Is bacteria growth in water softener while snow birding an issue?

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Parasound

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Our water softener is around 20 years old and I have been trying to prolong it's life by using Res Care and Iron Out to clean the resin. However I think it's time to replace it because it is giving us itchy dry skin, scratchy clothes and deposits on the shower surrounds, plus some issues below.

I have tested it with the Hach 5B and it requires frequent regenerations. Then the cold side usually stays at 0 grains of hardness, but the hot water side is always 1 grain of hardness.

The other day, in an attempt to speed up the process of getting softer hot water, I opened up every hot water sink and shower in the house to get more of the soft cold water into the hot water heater quicker, hoping it will test 0 grains like the cold water side does.

Once it ran out of hot water and just cold was coming out I shut down all the hot water sinks and showers. I then noticed what looked like tan or very light brown deposits on shower floor. I wiped it up with a white cloth and it turned the white cloth tan/brown.

I'm thinking it could be rust? But that doesn't seem right because the hot water heater is only one year old. Maybe the rust is coming from the water softener? I put in a 1/2 cup of Iron Out into the brine well and did a regen. I have yet to see if that helped, but I think I am wasting my time trying to rejuvenate a 20 year old softener with regular use of Res Care and Iron Out.


Anyway, we may be gone for 1 to 4 months in the winter traveling south. And I read that the SoftPro water softeners have a mode that when we are not home for 7 days they will do a quick backwash to keep bacteria from growing in the system. And it appears the Quantum and the SoftPro are some of the only ones with that feature.

Is bacteria growth in water softeners (which may not be in use for a few months in the winter) an issue worth worrying about?
Any idea what the sediment was on the shower floor?
 

Bannerman

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You haven't specified various things:
Water source - municipal (chlorinated) or private well (un-chlorinated)?
Hardness of incoming water before softener?
Capacity of the existing softener? If unknown, what are the dimensions of the media tank (not the brine tank)?
Monthly water usage or number of residents?
The brand and model of the current softener control valve? Post a photo.
If the water source is a private well, post the current lab test report pertaining to the raw water directly from the well.

Have you been regularly removing sediment/debris from the water heater by draining water from the drain valve located near the bottom of the water heater?

Since the outflow from the softener is testing at 0 gpg, the softener seems to be working. While 1 gpg in the hot water is negligible, unless there is a water filter or other water treatment device currently located between the softener and WH, the source of the increased hardness seems to be the water heater.

A water softener is not a water filter. A softener can remove some ferrous iron (clear - dissolved iron) from non chlorinated water, a softener will not remove ferric iron which is solid rust particles which are not dissolved. Ferric iron maybe removed utilizing a simp!e sediment cartridge filter.
 
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Parasound

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You haven't specified various things:
Water source - municipal (chlorinated) or private well (un-chlorinated)?
Hardness of incoming water before softener?
Capacity of the existing softener? If unknown, what are the dimensions of the media tank (not the brine tank)?
Monthly water usage or number of residents?
The brand and model of the current softener control valve? Post a photo.
If the water source is a private well, post the current lab test report pertaining to the raw water directly from the well.

Have you been regularly removing sediment/debris from the water heater by draining water from the drain valve located near the bottom of the water heater?

Since the outflow from the softener is testing at 0 gpg, the softener seems to be working. While 1 gpg in the hot water is negligible, unless there is a water filter or other water treatment device currently located between the softener and WH, the source of the increased hardness seems to be the water heater.

A water softener is not a water filter. A softener can remove some ferrous iron (clear - dissolved iron) from non chlorinated water, a softener will not remove ferric iron which is solid rust particles which are not dissolved. Ferric iron maybe removed utilizing a simp!e sediment cartridge filter.



Water source - municipal (chlorinated) or private well (un-chlorinated)? Municipal (chlorinated)

Hardness of incoming water before softener? 13 gpg

Capacity of the existing softener? If unknown, what are the dimensions of the media tank (not the brine tank)? 20 year old AquaMagic, Cabinet style, Autotrol 460i, resin tank 35” tall and diameter of 10”.

Monthly water usage or number of residents? 2 retired adults, so not a lot.

