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water softener problems

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by jowalmer, Apr 19, 2008.

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  1. jowalmer

    jowalmer New Member

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    Hi,

    A friend owns a home that came with a culligan water softening system. I am completely water-softener-system illiterate and am looking to see if I can get info to resolve a problem she has with the system: she says it is not working as she can't feel that "slipperiness" anymore. With the right info, I am sure I can DIY or DIM (do it myself). There is no manual and she is trying to avoid the cost of calling the culligan man.

    There is a tank maybe 12 inches in diameter, about 4 feet tall. atop of this tank is attached a plastic, black valving (???) system that connects to the water supply on one part and to the house on the other. Also attached is a plastic box or control panel. This tank has a label attached to the outside and indicates, in part, "model WG 1040"

    There is a black tube that leads from the tank above to another tank. This other tank is about 18 inches, maybe more, in diameter also about 4 feet tall, maybe a little less. This tank is filled half-way or so with salt (???) and has a vertical tube in it resting on one side. Looking down the vertical tube, I see what appears to be a float (???) and beyond the float I see water. It appears that the water level in the vertical tube is about 6 to 8 inches below the level of salt in the other part of this same tank. The surface of salt in this tank looks dry.

    Can anyone lead me in the direction of finding repair info or maybe suggestions on fixing the system? Thanks.

    Jim

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  2. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Could be several things. If the system is really old, the mineral used in the softener (skinny tank) could be worn out. It doesn't last forever. It can be replaced, but if the system is that old probably better to get a new, fully automatic system.

    The salt tank setup sounds normal. The float valve determines how much water is admitted to the salt tank. When the softener recharges, it draws this quantity of salt water through the mineral. The float valve is set by the grains of hardness of the water. Typically its "set and forget," as normally the hardness of water does not change. But to be safe, check the hardness, and then do your research to find out where this float should be set.

    It's possible the salt tank water outlet is plugged. Underneath all the salt there is filter screen to keep crud in the salt from entering the system. You could have a buildup of crud. Only way to deal with this is to empty the salt tank, clean it and put it back together.

    It could be that the user is using more water than in the past. This appears to be a system that you set controls as to how often it recharges. It water use has increased beyond the softening capacity of the setting, you might need to recharge more often. The dials in the control box do this, and the box may have directions inside.

    It could be that the control valve(s) themselves are not working. You can check this by manually cycling the system, listening for water flow through the drain hose/pipe, watching to see that the water in the salt tank is drawn down. A recharge cycle takes awhile.

    Even if everything is OK, if only on occasion water is used beyond the system settings, the softening capacity before the next recharge might be used up, and harder water is entering the house water system, filling the hot water heater, etc. Now when the system recharges, the harder water (esp in the hot water heater) needs to be used up before new soft water is available. This too can take awhile and make it appear that the system is not working.

    And there probably are more possibilities. Call the Culligan Man.
  3. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    HEY CULLIGAN MAN! Remember those ads?

    I think that Culligan parts may be hard to get anywhere but from Culligan. There are other manufacturers out there...

    Is the salt level going down? Many times the salt will form a bridge above the water level in the brine tank and keep the salt from hitting the water. My father used to keep a piece of steel pipe around to break up the chunk in his softener. Try scooping out the salt and cleaning out the tank.

    If it is using salt, then you have other problems. Try putting it through a regeneration manually and keep an eye on it. Normally, they will backwash for a while, then draw the brine into the resin bed, soak for a little while and then rinse and refill the brine tank. I used to taste the rinse water to see if it was salty. If it is, then the resin may be shot. We use something called Iron Out to clean out the resin, but after a while even this doesn't work. Might be time for a new softener.

    The new ones have a demand meter that measures consumpion and only regenerates when it is necessary. Might be worth it to upgrade.

