salty water from conditioner

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by Gary23, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. Gary23

    Gary23 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    CO
    Hi all - great forum. I learned a lot in the few days since I found it. Wish I read up on this stuff years ago. Anyway, we're having salty taste in the AM. After reading this post:
    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?31335-Salt-Taste-in-Water-After-Regen

    I have some tips on possible clogs in the brine tank area to go work on. In meantime, I have a couple questions that maybe you can help me on. First here's some system details:
    4 people in our northern vermont house, 2.5 bathrooms. It has a well, Culligan Estate 2 water softener + a 3 cuft carbon filter that includes a bleach tank for sanitation/backwash cycles. Local service guy who built that filter said it was sized more appropriate for a B&B than a single family. Anyway, we haven't changed media on that since we bought the house 6 yrs ago. The water softener is set for: 10# salt per recharge, twice every 6 days. Softener also hasn't been serviced in 6 yrs. Water pressure seems pretty weak, even when we bypass the filter and the softener.

    To test the water, I set both units to bypass for a couple days, and got this using my pool chemistry kit:
    Total Alkalinity = 270 ppm as CaCO3, Ca Hardness = 90 ppm as CaCO3, pH = 8.0

    I read somewhere else that these results are not normal, the two values should be closer. Should I look into sending water to a test lab for more info? Also, are there any more system specs that I should look at to make sure my softerner is running at the right pace? I'm willing to bring in Culligan to service it, but I haven't had great luck in the past with this company unless the problems were very obvious.
  2. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,482
    Location:
    Alaska
    If both units in bypass and the water pressure is not good at the sink with the little screen removed, check at the valve at the pressure tank, if the pressure is good to great there, then there is blockage some place in the line between there and the sinks.
    If the pressure is not good there or that the pump runs and runs for some 3 plus minutes and the pressure tank is say a 16"x47" then you might wish to have the pump looked at.
    Trouble shooting the culligan system is not that hard.
    It could be that the whole valve may need a cleaning or that the injector is the sole reason for the salt tast, either way all the salt that is drawn in is not getting rinsed out and you are finishing it at the sink and not the system like it should have done while in the cleaning or regen cycle.
  3. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The only way to tell if the softener is working right is to do a total hardness test on the water before and after the softener.

    The filter is working right as long as you don't smell chlorine in the water.
  4. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    Salty water after a regeneration can be caused by a few different things, including low pressure during backwash, high salt dosage, improper settings of the valve, flow rate. Does the salty taste go away in a short while (few gallons of use)?

    I don't see how testing the water BEFORE and AFTER the shower is the only way to tell if the softener is working.

    I would rather suggest testing both hot and cold water is a better way to determine if your softener is working consistantly. Cold water indicates what your softener is doing now and the hot side may give an indication of what it did during the past day or so. For example, the cold is soft but the hot is 15 grains tells you that the softener ran past its capapcity and dumped hard water into the water tank where it sits until it is either replaced with softened water or refilled with hardness minerals due to the softener, again, going past it capacity.

    If your softener regenerated last night but it ran out of capacity earlier in the day, then the hot water tank fills up with increasely harder water. You test cold water before the shower today and after, they should both test soft...or hard.

    Test strips give a 'rough' range of quantitative hardness.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
  5. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    What! Who said anything about testing BEFORE and AFTER a shower?

    That's right and why I already said: The only way to tell if the softener is working right is to do a total hardness test on the water before and after the softener.
  6. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    Shower?! Correct, I misquoted and retract. My apologizes.

    Testing water after the softener should be adequate. Testing hot and cold can reveal much. But before and after the softener is not the same as testing treated hot water and treated cold water, which is not what you said.
  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    If the cold past the softener is 0 gpg, then the hot should be too unless there is hard water scale in the water heater or plumbing that the softened water dissolves adding hardness to the hot water. That will continue until there is no more scale that can be dissolved or there is no more scale.

    By installing a softener I have opened to full flow many domestic coil in a boiler type water heaters that would hardly allow any flow through them and it usually only takes days to a week or two.
  8. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    Absolutely not. Cold water can be completely soft and the hot many, if not scores of grains hard, clearly indicating the softener is not consistent. Just today I visited a home where the cold water had 1 grain hardness (regnerated earlier that day) and the hot had 32 grains, because the softener ran out of capacity long before it regenerated and filled up the heater. Another time, I tested cold as 24 grains hard and hot soft. Conclusion here is that the softener ran out of softening ability before hard water was introduced to the heater. Man, this basic in home water evalution.

    Softened water alone will not dissolve scale build up in plumbing lines.
  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    OK, if you want to believe that it's fine with me but many water companies disagree with you, and I have seen softened water open up scaled up domestic water heaters as easily as when done with muratic acid; it just takes longer.
  10. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    I hope he doesn't mind my quoting him in saying that softened water works as well as hydrochloric acid in dissolving limescale...only a bit more slowly. That's a classic one.
    http://www.chemistryinyourcupboard.org/harpic/3

    Gary23, sorry this is yet another thread that has gotten way out there. Come on back and those that are willing to help will try again.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2010
  11. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    It's pretty hilarous when we now have not one, not two, but three separate threads that have all merged into the same topic. :) How'd that happen? ;)
  12. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    Some threads unravel, some get tangled.
  13. Gary23

    Gary23 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    CO
    Sorry to be so long in following up. Softened cold water measures 280 ppm total alkalinity, 0-10 ppm calcium hardness. So softener is softening. Let me know if that helps narrow down reasons for brine leaking into drinking water after regen cycles. By the way, I checked out the brine well and was surprised at how dark the brine was in there. Not sure if that's normal or relevant. Anyway, I hope to clean out the salt tank this weekend - hopefully it's a clogged line or something...

