Water Softener FAQs
How does a water softener work?
The resin or mineral inside the brine tank is specially designed to remove the “hard” particles of lime and calcium, by a simple ion exchange process. A concentrated solution of sodium/salt (brine tank) is flushed through beads, also called resin. The resin beads inside the softener tank have a different or opposite electrical charge than the dissolved particles of the incoming water. Because of this electrical charge difference, the dissolved particles suspended in your water will cling to the resin beads on contact, thereby ridding the water of these particles, causing the water exiting the unit to be “soft”. The resin has a limit on the amount of hardness particles it can hold, which is why there are many different sizes of softeners and also why regeneration or brining is required.
What is hard water?
Hard water has high mineral content. Hard water minerals primarily consist of positively charged calcium (Ca2+), and magnesium (Mg2+) metal ions, and sometimes other dissolved compounds such as bicarbonates and sulfates.
What is a grain?
Water hardness levels are measured by grains per gallon (gpg). Grains refer to the amount of calcium and magnesium ions present in a municipality’s water supply. Calcium and magnesium are the two most common minerals that make water “hard”. The degree of hardness becomes greater as the mineral content increases.
How does hard water affect your home?
In many places across Ontario, ground water comes into contact with sufficient concentrations of calcium and magnesium. The harder the water, the more problems homeowners will encounter in terms of scale buildup in their pipes, regular and tankless water heaters, and dishwashers. Scale buildup can make water heater and dishwasher units less energy efficient while shortening the life of equipment and clogging your faucets and taps. Hard water can also cause water spotting while lessening the effectiveness of soap and detergent. Producing soft water from hard water involves a process called ion exchange.
What is ion exchange?
Ion exchange is a process that works to remove the ionized minerals in water that causes it to be hard. The calcium and magnesium ions are swapped with "ion exchangers", such as sodium and the negative ions of the resin beads in the brine tank. Water carrying the positively charged calcium/magnesium ions pass through the negatively charged beads in your brine tank. As water passes through the beads (also called resin), the beads become saturated and can’t effectively attract more calcium/magnesium. This means hard water will begin to flow into your home. Ion exchange is followed by a process called regeneration.
What is regeneration?
Regeneration occurs when a concentrated solution of sodium/salt (brine tank) is flushed through the beads and “scrubs” them, removing the calcium/magnesium ions and flushing them out of the system. The brine tank is also flushed of any excess salt and then refills itself. When the system is regenerating, soft water cannot be produced, so the process may be scheduled during off peak times (e.g. between 2am to 4am) as determined by the homeowner.
How do I schedule a regeneration?
There are two ways you can schedule your system for regeneration:
- On a fixed schedule (e.g. every 5 days). This method is based on old technology which uses more salt and consumes more electricity.
- Based on the amount of water processed by the water softener. This method triggers a regeneration cycle based on consumption, when the resin cannot bond with the calcium/magnesium anymore because it is saturated. Enercare’s water softeners use this method.
What kind of salt can I use for my water softener?
We recommend buying water softening salt for your water softener that is very clean with high purity, around 99.5% salt content. All softeners can also use Potassium Chloride in place of salt. Using impure salt may cause the injectors in the control valve to clog which will require the expense of a technician to have it fixed.
How much salt should my water softener use?
An average water softener with 1 cu. ft. of resins should use about 6 lbs. per regeneration to achieve an economical 22,000 grain capacity (hardness in grains divided into grains of capacity results in the gallons of water that can be treated before resins are exhausted). It is strongly recommended that you do not put more than 40kg of water softening salt or potassium chloride in the brine tank at a time.
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 it 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.
Why does soft water feel silky in the shower?
Hard water contains minerals that cause soap to leave a residue. That residue is left behind everywhere the water makes contact (e.g. your hair, your skin, your tub, etc.). With softened water, soap rinses off completely. So what felt “normal” with hard water was actually caused by the friction you felt between your skin and the soapy residue. Your hair for example squeaked when you rubbed it when toweling. Remove that residue/friction and it will feel silky because there is no residue left behind. With softened water, you will use less soap/detergent, your hair will have more shine and bounce, your towels will be fluffier and the pores of your skin will not be as clogged with soap.
My valve appears to be operating but the salt is not going down. What could have caused this problem?
This could be due to many different reasons, such as:
- Valve is not regenerating due to a mechanical problem
- Salt may be bridged (become solid) above water that is at the bottom of the brine tank
- The valve could be failing to draw the brine solution out and if you have a float shut off in the brine tank, it would be preventing the brine tank from overflowing (which it would do if the float was not shut off)
- The brine refill control could be clogged, preventing water from refilling the brine tank
Please contact Customer Care at 1 866-887-5567 if your water softener is not functioning properly.
