Water Softener & Filter Questions for City Water

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, Questions and Answers' started by WorldPeace, Oct 18, 2021.

  1. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Hi, Everyone,

    I've spent a lot of time reading threads here and tons of articles online about water softeners. I've literally spent days. I still have a ton of questions I was hoping you guys could help me with.

    My home's water is supplied by my town. I live in a 2,000 sq ft home with a wife and 2 kids. We have hard water. The exact number is unknown but the town claims it's about 13-15 GPM. Due to the buildup of lime, I would like to get a whole-house water softener as well as a point-of-use water filter for my kitchen sink.


    1. Do I need to test my water if I use city water? Reading the threads in this forum, I know it's necessary for homes with well water to get tested but my water comes from the town. I have the annual water quality report. Would simply getting my water tested for hardness be sufficient or do I need to shell out $300 for the water test? I have already ordered the Hach 5B Total Hardness test kit which is going to take 3 weeks to come from Amazon.


    2. National Labs Water Test. How is their test compared to the tons of local labs that I see listed by my state? I haven't called for prices but are local labs cheaper? Is there a difference in quality and reliability?


    3. Weird Water Usage. Looking at my past water bills, it states that my family of 4 uses on average 83 gallons per day. The maximum is 108 gallons per day. People have said the average usage is 75-100 per person so the 108 per house seems extremely low. Further, I don't think my family is particularly water-saving conscious either. Nevertheless, this is the number I got and I rechecked it multiple times so I guess I have to go with it? What average water usage do you think I should use to determine the size of my water softener? For example, should I go with an average water usage of 50 (actual is 21) just to be safe?


    4. Should I use softened water for my kitchen sink? From what I've read, it appears that drinking softened water is fine. Furthermore, I am installing a water filter at the kitchen sink. I was just wondering if people had an opinion that I should be aware of.


    5. Should I install a TDS meter for my water filter? What's a good brand/model? I noticed that aquarium hobbyists install a TDS meter to determine if they need to replace their filter. I'm thinking that this would be a good thing for water filters for humans, right? Instead of relying on a time interval, it's probably better to use a meter to know exactly when the filter needs to be replaced. (Note: Even if the TDS meter doesn't indicate replacement, the water filter should be replaced at a minimum time interval, due to the growth of bacteria inside the filter.) Do you think this is a good decision?


    6. Should I install a backwash carbon filter before the water softener? Some people have recommended this. It will help remove chlorine which damages the water softener's resin beads. It will also help purify the water in addition to the water filter at the kitchen sink. On the other hand, removing the chlorine will necessarily increase the level of bacteria growth in the pipes. Is this something you guys recommend?


    7. How to deal with increased bacteria load? If I do install a charcoal filter, it will remove the chlorine which kills bacteria. I watched a pretty reliable video that determined this can lead to a high amount of bacteria within the non-chlorinated pipes. What's a good way to deal with this? Should the charcoal filter be periodically bypassed (maybe turned off for a week) so the pipes become sterilized again?


    8. Where to buy the water softener? I noticed that people in this forum have warned that it's not a good idea to buy water softeners from online companies. They evidently sell cheap parts. So, where should I buy the water softener? Are companies like AFWFilters, Durawaters, Pentair, Aquasure, etc. on Amazon the same as online companies?


    9. How do you find the best water treatment specialists? In this forum, people have warned against online companies because they are motivated to sell the cheapest product. But, don't water treatment specialists have the same exact motivation? If so, how do you determine if the product that local water treatment specialists are selling is good or bad? (It's hard to go solely by reviews since they are rigged these days.) Are there certain brands that I should look out for?


    10. Aren't the resin beads the most important component? People have compared the quality of the controller but I don't know why this is so important. It's simply a valve that changes the path of the water. I would think that the resin beads are the most important component since it is doing the actual water softening. If so, how do you assess the quality of the resin bed? Are there certain brands of resin beads that I should be looking for? What other components of water softeners are important?


    11. Is oversizing dangerous? I assumed that it would be best to just get the largest resin bed as possible. As a result, the salt efficiency would be the highest and the regeneration frequency would be the least this way. However, one professional stated that you can damage the resin if you wait too long to regenerate. Is this true? What's the maximum amount of time that should pass before you regenerate?


