Old softener maintenance?

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by cognito, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. cognito

    cognito New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    I have a question regarding what maintenance I should be doing on an older water softener.

    I just purchased the home last spring. The previous owner installed the softener in 1986, and has done nothing to it but add salt for all these years.

    I have the initial water test done by the installer - 17gpg hardness, trace Iron (essentially, none.)

    It is an Erie Manufacturing Co. softener, and the tag on the control head on the resin tank identifies it as a Model FAS-22. It has a mechanical clock and cogs to set the regen interval.
    The resin tank is fibregalss, roughly 36 inches tal in total (including the plastic "stand" , but not including the control head).
    The salt tank is 32" tall by roughly 15" in diameter.

    My concern is this - the previous owner filled the salt tank with road salt ocassionally. Every spring, if he had a couple of bags of salt left over from the driveway, he'd use it up in the softener.

    I can see dirty layers of salt near the bottom of the tank.and it looks like a layer of silt/dirt/general crap in the bottom of the tank, under where I assume the salt screen should be. I can also see a brine water line on the tank, roughly a foot up from the bottom, that goes down during regeneration.

    For the first few months, the softener seemed to be functioning properly. I was adding 88 pounds of proper softener salt every 2 months to the tank. However - this month, I noticed on the calendar it was time to buy salt. When I checked the tank, it hadn't used any salt since I added it 2 months ago...

    I pulled the long tube out of the salt tank and cleaned it up a bit, water flows freely both ways...I did a manual regeneration, and it seems to be working again... but for how long...

    I took a water sample in for testing, and the raw water is still the same as it was in '86 - 17 gpm hardness, no iron. The "soft" water tested at 5 gpm hardness.

    Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
  2. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    So clean the salt tank by emptying it and washing it out, then add about 5 gallons of water and some salt. And solar crystal salt is the best choice to prevent the build up in the bottom of the salt tank that you mention. If you don't get soft water, then you probably need new resin and if you do, I suggest a new metered/demand regenerated softener with a Clack WS-1 CS control valve.
  3. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    Have you checked to see if there is what is called a salt bridge in the brine tank.

    The Salt will get wet then dry out and form a crust holding the salt from dropping down.

    If you are using pellet salt that wiil take a crowbar or other strong item to poke into the salt and move around, careful not to break the brine well or side of brine tank.

    It also could be that the resin is at the end of its life and no longer able to go from size of baseball to size of softball and back again...

    Could be time to replace the control with a newer Erie and new softener resin.

    There is every chance that the tank and brine tank are still good for the rebuild of the total system.

    And less for the land fill.....
  4. cognito

    cognito New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.
    I appreciate a rebuildable, user friendly system. The brine tank and the resin tank look like brand new, so if I have to do a rebuild, I can probably reuse those pieces.
    Looks like my first step is to clean out the brine tank. Bridging is a distinct possibility, the salt level looks uneven around the bottom.
    What would be the best way to check for the need to replace the resin? I suspect water testing of the treated water, to see if the softener is functioning... can anyone recommend a good, accurate test kit for the home user? Available on-line, cheap?

    I'm limited as to what kind of salt I can get. I've been buying a type that looks like a "pillow", looks like it's compressed table salt... it's about $5 for 44 pounds (20 kg).

    The only soft water service around here is Culligan. They want me to buy a new "Medallist" for $1400, and that doesn't include installation. I think I'm handy enough to do a rebuild, and it's bound to be more cost-effective...
  5. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    :lol:
    [/QUOTE]The only soft water service around here is Culligan. They want me to buy a new "Medallist" for $1400, and that doesn't include installation. I think I'm handy enough to do a rebuild, and it's bound to be more cost-effective...[/QUOTE]:lol:

    Sorry about that, could not help my self in that... for that is some thing that I hear all to often.

    Nothing wrong with the salt that you are using, just know that if there is a bridge with that type it will be harder to bust up..

    Once you get the brine tank cleaned out, one bag or 5 gallon bucket of salt back in and one 5 gallon bucket of water in the brine tank, let it set for about 3 hours to make a brine, send the unit into a cleaning cycle... make sure that the water level in the brine tank leaves and then returns at the end of the cycle.

    simple home test ,,, pickle jar or any jar with lid.. fill 3/4 with what you think is now treated water... about 6 eye dropper drops of dish soap,, close, shake, if there is foam only on top of the water and the water looks clear, then the softener is working, if not , then maybe a second cycle.. if the water had a mostly clear look..

    If the resin goes back to the mid 80's, that would be thirty years.. and could be time..

    Culligan the only one around there or might there be some independent dealers?
  6. cognito

    cognito New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    What's funny? The Culligan part, or the price? I suspect a bit of both... not that there's anything wrong with Culligan, I just found this local franchise to be a bit aggressive on the sales side, and quite expensive.

    I cleaned the salt tank, here's what I found - 2 to 3 inches of sand and clay in the bottom of the tank, and several hundred small pieces af gravel sitting on top of the screen on the bottom of the tank, covering many of the holes. There were obvious channels in the crap on the bottom of the tank, where water had been taking the path of least resistamce.

    I cleaned everything up, replaced the eductor/fill line and fittings, refilled with fresh salt, and did a manual regeneration. Water is soft now, feels good, and passes the lather in the jar test.

    So - don't use road salt in your brine tanks, it's got clay, salt, and rocks in it that won't do your system any favours!
  7. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    Good to hear that it is working again the way it should be working.

    Sounds like that build up at the bottum of the brine tank was the bigest part of the reason that it was not working right.

    Not sure if they had been using road salt, most likely just never cleaned out the brine tank and after 24+ years.... of any thing that was on the bottum of the salt bag, or in the air... or even the possiblity of road salt..
  8. cognito

    cognito New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    Oh, it was road salt, alright... there were 4 or 5 empty bags of the stuff jammed in behind the brine tank, along with empty bags of softener salt... looks like the guy recycled the bags for garbage. Yellow bag, "Windsor Premium Ice Melt Salt."

    Now, if only I could find my well... but that will be a job for spring.
  9. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    Road salt,,,, can't say that I have heard that one before, but you have the bags to show that it did happen.... no wounder the system was not working right...

    Some thing that I have seen around here is the well head in a building... some times the older places have them in the space under the house... not a good idea, but it has been done.

    One way is to go out from where the pipe goes to the pressure tank, back tracking.

    Either way sounds like you have some work ahead. Let us know if there are any other qustions on your system.
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