Water softener abstract
A water softener employs a vessel, a distributor with a manifold
body associated to said vessel and a valve control device. A control
unit programs operation of the softener. An actuator unit has a
cylinder divided into a first chamber and a second chamber. The
actuator unit is adapted to move a spool to define different flow
ways, for water. The first chamber communicates directly with a
water inlet pipe, and the second chamber communicates with the inlet
pipe through a valve and an outlet.
Water softener claims
1. A water softener comprising: at least a vessel containing a
softening substance; at least a distributor consisting of a manifold
body associated to said vessel in which there are at least an inlet
pipe for water to be treated, at least an outlet pipe for treated
water and a plurality of inner ducts that can be intercepted through
flow ways belonging to a spool sliding inside said manifold body;
and least a control device comprising mechanical members adapted
to control opening and closing of valves during the various operation
stages of said softener; a control unit for programming execution
of the operative cycles of said softener; at least an actuator unit
comprising a cylinder fixed to said spool and sliding in a barrel
whose volume is divided into at least a first chamber and at least
a second chamber opposite to said first chamber, said actuator unit
being adapted to move said spool to define different mutual positions
of said flow ways relative to said inner ducts, each position being
adapted to set different water paths; wherein said first chamber
of said cylinder has at least one waydirectly communicating with
said inlet pipe and said second chamber has at least a first water
feeding way communicating with the inlet pipe through a valve and
at least a second seeping way for water outlet.
2. The softener according to claim 1 wherein the area of the surface
of said cylinder defining said first chamber is lower than the area
of the surface of said cylinder defining said second chamber.
3. The softener according to claim 1 wherein said actuator unit
is coupled to said spool through a central hole made on said cylinder
at said first surface.
4. The softener according to claim 1 wherein in at least one of
said positions of the spool, there is a direct communication between
said inlet pipe and said outlet pipe.
5. The softener according to claim 1 wherein in at least one of
said positions of said spool, said flow ways put in communication
the inside of said vessel with a regenerating fluid of said softening
6. The softener according to claim 1 wherein said at least a first
way of said second chamber is intercepted by at least a control
7. The softener according to claim 1 wherein said mechanical members
actuating said valves during the various stages of the cycle of
said softener, consist of a cam shaft moved by mechanisms.
8. The softener according to claim 7 wherein said mechanisms consist
of at least an electric motor controlled by a control unit.
9. The softener according to claim 7 wherein said control unit
comprises interface means and a processing unit for the data inputted
through said interface means, said data being adapted to set the
opening and closing times of said valves.
10. The softener according to claim 9 wherein said interface means
comprise at least a keyboard.
11. The softener according to claim 9 wherein said processing unit
comprises at least an electronic processing unit.
12. The softener according to claim 1 wherein said second way is
hydraulically connected to at least a second tank containing a substance
constituting the fluid regenerating said softening substance.
13. The softener according to claim 12 wherein said softening substance
consists of sodium chloride.
14. The softener according to claim 1 wherein said second seeping
way is provided with a flow reducer acting also as a valve for said
second tank .
Water softener description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to a water softener, particularly
adapted to be installed upstream the home distribution network.
 It is well known that the percentage of calcium in the water
supplied by the public distribution network, is variable from one
place to another and sometimes with time, but such a percentage
is generally higher than the optimal quantity required by the human
 It also known that an excessive quantity of calcium like
an excessive deficiency, may cause troubles for the health of the
users, but also for the hydraulic devices through which calcium
rich water is flowing. More particularly an excessive quantity of
calcium dissolved in water causes deposit of lime layers inside
the pipes and in the long run said scaling cause pipe clogging and
decrease of performances of said devices, sometimes requiring replacement
of the corresponding element or the entire device.
 In order to remove these drawbacks water undergoes a softening
treatment generally consisting in filtering water with special softening
substances such as ionic resins blocking the calcium ion.
 More particularly said ion exchanging resins convert calcium
and magnesium salts, tending to be deposited with water heating,
into sodium salts that on the contrary remain in solution.
 Indeed, when the cationic resins are strong in sodium cycle,
this free base is sodium saturated; said resins by natural affinity,
when crossed by hard water, capture the calcium ion and release
the sodium ion generating said exchange phenomenon that can be considered
 In such a process the resins release sodium up to its exhaustion,
gradually losing their filtering feature. In this situation the
resins must undergo a regeneration treatment by which they are supplied
again with sodium, substantially undergoing the opposite process
 According to the prior art, regeneration generally consists
firstly in dissolving the captured calcium through a solution generally
comprising sodium chloride dissolved in water, and then removing
calcium washing the regenerated resin.