    I know these are a lot of questions but if you can provide any concrete advice, it would be indebted. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    1. Lab tests can test for different things. A local lab could be better, and could be more expensive. Some tests are not suitable to ship even overnight. Some mail-in labs don't need expensive overnight shipping. Some provide a DIY coliform test, so no return shipping. Some tests test for less. County tests sometimes only test for pathogens, and not even hardness. Some tests don't look for complex chemicals using a gas chromatograph.
    2. I think no, usually. Does your city publish tests? 3 weeks for an Hach 5B sounds surprising. Hach will sell direct, but charge shipping.
    3. 60 is often used today. Don't soften your yard water. Don't water plants with softened water.
    4. The sodium is generally not that much. Some run a separate faucet. Don't water plants with softened water.
    7. That is one good way. Or do a periodic batch sanitizing seems to make sense, as you might do if you had a well.
    11. Usually not with city water. You want to regen every 30 days or less, but would like to go over a week.

    When doing your own planning calculations, use 20000 grains per cuft of resin. Think of 32000 as a convention to indicate 1 cuft. While possible to get 32000 grains of softening, that is very salt-inefficient.
     
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  4. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Reach,

    Thanks for your help. You appear to be the resident water softener expert here. I really appreciate it.

    2. My town does produce a report. Here is a link to it. (I can't upload it.) Unfortunately, Amazon sells the Hach 5B with a very long shipping time but I ordered it anyway.

    3. Thanks. I'll use the 60 number. Is that for the entire household or 60 per person?

    Thanks again!


     
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    I am not an expert. I have one softener, but I do read.
    per per person. 75 used to be the suggested number, but numbers have dropped, maybe due to lower-flush toilets.

    Based on your experience numbers, I could see using 40x4=160 as being reasonable for sizing for avoiding oversizing.

    Is your water plumbing 3/4 inch, or 1 inch for the house?

    Your city water test seems to have some good points. It seems to imply they use chlorine, rather than chloromine, so standard coconut shell GAC (granular activated charcoal/carbon) is good.

    The city test does not seem to indicate hardness. Not uncommon for city tests. If you phone them, there is a good chance they can tell you. Those that do often publish a range. If they give you a single number, that is probably an average. When using a range, usually you size for the bigger number. The biggest ranges are usually places that switch between river and well water.

    If near the Elisabeth chemical plants, carbon would be more desirable, and maybe reverse osmosis for drinking. If you are far away from the refineries and chemical plants, maybe no carbon needed.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
  6. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Reach,

    My town's water department states the hardness is 14 GPG. I guess I'll verify this when I eventually get my hardness test in the mail (although I wish I could hurry and figure all of this now).

    My plumbing is 3/4.

    So, I guess I'll use the 60 number even though my actual usage suggests 21 gallons per day.

    I was going to get a water filter because EWG's website suggests that my town's water supply contains contaminants that exceed their health guidelines. My family has been buying bottled water for the past few years and I want to stop doing this. But, thanks for the advice on the carbon. I'm not going to get it unless it's unusually cheap to add it.


    Also, do you recommend a specific brand or method of water softener and filter?

    For example, do you recommend purchasing a specific brand like AFW Filters and then looking for a competent plumber to install it?

    I know that some people on the forum recommend water treatment specialists but are they necessary? For example, Professor Robillard from Penn State states:

    Finally, using this information, select a softener that meets your needs and provides the conveniences you desire. Recognize that all softeners use essentially the same process. For this reason, most softeners are not rated for effectiveness, only for convenience features like handiness, size, maintenance requirements, safety and cost. These features are a matter of personal preference. So be wary of sales people who attempt to sell you on their product's ability to outlast or "outsoften" other products.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    I would go either with the Fleck 5600SXT with the 2-cuft 12x52 inch tank. "64000 grain" in marketing speak. Another good sized for you the 1.5 cuft 10x54 ("48000") tank would be a good choice, backwashing about every 9 days if using 240 gallons total per day. You want at least 7 days on average. Since your actual use is less than 240 per day, the 1.5 cuft might be at least as good of choice.

    10% crosslinked resin is a must.

    I don't know about the carbon tank sizing, but a 2-cuft 12x52 would give a symmetrical look if your softener uses that size. However the 56oo will not backwash at a high enough rate for GAC in a 12 inch tank (needs about 10 or 11 gpm) IMO. It will just make it for a 1.5 cuft 54x10 tank (needs 7 gpm). So is a 1-cuft load of GAC in a 9" x 48" tank enough? I know of no calculation to know that. GAC is usually said to need replacement after about 5 years. I don't know how that works in practice. A 1 cuft bag is cheaper per cuft than a 1/2 cuft bag.

    The Fleck 2510 has much more backwash ability. There is an SXT version, but the mechanical timer is fine too. The carbon is backwashed by time, and not gallons. In the softener/filter world, "filter" means the valve does not come with stuff needed to inject brine or anything else; it just backwashes. And that is fine for GAC on city water. Fleck 5600 and 2510 sxt and mechanical parts appear to be readily available.


