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Replacing a Fleck 2900 Control Valve June 5, 2023 11:29

The Fleck 2900 is a very popular commercial water system control valve and is widely used across the world. Here's a photo that shows the basics (rear view):

fleck 2900S water softener control valve

Aquatell sells replacement parts and complete replacement control valves for Fleck 2900 and we ship these worldwide. There are a few things you'll need to figure out about your existing Fleck 2900 control valve if you want to order parts for it, or if you want to replace it outright.

Is Your Fleck 2900 a Softener or a Filter?

There are two basic models of the 2900 control valve. One is used for water softeners and one is used for backwashing filters. Usually, the obvious difference between these two applications is the presence/absence of a brine tank (aka salt tank). If there's a brine tank, you've likely got a softener. And even if it's not a softener, if there's a brine tank, you need the "water softener" version of the valve. If there's no brine tank, it's a filter. The photo below shows the brine line which will only be present on a system that has an attached brine tank. If you see this, you need the water softener version of the Fleck 2900 control valve:

Fleck 2900S water softener control valve showing brine line

Does it have Hardwater Bypass?

The Fleck 2900 softener valves comes in two main configurations: Hardwater Bypass or No Hardwater Bypass. These are often abbreviated at HWBP and NHWBP. The "hardwater bypass" version of the valve will allow untreated water to pass through the system if water is demanded while the system is in regeneration mode.  The "no hardwater bypass" version will not allow any water to flow to service while the system is in backwash. Essentially, this system will shut down the water flow completely until the regeneration process is complete. The "no hardwater bypass" version is typically used when the softener is a dedicated pre-filter to another piece of equipment, such as a reverse osmosis system.  When the softener is being used to supply soft water to a mixed-use building, the "hardwater bypass" version is typically seen.

If you're unsure of what you are replacing, looking at the sticker label on the control valve can be useful:

fleck 2900 water softener control valve label sticker

  1. This shows us the model and the type of piston. When "STANDARD" is the piston type this is the "hardwater bypss" version.  For "no hardwater bypass" it will show NHWBP for the piston type
  2. This is the serial number and may be able to be used to discern certain details about the control valve if you contact Pentair.
  3. This shows how the valve has been set up in terms of the Brine Line Flow Control (BLFC) and the Injector (in this case, BLFC = 2.0 and Injector = 4). These components are matched to the tank size.

If you'd like help figuring out what you've got and what you need to replace it, please feel free to contact us. Photos are very helpful.

Chiller Daddy Alternative or Substitute? January 27, 2023 10:17

The Chiller Daddy is no longer being manufactured and has many people asking if there's an alternative or substitute product. We explain in detail below, but the short answer is yes - we've been able to source an excellent alternative product that we're very excited be offering for sale: The Iceberg Chiller.

The Iceburg Chiller is made by an Edmonton, Alberta based company called Crystal Mountain which has been making and selling water purification and dispensing products since 1990. They make great products and you can see below how the Iceberg chiller is a great substitute for the Chiller Daddy*:

Comparing the Iceberg Chiller To The Chiller Daddy: 

Chiller Daddy
Iceberg Chiller
1.3 Gallons Per Hour Output
3.0 Gallons Per Hour Output
Stainless Steel 0.6 Gallon Tank
Stainless Steel 0.5 Gallon Tank
Adjustable Thermostat
Adjustable Thermostat
1 Year Warranty
2 Year Warranty
1.8 Amps / 140 Watts 1.2 Amps / 75 Watts
Stainless Steel Enclosure Powder Coated Steel Enclosure
UL / CSA Certified UL / CB Certified
L: 16" x W: 8" x H: 11.75" L: 16.5" x W: 12" x H: 12"


The Chiller Daddy was a great product for Aquatell. It was an ideal product for chilling purified water that had been output from a drinking water filter or reverse osmosis system. It worked well and we were able to offer it at an attractive price point. We suspect the Chiller Daddy will eventually be offered for sale again once they work out their suspected manufacturing difficulties, but this could be a while and may not come to pass at all - we're just not sure.

