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Water Softener Facts and Myths

Jan 19, 2016 | Plumbing Tips

We’re always surprised to hear what our residential customers think about the operation of a water softener. There are myths and misconceptions surrounding this popular (and very necessary) plumbing fixture.

We have a page for water softeners posted on our website, but we want to examine some of the details on how these ingenious plumbing fixtures actually operate. We also want to dispel the biggest myth that we hear regularly.

The following cutaway diagram shows the internal components of a typical water softener.  The two major components are the Mineral Tank and the Brine Tank.

Water Softener Cutaway

Functions of the Mineral Tank (or resin tank)

The water that comes to our homes in Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo has a high mineral content – higher than most places in Canada. The minerals are picked up along the water’s journey and remain in our water. This ‘hard’ water is actually hard on our plumbing fixtures and clothing during laundry. It causes soap to clump and be less effective at removing dirt from material as well as our bodies.

The mineral/resin tank of a  water softener is responsible for de-mineralizing the water when it enters the home then flows to our taps and fixtures. Plastic beads/resin within the tank help remove the soluble minerals in the water. It’s really that simple.

Normally after a few weeks…and depending on how ‘hard’ your water is, these beads become less effective because they are covered in hard water minerals. When this happens, it’s time for your water softener to regenerate – to clean the beads.

*Note: We will test your water and pre-program your water softener to re-generate at the appropriate time and frequency.

The Brine Tank

This tank houses salt water (or brine) that is used to pump through the mineral tank/resin tank to clean the plastic beads.

The brine enters the mineral tank and quite often remains in there for a period of time until the buildup on the plastic beads is dissolved or loosened. This is then siphoned out of the mineral tank and it is flushed with your regular water.

Once this process has completed, the plastic beads are again working hard at removing the minerals from your incoming municipal water supply.

Depending on the type of water softener you own, your brine tank may also completely drain (leaving only salt) until the next regeneration cycle.

The Big Myths

“Soft water has removed many of the minerals that our bodies need (iron, calcium, magnesium) to function properly”.

This is a myth propagated mostly by door-to-door water sales people. Yes we need those minerals, but our bodies cannot digest inorganic minerals found in our water. These minerals must come from our food or some can be absorbed by taking supplements. Avoid door-to-door sales people who use scare tactics to sell water products.

“Our soft water tastes salty.”

This is not true. While regeneration is occurring, the mineral tank does contain a very salty brine solution, however this is flushed away once the process has completed. There should be no noticeable salt taste when water softeners are functioning properly.

To give us perspective, a typical 8-ounce glass of cola has appoximately 30 milligrams of sodium. An 8-ounce glass of softened water has less than 12.5 milligrams. Typically a slice of bread has between 80 and 230 milligrams of sodium.

In our region, water softeners are really an essential component of a home’s plumbing system. If you notice discoloured water or an excess of scaling/lime buildup on your faucets and toilets, it may be time to get an assessment done on your water softener.

Due to chlorine in our water, the plastic beads in the mineral tank will eventually break down and need to be replaced. Don’t hesitate to call Chasles Plumbing Professionals if you require further information or would like to repair, purchase or rent a new water softener unit for your home.