Iron Filter Spews Iron after Outdoor Sprinklers are ran

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by branjo101, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    Hello All,

    I have a recently rebedded/refurbished Birm Iron Filter which expells iron and sediment after the outdoor sprinklers are ran. We had the same problem prior to rebedding. The iron filter is NOT in-line w/ the sprinklers. I have a 50 psi community well feed to the house; the iron filter T's off the main line. The main line continues on and runs out to the sprinklers.

    Has anyone ever seen this? Do I need an inline check valve to the iron filter (which runs to a water softner and the rest of the house). I thought as long as I wasn't inline w/ the main line, I should be ok. After a regen cycle, there no more iron that is expelled. Is the iron filter somehow getting aggetated? We inherited the system when we bought the house.

    Thanks in advance!

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  2. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Try shutting off the valves on the filter between the birm and softener the next time you water and see if the problem occurs. If it doesn't then you are almost certainly getting flow of the sprinker water through the birm filter (and softener).
  3. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    Do you have raw water test results? Where did you get the rusty water, from a faucet or from the filter housing? Where and wehn is the clear water taken? Is the water chlorinated?
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,928
    Location:
    New England
    Do you have a bladder tank in the house? If so, when you use the sprinklers, you may be using more water than the well is supplying (gpm), and some water is backflowing to them from the bladder tank.
  5. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Stick a Watts #7 on the feed line to the filters.
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I think you're looking in the wrong direction. Unless you have a pressure tank after the softener, no water can go backwards through the filter, and if it did, it wouldn't cause rusty water like in that glass because the water from the filter is usually clear.

    I question how much water you are using for the sprinklers, and what the water quality coming to the house is after they get into watering for say a half hour or so. The filter looks like a 1.0 cuft or smaller so it isn't going to have much capacity to remove dirty water coming into it. Some/most would go right through it which is your problem.

    So no check valve is needed unless you have a pressure tank after the softener or something else that stores water with compressed air in it to power a back flow through the filter. And then I doubt you'd get rusty water through the filter to the faucets unless the water coming to the filter is rusty.

    Check your plumbing to make sure the filter is not plumbed backwards. And remove the cartridge filter after this filter and run the sprinklers and after say 30 minutes run water at a tub and watch the disposable cartridge housing for dirty water. If you get dirty water, then check the water going out the sprinklers and see if it is rusty. If it is you've found your problem; running too many gpm for too long causing the water to get rusty.
  7. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    Hi All,

    Great comments everyone. Here's a little more detail. The water on the left is what is coming into the house. The water on the right is what is coming out of the iron filter. The particulate filter in the middle is also clogged with a lot of iron. The water is a city community well servicing probably 250+ homes. It's treated by the city and they add phosphate to the water. I think it's about 2-2.5ppm iron. Here's the scenario which will cause this issue:

    1. Morning showers and water coming out of the iron filter and softner were clean and clear

    2. Left for work and turned the sprinklers on before I left

    3. While the sprinklers ran (11 zones), the house water was NOT used. It was not used for 8 hours thereafter.

    4. Came home and a big plume of iron came through the house. The inlet water to the house was what you see on the left and the outlet water was on the right.


    There is no pressure tank after the softner. I wouldn't doubt that when the sprinkler system is on, it demands high flowrates. I'm not a plumber or water softner expert, but wouldn't that drop my pressure possibly. If it drops to let's say 40psi when I run and my house is at 50psi plus, I could see that it could leak bakcwards a little until everything is equilibrium. Also, if maybe a sprinkler line outside is completely empty of water, wouldn't I get even a bigger pressure drop. So it's possible I may be getting a little oscillating effect too through the house plumbing as it switches zones.

    I do not see any inlet water coming into the house anywhere near to what is coming out (as you can see from the glasses). From all of your comments, I'm thinking I'm getting a little backflow.

    From all of your comments, I'm starting to subscribe to the theory that I need some type of isolation on this water circuit (check valve). If this is put in, do I need a hold or expansion tank (5 gallon or so), to act as a buffer so I don't pop my pressure valve on my water heater tank all the time.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  8. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    Do I need to add a holding or extention tank (to give myself a buffer) if add this to prevent the pressure valve on the water tank from popping
  9. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    Good idea...I can see where you're going, but I don't have a bladder tank. I have a big ol' hotwater tank out there though :eek:)
  10. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    The rusty water is coming out of the iron filter...out of the softner...and out of the house. If I am getting a backflow, the source may even be the water softner, because the particulate filter in the middle is clogged with iron.
  11. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    put a watts #7 on the feed line to the filters. no buffer tank unless your relief starts weeping
  12. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Eleven zones, all at once.... you are using enough water to scrub the iron residue off the inside of the city plumbing causing rusty water to the sprinklers. You come home and turn on water and get too much dirty water for your undersized Birm filter to remove and get dirty water though it.

    But we'll go your way and you can explain how that works.

    Tell me how water flows backwards out of the house when it is a closed system that is under pressure with no pressure tank to force the water backwards.

