Water softener selection help

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by chris1044, Apr 25, 2010.

  1. chris1044

    chris1044 New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    MI
    First post from a home owner newbie....I've helped plenty of friends with home projects/builds, so I'm not totally green. I was a mechanic in my former life, now an engineer, and know that there's the right way/wrong way to do things....I want to do it right, which is why I'm posting.

    Recently purchased a home that had a kinetico softener in it. It was foreclosed, and the previous tenant took it with them. That said, I need a softener before I start replacing appliances and actually living there because the water is so hard/irony.

    I've had Culligan and a local (Wolverine) company out to check the water and throw their pitches, and the Kinetico guy is coming out Tuesday for the same. The problem with them is that they want 3k+ for softeners (Culligan man said 2300, but I don't want to get stuck with Culligan proprietary equipment that they bend me over on when it breaks). Based off the two visits, this is what I have for water specs:

    Culligan man: Hardness of 25 gpg, iron of 2 ppm, iron bacteria (smell), no sulfur, no arsenic/ammonia, fairly high dissolved solids at roughly 300 (don't know the units on this).

    Wolverine: Hardness of 37 gpg, Iron of 2 ppm, Iron bacteria, no sulfur, no arsenic/ammonia, 412 for dissolved solids.

    I'll have a third sample to average against after Tuesday, but the bottom line is that it's very hard water and it's got some iron in it. We had the water tested for arsenic/nitrates/etc before we bought, so it's at least safe to drink (but not until softened IMO).

    I've done plenty of research, and from what I've gathered the Fleck 5600 and Clack WS1 seem to be good softeners. The home has CPVC plumbing through out, and I need to verify what size it is (though I believe 3/4"...it may be 1"). As of right now it is myself and the better half, but we'll have children eventually, so I want to size for the future right now. That in mind, I'm thinking I need at least a 42k grain softener.

    But, the reason I posted is because I'm not an expert. Any input here would be great...my budget isn't really limited, I just want to do it myself and not pay for the overhead/sales, and learn how it works as I'll be fixing it when it breaks down the road. I'm hoping to stay around 1500 though...

    Thanks in advance,
    Chris
  2. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Either the Fleck or the Clack are very good choices. Both are rugged and dependable and easy to service. The WS-1 is a bit easier to service and is a more efficient unit but only slightly. If there was already a softener there then the piping should be pretty close to all set up. Should only take you a couple hrs to install it.
  3. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

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    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I am concerned about the iron bacteria--it is not generally detected by smell but by the presence of slime in the toilet tanks. If you do in fact have iron bacteria you need to deal with it first because it will foul and render a softener inoperative if not killed before the softener.

    In selecting a softener valve you should consider your maximum rate of water use--the Fleck 5600 is a 3/4" valve while the Clack WS1 is a 1" valve. If your main water line is larger than 3/4" I would recommend the Clack or a 1" or larger Fleck valve. The Fleck 7000 would be my recommendation if you are buying an electronic control valve and the Fleck 2510 for an electromechanical valve.

    You will be able to buy either a Clack or Fleck unit, complete and delivered, for well under $1000 from online dealers.
    Of course you would be responsible for selection, installation, programming, and maintenance.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2010
  4. chris1044

    chris1044 New Member

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    20
    Location:
    MI
  5. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

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    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The rust in the tank is consistent with iron in the water. If the water runs clear but turns orange after sitting that is consistent with what is called clear water iron and a softener will remove the quantities you have. A softener will not remove H2S--hydrogen sulfide with is typically detected by the smell of rotten eggs.

    There is is significant discrepency in your hardness figures but if I use the higher figure (37 grains) plus compensation for 2 ppm of clear water iron I get a compensated hardness of 45. With 2 people and typical usage of 60 gpd per person that is 5400 grains per day to remove. With the iron content I recommend a regeneration every 4 days that would mean you need c. 22,000 grains capacity plus a reserve. You will need to regularly use a cleaner such as Iron Out or Resup with your iron content to keep the resin clean.

    Softeners are sized by the volume of resin and are available with 1 ft3 (often referred to as 32,000 grains), 1.25 ft3 (often referred to as 40,000 grains) 1.5 ft3 (often referred to 48,000 grains), etc.

