Softener sizing and installation questions

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by Nezil, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    I'm currently renting a property that I'm trying to purchase, and one of the things that we've wanted to do since moving in is to install a softener. As soon as we own the place, we'll be in a position to do this, and I've been trying to work out sizing and equipment in advance.

    Initially, I had considered one of the one-cabinet solutions from the local hardware store, but a little research has led me to consider a setup based around a Fleck control valve.

    One of the things that I really like about the Fleck valves, is that it's relatively easy to switch out the input connectors for different sizes, and even different threads. I'm currently living in California, but I'm actually British, and there is always the chance that I might move back, so it's comforting to know that BSP input connectors are available if I need them.

    I'm going to be doing the installation myself, and I have a few questions about that, but I'll start with the sizing...

    Looking at the last year of water bills, I can see that my family uses 11ccf (8228 Gallons) of water on average per month. This equates to approximately 270 Gallons per day.

    We have an RO filter for drinking water already installed, and when setting this up I purchased a TDS meter to check that it was working correctly. At the time I installed the RO filter, roughly 3 years ago, I measured the incoming TDS at around 550ppm. When I measured it this morning, it was more like 850ppm!

    I realise that TDS is not the same as hardness, but the only other information that I have to go on is the data from the water supply company (California Water - Los Altos Suburban District). This data suggests that the hardness ranges from 260-440ppm, with an average of 329ppm; TDS ranges from 350-570ppm, averaging 437.

    The data also shows that some readings for Iron were as high as 460ppb, with an average of 27 - I've not noticed any Iron staining or taste in the water, so I think I'm OK for Iron.

    One of the big problems with the water supply here, is that the source that it comes from is changed throughout the year. Sometimes water is purchased for a nearby utility, and at other times it is sourced from the primary groundwater supply. I have a feeling that since California is having an extended drought, that the hardness is increasing, but my point is simply that the hardness (and all other parameters) are changing throughout the year!

    If I calculate that size of my softener based on my TDS reading of 850ppm ( / 17.1 = 50 grains per gallon), I'm going to need 108,000 grains of capacity to get me through a week with a day to spare; that's a HUGE system, particularly for a utility supply.

    If I calculate based on the average that the supply company believes I should be receiving 329ppm ( / 17.1 = 20 Grains per gallon), I'll only need 43,200 grains for the week.

    I know that flow rate should also be considered, so I checked the fastest faucet in the property, and measured this at nearly 6 gallons per minute.

    I was thinking that I could go with a 2.0' cuft system that should provide a constant SFR of 13 gpm, and a capacity of 64,000 grains at 15lb / cuft regeneration. This wouldn't provide me with the capacity for a week if my water truly does have 850ppm of hardness, but it's still a pretty large system.

    My questions therefore are:
    • Is there any need to choose a Fleck 7000SXT over a 5600SXT if my incoming lines are 1" and I don't need any more flow than 13gpm?
    • Are my calculations correct?
    • Which resin should I use? There appears to be several types available, and it's not clear which type I'd be best to use
    • Is it important to have a gravel bed at the bottom of the tank?
    • Is there no system which measures that output hardness to decide if a regeneration is required, rather than just calculating based on flow?
    • How are situations where the water quality is changing usually handled?
    • Is it really possible that my water is that bad (850ppm TDS!)
    • What is the relationship between TDS and hardness, and how is hardness calculated from TDS or measured?
    • How is the size of brine tank calculated, and what are my options here?
    I'm sure I'll have more questions, but I'll start with those!

    I do also have some installation questions, but I'll come on to those after I've decided on the system I'm going to be purchasing / installing.

    Thanks in advance for the help!
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,793
    Location:
    IL
    You want to get a Hach 5-B hardness test on order. You can get it directly from Hach, but the shipping is significant if only ordering one thing.

    TDS includes calcium, magnesium,and sodium. Hardness includes calcium and magnesium. Water softeners replace calcium and magnesium with sodium. TDS is usually measured with a special ohmmeter -- you are measuring conductivity. TDS is a measure you would use with a reverse osmosis system, and not to measure water softening.

    There are a couple common sizes of brine tanks. I would think you would want the larger of the common ones. I expect that to happen with the system you order.. Click on Notifications at the top of the page.
  3. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,941
    Location:
    Ontario California
    • Is there any need to choose a Fleck 7000SXT over a 5600SXT if my incoming lines are 1" and I don't need any more flow than 13gpm?
    Not really, but the 7000 is a more modern valve. Both are excellent, I have discussed this at great length many times on this forum. There is no disadvantage to the 7000 other than it is a large valve. Their are many advantages.

