Types of Water Softeners Guide

Types of Softeners:

There a few types of softeners available for softening water. However, almost every softener sold will use ion-exchange to soften the water. For the purposes of this flyer, only this type of softener will be covered in detail.

Salt Based Ion Exchange: 

This type of softener cycles water through two tanks. One tank has special resin beads and the other is filled with brine (water saturated with salt). It works on the principle of ion exchange. Basically, it softens hard water by substituting sodium for hard minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. Below is a quick step by step of the process:




  1. Hard-Water enters through the valve on top and is passed into the mineral tank.

  2. Water passes through the resin in the mineral tank towards the bottom

  3. Negative charge in the resin attracts the positive charged minerals and gives off

    sodium in exchange. Basically swapping the hard-water minerals for the salt.

  4. After passing through the resin the water has been “softened” and is pumped back

    up through the riser tube and into the cold water supply.

5. Over time hard-water minerals accumulate on the resin and it loses its negative charge. This is where it starts regeneration. This is the process of cleaning and recharging the resin.




  1. The timer or control will automatically start the cycles to “backwash”, recharge and rinse the resin.

  2. Water is pumped in reverse down the riser tube. This forces the water and minerals back up to the top of the

    softener and out the drain pipe.

  3. Salt water from the brine tank is run back into the mineral tank and recharges the resin with a negative charge.

  4. The mineral tank is then rinsed twice to make sure excess brine is washed out.

  5. The brine tank is then refilled. 

Dual Tank Softeners:

This is a type of softener that operates with the same ion-exchange. The difference is this type has two mineral tanks. The purpose of this is to have softened water always available. In a single tank model like above, the softener is not softening water when it is regenerating. (This is why they are usually set regenerate very late at night) In a dual tank model, when one tank is regenerating the other is softening.



Other types of things sometimes referred to as softeners are actually Descalers. These are products that don’t actually soften the water but are designed to prevent the scaling of minerals within the plumbing system. These types of model are preferable to having no treatment method at all but will not be better than the softeners above.

Metered v. Timed Control Valves:

Almost all softeners we sell will have a metered control valve. However, there is a Timed control valve as well. The difference is a metered control valve regenerates based on actual usage and the timed control is set to regenerate at a set time interval.

The advantage of the metered control is salt savings. These are estimated to be up to 30%-35%.


Our Control Valves are all Clack valves which are thought of as preferable to other types.

Pro Series vs. Contractor Series:

We stock a Watco Pro Series and a Watco Contractor Series. Some of the main differences are warranty, plastic covering, brine tank, and bypass valve. The Pro Series is slightly more than the Contractor Series because of the additional features.


  •   The Pro Series has a 3-year Complete Unit warranty with a 5-year warranty on the valve and a 10 year warranty on the tank. The Contractor Series has a 1-year complete unit warranty with a 5-year warranty on the valve and 5-years warranty on the tank.

  •   The Pro Series has a plastic jacket around the mineral tank as opposed to just the fiberglass. It has a cleaner look and collects any sweat off the tank.

  •   The Pro Series comes with a 18x40 Brine Tank where the Contractor Series comes with a 17X15X36 Brine Tank.

  •   The Pro Series comes with the valve Bypass Valve where the Contractor Series does not.