Shortage of potassium chloride

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by LLigetfa, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    NW Ontario, Canada
    The wife insists on using potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. She claims that the sodium chloride corrodes the fixtures and leaves a residue. We haven't used salt in 20 years and I challenge her recollection as flawed. She was sold on the health benefits of potassium versus salt back then but when she switched, didn't like the taste it imparted so I bought a distiller for the drinking and cooking water. This got to be a real PITA so I installed a RO filter instead. She even uses the RO water for the house plants.

    All of the local dealers are sold out of potassium and say there is a supply chain problem pushing up the price. The best price I paid was $10 for a 40 lb bag but recently they had been demanding $15 before they ran out. The last bag cost me $25 and I had to cross the border to get it. This is just insane. I can buy sodium chloride for a fifth of that price.

    My softener uses a manual clock with cams and as such I cannot adjust the timing of the various stages. All I can control is the frequency of regens and the flow rate of the brine fill. Unless I am using way too much salt and the preset rinse stage is too short, I cannot see how it can be corrosive to the fixtures. My high school chemistry is a little weak, but it seems to me that it is the chloride that is corrosive and that part should be going down the drain in the rinse stage.

    Given that she uses RO water, I don't see much of any benefit to using potassium. I doubt there is any validity to her claim on it being less corrosive and leaving less residue. The potassium chloride that goes to the drain actually goes to my sump pit rather than to the septic tank and the trees downstream of the sump discharge show signs of stress from it so I challenge the claim of less environmental impact. I doubt switching to salt would make much difference to the trees.
  2. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    She is wrong because the softener is not adding "salt" to the softened water, it adds sodium while the chloride goes to drain with the use of either product. Plus salt doesn't get out of the softener except to drain so it can't corrode your pipes or fixtures.

    You can also control the amount of 'salt' used per regeneration; all softeners allow that if you know how to do it. You control the volume of water going into the salt tank. You get 3 lbs of salt dissolved per gallon of refill water. With potassium you may need to use up to 30% more than if using salt. Resin is made in the sodium form, not potassium form (there is none), although it will regenerate resins, it is not as efficient.

    The limited availability of potassium has been going on for a number of years, for various reasons; one is due to China buying up all they can get.

    The discharge water should be going into the septic/sewer system and not simply onto or into the ground.
  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    NW Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for the response. She did not say that the softener is adding salt to the softened water, only that salt is more corrosive and leaves more residue, both of which I challenge. We have not tried salt in this home on this well water with this brand of softener, so her claim is all conjecture and based on anecdotes from our former home.

    I know how to adjust the brine tank fill rate and understand how it controls the amount of salt (potassium) used. If the softener resin bed is less than ideal, or I use too much salt in a regen and the rinse stage is too short, can some of the salt (not just sodium) make its way to the taps? What is the residue on the fixtures/dishes?

    I have a separate iron filter but yet some iron still gets through both systems. After I run Super Iron Out through the softener, there appears to be less residue for a while. Does this indicate that iron is fouling the resin bed?

    You say "Resin is made in the sodium form, not potassium form". Does this also mean more grains of removal, or just less salt used to regen? I have a 40,000 grain tank with Autotrol Series 160 head. The salt dial is set to 13 and I do 2 regens a week. According to the manual, the fixed timing cycles are as follows:
    Backwash - 14 minutes
    Brine & Rinse - 52 minutes
    Brine Refill - 10 minutes
    Purge - 6 minutes

    I appreciate any advice you can give.
  4. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    There are a number of things in water that cause water spots and are not removed by a softener. Such as TDS, sulfates and chlorides (plus a few others); all found in most if not all well waters. And if you are using too much salt for your volume of resin, sodium from the softener.

    Rarely does the 'salt' get out of the softener, except to drain.

    If you have a .5 gpm BLFC (brine line flow control) and 10 minutes = 5 gals of refill which is 15 lbs of salt... (and you are setting it at 13 (lbs) you aren't getting 40k back into the resin bed.

    And if you are regenerating based on 40k, you should have hard water leakage getting through the softener. That is another cause of water spotting (and iron break through). You can also get hard water leakage if your peak demand exceeds the SFR of the volume of resin in the softener. A "40K" is a 1.25 cuft, and the SFR should only be about 10 gpm.

    To bring the resin back use Iron Out etc. and do 2 manual regenerations at 15 lbs per cuft (for sodium chloride, like 17 lbs of PC), one after the other with no water use during or between the two. Then all the resin will be fully regenerated, and makse sure you use the right K of capacity for your compensated hardness for a regeneration based on 6 lbs/cuft salt efficiency.

    Salt is more efficient than PC, meaning that for the same K of capacity you use more lbs of PC than salt; or you get a lower K of capacity.

    You sound as if you don't understand the info on my sizing page...

    Your iron filter isn't working or your softener wouldn't have to deal with any iron.
  5. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Houston, TX
    I would use Morton Green Bag, if you have Iron problems. But Iron Out, may be cheaper.

    Tell your wife that you are the boss, then run really fast...

    Enjoy Your Day.

  6. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    NW Ontario, Canada
    Yes, I do realize that a salt dial setting of 13 doesn't regen all 40k. I doubt I use all 40k between regens so I figure it averages out. Hard to say for sure as I don't test the water often but I think the hardness in the well varies at times. If we used (or plan to use) an inordinate amount of water, we will do an extra (manual) regen. Then again, when I do run Iron Out through it with a manual regen, I follow with a second manual regen.

    As for my iron filter not working, I would clarify that to say it's not working as well as it should. There is lots of precipitated iron coming out during the backwash. I think the problem is inadequate aeration and would like to add an air pump to boost my micronizer. There is probably some bleed-through of precipitated iron as well right after each weekly backwash. My water guy suggests I backwash less often but it has a 7 day clock.

    I am still trying to understand the reasoning for the sequence and the fixed time for each stage of regen on the softener. Why 14 minutes of backwash at the start? Surely it cannot chase out trapped hardness as salt is needed to do the exchange. Is it just to shake up the resin bed for the next (brine & rinse) stage? I feel that it is squandering unused grains of softening.

    Then there is the fixed brine & rinse time. The more brine there is based on the salt dial setting, the longer the brine stage and subsequently the less time there is for the rinse stage. I have not timed how long it takes to suck the brine tank dry so I don't know how long the rinse is but is there an ideal ratio? I realize that there is also 6 minutes of purge (pack) in the forward direction that serves to rinse further. Are you saying that by that time any surplus brine and 100% of the chloride has gone to the drain?
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