The Iceberg Chiller is an excellent choice for your post filtration or post reverse osmosis drinking water application. It's perfect for residential applications or for office water dispensing stations and is very likely the product we'll continue to sell even if the Chiller Daddy makes a return.

* Based on the technical specifications found in the Chiller Daddy Owner's Manual.

Tomlinson Reverse Osmosis Faucet Leak January 17, 2023 12:00

Tomlinson makes a very beautiful and high-quality line of faucets for reverse osmosis systems. They're our best seller for both of these reasons. Like every product though - even very well manufactured ones - there can be the odd issue that arises with a very small percentage of installed units. When these situations arise we like to post about them on our blog as a potential help to other customers (or anybody for that matter) that might benefit. We recently had a customer report a leak on a Tomlinson faucet he bought from us:

leak on tomlinson ro faucet

This leak is looks to be occurring at the junction between the neck and base of the faucet and is likely due to one of a few things. First, it's worth checking that the nut that holds the neck to the base is tight:

tomlinson ro faucet nut

If tightening this nut doesn't do the trick you'll want to undo the nut and pull the neck of the faucet out of the base. Make sure the faucet isn't open when you do that. Have a look at the o-ring at the bottom of the neck. Make sure it isn't deformed or damaged. Lube it up with silicone grease (or any vegetable based cooking oil - not vaseline) and re-insert it. Make sure it seats all the way down into the base. The photo below shows the bottom of the neck with the o-ring. Note that this photo is from a faucet that's been used for many years:

tomlinson ro faucet o-ring

 Check over the Gasket (1) and O-Ring (2)

Big Blue Filter Housings - Finding the Date Stamp January 9, 2023 20:54

We sell tons of big blue filter housings. They're ultra-versatile, easy to install, and tend to be pretty much immune to failures or defects. But every once in a blue moon we'll get a customer who has an issue with one. Usually this manifests itself as a housing that won't seal properly. Once all avenues have been exhausted (replacing o-ring, inspecting threads, tightening the housing with the wrench) it can be concluded that there's some kind of manufacturer defect and a warranty can often be claimed.

In order to claim a warranty the age of the housing needs to be established. This is done by looking at a date stamp that is molded into the plastic at the time of manufacturer.

A Pentek big blue filter housing will have a date stamp in two locations - on the inside of the sump (the blue part) at the very bottom, and on the inside of the cap:

big blue housing date stamp

Looking down into the bottom of the sump to see the date stamp


big blue filter housing date stamp in cap

 The date stamp on the underside of the black cap

The date stamp is comprised of an inner arrow with a number on either side which denotes the year it was manufactured - in this case 2022. The arrow in the date stamp points to the month of manufacture.  So this housing was made in November of 2022.

What Should The Water Level Be In My Softener Brine Tank? December 27, 2022 17:30

There really isn't any water level that your brine tank "should" be at despite many of the articles that you may read on the internet. We'll explain in a lot more detail below, but the main idea is this:

  1. Any given water softener will add the same amount of water to the brine tank after each regeneration, unless the programming is changed.
  2. This water is intended to dissolve the salt in the brine tank so that there is saturated brine solution ready for the next regeneration.
  3. When water dissolves salt, the volume of the salt remaining in the brine tank decreases.

So, if we combine these three concepts, and if we assume that no new salt is added to the brine tank then we can conclude that over time the level of the salt will decrease relative to the level of the water in the brine tank. Makes sense, right? As the salt gets dissolved, it slowly disappears. This can create the illusion that the water level in the brine tank is increasing over time, but in reality the salt level is dropping, as we would expect. This is completely normal and in fact is a sign that the softener is working exactly as it's supposed to.


Can Water Softener Resin Freeze? December 20, 2022 07:57

Can water softener resin freeze? Yes it can. And as long as you follow a few easy rules it won't get damaged by freezing temperatures.

Water softener resin is about 50% water by weight. This is true for lots of other resin-based water treatment products as well. So when these resins are subjected to sub-zero temperatures they will, of course, freeze. But does this freezing cause any damage to the resin that is permanent and could affect their water treatment or water softening capabilities? The answer is no, as long as some precautions are taken.