    Given all the circumstances I would be inclined toward a 1.5 cubic foot unit for your situation so long as your peak water use is 10 gpm or less.
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The cuft of resin dictates the constant SFR (service flow rating) of the softener, and that has to be higher than the peak demand gpm the softener has to treat.

    The cuft volume of resin dictates the size of the resin tank and the size of the tank dictates the control valve that can be used to serviced that size tank. The 5600 can be used on up to a 12" diameter tank, a 2.0 cuft softener and 10" tank for a filter, a 1.5 cuft filter. The Clack WS-1 can be used on up to a 21" diameter tank for both a softener or filter, a 7.5 cuft.
  7. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    If it was me, I'd go with the Clack WS1. For the average homeowner the Clack is the easiest to service and maintain and requires very little putzing around to get up and running. It's pretty much a plug and play unit.
  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Only IF the guy that sells it tells his customer how to size the softener and how to program the control valve. I find most do not do either.
  9. chris1044

    chris1044 New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    MI
    That's what is so hard to decipher through. Each person I've had come out says something different.

    Tonite the Kinetico salesman came out, and he did have what I thought were good points of that system....though I'm not sure how much they matters. First, its a dual tank which means you're never out of soft water (big deal though if you size correctly, right?). Secondly, the regenerations occur with already softened water, which he claimed made it so the softener cleans the resin beads better and therefore is better suited to handle the iron - any truth in this? Lastly, the units regen from the bottom up, where as most others regen from the top down which is where you get your sediment build up which causes touble down the road....

    He said our hardness was at 27 gpg, which is inline with what the culligan man said at 25. I'm calling it a wash between all three and going to say it's 30 gpg, so I'm oversized as opposed to undersized. He also said my iron was at 2ppm.

    His comment about iron is what I'm most concerned about; he wasn't strictly a kinetico dealer, and sold everything from 300 bucks up. He said that he could sell me a decent electric regen softener, but that without an iron filter in front of it i'd likely end up with trouble in a few years....any input on this?

    If a softener with a Clack WS1 will handle the iron, then I'm all about doing it myself. I just want to make sure that if I spend the money, it'll last for at least 10 years with no issues. I'm not sure what well pressure is, but our CPVC is only 3/4" for what that's worth...not sure what I'd need for flow rates, but I'm sure 10gpm will suffice (not sure what the absolute for 3/4" is...)
  10. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Then find someone on the internet that you can trust and buy it from him and invest the couple hours it takes to install it yourself.

    Never out of soft water is only important IF you need it 24/7, like rotating shift workers, flight crews or someone working very odd and random hours.

    So regenerating with soft water is a benefit if you have iron.... that's wrong or there is such a small 'improvement' you can't measure it but.... iron fouls resin regardless of how the softener control valve regenerates the resin. And that is why Kinetico dealers love selling Res Up and other resin cleaners. And if that claim were true, why wouldn't the vast majority of softeners used with iron water be twin tank models?

    Upflow brining, counter current regeneration, is used when the product water is used for like electronics and pharmaceutical manufacturing where hardness leakage (how much hardness is still in the softened water) is held to very small amounts in mg/l form. Kinetico is selling it as a good thing in the residential market where it is not needed.

    That is the right thing to do so it is not over sizing, it is sizing correctly.

    He is normal, no Kinetico is strictly a Kinetico dealer only. They all sell the same stuff I and all other independet dealers sell. The only things that Kinetico makes is the control and by pass valves and the brine pickup tube and float.

    He is BSing you about the need for an iron filter simply to make his Kinetico look as if it is a better choice. That type thing should be illegal but this is a free country so it is not illegal. But either way he flatly lied to you. And probably would have made a sale had he been honest and treated you like his brother, sister or grandmother. But then only rarely do you find that type person selling high priced Kinetico because the first lie he told was in attempting to justify their higher priced Kinetico where most of it is the same stuff he then says won't work without an iron filter in front of it.

    "without issues".... how can anyone honestly tell you anything won't have "issues" for ten years? I can tell you most softeners using a Clack WS-1CS control valve probably won't have issues for ten years but may anyway. It depends on how you treat it and if the wind blows just right. :)

    If you want to you can change the 3/4" CPVC to 1" CPVC or maybe 3/4" or 1" sch 40 PVC.

