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Water softener & low pressure?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by bluedogz, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    So, I have this RainSoft water softener that was in the house when I bought it. Damned if I know how it works. Every couple years I get a call from a RainSoft rep for a servicing, and each time I give them $100 or so- not sure what they do exactly. They haven't been by for a couple years now... maybe 3.

    Anyway, recently the water pressure in the house has been dropping off at pretty much all the fixtures, the most distant from the tank being the worst.

    I am guessing that something needs done to replenish/maintain/recharge this unit, but I haven't the vaguest idea what (as you probably figured.)

    Any suggestions where to begin troubleshooting?

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  2. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Try to find a manual online. That should tell you how to rejuvenate and/or backflush the unit.

    You may also have a water filter that's clogged. I have to replace mine every so often - costs about $3.
  3. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    If your softener has a bypass, try bypassing it to see if your pressure improves. Sometimes the softener tank needs to be emptied and the media and bed replaced.
  4. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    So have you been doing anything with it like adding salt? Softeners are frequent maintenance devices. If you aren't adding salt then it isn't doing anything and perhaps you would be better off removing it. There is normally a filter ahead of and/or after the softener. It will be mounted on the wall and look like a huge oil filter. This filter will eventually clog and restrict your flow which will result in lower pressure when you try and get flow. Open the tap and there is pressure that quickly goes away.

    City water?
  5. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Nope... we are on a well. There is no obvious filter anywhere in the system- well feeds into the pressure tank, pressure tank goes to the softener. There is no obvious bypass either- first thing I thought of.

    I suspect our water is quite acidic (alkaline?) because there are blue/green streaks in all the toilet bowls and the supply pipes have pinholed more often than I've ever seen.

    I have been doing no maintenance at all. I haven't a clue how the thing works.

    I searched for a manual online, but only found manuals for the timer-type device on the top of it, nothing for replacing/refilling salt or anything like that. I'm prepared and handy enough to actually do the maintenance; I just haven't a clue how.
  6. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    If it is really a water softener and a normal one then you should be able to look at the instructions from a competitor that is currently in production. There have not been any significant advances in water softener technology for decades.

    The alternative is to get the 100 dollar guy back out and have him show you what to do. These systems cost over 500$ to buy and don't normally require expensive maintenance other than frequent salt addition.

    To correct pH issues with the water you would use a device made for that. They make 'em. Normal well water in my region will stain toilets brown with rust from iron, or black/purple from the manganese. We don't normally have pH problems with groundwater that would cause green which as you note is what oxidized copper looks like.

    At this time, if I were you, I would get the water guy out and have him maintain the softener to improve your flow problem and then have him test the water (usually free) to determine what your iron, pH, and hardness levels are. He might fix the whole shebang by getting rid of the softener. If you want to save some cash then bypass the softener by removing it and placing a pipe in its place.

    You have a well and pressure issues. Did you first verify that you have pressure at the pressure tank?
  7. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Very true.
    For starters, I realize from this feedback that I may have misnamed this thing in my basement. I have always called it a water softener, but on looking at HomeDepot.com the water softeners they have don't look a bit like this. Photo is below... maybe this is not a "water softener"?

    I thought so. Weird thing is that I'm danged if I can find anywhere salt would go in this thing. I suppose I could undo the small black lid pictured at the top left and feed pellets in, but that can't be right.

    I'm leaning that way.

    Other than by noting that there IS pressure throughout the house, no.

    Softener.jpg Timer.jpg
  8. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Looks like you have an iron filter or some other type of filter. A water softener would look similar but have a large trash can sized vessel that holds some salt and water. with a hose running to the unit.

    The media in the unit you have probably needs to be replaced yearly and the timers should backwash the system every so many days..

    Hard to read the txt on the bottom dial.
  9. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    No second vessel here... just this scuba-tank-looking thing.

    Bottom dial only reads "Push for manual regeneration- do not begin manual regeneration within 3 hours of scheduled regeneration time." So not a lot of help there.

    Oh, and I did find a rudimentary manual that at least told me how to bypass it. So, I bypassed it, and nothing changed. If anything, the pressure went DOWN!
  10. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Blue-green staining and pin-holed pipes sounds like copper corrosion. You may have a very serious issue indeed. Could have a pipe slowly clogging wiht build-up from the corriosion. I wonder how long before leaks much more serious than a pin-hole start to show up.

