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.

The water regeneration process is essential to keep your system working at optimal efficiency. If you have recently purchased a water softener, it’s natural to wonder how often this process should take place. Many people believe that their water softener simply regenerates every night automatically, but this is not necessarily the case. In this article, we will take a closer look at this process and the frequency of regeneration to help you make informed decisions.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

There are a few different methods that water softeners use to make your incoming water supply soft and easier to use. But, the most popular option is the ion-exchange method and this process requires regeneration. Hard water contains elevated concentrations of dissolved minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron. Water is a solvent; it dissolves materials it passes through and then adds them to its makeup. Hard water minerals are not removed at the water treatment plant and they can cause a number of problems in your home.

A water softener removes the ions that cause hardness and exchanges them with sodium or potassium ions, which are more benign in nature. The mineral ions are left behind on the surface of the resin media that is used for the ion-exchange process. As the surface of the resin beads is gradually coated with this material, it loses its efficiency and the surfaces must be rinsed clean periodically. This is commonly known as the regeneration cycle and the mineral material is sent to the drain.

What is the Right Water Softener Regeneration Frequency?

Most modern water softeners will regenerate automatically based on the needs of the home rather than running to a strict timed schedule. The frequency of regeneration will be determined by a number of key factors including the level of water hardness, the volume of your water tank, the volume of water used each day and more. The theory behind regeneration is that the control valve is told to begin the process and when this occurs will vary depending on the type of valve that your softener uses.

If you have a larger tank that treats large volumes of water at a time, it’s more likely that your water softener requires a daily regeneration. This is also true if you have incoming water that is very hard and in these extreme cases, regeneration could be needed more than once per day. Most water treatment experts agree that a daily regeneration is necessary to keep the resin media bed in optimal condition. A high-efficiency water softener may regenerate once per day or multiple times depending on your water conditions.

In summary, there is no definitive answer and your water softener regeneration frequency will be determined by your own unique circumstances. For this reason, it’s a good idea to contact your local water treatment specialist for expert help. They can evaluate your needs and optimize your water softener regeneration cycle to make the system more efficient. This makes good financial sense too, an optimized water softener will save you money on repair and utility bills.

When Does the Water Softener Need to Regenerate?

You will hear the terms regenerate and recharge used in relation to this process. For clarity, it’s important to understand that these two terms are interchangeable and they mean the same thing. With that out of the way, as we briefly mentioned earlier, there are a number of factors that affect the frequency of the regeneration process, they are:

1.   The Hardness of Your Incoming Water

If your incoming water is very hard, it will force your water softener to work harder to remove the mineral ions. This is especially true if you have high concentrations of iron present and you may need a dedicated iron filter.

2.   The Volume of Water Used

A home where more people live will consume more water on a daily basis for drinking, cooking, cleaning and a wide variety of other tasks. This can change if you have guests for the holidays or someone leaves the home to live elsewhere.

3.   The Water Softener Age

Like any complex system, a water softener will degrade over time and older units tend to be less efficient designs. The capacity will diminish and this will lead to more frequent regeneration cycles which unnecessarily wastes water.

4.   Chemical Damage

Most cities add chlorine or chloramine (ammonia and chlorine) to public water as a disinfectant. This is an effective way to kill microorganisms, but those chemicals can decrease the efficacy and capacity of your water softener. A water treatment plant tends to add more chlorine to the water to keep it clean as it travels through the water delivery network. So, if your home is closer to the plant, there will be more chlorine in the water and that is the cause of the “swimming pool” odor and taste in your water supply.

5.   The Resin Tank Capacity

The salt settings need to be increased as a single-tank water softener tank ages. Gradual damage to the structure of the resin media takes a toll and the settings need to be changed by your local water treatment specialist.

6.   The Control Valve

The type of control valve will also be a factor in the frequency of the regeneration cycle. There are two main types of control valves used in residential homes, they are demand initiated and time-initiated.

Demand initiated valves are also referred to as metered valves and they regenerate based on the volume of water used. A pre-set threshold must be met to trigger the process which makes it a flexible and efficient option.

A time-initiated valve is controlled by a timer unit that is set to regenerate at a certain time when water usage is lower. This is usually at night and the process may take place at any time during a typical week of water use.

In Conclusion

The frequency and length of the regeneration process will vary depending on the factors discussed in this article. It is possible to make the process more efficient with adjustments and a water treatment specialist can do this for you. Changes in the home will alter the volume of water you use and that can make the existing regeneration cycle less efficient. Making a switch from an older single tank to a modern dual-tank water softener is more efficient and it will save you money in the medium to long-term.