Water softener abstract
A portable point-of-use water softener. Settings of a valve put
the water softener into three different modes: an "off"
mode that excludes water from the water softener, a water softening
mode, and a regeneration mode. In water softening mode, water passes
from a source of the water through a water softening element to
a sink for the softened water. A plurality of water softening elements
operate in parallel in water softening mode to increase the flow
of water through the water softener. In regeneration mode, a brine
solution flows through the water softening element. The solution
is made in a chamber in which water from the source flows at a controlled
rate over salt tablets and from there through the water softening
elements. The number of salt tablets determines the percent of salt
in the brine. The valve includes a number of tubes which connect
the components as required for the three modes. The valve selects
a mode by pinching tubes as required by the mode. The valve uses
a cam with a handle to pinch the tubes, and a position of the handle
corresponds to each of the modes.
Water softener claims
What is claimed is:
1. A water softener for softening water at a point of use for soft
water in a plumbed unit rather than at a point of entry to the plumbed
unit, the water softener comprising: a user-carryable unit which
includes a water inlet which the user connects at the point of use
to a source of water; a regeneratable water softening element; a
source of a regenerating fluid for regenerating the water softening
element; and a manually-operated valve, the valve being connected
to the water inlet, the water softening element, and the source
of the regenerating fluid and having a first setting which causes
the water to pass from the inlet through the water softening element
and a second setting which causes the regenerating fluid to pass
through the water softening element.
3. The water softener set forth in claim 2 wherein: the valve has
a third setting which stops the water from flowing through the water
4. The water softener set forth in claim 3 wherein: the valve has
a single handle and the handle has positions corresponding to the
first, second, and third settings.
5. The water softener set forth in claim 1 wherein: the valve operates
by pinching flexible tubes connecting the water input, the water
softening element, and the source of the regenerating fluid as required
to cause the water to pass through the water softening element and
the regenerating fluid to pass through the water softening element.
6. The water softener set forth in claim 1 wherein: there is a
plurality of the water softening elements and when the valve has
the first setting, the water passes through the plurality of water
softening elements in parallel.
7. The water softener set forth in claim 1 further comprising:
a soft water outlet that receives the softened water from the water
softening element and that is connectible by the user to a sink
for the softened water.
8. The water softener set forth in claim 1 wherein: the regenerating
fluid is brine produced by dissolving salt contained in the source
of the regenerating fluid in the water; and the second setting further
causes the water to pass to the source of the regenerating fluid.
9. The water softener set forth in claim 8 wherein: the valve has
a third setting which prevents the water from passing either through
the water softening element or to the source of the regenerating
10. The water softener set forth in claim 9 wherein the valve comprises:
a first pinchable tube that connects the water inlet to the source
for the water regenerating fluid; a second pinchable tube that connects
the water softening element to a soft water outlet; and a third
pinchable tube that connects the water softening element to an outlet
for the brine; a fourth pinchable tube that connects the water inlet
to the water softening element; and a cam having a handle and pinching
elements arranged in the cam such that the first setting is a first
position of the handle such that the pinching elements do not pinch
the second pinchable tube and the fourth pinchable tube and do pinch
the first pinchable tube and the third pinchable tube, the second
setting is a second position of the handle such that the pinching
elements do not pinch the first pinchable tube and the third pinchable
tube and do pinch the second pinchable tube and the fourth pinchable
tube, and the third setting is a third position of the handle such
that the pinching elements pinch the first and fourth pinchable
11. A water softener comprising: an input for water, the water
being under pressure; a regeneratable water softening element; a
regeneration fluid source that contains a water-soluble substance,
the regeneration fluid being produced by passing water over the
substance; and a manually-operated valve, the valve being connected
to the input and having that Done mode that causes the water to
pass through the water softening element and in another mode that
causes the water to pass through the regeneration fluid source and
causes the regeneration fluid produced thereby to pass through the
water softening element.
12. The water softener set forth in claim 11 wherein: the regeneration
fluid passes through the water softening element in a direction
which is the reverse of the direction that the water passes through
the water softening element.
