Water softener abstract
A salt dispenser for placement within a water softener brine tank
has a cylindrical, rectangular or square plastic sleeve with multiple
holes which allow the passage of water while retaining salt pellets.
The salt dispenser is particularly advantageous for brine tanks
which do not support the salt pellets or crystals above the bottom
of the tank. The salt dispenser allows water to access the salt
within the brine tank from all sides which leads to an even reduction
in the height of the salt bed within the salt dispenser. Many water
softener systems are supplied with brine tanks in which the salt
rests directly on the bottom of the brine tank. Water is supplied
to the brine tank by a float valve which also functions to allow
brine to be withdrawn from the tank. After brine is withdrawn the
float valve permits water to be added until a predetermined water
level is reached. The introduction of water into the brine tank
causes some of the salt pellet crystals to dissolve. Water is introduced
from a single point the salt within the brine tank and the salt
pellets can become steeply sloped towards the water inlet. The salt
dispenser allows the water to access the salt within the brine tank
from all sides and thereby leads to an even reduction in the height
of the salt bed within the salt dispenser. The interior of the salt
dispenser tank also may be divided by partitions or concentric sleeves.
Water softener claims
1. A water softener brine tank assembly comprising:
a) a tank having a bottom and side walls which extend upwardly
from the bottom to enclose an upwardly opening volume, the tank
containing salt brine;
b) a water inlet positioned near the bottom of the tank, the inlet
incorporating a float valve which maintains water at a fixed level
within the tank by introducing water until the float valve closes;
c) a means for holding salt within the brine tank, the means including
a plastic sleeve positioned within the brine tank, the sleeve being
substantially spaced from the side walls of the tank and substantially
parallel to the side walls of the tank, wherein the sleeve abuts
the tank bottom and the sleeve defines an interior volume containing
salt, and portions of the sleeve define a multiplicity of openings
through which water can pass, thereby permitting the passage of
water from the water tank through the sleeve into the sleeve interior;
d) a baffle means disposed in said sleeve for dividing said sleeve
into at least two compartments for containing said salt.
2. The water softener brine tank assembly of claim 1 wherein the
tank is rectangular and the sleeve has multiple planar walls which
define a substantially upright rectangular volume.
3. The water softener brine tank assembly of claim 1 wherein the
tank defines a substantially right cylindrical shape and wherein
the sleeve is substantially a right cylinder having a substantially
cylindrical exterior wall which is spaced from the tank side walls.
4. The water softener brine tank assembly of claim 3 wherein the
sleeve is divided by the baffle means into the at least two individual
compartments by at least one concentric inner sleeve.
5. The water softener brine tank assembly of claim 3 wherein the
baffle means includes an inner sleeve positioned within the sleeve
exterior wall, the inner sleeve being joined to the exterior wall
by at least two radial baffles which extend vertically to partition
the sleeve into a plurality of vertically extending compartments.
6. The water softener brine tank assembly of claim 1 wherein a
plurality of tabs extend outwardly from the sleeve to space the
sleeve from the side walls of the tank.
7. A water softener brine tank of the type having a tank bottom
and upwardly extending side walls defining a receptacle for holding
granular solid salt and further having a float valve connected to
a source of water wherein the tank has no structure overlying the
tank bottom for supporting granular salt spaced from the bottom,
wherein the improvement comprises:
a sleeve positioned within the brine tank, the sleeve being spaced
at all points from the side walls of the tank and extending substantially
parallel to the side walls of the tank, and the sleeve abutting
the tank bottom, and wherein the sleeve defines an opened ended
container, containing a quantity of salt, and wherein the sleeve
has portions defining a multiplicity of openings forming a means
for the passage of water from the tank into the container; and a
baffle means disposed in said sleeve for dividing said sleeve into
at least two compartments for containing said salt.
8. The water softener brine tank of claim 7 wherein the tank is
rectangular and the sleeve has multiple walls forming a substantially
upright rectangular container for salt.
