By Mark Nelson — President, Nelson Water

With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley. 

Every now and again homeowners using a water softener may need to regenerate or recharge the system. A water softener is controlled by a control valve, which acts as the brain for the entire system. This control valve will know when a water softener regeneration process is required and carry it out automatically.

Why Does a Water Softener Need to Regenerate?

A modern water softener typically uses an ion exchange process to soften the water. Hard water is passed through a resin bed; the minerals that cause hardness are attracted to the resin and are trapped there. Over time, these water softening resin materials are gradually covered with an increasing amount of water hardening minerals. The minerals need to be cleaned off the resin so that it can continue to attract more minerals that cause hard water. This process of cleaning the mineral deposits away is known as regenerating or recharging the system.

How Does the Regeneration Process Work?

When a regeneration process is carried out, the water softener floods the resin bed with brine water. This will gently clean the resin material of any water hardening mineral, which is then flushed away into the drain. This cycle can be repeated on a weekly basis, but this can vary a great deal based upon your water usage habits. Once the cleaning has been completed the water softener has been reset, and it’s ready to soften your water again.

When is a Regeneration Required?

As we stated in the introduction, a water softener will know that it needs to regenerate because the control valve will tell it to automatically. Depending upon your specific make or model of water softener there could be two main ways that the system will regenerate, they are time initiated and demand regeneration.

A time initiated regeneration cycle is triggered by a timer located on the control valve. This will be set to regenerate the system based on a fixed number of days and at a day and time when the expected water usage is low. On many timers, the default time is 2 am, but this can be adjusted if required. This process usually occurs once each week. This can vary depending upon your water quality, your water usage, the number of residents and the size of your resin tank. If there is a demand for water during a regeneration cycle, there is usually a bypass feature to keep you supplied.

A demand regeneration cycle is triggered by the control valve as it tracks water usage and then reaches a predetermined amount of water used. Once this amount of water has passed through the water softener, a regeneration cycle process is started automatically. So, the more water used in your home, the more often regeneration will occur.

Both of these methods work very well, but you may need to seek expert advice from a local water treatment specialist. They will be able to advise you on the best settings for your area and the equipment that you’re using.