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Water Softener Regeneration Process: Frequency & Problems

Scott Winfield
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by Scott Winfield

If you live in an area where hard water is an issue, you probably have a water softener in your home. You don’t want the harsh chemicals of hard water affecting you and your family, so a softener works to replace them with friendlier, cleaner water.

You might not have heard of the process of water softener regeneration. What is it, and how does it affect the water in your home?

What is Water Softener Regeneration?

Water softener regeneration is the process of flushing out hard water minerals from water softener so it can continue to function properly. This process happens when the iodine bed at the bottom of the softener is saturated.

A water softener works by filtering hard water through a resin bed. This bed replaces “hard” chemicals of magnesium and calcium with “softer” iodine.

After a while, the resin bed gets full of calcium and magnesium. To continue cleaning water, it has to be cleaned out and the resin refreshed.

Water Softener Regeneration Process
Water Softener Regeneration Process: Photo Credit – https://www.apswater.com/images/regen.jpg

The Water Softener Regeneration Cycle

Water softener regeneration process looks like a cycle. It starts by cleaning hard water and taking away the harsh chemicals naturally present in water.

Here is a breakdown of the cycle:

  1. Water softener cleans hard water
  2. The water softener’s resin beds get saturated
  3. The water softener switches frequencies and needs to be regenerated
  4. The water softener opens the brine tank and uses a salt block
  5. The water softener flushes through the salt block, cleaning out the resin bed
  6. The water softener flushes through the entire tank, cleaning it and rinsing out excess salt
  7. The water softener switches back to its original settings
  8. The water softener cleans hard water

Each of these steps is done automatically except for salt block renewal. If you are experiencing a downtick in water quality, it might be because your water softener is out of salt. 

All you have to do is ensure you have the right size of the salt block. It is sold with the softener or at your local appliance store.

If you have the right size of the salt block, you can simply put it in the bottom of the water softener tank. It should fit right in with the resin bed at the bottom and begin to work immediately.

Unless you must add salt you can let the water softener complete the regeneration process. It should take no longer than twenty minutes and flush the salt block out through the waste.

A salt block will last several flushes and shouldn’t need replacement for a while. However, ask your technician when you should invest in more salt for your water softener.

Water Softener Regeneration Frequency – How Often Should it Regenerate?

Water softeners regenerate about once a week. Usually, they do this automatically and in the early hours of the morning.

Early morning is the best time for water softener regeneration because it’s usually a low-flow time in the house. No one is awake and taking a shower, so a slightly smaller flow of water isn’t going to affect anyone.

Although water softeners regenerate once a week, they can regenerate more or less often as needed. This schedule depends on the type of water softener you have: time initiated or demand initiated regeneration.

Time-initiated regeneration flushes the water softener after a certain time (usually once a week). It is set by a small timer on the side of the softener and automatically resets once it’s regenerated.

Demand-initiated regeneration, however, measures the amount of water that goes through the softener. After a specific amount of water, it regenerates the tanks automatically and starts over.

How Long Does Regeneration Take?

The regeneration process generally doesn’t take longer than ten to twenty minutes, depending on the size of your softener. It will automatically flush through the regeneration process when it must.

Nonetheless, every brand is different and some have longer wait times for regeneration. Either way, it’s a simple flushing process and won’t take longer than half an hour.

Water Softener Regeneration Settings

Most modern water softeners are set to regenerate automatically. When installed, they have a specific time to reset once a week.

However, you can change this setting if you need more water during regeneration time. Ask your plumber or local technician how to change it when they install the softener and you might be grateful later on.

Although many softeners regenerate at a specific time, the demand-initiated softeners tend to save money and water by doing it only when needed. This feature is only on particular models but is worth looking out for.

What Does Water Softener Regeneration Sound Like?

Water softener regeneration sounds a bit louder than the normal water softener sound. Although you don’t usually hear a ton, you might be able to hear water flowing over the resins to clean them.

There’s also a chance you hear some machinery whirring when the machine clicks the system from softening to regenerating. This is normal and shows that your water softener is doing its job.

Can You Use Water Softener While Regenerating?

Most water softeners are dual tanks, so you will continue to use a tank while the other is regenerating. This way, no hard water ends up in your house.

Can You Use Water Softener While Regenerating
Can You Use Water Softener While Regenerating?

Water softener will run a regeneration process on one side and regular water softening on the other. It’s perfectly safe to use and won’t affect the quality of water in your house.

The only thing to be cautious about is how long it’s been since the first tank regenerated. It’s best to keep both tanks on a cycle so that you won’t have to worry about regenerating both simultaneously.

How Much Water is Discharged From a Water Softener During Regeneration?

The minimum amount of water for a regeneration flush is six times the amount of salt. The specific amount depends on the size of your water softener.

This number comes from two distinct rinses: the rinse to distribute the salt and the rinse to clear the excess salt. Since the salt block is about the size of the resin chamber, you need three times that amount of liquid twice in a row.

It may seem like a lot of water, but this tank has been cleaning hard water and building up chemicals for a while. For the salt to remove those chemicals and clear the brine out, it’s going to need several gallons of water.

In America, the tanks might require a little more water in order to perform a backwash. This is because water quality in America is lower than in other countries, so extra cleaning is required.

Common Regeneration Problems

Of course, no machines run smoothly forever. Some of the most common problems with water softeners are rustiness, getting stuck in regeneration mode, and loud noises during regeneration.

Call a licensed technician and get your water softener fixed if any of these problems occur. With professional help, you’ll be able to get the problem solved soon and continue using your water softener safely.

Water Softener Water Rusty After Regeneration

If your water is brown or tea-colored after regeneration, you might require a little extra cleaning to avoid rust. Iron is the most common element on earth, so it’s no surprise that it shows up a lot in a water softener.

While water softeners excel at absorbing the iron from water, they can build up in the resin bed. Eventually, it is activated by regeneration and shows up in your water.

To avoid this problem, use an in-depth resin cleaner on top of the regular regeneration cycle. This chemical formula will strip off the rust and leave your resin sparkling clean again.

You can also insert a sediment filter in the pipe before the softener. You will have to replace it occasionally, but a filter will help your water softener last longer.

Water Softener Stuck in Regeneration Mode

Although water softeners automatically switch in and out of regeneration mode, the timing mechanisms aren’t always perfect. Sometimes they get stuck or broken, and the softener keeps regenerating and never softens water.

The easiest way to do that is to install a new timer. Once the new timer is in and attached to the softener, constant regeneration will no longer be an issue.

However, if you decide to replace the timer, make sure you set it up correctly. Otherwise, the new timer might not connect and you’ll find yourself with a defective water softener.

Water Softener Loud Noise During Regeneration

Water softeners typically aren’t very loud while they’re regenerating. However, some can create a loud bang or mechanical sound as it resets.

For the most part, this is normal. It could just be the system resetting or the valve switching. However, if it bothers you or happens continually, you might need to call a technician.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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