Iron Filter / Water Softener - how to choose

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by kellerdc, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. kellerdc

    kellerdc New Member

    Messages:
    5
    The water (especially the hot water) in my house smells like rotten eggs. I have had the water tested and been told that I have the following:
    Hardness 13 grains per gallon
    Iron at 1.16 (PPM?)
    Manganese at .9 (PPM?)

    I have been told by one company that I need a sediment filter, then an iron filter, and then a water softener.

    Another company told me that I do not need the iron filter and that the water softener will solve the issue.

    I have read different threads here and elsewhere that say that the water softener can handle the iron, but that it will cause issues over time with the water filter. I am looking for some advice.

    Thanks
  2. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

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    Location:
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    Google "water heater smell" to see another common cause of rotten-egg-smell in the hot water. I had that problem even with a good chlorinator->carbon->softener system to treat my well water (low hardness and iron). I'll let the experts here discuss the softener solutions; what worked for me to get rid of the smell was an aluminum/zinc anode rod in the water heater. I'll check it after 2 years and if that anode rod is badly corroded I'll spring for the big-buck "powered anode rod" solution, which is sort of the gold standard, but rare in residential applications.
  3. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    A water softener will remove the iron. The iron will takes it toll on the valve of a softener over time, but then again, the iron will take it's toll on the valve of an iron filter. Installing a softener first will give you the answer. If the smell goes away, your problem is gone. If not, you need a softener any way and equipment to get rid of sulfur. I believe a softener will take care of the problem.
  4. kellerdc

    kellerdc New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Agreed - looks like the best approach is to start with a water softener and then see if I need anything else. I have called two different places and gotten about the same price from each which is about $2000 to install a water softener. It seems like a lot to me since it looks like they can be purchased for under $800. A $1200 install fee seems high.
  5. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    A hot water only odor is caused by bacteria using an ion off the water heater's anode rod to produce H2S. Setting the water heater temp to 140f for a couple hours will prove bacteria if the odor then goes away. The bacteria is harmless to animals and humans and is called sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB).

    A softener or some type of iron and/or H2S filter won't treat the bacteria.
  6. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Ontario California
    You should consider the extra salt usage, ground water supply issues, etc before using a softener for iron removal. in your application, you will use approximately double the salt to treat the iron and manganese with a softener. A proper iron/H2S removal system may make more sense.

    The rotten egg smell... go to your shower and turn on the cold water for a few minutes. Does it smell? If not, turn the shower to hot only and retest. If it now smells, the problem is in your water heater. A different sacrificial anode, sanitizing the water heater, running at a very high temperature for an hour...may correct the problem if the smell is only on the hot water side. Use extreme caution if you turn the hot water heater up, I wouold not have small kids in the house during this time.
  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Double the salt is simply not true. He has Hardness 13 grains per gallon, Iron at 1.16 (PPM?)
    Manganese at .9 (PPM?) so the iron times 4 and the manganese times 2 and call those numbers gpg and add them to the 13 gpg of hardness. That would be an additional 5 + 2 gpg; 20 gpg compensated hardness. Now how does 7 gpg relate to double the salt for 13 gpg? Show us the math.

    And running some (1/3 cup) of Iron Out through the softener every 2 months to prevent iron fouling of the resin is much better for the OP than him spending hundreds of dollars on an iron/H2S filter.

    If sanitizing the water heater gets rid of the odor, it proves the cause of the odor is the bacteria I mentioned.
  8. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,907
    Location:
    Ontario California
    Since I am not giving a training seminar today I guess I can try to guide you in the right direction.

    Iron in water... softeners should not be low salted... typically no less than 8 pounds of salt per cu. ft, preferably higher.

    1 PPM of iron =68 ppm of hardness, or 4 GPG for compensated hardness as a minimum, most companies use 5, but will use 4 to make your reply have a better chance at validity.
    1 PPM of Manganese = 2 ppm of iron, or 138 ppm of hardness, or 8 grains.

    So... by my caculation... he may actually more than double his salt usage.

    I am still not quite sure why you hate iron removal systems. Or why you think wasting masive amounts of salt to cure a problem that can be done with little to no waste, just a small up-front investment... and you wonder why so many municipalities are against water softeners.

    This is an old argument that has been discussed at length in this forum, always with the same reulsts.
  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Adding 7 gpg to his 13 gpg of hardness works very well and has for decades and without doubling the salt dose.

    The OP is not involved with municipal water or municipalities. That's because he has his own private well or he wouldn't have iron and manganese in his water. So there is no reason to bring up municipalities other than you always do. Maybe out there in California your municipal water has iron and manganese in it but the rest of the country doesn't.
  10. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,734
    Location:
    Central Florida
    A neighbor has very rotten-egg-smelly hot water.

    The well tests 17gpg, 7.5pH, 0.0 Fe. He has a Kinetico system (unknown model) which seems to be softening OK (house water tested 0.0gpg). He complained to Kinetico about the smelly hot water, and they installed a filter media tank (not backwashable) following the softener, which IMHO did no good at all (consistent with the 0.0 Fe test, maybe).

    I tried turning the water heater up to 150° for a couple of days while he was away, and sure enough --the rotten-egg smell went away. BUT with that gone, a strong blood/iron(?) smell remained, although that may be a consequence of very old galvanized plumbing. When I ran hot water through the length of the house to a bathtub to flush out the stinky water, I also flushed out a ridiculous amount of a very fine black particulate. That same particulate matter flushed out of a Rusco screen filter (mesh unknown) immediately following the Kinetico-installed iron filter, but there is no sign of any such particulate in the raw well water. Any idea what that might be?

