Water hardness is a common problem encountered by many homeowners, caused by the presence of high levels of calcium, magnesium and other minerals in the home water supply. Water hardness is most commonly treated using a water softener. Like all other home appliances, water softeners require regular maintenance in order to ensure that they work properly. Manual regeneration is one of these maintenance techniques, and understanding how to perform it takes only a few simple steps.
Water softeners work by passing hard water through sodium-saturated polystyrene beads; magnesium and sodium ions bind to the beads and the water is passed through to another tank free of the calcium and magnesium. Over time, the beads become so saturated with magnesium and calcium ions that they are not as effective in removing hardness minerals from water. At this point, the beads need to be regenerated, a process whereby a salt brine solution is passed over the beads to remove calcium and magnesium ions from the beads.
The majority of home water softeners are equipped with automatic regeneration devices. These devices work by either using a clock or by monitoring the amount of water used (demand-initiated regeneration softeners) to tell the water softener when it is necessary to shut down and regenerate. If your water softener does not have an automatic regenerator, you will need to manually regenerate the softener. Even if your softener does have an automatic regenerator, you will occasionally need to manually regenerate the softener for simple maintenance.
The process by which you can force a manual regeneration of your water softener depends entirely on the make and model of the softener. Some models simply have a hand-controlled knob that you can turn to regenerate. Other models require a screwdriver to move a dial through each stage of the regeneration process. Once initiated, the softener will flush the beads inside the resin tank with the salt brine solution and discard the salt-saturated wastewater. To learn the exact process by which you can initiate a manual regeneration on your water softener, consult your water softener's owner's manual.
Depending on the size of your water softener, a regeneration cycle typically takes about 30 to 60 minutes and uses anywhere from 40 to 60 gallons of water. No softened water will be available for home use until the regeneration cycle is complete. Manual regeneration can be particularly useful for those water softeners that use a clock to time automatic regenerations, since regular regeneration is not necessary during prolonged periods of not using the water softener. If you plan on going on vacation, for example, you can turn off the automatic regeneration setting to save water and then simply manually regenerate when you get home.
Eoghan McCloskey is a technical support representative and part-time musician who holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and political science from Texas State University. While at Texas State, McCloskey worked as a writing tutor at the Texas State Writing Center, proofreading and editing everything from freshman book reports to graduate theses.