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Water Softener

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by velvetfoot, Sep 19, 2007.

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  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Any softener gurus out there?

    My water softener doesn't appear to be working (no slimey feeling in shower :) ) .
    I've tried to break up a huge bridge in the salt - the solidified zone almost seems like a couple of feet and a piece of rebar (never mind the recommended broom handle) wouldn't go through it without pounding it. It seems that I've penetrated the solid zone to the bottom and I've also poured some water on top to soften things up.
    I did a manual regenerate after that and it doesn't appear to have helped.
    The unit is a Culligan, which apparently wants to service it themselves (I've read this, I haven't called yet).
    Unit is ~3 years old, came with the house. There are 2 adults in household.
    Water source is well water.
    Oddly, a whole house filter is plumbed in AFTER the softener, which doesn't seem right.

    I will continue troubleshooting to the extent I am able, but I'm leaning towards replumbing the filter anyway and inspecting and possibly replacing the resin.

    How much is Culligan anyway? Would a couple of service calls nearly pay for a new unit?

    Any ideas?

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  2. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    definitely replumb that thing! WHole house filter BEFORE the softener.....probably existed before the softener unit, installer never too the initiative to change it (lazy). Is the pressure still good, or do you see diminished pressure as well? (you know where im going with this, im sure)
  3. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Still doesn't seem to be soft.
    Yes, I'll replumb the thing. It does look like the filter pre-dated the softener.
    I dug around in the salt some more-man that's tough.
    Hit regen again, and stayed down to observe most of the cycle.
    Backwash seems to work okay-the water is flushed to the drain.
    It's hard to tell if the brine wash is working though, so I'll continue looking at that and dig in the salt, I guess.
    The Culligan man said they've found best results with crystals (vs pellets), so I might try that next time.
  4. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Is it a two tank system?
    One will have diatomaceous earth in it and the other with have an agent , mine is Calcium chloride (I think)
    If the tank with the agent is low it will work but not............ work.

    Oh, move that filter for sure.
  5. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    It is only one tank, plus the brine tank.
  6. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Is that one filled with an agent?
    You may have to call the Culligan man to get you back to square one. Without knowing what is in the tank you could make it worse. You should be able to check the level in that tank but without manuals etc. ....................
  7. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    ?
    One take has the resin and the other one has brine.
    I don't think the resin take has any other layers in it but I don't know for sure.
    I removed a valve cover and cleaned a ss steel strainer, but it wasn't clogged.
    I am still thinking it is still connected with the extreme consolidation of the salt pellets.
  8. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    I have a cheap kenmore that does the same. When (about once ever other year) I chlorinate the well I recharge the softener 2 times while running the well and it cleans it out. I figured that it will either trash it and I will buy another or I will get 2 more years out of it. I have been doing this for 6 years now. (Knocking on wood)
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Well after a couple of regens, a disassembly and cleaning (to the extent I could) of the valve, inspection (hey I looked into the resin tank and poked a broom handle in it), and a lot of poking at the globbed and mushed up salt with aforementioned broom handle, I've come to the point where I'm going to remove all the caked up and pulverized (by me) salt and the brine. Any ideas on how to dispose of it? On the highway during the winter? :) I'm thinking landfilling the solid, unsure of the liquid. I'm on a well and septic.
  10. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I had to cut up the solidified salt pellets.
    Replaced it with salt crystals (solar salt).
    I put the (300#?) salt in the trash can.
    New trash service has one man trucks with lifts so it was gone when coming home from work!
    It seems to soften now, subjectively from the feel of the water, but I ordered a cheap TDS (total disolved solids) meter to attempt to objectively look at it.
    Also ordered a cheap pH meter as an impulse buy, but not sure what I'll use that on now - Culligan said the raw water was 7.4 so I guess that's okay.
    They also said total hardness was 7 grains with trace iron, so I probably don't even need a softener.
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Alas, more reading finds that a water softener does not affect TDS.
    Just replaces the hardness ions, Calcium and Mangansese with Sodium (I think!).
    Played around with the meters though.
    TDS of the well water was ~201 raw and 206 treated.
    TDS of rain water I caught in a glass off the metal roof was 4!
    I guess I have to get a litmus paper type of test kit for total hardness.
  12. Shak

