Northstar water softener

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by MiddleAgeSoftie, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. MiddleAgeSoftie

    MiddleAgeSoftie Computer systems technologist for Geologists & Pet

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Hi. I'm new to the forum. I'm looking for a good water softener to replace a very old unit which was in the house I recently bought. I think it's working... It looks very old, it's timer based and I can't be certain that it's set properly for my water conditions and usage patterns and if its even working. It does go through salt though...

    I have a Direct Buy membership and through them I can get Northstar water softeners. My question is simple - the price seems to be right, are these reliable systems or should I look elsewhere?
  2. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The Northstar made by Ecowater uses a slightly different control valve than the control valve on a Kenmore, GE at Home Depot and the Whirlpool at Lowe's. All cabinet models.

    The main difference is the cover on the control valve because it is exposed rather than under the cover of a cabinet model softener. The big box store softeners and their control valves are lower quality than an Autotrol, Clack or Fleck control valves and harder to find anyone to work on them and you normally will have only one parts supplier if you need parts.
  3. Skip Wolverton

    Skip Wolverton In the Trades

    Messages:
    167
    Location:
    Ocala, Fl
    I've worked on these type softeners for years. It's a coin toss if you get one that will last. No very reliable.
  4. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,483
    Location:
    Alaska
    NorthStar.,,,,,, Eco water small.......... Sears............GE ... all the same units with a little bit different packaging outside.... they share the same valves and controls.

    They are made to last about 5 years and then are cheaper to replace than repair..

    If you would like to save the land fill.... buy some upgrades for what you have, like a new metered valve/control(the part that is on top of the media tank) new resin and a new float assembly and you should be good to go for 10 + years....
  5. MiddleAgeSoftie

    MiddleAgeSoftie Computer systems technologist for Geologists & Pet

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Thank you for the feedback it has been helpful. It sounds like the consensus is that there are better choices than Northstar. Apart from Akpsdvan's suggestion of refitting the unit I have (I wouldn't even know where to begin with that... Sounds kind of like rebuilding a computer. That I could do. A water softener, as I said, I wouldn't know where to begin.), what would some better water softener unit choices be?
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    A correctly sized softener based on the family size, number of bathrooms and type of fixtures in them using a Clack WS-1 CS control valve.
  7. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,483
    Location:
    Alaska
    Depends on what is there, any photos?
    Depends on how handy you are...
    If you have done some simple wiring, remodeling around the house... done some simple repairs on your truck or car... then rebuilding the softener would not be very hard..
    Yours right now either has the water coming in on the right of the back side of the valve or the left.. the new valve may be the same or different.. the new valve or control most likely could use the same drain line that is in place right now.
    Depending on the size of the tank that is there would say how much softener resin you would need to replace what is there right now.
    Should that current tank have a 2 1/2 or so open at the top under the control then to empty that resin out would be to put that end on the edge of a 5 gallon bucket and let the old resin come out, change buckets, and let more out... use hose to was out the rest..

    Follow so far?
  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I used to do that for customers and sell DIYers the parts to do that. And by the time he is done, even buying online, he'll have 1/2 to 3/4ths of the delivered price of a whole new softener.

    It's not worth the time, effort or money.
  9. Skip Wolverton

    Skip Wolverton In the Trades

    Messages:
    167
    Location:
    Ocala, Fl
    I don't like softeners with computer controlls. I use a Fleck 5600 meter demand unit. It's like a timex.....It takes a licking and keeps on tricking.
  10. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I recommend a softener with the Fleck 7000 control head. It is a high quality unit and can typically be purchased online for significantly less than units with the Clack head.
  11. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The 7000 is quite a bit harder for a DIYer to work on and much less water efficient with the variable brining feature. It will use much more water.

    I started selling the 7000 when it came on the market in 2/2005 and in about 15 months I had more problems with the roughly 30 I had sold than the 320+ Clacks I had sold by then so I stopped and haven't sold any since.

    I do not recommend the 7000. If a 1.25" control is needed, the Clack WS-1.25 is a much better choice because it is identical to the Clack WS-1, just 1.25" instead of 1".

    The 7000 is a 1.25" control valve and overkill for the vast majority of residential sales. And Fleck came out with some special tool for the 7000 although I don't know what it is.

    Bob, how many 7000s have you sold and what failure rate have you had? Or haven't you sold any? Did you buy one for your house? Or, what is the basis of your recommendation of the 7000?
  12. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,483
    Location:
    Alaska
    Variable brine?
    Because it can be set to either fill the brine tank at the start and then wait for an hour or set to fill the brine tank at the end?

    There is only one unit out there that would be a water mizer ... Hague Water max... it does an up flow brine with the media bed in a packed mode.. and could save a few gallons over a cleaning cycle that another unit would use in getting the full 26% brine up in the brine cycle...
    ie... the full 26% brine starts to work at the very start and not minutes later like in the rest of the systems that are on the market.
  13. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    No, that is called Pre or Post Refill. And Prefill should wait 2 hours, not one.

    Variable brining means that the control valve varies the amount of salt used for each regeneration.

    The Autotrol (old) Technetic 1000, Technetic 1000 Plus and the current Advantapure (269 control and 463i timer; very limited distribution dealerships) call it proportional brining. The amount of water during Pre Refill is adjusted up or down based on the amount of capacity of the variable reserve the control/computer is to regenerate. The regeneration was/is counter current (upflow) in the Autotrol but not the Fleck 7000.