9. The water softener brine tank of claim 7 wherein the tank has
a substantially right cylindrical side walls, and wherein the sleeve
defines a substantially right cylindrical shape having a cylindrical
exterior wall spaced at least about 1 inch from the tank side walls.
10. The water softener brine tank of claim 9 wherein the cylindrical
sleeve is divided by the baffle means into the at least two individual
salt compartments by at least one concentric cylindrical sleeve.
11. The water softener brine tank of claim 9 wherein the baffle
means includes positioned within the cylindrical sleeve an inner
sleeve which is joined to the cylindrical sleeve by at least two
radial baffles which form vertical partitions within the sleeve.
12. The water softener brine tank of claim 7 wherein a plurality
of tabs extend outwardly from the sleeve to position the sleeve
spaced from the side walls of the tank.
Water softener description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to water softeners in general and
to brine tanks in particular.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Water supplied by municipal water systems and surface and groundwater
sources often contains dissolved minerals. When the dissolved minerals
include calcium and magnesium carbonates and sulfates the water
is said to be hard. Water hardness is measured in grains of hardness.
Hardness resulting from calcium and magnesium ions produces insolvent
compounds with soap which yields a grimy scum which is non-cleaning.
The scum produced by the minerals in hard water leaves clothes gray
and dingy and can make washing difficult, even leading to irritated
and chapped skin. Of even greater concern than the precipitates
formed with soap are the precipitates of carbonates when hard water
is heated. The so called temporary hardness which is removed by
heating hard water leaves a precipitate on the interior of hot water
tanks. The precipitate acts as an insulator and thus reduces the
efficiency of heat exchange between electric elements or hot combustion
gases. A layer of scale only five hundredths of an inch thick can
reduce heater efficiency by ten percent which--depending on hot
water usage levels--may mount to over one-hundred dollars a year
in lost heat.
Most of the United States, except for part of the Northwest and
areas along the East Coast, have moderate to very hard water containing
3.5 to over 30 grains of hardness per gallon. Sodium ions including
sodium carbonates and sulfates do not precipitate or form insoluble
precipitate with soap. Water softeners employing ion exchange columns
contain resin beads. The resin beads have a surface which attracts
sodium, calcium and magnesium ions. The resin beads prefer calcium
and magnesium ion and so if the bead surfaces are initially coated
with sodium ions they will exchange sodium ions for calcium and
magnesium ions, thus softening the water which flows through the
ions exchange column. The column may be cleaned of calcium and magnesium
ions and the surface of the beads resupplied with sodium ions by
exposing the beads to a very high concentration of sodium ions.
The conventional source of sodium ions is common salt i.e. sodium
chloride. A brine tank containing salt crystals or pellets is partially
flooded with water. The water dissolves the salt pellets and becomes
sainted with salt. The saturated brine solution is then periodically
run through the ion exchange column to regenerate the resin beads.
Ion exchange water softeners are regenerated typically after the
passage of a fixed number of days or after the use of a fixed number
of gallons of water. The process normally assumes that the brine
solution used to regenerate the ion exchange column is uniformly
saturated. If for any reason the brine consistency varies then regeneration
may not take place often enough to prevent hard water from entering
the water supply of a home or business, or on the other hand, the
water softener may be set to regenerate more often than necessary.
One typical approach to achieving uniform brine formation is to
support the salt pellets above the bottom of the brine tank on a
perforated plate. However many brine tanks are supplied without
bottom supports because many suppliers of water softeners believe
such supports are detrimental.
Water is introduced into the brine tank from a single source. Without
a bottom support the salt in the brine tank is dissolved near the
water inlet first so that the salt crystals or pellets slope down
towards the water source. As the salt in the brine tank is used
up the water may not be completely covered by salt.