14. The water softener set forth in claim 11 further comprising:
a flow reducer which reduces the flow of water into the regeneration
fluid source as required to achieve an optimal concentration of
the water-soluble substance in the regeneration fluid.
15. The water softener set forth in claim 11 wherein the water
softening element comprises: a water inlet; a soft water outlet;
a chlorine removal medium which receives the water from the water
inlet; a packed-bed ion exchange resin which receives the water
from the chlorine removal medium and provides the softened water
to the soft water outlet; screens which retain the ion exchange
resin in place; and a baffle through which the water flows from
the chlorine removal medium to the packed-bed ion exchange resin.
16. The water softener set forth in claim 11 wherein: the water-soluble
substance is salt; and the regeneration fluid source is openable
to permit insertion of one or more salt tablets therein.
25. The water softener set forth in claim 1 wherein: the source
of regenerating fluid contains a water-soluble substance and produces
the regenerating fluid by passing water over the water-soluble substance;
and the second setting causes the regenerating fluid to pass through
the water softening element by causing the water to pass from the
inlet through the source of the regenerating fluid.
Water softener description
CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This patent application claims priority from U.S. provisional
patent application 60/354634 Carl Sutera, Portable point-of-use
water softener, filed Feb. 5 2002 and from U.S. provisional patent
application 60/409329 having the same inventor and title, and
filed Sep. 9 2002.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The invention relates to water softeners generally and more
particularly to water softeners which are installed at the point
where the soft water is to be used.
 2. Description of Related Art
 Water softeners have been used for many years to remove
undesirable minerals from a dwelling's water supply. Water softeners
typically work by running the water through a bed that contains
granules of an ion exchange resin. As the water passes through the
bed, ions contained in the resin are exchanged for ions of the minerals
that harden the water. In the most common case, the ion exchange
resin exchanges sodium ions for the undesirable minerals. Of course,
the ion exchange resin will work only as long as it has ions to
exchange. When the ions are exhausted, the ion exchange reason must
be regenerated by passing a solution through the bed which causes
the resin to exchange the ions for the undesirable minerals with
the ions originally contained in the resin. With ion exchange resins
that exchange sodium ions for the undesirable ions, the regeneration
is done by passing a brine solution through the bed of ion exchange
 Most water softeners are point-of-entry water softeners.
They are located at the point where a dwelling's water supply enters
the dwelling and soften all of the water supplied to the dwelling.
As an integral part of the dwelling's water supply, they are typically
installed by plumbers. Once installed, modem point-of-entry water
softeners are completely automatic. In addition to the bed of ion
exchange resin, they include a tank that contains a saturated brine
solution. The brine solution is used to regenerate the ion exchange
resin. Under control of either a timer or a device that senses the
condition of the softened water, valves are electrically opened
and closed so that the resin bed is cut off from the water supply,
the saturated brine solution is mixed with water, and the resulting
unsaturated brine solution flows through the ion exchange resin
until the resin is regenerated. The system then again sets the valves
so that the dwelling's water supply flows through the resin bed.
Such systems typically employ a simple float valve to ensure that
there is water in the brine tank, so all the person in charge of
maintaining the system need do is make sure that there is enough
salt in the tank to keep the brine solution in the tank saturated.
 Point-of-entry water softeners work well for their purposes,
but they require that a person who wants soft water in his or her
dwelling have control over the dwelling's plumbing. That is easy
enough if the dwelling is a house and the person owns the house,
but it is another matter entirely when the person merely rents the
house or the dwelling is a condominium. Moreover, because point-of
entry water softeners soften the entire water supply, they tend
to be large and are integrally connected with the rest of the plumbing
system and the dwelling's electrical system. As such, they are not
portable. Thus, even if a renter or condominium owner had the necessary
control over the dwelling's plumbing, he or she could not install
a point-of-entry water softener by him or herself or uninstall the
water softener and take it along to the next apartment or condominium.
