Frozen Kinetico, options/questions on "proper" install

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by dyeager535, Feb 19, 2011.

  1. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    Hi!

    First things first, I want to say that I tried searching the forum before posting, but search isn't working for me. So if this has been posted, apologies. This is going to be a long one.

    I bought a Kinetico system about 6 months ago. Longer story short, the house was vacated for a few days, entire system froze (don't ask). All piping and the Kinetico components (short of the brine tank and fiberglass tanks) cracked. The bypass valve housing and the "timing" (backflush?) mechanism housing atop the fiberglass tank are both cracked, which I assume are the expensive parts of the whole system.

    Kinetico came out and told my wife the whole system is junk (I wasn't home), replacing the whole thing is the only option.

    Are there likely more problems that I can't see? Would freezing have hurt the media? I think not, but I'm not a pro and know to ask. :)

    The tanks are still holding the water that was in them, so I am reasonably certain they are good. I plan to take the bypass valve housing and the "timing mechanism" apart, to see if there is anything internally broken. I realize that the housings would need replaced even if nothing else internally is wrong. I am confident I can do the work, I'm unsure if I'd be able to source the parts though, from the posts I've seen elsewhere, getting Kinetico to sell you parts is hit or miss, and I've seen no pricing information.

    This being my first system, I'd like to have some pro's tell me whether repairing this system may be possible, or if I'm just wasting my time. I've got a friend of a friend (who I trust, he is a professional plumber) who said he can install a system that will do everything I need it to, for about $900. If I can repair the Kinetico for that much, I would like to just get it back up and running. From what I've read, while expensive, the Kinetico *is* good. His statement to me was that the stuff seems to be good, the problem tends to be the installers. So I don't think he is biased against it necessarily.

    I also have a question regarding the installation. As it was setup, the well water was first pumped through an installed sediment filter, into the fiberglass tanks, then through two separate carbon filters. Based on the insides of the pipes that I can now see, it would appear the carbon filters would work better being BEFORE the fiberglass tanks, as there was still obviously smaller sediment making it's way past the screen sediment filter. Or is there a reason that it has to be set up this way?

    I will say though, that I was pleased with the systems operation up until it froze, and obviously that wasn't their fault.

    Thanks for reading all of this, and I hope I didn't leave out any critical information. I appreciate any words of wisdom that can be imparted to me.
  2. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,483
    Location:
    Alaska
    Photos of the system in question.
    I have had systems freeze and tanks break up in different ways, there is not one way that any tank will break.
    Some valves will hold and others will break up.
    Depending on the break as to how much of the resin will be on the floor and it is just easier to replace..

    I live in an area where this does happen more than some would like...............ALASKA...
  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,987
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Ja, the search is broken. As an alternative, Google with the @site:terrylove.com tacked on the end works well.

    As for your question, I know it's generally not polite to answer a question with another question but... given the higher markup on parts versus the markup on a whole system, do you think you will come out ahead fixing versus replacing? The damage could be more involved than is immediately visible. Internally, the dip tube and bottom basket could be shot. Pulling out all the media and rebedding would add to the cost.

    Any chance insurance will pay? If you replace, you will have the old system for parts.
  4. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    Let's see if these pics work!

    [​IMG]

    And the remains:

    [​IMG]

    If more detailed shots, or particular components are needed to be seen, let me know. The two tanks positions are obviously reversed from when they were installed.

    In the first picture, the housing with the lever on it (to select bypass, etc) is cracked on the back half...directly "behind" the lever. The timing mechanism below it has tiny spider cracks in the clear viewing window (looks like they didn't crack through, just stress) but the housing portion that the timing mechanism is bolted to, the lower half I suppose, is where the crack is, also on the back side.

    Neither crack is split wide open, just hairline cracks. I know that is meaningless, the entire system froze solid. BUT from what I can tell, the technician didn't actually tear the system any further apart than shown (if they even needed to) so I don't know how they could say even the tanks are shot.