    If that were happening, you would have to allow air into the house plumbing OR the negative pressure (vacuum) would suck the filter and softener tanks in like crushing a Styrofoam coffee cup. That hasn't happened.

    Also, to form a negative pressure (suction) in the house, you would have to have a venturi effect and your tee probably can't act as a venturi, especially when the house is pressurized which as long as there is city water (it is under pressure or the sprinklers don't get water). You must have pressure to cause flow to the sprinklers for your suction idea to work or the water won't be sucked out of the house right?

    So I suggest you start thinking of other more likely causes or... go spend some money for a check valve and take the time to install it and see what happens. My money is on that will not solve the problem.

    You can also ask Wally Hays here to explain how you can suck water out of the house.
  13. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for your explanation. I think I got what you are suggesting. I will bypass BOTH the iron filter and water softner in the morning and see what I have coming through the house when I get back home. I will try the sprinklers friday or this weekend; it's raining tonight and tomorrow. I want to wait and do this test when all my neighbors are running theirs, so we're all drawing on community feed around the same time. I see what you're saying that we could be stirring up any iron sitting in the pipes. This is a good test.


    Just a couple of clarifications from my last post - sorry, it was misleading.

    - I didn't mean to convey that I had water flowing out of my house, but rather maybe a little movement going and stirring things up in the softner and filter. Kinda the same reason you need a backflow preventer on an outside sprinkler system to isolate it? Yeah, I agree with you that you can't have constant flow backwards on a closed system.

    - I can only run 1 sprinkler zone at a time. With my inlet pipe size @ 50psi (probably ~40psi in the morning); I don't think I have that kind of flowrate to support anything greater than 1 zone. Each zone seems to be sized correctly (I think); have good pressure at the heads. No more than 4 heads in a zone. I seem to be a little more conservative compared to my neighbors. I have more zones and less heads per zone.

    - Also, when I came home, the water that was coming into my house was in the glass on the left (usually ~2ppm iron). The glass on the right was running out of my iron filter and through my house. So the water somehow 'got' dirtier between the community inlet and the faucets upstairs. Maybe I missed a big burst of iron in the inlet.


    Thank you for your help, I really appreciate you taking the time. This has been an ongoing problem this summer and it's driving me nuts.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
  14. branjo101

    branjo101 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks Wally, will do when I get the valve. Another plumber from another site said that this was code now on new construction to put this in before any water conditioning system. Does that seem right?
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
  15. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    depends on the code, but it's always a good idea to have a backflow device in the line
  16. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Movement/flow.... how can there be any, what in the house is increasing pressure higher than going to the sprinklers? The answer is the water heater when it comes on to raise the temp of the water in the tank. That doesn't happen unless you have a tank type heater, and then it is a small volume of water that would flow, and not enough to cause the house to have rusty water everywhere. UNLESS you had a leak allowing dirty city water to be drawn into the plumbing, through the filter and softener.

    If the water sitting in the plumbing from when you shut off the water in the morning turns rusty, that says your filter and softener are not removing all the ferrous iron in the water and it is converting to ferric iron (rust) in the water during the day causing orange/brownish water by the time you get home.

    Two ppm of iron is very difficult to live with. And IMO your filter and softener look small and will be too small for say more than 2 people in the house. And that assumes no more flow than 9 gpm. And that may be too high for the softener.

    A check valve is not to protect your house, it is used to protect the city water system from water from your house, an outside faucet etc. backflowing into the city water to contaminate it as it goes past your house on to other customers. Same for the vacuum breaker on outside faucets, while that 'protects' you too. How the hell we survived with indoor plumbing for a 100 years without those things is beyond me. A pressure regulator valve protects you from excessive pressure in the city system until they break.

    You should test for iron and maybe tannin in the raw water and in a sample after the iron filter and then the softener. That will tell you what the equipment is doing and how good or not.
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Maybe you should caution him about installing one without adding an expansion tank if he doesn't have one, for a tank type water heater.

    It would be the right thing to do before he ends up with something like his softener and filter tanks bursting and flooding the house for a few hours.

    But tell us how adding a check valve is going to stop his rusty water problem, IYO, what is causing the rusty water?
  18. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    There is a backflow situation occuring when the sprinkler system runs. As for the expansion tank, we have already addressed the issue however I'll do it again. If he notices the relief valve on the water heater dripping then a tank will be in order but I would try it without first.
  19. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    My guess might be that the iron filter had SO MUCH precipitated iron it (valve, tubing, tank, etc., that the new media is flushing it out. If that is so, then eventually it will decrease and become insignificant. In the meanwhile, it is being sent to the softener, where it may cause problems there and after. Also, (did we determine what media was placed in there?) as a single tank backwashig filter, it cleans itself with the same water it is designed to treat. This can sometimes build up in the tank and get released early in the succeeding servie run. Knowing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the source water would help. I would keep the mid-filter there until this is solved.
  20. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
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