    In any event, I'm going to give him a new anode rod for Christmas.
  11. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    That is normal for old galvanized pipe and fittings. The black stuff can be from that or the probably upflow Kinetico filter. The bacteria live in the internal crusty build up in deteriorating pipe. Heat kills the bacteria as would some bleach added to the heater tank but that isn't easily accomplished. One way is to add it through the pressure/temperature relief valve but if you do, you should have spare because sometimes a used one won't shut totally.

    Or, based on the age of the valve/heater, remove the valve and then replace it with a new one. Heat or bleach, new bacteria comes in with the cold refill water as hot water is used so both are but temporary 'fixes' unless you leave the temp at about 140f.

    Which was the norm forever until our society was taught to be scared of everything and then the chickification of the American male took hold so together, now women mistakenly feel safer and more secure. Well there is the fact that there are more UPers (Urban Pukes - the opposite to Rednecks) today than us wholesome rural rednecks too. Proving to me anyway that the end is nearing, hopefully slower than I think it is... One thing hastening the demise is the fact of all different types of bacteria living in our residential and commercial tank type water heaters. BTW, some of that bacteria (Ligionella specifically) is deadly.

    A new rod may not solve the problem. If you scrape any material off the old rod as you remove it, what falls in the tank is as if you hadn't removed the rod. I've seen rods as big as my wrist, that is like a small underweight vegan's thigh, so good luck. Also, the new rod may be a type that doesn't have any effect on the odor, so no rod would possibly be a better choice. And yes, no rod voids any warranty on the heater tank if there is any left by now. Choices choices...
  12. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,734
    Location:
    Central Florida
    I added hydrogen peroxide (works as well as Cl bleach, and you don't have to flush the lines) to an old water heater I had some years ago, and, as you say, that got pretty old pretty fast. The quick solution was to add a small filter into the inlet line, with no filter element in it. Periodically I'd isolate the water heater and filter via shutoff valves, drain some water out the water heater drain, and pour a pint of pharmacy-on-sale H2O2 into the filter body. That replenished the peroxide and kept the sludge from building up in the WH. Ultimately I wound up with a solar system that keeps the water at a nice toasty 160° or so, with the backup electric heat set to 140°. No stinky no more, although I do have an Al/Zn anode rod as well. Now that I think about it, it's time to check that.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  13. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Yep, I did the same thing and told many people how to do it but used bleach because everyone has bleach or can get it just about anywhere.
  14. Platin465

    Platin465 New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    SW Florida
    I'm interested in this solution. I recently replaced my water heater and now I've got the smell. So should I just buy a filter housing, put shut off valves on either side of it, and put it in line before the inlet of the water heater? I've already got a water softener. Should I put it before the softener, or after? Any particular size filter housing? We've got a two-bathroom house with a 40 gallon water heater.

    Will this help the longevity of the water heater, or only get rid of the smell? I could also raise the heat permanently, but was hoping to keep it under 130 to avoid scalding people.

    Thanks for all the advice on here!
  15. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    I used an old cartridge filter housing I had around. Way bigger than necessary, and a pain to take off and put back on. I'll bet you could get a small (H202 comes in pint bottles) Rusco filter housing and mount it upside-down, with the flush valve on top. Then you could turn off the upstream valve (actually I think that's the only valve you'd need), open a hot-water faucet to relieve the downstream pressure, then open the flush valve, pour the H202 through the flush valve into the filter housing as it drains out, then turn off the faucet, close the flush valve, and open the upstream valve. Done. As I recall, I didn't have to do this very often -- maybe once a month or so.
  16. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    For about $20 you can buy a regular housing for a 10" x 2.5" cartridge with an off/on valve in head that includes a pressure relief valve button. For a few more bucks you can get that in a clear sump so you can see the water inside the housing. That type saves on the space needed to install it and the time it takes to install it and you don't need additional shut off valves.

    To disinfect the water heater, you fill the housing 1/2-3/4 full of bleach and then run hot water into a glass at the kitchen sink and bending over to get your nose on the rim of the glass, smell for bleach/chlorine and when you smell it shut off the water. If after doing that for like 10 minutes and not smelling bleach, you probably need more bleach in your filter housing.

    If it were me, I'd turn the heat up on the heater to 140f for an hour and in the future repeat as needed every few weeks/months etc. but....

    It should be installed on the outlet of the softener. If you want to sanitize the softener use a 1/4 cup non scented regular bleach in a gallon of water and pour it into the water in the salt tank. Let it set for an hour and then do a manual regeneration and don't use water until the regeneration is finished. Doing the regeneration on your way to bed is best.
  17. Platin465

    Platin465 New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    SW Florida
    Hey, so that worked! I set the water heater to 160f for about an hour and a half, then ran the hot on each faucet for a bit until they all had water at ~150f for a minute or so. Hopefully that's enough to kill gunk in the lines a bit as well.

    I'll clean out the softener this weekend. I haven't put iron out in it for a while, so I'll do a whole cleaning on it, do the iron out, flush it again, then run bleach on it before we go to bed.

    Thanks all!
  18. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    Location:
    Maine
    The odor will return
  19. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

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    Location:
    Central Florida
    Yup, as I said, adding H202 (or bleach) gets old after a while. The biggest annoyance was taking down the cartridge (which was full of water, of course). Something like the Rusco, with a bottom drain, makes it a lot easier. A new anode rod fixed it for me permanently, but the nigh-temperature water is icing on the cake.
  20. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,265
    Location:
    Maine
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