    Thank you for your assistance!
  5. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    No worries with the additional question! The install was approximately $3500. They told my wife it would be the same price to come back in and do it all over again, which I understand. Without knowing the parts markup, or what I should look at for "typcial" failure from freezing, I can't accurately gauge if I'd come out ahead or not trying to repair it myself. I can tell you if the parts are a couple hundred dollars, even figuring with my time being accounted for, that leaves plenty to make it worth my while. :)

    With Kinetico systems apparently having a good reputation for quality, I don't think I'm going down the wrong path TRYING to make the system work again, as long as I don't spend just as much on a new system! If we are talking thousands of dollars in parts, I think you and I are of the same mind, just get another system.

    Insurance deductible is near the cost of the system new, and insurance told my wife it would raise our premium in any case. I have to wait for a tree to fall on the house to make a claim lol.
  6. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    738
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    After freezing, I wouldn't trust it to hold back the pressure. How much damage could it cause if it did break? You would be better off with the $900.00 unit.
  7. JKERN

    JKERN New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    Artesia NM
    Any unit that freezes like this did is typically a wash you could fix it but the thought of something breaking like the above post mentioned should most certainly make you go with another unit. Most dealers wouldn't try to fix something like this because it would make them liable so you yourself should take that into consideration. And in response to your comment on Kinetico about their reputation for quality i would disagree. Here in new mexico where my shop is located we have contractors and other people get into kinetico they spew the same tired lines about the savings and the quality is worth the price and after they sell 10 or 20 thousand dollars worth of these 200 dollar units they go out of business because the valves they installed a few months ago are breaking down. Then they call me and other reputable dealers and wind up getting a fleck clack or autotrol at half the price and never by another unit again. People tend to belive that more costly in this field means better quality and it does not. As a dealer i can tell you that these kineticos cost about the same as a fleck or clack but the people sell them for three times the cost and give reputable dealers a bad name when they dont provide service and parts.
  8. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    If the pictures requested were for the cracks, please let me know...I wasn't sure if the request for pictures was to identify model, or diagnose how bad it was...I'll have to highlight the cracks if so, none are split wide open.

    As to pressure, it's about 60PSI...it's in the garage on concrete, if it leaks, no fun,but if the repair would be far less than $900, it's worth trying.

    Thanks!
  9. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    I appreciate the thoughts. I'm not so caught up in the price (however the thought of throwing that much money down the drain in such a short period does still raise my blood pressure), just the fact that I don't KNOW what else is wrong with it. A couple of housings and a bunch of PVC pipe aren't $1500 of parts in my book, but until it's torn down further, what IS worth that much? I'm not blinded by "its expensive, must be the best", but when researching the system, I was able to find articles in popular literature back into the 70's, and WHEN it was working, it seemed to do a good job. I certainly can't say it's junk because it froze solid, I never got a chance to determine its quality long term.

    I'm confident in my work, but having not had one of these apart, and no parts diagrams or prices, I have no idea what I could get into, or what I'd want to look at as problems. My experience is geared towards automotive systems, and some things (like trying to repair a fried ECM) I know are beyond my skill level, and I wouldn't even begin to know where to start. But I've at least had them apart far enough to know that...with this system, it's a mystery, since it's all sealed up. I have no idea whats in the tanks other than media, probably some sort of barrier to keep it in the tank, but again, that's why I'm asking.

    If I get the chance to work with the Kinetico, I certainly can't make it work any worse than it does presently! Worst case, I tear it apart, everything inside is destroyed, complete loss, and I chuck it. Best case, it needs a couple of housings, I can get them for a reasonable amount, I reassemble, done. If Kinetico won't sell parts, they lose a customer, that simple. Note to self, parts diagrams/availability/pricing should be something I check into going forward with purchases.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011
  10. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    738
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    Here is a break down of the parts.

    Attached Files:

  11. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    Thanks for the diagram! Any chance you've got it in a larger format? I lose resolution when I expand it. :(

    Took the system apart. Only issues I could find are the cracked back half of the bypass valve housing which was obvious before, and the cracked bottom housing of what is shown in the above post on the page "standard valve". That one has numerous cracks around the threads where the bolts hold all the valve sections together, obviously as the ice expanded, trying to push the valve apart.

