Water Softener Info needed!

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Pudhole, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Pudhole

    Pudhole New Member

    Hello everyone. I am a new homeowner and the new place has an existing water softener and iron filter. I don't know a whole lot about this stuff, just a little research online and in forums like this. Here is my existing set-up. From the well, the line runs to the iron filter. It is an Autotrol 255/440i. There is no salt hooked up to this tank. I plugged it in to check it out and if I manually move the pointer to different positions, it seems to start. The timer does not move and if I put the pointer to a postition, it stays in the same position. The water then runs from that tank to a Fleck water softener (Not sure what model but by comparing it to other pictures, it appears to be either a 2500 or 2510 ecominder - I would guess the 2510 beacuse the timer has a meter for gallons not days?). If I plug this in it does seem to run through different cycles and the timer moves. The problem is the water seems to continually discharge. I also did not notice anything being drawn from the salt tank. I have since unplugged both of them and had a local service technician come out to look at it. He tested the water and (hopefully this is right) said my hardness level was at 18 grains and that the iron level was at an extrememly high 2.0. I know that some of the stuff he was telling me was part of an obvious sales pitch but he basically told me that I would need to replace both units. He took out the Fleck control valve and checked the resin in the tank and it was pretty gritty and really dark brown. There were also little pieces of rust or something in the control valve. The discharge tube is really dirty and brown. He quoted me $4800 for a customized system which would include an iron filter and a new softener. I understand that the water is pretty bad. It smeels like sulfur really bad and it is really hard. However, I am a younger guy, this is my first house, and I am married with 2 little boys. There is no way I can afford that. Can anyone here give any advice for a cheaper alternative (maybe cleaning the units I have?) that would still take care of the high levels of iron and the hardness of the water. Any information would be GREATLY appreciated!!! And if any more information is needed from me, I will gladly provide all that I can.


  2. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    S. Maine
    These things can be real complicated if you don't have either experiance or the owners manual. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with them including broken timers, stuck valves from corrosion, saturated beds and the list goes on. Try finding an operators manual on line and run through the setting and trouble shooting pages. Thing is, if something's broken you're going to have to find the dealer to get parts and make the fix. sometimes you are better off to call in a water treatment guy and have him re-evaluate the system because many times stuff gets put in that's oversized or undersized or may just need to be updated. There are a bunch of new products out there that do a better job and cost less to operate.
  3. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The motor is shot or the timer is broken and you need a new one of either or both. You can buy new of either or both for like $150 including UPS delivery. And replace them yourself in a few minutes without shutting off the water.

    That means that the seals and piston are leaking and you need a new seals, spacer and piston kit. Or maybe the brine valve is stuck; that prevents the piston from moving. If the valve is brass, it is a metered 2500, and you'll need the Fleck special tools to replace the seals and spacers. You may need them for the black plastic 2510 also. Or get a local dealer that will repair Fleck valves to do it. Or as a last resort, send it off to a web site for repair or, replace it with a Clack WS-1.

    A stuck piston prevents the valve from going on past that cycle position so nothing else happens (no brine suction etc.) but your well pump runs when nothing else in the house is using water....

    To me he is either uninformed or a crook. I lean toward the latter because he was able to tear it apart but doesn't offer to fix it... Tell everyone you can to stay away from him.

    Resin color can be anything from white to black, that's right out of the factory fresh bag. All of it is hard/gritty unless it is damaged, usually by chlorine, then it is mushy and clumpy. Resin is a pretty good mechanical filter and the stuff the softener collects is to be backwashed out of the tank during regeneration. The drain line should be dirty, all the stuff the unit has removed from your water goes through it to drain/waste...

    He was right there and could have earned maybe a few hundred but no! he wants $4800 to replace rebuildable equipment.... that's simply DUMB. And he probably would replace with all but the same things.

    The only reason to replace is if the equipment can not be rebuilt or because it is undersized for what and how much of it is in the water, your family size, the number of bathrooms and type of fixtures in them.

    A softener built to remove it can easily remove 2-5 ppm of iron. Your iron filter should be an iron, manganese and sulfur filter, not just iron. That is controlled by the type of mineral in the filter.

