Newbie here - Culligan Mark 915 Cul-Cleer system took nosedive, need advice

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by grey2112, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. grey2112

    grey2112 New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    New Port Richey FL
    So, here's the short and straight of it (after I spent 1/2 hour typing out a detailed description here only to have it disappear on me - LOL)

    I have a God-knows-how-old Mark 915 Cul-Cleer unit - previous owners bought it 10 years ago as a REFURB - in the 3 years I've owned the house I have had to have 3 seal packs replaced, one of them just 2 weeks ago. Have spent about $1000 on repairs (chemical injector pump, seal packs, service calls, etc.) We have very hard water with lots of iron and when I do tank blowouts (especially the really major ones where I clean the whole tank and backwash it out) I get tons of brown sludge out. The Culligan people tell me I'm lucky to get two years out of a seal pack. I have a large retention tank with flowswitch (which I've had to replace once), carbon backwash tank, and of course the resin bead tank.

    So, I'm out of town and get a frantic call from the wife - said there was all this water flowing up and over/out of the carbon tank. She shut off the main water supply (she didn't know about the bypass valve - my fault for not educating her), she waited a few hours, then turned the water back on - suddenly a pipe up at the flow switch near the top of the retention tank popped out. So she shut the water off again, I instructed her how to bypass the carbon tank, repair the PVC, and she did a great job and got water back to the house (had her shut off the rest of the unit including the chlorine injector). So when I get home and look things over, imagine my shock at seeing this (see pics):

    The inner part of the carbon tank PUSHED UP out of the plastic lining, bending the attached PVC pipes (I'm suprised none of them broke), punched up through my pumphouse soffit, and was only stopped by the wood underneath the roof! My wife didn't know that this wasn't normal (can't blame her - she has never worked on any of this stuff) - it appears that perhaps during the backwash cycle the night before something got stuck in the draining process, the pressure got too much, and it literally pushed the unit up until it was stopped by my pumphouse roof. It has a small crack in the bottom of the tank now which drains water out, and I cannot push the unit back down - I think the carbon flowed out of the metal inner lining and is now blocking being able to push it back down.

    P3240036.JPG P3240035.jpg P3240034.jpg P3240033.jpg

    So, called Culligan's emergency number - no answer, and the voicemail message says "This user has not yet set up voicemail" - nice, huh? So, I'm pretty damn pissed at Culligan, especially since I've already spent over $1000 with them in less than 3 years, and the last time I had to go a WEEK before service on my softener (no soft water for a week sucks when you have such hard water).

    I'm pretty sure you all will tell me to get a new system - I can't see continously repairing a system that was already refurbed 10 years ago, especially when it seems to be breaking down continuously.

    We are on well water on a lake/pond in central florida near the coast (New Port Richey) in a neighborhood where everyone has a well. When our system is running good the water is nice, but the moment something goes wrong you can tell why we have a well water system - light tea colored water, smelly (hard rused iron smell), etc.

    It is just me, the wife, and two dogs. No irrigation or sprinklers, we have a above ground pool that rarely gets any water added to it, so I don't necessarily know if we need a huge, high capacity system since we just don't use that much water - I think our usage back in our other house was about 4000-5000 gallons a month.

    So, repair or replace? And if replace, what would you recommend? I want reliable, efficient, cost-effective (I don't mind paying more for quality), something that will handle our water as good if not better than the Culligan, but with fewer constant problems and repairs. I honestly don't have the time, energy, or patience to do it myself, and am getting quotes today from some local dealers (NOT CULLIGAN).
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  2. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,734
    Location:
    Central Florida
    I've heard that the life of a tank is around 10 years, but this is ridiculous. Based on your history with Culligan, I'd replace it with a conventional system from a reputable local dealer. If you've already called a few, you're off to a good start. It's fairly easy for you (or your wife, apparently) to set up a DIY system from an on-line vendor once your needs are determined, but it might be worth the extra money (maybe $1000 extra, depending on how elaborate your needs are) to have someone who really knows his stuff get it going for you.