Why do the resins in the water softener tank need to be changed?
With the proper pretreatment and maintenance, the average water softener will not need its resins replaced in its lifetime (20+ years). It is impossible to accurately determine the life of resin since so many factors contribute to the degradation of the resin itself. Proper pretreatment can be as simple as a sediment filter or as complex as a chemical injection system combined with a multimedia bed. This is determined by having your water tested.
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. If you are concerned about the safety of your drinking water, contact your local health department about getting a bacteria test, or full lab analysis on your water.
Is softened water safe to drink for people on salt reduced diets?
If you have concerns or are on low sodium diet, consider using a Reverse Osmosis System after your water softener to treat your drinking/cooking water. Please keep in mind that most people’s daily salt intake comes from table salt, processed foods and soft drinks using salt as an ingredient.
Enercare | Water FAQ
Reverse Osmosis FAQs
How does Reverse Osmosis work?
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a filtration method that uses water under pressure which is forced through a series of semi-permeable filters to help remove impurities and chemicals in water. So how does this work? Just like water treatment plants, the purification process involves several steps:
Filter 1: Raw tap water from the city or well flows through a 5 micron sediment filter to remove dirt, silt, and any other solid objects.
Filter 2: A carbon filter (5 microns) is used to remove up to 96% of chlorine and various organic chemicals*.
Filter 3: The reverse osmosis filter (0.1 micron) goes on to remove 99% of any remaining dissolved solids*. Those impurities are captured and flushed out of the system. The purified water is then stored in a 5 gallon tank for your use.
Filter 4: Once you turn on the (lead-free) tap, the stored RO water passes through the last carbon filter (5 microns) to remove any bad taste.
City of Toronto Lead Map
A Reverse Osmosis system works to eliminate chemicals and heavy metals, including lead, from your drinking water. If you live in the City of Toronto, your water supply may contain unsafe levels of lead. Use the City of Toronto lead map to determine the water lead level in your area1. If you live outside of the GTA, contact your municipality to determine the lead level in your water supply.
Whole Home Filtration FAQs
How do Whole Home Filters work?
A whole home filtration system works to prevent contaminated outside water from being used inside the home for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing. Unlike a Reverse Osmosis filter which is tied to a specific tap(s), a whole home filtration system tackles all of the water being supplied into the home through a three step process:
Step 1: Raw water entering the house is pre-filtered to remove large particles, impurities and contaminants larger than the 5 micron filter.
Step 2: Proprietary filter design captures chlorine (typically added by municipal water treatment plants), other chemicals, heavy metals and contaminants from the water through the microscopic pores of our specially blended resins.
Step 3: The backwash of the water filtration system lifts and provides filter bed expansion removing sediment and contaminants. It is important to refresh the filter bed so that the surface area has maximum exposure to the water flowing through it. This stage flushes the system of the captured lead, iron, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, copper, aluminum, silver, nickel and other heavy metals, as well as chemical contaminants such as chloramines, chlorine, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyl, ethelyne, trihalomethane and volatile industrial chemicals.
If there are additional water treatment problems, any number of additional filters (iron, sulphur, tannin etc.) or UV disinfection may be required to supplement the basic system.
What are Total Dissolved Solids?
Dissolved solids refers to any metals, minerals, chemicals or salts dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) refers to the amount of mineral and organic matter and chemicals that are dissolved in a municipality’s water supply. TDS in drinking water originates from natural sources, sewage, urban run-off, industrial wastewater and chemicals used in the water treatment process.
How does the City of Toronto produce drinkable water?
Producing drinkable water from raw water involves a water treatment plant that needs to perform 3 types of filtration (physical filtration, chemical filtration and biological filtration). This process involves 7 steps2:
- Water is pumped from lakes and reservoirs to water treatment plants through large intake pipes
- Screens are used to remove large objects and debris
- Chlorine is added to kill bacteria while alum is added to clump particles together, called “floc” which are then dropped out of the water
- The clean water is filtered to remove impurities while improving taste and odour
- The water travels into holding basins where fluoride and chlorine are added to kill any remaining bacteria. Any excess chlorine is removed with sulphur dioxide
- Ammonia is added to stabilize the chlorine and to keep the water safe during the travel into your home through various types of valves and pipes (cast iron, steel, galvanized iron, copper, plastic/polythene, asbestos, cement, concrete, lead)
- Water supply is tested regularly to ensure quality
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*Based on manufacturer’s information and assumptions
**Savings may vary depending on the type of filter used