Avoid Too Many Freeze-Thaw Cycles

There are lots of everyday examples of structural materials that absorb water. Good examples are asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks. Any civil engineer will tell you that the amount of damage done to these materials due to freezing temperatures is more related to the number of times the temperature crosses the freezing threshold than it does the absolute coldest temperature reached or the amount of time that the material is in the frozen state. When water freezes it expands, and materials like asphalt, concrete, or water softener resin undergo structural stress when this expansion takes place. Too many expansion/contraction cycles caused by fluctuating temperatures can lead to cracking or fracturing of the material. But if water softener resin is frozen and thawed a few times there is very little likelihood of any damage being done.

Handle Frozen Water Softener Resin Carefully

If your water softener resin is frozen the very simple rule is to allow it to fully thaw out before you do anything with it. A 1.0 cubic foot bag or box of fully frozen resin left at room temperature will thaw out quite easily within 24 hours. A pallet of water softener resin left at room temperature may take much longer: likely 48 - 72 hours. Once the softener resin has thawed out you can use it normally.

Don't Expose Frozen Softener Resin To Water

Exposing frozen water softener resin to water will cause the resin beads to crack and will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the resin. It may still work, but there will be broken fragments of resin that are likely to be backwashed out of the system and overall effectiveness and efficiency will be diminished. As stated above, simply give the resin time to warm up before you use it for water treatment.

What To Do With A Water Softener While I'm On Vacation? November 28, 2022 13:59

If you're getting ready to go on a long vacation you're probably working your way down the checklist of things to deal with before you depart and you're stuck on the "water softener" action item. Knowing what to do with your water softener while you're on a long vacation is important because mishandling the softener can lead to softener resin damage and this will decrease the effectiveness and longevity of the machine. This article can also be used for softener owners with a recreational property who are wondering what to do with their water softener during extended periods of non-use. We explain in detail below how to properly handle the softener, but there are a couple of key concepts that will help you to understand why we make these recommendations:

  • water softener resin (the stuff inside the machine that does the softening) doesn't like to be be idle
  • leaving a softener in the clean, regenerated state is much better than leaving it with the resin loaded with hardness
  • the more iron or manganese in the water, the more important it is to make sure the resin is clean before you leave it.

A critical factor in determining how you'll handle the softener on a long vacation is whether or not you'll be turning off your water. If you're not going to be turning off your water then you can likely just leave the softener as-is and it will take care of itself. The majority of modern water softeners are "demand regenerated", meaning they measure the amount of water you use and regenerate based on water usage. But pretty much all of these systems (every single one we sell) also has a Day Override (DO) setting. This setting defines the maximum number of days the softener will go without regenerating. So if your water softener DO value is set to "7", and you leave your water on while you're away, the softener will regenerate itself every 7 days and this will keep the resin is good shape while you're gone.

If You'll Be Shutting Off Your Water

Most people will choose to shut off their main water supply before departing for a long vacation. If this is what you're planning, the softener won't be able to regenerate itself and you'll need to take some other measures to make sure the softener is handled properly. The duration of time for which you'll be gone is going to play a big part in determining what to do:

If You'll Be Gone For 4 Weeks Or Less

If you're going to be home within four weeks of leaving then the strategy is quite simple:

  • just before you leave, manually force the system into a regeneration and allow that process to complete before you shut off your water
  • if you know that you have extremely hard water or high iron or manganese, then you may want to add an extra 2 or 3 gallons of water to the brine tank, then wait 3 hours, then force this manual regeneration (this will ensure a very thorough cleaning of the resin)
  • as soon as you get back force another regeneration

For all of the water softeners that are sold by Aquatell, you can leave the control valve powered on while you're gone. This will make sure that the programming settings on the control valve are maintained. If the control valve tries to regenerate while you're gone it won't be able to flow any water (since you shut it off) but this will not do any damage to the control valve mechanism at all.