    Actually many smaller Kinetico softeners have packed bed upflow. The downside of that configuration is no backwash before brining, they brine first and then do a short backwash and then settle rinse. Another problem is that they regenerate quite frequently and I can size and set up a softener to regenerate much less frequently and use less water per week etc.. I can do the same for total salt use over time. Actually any dealer that knows how can do that.

    Pre Refill has no problem in getting 26%. I have an engineer that did 90 days of daily checks of brine strength with a salometer comparing Pre and Post refill and I have his graphs of each and there is very little difference in brine strength but.... a better measurement is in testing the discharge water, which he also did; it has to be between 8 and 13%.
  14. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Some additional information about the Fleck 7000SXT valve is available here:

    http://www.pentairwatertreatment.com/PentairFiles/Pentair%20Water%20Treatment/Literature/7000SXT%20Spec%20Sheet%2042802.pdf

    In my opinion it has some programming features that are superior to the Clack valve. The comment above about water inefficiency with variable brining is simply wrong. It demonstrates the poster is not up to date on his information. The correct information is that the Fleck valve has excellent water efficiency--equal to or superior to the Clack valve. Variable brining is not available on the Fleck 7000 valve as shown in the link posted above.

    Of course if you don't like electronic control heads the Fleck 7000 is not for you. If you prefer an electromechanical valve I recommend the Fleck 5600 or the Fleck 2510.
  15. MiddleAgeSoftie

    MiddleAgeSoftie Computer systems technologist for Geologists & Pet

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Thanks for helping me out on this.

    Here's some photos;

    View attachment 10270 View attachment 10271 View attachment 10272 View attachment 10273 View attachment 10274

    I think I follow the bit about replacing the rezin. I'd remove the valve. Remove the bolts which hold on the top, remove the cylindrical thing inside the unit and dump out the rezin (I'm presuming it's inside of there). Presumably put new resin in (Where do I get that stuff?). And put a new valve on (where do I get that?). Voila I'm done. Is that about it (allowing for a little bit of plumbing and maybe some wiring)?

    Is this old resin something that I can just throw in the garbage or do I have to do something special with it?

    I also have a question about my current valve settings. There are six people in the household and we live in Calgary. I'm not sure what the hardness is here, I think it's middle of the road. Our water usage is average for a household of 6. Given those details, is my current setting correct?

    Again, Thanks for the help on this!
  16. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,483
    Location:
    Alaska
    Get a test of the water , hardness and iron...
    That is an older meter... but the valve is a 5600 metered unit... good long lasting..
    Maybe a rebuild kit or trade with some one that has a rebuilt valve body with control on top with the meter..
    While the media tank is out of the brine tank, get what is called a brine well and replace that thin thing that they are calling a brine well on the inside of the brine tank.
    Put a brine float assembly in it.. much better water flow in to and out of the brine tank..
    You should also replace the drain line, looks to be a kink in
    So when this all starts to go down after you have all the items on the list ... the three gate valves.. the two that are in line with the softener will get closed and the middle one opened and you will still have water.. unscrew the two screws one on either side of the meter, brass yoke assembly.. once those are lose you will be able to pull the whole unit away from the pipe and yoke. The valve unhooked from the brine line and drain line and unpluged will unscrew off the top of the media tank, the tan tank in the middle of the salt..

    With me so far?

    Step at a time....
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    What programming features do you consider as superior Bob?

    I assume it's due to the dealer or customer having to set the length of minutes for each of the 5 cycle positions of a regeneration individually.

    Why do you see that as a benefit when compared to the Clack WS-1 CS where a pre programed number does it in one step as compared to 5 steps in the 7000? That P number allows the selection of the same number of minutes for the cycle positions to the same settings you would want in a 7000 or other Fleck valves.

    And why do you think Fleck got rid of variable bring with the SXT timer if not due to excessive water use caused by more frequent regenerations when compared to the same softener without the variable brining feature? You sound as if you don't know how variable brining works Bob, how about explaining it to us and showing how I'm wrong. Or have you misunderstood "water efficiency"?

    We use computers in cars and other vehicles, boats, toasters, toaster ovens, microwave ovens, stove tops and other cook tops and stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, tractors, ACs, furnaces, dish washers, coffee pots and ice tea makers, ice makers, kids games and toys, computers, tools, etc. etc. etc. without problems. So anyone that doesn't like electronics on softeners either is uninformed or has an agenda against someone that promotes an electronic control valve. Or they sell water powered Kinetico equipment.

    BTW, if you want to compare 1.25" controls, compare the 7000 to the Clack WS-1.25.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2010
  18. Skip Wolverton

    Skip Wolverton In the Trades

    Messages:
    167
    Location:
    Ocala, Fl
    IMO, this has nothing to do with the OP comments. Find another forum. You are talking over the OP head.
  19. Skip Wolverton

    Skip Wolverton In the Trades

    Messages:
    167
    Location:
    Ocala, Fl
    And people get tried of trying to program them. The vast majority of people do not know how to fix their electronic equipment. That means they are forced to hire someone to fix them. Just because a lot of things have electronics does not mean they are any better. Get over the fact that I do not like electronics.
  20. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Obviously that's because your mechanical metered 5600 does not allow you to change the length of time the various cycle positions run for and you have no experience with that part of programming a control valve.

    BTW, the OP's North Star, it is an electronic control valve and very possibly has a dealer side of the programming where these minutes are programmed, so IMO this is on topic when selecting what brand of softener or control valve to choose.
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