Water softner flowing backwards.

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by chachie, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. chachie

    chachie New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Greentown, IL
    I have a clack ws-1 type water softener. Had the water softener installed at a different time from the rest of my plumbing and my Geothermal unit.

    My geothermal is open loop aka pump and dump.

    With Geo turned off and no one using water in the house, everything is fine. When the Geothermal system kicks on and no other source of water is being used, I'm getting a small amount of usage on my clack water softener. It is approximately about .5 gallons a minute WHILE the geo is on. When the Geo is off, there is no water usage.

    So....Some how my geothermal unit is leeching a small amount of water through my water softener. At this time, neither the plumber/geo, or the water softener people are owning up to any problem. I'm hoping that some how there is a bad seal in the water softener that is allowing a reverse flow of water through the softener. Does anyone have an idea and what I might do to fix this?

    Thanks

    Chachie
  2. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    Back flow/check valve on the in coming side of the softener so that the water can only go one way through the media.
    Now this is only an idea if there is truly a back flow through the softener.
  3. chachie

    chachie New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Greentown, IL
    That was my first thought...to add a check valve in front of the inlet to the water softener. But I couldn't find anyone else who had to add a check valve in front of their water softener, which leads me to believe there is a bigger issue. I have scoured the internet trying to find something on this problem I have, and was surprised there is nothing out there.

    Does anyone have an idea what would cause a clack valve to allow a reverse flow of water? Or if that isn't the case, why the meter runs when no soften water is used, but when the geothermal unit(which is in front of the inlet) runs and the water pump cycles?
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2012
  4. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    I was just working on a system that has a water line tee out in the drive way with two pressure tanks and of the tanks has the well control and the pressure switch.
    There is now a back flow check valve between the pressure tank and the softener in each house, as each house's pressure tank feeds the other house and to keep the water from flowing back even a little through the softener there is the back flow check valve.

    This set up is working great.
  5. chachie

    chachie New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Greentown, IL
    Thanks for the replies. I guess I will be installing a back flow check valve between the inlet and the geo. The geothermal is stealing about 800 gallons a day from my water softener, it would seem that if this was normal and a check valve should be part of the installation process I would of read about it somewhere. But I can't find anyone else having this problem.

    Cheers!
  6. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    My guess (and it's only a guess) is that while the geo is running the pump pressure is fluctuating up and down causing water to move back and forth across the meter. For it to do that, there has to be some room for expansion on the soft side, perhaps an expansion tank for the hot water or lots of PEX lines.

    Monitor the pressure while the geo is running to see if it is fluctuating.

    If you put in a checkvalve then you need to have an expansion tank after it.
  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Five gpm is not a small amount. And if I'm right, a backflow through the softener is not going to add to the gallons used. BTW, a backflow that causes a vacuum can bust the resin tank real easy.

    All control valves will allow backflow.

    I think you have a plumbing problem past the softener that is allowing geo water flow through the softener/house out to the well or wherever it goes. I had a softener service call on a softener I didn't sell or install with that problem many years ago and found the problem after the geo and softener guys said all was fine with their side of things. It was a 'cross connection' between the geo and potable water systems which was expensive and difficult to fix.

    I doubt you have a large enough expansion tank etc. to provide a 5 gpm flow against an open discharge geo pump.

    If you shut off the inlet side of the Clack by pass valve you shut off water to, through and past the softener. You might want to do that for a few seconds while the geo is running and see if the metered flow stops and then open it. I wouldn't close it for more than a few seconds if your geo doesn't have a pressure switch to turn off its pump or you could over pressurize and bust things.

    If closing the inlet by pass valve stops the metered flow through the softener, the cross connection is somewhere past the softener.
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I very much doubt that 5 gallons is all moving in the one direction. More than likely a much smaller amount is moving back and forth repeatedly as the pressure fluctuates.
  9. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,791
    Location:
    Ontario California
    I agree with LLigetfa, I would start with a check valve to try to stop the water fluctuating. The turbine inside the WS1 is highly sensitive to any water flow and will indicate flow regardless of flow direction. Dont forget about thermal expansion if you install a check valve.
  10. chachie

    chachie New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Greentown, IL
    Thank you for the replies.

    It's actually only 1/2 a gallon per minute(I wrote .5) sorry for the mix up. I was able to talk a "represenative" of the manufacturer of the water softener(a retired plumber of 32 years) and he gave me a few options. 1st, to install a check valve at softener inlet AND the thermal expansion tank at the water heater inlet.

    2nd, replace my water pump with a constant pressure one.

    3rd basicially disable the metered operation by lowering my hardness down to 5 and force my softener to regenerate every 3 days.

    I did look over all of my plumbing and did quite a bit of testing.(I will not go into great detail here) But there is no cross connection any where. the reps opinion is: water is flowing back and forth through the softener causing the meter to change. He doesn't think the geothermal is actually pulling in any softened water because of the distant of the geo to the softener and the amount the meter is moving.