    Visit the sizing page and calculator page on my web site and post and come back here with any questions.
  4. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    New Hampshire
    Paying an incompetent shyster for another call or two will put you over what Gary would charge for a new controller. You are probably already past the cost of parts to fix the one you have.

    I worked on one a couple of months ago where I removed the controller, dumped the resin into an infants bathtub, washed it thoroughly, brined and rinsed it in the tub, and put it back in the softener and it worked fine. The problem was that the little turbine that measures flow was stuck so it was never calling for regeneration.
  5. teach a rebuild class


    I need to take a class in breaking these things down, and
    learn to rebuild them.. at least the most popular brands..

    why dont you teach a class that I can attend some weekend>>>?????.

    or put some step by step digital pics on your web site
    to rebuild the FLECK ...Cullligan...ect....

    to hell with the autotrol valve... thats too complicated..

    we run across a lot of them that need massive repairs
    total controls, or whatever......
    but the age of the unit and the labor time it would take to fool with them make it almost cost prohibitive to rebuild

    I got a 6 year old GE unit that is simply too much time and trouble for me to fool with... cant spend the day breaking down the control and trying to figure out what is wrong with it,, I jsut cant order the parts in a timely manner and just hope that they will solve the problem....

    we run into lots of old one piece little sears unit.

    I run into more Culligans than I can shake a stick at
    and Culligan wont sell parts...

    got a 15 year old Kinnectco that I cant touch.....

    it would be nice to get a hands on overall education on
    them without makeing the customer the guennie pig

    Just installed a 60,000 grain Clack on Friday where another
    plumber in town spent three days trying to rebuild an Autotrol 460 valve....and they never could get it right....

    ultimately I feel after a certain age it is not worth
    the time and effort to order parts from GE, or Sears
    and then chargeing them plumbers rates to mess with them

    especally when you can just chuck it and install a CLACK.
    for about the same price that the labor might cost you

    I realize that a lot of DIY ers are hell bent on saveing their
    old softeners and will "walk through the fires of hell "
    and go to any lengths to do this,

    but being in business and having to do
    this every day is simply not cost effective...
    at least from my end.....

    at what point do you tell the cusotmer its just best to
    get rid of their old unit??...

    Last edited: Aug 9, 2008
  6. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Riverview, Fl.
    I agree with Master Plumber Mark on the GE, Culligan and the Kinetico. You can't or really don't want to work on any of them. There are a few others that you can't find parts for and that aren't worth rebuilding anyway.

    The Autotrol head is probably the easiest of all to work on. The parts are readilly available practically anywhere like the Fleck heads. Problem with the Fkeck heads is the cylindar wears just like the new parts you put in it. So the rebuld doesn't last too long.

    Clack is a new one on me, haven't tried it yet but have heard good things about it.

    The easiest way to figure out the Autotrol and the Fleck is to save them when a customer wants them thrown out and disect them. Kinda like doing the Frog thing in High School.

  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Mark, I'm up for teaching if there was enough interest and a place to park the motor home on site, or close by, and the checks wouldn't bounce.

    Seriously, for many years I've thought of doing that with plumbers and others wanting to learn water treatment, or pumps.

    I'm self taught, been learning now since like 1950 when I was 8. Dad was a machinist and had all these GREAT TOOLS. Anyway I learned to repair/rebuild control valves, softeners and filters by tearing them apart and maybe getting a manual with the parts breakdown. If you know how it doesn't take more than an hour or a bit more to rebuild any brand of control valve. Maybe two hours to replace resin and a part or two on a valve. I've never had a rebuilt valve not work as new.

    You have to have any (Fleck) special tools and patience. And not overcharge the customer plumbers rates for water treatment work!!!