    • Are my calculations correct?
    As stated by Reach4, you need a hach 5B test kit, I will PM you re: this.

    • Which resin should I use? There appears to be several types available, and it's not clear which type I'd be best to use
    10% crosslink is preferred for chlorinated supplies. 8% is fine for non chlorinated. it is much more complex that that, but this will suffice for non critical residential applications.

    • Is it important to have a gravel bed at the bottom of the tank?
    Do not listen to the websites trying to push the idea of systems without a gravel under-bedding. Again, I have gone through this at great length in these forums, but I will simply say if a gravel underbedding were such a bad idea, then why would every commercial system have one? So many companies have gotten so desperate to undercut the next guy on the internet sales, they will try to save money in any way they can. An old trick is to not use gravel in order to save a few dollars in shipping. These guys have been beating the crap out of each-other for years trying to desperately lower their cost another dollar here, and a nickel there. Do not buy from a company that does not even have a real address or stocks their own equipment. Many companies work from a UPS store, or their moms basement. They rely on other companies to stock and ship their equipment, since they never touch or see the equipment, how do they know what is being shipped? How do they know that the shipping company isn't substituting junk tanks, resin, media, etc in their systems?

    • Is there no system which measures that output hardness to decide if a regeneration is required, rather than just calculating based on flow?
    Yes, the twin 9100 uses sensors to determine the capacity based on volume and sensors... too long to describe here, and honestly, the LXT and SXT programming are so easy to adjust the hardness, a simple test kit (HACH 5B makes it much easier, simpler, less complex etc. rather than 4 probes, meters, etc. Just go with a metered system and test the water occasionally.

    • How are situations where the water quality is changing usually handled?
    Regular testing takes less than 5 minutes and costs less than 20 cents per test. Reprogramming the valves hardness on the Fleck systems is extremely simple.

    • Is it really possible that my water is that bad (850ppm TDS!)
    Not uncommon, many municipalities allow up to 1000 TDS.

    • What is the relationship between TDS and hardness, and how is hardness calculated from TDS or measured?
    They are not related, your water could have almost no hardness and 850 PPM tds. Sodium, shloride, etc all show up under tds. Hardness testing must be done. Hach 5B,

    • How is the size of brine tank calculated, and what are my options here?
    Brine tank calculations are actually very simple, a minimum tank size is recommended, anything large (within reason of course, a small system should not have a 60" diameter brine tank...) see the chart at this link, I wrote this up years ago and finally published it on our website. Now.. how long until every other website selling water has it? LOL http://www.impactwaterproducts.com/#!brine-tanks/c1mdc
  4. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Internet dealer pricing is usually hundreds to a thousand or more less than a local dealer's price for basically the same thing. They are able to do that because their overhead costs are so low; an internet connection and a phone is the norm and they have those things in place already if they work 'at home'. Working out of their house, garage, anyone's basement and not having inventory are the main reasons for the low prices but another is that they normally pay less for the equipment because they buy (sell) more than a local dealer and they get higher wholesale price discounts based on their volume.

    Any dealer and especially an internet dealer that sells inferior products won't last long but, they have to order what they sell regardless if they have inventory or their supplier ships the product to the dealer's customers. And the dealer's customers will let the dealer know if they didn't get what the dealer said they should because research of products is the basis of the internet and... IF local dealers were to provide all the info the prospective customer wanted, and be honest, there wouldn't be as many internet dealers as there are. Question, if you buy from a local dealer, plumber, well driller, etc., how do you know the internal stuff is what they told you it would be? I mean they deliver and install the thing but never assemble the softener/filter in front of their customers plus, many of those dealers etc. buy already assembled equipment.
  5. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    Thanks very much to all who posted.

    I'm about to go on vacation for three weeks, but will pick this up again on my return. I made an offer on the house this morning, and I'll know if it was accepted within a week. I therefore should be able to start fitting whatever setup I end up buying by early July.

    Thanks again.
  6. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    I'm now back from vacation, and the offer has been accepted on the house. It's therefore time to start thinking about the softener that I'm going to need, as well as the installation of it. Unfortunately the close of escrow has been set as July 31st, so there is still a month to go before I can actually start any work, but I have a feeling that this extra time is a good thing because it will help me to make sure that I really plan things correctly.