 In order to carry out such a treatment special softeners
are used, installed upstream the distribution circuit of water to
be treated and allow to control the level of water hardness.
 The known softeners generally comprise a vessel containing
the ionic resin associated with a distributor comprising a manifold
body in which there is an inlet pipe for water to be treated and
an outlet pipe for treated water.
 Inside the manifold body there is a plurality of inner ducts
that can be intercepted through flow ways belonging to a spool sliding
inside said manifold body and moved by an actuator unit.
 More particularly the actuator unit moves the spool to define
different mutual positions between the flow ways and the inner ducts,
each position being adapted to define different water paths.
 The different spool positions therefore define the different
operative stages of the device, comprising as above stated, a working
or processing stage in which water is being filtered and delivered
to the outlet duct, a regeneration stage of the ionic resin and
a washing stage of said resin.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 According to a first known embodiment, the actuator is hydraulic
and consists of a cylinder fixed to the spool and sliding in a barrel
whose volume is divided into a first and a second chamber opposite
to each other. Each chamber has a feeding way of pressurized liquid
and a discharge way each provided with corresponding valves.
 The movement of the cylinder corresponding to said stages
is obtained by causing the pressurized liquid to enter alternatively
the first and the second pressurized chamber by opening and closing
the feeding and discharge valves.
 In this way, indeed, pressure of liquid acting on the cylinder
surfaces is causing movement of the spool in either direction.
 A first drawback of the described prior art consists in
that four control valves are required for operation of the spool,
each valve being adapted to open or close the liquid feeding or
discharge ways in each pressurized chamber.
 A further drawback consists in that said valves are not
 Another drawback is that a high number of feeding and discharge
valves increases considerably the likelihood of device failure.
 The object of the present invention is to provide a water
softener overcoming said drawbacks and limitations.
 More particularly a first object of the invention is to
provide a softener that is more reliable than the prior art softeners
of equivalent features, conditions and characteristics being equal.
 Another object is to provide a device that is cheaper and
stronger, the performances being equal.
 A further object of the invention is to provide a softener
reducing to the minimum the amount of valves required for its operation.
 A last but not least object is to provide a softener having
an actuator unit which is simpler and more reliable relative to
the known actuator units.
 Said objects are attained by a water softener that according
to the main claim comprises:
 at least a vessel containing a softening substance;
 at least a distributor consisting of a manifold body associated
to said vessel in which there is at least an inlet pipe for water
to be treated, at least an outlet pipe for treated water and a plurality
of inner ducts to be intercepted through flow ways belonging to
a spool sliding inside said manifold body;
 at least a control device comprising mechanical members
adapted to control opening and closing of valves during the various
stages of operation of said device;
 a control unit for programming and executing the operation
cycles of said control device;
 at least an actuator unit comprising a cylinder fixed to
said spool and sliding in a barrel whose volume is divided into
at least a first and a second opposite chambers, said actuator unit
being adapted to move said spool to define different mutual positions
of said flow ways relative to said inner ducts, each position being
adapted to define different paths for said water;
 said softener being characterized in that said first chamber
is provided with at least a way directly communicating with said
inlet duct and said second chamber has at least a first water feeding
way communicating with the inlet pipe through a valve and at least
a second seeping way for water outlet.
 Advantageously the device of the invention has a double
acting cylinder with a number of valves lower than the prior art
devices of equivalent type.
 Consequently the reduction of the number of valves required
for operation of the device gives a greater reliability to said
 Still advantageously with the device of the invention the
mechanisms required for its operation are considerably reduced.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 The foregoing objects and advantages will be better understood
by reading the following description of a preferred embodiment given
as an illustrative and non-limiting example with reference to the
accompanying sheets of drawings in which:
 FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view of the device of the present
invention in a first working configuration;
 FIG. 2 is a sectional plan view of the device of FIG. 1;
 FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of the device of FIG. 1
in a different working configuration;
 FIG. 4 is a sectional plan view of the device of FIG. 3;
 FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of the device of FIG. 1
in another working configuration;
 FIG. 6 is a sectional plan view of the device of FIG. 5;
 FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along line VII-VII of a
portion of the device of FIG. 2;
 FIG. 8 is a sectional view of the portion of the device
shown in FIG. 7 in another working configuration; and
 FIG. 9 is a longitudinal sectional view taken along line
IX-IX of a further element of the device of FIG. 1.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 The water softener of the present invention is shown in
FIGS. 1 and 2 where is generally indicated with reference numeral
1; the device comprises a vessel 2 containing a softening substance
3 and a distributor 4 consisting of a manifold body 5 associated
to vessel 2.
