Water Softener Causing Excess Pressure Drop?

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TheBigYahi

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We recently had a conditioning system installed and have been noticing excessive pressure drop since. We are on city water with a hardness of 10 gpg. The system is: 3/4” Meter -> 30' 3/4” copper pipe -> 9x40 GAC non-backwashing downflow filter -> Autotrol 255/760 8x44 with 1 cu-ft resin -> 3/4” supply trunk.

Any use in the house during a shower now (2 gpm) is causing the shower to droop. I ran a bunch of tests using a simple pressure gauge at various places around the house. Using our basement sink on full as a reference (softened, 5.5 gpm measured at the meter) I took readings at the garage spigot (softened) and an unsoftened spigot just after the water meter. At the meter spigot the pressure dropped from 65 psi static to 56 psi at 5.5 gpm. At the garage spigot it dropped from 64 psi static to 24 psi at 5.5 gpm. If I’m not mistaken that represents 31 psi of pressure loss through the conditioning system and roughly 45' of 3/4" pipe at 5.5 gpm. The pressure drop specification for the AutoTrol 255-760-075-844 is 8 psi at 6 gpm. Our system is operating well in excess of that. As a sanity check I also measured the pressure at the meter spigot when drawing 5.5 gpm from the front outside spigot (unsoftened) and the pressure only dropped from 65 psi to 56 psi, consistent with my other measurement.

Now that's just a test to illustrate the problem. I'm concerned because our dealer sold us that we would be able to run 2 showers and another water appliance simultaneously, up to 6 gpm rated and 7.5 gpm peak. That's obviously not the case as in real-life conditions I see a 20+ psi drop with a single 2 gpm shower and a 2 gpm toilet flush. That's enough to get us way below 30 psi at our 2nd floor shower heads and the water is barely trickling out.

A big caveat to add here is that I tried putting both the GAC filter and the softener into bypass with only a 4 psi improvement with the same 5.5 gpm load. Perhaps there's another problem in the install somewhere?

Am I expecting too much of this system? Were my measurements reasonable to determine there's something up? Our overall water usage alone isn't enough to require a larger system (regens every 14-17 days currently), but our peak demand is pushing it. We're about to get a new custom shower and I expect up to 4.5 gpm from that shower plus 2 gpm from the kid's bathroom which pushes us right up against the specified service flow rate for the softener.

I have an email out to my dealer with much of this same information but his communication on this subject has been....limited to say the least. Any advice on other things to consider?
 

Reach4

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Nice work on the pressure measurements.

Is the basement sink running hot or cold during your test? If you run the other, much difference?

Any cartridge filters in the system?
 

Bannerman

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The issue does not necessarily appear to be the equipment as you said the problem substantially continues even while the equipment is bypassed.

Check all inline valves to ensure they were reopened fully.

There was a poster some time back that experienced a similar issue when his equipment was first installed. Turns out, the plumber that installed his system, did not fully reopen the main service valve from the municipal supply so fully opening the main valve resolved his issue. That main service valve was located in front of the house, buried at the side of the road.
 

Mikey

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I had a similar problem eventually traced to an old gate valve that was only open a turn or 2, severely restricting flow. Replaced it with a ball valve.
 

TheBigYahi

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Thanks for the advice everyone. There is no real difference hot or cold. I do indeed have old gate valves on both sides of my meter and will have them checked out and replaced if necessary.
 

Reach4

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Thanks for the advice everyone. There is no real difference hot or cold. I do indeed have old gate valves on both sides of my meter and will have them checked out and replaced if necessary.
Those are before the unsoftened spigot just after the water meter. So they are not likely to be the significant cause of your drops.

You might show a photo of what is between the unsoftened spigot and the output of the softener.

If you could add a spigot after the softener, that could be good for taking readings. Your problem restriction would need to be before the pipe to the WH input tees off. What is between that tee and the softener output?

Are the GAC and softener connected with flex lines? Some of those are small on the inside.
 

Mikey

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Might be easier to draw a sketch of the plumbing to get the big picture in front of you. Reach4's suggestion about adding a spigot immediately after the softener is a good one. Puzzling that the problem remains when everything is bypassed - I'd start by resolving that puzzle.
 

TheBigYahi

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I do have a spigot on the basement sink about 10 feet away from the softener on the softened side, which is where I'm taking most of my readings. One of those old gate valves is actually after the first unsoftened spigot at the meter. I attached some pictures below.