    You can click on the link in my signature to learn more about correctly sizing a softener.
  11. chris1044

    chris1044 New Member

    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    MI
    Which is exactly why I'm posting here...this is the plan. It's just difficult to weed through all the sales garbage about how a softener should work for the most longevity, etc.


    This is a good point...I don't need it 24/7. More than anything, I want to make sure I'm sized correctly so my salt use is very efficient.

    You make a valid point. However, much of my reasoning behind my post was that I don't know what type of softener is typically used with Iron water. If a single unit (sized properly) can handle 2ppm iron for 10 years or so, than I have no reason to worry - I just want to make sure this is the case.

    The upflow potion makes sense to me from a logical standpoint, but I'm not familiar with how efficient standard regens are in riding the tank of sediment. Again, another reason for my posts - if a standard downflow regen won't be an issue in longevity, then I have nothing to worry about.

    I'm going to say that my compensated hardness is 38 - this is derived from 30gpg average hardness and then 2ppm iron * 4 that your sizing chart has. Doing this and sizing it for 4 people puts me at around 80,000 grains for an 8 day regen. However, you state that I may want to regen every 4 if I have 2ppm+ iron...why the extra regen if the softener is sized large enough to handle it?


    Did not know this...good to know

    Again, didn't know this...exactly why I'm posting.


    This is true with anything...a warranty is nice, but often times they find a way to say you "voided" it anyhow. Plus, as I'm a DIY on everything, I'll likely be fixing it when it breaks (which is why I want to install it - so I know how it works).

    No issues with what I have now for plumbing...3/4 will be fine for now. Any suggestions on whether I should go with a larger tank to accomidate the iron or cut regen periods in half, and why it'd be better to do one or the other??

    At the end of the day, I want a softener that is sized properly, doesn't use a ton of water to regen, and doesn't have to be filled with salt every month. Right now it needs to be sized for myself and my wife, but down the road I'll have children, which is why I used 4 people in my sizing calculations....I'd like to be able to put salt in it for 4-5 months and not need to worry about it.
  12. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

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    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    4 people..
    A spread sheet that I have come up with shows a single 1.5 cubic and your numbers and 4 people 31 40# bags of salt a year. A twin with the same size tanks and the rest of the numbers the same shows 24 bags.
    7 bags less..

    Just some thoughts on it..
  13. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The standard/normal softener is a two tank (separate resin and salt tanks) softener. Twin tanks (2 resin tanks and a slalt tank) softners are used when the business or household is using water 24/7; unless you run into a Kinetico salesman.

    Logic says that if we have the same amount of resin in the resin tank of each type of softener, and we set the salt dose at the same number of lbs used per regeneration, we have the same salt efficiency no?

    So tell me how drawing the salt brine UP through the resin, counter current regnerated as with Kineticco, as opposed to DOWN through the resin, co current regneration with regular softeners, changes the salt efficiency. Isn't salt efficiency based only on how much salt is used? Yes it is, just like fuel efficiency, Wankel engine compared to a V6 or V8 or four banger right?

    Would you buy a car today to haul future children AND until the kids arrive add the same weight to the car as the kids will weigh by the time they are say 10 years old? I don't think so, and you shouldn't do that with the sizing of this softener today.

    You need the ability to change the settings/programming of the softener to accommodate the additional water use as you add family members, and a corectly sized softener will provide that additional capacity flexibility.

    Another thing is that they over charge you for the equipment warranty to be able to give you the warranty and chances are you will never use the warranty. If I were charging their prices I too could give you the same warranty but me, I think those people that have problems should pay their own way rather than me over charging all my customers for the warranty. The guy that doesn't maintain his softener or tinkers with it while not knowing what he is doing and breaks something, or fails to protect it from whatever that causes problems should pay, not my customer that doesn't have the problems. To me charging everyoe more is not fair to those customers that don't have problems.

