Neutralizer/Softener Recommendations

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by esachica, Feb 8, 2008.

  1. esachica

    esachica New Member

    Feb 8, 2008
    Hi all (long post alert):

    Our current neutralizer & water softener are 20 years old & having problems. I am doing my due diligence, researching replacing them with new equipment, perhaps ourselves. We are handy with home repair, know how to install/sweat copper piping, do basic electrical, etc.

    I also have 3 companies coming out to give us service recommendations/new equipment quotes:
    * Our current local, family-owned company
    * A Kinetico dealer (yes, yes, I know :) but I got a free water test and a price quote for comparison)
    * A local independant who used to be a service tech for our system several years ago & now has his own business.

    Our water tests as follows:

    Iron 4.5
    pH 6.5
    Hardness 7
    TDS 165
    Manganese 0

    The home is a rental duplex with well/septic. 2 adults/2 children on one side (tenants); currently only 1 adult on the other (family), but future occupancy a few years down the line could be up to 2 adults/2 children also, so any system should be sized to handle that potential.

    Each side has 1 full bath, 1 half bath. 4 outside faucets total. Well is 150' deep. New Gould pump put in about 5 years ago. I want to say 1.5hp, but I have to pull the paperwork. I would also have to go out & measure the well draw, but likely 100'.

    The Welltrol pressure tank was replaced a year or two ago. I'd have to pull the paperwork on that too - Kinetico rep said it was an 8 gallon. Refill time on it was 38 seconds, so he estimated a 12.5gpm draw from the well. Shouldn't the pressure tank be sized to take 2 minutes to fill, or am I misunderstanding something about fill time/pump wear & tear?.

    A family member had the tank replaced when we were on vacation, so unfortunately I wasn't around to get involved with sizing. The house tends to have pressure problems. Pressure guage is set to 30/50. On occasions pressure problems have been from iron-clogged lines coming from the well. The softener repair tech has cleared them in the past. But it's possible the tank is undersized for a 2 family/8-person/4 bathroom residence. That's an issue for another day. But please chime in if you like :)

    The well tends to get iron bacteria so we chlorine-shock every few years or so. In the past we've seem to have ferric (precipitated) iron as well as ferrous (dissolved) when sampling raw well water, although when the Kinetico rep tested it, the water at the kitchen faucet with the system on bypass appeared clear. Fresh toilet water is slightly yellow however (in a newly installed toilet, with no iron build up in it or tank). Kinetico rep only tested for ferrous iron. Is there a field test for ferric?

    Interesting sidenote - we had a lightening strike in the backyard about 40' from the wellhead in July 07, so it's possible this fragged the aquafer a bit and changed the water properties from what we used to experience if the underground flow has revised somewhat.

    So...what would you recommend for a neutralizer & softener system? Sizing (cu.ft./grains of hardness/etc)? Standard resin or fine mesh? Single tank? Dual tank? Plain Calcite or a Calcite/Corosex blend? Percentage? Anything else I should take into account?

    I've been reading on this forum (and others) about the various choices among Fleck, Clack & Autotrol valve assemblies, Structural tanks, etc.

    Problems with the current system:
    1. Needs servicing - last time was 2 years ago.

    2. I suspected neutralizer needed Calcite. pH upon retest thru system remained at 6.5, so neutralizer is obviously not doing anthing.

    3. Neutralizer has a side-mount valve head. Current company says these are no longer made and they can't get parts for them. Likely if they try to clean it (it often gets clogged with iron bacteria slime) & refill with Calcite, some metal components inside will breeak and not be replacable.

    4. They quoted me over the phone $2400 to replace it. Uh-huh. $5k for the whole sytem.

    3. Iron on retest went from 4.5 on bypass to 2.4 thru system. Likely softener is removing some iron, but without the neutralizer to help out, it can't get it all? Or possibly some problem with the softener system. Kinetic rep hooked up a mini-softener to the kitchen tap & the water showed no iron upon the second retest.

    4. I don't know how old the current resin bed is, although I could find out on Monday from my current company. But I'd bet it's old.

    5. One of the valve heads was replaced several (5? 8?) years ago - I think the softener one. Something with the injectors or gear assembly breaking, if my memory serves (it may not :)) Data would be available from current service company.

    6. Pressure has been more lousy than usual lately, along with periodic yellow-ish water, which is what prompted my service call, along with knowing it had been 2 years since they were out. Pressue is just adequate to run the shower on the 2nd floor. If you turn on a faucet or flush the toilet, there's no water for the shower.