    Shak New Member

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    The regeneration tank on your water softener is full of poly styrene pellets. If you have handled packing peanuts you've seen how well they hold a static electricity charge. Your water softener works the same way. The salt water passes through the regen tank. The possitive and negatively charged salt ions recharge the styrene pellets. When the raw water passes through the pellets, minerals that are in suspension are attracted the the charged pellets. After enough untreated water passes through the system the styrene pellets become saturated with minerals and the system needs to regenerate by flushing out the minerals and washing the pellets with brine to recharge them. From what I understand the styrene pellets have a limited life span. Hope this helps.
    Shak
  13. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    To close the loop, I ordered some paper test strips over the web and tested water before and after treatment.
    It was ~ 7 before and ~1 (I'm not sure at this point) after, plus the water does feels slimey.
  14. andrew12

    andrew12 New Member

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  15. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I'm a bit late (OK, 2 years late) entering this discussion but will add my two cents.

    Whole house filter - what exactly is it? I have wire screen pre-filter (like what is used on sprinkler systems) before the micronizer for the iron and the iron filter before the softener. If there is high iron content in the water, you absolutely have to filter it out. Iron will contaminate the softener beads in no time. Even with the iron filter, some iron still gets in my softener and I put a cup of Iron Out ( http://www.summitbrands.com/brands/IronOut.aspx ) in the brine tank every time I refill it. I let the brine tank go almost empty before refilling it. I take what's collected in the bottom of the tank and spread it on my gravel driveway.

    Because my micronizer only works below 40 pounds, I set my pressure switch to kick in at 30 and out at 50. At that pressure there is not enough turbulence in the iron filter and softener for a thorough backwash/regeneration to break up the sticky consistency of the iron. The clogged up iron filter eventually will have reduced the flow and the softener will channel. When the softener channels, it regenerates only small "channels" and not the entire bed. Every few months (when I notice the pressure/flow drop) I override the pressure switch to 80 PSI and do a manual backwash. If it is badly caked, I introduce a bit of air into the backwash stream to shake up the iron filter bed.

    After 10 years I had to replace the beads and replace the sand in the iron filter. The water line from the air volume tank to the iron filter is gradually reducing from iron buildup and will eventually need to be replaced.
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I use potassium for two reasons. I don't want to add sodium to my diet and the drainage from softeners using potassium salt during regeneration is more environmentally friendly than that from sodium based softeners. My softener backwashes into my sump pit which pumps out to a natural ditch and the buildup of potassium salt in the soil is still killing trees along the ditch despite being more environment friendly.

    Potassium does impart some taste to the water though and affects cooking, so I use a RO filter for drinking and cooking. Before getting the RO, I was distilling the softened water. I noticed that despite having the water softened, I still had a lot of scale buildup inside the distiller so obviously it doesn't remove all the hardness.

    One easy way to test how hard your water is if you don't have a test kit, is to add a drop of dish soap to a measured cup of water in a bottle and shake it up. The more the suds, the softer the water.
  17. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Chlorine will deteriorate the beads so you might want to put it on bypass when chlorine shocking the well. You can see what chlorine does to swimwear and pool equipment. They do make chlorine tolerant beads now but the key words are "chlorine tolerant" not "chlorine proof".
  18. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Yep, found that out. Now I have a new softener ;~)
  19. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Hey, the raw water from my well is 3 times as at our last place's muni system, and doesn't have an iron problem.
    I used to wear white shirts, til they were all ruined there-the Iron Out didn't get it all.
    When I first moved here I washed out the bottom of my brine tank in a fit of unnecessariness and I believe I killed a big hemlock.

    I hear advertisements for electronic water softening involving coils, or whatever. I wonder what they used to check results?
    The 'litmus paper' that I use is an objective way of checking total hardness, whatever that is.
  20. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    No definite data, but my understanding is that one can get "drop counting" type titration tests similar to pool testing stuff for just about any sort of water chemistry question - the biggest challenge being to figure out just what your particular chemistry issues are... I would probably look for the Taylor testing website, I know they are the biggies in pool chemistry testing, and I think they do other sorts as well. "Dipstick" and litmus paper tests are easy, but can often have problems with interpretation and accuracy. "Color matching" tests often also often problematic because of the interactions with light sources and peoples color sensitivity. Titration type tests where you have a definite color change can be VERY accurate and are relatively easy to read. - At least this is my experience w/ pool testing, I've never messed w/ water softeners.

    Gooserider
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