For the same reasons, a point-of-entry water softener cannot be
easily adapted for use in boats, recreational vehicles, or travel
 Apartment and condominium dwellers have long needed a point-of-use
water softener, that is, one that can be easily installed by the
user at the point where the soft water is used. For example, soft
water is most useful when one is washing one's hair, and point-of-use
water softeners have been designed that provided softened water
in a sink or shower for that purpose. Examples of such point-of-use
water softeners may be found in U.S. Pat. No. 6422484 Sasaki,
et al, Shower apparatus, claiming priority from a PCT application
filed Feb. 8 1099 and issued Jul. 23 2002 U.S. Pat. No. 4242201
Stephens, et al., By-pass water softener system and installation,
issued Dec. 30 1980 U.S. Pat. No. 3653514 Holler, et al., Water
softener, issued Apr. 4 1972 and U.S. Pat. No. 3016146 Smith,
et al., Portable water treatment device, issued Jan. 9 1962. All
of the point-of-use water softeners disclosed in the above applications
have problems that render them difficult to use, and the lack of
a successful point-of-use water softener in the marketplace suggests
that the art has yet to solve the problems presented by such water
softeners. Among the problems are the following:
 combining small size with enough flow to make the water
softener useful with a shower.
 ease of regenerating the resin.
 simple operation.
 It is an object of the present invention to overcome these
problems and provide a point-of use water softener that is portable,
user-installable, works with a shower, is easily regenerated, and
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 One aspect of the object of the invention is attained by
a user-installable water softener. The user-installable water softener
includes a water inlet which is connectable by a user to a source
of water at a location where the user has need of softened water,
a regeneratable water softening element, a source of a regenerating
fluid for regenerating the water softening element, and a valve
which has a first setting and a second setting. The first setting
causes the water to pass through the water softening element and
the second setting causes the regenerating fluid to pass through
the water softening element. Further details of this aspect include
a manually-operated valve with a single handle which has positions
corresponding to the settings of the valve and a third setting of
the valve which stops the water from flowing through the water softener.
There are further more than one of the water softening elements
and the water softening elements operate in parallel. The source
of regenerating fluid contains salt and when the valve is in its
second setting, water passes to the source of the regenerating fluid.
 Another aspect of the invention is attained by a water softener
that includes an input for water, a regeneratable water softening
element, a regeneration fluid source that contains a water-soluble
substance, with the regeneration fluid being produced by passing
water over the substance, and a valve that in one mode causes the
water to pass through the water softening element and in another
mode causes the water to pass to the regeneration fluid source and
the regenerating fluid produced thereby to pass through the water
softening element. Further details of this aspect include that the
regenerating fluid passes through the water softening element in
a direction which is the reverse of the direction that the water
passes through the water softening element, that the valve is manually
operable, and that the water for the regeneration source passes
through a flow reducer which reduces the flow to a rate which achieves
an optimal concentration of the water-soluble substance in the regeneration
fluid. Details of the water softening element include a chlorine
removal medium, a packed-bed ion exchange resin, and a baffle through
which water passes from the chlorine removal medium to the packed-bed
ion exchange resin.
 A further aspect of the invention is the valve. The valve
includes a plurality of pinchable tubes that may be connected to
sources and sinks of fluids and a cam having a handle and pinching
elements arranged in the cam such that at different positions of
the handle, different ones of the plurality of pinchable tubes are
pinched. Further details of this aspect include that the plurality
of pinchable tubes lie in a single plane and the cam rotates on
an axle which is parallel to the plane, that the tubes are reinforced
where they are pinched by the pinching elements, and that the pinching
elements include axles with rollers, a roller contacting a tube
of the plurality when the tube is pinched by the pinching element.
 Yet another aspect of the invention relates to regeneration.
Regeneration is done by providing water at a constant rate to a
brine source which contains one or more salt tablets, with the number
of salt tablets determining the concentration of the salt in the
brine solution. The salt tablets as received by the user are packaged
in a stack and the user takes the number of salt tablets required
for the desired concentration from the stack and places them in
the brine source.
