Air in the plumbing - Rainsoft house filters

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by cpharvey, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    I've posted this question on a couple of other forums on the Internet, I'm hoping for a little more success on this site.

    We have a Rainsoft whole house filter system. It comprises of three tanks, one that is apparently the main filter tank (carbon?), another that is mostly water with air at the top to provide some pressure and air in the water (so I was told) and finally a third for water softening (gold series).

    We're new to these types of systems having moved from a city house out into the country, so we're learning as we go.

    I think I've now figured out most of the system and we've had Rainsoft check out the system last year, all was apparently fine with it.

    In the last few months we've been getting a LOT of air in the plumbing. Some days are better, some are worse. When it's bad the there's a LOT of air and it worried me we'll rupture a pipe given the violence. My wife called our Rainsoft dealer who was very nice and suggested it could be the manual valve on the top of the second pump that is connected to a matrix of clear hoses used to flush out water during back flush. We'd been fiddling with this valve not knowing if it should be shut or open, the Rainsoft service manager suggested it should be neither but somewhere between.

    We put the valve about halfway open/closed and have been away for a week on holiday. During that time the system has done a couple of back-flush cycles which he'd suggested it would need to do to clear some of the air out.

    So things are definitely better, but occasionally we still get air in the water, but here's my question. That second tank that is supposed to be mostly water with some air at the top, sounds likes it's completely full of air when I tap it on the side. I remember when the service rep came out and he explained what it was that when you tapped it you could hear it was a dull thud up until the top third (at least from memory).

    I thought the system would regulate itself and this tank would eventually re-fill but it doesn't appear to be doing so and I'm guessing this is an issue.

    So, how do I bleed some of the air from this tank? It has two outlets at the top, one goes to a little electric pump which comes on when we run water, the other goes through the previously mentioned valve, then through a blue electronic valve connected to a pump control circuit, then out to the clear waste pipes. Alternatively, SHOULD I try and bleed air, or should I be leaving it alone?

    One other thing that happens occasionally, if we get a power cut the timer control on the top of the carbon filter (Silver series) will stop working even after power is restored. The clock is the first indication that it's stopped, the second is the sound of the ticking subtly changes tone (can you tell i've spent a lot of time looking at this thing!). It usually gets fixed if I unplug the power adapter for the unit, wait 10 seconds and then plug it in again. Somehow a power cut is tripping this unit up. I'm not sure if I need a new timer unit or a new power supply. Not this isn't digital unlike the Gold series unit. I'm also wondering if something else might have gone haywire also causing this air to come into the system.

    We are also getting a lot of grey in our water occasionally. We were worried this was carbon from the filter, but the Rainsoft manager said it's sediment from the well getting through. What's odd is if I drain water from our blue water tank it's nice and clear so that seems odd to me. It also coincides with a renewed amount of air in the plumbing again.

    So.. lot's of issues! We have Rainsoft coming out on October 8th, but I was hoping for some education prior to their visit to see if I can fix this.

    Any advise appreciated.
  2. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You have what is called an air pump system and carbon filter and softener.

    You are getting too much air added to that tank when the water pump runs and the compressor starts or a flow switch turns on the air compressor as you use water.

    That valve you keep adjusting needs to be closed more if I'm right so you have about 2/3rds of the tank filled with water. Post pictures so I can see it.
  3. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    Hi Gary, thank you for the prompt reply.

    Yes after a lot of observation I think you are right and the air really starts either when the little air compressor starts or the blue tank goes from draining to filling. I noticed the other day that in the few seconds after you turn on a faucet everything is fine and as soon as the little compressor kicks in, all heck breaks loose, and if in the shower and you can feel the pressure dropping, as soon as it starts increasing then the air kicks in. I can't be sure this is always true, but I have noticed it sometimes to be true.

    I've attached a few photos to try and get the jist of the setup. Note in the first picture that the second tank is behind the water softener tank, I should have gotten a different angle on the photo.

    The valve on the top of the tank is almost closed, since i've been adjusting it down steadily. I'm not sure how long it'll take to really have an effect though. Do I need to run back-flush cycles after adjustment? Is it this that's controlling the amount of air? Could it be that blue valve has gone bad?

    I have a feeling that middle (air) tank is mostly air and I don't know if it'll correct itself or if I have to bleed some of that air off. How I'm not sure? I wondered if there was a relief valve somewhere but can't find one.

    After reading posts about "sputtering" (it always helps when you find a key word) I'm a little nervous we could be getting a well guy out to look at our 900' well.. which sounds like it'll cost a packet! So hopefully this is simply minor adjustment and tuning.