    I have went with option 3 as of right now, since it was the quickest option. I am thinking about possibly getting a small inline constant water booster if I can find one and install it after my storage tank and Geo but in front of my water softener. I'm guess I will need to install a thermal expansion tank with this set up as well, but it might give me the best overall water experience at my faucets and hopefully not to much of a dent in my billfold.

    Thank you all for the replies
  11. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,480
    Location:
    Alaska
    By not stopping the back flow through the softener you stand to lose resin, that is unless there is an upper basket under the valve body.
    Also by not stopping the back flow through the softener the resin is getting unpacked and repacked each time there is back flow and then you turn on water inside the house.
    Neither is good for the system ..
  12. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I don't know what you base that on but most open loop geo systems that I've seen move 5 gpm + and are open discharge (hence open loop); next to no pressure builds up while the pump discharges the water down the well to below the water level.

    The pump isn't constantly turning on and off during the heat cycle run like a short cycling well pump does. And especially every minute which you are saying his has to be doing. And if it did, the pump wouldn't last long.

    I didn't see the latest reply until after posting the above. I see now it is point 5 gpm.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  13. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,713
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Could he run a line bypassing the softener with a check valve pointing toward the well, as well as the check valve at the softener inlet pointing toward the house? That would allow the geothermal pump to continue to dump into the well, and prevent reverse flow through the softener. How does the well pump handle forced reverse flow?
  14. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I doubt there are any reverse flows large enough to carry resin out but the upsetting of the pack is a possibility. Personally, I would have gone with a checkvalve and expansion tank (option 1).
  15. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Since you say you have to add an expansion tank, I take that to mean you don't have one now.

    If that's true, have the guys suggesting you have back flow and a that a band aid sol;ution check valve is needed explain how you get back flow through the softener constantly while the geo is running. If a check valve is needed, why wasn't it installed with the geo system?

    IIRC I tested the Clack meter to see if it would register a back flow by blowing on the back side of the turbine and it didn't but I could be wrong but I can say it's not easy to get a fan blade to rotate backwards, and the meter 'blade' in a Clack is a turbine type, not a paddle/water wheel type like some Fleck meters use.

    The reason you haven't heard of other open loop geo systems requiring a check valve to be added after installation is because all others didn't need one or... already had one installed as part of the geo's installation or... they simply use a solenoid valve to dump the geo when its pump comes on.

    I think you are getting some bad advice from guys that don't know open loop geo very well.

    The constant flow/variable speed pump is an expensive and dumb idea; they don't last very long without having problems. If you want to go that route, use a Cycle Stop Valve but, that too is not going to stop back flow when the geo is dumping water back down the well. And if someone thinks the check valve will cure the problem, why are they suggesting other more expensive and intrusive solutions?

    Also, you don't just change the hardness gpg to get the softener to regenerate sooner. You have to change the K of capacity (and salt dose) and/or the gallons between regenerations. And if the problem is a missing check valve why screw around with the softener regeneration schedule and use more water and salt at your expense?

    You said you didn't want to get into the testing you did to see if there was a cross connection, so how about describing your set up (pics would help) and how the storage tank you mention is being used? Or by storage tank do you mean your well pump pressure tank?

    You say your geo system comes off before the softener inlet... How is the geo system kept separate from the house potable water system?
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Gary, you seem to be missing the point. I very much doubt there is continuous backflow. Rather, there is a very small amount of flow that goes back AND forth, moving the turbine enough to generate pulses. The softener doesn't know from the pulses whether the turbine is rotating one way or the other.
  17. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,791
    Location:
    Ontario California
    It is rare, but we also see a similar problem occassionally when a recirculation pump is used for hat water in a house. The Clack turbine is one of the most sensitive on the market, highly accurate, and tends to be more prone to this than other meter designs. It is not a negative, it just goes to show how accurate the meters have gotten in the past 10-15 years. Even a small fluctuation in the water movement is seen by Clacks excellent meter design.
  18. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I don't think I'm missing a point, I read where you aren't saying continuous backflow...

    Simple question that you should be able to answer to support your position; since he doesn't have an expansion tank now, and as yet we don't know that he "has a lot of PEX" tubing that with his well water system pressure is expanding/contracting as you guess, and the Clack turbine doesn't like to run backwards, how do you see him getting non constant backflow totaling some 800 gallons per day as he has said he is seeing or has calculated?

    BTW, all valve meters have a percentage of error and thereby don't register very small flows.
  19. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,838
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Then you are just trolling. I will not feed trolls, it just encourages them.
  20. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I haven't asked about a hot water recirculation system yet because it shouldn't be the cause or the problem.

    I haven't looked up the Fleck metering specs but I disagree with you about Clack being the most sensitive because I think I recall Fleck metering being a bit better than +/-5% and no less than a 1/4 gpm.

    Here is the Clack WS-1 specs: (+/-5% and no less than a 1/4 gpm)

    Meter
    Accuracy... ± 5%
    Flow Rate Range... 0.25 – 27 gpm

    Gallon Range... 20 – 50,000 gallons
    Totalizer... 1000 - 9,999,000 gallons
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