Home water softeners are often used in places where the water contains high concentrations of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. While some minerals in the water make it taste better, the minerals in very hard water accumulate inside appliances and cause residue and soap scum on bathroom and kitchen surfaces. The most important water softener parts in home softeners are the central processing unit, the mineral tank, and the brine tank.
Many home water softeners use an ion exchange filtering system to remove the minerals from the water. In the ion exchange process, water is run over a resin filter that contains negatively charged sodium ions. The mineral ions in the water stick to the resin, which releases the sodium ions, leaving the softened water to pass into the house.
Central processing units are electronic water softener parts that control the function of the machine. These units generally comprise three parts: a timer, a meter, and a valve assembly. The timer controls when the water softener turns on and begins the filtration process. Some softeners do this at a regularly set time, while others work on demand. The water softener’s meter measures the ion level in the resin filter, and automatically starts a brine wash when the sodium ions are low. The valve assembly regulates the passage of water to the other water softener parts.
The mineral tank is the place where the water softener’s resin filter is housed. As the filter draws the minerals out of the water, it becomes impregnated with mineral ions that must be replaced with sodium ions in order for the water softener to work properly. To clear the resin filter, water softeners have a brine tank that regularly washes the filter with salt water. The mineral ions stick to the sodium ions in the brine, and the water is rinsed into the sewer.
Water softener parts require regular maintenance and repair. The brine tank must be monitored and filled regularly, but the resin filter usually stays in working condition for the life of the water softener. A resin filter might need to be changed if water was left standing on it for several months, causing bacteria buildup, and mineral tanks exposed to sunlight may start growing algae. Algae growth and heavily chlorinated water can also damage the resin filter and the valves, so those water softener parts should be checked regularly and replaced if needed.