If You'll Be Gone For More Than A Month

For really extended periods of non-use the strategy is a little different. In these cases you'll want to follow the steps above to clean the resin, but then you'll want to "pickle" the resin so it can be stored inactive without damaging it at all.

The idea here is that softener resin likes to be in a salty brine solution. This is the exact same salty brine that is used to regenerate it. But instead of flowing the brine solution into and then out of the brine tank, we're going to interrupt the regeneration so that the tank is left full of the brine solution. Here are the steps to follow. Please note that these steps are representative of the softeners that we sell (Fleck and Clack based systems). Other softeners will be similar but you may have to reference your manual to learn how to skip from one stage to the next.

  • do the first regeneration (aka resin cleaning) as described above
  • wait 3 hours
  • force another regeneration
  • the first stage of the regeneration will be a backwash stage (may be BW or B1 on many machines) and this stage will be accompanied by a countdown timer on the screen
  • press the same button you pressed to force the regeneration (but don't hold it down) to advance to the next stage which will be the Brine Draw (BD)
  • The BD stage will usually have a 60 minute countdown associated with it
  • Through this stage the system will slowly draw out the brine solution in the brine tank. When all or most of the brine solution has be drawn out of the tank (usually 20 - 30 minutes into the Brine Draw), unplug the power the softener.

At this point the softening tank (where the resin lives) is now full of concentrated brine solution. The resin is effectively "pickled" and can stay in this state for months. Exactly how long is hard to know, but we've had customers store their softeners like this for a year without any apparent detrimental effects to the system. It is recommended that you also put the softener into the bypass mode (usually two valves or a single-handled valve on the rear of the softener). Putting the softener in bypass ensures that when you return back from vacation if somebody flows water without thinking about the softener, it will prevent the salty brine solution from being drawn into your plumbing.

When you come back from your extended absence and after you've turned your water back on, you will plug the controller back, put the softener in "service" mode (aka take it out of bypass) and force a manual regeneration.  Make sure you force the regeneration immediately after taking it out of bypass so nobody accidentally draws water and pulls that salty brine into your plumbing.

Please Keep This In Mind

The instructions given here are based on our experience and may or may not align with what softener component or resin manufacturers recommend. Since the conditions of everybody's water, softener components, and especially the health of the softener resin is different, we can't make any guarantees about how well these techniques will work. These techniques will always work best on newer resin or resin that has not been subject to a high level of foulants such as iron or manganese.

Salty Water After Softener Regenerates November 2, 2022 11:02

If you're getting salty water in your lines after your water softener regenerates there are a few common causes that can be investigated. These are all pretty easy to identify and correct:

The Drain Line Isn't Working

All water softeners have a drain line that goes from the softener control valve and runs to a drain. At various stages of the regeneration, water is pushed through this drain line and needs to be able to freely discharge or the regeneration won't happen properly, with one potential symptom being salty water left in the machine that ultimately gets into your plumbing. These are the most common causes of faulty draining of the softener:

          1. Drain Line is Kinked or Pinched:  This is especially common when a soft material is used for the drain line (such as clear vinyl or rubber hose). Look for places where the drain line turns a corner or is draped over a beam - these soft materials may collapse in these spots over time and restrict the flow.
          2. The Drain Line is Too Long:  This is a problem that would likely present itself not long after the initial softener installation or could present as an issue if the home water pressure has lowered over time.  The idea here is quite simple: it's the line pressure of your home that pushes the water through the drain line (the softener itself doesn't "pump" the water). So if the drain line is too long or if it travels too far vertically, your home pressure may not have enough power to make the water flow through it or, it may flow but far too slowly. If you suspect this is your issue, temporarily use a shorter drain line to drain the softener to a closer location and run a regeneration under these conditions. If your salty taste is gone, you've ID'd the issue.
          3. The Drain Line is Frozen:  In some climates discharging a softener drain line to the outdoors is quite common. But if that line gets frozen it will block the flow and cause all sorts of different regeneration issues for the machine.

