintenance.
However, some salt has to be filled after a specific time span. The three types of salt that are used are rock salt, solar salt and evaporated salt. Rock salt is traditionally mined from underground salt deposits. Solar salt is obtained after evaporation of water. Evaporated salt is mined from underground salt deposits of dissolved salt.
Rock salt is cheaper. But, cleaning the reservoir of this salt consumes a lot of time and energy. Water softeners may be time operated or water meter-controlled. The latter produces the softest water for a pound of salt. These softeners operate on electricity or waterpower. Its cost depends on:
  • its type
  • type of energy used
  • hardness of water
  • use of water

Water Softening Systems

In a water softener, ions of magnesium and calcium are replaced with potassium and sodium by using a medium. This process is as follows:
For the ion replacement, a resin bed of small plastic beads or zeolite is covered with sodium or potassium ions. Then, the water is passed through this bed. Here, swapping of the ions takes place. Finally, the beads contain only calcium or magnesium. Now, softening ceases and the beads have to be regenerated.
These are flooded with a brine solution that has a large quantity of sodium or potassium. Backwash means that the calcium, magnesium, dirt and sediments are drained from the beads. Lastly, the mineral tank is rinsed with freshwater and the brine tank is loaded, so that it is ready for the next cycle.
Automatic water softeners recharge periodically in such a way that the occupants are not harmed. These are very water-efficient and regenerate only when there is a necessity.
Types of water softening systems with top-mount valves are:
  • Compact water softening systems with meter regeneration
  • Compact water softening systems with timeclock regeneration
  • Heavy-duty water softening systems with meter regeneration
  • Heavy-duty water softening systems with timeclock regeneration


These may be fully automatic or demand initiated regeneration models. The former has a timer that starts each step in the regeneration procedure, usually done at night when water usage is less. In the latter, all procedures are done automatically as a response to the demand for treated water. The salt storage has to be enough for many regenerations.


A small quantity of sodium enters the water from the softener. This is hazardous to those having hypertension or heart problems. It also affects the grass growth and vegetation. The bacteria in the septic tanks may get killed. This is overcome by using potassium chloride.
Alternatively, a bypass pipe may be installed so that the water does not pass through the filter. Soft water leaches heavy metals from pipes and this can reach dangerous levels. The softening procedure can remove the minute quantities of minerals from water that are useful to health.

Brand Comparison

Different brands like Fleck, iSpring, Eddy water descaler, Aquasana, Apec, and Aquios are compared on the basis of price, guarantee, shipping and cost effectiveness.