Compact format water softener

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buzzdriving

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I rent an apartment in Santiago, Chile where the water is very hard. For the last few years, I've been using the building's laundry on the ground floor but this costs a fortune over the long run and is frankly a ballache when you're on the 12th floor. A colossal waste of time. Not to mention the never ending hunt for coins.

With this in mind, I've decided to fork out for my own washing machine and dryer and install them in the apartment. There is a dedicated closet space with cold and hot inlets as shown in the attached image. The hot water is supplied centrally through the building's HVAC.

If possible, I would like to install a water softener. The primary purpose for this would be to protect the washing machine NOT clothes; in other words, I can do without a full-blown solution if it means only protecting the machine although minimizing damage to clothes would certainly be welcome. I don't care about hard water in the rest of the apartment.

In terms of space, the only option would be to keep the dryer somewhere else in the apartment to provide space above the washing machine to put a softener in. If it's not possible to put the softener above the washing machine, then that's game over for that idea.

If it's ok to install a softener over the washing machine, then the next issue is that I have no clue what size softener I would need for this application. Most of the options I've seen have these tall tanks that are around 100cm tall. One company's catalogue starts at 44in (112cm) which isn't going to fit into the roughly 90cm of clearance I would have above the washing machine. Do smaller form factors exist for water softeners or am I just barking up the wrong tree here? How much supporting infrastructure would I need to put in above the washing machine? I need to take "permanent changes" into account with regards to the rental agreement.

If I'm being fanciful with regards to a water softener solution, are there any other options I can consider for protecting the washing machine?

Thanks in advance for any recommendations or pointers.

closet.jpg
 
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Reach4

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There are cabinet style water softeners. Also, there are services that will bring a charged up tank to your place, and change it out maybe monthly.

However, I don't think a softener really protects the washing machine machine. If you get deposits, running a suitable acid through the machine may get rid of deposits. We could talk about that if it is of interest.
 

Bannerman

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Is the majority of your laundry washed with cold water? Hot water is typically softened while it remains cold, prior to being heated in the water heater/boiler. While it is possible to soften hot water, that will typically require specialized tanks and other components that can withstand hot water without deforming or cracking.

Although there are short (28" - 71 cm) cabinet softeners available that could likely sit on a shelf above a compact front load washer, lifting 18 Kg bags of salt up a ladder to fill the brine tank may be a chore. The low 178 cm ceiling height will also likely be too restrictive to add salt to the top opening of the brine tank.

There are RV-sized softeners that do not regenerate automatically but usually are periodically regenerated manually by adding the appropriate quantity of salt to the resin tank. Water is then run through the tank to dissolve the salt to create brine to regenerate the resin's capacity, and then to rinse away the hardness minerals and excess sodium from the resin.

Not certain if the larger diameter pipe on the left of the photo is a drain? Both the washing machine and water softener will require a functioning drain. A suitable drain will typically utilize a 'P' trap to prevent sewer gases from entering the living space. No 'P' trap is currently visible.

Examples of both short cabinet softeners and portable softeners for RV applications.
https://view.publitas.com/impact-water-products/2018-catalog-final/page/65
 
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buzzdriving

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There are cabinet style water softeners. Also, there are services that will bring a charged up tank to your place, and change it out maybe monthly.

However, I don't think a softener really protects the washing machine machine. If you get deposits, running a suitable acid through the machine may get rid of deposits. We could talk about that if it is of interest.

When researching something new, the usual problem is not knowing what questions to ask/google. Now I know that "cabinet style water softeners" are a thing so that helps enormously. Thanks. :) This will help when I'm talking to suppliers here. I will also ask them about replacement tank services, although I have low expectations in Chile...

Regarding descaling approaches, I'm wondering how much of the washing machine's internal pipes are covered. I can understand them going from the detergent drawer through the drum, etc, but how would it get back through the inlet pipe? Do machines have backwash functions?
 

Reach4

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I can understand them going from the detergent drawer through the drum, etc, but how would it get back through the inlet pipe? Do machines have backwash functions?
I can imagine you could use a utility pump, but I am not sure. I have not seen anybody discuss that. So I am thinking maybe wye the output of the utility pump into the hot and cold supplies. Have the machine discharge into a plastic garbage can. Have the utility pump pump from the garbage can.

Washing machines do normally have cleanable input filter screens. Maybe that is the only thing that has blocked up in the past.
 

buzzdriving

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Is the majority of your laundry washed with cold water? Hot water is typically softened while it remains cold, prior to being heated in the water heater/boiler. While it is possible to soften hot water, that will typically require specialized tanks and other components that can withstand hot water without deforming or cracking.

I've always used cold, although that has been due to the lack of hot water available in the building laundry and I'd like to have the option. But you raise an important point. Would it be possible that the building's HVAC softens the water before piping it into its boilers? I imagine this would be good HVAC maintenance practice? I'll ask building administration if they know. The cold water is definitely still hard, though. The other thing I wasn't aware of is that modern machines have heater elements, so presumably I could forego the hot water inlet and just use whatever option has a heated cycle?

Although there are short (28" - 71 cm) cabinet softeners available that could likely sit on a shelf above a compact front load washer, lifting 18 Kg bags of salt up a ladder to fill the brine tank may be a chore. The low 178 cm ceiling height will also likely be too restrictive to add salt to the top opening of the brine tank.

Food for thought. I'll bring this up when talking with potential suppliers.

There are RV-sized softeners that do not regenerate automatically but usually are periodically regenerated manually by adding the appropriate quantity of salt to the resin tank. Water is then run through the tank to dissolve the salt to create brine to regenerate the resin's capacity, and then to rinse away the hardness minerals and excess sodium from the resin.

As long as I don't have to do the manual regeneration too often (like every couple of months would be fine), this could work.

Not certain if the larger diameter pipe on the left of the photo is a drain? Both the washing machine and water softener will require a functioning drain. A suitable drain will typically utilize a 'P' trap to prevent sewer gases from entering the living space. No 'P' trap is currently visible.

It is, indeed, the drain. I don't know what's under the floor and if there is a built in trap in the floor, but this is something I hadn't thought about so thanks for raising it. I will ask the building superintendent what the situation is. If required, I'll put a trap in.

Examples of both short cabinet softeners and portable softeners for RV applications.
https://view.publitas.com/impact-water-products/2018-catalog-final/page/65

As I said to Reach4, this helps me know what to look/ask for. I can at least start doing some research into cabinet and RV styles now before contacting suppliers (who are not very helpful here, unfortunately).

You raised a number of issues I hadn't considered so thanks very much for the feedback. :) I'm a total noob with plumbing. :D
 

buzzdriving

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I can imagine you could use a utility pump, but I am not sure. I have not seen anybody discuss that. So I am thinking maybe wye the output of the utility pump into the hot and cold supplies. Have the machine discharge into a plastic garbage can. Have the utility pump pump from the garbage can.

Washing machines do normally have cleanable input filter screens. Maybe that is the only thing that has blocked up in the past.

Makes sense. If I don't come right with a water softener, I suppose I'll have to rig something like this up. Thanks for the suggestion!
 
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