    Your Water Pressure is Too Low

    If your home water pressure is too low, you may not be able to push water or brine through the softener at the proper rate during the regeneration. This can lead to brine solution remaining in the tank after the regeneration has completed and the salty water issue. For the proper functioning of a softener, you need to be able to maintain a pressure of no less than about 30 psi for the full duration of the regeneration.

    Water systems that use a pressure tank will typically have a pressure setting (on/off) of either 30/50 or 40/60 psi. But keep in mind that once the pressure tank volume has been depleted, the pressure in the line will be completely dictated by the pump. If the pump is undersized, the pressure it can generate could very easily fall below 30psi and lead to improper regeneration of the softener. If you suspect this is your issue, run your water until the pump kicks on and while the water is running and pump is on, have a look at the incoming water pressure gauge.

    Also have a look at any other water appliance that sits between your pump/pressure tank and the softener. You may very well have all the pressure you need at the pump/tank, but that pressure can easily be depleted by other equipment. A great example is a cartridge sediment filter which is a very common piece of equipment to have upstream of the softener. As cartridges load up, they exert more and more pressure loss. Since this is gradual home owners may not notice. And since the softener may demand more flow during regeneration than the home owner typically uses, it may be that for regular household use the filter is not exerting enough pressure loss to be noticeable, yet it may be enough loss to interfere with proper softener function. If there are other pieces of water treatment equipment before the softener, have a look at these also. Some types my have bypass functionality. Try bypassing that equipment and running a softener regeneration to see if that's the issue.

    You've Got a Clogged Injector

    When a water softener regenerates it needs to pull brine solution from the brine tank. It does this by creating a vacuum in the control valve using a Venturi mechanism. Part of the mechanism is a piece called the injector. The injector is a cone-shaped piece of plastic with a small hole at the end. If that hole get clogged with debris, the injector is no longer able to help create the vacuum and the brine solution is not sucked up. Or, if a partial vacuum is created, the brine draw rate is very slow and this can lead to salt ending up in the softener once the regeneration is complete. In many systems, there is a screen that precedes the injector. If this screen gets loaded up with debris, this too can interfere with the suction force that is created by the machine. Both the injector and the screen are accessed the same way. Refer to your softener manual to identify where the injector is located and how to remove it. Once it's removed carefully inspect it and clean it, making sure that the hole at the end of the cone is clear. Do not attempt to alter the size of the hole as this will lead to injector failure.

Programming the Clack 3-Button Backwashing Filter Valve November 1, 2022 09:11

The Clack WS1 3-Button control valve is very commonly used on backwashing filters of every sort including carbon filters, sediment filters, pH neutralizers, and many others. The face of the control valve looks like this:

clack ws1 3-button control filter control valve

Here is a quick-reference guide to help you with the programming of the unit. In most cases, the OEM programming can be skipped, but in case changes to this programming are necessary, we've included it. These instructions reference this manual. There may be updated instructions available on the Clack Corporation Website.

STAGE ONE (OEM Setup, Page 14)

STEP 1SS: Press SET HOUR + UP buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds and
release. Then press SET HOUR + UP buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds and release.

STEP 2SS: Press either the UP or DOWN button until you see "P8" on the screen, then press SET HOUR to enter this value.

STEP 3SS: Dashes will appear on the screen, press SET HOUR once to advance to next step

STEP 4SS: Use UP or DOWN buttons to scroll through values until "99" appears on the screen, then press SET HOUR to enter this value

STEP 5SS: Use UP or DOWN buttons to scroll to "60" on the screen, then press SET HOUR once to enter this value

​STEP 6SS: Press SET HOUR to exit this programming menu

STAGE TWO (Installer Settings, Page 16)

STEP 1ID: Press SET HOUR + UP buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds and release

​STEP 2ID: Use UP or DOWN buttons to set the hour of regeneration. Moving past 12 will activate the "PM" setting. Once hour is selected, press SET HOUR to enter this value.

STEP 3ID: Use the UP or DOWN buttons to set the number of days between backwashes. This should be set to 5 unless there is very heavy sediment, in which case it should be set to 3. Once the value is displayed on the screen, press SET HOUR to enter the value.