    Actually 3/4" CPVC has a lower flow rate than 3/4" copper or PVC because the hole in the pipe and it's fittings is a smaller ID. So it is a good idea to replace it with 3/4" PVC or 1" CPVC. Especially with the larger size softener I think you need. More water flow at a correspondingly higher psi (less friction pressure loss) gets better backwash cleaning of the resin; especially when removing iron. Cleaner resin lasts longer and does a better job of removing hardness and iron.

    Larger softeners cost more and use more water per regeneration so cutting back to an average of 4 days cuts the capacity needed in half and will reduce the size of the softener and its purchase price but, you still need to be able to increase the capacity with decent salt efficiency when kids arrive. And you always need the constant SFR gpm to be higher than the peak demand flow rate gpm of the house as to how you guys use water.

    If you fill the salt tank you will eventually run the softener out of salt. Checking it weekly and adding a bag more frequently is the best way. I cover that in the instructions I send all softener customers.

    And we now have AKpsdvan saying a twin tank will use less salt, which it won't.

    So ask him to prove his claim.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2010
  14. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

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    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I also believe twin resin tank softeners use less salt when properly set up.

    All other things equal the reason twin softeners use less salt is that no reserve (which on average leads to unused capacity) is nessary to account for the time between reaching programmed capacity and the time of regeneration .
  15. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Yet all twin tank softeners use salt to create the capacity they use to soften the water that is used during regeneration of the other tank with softened water.

    So if each resin tank of the two different type softenrs have the same volume of the same type of resin in them, and both softerners have the same number of lbs of salt being used to regenrate with, don't both softeners have the same salt efficiency?
  16. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

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    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I share your thinking that up flow regeneration is more efficient, or at least has the potential to be more efficient, than down flow regeneration. The reason is that the brine moves directly into the resin rather than having to move down through the 18" or so of water at the top of the tank --with resulting dilution of the brine--that happens with down flow regeneration.

    That said down flow regeneration is the most widely used approach in the US and most internet Sellers of softeners don't even list up flow regenerating softeners on their sales pages. I am a firm believer of staying in the mainstream with equipment so while I think up flow regeneration has some technical advantages I don't recommend.
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Dilution is caused by the slow rinse water flow that creates the vacuum needed to suck/lift heavy brine water into the resin bed and it is diluted more because of the water in the tank. Which is the same as down flow and the water above the resin.

    UPflow brining's benefit is to more fully regenerate the resin in the bottom of the column of resin (bottom of the tank) which the water goes through last on it's way to being used, it is done that way to limit/control leakage of hardness for certain manufacturing requirements, not to save salt/increaqse salt efficiency.

    If UPflow is said to be good, you could likewise say, which no one does, that downflow brining treats the water at the top of the column of resin and prevents used capacity in the lower part of the cloumn of resin.

    And potential doesn't count, you get what you get.
  18. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

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    Location:
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    Up Flow regeneration will work when the resin bed stays Packed.. even with the up flow brine action will unpack the resin bed and let brine get past resin with out full recharging taking place.

    Even if there is what is called an upper basket in the softener that is not enough to keep the resin bed from unpacking while in brine rinse mode.

    The Water Boss and Water Max are the only ones that I know of that have in the tank a screen on top and bottom of the resin to hold it in place while the brine/rinse is going on , thus keeping the resin bed packed.
  19. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

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  20. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Bob, none of those sites sell the CS version.

    One site of the three doesn't sell anything with a Clack WS-1 on it.

    All three use a chart for sizing that is useless and causes the customer to use the max salt dose lbs for the cuft volume of resin and the K of capacity they suggest. That gives their customers very poor salt efficiency.

    IIRC only one of the two selling the Clack WS-1 EE tells their customer how to get into the dealer's side of the programming where 98% of all the programming is done. That means the customer uses the default settigs which do not match the K of capacity on their sizing chart.

    One of the two selling the Clack WS-1 EE has higher prices than my price for the same size but they do not include everything that I do.

    The other one that sells the Clack WS-1 EE has a lower price for the same size but again, they too do not inlude everything that I do.

    If you were trying to help the OP you've failed IMO.

    Here is a link to one of those sites' sizing chart. IIRC all three use the same chart; I know that the two selling the Clack WS-1 EE do.

    http://www.discountwatersofteners.com/Articles.asp?ID=127
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