    On the advice of everyone on this forum, I've ordered a Hach 5B test kit, and I'll post results of that as soon as it arrives. While I was on vacation in the UK however, I discovered an inexpensive water hardness test kit and brought that back with me. This test kit appears to be similar to the Hach in that it works by seeing a change in colour from red/purple to blue, but it uses small pills that dissolve quite quickly. The whole kit was less than $5, but only had enough pills to do two tests, so the Hach will obviously be much more economical in the long run.

    The results of my testing with the UK kit show my water has a hardness of approximately 20 grains (~340 ppm). This surprised me because the water spots that I get with our water supply are awful. The shower glass looks like it's frosted, and it's almost impossible to remove the white marks without some pretty strong abrasives. Our water can also be slightly smelly, sort of a dusty kind of smell, at times.

    I tested my parents water while I was staying there, and theirs came out at 17 grains. They do have issues with water spots, but no-where near as bad as ours, and they are able to clean the spots left by their water with conventional bathroom cleaner sprays; these do absolutely nothing to the deposits around our faucets.

    In one of our bathrooms, the deposits left by the water have built up so much that they've actually created a crust that has even cracked off in places. The only product that seems to actually melt off these deposits is Lemishine, but it takes quite a lot of it to clean just a small area. Lemishine fizzes at first so there is clearly some reaction, and once the fizzing stops, I assume the acid has been used up.

    Before I even start calculating the sort of size softener system that I'm likely to need, I'd like to know if a softener is going to address the deposits that I'm seeing. I realise that a softener works by an ion exchange process, and that I may still get water spots even when my water has been softened. I'm just hoping that the deposits from the softened water will be easier to clean off.

    I guess my concern is that if my water has ~850ppm of Total Dissolved Solids, but my hardness (CaCO[sub]3[/sub] & MgCO[sub]3[/sub]) is only ~340ppm, is it water hardness that is causing my problems, or the ~510ppm of other dissolved solids!
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,793
    Location:
    IL
    No expert, but sodium and potassium salts contribute to TDS. I expect that sodium salt is most of your TDS.

    A softener replaces calcium, magnesium and even iron with sodium (so don't expect a softener to reduce TDS). Sodium salts are water soluble. So while softened water can leave spots, those spots wash off. C.L.R. or phosphoric acid, or even vinegar or citric acid can remove calcium and magnesium salt deposits, but not as quickly as water removes sodium salt deposits.

    I keep some distilled water in a spray bottle to rinse eyeglasses, or other things that I might wash and want a final rinse that will dry spot-free. Distilled water is under $1 per gallon, and a gallon lasts me a long time. I also use distilled water to dilute concentrated no-rinse cleaners. Nice for rinse of windows or display screens.

    It is possible for acid in the water to etch a glass surface. That is not going to wipe off, nor will CLR etc remove that. You might measure your pH to see where that stands. I expect my next buy of pH paper will be Hydrion Urine & Saliva pH Paper 5.5-8.0 since I am not happy with the cheaper stuff I bought. A slightly wider range (5.0-9.0) paper may be appropriate to some, but 0-14 is ridiculous for well water.

    My last use of pH paper was to measure the effect of vinegar I added to my well as part of the sanitization process after some well work. The chlorine is a better disinfectant at below 6 pH.
  8. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    Thanks for the response @Reach4

    Since my initial post, I've now received the Hach 5-B test kit, and I'm getting similar results; about 10% higher hardness result actually, but this shouldn't affect my choice of softener too much.

    We already have an RO filter installed for drinking water, so I have a near infinite supply of (close to) distilled water that I can use as you suggested.

    I don't think the water is acidic, it's just very very hard. Perhaps the difference between my parents and my water supply, is the ratio of Calcium to Magnesium; I guess it's possible that one of them is harder to remove than the other. Once I have fitted the water softener, I have a lot of hard cleaning to do!

    My other questions were related to the plumbing of the system, so I'll post them in the other more relevant sub-forum, and link back to this thread.

    For now, I'm trying to decide on either a 2.00 cuft or 2.50 cuft softener, and leaning towards the larger unit. I'm planning on a system with a Fleck 7000SXT valve, with the larger 32mm distributor.
  9. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
  10. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I see that didn't work out so well for you... You can go up from the drain line fitting of the control valve 7-8'.0 Then you can go sideways 40' without causing any problems or, farther if the end of the line goes down a few feet or more.