 In the manifold body 5 there is an inlet pipe 8 for water
to be treated, an outlet pipe 9 for treated water and a plurality
of inner ducts generally indicated with numeral 10.
 Said inner ducts 10 made on the manifold body 5 can be
intercepted through flow ways 11 belonging to a spool 6.
 The spool 6 is internally and slidingly coupled to the manifold
body 5 and is moved along axis 51 by an actuator unit 7.
 More particularly the actuator unit 7 moves the spool 6
alternatively from a first position shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 to a
second position shown in FIGS. 3 and 4.
 To each position of spool 6 different mutual positions of
the flow ways 11 relative to the inner ducts 10 are corresponding,
thus carrying out different water paths.
 It is to be particularly noted that the active paths are
emphasized in the Figures of the drawings by the presence of liquid
shown with hatch lines.
 As to the actuator unit 7 it comprises a cylinder 12 fixed
to the spool 6 and
 sliding inside a barrel 13.
 The cylinder 12 divides the volume defined by the barrel
13 into a first chamber 14 to be seen in FIGS. 1 and 2 and a second
chamber 15 opposite to the first chamber 14 and to be seen in FIGS.
3 and 4.
 The invention provides that the first chamber 14 has a way
16 directly communicating with the inlet pipe 8 that is without
interposition of valves opening and closing communication with the
inlet pipe 8. Moreover, according to the invention the second chamber
15 has a first way 17 communicating with the inlet pipe 8 through
valve 19a and a second seeping outlet way 18.
 On the manifold body 5 there is also a plurality of control
valves indicated with numerals 19a, 19b and 19c, adapted to regulate
water flow inside the above mentioned different paths.
 More particularly it is to be noted the control valve 19a
intercepting the feeding way 17 of pressurized water for chamber
 Opening and closing of control valves 19a, 19b and 19c is
obtained through a control device generally indicated with numeral
20 comprising mechanical members 21 motion mechanisms 24 and a
control unit 70.
 The mechanical members 21 comprise a cam shaft 22 causing
opening or closing of valves 19a, 19b and 19c through levers 22a
co-operating by contact with the stem of each said valve.
 The cam shaft 22 is rotated by the motion mechanisms 24
generally consisting of an electric motor controlled by the control
 The control unit 70 comprises interface means preferably
consisting of a keyboard 71 through which data are inputted that
are then processed by processing means such as microprocessors,
to control the movements of the spool 6 and rotation speed of cam
 The rotation speed of the cam shaft 22 defines the opening
and closing times of each valve 19a, 19b and 19c and consequently
duration of the various working stages of the device.
 More particularly as previously mentioned, said device generally
provides for three different working stages:
 a working or active cycle stage, shown in FIGS. 1 and 2
wherein valves 19a, 19b and 19c are all closed;
 a resin regeneration stage shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 wherein
valves 19a and 19c are open;
 and a resin washing stage shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 wherein
valves 19a and 19b are open.
 Active Cycle Stage
 In the active cycle stage the cam shaft 22 is stationary
and the position of the spool 6 is shown in FIG. 2 such as water
entering from the inlet pipe 8 is first conveyed inside the vessel
2 following the path indicated in FIG. 1 by arrow 30 and then to
the outlet pipe 9 through pipe 27 following the path indicated by
 Therefore water undergoes a treatment by the softening substance
3 consisting for instance of ionic resins. In this stage all valves
19a, 19b and 19c are closed.
 In such a configuration the device provides also for the
possibility of supplying to the outlet duct a variable percentage
of untreated water so as to keep the contents of calcium in the
outgoing water at least at the lower limit of the values requested
by the regulations presently in force.
 This is carried out through a control unit of the hardness
of treated water, generally indicated with numeral 50 in FIGS. 7
and 8. Such a unit generally consists of a duct 31 connecting the
inlet 8 to the outlet 9 through the slit 32 uncovered by screw 33
inserted into a seat vertically arranged in a stationary gate 34.