    In other words expanding your horizons means more to the bottom line than taking big bites and maybe choking on them. I used to do so much repair that I tracked it in my accounting package AND offering to do repair got me many more calls and a lot of sales of new equipment because I priced both and the guy had a choice. I never charged T & M or hourly, people do not like that. I'd give them a price and that was the price regardless of how long or little time it took me. I did that on the phone and covered all the parts I thought I might need plus my estimated time to do it including travel time/distance. I carried a lot of parts in inventory in the van. My pump truck was fully stocked too. I refused to have to have to leave a job to go buy parts. People do not like that. So I did it the way I'd want it one as a customer. And my business grew because of word of mouth which saved a lot of advertising expense. I didn't do anything but a yellow page ad and signs on the vehicles.

    Guys are DIYers the same as women are moms. We're hard wired and love to fix things. So I helped them do that on their own or I did it for them at what they expected as a fair price. IO the guys that don't like DIYers are swimming up stream against human nature and making their lives miserable and missing a great opportunity to increase their income.

    Plumbers don't have a good choice as to where to buy water treatment equipment or parts; it ain't the plumbing supply houses. There's a large separate industry for that and if you aren't buying from those suppliers, or someone like me, you won't do well IMO. The counter clerks etc. don't have the field experience to teach you and they can't supply you except for what they sell and that is very limited.
  8. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    S. Maine
    Gary; I probably should do this as a PM but what the hell, everyone needs their ego stroked in public once in a while.

    You are without a doubt the most knowledgable fellow here when it comes to water conditioning and service. A veratable welth of information. I would like to thank you for your easy to read yet detailed explanations of things that can and often do confuse the heck out of home owners and plumbers alike, My company does quite a bit of water treatment and I like to think I have some usefull knowledge, but compared to you I feel like an apprentice. Water treatment is a tough speciality to get into because ther are now a whole lot of texts and reference materials that are not product specific. Any how thanks again. I look foreward to your posts.
  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Well thank you, I appreciate that.

    Getting into the water treatment industry through a dealer as an installer, service guy or salesman isn't very hard if the person has the desire and some ability and will learn. I got into it by spending a week with a dealer and then I went off on my own using my sales ability learned in the insurance industry over 7-8 years and my mechanical ability. And I did pump work that I learned on my own after finding out how to pull submersible pumps from a pump supplier's guy.

    The one thing that is critical IMO is having a great supplier. A mentor if you will that will teach you from his years of experience; hopefully as a dealer and then a supplier. I had that and I'm not sure I could have survived without him. I don't know if they exist today, they have gone the way of the neighborhood grocery store. I hope you're old enough to remember them or have seen pictures. lol

    Basically all softeners and backwashed or regenerated filters work the same. The difference is the different brands of control valves and any special features they have. So if you learn control valves the rest comes easy.

    Once in the industry in any position, there's a lot of educational materials that can be used to learn from. There are 3-4 monthly magazines that can help the person learn different types of everything just by reading the ads and getting info packets from the 'manufacturers'.
  10. Pudhole

    Pudhole New Member

    Luckily that first evaluation was free but I know the other local company would charge to come see it. Thanks for the advice though.
  11. Pudhole

    Pudhole New Member

  12. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You should check if the Autotrol motor runs, if so you wouldn't need one but if the timer is bad, that can ruin the motor. So you could replace both.

    The 2500 is brass, the 2510 is black plastic (Noryl). Both come in day timer or metered versions. To replace the brine valve is simple but to replace the piston's seals and spacers you need special Fleck tools, although there are two guys that say I'm wrong; Steve Silverman (justalurker) and Kevin Young (h2oman). If you have the brass version, you need tools, if the 2510, maybe you can rig something to do it without the tools.

    There is a float in your brine tank. It may stick in the up/closed position which will prevent water flow into and out of the tank.

    There's no way to tell if the filter mineral needs to be replaced unless you take it out of the tank and find that it is clumped. Or on a time basis for carbon.

    I don't support BobNH's washing resin but it will work. Regeneration cleans resin and all you have to do for iron fouled resin is to add a resin cleaner to the salt tank with like 2-5 gallons of water and do a manual regeneration, and possibly unplug the control for 10-20 minutes in the backwash and brining positions.

    That's all I can tell you without talking to you on the phone, and we only need to do that if you needed new equipment. Or if you wanted to buy parts from me. I don't sell many parts, it drives me nuts looking them up and pricing them. Minerals and resins are easy.
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