I had a plumber in on Friday and they suggested replacing the valves around the meter and the suspicious 3/4” -> 1/2” -> 3/4” transitions around the meter. If that doesn’t fix everything, and since there was no real improvement with the conditioning system in bypass, they suggested a booster pump. I’m happy to replace the valves and transitions but I’m not sold yet on the booster. I asked them to bring one along just in case to save a third visit.

One other thing about the new conditioning system, the dealer installed a 8x44 resin tank but said there is 1 cu ft of resin in it. Everything I read says that size tank should be filled to 0.75 cu ft. I’m concerned because we recently got some hard water coming through when under heavy demand (~7.5 gpm), which is less than I'm expecting to use once the new bathroom is in. Did I get undersold? I thought I was clear when describing my needs which are somewhere over 10 gpm. Is it unreasonable to ask for a larger system to be put in and just wanting to pay the price difference from what is currently installed?

8ewzJd5dR7y9MLsJG9BB8w.jpg

2dD8us8nQ3qYh9JgRpyopg.jpg
3iXfceD4T66IwyOYfF9F9Q.jpg
 

Reach4

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I think you already have a boiler drain valve after your meter, where you can occasionally mount a pressure gauge.

If you make plumbing changes, you will want to add places where you can check the pressure.

One other thing about the new conditioning system, the dealer installed a 8x44 resin tank but said there is 1 cu ft of resin in it. Everything I read says that size tank should be filled to 0.75 cu ft. I’m concerned because we recently got some hard water coming through when under heavy demand (~7.5 gpm), which is less than I'm expecting to use once the new bathroom is in. Did I get undersold?
I think so. You have plenty of room for a 10x54 tank.
Also, he could have used 1 inch PEX instead of 3/4 for at least part of that. 3/4 inch pex is smaller ID than 3/4 inch copper. Your softener is built for 1 inch.

Is it unreasonable to ask for a larger system to be put in and just wanting to pay the price difference from what is currently installed?
I don't know.
 

Bannerman

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Where are the bypass valves located for the water treatment equipment? Can you include a photo?

Ensure all valves installed are full port ball valves, not standard port.

https://goo.gl/images/FihtPt

An 8" X 44" tank would be unsuitable for 1 cuft resin. The common tank size for 1 cuft is 9" X 48"
 
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TheBigYahi

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I'm not sure about the bypass valves, they're integral to the tank heads. See picture below.

What do you think is more likely, there is 1 cu ft of resin jammed into the 8x44 tank or it's actually 0.75 cu ft?

NWn3ePhDSyqgqEx09ymYnA.jpg
 

Bannerman

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Those are Autotrol and Clack bypass valves. I do not anticipate they are the cause of the restriction as they appear to be designed for larger diameter plumbing than your house is equipped with. Because I couldn't view the bypass valves in your earlier photos, I though maybe there was a single 3 valve bypass for both the softener and filter, located where the plumbing transitions from copper to plastic.

Many municipal water supplies utilize 60 psi pressure. That pressure is more than adequate. With multiple "bottle necks" present in your plumbing, including the 1/2" diameter sections at the water meter, it is not surprising you are experiencing flow issues. A length of 3/4" copper pipe can pass 2X the volume of water as an equivalent length of 1/2" copper pipe at the same pressure. The main line through your home is 3/4" inch for a reason and so no reductions should be present except for branch runs. Installing a booster pump would not address the cause of the problem.

As previously stated by Reach4, the plastic plumbing lines feeding the equipment appear to be somewhat small diameter. Each internal fitting contributes a further restriction even while the equipment is bypassed since those plastic tubes carry the main water flow to and from each bypass to the fixtures and appliances downstream.

With regard to the softener, almost all softeners are designed to allow approx 1/3 of the tank height to remain vacant, for the resin to expand, lift and reclassify during backwash. The vacant space is referred to as 'Freeboard'. Without the appropriate amount of space available, the resin could not be properly backwashed, negatively impacting the function and lifespan of the resin. An 8" X 44" tank is appropriate for 0.75 cuft of resin plus a gravel underbed to assist with flow through the resin bed. Likewise, a 9" X 48" tank is appropriate for 1 cuft resin + gravel.