    BTW, the filter isn't working right. I mentioned that I have well water, so it's not there for chlorine removal. I assume previous owners put it in for general filtration paranoia and it also kept a sulfur smell in check. But the filtered water is getting stinky (hot and cold both), so I'm gonna have the unit rebedded. Water treatment guy quoted that at $800 :(

    BTWx2, I'm using a Taylor pool test kit for these tests. Calcium hardness test involves adding NaOH to sample, then calcium indicator, then titrating with hardness reagent. Taylor's potable water kits use different stuff, and use different terms (M alkalinity and total hardness), so maybe that difference is important.

    Thanks for the replies folks.
  14. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The Taylor pool test kit is not great for potable water--alkalinity and hardness don't necessarily correlate. Total hardness is testing for the content of calcium and magnesium. The Taylor calcium kit tests only for calcium. Your total hardness is almost certainly higher than the result for calcium only.

    So to get accurate results you need a total hardness test kit or have the water tested by someone who can give you that figure. You should also have tests done for iron and manganese.

    To properly program your softener you need the above mentioned test results. You will also need to know the quantity of resin in your softener, the size of the brine line flow control (BLFC) and have access to a manual for the control valve on your softener. Of course you could have Culligan do all these things for you.

    Your problems with the softener could be caused by low water pressure--restriction in the water supply. I would recommend you resolve the water pressure issue before spending time and effort on the softener.
  15. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    And I will add that before spending $800 to rebed the carbon filter, you shouldn't be using carbon on water of unknown microbiological quality. If you do you run the high risk of providing a great place for bacterial growth that will eventually cause H2S or a like odor in hot usually but can be both hot and cold waters after the filter.

    Also, you can buy the carbon yourself online and dump the old out, rinse the tank and add the new if you buy a tank funnel for like $5 and save about half that $800; and that's if you are buying the highest priced Centaur carbon. I'd aslo go to another type of filtration than carbon for H2S odor or...

    I'd go with chlorination so you can use the carbon filter to remove the chlorine and any 'sediment' the chlorination causes. That would give you very high bacteria free quality water and kil all forms of bacteria, oxidize all the iron, H2S gas and manganese if any in your water and the the softener can be programmed for just the hardness, which would use less salt and water.
  16. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    As I undertood that you already had a chlorination system and one might think that the carbon is not handling water of an unknown biological quality.

    Rebedding a carbon tank is not difficult unless you prefer it be done by those who are familair with doing it. I would like to know more about your chlorination system; do you have any pictures?
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Andy, as you know I was replying to his comment: "I mentioned that I have well water, so it's not there for chlorine removal. I assume previous owners put it in for general filtration paranoia and it also kept a sulfur smell in check.

    Now Andy it's obvious to me that he doesn't understand his system and has not been replenishing the chlorine; solution or pellets. Which if I'm right means he has water of unknown microbiological content which means you are wrong again.
  18. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,482
    Location:
    Alaska
    Culligan has a system that once every x number of days pulls in chlorine, often there is a 1 gallon jug that is used with the chlorine. that might be what the owner has.
  19. big dripper

    big dripper New Member

    Messages:
    71
    Location:
    Ohio
    I was told by a Culligan guy that this sulfur unit (Culligan Super S) draws a gallon a at time and has an pump attached. Gary23, is this what you have for a "chlorination system"?
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  20. Gary23

    Gary23 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    CO
    OK, I have 2 symptoms at the same time - salt leakage and sulfur smell. I was trying to focus on the salt one first because it seemed easier to tackle. But it that's just making it harder for you guys. So here's info on that part of the system: the filter is upstream from my softener. It's a 3 cu ft resin tank with a Fleck controller on top and a water-filled tank attached to that Fleck. The setup looks just a water softener, with carbon in the resin tank and water from the brine tank that's used for backwash cycles instead of regen cycles. I was told to add a bottle of bleach to water tank weekly to shock that filter (which is what I meant by sanitizing earlier). I guess at least some of you are thinking my system has full-time chlorination upstream from a carbon filter - sorry for the miscommunication. If it's not obvious, this system came with the house and previous owners didn't leave me with manuals etc. I later found out that the filter was plumbed in a couple years after the softener. FWIW, the Culligan service guy couldn't figure it out and wanted nothing to do with it.

    Anyway, this chlorinator component has been malfunctioning for at least 6 months. First the feed line clogged, and I contacted the local guy who designed/installed this system. He fixed that, but then the timer broke. Since then, I've been starting the backwash cycles manually a couple times weekly. Back a few years ago, I could verify that the filter was removing sulfur from well water, because a sulfur smell would pop up quickly if I bypassed the filter. For last 6 months, there is an intermittant sulfur smell in cold and hot water lines, which gets worse if the filter is offline.

    Sorry for the long post. I'll test flowrate from my pressure tank today and drop off water samples to a test lab this week. As someone suggested, a carbon filter may not be ideal if it's only needed for sulfur removal. But I'll wait for test results before deciding if I want to redo that part of my system.
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