STAGE THREE (Set the Clock, Page 18)


STEP 2U: Use the UP or DOWN arrow to set the time to the closest hour of the day. Scrolling past 12 will activate the "PM" setting. Press SET HOUR to enter the value.

Upflow vs Downflow Water Softener Pistons October 21, 2022 18:30

Many modern water softener control valve manufacturers now make their control valves in both upflow and downflow configurations. This directional naming describes the flow path that the regenerating brine solution takes as it passes through the exhausted softening resin. In an upflow regenerating water softener, the brine solution is introduced at the bottom of the resin bed and is pushed upwards through the bed. A downflow regenerating softener is the opposite - it brings the brine solution into the top of the tank and pushes down through the resin bed. Most high efficiency water softeners will use an upflow brining arrangement.

Some water softener models can be be converted from upflow to downflow (or vice versa) simply by swapping out the piston and making a small programming change. Below is a picture of each of these types of piston from a Fleck 5800 control valve. As you can see, the difference between them is quite subtle:

upflow vs downflow water softener piston

Upflow water softeners have a couple of advantages over their downflow counterparts:

  1. Since the flow of brine is in the upward direction it pushes accumulated sediment out of the resin bed as it regenerates which can allow a shorter backwash stage and significant water savings
  2. In a downflow water softener the brine has to pass through the void space at the top of the tank where it is diluted. In an upflow water softener the brine is not diluted as it enters from the bottom
  3. Upflow regenerated softeners tend to "super regenerate" the resin at the bottom of the resin tank, while downflow softeners do this for the resin at the top of the resin tank. Since the treatment direction is the downflow direction an upflow regenerated softener creates a "catchall" at the bottom of the resin tank to grab onto any hardness that has not been captured up higher in the resin column.

Be careful: some water softener control valves will show both "upflow" and "downflow" programming options (most Fleck systems are like this) however simply changing the programming setting is not sufficient - there will be internal components that need to be changed also.

What is UV Transmittance & Why Is It Important for Water Treatment? October 12, 2022 10:23

UV Transmittance, as it relates to water treatment, is the measurement of how easily UV wavelengths of light can pass through the water being treated. UV Technology has become a preferred way to disinfect water. Germicidal UV light is capable of destroying pathogens in water such as bacteria, viruses, and cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia. But in order for UV system to work properly, the water being treated must be able to transmit this light energy to the organisms being destroyed. Perfectly pure water has a UV Transmittance (UVT) value of 100% but water that has dissolved elements or organic materials will have a UVT value lower than 100%. This means that some of the UV energy is being absorbed by the water and less is available for disinfection. If the UVT value is too low, a situation can be created where there is insufficient UV light available to accomplish disinfection at all. Most UV manufacturers suggest that UV technology is only used where the UV Transmittance is at or above 75%. The vast majority of well water supplies are above this value. Surface water though can and often does have a UV Transmittance value below 75% due to the presence of UV-light-absorbing organics. In these situations tannin filtration is often a highly effective way to boost pH and make UV technology a viable option for disinfection. Carbon filters will also do a decent job though they tend to become exhausted quickly even when moderate concentrations of tannin are present.

Can Iron Filters Also Remove Manganese? October 5, 2022 13:57

Yes! An iron filter will usually also remove manganese from the water. This is because iron and manganese are very closely related to one another and they share much of the same chemistry. Just like iron, manganese can exist in water in two main forms: a dissolved (and usually colourless) form, and an oxidized form. The form that either of these take is a function of the pH of the water, the dissolved oxygen level, the temperature, and few other more minor factors. It's virtually unheard of for these two elements to not appear in a single water source in the same form - both will be either dissolved or oxidized. This is great news because it means they can both be filtered out using the same piece of equipment.

Water softeners that are built to also remove iron will do a great job for both dissolved iron and manganese. If these elements are found in their oxidized form, you'll want a dedicated iron filter to manage them.