    Chris
  4. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Been there done that... Culligan is a good softener, do as Redox has suggested with red out/super red out. If it seems better do it 2 times. Just add a half cup of product to a gallon of hot water, pour it over the salt and set it regenerate. You can also re-bed a softener. Just take the head off, dump the stuff inside, replace and reinstall. All the work is done in the head so it is not that difficult. I am sure that if you do a search you can find a manual for it or one like it (newer model) I just installed an addie...it is a fleck head made in brookfield wisconsin. It is a very common valve...culligan uses the same as everyone elses, they are just tweeked to add length here or there so that only culligan parts fit and so you have to go to a dealer. If full replacement is needed and you are handy I installed a 48000 grain model for under 600.00 the culligan guys wanted 2249 plus tax installed for the same unit. Once you do some research and find a manual do a search for DIY forum, you can register and post and those guys are pretty helpfull! Good luck!
  5. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    My parental units used to have such bad water with so much dissolved iron that the water would turn red if you left it sitting in a glass for a few hours. It used to clog up a softener really bad. We used to mix up the Iron Out in a quart of water to dissolve it and dump it right into the brine well (that tube in the salt tank with the float at the bottom), regenerate it, and pull the plug when it got to the "soak" part of the cycle for a few hours. Let it finish the cycle and regenerate it again. That stuff was pretty nasty smelling IIRC. You might want to bypass the softener from the house while you do this.

    DING! Bell just went off! Is your bypass valve closed? There should be a bypass valve around the softener. Most softeners are installed with an inlet valve, an outlet valve and a bypass valve to go around the softener for service. It should be closed all the time, unless you are working on the softener. Open the bypass and close the outlet while you are doing the Iron Out thing. You really don't want to drink that stuff.

    If it is using salt and the water is still hard, then the resin bed is probably shot. I used to find that by the time the resin died that the rest of the softener was also worn out. Sears carries them, if you like Sears stuff, or Graingers carries them if you have access. WW Grainger also is very good on parts, kinda like the Sears of the industrial world. They used to be kinda picky about who they sell to, but nowadays they will sell to just about anybody with a VISA. Just act like you know what you are talking about and walk right in! You can also order online if you know someone with an account (and get their approval first).

    http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/ww...ntSearch&originalValue=softener&L1=Softeners,

    Good luck and let us know how it works out.

    Chris
  6. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Hi Jim,
    I have a water softener for soluble iron that gets fouled on occasion and I use Res-Up or Res-Care.. Super Iron Out will work too but the fumes are VERY obnoxious.. A gallon of Res- up will last you a long time and it's easier than dealing with a powder.. I also have a Res-up feeder in my brine tank that adds an ounce or two every regen to reduce fouling.. Now I have a new problem that's unrelated in that my water smells like rotten eggs and from the research I have done have nailed it down to hydrogen sulfide.. I know that bleach cures it for a few days so now I am looking into bleach injection.. Well water can be a royal pain the ass!!!!

    Good Luck,
    Ray
  7. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Raybonz- is it all your water or just the hot water? The water heater anode sometimes contributes to this. I always hate to suggest removing something that is saving your tank from corrosion, but try pulling it and replacing it with a plug. My father had to do this.

    Yeah' ain't wellwater great? Kinda forces everyone to become their own water chemist. Then you have to ask yourself if you really want to drink it after adding all that stuff.

    Chris
  8. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Hi Chris,
    All my water smells and I have no anode as I use a tankless coil via my hot water heater.. I thought maybe my acid neutralizer may have been the problem so I bypassed it to rule it out.. If I regen with a dose of bleach in my salt tank the problem abates for a few days but returns. Yeah I am so sick of dealing with these problems! I have no options other than well water here.. Currently I have a dbl. sump 5 micron sediment filter which goes into an upflow acid neutralizer and then into a fine mesh resin water softener to remove clear water iron and also calcite from the acid neutralizer.. What I need is a pipeline from Poland Springs into my home lol !!

    Ray
  9. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Hearing these stories makes me glad I'm on city water. Baltimore is supposed to have some of the best in the country.

    Water softeners are really only suppose to soften (remove calcium and magnesium) the water, but they will remove iron to some extent. It sounds like the bed of your softener is the culprit. You might try the Iron-Out trick once to see if it lasts any longer than the bleach trick, but I doubt it. Around these parts, that is considered routine maintenance.

    My parents are fighting the acidity by injecting either sodium carbonate or sodium hydroxide into the water. It needs a storage tank (not a bladder tank) after the injection point to allow some contact time for the reaction to happen. You can really tell when the injector runs out; all the sinks turn green from the copper, and you know copper isn't good for you. I don't think the hydroxide increases the hardness any. He has had a problem after adding the indirect water heater and we pulled the anode. We could have added another injector for bleach, but he doesn't like the idea of drinking chlorine. You may be able to get rid of the softener if you get rid of the giant Tums tablet in the neutralizer.