 Other objects and advantages will be apparent to those skilled
in the arts to which the invention pertains upon perusal of the
following Detailed Description and drawing, wherein:
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
 FIG. 1 is an overview of a water softener that operates
according to the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 2 is an overview of a preferred embodiment of the point-of-use
water softener of the invention;
 FIG. 3 shows the valve employed in the preferred embodiment;
 FIG. 4 shows the water softening chamber employed in the
 FIG. 5 shows the regenerating solution source in a preferred
 FIG. 6 shows one way of installing the preferred embodiment
at the point of use; and
 FIG. 7 is a detail of the manner in which valve 207 is connected
to the other components of water softener 201.
 Reference numbers in the drawing have three or more digits:
the two right-hand digits are reference numbers in the drawing indicated
by the remaining digits. Thus, an item with the reference number
203 first appears as item 203 in FIG. 2.
 The following Detailed description will first provide an
overview of the construction and operation of a water softener built
according to the principles of the invention and will then provide
a detailed disclosure of a preferred embodiment.
 Overview of a Water Softener According to the Invention:
 FIG. 1 shows an overview of a water softener 101 which is
constructed according to the principles of the invention. The components
of water softener 101 are contained in and supported by a case 103
which also provides connections 105 to a water source 123 of water
at pressures that are typical in residential water systems, 107
to a soft water sink 125 for soft water produced by water softener
101 and an outlet 109 to a drain for the solution 127 used to regenerate
the water softening resin. When water softener 101 is used in a
shower enclosure, water source 103 is the source of water for the
shower head. Connection 107 is connected to a hose that is in turn
connected to a hand-held shower. Outlet 109 simply drains into the
shower enclosure's drain. Case 103 may have any useful and/or ornamental
form that serves the purpose and may be supported or attached in
any practical way at the point of use for the softened water. For
example, when used in the shower enclosure, case 103 may hang from
the pipe the enclosure's original shower head was attached to.
 The chief components of water softener 101 are water softening
chamber 117 which contains a bed of ion exchange resins, regenerating
solution source 121 which is the source of the regenerating solution
used to regenerate the ion exchange resins, and valve 119. Water
softening chamber 117 receives water 111 and outputs softened water
113 and also receives and outputs regenerating solution 115. Regenerating
solution source 121 receives water 111 and outputs regenerating
solution 115. Valve 119 routes water 111 to either water softening
chamber 117 or regenerating solution source 121 routes softened
water 113 to outlet 107 and routes regenerating solution 115 from
water softening chamber 117 to outlet 109. Valve 119 thus controls
two modes of operation: a water softening mode and a regeneration
 In the water softening mode, valve 119 connects water 111
from source 123 to water softening chamber 117 and softened water
113 from water softening chamber 117 to outlet 107. As the water
from source 123 flows through the resin in chamber 117 it is softened.
Softened water 113 then flows via valve 119 to connection 107 and
thus ultimately to soft water sink 125. While it is doing this,
valve 119 also disconnects water 111 from regenerating source 121.
Since regenerating solution 115 must be under pressure to flow from
regenerating source solution 121 to water softening chamber 117
no regenerating solution reaches water softening chamber 115 in
water softening mode.
 In the regeneration mode, valve 119 connects water 111 from
source 123 to regenerating solution source 121 and disconnects water
111 from chamber 117. The regenerating solution 115 produced when
water 111 flows through source 121 goes to water softening chamber
117. Regenerating solution 115 flows through water softening chamber
117 regenerating the resin as it does so, and passes to valve 119
which connects water softening chamber 117 to outlet 109 from which
regeneration solution 115 reaches the drain. It should be noted
that the regenerating solution 115 could also flow through water
softening chamber 117 in a direction opposite to the one shown.
The arrangement shown in FIG. 1 is, however, particularly advantageous,
since the reverse flow of regenerating solution 115 through water
softening chamber 117 also serves to remove material such as mineral
scale which may be clogging water softening chamber 117.