    Stop the end an inch or two above the rim of the pipe the water is going into and you have an approved air gap. Use one continuous piece of 5/8" OD opaque polyethylene tubing; or as few insert type fittings as possible and yer done.
  11. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    Gary, thanks for your response. Knowing that I'm able to go 7-8' up and 40' across with the drain is comforting to hear, and should give me some flexibility with placement.

    Having said that, my issue is that there is no existing pipe where I can put the drain water into. It would be very complex, and probably more than 8' up to find an existing drain with a P-trap.

    The only drain that I have is either of the two stacks coming out of the slub in the crawl space (about 30' across, and about 1' off the base of the slab), and the drain pipe that's half coming out of the wall in the garage (about 10' across and 3' off the base of the slab). Neither of these options have an existing P-trap or a vent, which makes it problematic.
  12. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,941
    Location:
    Ontario California
    you can go well over 8' up on a softener drain. The instructions are guidelines that ensure the system will work in 99% of applications. The drain height limits are based on incoming water pressure, drain height, drain pipe size, length of run, etc. It gets a little too technical to post today, but I will send you a PM when I have more time. I need to know your water pressure. Hope this helps.
  13. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Nezil, could make a trap out of 3 (3/4" or 1") PVC street elbows and a same size stand pipe.
  14. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    Since my last post, I've tested the water a couple of times with the Hach 5-B. The results I got are:
    • 07/11 - 21 Grains
    • 08/06 - 27 Grains
    I'm not that surprised by this, as I did say that the water company sources water from different locations throughout the year. It is a little disappointing though, because it does mean that I'll need to go for a larger system than I would have liked.

    Doing the calculations then...

    27 Grains * 4 People * 60 Gallons / Day * 8 Days between regenerations = 51,840 Grains / cycle

    If I work with a 80,000 Grain (2.5 cuft) unit, I'll be looking at 8 lb / cuft (60,000 grains) when my water is hard like today, and 6 lb / cuft (50,000 grains) when it's not so hard.

    2.5 cuft should provide me with around 18 gpm of flow rate, which is more than enough for my home.

    Using the table posted by dittohead a few posts back, the standard size brine tank usually supplied with this size system (18 x 40 with Salt Grid) will be fine for up to a 5 cuft at 6 lb dosing, up to 3 cuft at 10 lb dosing, and up to 2 cuft at 15 lb dosing - I think I'm understanding that correctly.

    If my water usage stays the same, an 18 x 40 tank with salt grid would allow about a 12 lb dose as a max, which would give me about 70,000 grains. My water could get as bad as 36.5 grains, with the same usage, or my usage could increase to 81 Gallons / person with the same hardness.

    I think I'm therefore reasonably future-proofed with the following system:
    • Fleck 7000SXT
    • 2.5 cuft resin in 12 x 52 tank
    • 1-1/4" connections (same size as my incoming line)
    • 18 x 40 with Salt Grid brine tank
    Anyone have any comments before I order these parts?
  15. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,941
    Location:
    Ontario California
    I don't see any problems at all, looks like you got it.

    PM Sent
  16. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    A 2.5 cuft requires a larger than 12 x 52" tank. A 12 x 52" is usually used for a 2.0 cuft.
  17. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    Well spotted Gary, I meant 13 x 54. Does that sounds more appropriate?
  18. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    That is used for a 2.5 cuft.
  19. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,941
    Location:
    Ontario California
    LOL, nice catch. A 13x54 is closer to the right size for a 2.5 CF system, but... from a purely technical point of view, the 13x54 is rated for 2.2 Cu. Ft. Domes/freeboard etc... but 13x54 is fine for 2.5.
  20. Nezil

    Nezil Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    California
    My parents were kind enough to order the system parts that I needed for my softener install, and I spent a few weeks planning and ordering pipe components ready for the install (setup discussion in another thread here). I spent most of yesterday doing the install and it's all working, and best of all... no leaks!

    Here are some photos:

    1-1/4" Falcon Flex Lines simplified the install a lot!
    [​IMG]

    Main water line
    [​IMG]

    Feed lines inside the wall
    [​IMG]

    New lowest point faucet installed
    [​IMG]

    Drain line
    [​IMG]
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