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The Role of Salt Pellets in a Conventional Water Softener

When it comes to our water softeners, we don’t put much thought into how they work. So long as our water quality continues to meet our standards, we trust that our water conditioning system is doing its job right. However, it is common to question the purpose of putting salt in our water softeners, since it seems like a strange task.

The truth is salt is the secret to having soft water. Continue reading to learn more about water softener salt, including some key terms that will help you better understand what it is for.

Weilhammer Plumbing Co. Inc.
Weilhammer Plumbing Co. Inc. October 17th, 2023

The Basics of Water Softener Salt

Water softener salt plays a major role in hard water removal. To understand how water softener salt works, you first must have a basic understanding of how a water softener uses ion exchange technology to remove hard mineral ions from municipal water. See our blog, “The Basics of Water Softening” to learn a quick review of the water conditioning process.

Traditional tank-style water softeners that use salt have a resin tank, where thousands of tiny resin beads hold electrically charged ions. When the water softener system regenerates overnight, the resin beads fill up with sodium ions provided by the softening salt. The sodium-filled resin beads attract all the magnesium, calcium, and other minerals in hard water as it passes through, and trade them for sodium ions.

Water Softening Terms You Should Know

  • Resin Beads: Water softener resin beads are the ion-exchange media used to implement the ion-exchange process that renders hard water soft. Also known as a sulfonated copolymer of styrene and divinylbenzene, the most commonly used resin beads in the water softener industry are polystyrene-type gel resin beads, which are primarily Polystyrene and Divinylbenzene (DVB).
  • Resin Tank: This is where the water softening process takes place. The hard water passes through the resin tank, which contains resin beads, or ion exchange resin, ready to attract all the hard mineral ions and swap them for soft sodium ions.
  • Brine Tank: This tank is important to tank-style water softeners because it is where the salt is filled. For the average home, the brine tank needs only be refilled around six to eight times annually. Just be sure to use the right salt!
  • Brine Solutions: A water softener produces a brine solution from the salt added to the brine tank when it regenerates. A mixture of water and salt, this brine solution serves to cleanse the resin beads and recharge them for their next softening cycle.
  • Regeneration: Regeneration is the process of a water softener removing hard mineral ions from the water. It is normal for a water softener to take up to an hour or more to finish a regeneration cycle. Of course, this all depends on the size, make, and model of the unit, and the number of occupants in the home.
  • Timer-Based Regeneration: Water softeners that enter their regeneration cycle on a preset schedule are known as timer-based regeneration models. They are quite outdated and do not come highly recommended. Although there might be some benefits to setting your regeneration times, newer models do a more efficient job, which saves you money.
  • Demand-Initiated Regeneration: A water softener that comes with this feature is very efficient. It is designed with sensors that monitor your home’s water usage and make adjustments as needed. This as-needed operation saves water, time, and money.

If you’re looking for assistance with treating hard water, make sure to contact a local plumbing expert today! Just call us today!