 Advantages of water softener 101 include the following:
 operation is simple because it is completely controlled
by valve 119;
 regeneration is completely integrated into the operation
of water softener 101; and
 The regeneration system is pressurized instead of open,
which reduces its size and complexity and makes it easy to manage.
 Overview of a Preferred Embodiment: FIG. 2
 FIG. 2 provides an overview of a preferred embodiment 201
of water softener 101. The same three components are present, namely
water softening chambers 203(a) and (b), a valve 207 that controls
whether water softener 201 is operating in water softening or regeneration
mode, and a source 205 for the brine that is used to regenerate
the ion exchange resins in water softening chambers 203(a) and (b).
Each water softening chamber 203 has two ports, 219 and 221. In
water softening mode, port 219 receives water 111 and port 221 outputs
softened water 113; in regeneration mode, port 221 receives brine
115 and port 219 outputs brine that has passed over the resin in
chamber 203. In the preferred embodiment, valve 207 also has an
"off" mode in which water 111 is provided neither to water
softening chambers 203 nor to brine source 205. As may be noted
from the above, water softening and regeneration are both done in
water softening chambers 203 in parallel. The parallel operation
of the water softening chambers in water softening mode makes it
possible to achieve a large volume of flow in a relatively compact
 Valve 207 controls the flow of water 111 softened water
113 and brine 115 in the preferred embodiment by pinching various
combinations of four tubes, which appear as 209 211 213 and 215
in FIG. 2. This arrangement permits complex flow control in a valve
which is relatively small, relatively inexpensive, and easy to operate.
Further advantages of this type of valve include the following:
 all of the tubes lie in a single plane, giving a low profile;
 there are no conventional sealing devices such as "O"
rings or gaskets;
 there are no moving parts exposed to the corrosive brine
 the valve is non-clogging and self cleaning; it offers no
discontinuities where scale can accumulate and the pinching action
keeps the tubs in the valve free of accumulations of mineral scale;
 when the valve handle is moved from one position to another,
a momentary "all open" state exists throughout the network
of tubing; this in turn creates a pulse or "water hammer"
effect which shakes loose sediment from surfaces throughout the
 the complex flow control can be achieved using a single
handle with three positions.
 Operation is as follows: when water softener 201 is in "off"
mode, valve 207 pinches tubes 209 and 215 blocking the flow of
water 111 to both water softening chambers 203 and brine source
205 when water softener 201 is in water softening mode, valve 207
pinches tubes 209 and 213 but does not pinch tubes 215 and 211.
As a result, water 111 flows to water softening chambers 203 but
not to brine source 205. The water enters the chambers at port 219
and the softened water leaves at port 221 from whence it goes through
tube 211 and outlet 107 to soft water sink 125. When water softener
201 is in regeneration mode, valve 207 pinches tubes 215 and 211
but does not pinch tubes 209 and 213. As a result, water 111 flows
to brine source 205 where it passes over salt and becomes brine,
and from brine source 205 through ports 211 across the ion exchange
resin, through ports 219 and via tube 213 to outlet 109.
 Details of Valve 207: FIGS. 3 6 and 7
 FIG. 7 presents a detail of the connections 701 between
valve 207 and the other components of preferred embodiment 201.
Beginning with tube 209 this tube connects water supply 123 to
brine source 205; when it is pinched, brine source 205 is cut off
from water supply 123. Tube 211 connects ports 221(a,b) to soft
water sink 125; when the tube is pinched, no soft water flows to
soft water sink 125. Tube 211 is joined above valve 207 by tube
707 from the output of brine source 205; when tube 211 is pinched
and tube 209 is open, water 111 flows into and brine 115 out of
brine source 205 and from thence via tubes 707 and 211 to ports
221(a,b). Tube 213 connects ports 219(a, b) to brine outlet 109;
thus when tubes 209 and 213 are open and tubes 211 and 215 are pinched,
the brine flows from ports 1221(a, b) through chambers 203(a, b),
out ports 219(a, b), and through tube 213 to brine outlet 209. Tube
213 is joined above valve 207 by tube 711 which in turn is connected
to tube 215. When tubes 211 and 215 are open and tubes 209 and 213
are pinched, water 111 flows through tube 215 through tube 711
and through tube 213 to ports 219(a,b) and soft water 113 flows
from ports 221(a,b) through tube 211 to soft water sink 125.