What is needed is a way of causing the salt in a water softener
brine tank to remain level as the salt is depleted.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The salt dispenser of this invention is positioned within a water
softener brine tank. The salt dispenser consists of a cylindrical
sleeve constructed of plastic with multiple holes formed in the
sleeves. The holes are sized to allow the passage of water into
and out of the salt dispenser while retaining salt pellets or crystals
within the cylindrical sleeve. The salt dispenser is particularly
advantageous used in brine tanks which do not support the salt pellets
or crystals above the lower surface of the tank. For various reasons
of cost or functionality many water softener systems are supplied
with brine tanks in which the salt rests directly on the bottom
of the brine tank. Water is supplied to the brine tank by a float
valve which also functions to allow brine to be withdrawn from the
tank. After brine is withdrawn the float valve permits water to
be added until a predetermined water level is reached.
The introduction of water into the brine tank causes some of the
salt pellet crystals to dissolve. Because water is introduced from
a single point the salt within the brine tank can become steeply
sloped towards the water inlet. This can result in uneven saturation
in the brine within the tank as the salt level drops due to usage.
The salt dispenser of this invention allows the water to access
the salt within the brine tank from all sides and thereby leads
to an even reduction in the height of the salt bed within the salt
dispenser. The interior of the salt dispenser tank also may be divided
by placing concentric cylindrical sleeves within the sleeve to form
partitions which allow a column of salt to be built up to a considerable
height even if only a limited amount of salt is introduced into
the brine tank.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a salt dispenser
which provides a more uniformly saturated brine solution.
It is another object of the present invention to provide an insert
which can be used in a conventional brine tank to improve the uniform
dispensing of brine solution to an ion exchange column.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a means
for conserving salt in an ion exchange water softener.
Further objects, features and advantages of the invention will
be apparent from the following detailed description when taken in
conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a typical water softening system
as installed in a home.
FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a prior art water softener
brine tank showing a buildup of salt away from the brine tank water
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a brine tank with the salt
dispenser of this invention installed.
FIG. 4 is an isometric view, partially cut away in section, of
the salt dispenser of FIG. 3.
FIG. 5 is an isometric view, partially cut-away in section, of
an alternative embodiment salt dispenser of this invention within
a brine tank.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
Referring more particularly to FIGS. 1-5 wherein like numbers refer
to similar parts a typical household water softening system 20 is
shown in FIG. 1. The two major components of the water softening
system 20 are an ion exchange column 22 and a brine tank 24. A controller
26 is mounted on the ion exchange column and normally directs hard
water 28 through the ion exchange column 22 where the problem ions
of calcium and magnesium are exchanged with sodium ions. The sodium
ions do not precipitate upon heating and do not form in soluble
compounds with soap. Soft water 30 leaves the ion exchange column
22 and is supplied to a hot water heater (not shown) and other household
appliances. Periodically, after the passage of a selected number
of days or the use of a selected quantity of water, the ion exchange
column 22 is recharged. This is accomplished by passing a brine
solution through the ion exchange column 22 which removes the accumulated
calcium and magnesium ions and replaces them with sodium ions. The
recharging of the ion exchange column 22 is controlled by the controller
A brine supply line 32 is connected to the controller 26 as shown
in FIG. 1. The brine supply line 32 terminates at a float valve
34 as shown in FIG. 2. The brine float valve 34 is contained in
a brine supply tube 36. The float valve 34 contains a check valve
(not shown) which allows brine solution to be drawn from the brine
tank 24. The float mechanism 40 opens the check valve when the water
level 42 drops below a mechanical set point 44. The cycling of the
controller first draws brine solution out of the brine tank 24.
After the level of brine in the tank has been reduced by recharging
the ion exchange column 22 the low level of remaining brine within
the tank initiates, by means of the float valve 34 an in-flow of
fresh water into the brine tank. This fresh water dissolves some
of the granular salt 46.