    Let me know what you think when you have the time. I have lots of questions!

    Attached Files:

  4. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The 3rd picture, the blue plastic part is a relief valve that is powered when the compressor comes on and it allows air and possibly water out to drain.

    The brass lever handle below it is a valve and what you are closing right?

    It should be opened more so more air can get out while the plastic part is opened electrically with the compressor. Both are powered on when the pump's pressure switch closes and turns on your well pump.

    So start opening it and see if there is a change, if not then backwash the filter and see and keep repeating until the tank sound slike the tech showed you it should be and stop. Then index mark the lever so you know where it is supposed to be.

    You can also adjust how much air is being added up on the compressor but don't unless you really know what you are doing. And I suspect Rainsoft didnt give you the manual for the system so you're tired to them for service. A different local dealer that knows air pump systems can service it because it is not RS equipment.
  5. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    Yes that's the lever that we're slowly closing. I guess we went too far and I should probably open it up a little again. Is it the relief valve that determines how much air is in the tank based on pressure?

    I assume I need to back-wash the "silver series" which is the one to the left of it. This is the one which the timer stops working sometimes after a power cut.

    Could it also be that the blue relief valve is not working correctly and not letting air out? I know that it at some point was working since I was in the basement when my wife was watering the garden once and there was both air and water thundering out of that clear tube that comes from the valve. It was during the day so it wasn't a back-wash cycle. I think that's probably when I altered the lever for the first time.

    I'll go adjust the lever and start a back-wash and see if it seems better in the morning.

    edit: btw, just to ask an obvious question but I probably ought to make sure. Opening the valve/spigot would mean turning it counter-clockwise and closing it would be clockwise? I've been guessing the handle of the valve is dictating whether it's open or closed and vertical in-line with the pipe would be fully open? I'm asking because by misunderstanding this, it could mean the wrong results. The shape of it is a little confusing, I'm not sure why it has a little anchor shape.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  6. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The grey in your water could be entrained air. You can easily check this by filling a clear glass with the water and letting it sit. If the grey disappears and there is no sediment on the bottom of the glass it is air.
  7. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    It's leaving a grey layer on the toilet basin which only comes off with a brush. It's not all the time, but suddenly we notice a build up and the only way to get it off is to brush it.
  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Yes the valve handle vertically CCW is full open and CW to flat is fully closed.
  9. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    OK great. It's mostly open now then to allow the air to escape a lot more. Will that blue valve now sort out the amount of water in the air tank on its own or do I need to somehow bleed the air off until it's 2/3rds water? If so, how do you suggest?

    I also did some more tuning last night and this morning on the on/off switch for the pump to ensure it was coming on at 40 since I know the bladder in the tank is about 37 psi. I've read elsewhere it needs to be roughly 2psi less than where the pump turns off.

    To check the bladder I drained the blue tank and then refilled it. I also took some water samples from the spigot right at the tank. Interestingly there was a small amount of dark matter in it. Not a lot but some. I used a hose and bucket and caused a swirl in the water by putting the hose on the edge of the bucket. In the middle of the cyclone of water spinning in the bucket was grey matter so now I know some of what we see is coming from the well. Never the less it seems like an enormous amount of grey matter we sometimes get in the faucets and toilets compared to what was in the bucket.

    I'll update more as I things progress, but please let me know if I need to bleed that second air tank in some way. I'm a little suspicious that blue relief valve might be not functioning.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  10. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    Here's something I noticed from the picture. Your equipment drains into an illegal, unvented s trap that someone hacked into your sewer main.
  11. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    No, in the picture it is almost closed clockwise (CW). Sideways is closed, up/inline/vertical with the pipe is fully open (CCW).

    Plug the blue thing's power cord into a always hot receptacle and it should open allowing air and then water up the drain line.

    Yes the blue valve may not be working as it should.
  12. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    You noticed that too?. I've looked at that a few times and thought judging by the construction it looked like and 'after thought'. I didn't realize it was illegal however and the inspector (when we bought the house) definitely didn't pick up on it.

    There's an unused clear waste tube that comes down near the carbon tank that is connected into the sump pump at the other end. I've looked at that a few times and wondered why.

    My suspicion is the previous owner had some kind of issue down there and this was a re-engineered fix.

    We live in VA, is this waste illegal Nationally, or is it state by state?
  13. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    Thanks Gary, I have it almost vertical now and dare I say, things are better after fiddling yesterday with the blue tank on/off valve. Of course as soon as I post this it'll all break again.