 FIG. 3 shows details of the construction of a preferred
embodiment of valve 207. Valve 207 has two chief components: tube
bed 306 which holds tubes 209-215 so that they can be pinched,
and cams 301 which are attached by axle 311 to tube bed 306 and
can be rotated by means of handle 319 to pinch various ones of tubes
209-215. As shown at 605 607 and 609 in FIG. 6 handle 319 has
three positions: off position 605 in which the cams pinch tubes
209 and 215 soft water output position 607 in which the cams pinch
tubes 209 and 213 but do not pinch 211 and 215 and regenerating
position 609 in which the cams pinch tubes 211 and 215 but do not
pinch tubes 209 and 213.
 Continuing with details of tube bed 306 and cams 301 the
reinforced tubes 305 in tube bed 306 are double extruded silicone
tubes reinforced with reinforcing yarn. Reinforced tubes 305 are
made by extruding the first layer, placing a mesh of reinforcing
yarn over the first layer, and then extruding the second layer.
Tubing made using this technique combines good flexibility with
a good pressure rating. Clamps 309 clamp the reinforced tubes to
tube bed 306 and also to connections to the non-reinforced tubing
used elsewhere in water softener 201. Bed sides 303 carry axle 311.
With regard to cams 301 the individual cams 314 are all rigidly
connected to axle 311 and are also joined by axles 317 which carry
rollers 315. Two of the individual cams 314 are rigidly connected
to handle 319. Axles 317 are placed in the cams such that the rollers
315 pinch the tubes as required for each position of handle 319.
Axle 311 is rotatably connected to tube bed 306. As shown by the
locations of the rollers, in "off" position 605 rollers
315(a) and 315(e) pinch tubes 209 and 215 blocking the flow of
water 111 through water softener 201. In soft water output position
607 roller 315(b) pinches tube 209 and roller 315(d) pinches tube
213 leaving tubes 211 and 215 unpinched, as required for water
softening mode. In regenerating position 609 rollers 315(c) and
315(f) pinch tubes 211 and 215 leaving tubes 209 and 214 unpinched,
as required for regeneration mode.
 Details of Water Softening Chamber 203: FIG. 4
 FIG. 4 shows details of water softening chamber 203. Chamber
203 has a port 219 at its top and a port 221 at its bottom; each
of these ports is connected by plastic tubing to valve 207. In water
softening mode, water 111 flows in at port 219 and soft water flows
out at port 221; in regeneration mode, brine flows in at port 221
and out at port 219. Inside, chamber 203 is divided into primary
chamber 403 which contains media for removing chlorine from the
water being softened, and secondary chamber 411 which contains
the ion exchange resin. The ion exchange resin is retained in chamber
203 by stainless steel screens 405 and 406. The primary and secondary
chambers are additionally separated by turbulence baffle 407 which
contains perforations 409. The turbulence baffle's functions include:
 increasing the period during which water 111 is in contact
with the chlorine removal media; preventing the buildup of contaminants
on the incoming surface of the chlorine removal media; and
 distributing the input water across the entire surface of
the exchange resin, which greatly reduces the chance of uneven flows
of water through the resin bed.
 These functions should be performed without any unnecessary
loss of flow through chamber 203; for this reason, the open area
provided by perforations 409 should be at least as large as the
area of port 219's opening. In a preferred embodiment, water softening
chamber 203 has an inside diameter of 3" and a length of 12".
In general, the wider the chamber is, the greater the rate of flow
through it, and the longer it is for a given width, the longer the
period between regenerations of the ion exchange resin.