    PM sent.
  3. grey2112

    grey2112 New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    New Port Richey FL
    Thanks, Mikey. I've gotten some quotes already from 3 local guys - one is a plumber and recommended a setup that was a whole house filter first, then the carbon tank, then the softener - no chemicals. But based on our heavy iron content, I don't want to be constantly changing filters. The next people (a company that started off specializing in sprinklers, got into well pumps - I used them for a well pump - and then water treatment) recommended a Clack system, 2 cu foot, 40,000 system with carbon and softener and a tablet-based chlorine injector but with no retention/contact tank. This concerns me as I don't want something akin to our pool inline chlorine tablet setup going straight into the water without a chance to contact the water for 20-30 minutes - the amount of iron we have coming out our retention tank each week when I blow it is significant. Our current system had a large contact tank, Stennis chemical injection chlorine pump, and of course the carbon and softener and when it was working right it worked great.

    The last guy really impressed me with his knowledge of the entire process, the chemistry, etc. Not a "sales guy" but a real engineer/scientist type who never once said I had to buy all new - that he could use my existing contact tank, stennis pump, etc. But he has proposed a system similar to what I have (contact/chemical injector), 2-stage carbon and particulate filtration, then softener - all with spring-loaded bladder style valves vs. the friction based seal-pack designs that seem to keep failing on me due to the chlorine, iron, etc. 3 year full parts and labor warranty. Different style of flow switch (easily replaceable sacrifical parts that can be picked up at Lowes or HD), fully programmable. I think the injector is a bladder style vs. the peristaltic Stennis, but it seems to me these are more reliable and have less maintenance/headaches.
  4. grey2112

    grey2112 New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    New Port Richey FL
    Well, decided to go with the following as a replacement:

    Chemical injection with diaphragm design vs. the old Stenner pump, 35 gallon chlorine mixing tank, 80 gallon composite retention/contact tank, dual chamber filtration system (Autotrol 740/263 mounted on dual chamber 10x54 Vortex tank which utilizes 2 full plate distributors - upper chamber with multimedia mineral to remove down to 5 microns, and then catalytic carbon in lower chamber), then a Autotrol 760/268 softener with 9x48 Vortex tank with 32,000 grain removal capacity and 240 pound brine tank. Has the metered system vs. the day clock. They'll also throw in a in-house cartridge filter unit at the kitchen sink as the absolute last line of defense for the water there.

    Getting my 3/4" pipe from the well outlet upgraded to 1" for better flow, though I will still have 3/4" going into the house.

    3 year warranty parts and labor, 5 year on electronics.

    We have some fairly hard water, living on a small run-off fed lake that sees some dramatic changes throughout the year in depth - we usually swing between a 3-4 foot loss to a 3-4 foot gain at different times of the year, and have a very shallow well. Everyone around here is on septic as well. The iron that gets "dropped" out in our retention tank is pretty impressive in volume. We have been concerned for a while about organic contaminants, and do not drink the water until it has been put through a Big Berkey with 4 ceramic filters.



    About $1500 less than most of the other quotes for similar or larger system with the Stenner pump, Clack 48,000 grain, etc.
  5. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,734
    Location:
    Central Florida
    I've wondered how often one needs to purge the retention tank. I drain maybe 20 gallons out of the 120-gallon tank every month or so and it doesn't look all that bad. But when I do a thorough cleaning annually, the gunk that comes out is scary. And there's always some ferric iron evident in the contact tank output. Why doesn't it come out during the year, I wonder? The geometry of the steel tank and the drain location don't help, but I wonder how much and how often I have to drain. I'm going to add a swirly mixing tank with a bottom drain to the sequence -- maybe that will help.

    Free chlorine out of the contact/retention tank is about 2ppm, intentionally set a little high. The ferrous iron is being oxidized, but it's not precipitating out fully, or it's being continually mixed as water flows through the tank.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  6. grey2112

    grey2112 New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    New Port Richey FL
    Yah, that's about what I do. When I did the first "real" cleaning, where I shut off all but the water going to the contact tank and the drain for it the water would shoot all around in the tank and then I would stop it, let it drain all the way, and do that again. I was getting thick sludge, "chunks" of iron that must have been ferrous oxidized iron (looked like small rocks/pebbles). Really scary looking!


  7. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,734
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Sure is. I drain it, then use a pressure washer with an angle attachment to get into all the nooks and crannies.
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