    7. We probably need to do some replumbing coming off of the pressure tank to help with the pressure situation. There's only 3/4", and I think even some 1/2" mixed in there to service the house. We don't reside there; I have to measure & see what's there.

    8. Pressure problem may also be related to pipes fouled with iron/iron bacteria from raw well water. One of the guys coming Monday will be looking at this. We've had to have the piped coming from the well to the pressure tank cleaned in the past (I think that was the section that needed cleaning). They were filled with gunk.

    FWIW, here's the Kinetico quote, which considering some of the prices I've heard for these things, doesn't seem bad. But is it undersized?
    1. Kinetico Mach 2060 backwashing neutralizer. This is a non-electric and double tanked system. It is also metered and comes with a 10 year parts warranty. The cost for this unit is $1895.00 installed.

    2. Kinetico Mach 2060 softener. This unit has the same features as the neutralizer and costs $2445.00 installed.

    3. Tenergy 1.5 cft single tank electric neutralizer. This is an economical alternative to the Kinetico Mach 2060 neutralizer. The unit has a fleck valve and costs $1600.00. The warranty is 5 years on the valve and 10 years on the tank.

    4. Tenergy 1.0 cft single tank water softener. This unit also has a Fleck valve and costs $1895.00 installed. A larger 1.5 cft unit is $2150.00.

    All units include a bypass valve. The water softeners include 3 bags of potassium chloride. Should you decide to replace both units I will re-plumb from the well tank to the split in 1†at no additional cost. Should you choose the Kinetico units I will include a device (at no charge) that does not allow both systems to backwash at once. Since the units are metered there is the possibility that they both backwash at the same time and with two apartments requiring water you could have low pressure. The lock out kit only allows one unit to backwash at a time.

    Thanks with your help with any recommendations or advice! Anything else I should find out or questions I should ask? I have the two other companies coming on Monday to give me their assesment.

    If you need any further info, let me know. I tried to be as comprehensive as I could with the info I currently have on hand, so you could best advise.

    And if you read this far, you are of sturdy stock indeed!

  2. esachica

    esachica New Member

    Feb 8, 2008
    Oh, I thought of another question:

    * What is the typical plumbing guarantee on installation/labor? 1 year? 90 days?

    If we go with a new system, plumbing work will likely be needed. The current system is installed in a very convoluted manner. I'd like to upgrade to 1" if we can if if that will help flow/pressure.

    It would seem that plumbers of good workmanship skills should warrantee their installation for some sort of time frame. It would not be good to have everything installed, spring leaks shortly thereafter & have them say, sorry, only parts are warranteed.


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  4. patrick88

    patrick88 Plumber

    Sep 3, 2007
    Webster Ma.
    I warranty my work for 1yr. I would ask the plumber that show up for what ever warranty he offers and get it in writing. I don't warrant freeze bursts.
  5. esachica

    esachica New Member

    Feb 8, 2008
    Thank you. Yes, that was my thought of standard practices.

    Interestingly...when I asked the Kinetico rep for a written copy of the 10 year parts warrantee, he said he gives them out when the system is purchased (contract signed?). Hmmm...that did not sound right to me & I told him so. Kinetico's website says to ask your local dealer for a copy & they'll give it to you. Besides, if they are quality equipment and stand behind their warrantee, why should I not be able to read it in advance? <insert innocent voice>.

    Granted, I know there's a 3-day right of rescission on the written contract in this state, but jeez...why would you make your customers jump thru hoops?

    When I pressed him, he said he didn't have it with him, but was clearly upset that I'd asked for it in writing. I told him I always review warranties as part of my proposal review. Couldn't email along with his proposal, no .pdf of it. My fax is down for him to fax it. I, reluctlantly, got him to agree that he would mail me a copy of it.

    He said he gives a 1-year warrantee on labor, but we'll see if I get that in writing too. He definitely walked out the door with a cold attitude after having been professional during the assessment/discussion.

    He picked the wrong person to give such a cold shoulder to, if that's what it was. You really shouldn't tick off an educated woman homeowner who owns her own power tools :) I was certainly open to finding out more about Kinetico & considering them as one of the replacement options. While it would be nice to save the current system, if it comes down to dropping a grand to repair it, I'd be better off with new. Remains to be seen if I stick with a local company or we do it ourselves.

    His closing gave me the heeby-jeebies as if he was from C*ll*g*n.

    Ah, well...