 The ion exchange resin bed in secondary chamber 411 employs
a packed resin bed design. This design prevents movement of resin
granules within the bed and ensures that the resin depletes from
the top of chamber 203 down, so that the last resin the water passes
over is the least depleted. This insures the maximum possible reduction
in hardness. The design is also advantageous for counter-flow regeneration,
since the brine regenerates the resin from the bottom up, beginning
with the least depleted and ending with the most depleted resin.
 Details of Brine Source 205
 Brine source 205 is a tube 501 that receives water 111 from
valve 207 as shown at 509 and provides brine to ports 221(a,b)
of water softening chambers 203(a,b). Flow reducer 511 reduces the
rate of flow of water 111 into brine source 205. In a preferred
embodiment, the flow reducer is a coupling which contains a Teflon.RTM.
tube which is of smaller diameter than the tube connected between
valve 207 and flow reducer 511. The ratio of the diameters of the
tubes determines the degree to which the flow reducer reduces the
flow. Output of brine from brine source 205 is via tube 513 which
connects to tube 707. Check valve 514 prevents flow of softened
water from tube 707 into chamber 503 when valve 207's handle 319
is moved from one position to another.
 Chamber 503 of brine source 205 contains salt tablets 505
which are placed in brine source 205 by unscrewing plug 507 from
the end of the tube, placing the tablets in the tube, and replacing
plug 507. The percentage of salt in the brine solution is determined
by the amount of salt in chamber 503 and the rate at which the water
211 flows through chamber 503. That rate is in turn determined by
the pressure of the water from source 123 and flow reducer 511.
Since the pressure of the water from water source 123 will be more
or less constant and the rate of flow through brine source 205 is
determined by that pressure and the size of the Teflon tube in flow
reducer 511 the percentage of salt in the brine solution will depend
primarily on the number of salt tablets 505 in chamber 503. An optimal
strength for the brine solution is around 10% salt. To make it easier
to both calibrate the amount of salt required to make the 10% brine
solution and to put the right amount of salt into chamber 503 the
user is provided with the salt in the form of a stack of shrink-wrapped
salt tablets 515. The user need only take as many tablets from the
stack as are required to produce the 10% salt solution. In a preferred
environment, tube 501 is made of transparent plastic and a view
port in case 103 permits the user to see how much salt remains in
 Details of Regeneration
 In the preferred embodiment, it is up to the user to ensure
that water softener 201 is operated in regeneration mode sufficiently
to keep the ion exchange resin in water softening chambers 203(a,b)
able to produce softened water 113. The time required to fully regenerate
the resin depends on three factors: the hardness of the water, the
flow rate of water from the shower head, and the length of time
water softener 201 is in use. The latter is the overriding factor.
Some ways in which the user may regenerate the resin in the course
of his or her normal showering routine are the following:
 1. Put water softener 201 into regeneration mode while waiting
for the water to warm up enough to take a shower; when the water
is warm, switch to water softening mode.
 2. Put water softener 201 into water softening mode while
getting wet and put it into regeneration mode while lathering, shampooing,
or shaving; when ready to rinse, put the water softener back into
water softening mode.
 3. Put water softener 201 into regeneration mode while drying
 The user may of course always regenerate the resin at a
set time using a set amount of salt over a set period. Over time,
the user will be able to determine the amount or regeneration necessary
for the hardness of his or her water and his or her use of the shower.
In other embodiments, a timer may be included in the water softener.
For example, because of the presence of flow reducer valve 511
the water entering brine source 205 is flowing in a comparatively
small tube at comparatively low volume; consequently, a timer might
work like this: when the user moves the handle to the position for
regeneration mode, the movement of the handle sets the timer, either
mechanical, electrical, or electronic, going. While the timer is
running, a valve on the input tube is held open; when the timer
stops running, the valve closes, cutting off the flow of water to
brine source 205 and ending the regeneration period. An example
of a timer that would work for this purpose is a 9-volt solenoid
valve/timer. An example of a valve would be a pinch valve that worked
on the input tube. Other types of timers and valves could of course
also be used.