    I'll go see if I can flush some air out of the pressure thank as per your suggestion.

    Thanks guys, this is REALLY helpful.
  14. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    An unvented S trap is illegal everywhere yes. It was probably installed by either the previous owner or the company that put the equipment in. Many times, because water treatment installers don't need a license, they assume that that allows them to cut into the drainage and water systems without a permit or inspection. If you are really concerned about it it might be a good idea to get a plumber in to add a vent, lengthen the trap arm and verify that the equipment has the proper indirect drain configuration.
  15. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    Some good news, we think.

    My wife and I (we're both technical engineers) started looking at the system closely trying to work out how and why things were working the way they were. After a while we figured out what the air tank is and how it works (we think anyway) and have managed to flush air from it. So now the air level is very near the top of the tank (I over-did the flush a bit) and there's no more sputtering or black coming through to the toilets.

    If we understand the air-tank correctly the inlet and outlet tubes must go down into the tank somewhere close to the bottom while the air inlet and outlet valves only open to the top. So this way air-pressure keeps the water constantly under pressure and pushing the water down into the bottom of the tank and into the carbon filter. Our guess is the water got so low in the tank that is was somewhere around the bottom of the tube so that sometimes air would be pushed into the carbon filter.

    Also, if there's a bunch of muck in the bottom of the air tank, that may well also have been stirred up and shoved into the carbon tank when the air was pushing into the pipe, hence the amount of muck.

    So, I now have two questions.

    1) Since I slightly overfilled the air tank with water, what can I do to push more water into it? I'm thinking of shutting off the pipe to the carbon filter, emptying the blue reserve tank and then forcing the compressor on so it'll push the water back into the now empty blue tank. How the heck I work out when to stop I'm not sure. We were tapping the side of the tank listening for tone change before which seems a bit rudimentary.

    2) The blue pressure valve above the air tank. I started by trying to take that off to somehow release pressure there but it seems like it's a complete unit that includes the blue piece and some piping. I rotated it a few times thinking it unscrewed, but it didn't. Not knowing how this thing works, did we damage it by rotating it around the spindle? Do I need to "un-rotate" it just leave it?

    In the end we released the air by undoing the line going to the air compressor and in the top I realized there was a one-way valve that I could release the air with the tip of the screwdriver. We did try powering up the blue pressure valve with continuous power but that didn't change anything. My suspicion is that it's an emergency pressure valve so doesn't automatically open when you supply power.

    So hopefully I can get a little more air back into the tank and hopefully I didn't break the pressure valve.

    Thoughts?
  16. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    That tank uses aeration to oxidize the things in your water that can be oxidized and it works by maintaining a head of air in the tank. The compressor puts the air in and the blue valve removes some air each cycle of the well pump which cycles the compressor.

    The 'normal' head of air is roughly 18"-20" from the top of the tank down to the water level.

    You had too much air forcing the water to the bottom of the tank where the air could get out by going up the distributor tube and out into the carbon filter and your plumbing.

    So undo the rotating of the blue valve and get the air volume right and leave it along or yer gunna break it. It is an expensive system.

    And yes, if that tank doesn't have a bottom drain, the air forced any 'dirt' in the bottom of the tank into th e carbon filter. You may need new carbon based on age or improper backwashing.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  17. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    I'm still suspect the blue relief valve is not functioning correctly. When we hooked it up to power it didn't open up as suggested, that's why I had to relieve the pressure via the valve to the air compressor in the end. It's also why I was rotating it to try and get it off so I could look at it. So I may get a plumber out for that since it doesn't sound like I need Rainsoft.

    The way that relief valve is wired, I don't think it would know the well pump is on. It's connected into a control switch which seems to be activated by a flow control sensor off of the carbon tank. That same control switch is wired to the air compressor. So when there's flow, the air compressor comes on and I think power is sent to blue valve. I don't know if it automatically opens at that time or if it only opens when a certain pressure is reached. I suspect the latter but I'm not sure what the 'pressure' setting is that would cause it to open.

    The age of the system is roughly 6 years so I'm hoping it's not damaged. We'll know I guess the next time we do a water test for chemicals.
  18. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    The solenoid should open when energized and they do go bad.
  19. cpharvey

    cpharvey New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Leesburg
    Well when we gave it power it didn't let any air out, so it sounds like it's either bad or it only opens when under x pressure and we hadn't reached 'x'.
  20. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    No, pressure has nothing to do with it. That's a straight up electric powered solenoid. It should open when you power it. There is a remote chance that it opens when you shut power off to it, but I doubt it.
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