A water softener is an essential device used in households to remove minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium, from hard water. Hard water causes several problems, such as limescale buildup, skin irritation, and laundry dullness. A water softener works by exchanging ions in the hard water with sodium or potassium ions, effectively softening the water. Understanding how it works is essential to help maintain the device and ensure the supply of soft water throughout a home.

The Resin Tank

A resin tank is a container filled with tiny beads or resin that are negatively charged. These resin beads attract and hold positively charged minerals in hard water, including calcium, magnesium, and iron, among others. The water softener system works by exchanging these hard water minerals with sodium ions that are introduced into the water through a brine solution. It plays a significant role in the process of exchanging hard water minerals with sodium ions that eventually produce soft water.

The process of water softening begins with hard water entering the resin tank. The negatively charged resin beads attract positively charged hard water minerals, causing them to adhere to the surface of the beads. As more hard water enters the tank, the resin beads become saturated with the minerals, and they become less effective at softening the water.

When the resin tank is no longer able to soften the water, the system enters the regeneration cycle. During regeneration, a brine solution is introduced into the resin tank, and the sodium ions in the solution are exchanged with the hard water minerals on the resin beads. This process effectively cleans the resin beads, removing the hard water minerals and recharging the resin tank with sodium ions.

The Brine Tank

A brine tank is a reservoir that is used to hold a concentrated solution of salt and water. This solution is commonly referred to as brine. The brine tank is an essential component of a water softener as it provides the salt necessary for the ion exchange process that removes the minerals that cause hard water.

The regeneration process starts when the water softener’s control valve initiates a backwash cycle that forces water through the resin tank to remove any debris or loose resin beads. The control valve then switches to the brine tank and draws the brine solution from the tank into the resin tank.

The brine solution flows through the resin bed, and the salt in the brine displaces the accumulated calcium and magnesium ions that have been trapped by the resin beads. The calcium and magnesium ions are then flushed away with the brine solution, leaving behind a fresh layer of sodium ions on the resin beads.

Once the regeneration process is complete, the water softener enters a rinse cycle where fresh water is drawn into the resin tank to rinse away any remaining brine solution. The resin bed is then ready to start the ion exchange process all over again.

The Head Valve

The head valve is the control center of a water softener. It is responsible for controlling the flow of water through the system and regulating the regeneration process. The head valve is located on top of the resin tank, and it is connected to the main water supply and the brine tank. When water enters the water softener, it first flows through the head valve. The head valve then diverts the water into the resin tank.

The head valve also controls the regeneration process of the water softener. Over time, the resin beads in the tank become saturated with minerals, and they need to be regenerated to continue removing the hardness from the water. The head valve controls the regeneration process by initiating a backwash cycle.

Built-in Bypass

A built-in bypass of a water softener is a valve that is incorporated into the design of the water softener. It allows you to bypass the water softener and send water directly to your home’s plumbing system. It is designed to divert the water around the resin tank, which is where the ion exchange process takes place.

For the built-in bypass valve to be in use, it has to be turned to the bypass position. This position is labeled on the valve and can be turned using a lever or knob. Once the valve is in the bypass position, water will no longer pass through the resin tank and will instead flow directly through the water softener.

Valve Motor

The valve motor is an electric motor that controls the valve’s movement in a water softener. The motor is typically located on top of the control valve, and it is connected to a gearbox that controls the valve’s movement.

The valve motor operates using electricity, and it receives signals from the water softener’s control board telling it when to move the valve and what position to move it to.

The valve motor works in tandem with a gearbox that converts the motor’s rotational movement into linear motion. The gearbox is responsible for controlling the valve’s movement and positioning it correctly. The valve motor’s movement is precise, ensuring that the valve moves to the correct position every time.

Flow Meter

A flow meter is a device that measures the rate of fluid flow through a pipe. It is located on the water inlet or outlet and is used to measure the water flow rate through the unit. The flow meter provides information to the control board, which uses the data to control the regeneration cycle.

The flow meter uses a paddle wheel or turbine to measure the water flow rate. As water flows through the pipe, it spins the paddle wheel or turbine, which is connected to a sensor that detects the rotation.

The flow meter is calibrated to measure the flow rate of water in gallons per minute (GPM). The flow rate can vary depending on the size of the water softener, the number of people using the water, and the hardness of the water supply.

Riser Tube

A riser tube is a vertical pipe that extends from the bottom of the resin tank to the top. The riser tube is made of PVC or polyethylene and is designed to distribute water evenly through the resin bed during the regeneration process. The riser tube has a series of slots or holes along its length, which allows water to flow through it and distribute evenly through the resin bed.

The slots or holes along the length of the riser tube help to prevent channeling, where water flows through the same path repeatedly and misses areas of the resin bed.


At Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical, we are a reputable plumbing and mechanical company providing a wide range of services to our clients in Phoenix, AZ. Along with our expertise in plumbing services, we offer water treatment solutions to residential and commercial properties. Our team of experienced professionals is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools to handle any plumbing or mechanical needs, while providing high-quality and reliable service. Contact Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical today for more information.

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