In particular, see post #6 in this thread.

https://terrylove.com/forums/index.php?threads/gravel-bed-question.31555/

While you have not stated your water's hardness or your household water consumption, I suspect the softener was not programed appropriately which is resulting in excessive hardness leakage through the softener prior to when regeneration will occur. We can assist you with properly programing the softener, once the concerns withe the resin capacity have been resolved.

Regarding the equipment did you receive what you agreed to, were invoiced and paid for? If not, you would have valid cause to demand the installation of the equipment which you purchased and paid to receive. If any of the equipment is to be replaced, it would then open the door to discuss upgrades for a reasonable upgrade expense.
 
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Washer55

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I'm having a similar issue. Upsizing iron filter and softner today to meet capacity. Current units are 3/4 pex right over to before pressure tank plus have some sharkbite, standard port BV and gate valve lingering in between. Replacing with 1" pex and full port valves. Will report back on improvements.
 

TheBigYahi

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OK so a bunch of stuff happened this week.

First off, I called the conditioning company and they are very sure the softener setup is adequate with 1 cu ft in the 8x44. I asked about going to 10x54 with 1.5 cu ft but they said it wouldn't help and they only put systems that big into restaurants. Their claim is that I'll be limited by the valves anyway which I thought was dubious at best. They'll install the bigger system for me, but at a steeper price than I was willing to jump on immediately. I've checked all the settings on the head and I'm sure it's set close enough to right. I managed to get 9 gpm flowing through it (after the saga below) and then tested hardness and it was still 0 grains. I'm sure if I blow through that much water on a regular basis I'll want to adjust it to a higher salt dose. Still getting 1 grain of hardness out of the hot water heater, but it was in place for 10 years getting hard water. I'm sure it's caked up inside. Does anyone have any data that would show that I'll have a much lower flow restriction with the bigger softener? What about if I ask to have the GAC filter changed to upflow as originally intended?

On Friday I had a plumbing company in and they replaced all the valves around the meter and installed a SCALA2 booster pump just after the meter. There was some improvement in flow but really trivial at best with the pump off. The original valves weren't great, but they were clean throughout. The new ones are 3/4" full port. We also replaced some sections of pipe with old crusty saddle valves (why so many, prior homeowners, why?) and everywhere we opened up the pipe it was clean inside. Good news there.

Now with the pump on we were still having trouble with excessive pressure drop after the conditioning system. In addition, the pump was cycling and thumping every few seconds. We theorized it was because we had to have it all the way up (80 psi) to overcome the conditioning system's losses and it was bumping against its pressure limit. Made some sense, but the Grundfos documentation was light to say the least so we were left guessing at that behavior.

My installer (the owner) consulted with his partner (a master plumber) and they decided to move the booster to after the softener since that was the source of the losses and they claimed it was better to pull through a restriction than push through one. At this point, I'm thinking, OK that could make some sense and I'm not worried about imploding the conditioning tanks since I have positive pressure from the street. To install it over there they had to hang the pump from the ceiling with threaded rods and a 2x10. Now at this point I'm sure it's going to make a racket upstairs by shaking the floor but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if the danged thing works.

Getting to the point of this story, now I can get constant pressure up to 80 psi boosted throughout the house but not without consequence. The pump is relatively quiet until it's really flowing but at that point the sound of water in pipes and drains mostly drowns its out. I'm happy to set it at 65 psi or lower since my goal is just to get 45 psi to my second floor which will keep the pump speed (and noise) down. In fact I've set it low enough to not even turn on at all until I'm drawing around 3 gpm since below that the softener doesn't have too much pressure drop. If that's not sufficient pressure once we're in the new bathroom I could turn it up and start looking at vibration isolating hangers. A task for another time if need be.

However the big problem is that as it's hunting for the right speed there's always a flow rate that causes it to thump loudly every few seconds. This is definitely not quiet enough to ignore and doesn't instill me with confidence that it's not going to thump itself right into some sort of failure. I've left it set low for now, 44 psi, to keep it off except when really needed. My plumber says the thump is normal. I say no way. He has agreed to remove it and refund me but I'd rather have the good water pressure so I told him I'd call Grundfos tech support and get an answer. Of course they don't provide support and I need to call my local distributor...who was closed for the weekend.

I've tinkered with it a bunch this weekend so far with various flow rates and settings. Even tried different precharge pressures which seemed to help a bit, but never completely. Am I just hosed here? My water conditioning company suggested putting in a DAB E.sybox Mini 3 but at the time I didn't think to ask if it was before or after the conditioning system, nor have I ever heard of that company.