A typical water softener will utilize about six pounds of salt
per cycle and a brine tank will contain in the neighborhood of two
to three hundred pounds of salt crystals or pellets when full. Over
a period of months the salt 44 is gradually used up. As shown in
FIG. 2 because the prior art apparatus introduces fresh water from
a single location dictated by the position of the float valve 34
the salt level 48 adjacent the float valve 34 drops more rapidly
then the salt level 50 which is most distant from the float valve
34. The sloping top 52 of the salt 44 shown in FIG. 2 can result
in uneven saturation of the brine 54 in the brine tank 24. Nonuniformity
in the brine 54 produced in the brine tank 24 may result in the
ion exchange column 22 becoming depleted of sodium ions before the
column is regenerated. Such failure can have expensive results if
the efficiency of the water heater is reduced by scale production
on the walls of the water heater. If the recycling time or number
of gallons is reduced to assure continued hot water overuse of salt
The brine tank 56 shown in FIG. 3 has a salt dispenser 58 which
rests on the bottom 60 of the brine tank 56. The salt dispenser
58 as shown in FIG. 4 has an outer cylindrical sleeve 62 which
has a multiplicity of holes 63 which allow water to pass freely
into and out of the sleeve 62. The dispenser 58 has concentric cylindrical
sleeves 65 and 66 which are joined to the outer sleeve 62 by partition
walls 64 which extend radially inward from the outer sleeve 62 to
join the smaller inner cylindrical sleeves 65 66. The concentric
sleeves 65 66 segregate the salt in the interior of the dispenser
58 within compartments 70. The inner concentric sleeves are foraminous,
allowing the passage of brine through multiple holes similar to
the holes 63 in the sleeve 62.
Salt 68 pellets or crystals are placed within the compartments
70 formed by the concentric sleeves 65 66 and the cylindrical
sleeve 62. The salt dispenser 58 has tabs 72 which project radially
outwardly the outer wall 74 of the sleeve 62. The tabs 72 position
the salt dispenser 58 so a narrow annulus 76 of one to one-and-a-half
inches is created between the cylindrical wall 78 of the brine tank
56 and the outer surface 74 of the cylindrical sleeve 62. The outer
cylindrical sleeve 62 has an indentation 79 which accommodates the
supply tube 36. The multiple holes 63 in the salt dispenser 58 allow
water from the supply line 32 to flow through the float valve 34
and access the salt 68 from all sides. Water which penetrates the
cylindrical sleeve 62 comes into contact with the salt 68 stored
in the salt dispenser 58 and dissolves the salt. The uniform access
of the water 80 to the salt through the annulus 76 results in a
more even use of salt 60 contained in the salt dispenser 58. Thus
the upper surface 82 of the salt 68 within the salt dispenser 58
remains more nearly level.
Some brine tanks are rectangular, such as the brine tank 84 shown
in FIG. 5. An alternative embodiment salt dispenser 86 for the brine
tank 84 has a sleeve 88 which is in the form of a rectangle 90.
The rectangular sleeve 88 has partitioning walls 92 which divide
the salt dispenser 86 into a number of rectangular compartments
94. A indentation 95 in the sleeve 88 provides space for the supply
tube 36. Salt (not shown) is placed within the compartments 94.
Tabs 98 on the exterior 100 of the sleeve 88 space the sleeve from
the walls 96 of the brine tank 84. Water which circulates between
the rectangular tank walls 96 dissolves the salt held in the compartments
94 thus assuring more even use of the salt contained within the
brine tank 84.
It should be understood that brine tanks of varying configurations
from square to rectangular and including circular and oblong tanks
could be used with salt dispensers of compatible shape.
It should also be understood that float valves of varying configurations
and actuation mechanisms can be used to control the water level
in brine tanks employing the salt dispenser described herein. Furthermore,
the salt dispensers 58 86 or one of similar configuration could
be used with most if not all water softener brine tanks currently
on the market.
It is understood that the invention is not limited to the particular
construction and arrangement of parts herein illustrated and described,
but embraces such modified forms thereof as come within the scope
of the following claims.