Do Tannin Filters Raise the pH of Water? October 5, 2022 13:31

Yes, a tannin filter will increase the pH of the water being treated. Tannins are a group of molecules that create an acidic condition when they are dissolved in water. Lignin are a related group of molecules that behave the same way, chemically-speaking.

A tannin filter is more accurately described as an "organics filter" and it will remove both tannins and lignins. Since both of these substances make water more acidic, when you remove them from the water you also remove this effect. This effect will be more pronounced when the water has a low Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) value.

So water that is treated with a tannin filter will have a higher pH than the raw, untreated water. The magnitude of this effect will typically be proportional to the concentration of tannin+lignin in the water to begin with. If you have a lot of it, and you remove it all, the pH can be increased quite a lot.

It's impossible to avoid this pH boosting effect. You can't remove tannins and lignins from the water without having a corresponding increase in the pH.

Water Softener Resin Structure October 5, 2022 09:17

We sell a lot of water softeners at Aquatell and it's a topic we're especially passionate about. We love talking with customers and helping them to understand what they need, why they need it, and help them to learn enough that they can progress confidently on their softener journey.

Like most topics, water softening seems superficially simple: hard water goes into a softener, and comes out soft. But dig just a little under the surface and you quickly realize that water softening (more accurately called ion exchange) is a topic that is firmly rooted in science: mostly chemistry and physics. Learning the nuances of water softener engineering, manufacturing application and troubleshooting is all about understanding the underlying science.

Much of what happens in a water softener happens because of the water softener resin and happens at the microscopic level. In a recent conversation with one of our resin suppliers, I was provided with some really fascinating images of the microscopic structure of water softener resin. Being able to visualize the structure of the resin really helps to provide a visual understanding of the underlying science. Check out these super cool images and our descriptions below.

Water Softener Resin Bead at 100X Magnification

water softener resin bead 100X magnification

At this level of magnification you can see the very spherical shape of the bead and you can see the size of the bead too. It looks to be about 400 μm (aka microns) in diameter. To put that in perspective, a human hair is about 40 microns in diameter.

What is perhaps most striking about this image (for us at least!) is how the surface structure starts to be revealed at this magnification. A bead that seems perfectly smooth to the naked eye shows a tremendous amount of surface irregularity at 100X. And the surface irregularity makes the viewer wonder about the internal structure of the bead.....

Water Softener Resin Bead at 1000X Magnification

water softener resin bead 1000X magnification

At 1000X magnification we can see that the surface roughness we observed at 100X looks to extend into the depths of the resin bead. In fact, we can see that the resin bead is not an impervious solid at all but a matrix of resin material and empty space!

Where it may have been easy to imagine that ion exchange occurred on the surface of the resin bead only, seeing this image makes it obvious that the vast majority of the surface area of the bead is internal and that the water being treated by the softener actually passes through the resin and not around it!

Do Reverse Osmosis Systems Waste a Lot of Water? October 5, 2022 08:29

Do reverse osmosis systems waste a lot of water? Well, it depends on what you mean by a lot! And it also has to be looked at in the context of the purity of water produced by RO systems compared to other technologies that may not waste any water.

At the heart of every reverse osmosis system is a spiral wound RO Membrane.  This membrane is a highly-engineered sheet of semi-permeable materials. In other words it allows water to pass through - but with some difficulty. By making the membrane not-too-permeable this also makes it resist the passage of contaminants. As pure water passes through the membrane, contaminants accumulate on the other side. These contaminants need to be flushed off the membrane or they eventually clog the pores and prevent the pure water from being pushed through. So the "waste" stream of an RO system serves the very vital role of preserving the function of the membrane and permitting pure water to be continually produced.

Water Ratios vs Absolute Volumes

The amount of water that used by a reverse osmosis as it creates pure water has historically been expressed as a ratio. So if a system created 1 gallon of purified water and wasted 3 gallons, the ratio would be expressed as 1:3. The knee-jerk reaction to these ratios is usually the realization that the RO system is wasting more water than it's creating, which is true, but it's important to look at the absolute volume of water that is being used in the process because it's the volume of water (not the ratio) that will tell us the cost of this water and how the overall operating cost of the system stacks up against other technologies (hint: it's very favourable). When you look at the actual volume of water being used to create the pure RO water, the cost of this water is very low because it isn't really very much, especially when viewed in the context of a home's total water usage.