    All the parts under the cap were fine, no cracks in that area, and underneath, all the gears and impeller turned freely, seeming to engage all other gears ok. Need to sit down under very good light to make sure there are no hairline cracks, but if surrounded by water when it froze, the "hard", solid parts should be ok I'm thinking. But I'll look at them again under better light.

    Dip tube and bottom basket stuck to the valve assembly for a bit as I pulled it out, so I was able to inspect those, both no problems. Took me a bit to figure out how to get the dip tube back in the tank, but some gentle tamping got it most of the way, and blowing through the tube got it the rest of the way. Hopefully that is all there is to that assembly, and there isn't something else buried in there that could be bad.
  12. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You can't tell if the tanks are bad by looking. Same for the distributor tubes; one in each tank that you said later has been more or less pounded down into the resin. That alone could crack the bottom basket and cause the resin to dump into you plumbing when you pressurize the system later. Cod air sinks and to have the control valve and cross over pipes and the tank adapter on tank 2 cracked it is very probable that the resin tanks are bad. That should be the assumption if any is made.

    That's their dealers' usual response to most problems, "buy a new one". Yet they could sell you new or used good modules and you could rebuild it with the parts breakdown pictures (they could supply). Or they could do it for you since you're willing to continue with a Kinetico that you can't get service for or parts from other than the one local dealer at usually very high prices IF they will sell them to you, which 99% of Kinetico dealers won't..

    IMO you should buy a new twin tank softener with a Fleck 9100 SXT IF you insist on a twin tank becasue you have some need for a twin tank, otherwise a regular two tank type softener would be sufficient and you get a manual and have the choice of buying parts and service from many dealers'; both local and online.

    Yes, you can't see weakened spots. No, resin that has been frozen and then allowed to thaw naturally will be OK.

    I would not use the resin tanks until after I pressure tested them, and maybe not then, assuming you are on city water which always has fluctuations in pressure unless you have a pressure regulator valve.

    You don't want disposable cartridge carbon filters ahead of a softener. Only Kinetico requires a sediment prefilter, and that should tell you something....

    BTW, Kinetico only makes the control valve, by pass valve, cross over pipes and tank adapter for the 2nd tank, all the rest is the same as all independent and many national brand dealers selling Autotrol, Clack and Fleck controls valves sell; which is industry standard (for a computer type guy, open source) stuff.
  13. dyeager535

    dyeager535 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Roy, WA
    "You can't tell if the tanks are bad by looking. Same for the distributor tubes; one in each tank that you said later has been more or less pounded down into the resin. "

    That's not what I said, I said I tamped it down. Full of water, the stuff is like quicksand. It took no force whatsoever to get them to settle to the bottom, and I know better than to force plastic components into something they don't easily go into. I know you don't know me or my methods, and I understand how many "fix" things, but I err on the side of caution, which is why I didn't assume the system was good short of the few cracks visible from the external inspection.

    I am not on city water, and as I recall the install guy saying, the "system" pressure was set at 60PSI. With as much junk as comes out of my well, I would imagine ANY product installed would have a sediment filter, my water is bad enough that I can't see into the sediment filter within a few weeks, and the screen inside is clogged with large particles.

    I saw most of the rest of the stuff at Home Depot the other day, so if I go down this path, I have no problem getting those components.

    If Kinetico doesn't want to deal with me, that's their loss, as I will go elsewhere, it's a free market. I'll check into the Fleck's, as they seem to be highly regarded. Kinetico has already got money out of me, the only way they'll get more is parts, and thats up to them.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2011
  14. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I have taken a few frozen softeners apart over 20 years. To freeze the control valve enough to break it, the freeze usually damages distributor tubes enough for tamping them down through resin can break the bottom basket. You should have laid the tanks down and got the resin off the bottom and then put the DT in and stood the tank up or, used your water pressure to blow the resin out of the way as you pushed the DT down to the bottom of the tank.

    And no, only Kinetico requires a prefilter, Autotrol, Clack and Fleck control valves do not. That is due to the type of control valve Kinetico uses among a few other things like little to no backwashing with their upflow regenerated models.
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