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What is a Water Softener?

Its a unit used for the removal of calcium and magnesium in hard water. The resulting soft water is more compatible with soap and extends the lifetime of plumbing. 

How does a water softener work?

It uses a process called ion exchange. An automatic water softener consists of a pressure vessel filled with resin. Located on the top of the pressure vessel is the control valve. The water is passed through the control valve and down through the vessel. As the water passes across the resin bed, the calcium and magnesium attach to the resin so the water leaving the unit is soft. Periodically, depending on how much water is used, the resin needs to be refreshed. This is done by flushing a small amount of salt (stored in an external brine tank), though the resin vessel. Once this process has been completed the resin is refreshed and ready to begin again.


What are the benefits of fitting a water softener?

  • Save on energy bills.
  • Elliminate expensive maintenance bills.
  • Remove traces of scale in the shower, bath and sink.
  • Reduce the high cost of soap and detergents.
  • Give your skin a silky, clean feeling.
  • Make your laundry feel softer and look brighter.
  • Make your bath and shower feel more luxurious.


What is hard water?

Rainwater which falls on chalk and limestone dissolves and collects hardness minerals such as calcium and manganese. This water collects in underground aquifers before either naturally coming back to the surface as streams or being pumped via a borehole. The minerals naturally drop out of solution forming scale deposits, especially when the water is heated. In many applications this scale build up becomes unsightly or interferes with the efficiency of applications, and needs to be removed. Just 1.6mm of scale build up will cause a 12% loss in heating efficiency in boiler water.
Softened water also reduces the excessive use of detergents and soaps.

How to size a water softener?  

On average 160 litres of water is used per person per day. This normally occurs in two peak periods, one in the morning and one in the evening. A family of four typically uses 700 litres of water per day but may use 300 litres in an hour in the morning. Larger households, farms, stables and irrigations systems all use more water. When sizing a system the average flow and the peak flow rate need to be taken into account. Try and size a system to run for 3 days without regenerating or a duplex for 12 hours. The vessel size is often given as the diameter and the height (in inches).
Recommended operating pressure range 20 to 120 psi. Water temperature range from 2 to 38 degrees Celsius The average flow rate is normally 40 bed volumes (40 times the litres of resin) although peak flows are higher.


What is the difference between flow rate and water pressure?

Your water flow rate is simply the amount of water which moves through your pipes over a minute or hour.

Pressure is the standing pressure of the system under no-flow conditions.

It is important to know about the maximum amount of water you use at any one time. Your water will only flow when you turn on your taps, so the number of taps you have on at any one time will  affect your flow rate.

What should i consider before buying a water softener?

Firstly, you must know the hardness of your water. Your provider ( Thames, Severn Trent etc) will provide this information for you, alternatively send us your postcode via an email only and we will provide it.

Secondly, you must estimate how much water you use. See above (How to size a water softener)

Lastly, choose time or metered valves. See next.


Time or Metered water softener?

Time controlled models regenerate automatically based on the number of days input (only possible on an electric softener). These are the simplest and cheapest softeners. Meter controlled versions monitor the amount of water used and so calculate when to regenerate. These are often more efficient as they only regenerate if water has been used. They cost a little more to buy but in the long run probably use less salt and so are cheaper to run.

 How often do I need to add salt to the Brine Tank?

It depends on how often your system needs to regenerate. The more your softener regenerates the more salt you will consume. As for the salt level in the brine tank, you can let the salt get down to the point inside the tank where you can see the water just above the salt. When you see water above the salt, it is time to add more! Generally, you will add salt to your brine tank about every 8 weeks.

Will a Water Softener make my water safe to drink?

 No. Your water must be safe to drink before you condition the water with a softener.

What does regeneration mean?

Water softeners remove hardness minerals from tap water all day long, and they reach a point where they need to do something with all of the minerals that they have collected. The process of draining out those minerals is known as a regeneration cycle.


How does a water softener regeneration cycle work?

When a water softener detects that it’s time for a regeneration cycle, it flushes its tank with a mixture of salt and water known as brine. Normally, calcium and magnesium have a stronger hold on the resin beads inside of the tank, which is why they are able to replace the sodium ions during the softening process. However, the brine used during a regeneration cycle has such a high concentration of sodium that it overwhelms the calcium and magnesium ions, and those hardness ions are knocked off of the beads and replaced by the sodium ions in the brine. The calcium and magnesium ions are then flushed out of the tank with the remaining water from the brine, and the softener is ready to perform again.


What is Reverse Osmosis?

RO is a water purification technology that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules and larger particles from drinking water.
How does Reverse Osmosis work?
In RO systems water is pushed up against a membrane with tiny holes (typically at 10 to 12 bar pressure). Water molecules get throuhj, while minerals such as sodium cannot. Typically 97% of minerals are removed. On domestic systems the permeate flow is low at 25% while on industrial systems 75% is more common.