Do I have any chance of having a GAC filter, a water softener, and get 45 psi minimum on the second floor at a 7.5 gpm flow rate with 68 psi from the street? Or is a booster going to be necessary for that goal?
 
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Reach4

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I would consider putting in a tee for a pressure gauge between the two tanks. Also one on the input to tank 1 and the output of the softener, if those lines don't already have pressure gauges. This is way weird.
 
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TheBigYahi

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Ok, we've got data! I installed pressure gauges this morning before tank 1, between tanks, and after the softener tank. I also have a gauge on a boiler drain just after the booster pump.

I decided to use 6 gpm as a benchmark flow since that's the rated service flow per my softener manual (albeit with only 0.75 cu ft of media).

Pump Speed - Conditioning Mode - PSI Before Tanks - PSI Between Tanks - PSI After Tanks - PSI After Pump

@6 GPM flow
3.5 - Both On - 55 - 50 - 30 - 64
3.5 - Bypassed - 55 - 50 - 45 - 64
3.5 - Filter Only - 55 - 45 - 40 - 64
3.5 - Softener Only - 55 - 50 - 30 - 64
Off - Both On - 55 - 50 - 28 - 24
Off - Bypassed - 55 - 50 - 48 - 45
Off - Filter Only - 55 - 45 - 42 - 38
Off - Softener Only - 55 - 50 - 30 - 24

It's pretty clear to me that my filter has 10 psi drop and my softener has 20 psi drop at 6 gpm compared to a spec of 6 psi.

Another troublesome measurement is when I turn it up further to 8 gpm the pressure between the softener and pump is 0 psi. I think that's evidence that the pump should not be after the softener.

20 psi at 6 gpm is excessive, right? It's certainly above the specification of 8 psi. The spec claims 14 psi at 10 gpm for the 10x54 with 1.5 cu ft. I'd be thrilled with that performance. Is it a fact that the larger tank will have lower pressure drop for a given flow rate with the same valve body? If I have them convert the filter to upflow, will the pressure drop be less than downflow?

Pump still thumps loudly on overrun. In the process of taking the measurements above at one point I bypassed the conditioning system entirely and it still did it, so it's not related to my other issue. Again, not a surprise since it did it at the meter as well. Is this normal for this pump, or is it defective?
 

Bannerman

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Off - Bypassed - 55 - 50 - 48 - 45
This alone indicates here is an issue with the piping configuration. Although both the softener and filter are bypassed, the pressure before the pump is 7 psi lower than before the bypass, and the pressure after the pump is lower han before the pump.

Placing the pump after the softener & filter would normally cause either/both tanks to collapse if there is a flow restriction before either tank. In your case, I suspect the filter and softener are both fully filled with media, thereby preventing either tank from collapsing while under negative pressure.

It appears the water treatment company that supplied/installed your equipment, is not properly trained in water treatment methods. You now possess equipment hat was configured inappropriately and not in compliance with common industry standards. This is then leading to your confusion and dismayal on why the system is not performing properly, even after implementing other modifications to the home's plumbing system, which do not address the actual reasons for the flow problem.
 
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Bannerman

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Yes, I see the pump was off.

The pressure before the pump was 7 psi lower than before the bypass valves and 3 psi higher than after the pump. Since the non-functioning pump will not draw down the pump's inlet pressure but as there will likely be some flow restriction through the non spinning impeller, I would then expect the pump's inlet pressure would be much closer to the pre-bypass pressure than 7 psi, allowing for some flow restriction as a result of normal friction losses within a length of 3/4" pipe and a few fittings.
 
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Reach4

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The pressure before the pump is 7 psi lower than before the bypass valves and 3 psi higher than after the pump. Since the non-functioning pump will not draw down the pump's inlet pressure but as there will likely be some flow restriction through the non spinning impeller, I would then expect the pump's inlet pressure would be much closer to the pre-bypass pressure, allowing for some flow restriction as a result of normal friction losses within a length of 3/4" pipe and a few fittings.
I think the tests were run with a particular faucet on that would put out 6 gpm under some configuration, but that faucet was not adjusted to compensate to 6 gpm for a change in pressure. So where the pressures on the right were lower or higher, I expect that the test flow had actually fallen or risen significantly as a result.

TheBigYahi, do you have fine mesh resin or regular-size resin?
 
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