 When the softener lowers the contents of calcium in the
treated water below the limits allowed by law, the direct flow of
a limited quantity of water coming from the inlet 8 through opening
32 allows addition of non-softened water, that is untreated water
to that coming out from pipe 9 so as to balance again the calcium
 Regeneration Stage
 When the softener goes to the regeneration stage, the cam
shaft 22 rotates until valves 19a and 19c are opened. Opening of
valve 19a allows to convey water present at inlet 8 to the second
chamber 15. Filling of this chamber 15 and the consequent emptying
of the opposite chamber 14 is made easier by the fact that surface
12b of cylinder 12 facing the chamber 15 is greater that surface
12a of the cylinder facing the opposite chamber 14 since the area
of the surface 12a is reduced relative to surface 12b by the surface
of the spool 6 in contact with the cylinder 12.
 This has the consequence of an unbalance of the opposite
forces acting on cylinder 12 generated by pressure existing inside
the chambers 14 15.
 This unbalance causes the spool 6 to move until it reaches
the stable position shown in FIGS. 3 and 4.
 In this condition pressure in both chambers 14 and 15 is
the same and equal to the pressure of water existing at inlet 8
of the device.
 At the same time the inlet pipe 8 is put in direct communication
with the outlet pipe through the by-passed duct 40 that can be seen
in detail in FIGS. 3 and 4 so as to keep the hydraulic circuit downstream
the device fed event during the regeneration stage.
 In order to carry out regeneration of the resin, the control
unit puts in communication by opening a first auxiliary duct, the
ionic resin with a regenerating fluid generally consisting of a
saline solution contained in a second tank 41 called brine vat,
that can be seen in FIG. 6 and shown in detail in FIG. 9.
 The regenerating fluid enters vessel 2 through pipe 27 along
direction 34 and than flows upwards in vessel 2 according to the
direction indicated by arrows 35 in FIG. 3 thus enhancing advantageously
 Withdrawal of the saline solution contained in tank 41 occurs
through a known system using a venturi nozzle generally indicated
with numeral 42 and shown in FIG. 9.
 Washing Stage
 When regeneration is completed, the control unit closes
valve 19c and actuates the control valve 19b opening a second auxiliary
pipe hydraulically connected to the inlet pipe 8 so as to create
a water flow washing the resin 3 fully removing calcium dissolved
in the saline solution.
 In this case water flows in a direction opposite to the
preceding one, namely downwards as indicated with numeral 60 in
FIG. 5 so as to pack advantageously the ionic resins.
 When washing is completed the control unit closes again
valves 19a and 19b returning the spool to the starting position.
 Closure of the control valve 19a causes a predominance of
the force acting in the direction opposite to the preceding one.
Water present in the second chamber 15 is evacuated through the
second seeping way 18 thus allowing movement of cylinder 12.
 It is also to be noted that on the seeping way 18 there
is an adjustable flow reducer 181 acting as valve of the second
tank 41. It is well known that the flow reducer allows to vary the
pressure that the liquid must reach in the second chamber to cause
its discharge through the second way 18.
 Advantageously water coming out through the second seeping
way 18 is conveyed to the second tank 41 so as to restore the level
of liquid and prepare the saline solution required for the subsequent
 As to the spool 6 it is coupled to cylinder 12 through
a central hole made on the cylinder 12 at the first surface 12a.
 The installation of the device requires that it is hydraulically
connected upstream the home water distribution circuit.
 More particularly the inlet pipe 8 is hydraulically connected
with the public water distribution network while the outlet pipe
9 is connected to the delivery duct of the home hydraulic circuit.
 After connection of the device in the hydraulic circuit,
the operator inputs through the keyboard 71 the configuration data
relating to the calcium percentage wanted in the treated water,
said data being processed by the control unit 70.
 The device will then start to operate automatically supplying
a water output with the inputted chemical characteristics.
 It is also to be noted that through the keyboard 71 it is
also possible to input the data relating to the regeneration conditions.
 More particularly the device allows to input the regeneration
stage at regular time intervals or as a function of the chemical
characteristics of the produced softened water.
 The device 1 is also provided with a disinfestation unit
of a kind known per se that will not be described in detail.
 It is also to be pointed out that the choice to have different
areas of the surfaces 12a, 12b of the cylinder 12 allows to simplify
the device control hydraulic circuit thus eliminating the control
valves of the chambers 14 and 15 so as to decrease the cost of the
 The simplification of the hydraulic circuit allows also
to reduce the likelihood of device failure giving a greater reliability
in comparison with devices using actuation systems of known type.
 From the foregoing it is clear that the device of the present
invention attains the above mentioned objects.
 Although the invention was described with reference to the
accompanying sheets of drawings, it may undergo modifications in
the constructional stage, however still falling within the same
inventive principle stated in the appended claims and therefore
covered by the present patent.