  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wherever I park the motorhome.
    That side mount control valve you have, it is a Fleck 1500 ad any dealer that wants to should be able to repair it. As far as I know Fleck still makes it and the parts. Some dealers won't know that and most others will want to replace the whole thing and tell you there are no parts for it...

    Kinetico prices are ripoffs IMO and their customers pay a premium price based for the name. The only Kinetico parts are the the control valve, by-pass valve and plumbing connectors. The rest of the filter or softener is industry standard tanks and resin that all of us independent dealers sell.

    Only Kinetico dealers can sell you parts and the dealer usually will not tell you how to fix the thing so you have to pay them to do it. You can't change your hardness without a different disc. Also, there are many other less than stellar things I could say but I think the things I've mentioned are sufficient because of your comments concerning the dealer or salesman.

    Also, 98% of families do not need a twin tank immediate regenerated type softener, or filter, because they have an hour and a half during the night when no water is being used so that a normal two tank type softener can be regenerated.

    I'll wait to comment more until after you have all the info from all the companies and you decide if you are going to do the simple straight forward plumbing to install equipment yourself or not. I strongly suggest you DIY by buying online but before you buy anything, visit the sizing page on my web site and learn abut the correct sizing of a filter or softener for the number of people in the building and the SFR the building's and fixtures and the types of fixtures require.
  7. esachica

    esachica New Member

    Feb 8, 2008
    Thanks, Gary. AFA the Fleck 1500 - is this the one you mean: (specs)

    This setup doesn't look like what we have. The size & shape of the valve casing does though. Does this come available in two setups - choice of top mount or side mount? (I did some quick Googling & it looks like it, from price lists. Haven't seen any photos though.)

    Our valve assembly is to the right of the tank. There is a copper pipe going into the tank from the valve about 6" or so from its top. The copper pipe runs down the side of the outside of the tank & inserts into it again about 6" from the bottom. There is nothing on top of the tank, other than a large black plastic disk, about 4" across, that removes for servicing the insides.

    Our current company is claiming that metal parts that are INSIDE the tank are not repairable, that this setup is no longer manufactured. Not that I'm saying that I believe them :). Are you familiar with that type of setup?

    If they are right, that would be the the distributor tube or bottom basket, right? Unless side mounts have something extra inside that I haven't found out about yet. Why would those not be replaceable?

    I tried to locate the model number on the valve assembly & was having trouble. It didn't say the manufacturer name that I could tell. The Kinetico rep thinks that it's an Autotrol, FWIW. Not that he's necessarily right. I haven't been at the duplex in a couple of days. I'll try again today.

    I want to have data in hand to give my current company a piece of my mind on Monday, if I choose to (caveats about burning bridges and all that). They are my Monday a.m. appointment.

    My p.m. appointment on Monday is the tech who used to service our tanks (very well, I might add) & started his own business. From our conversation, he is willing to service as-is, sounded the most informed & also thought we were getting the run-around about needing to replace equipment.

    Worse case scenario, if replacement is needed, we may still replace ourselves, but retain the tech with the new business for servicing, depending on what he quotes us for labor to install. We'll see.

  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wherever I park the motorhome.
    Yes that's it but there is no picture of a side mount, it says side mount on the left edge of the page. They are showing a metered version instead of the time clock type you would use on a AN filter. The cover is different than on yours, you'll have the old style.

    The pieces inside the tank are another matter. If acid has eaten them then you'd need new, and again, any dealer that wants to should be able to get them although maybe not through their usual supplier in some cases. They are not the same as a bottom or top basket. I could get both the side mount version valve and the internal parts from a few suppliers. Being 20 years old, the side mount used FRP tanks, I'd replace the whole thing with a new top dome hole tank and Clack WS-1 control valve including the by pass valve and plumbing connectors. Visit my web site to see that.

    Autotrol has never made a side mount anything.

    Service of an AN filter is very easy and simple, along with being foolproof. I send all my customer the instructions. You can buy the mineral from most dealers, online or local. It is inexpensive and usually you don't need to add mineral more than every 12-24 months. You sound handy and if you ca nread English and match a picture in the manual to your control valve, you can totally rebuild a Clack WS-1 and have the water back on in 30 minutes. And the only tool you need is a pair of channel lock type pliers. A repair usually takes maybe 10 minutes. It's the best control valve for a DIYer that wants to save service call charges and inflated parts prices and fix their softener etc. on their time schedule. And that should be more important when tenants are involved.
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