    This is the sort of situation where a good unbiased water quality test is invaluable. Culligan is good, but they want to sell you equipment and consumables. You might be able to get a free water test from your county extension office. Let that tell you what you really need. My parent's test showed up e-coli from a bad well seal!

    Chris
  10. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Fine mesh resin water softeners can handle up to 25 ppm clear water iron and I have 13.2 ppm.. The iron content is OK just the stinky problem to deal with now.. This gets frustrating after a while..

    Ray
  11. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    So you have done the testing... What is your raw water hardness? If your water isn't hard to begin with, you might want to consider a greensand filter. It is better on iron than a softener, handles hydrogen sulfide as well and chlorine makes it work better. They are also a lot less trouble to maintain than a softener. If your water is already soft, I wouldn't dissolve calcium in it to correct it. YMMV.

    If your water is already hard, shoot some bleach in ahead of the softener and put a carbon filter on anything you drink. Those cheap carbon filters that go under the sink are good enough to remove chlorine and other bad tastes after it is neutralized by the battery of other equipment you have.

    I think we scared off jowalmer...

    Chris
  12. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Hey Chris,
    I would say my water isn't really hard except what the neutralizer adds to correct my PH.. I have looked at greensand too but I already have $1400.00 invested in my softener plus it does a decent job on the clearwater iron so I do not want to get rid of it plus I like how the water feels with a softener..My softener is a GE Osmonics which meters actual usage and it regens about 1X per week which is necessary when dealing with iron to reduce fouling and channeling... I just changed my sediment filter with a carbon filter(2 micron) so this should help.. Now I need to reconnect my neutralizer once the hydrogen sulfide is corrected.. For some reason I thought the carbon sediment filter was good for 6 months but I was mistaken as it's good for 3 months.. If I can avoid bleach that would be all the better.. Thanx for the input!!

    Ray

    P.S. I avoided Culligan when I considered a softener mostly because they are propietary by nature and you must buy all parts from them... With this system I can buy all parts from most anyone as they tend to be generic by nature and perform well... GE is big into water amongst other things.. They bring good things to life, right ;-P ..
  13. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    "GE is big into water amongst other things.. They bring good things to life, right?"

    Well, I wouldn't go that far! I haven't been a big fan of their appliances over the years and IMHO their environmental record leaves a lot to be desired. They bought Osmonics a while back and I'm not sure what they have been up to lately. They advertise a lot, though...

    Agreed on Culligan though. I don't like a manufacturer that makes their part too exclusive.

    I did find this little summary on treatment options:

    http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/housing/356-481/356-481.html

    Chris
  14. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Hi Chris,
    Seems that my water was OK this morning after changing the carbon/sediment filters.. Here is the link for my Osmonics softener:
    http://www.rmmanufacturing.com/sys_pgs/auto_unit/460i.htm

    Ray
  15. James Gautsch

    James Gautsch Member

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  16. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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  17. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'll answer the original poster.
    I had similar symptoms on a similar unit.
    The salt pellets in the tank had become solidified into one solid mass.
    Poking it with a broom handle was pointless-it did not go into the solid mass.
    It had to be cut out! What a mess.
    The Culligan man recommended crystals, not pellets, which can solidify under humidity, apparently.
    Don't forget to put some water in the tank before reloading with the crystals.
  18. bcnu

    bcnu New Member

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    Did a search of Culligan and thought I'd try posting here instead of new topic. Got a bad smell from the hot water so checked the system. Softener has been working fine but I see that the fill tube doesn't have any water in it. I've been using pelletized salt - Rust Buster and I had to break up a salt bridge in the tank. I by passed the system and that worked fine. A day later and still no water in the fill tube where the float is. What am I missing?
  19. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I've forgotten what little I learned chasing my problem, but I remember that when I cleaned out the tank I put about 6" of water in the bottom of the tank.
    Are you sure it was just a bridge and not a solid mass to the bottom? Is there liquid on the end of the broom handle you used to break up the bridge? Maybe you could pour some water in the tube. It's a function of the regeneration cycle, so you may have to go through a couple anyway.
  20. bcnu

    bcnu New Member

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    Thanks. I did have 6-8" of water under the salt bridge but will pour some water in the fill tube. Appreciate any ideas/help.
  21. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Sounds like the Venture (I think that is what they call it) is clogged. CHeck the manual and clean the screen. That would be my guess.
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