 An Exemplary Installation of Water Softener 201: FIG. 6
 The manner in which a given water softener 201 will be installed
at the point where it is used will of course depend on details of
the point of use. FIG. 6 shows an installation 601 of water softener
201 on the wall of a shower enclosure that has the shower head.
Case 103 has a support strap 613 which can be placed over water
source 123 which is here the pipe that would normally have the
shower head. Support strap 613 carries the weight of water softener
201; to keep water softener 201 from sliding on shower enclosure
wall 601 double sided suction cups are provided on the back of
case 103. These grip on both case 103 and wall 603. The user connects
water softener 201 to water source 103 by removing the shower head
and connecting hose 611 in its place. The user then connects hose
611 to inlet 105 of water softener 201. The user then connects a
shower head on a second hose to softened water outlet 107 of water
softener 201. Once water softener 201 is connected as just described
to water source 123 the user places valve handle 319 in "off"
position 605 and sets the water supply to water source 123 as he
or she would normally do for a shower. To take the shower, the user
simply places valve handle 319 in soft water output position 607.
When the user changes apartments or condominiums, all the user has
to do to take water softener 207 along to his or her new dwelling
is turn off the water supply to water source 123 disconnect hose
611 and take down case 103. Water softener 207 is thus truly portable
in that it can be easily installed and uninstalled by the user and
easily transported to the next point of use.
 In other applications, the small size and manual mode switching
offered by water softener 201 may be more important than portability.
Examples of such applications are in boats, recreational vehicles,
and travel trailers. In these applications, the water softener may
be installed at the point of use in a manner which can withstand
the stresses caused by the motion of the boat, RV, or travel trailer
or the water softener may even be installed at the point of entry
for the plumbing system, that is, at the outlet of the supply tank
for the vehicle or boat. In either case, water softener 201 may
be installed as a permanent part of the vehicle or boat's plumbing.
In an exemplary embodiment for use in a travel trailer, three "J"
channels are attached in "U" form to a wall on which the
water softener is installed and the case 103 slides into the "U"
formed by the "J" channels. Other features of this embodiment
include placing the water inlet on the bottom of case 103 to make
connecting to the water source easier and shortening the valve handle
so that it does not take up too much space in the trailer's tiny
shower stall. In still other applications, only the manual mode
switching may be of interest, and water softener 201 may be as large
as and installed in the same fashion as standard point of entry
water softeners with electrical mode switching.
 The foregoing Detailed description has disclosed to those
skilled in the relevant technologies how to make and use water softeners
that incorporate the inventions described herein and has further
disclosed the best mode presently known to the inventor of making
such water softeners. As part of disclosing the best mode, the inventor
has disclosed the best combination known to him of the inventive
elements of the water softener, but it will be immediately apparent
to those skilled in the relevant arts that various characteristics
of the invention may be achieved by using embodiments other than
those disclosed herein.
 For example, the convenience of the water softener stems
in great part from the fact that regeneration may be done by simply
setting the valve to its second setting. The planar pinch valve
used in the preferred embodiment is particularly advantageous for
the purpose, but any other valve which permits the user to place
the water softener into regeneration mode would also work. The brine
source used in the preferred embodiment is also particularly advantageous,
since the water pressure from the water source drives the brine
solution through the water softening chambers, but any other source
of brine that could be turned on by the valve would also work. By
the same token, a brine source with the easy calibration features
of the one disclosed herein is advantageous, but not necessary to
the broad concept of the invention. The same is true of such detailed
features of the water softening chamber as the chlorine chamber,
the baffle between the chlorine chamber and the water softening
chamber, or the packed bed resin in the water softening chamber.
As one would expect, the number of water softening chambers, the
manner in which the valve connects the components, and the manner
in which the water softener is installed and connected to the water
source and/or the soft water sink may also vary from embodiment
 For all of the foregoing reasons, the Detailed Description
is to be regarded as being in all respects exemplary and not restrictive,
and the breadth of the invention disclosed here in is to be determined
not from the Detailed Description, but rather from the claims as
interpreted with the full breadth permitted by the patent laws.