The brand and model of the current softener control valve? Post a photo. Autotrol 460i

If the water source is a private well, post the current lab test report pertaining to the raw water directly from the well. Municipal (chlorinated)

Have you been regularly removing sediment/debris from the water heater by draining water from the drain valve located near the bottom of the water heater? Water heater is about one year old, and I have not flushed it since it was new.

Since the outflow from the softener is testing at 0 gpg, the softener seems to be working. While 1 gpg in the hot water is negligible, unless there is a water filter or other water treatment device currently located between the softener and WH, the source of the increased hardness seems to be the water heater. There isn’t a filter there.


20 years ago the original setting with the Autotrol 460i was:
Hardness - 21 gpg
Capacity - 24
Salt setting - 8

Recently I have gradually increased the settings because I was running out of soft water between regenerations.
Current settings:
Hardness - 28 gpg
Capacity - 19
Salt setting - 8


The reason I have increased the settings was because;
I have been manually regenerating weekly for about the last 4 weeks, because, while checking daily with the Hach 5B kit, I was running out of soft water before the Autotrol 460i regenerated on it's own.


.
 
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Valor Plumber

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Our water softener is around 20 years old and I have been trying to prolong it's life by using Res Care and Iron Out to clean the resin. However I think it's time to replace it because it is giving us itchy dry skin, scratchy clothes and deposits on the shower surrounds, plus some issues below.

I have tested it with the Hach 5B and it requires frequent regenerations. Then the cold side usually stays at 0 grains of hardness, but the hot water side is always 1 grain of hardness.

The other day, in an attempt to speed up the process of getting softer hot water, I opened up every hot water sink and shower in the house to get more of the soft cold water into the hot water heater quicker, hoping it will test 0 grains like the cold water side does.

Once it ran out of hot water and just cold was coming out I shut down all the hot water sinks and showers. I then noticed what looked like tan or very light brown deposits on shower floor. I wiped it up with a white cloth and it turned the white cloth tan/brown.

I'm thinking it could be rust? But that doesn't seem right because the hot water heater is only one year old. Maybe the rust is coming from the water softener? I put in a 1/2 cup of Iron Out into the brine well and did a regen. I have yet to see if that helped, but I think I am wasting my time trying to rejuvenate a 20 year old softener with regular use of Res Care and Iron Out.


Anyway, we may be gone for 1 to 4 months in the winter traveling south. And I read that the SoftPro water softeners have a mode that when we are not home for 7 days they will do a quick backwash to keep bacteria from growing in the system. And it appears the Quantum and the SoftPro are some of the only ones with that feature.

Is bacteria growth in water softeners (which may not be in use for a few months in the winter) an issue worth worrying about?
Any idea what the sediment was on the shower floor?
Uffda. Testing hot water will always be wrong. Unless you let it cool. Even then it’s impossible to remove all calcium from it.

I take it your waters off wile snowbirding?
Most softeners have a day override so at least once a month or 1-99 days you can set to regenerate wile not in use. I highly recommend upon returning doing a Power clean. With a cup of bleach in brine tank.
To enable power clean on most models. Manually start a regeneration then press the button again. This usually shows a tiny x2 next to the ♻️ Regen symbol. Or says power clean. This means it will cycle back to back. Most cases about 180 minutes. Best to do this befor bed, or when you don’t need water.
 

Bannerman

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Sorry, I missed your earlier reply to my questions.

I anticipate after 20 years of continuous contact with chlorinated water, your softener's resin is damaged and will require replacement.

A common obvious symptom of chlorine-damaged resin is a restriction to flow at higher flow rates, but as your water use is relatively modest with likely only one fixture being usually utilized at a time, a reduction of flow through the softener may not be noticeable.

A 10" X 35" tank will usually contain 1 cubic foot of resin + 15 lbs of bedding gravel.

While constant chlorine exposure will eventually degrade every type of softening resin, 10% crosslinked resin will better tolerate chlorine compared to resin with a lower crosslink rating. FYI, most high-quality standard resin will have 8% cross-linking whereas lower cost and many imported resin's cross-link rating will be less than 8%.
 
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