What is a water softener?
A water softener is a whole-house filtration system that removes hardness-causing calcium and magnesium minerals from your water through a process called ion exchange.
Hard water wreaks havoc on the modern home. Scale builds up in your pipes, clogging them and decreasing water pressure. Scale dramatically shortens the lifespan of appliances like dishwashers, coffee makers and ice machines
Without a water softener, laundry demands extra detergent to prevent it from looking dingy. Dishes will come out of your dishwasher streaked and stained. Filmy scum builds up on your shower curtains and your soap and shampoo will not lather. Bathing in hard water leaves your skin itchy and dry and your hair lifeless and stihe shcky. Teer amount of time, energy, and money required to clean up the detrimental side effects of hard water is dizzying. A whole house water softener is the solution to the scourge of water hardness.  
How do water softeners work?
Water softeners work through a process called ion exchange which eliminates calcium and magnesium from the water. When the hard water enters into the mineral tank, it flows through a bed of spherical resin beads. These plastic beads, usually made from polystyrene, are charged with a sodium ion. The resin beads are anions, meaning they have a negative charge. The calcium and magnesium minerals have a positive charge, making them cations. Since opposite charges attract, the negative charge of the minerals is attracted to the positive charge of the resin beads. As the hard water passes through the resin, the beads grab ahold of the mineral ions and remove them from the water. When the bead seizes the mineral ion, the sodium ion is released. The column of resin strips all the hardness out of the water as it passes through the mineral tank, and softened water flows out into your home. 
What are the components of a water softener?
1. The mineral tank
The mineral tank is the chamber where the hard water is softened. The water supply line feeds the hard water into the tank. The water seeps through the bed of resin beads, depositing the water-hardening calcium and magnesium ions. The water exits the tank soft and flows through your pipes and out to your household appliances.
2. The control valve
The control valve measures the amount of water passing through the mineral tank and into your house. The valve houses a meter that tracks the volume of water entering the mineral tank. As hard water flows through the mineral tank, the resin beads exchange their sodium ions for hardness ions. Over time, this depletes the capacity of the resin to continue to effectively soften water. Before the beads become too burdened with mineral content to continue removing calcium and magnesium ions, the control valve automatically initiates a regeneration cycle. This maximum capacity is pre-programmed into the control valve’s onboard computer and is based on a range of factors, like the size of your house, the number of occupants, and the hardness of your water. Control valves are demand-initiated controllers, which allow water softening units to be extremely efficient.
3. The brine tank
The brine tank aids the water softening system in regeneration. It is a shorter tank that sits adjacent to the mineral tank. The brine tank holds a highly concentrated solution of salt (or sometimes potassium) to restore the resin beads’ positive charge. Salt is manually added to the brine tank in the form of pellets or blocks. These dissolve in the water at the bottom of the tank. When the control valve registers the softening capacity of the resin is diminishing, the heavy brine solution is drawn out of the tank and flushed through the resin in the mineral tank. If the brine tank runs out of salt, the water passing through the unit will no longer be softened. 
How does water softener regeneration work? 
Regeneration cycles inundate the resin beads with a highly concentrated brine solution, washing off the hardness minerals and draining them out of the system. 
Co-current regeneration cycle
In a co-current regeneration cycle, the brine solution enters the mineral tank in the same direction as the service flow. It down the depth of the bed of resin beads and an ion exchange process occurs again, only this time in reverse. As the brine flows over the beads, the salts force the beads to release the magnesium and calcium ions in exchange for the sodium ion. As the brine passes through the resin, an increasingly-concentrated surge of hardness minerals forms and flows through the entirety of the system. As the brine solution pushes more hardness minerals through the bed, continuous exchange and re-exchange of minerals and regeneration ions transpires. By the time the water has exited the tank, the solution’s strength is significantly reduced
Counter-current regeneration cycle
A counter-current cycling water softener uses 75% less salt and 65% less water than co-current cycling. It also distributes the recharging sodium ions more equitably. In a countercurrent cycle, the most highly charged beads will be at the bottom of the tank, right before the water exits into the house.
Is soft water safe to drink?
Soft water is safe to drink. During the ion exchange process, the resin beads do release sodium into the water when grabbing ahold of the hardness minerals. But the amount of sodium in softened water isn’t unhealthy, and actually is far less than what is widely imagined. 
If your water has a hardness level of over 400 ppm, you will want to install a reverse osmosis system to treat the water that you drink and cook with. The reverse osmosis system pushes water through a semipermeable membrane capable of eliminating almost all dissolved solids and salts from the water. 
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