    Unit pictured walks and talks like a softner but is obviously missing a brine tank. +1 on retiring it.
  11. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    It's likely an acid neutralizer. Acid neutralizers use the same heads as softeners and are just configured a little differently. There is usually a sticker somewhere on the head to identify it as such. They need to be refilled with calcite on a regular basis. That is the reason for the plug at the top of the tank below the head.

    If you haven't been putting calcite in, it isn't and hasn't been doing you any good. You can check the calcite level by turning the lights out running a bright light up the side of the tank. It should be filled to approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full.

    Now, if you bypassed it and flow did not improve there is either a problem with the bypass valve or the problem has nothing to do with the water conditioning unit. You need to determine whether or not you have a flow problem or a pressure problem. If you are not building up enough pressure in the system you will not get the flow you desire. If there is a restriction somewhere, you will not get desired flow even with adequate pressure.

    I would first confirm that you have adequate pressure. If the pressure gauge at the tank does not work, replace it. You can also attach a pressure gauge to an outside faucet with a few fittings commonly found at a hardware store.

    If you have adequate pressure (at least 20 psi, preferably 30, at the bottom end of the pump cycle) start looking for restrictions. If your flow problems are uniform throughout the house, valves near the tank are the number one culprit (after clogged filters and water conditioning units). Just because a handle spins out does not mean it is lifting the washer off of the seat. Ball valves can also break with the ball partially closed. With acid water, it is fairly unlikely that you have significant build up in the pipes. Sediment building near the tank is more possible.

    If it is a flow issue and not a pressure issue, you are going to need to take some things apart to figure out where the restriction is.

    If you don't trust the bypass, you can cut the lines off going to it and tie them together. This can be done quickly with a couple of push fit couplings (ie. Sharkbite) and a length of pex long enough to make a loop to tie the lines together. If that fixes your problem, you can either repair or replace the water conditioning unit or permanently bypass it. It sounds like you should have an acid neutralizer though.
  12. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    I just installed an acid neutrilizer from these folks. It looks very similar to your unit. http://www.cleanwaterstore.com/acid-neutralizer.html
    Go to their website and look at the manuals.
    As ROVERT said you need to add calcium carbonate (calcite) and keep it between 1/2 and 2/3 full. Likely that is what the tech has been overcharging you for. You can get a two year supply for around $100.
    My unit has an automatic back flush on it to prevent clogging. If no one has been adding calcite I would expect it to have completly desolved over time.
    If I were you Iwould install a bypass and a prefilter. 3 ball valves, 2 T's, some couplings and a little bit of pipe/tubing. That way you can bypass the whole unit while you work on things.
  13. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Lots of filters look like that. Iron filters, sediment filters, acid neutralizers, softeners, etc. All you have there is a vessel with media that is supposed to treat something and needs to backwash itself every so often.

    What started all this was poor pressure and flow. Back to basics, first verify pressure at the well's pressure tank.
  14. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    The presence of the fill plug and the description of the water strongly suggests that this is an acid neutralizer.

    It also seems as though this component is not the cause of the problem as the symptoms persist when bypassed. I agree that the system's pressure should first be verified. I believe I mentioned that.
    Highbeam likes this.
  15. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    I believe you did! I feel like many moons ago working on no-starts on motorcycles... "is it getting gas?"

    Anyhow, I have a gauge inline just above the pressure switch coming in from the well, prior to the pressure tank. It shows 40psi, in line with the 40psi switch I installed a couple years ago. What's the best way to check pressure other than that?

    EDIT: Success! Finally got RainSoft on the horn- it's an acid neutralizer. The young lady was really nice, but got cagey when I asked what they were going to refill it with (understandably.)
  16. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Run the water in a couple of faucets and monitor the pressure while the water is running. You could have good static pressure, but low pressure under flow conditions.
  17. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    http://www.freshwatersystems.com/p-764-calcite-ph-neutralizer-12-cu-ft-ups-box.aspx
    I have an acid neutralizer as well as a fine mesh water softener for iron removal which also removes hardness caused by the neutralizer and ahead of all this I have a double sump micron filter..



    Ray
  18. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    My acidic water neutralizer consists of a plastic vat, about 30 gallons, into which I mix soda ash until the solution is saturated. A small pump injects the solution into the water line as it leaves the pump. It is wired in parallel with the pump. It came with the house, and I've checked the water with and without it. The water out of my taps is right about neutral ph. The well water is quite acidic.

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