Some RO's Waste A Lot More Water Than Others

As technology has advanced so too has the science of reverse osmosis membranes. Historically the ratio of product water to waste water ranged from 1:3 to 1:6. In other words, much more water was wasted than was produced. The unfavourable ratio was as side effect of the fact that a higher wastewater velocity meant a cleaner membrane for longer.

But newer membrane technologies have been recently developed that don't accumulate waster materials as readily and consequently a lower water velocity is adequate to "sweep" the rejected contaminants to drain. Aquatell is proud to offer Pentair's GRO technology in our RO systems that use the most water-efficient membranes you can buy. GRO membranes achieve a 1:1 ratio of purified water to waste water.

Other Ways to Evaluate System Operating Costs

There are really only two water purification technologies that will remove pretty much everything from water - distillation and reverse osmosis. A good example is sodium in water.  Sodium is a pretty common water contaminant.  Only a reverse osmosis system or a water distiller will remove sodium from water. Carbon won't do it and particulate/sediment filtration won't either.

A distiller does not waste a single drop of water while an RO system will use water to make water. While that makes the distiller much more water efficient it fails miserably in other efficiency metrics. For instance, a distiller typically operates at about 800W of electrical power and usually it takes about 1 hour of run time to generate 4L (about 1 gallon) of purified water. The electricity input costs here dramatically outweigh the water-waste costs of even a not-so-efficient RO system.

What Happens If A Water Softener is Oversized? October 5, 2022 07:47

Oversizing a softener usually only results in a longer interval between softener regeneration cycles, but if you oversize too dramatically it can have some negative unintended consequences.

Oversizing Softeners & Efficiency

When we talk about the efficiency of a water softener, we're talking about the amount of salt and water it takes to regenerate the system when it has become saturated. The size of softener you select will play into this to some degree. Almost all professional grade softeners (i.e. not the ones you buy from the Big Box guys) will have the ability to adjust the amount of salt used per regeneration and this directly affects how much softening the system can do before it needs to regenerate (learn more about that in our Ultimate Guide to Water Softeners).

If you choose a larger water softener - one that's built with a larger volume of resin - then you can use a lower salt dosage and still get enough capacity out of the system that it's not regenerating too often.

Oversizing Softeners & Iron Concentration

Iron (and it's cousin, Manganese) are present in some concentration in most water supplies, but can be present in quite high concentrations in rural well water. These elements are notorious foulants of water softener resin. They like to bind to the water softener and not let go. The longer they are adhered to the surface of the resin without being backwashed off, the more likely they are to cause permanent fouling. So in applications where iron or manganese are present oversizing a softener can cause the softener to have so much capacity that it regenerates too infrequently to wash these elements off the resin before they cause damage. So when iron and/or manganese are present it's often better to have a more modestly sized water softener that regenerates more frequently. The longterm success of the system will be maximized this way.

Oversizing Softeners & Day Override

All the softener sold by Aquatell and by most professional dealers are demand regenerated softeners. This means that they measure the amount of water used and regenerate based on that consumption. Most digitally controlled water softeners will have a Day Override function. The day override function is a number of days that if elapsed will cause the softener to regenerate whether the all the capacity of the system has bee used up or not. It overrides the normal cycle of the softener regenerating based on the amount of water consumed. This function helps to ensure that the resin is being regenerated (cleaned) often enough that it does not become damaged, which can happen from prolonged periods of low water throughput. If you too dramatically oversize a softener you may accidentally make the system operate in a very inefficient manner: the system will use salt and water to regenerate to its full capacity, but there's a risk that it's so much capacity that your home won't consume all of it by the time the day override kicks in. So you can end up having 20, 30, even 50% of the capacity of the system still remaining yet having the system force a regeneration to protect the resin life.