    Ask the water department if they use chloromine. I tend to think no based on the water report, but ask. If chloromine, use catalytic carbon.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
  8. Bannerman

    Bannerman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    You will not need to obtain an additional lab test as municipal water must comply with specific safety requirements, and dissolved iron and manganese will be oxidized by the chlorine so those elements will no longer be a factor for consuming softener capacity.

    Testing the hardness level at your location is necessary as most municipal systems obtain their supply from multiple sources, and each source will often have a unique hardness level. The supplier will typically state average hardness from all sources, but if your home is located closer to a well providing higher than average hardness, then the majority of your water will be likely supplied from that well and the hardness removal capacity of your softener will be depleted more quickly.

    While profit is the goal for every business, a local water treatment specialist that install and service the equipment they offer, will be less likely to equip their systems with cheap, unreliable components. Choosing cheap, unreliable components to gain $20 additional profit, will cost the dealer more than $20 the first time a technician will need to return within the system's warranty period to replace a cheap component after failure. As most cheap components are sourced from offshore, it is unlikely a servicing dealer will receive any compensation from the component manufacturer.

    GAC Carbon media functions mainly by adsorption. Catalytic Carbon is GAC that is treated to enhance catalytic action so as to convert some harmful contaminants into less harmful compounds. Both filtration methods are not immediate, but rely on sufficient contact time for the adsorption and/or catalysis to occur.

    While there will be some contaminant reduction benefit when the amount of contact time is suboptimal, the greatest removal benefit will be acheived when contact time meets or exceeds the recommended contact time for each specific contaminant to be removed.

    The usual recommended flow rate to acheive contaminant removal is between 1-3 GPM per cubic foot of carbon media. A range is indicated as some contaminants will require longer contact time than others for full removal. When it comes to carbon, using more than minimum will be beneficial for increased contaminant removal or a higher supported flow rate.

    If the only concern is chlorine removal, chlorine is relatively easy to fully remove, even while exceeding 3 GPM/ft3, but the byproducts of chlorination are usually more difficult to remove. For a smaller home supplied with chlorinated municipal water, a backwashing system containing 1.5 ft3 GAC is typically the smallest recommended for a point of entry system.

    As Chloramine (chlorine +ammonia) is more difficult to remove, a backwashing system containing 2.0 ft3 Catalytic Carbon will be typically the smallest system recommended.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
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  9. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Reach,

    It's good that I talked to you because I would have gotten the 1.0 ft3, given the amount of my water usage. It would be nice to achieve an SER of 5,000.

    I'll look into the GAC. I called the water department but they still need to get back to me.

    There should be a way to compensate you for your advice.


     
  10. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Bannerman,

    Thanks for the helpful info!

    Cheap Components
    You mentioned that water treatment specialists are less likely to use cheap, unreliable components. Which specific components are you referring to? The 3 main components are the resin tank, brine tank, controller, and resin media. Then, there are minor components like the fill tube and safety float. Can these components (besides the resin media) really be that much cheaper? I mean isn't a brine tank just a brine tank? I mean you can wrap it in stainless steel to make it look nicer and tack on a few thousand like Pelican does. But, at the end of the day, it's really the same fundamental parts of resin and a controller, no?

    And, for brick-and-mortar places, it's not like they make their own components in-house. They too have to source it from a manufacturer. It's likely they buy it from the same source since there can't be too many of them. I do agree you have to be careful.

    And, for sellers who list on places online, if components are really that bad, wouldn't the reviews reflect it (even though many reviews are paid-for)?

    I don't have any experience so I don't know if the viewpoint is accurate. What's astounding is the amount of misinformation in this industry. I have a Harvard education, and I literally must have spent days, trying to ascertain the correct system for my home. It shouldn't take this long. It should take a few hours if that. And, I still haven't completely figured out who's telling the truth and who's lying.

    Carbon Filter
    And, definitely thanks for the advice on the charcoal filter. To be honest, I'm probably not going to go for it because to get a big enough size (like you said), it's going to cost over $500. I can't afford that and I don't know it would be necessary in most cases if you already have a dedicated water filter for the kitchen sink. Like Reach said, it's only necessary if you have certain chemicals in your water supply, most of which is going to be used for washing.

    I may go for the smaller sediment filters since they only cost about $60. At the same time, it's hard to figure out which to buy since there are so many products with little trustworthy reviews on them.


     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
  11. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    It looks like my water supply uses both chlorine and chloramine. So, do you recommend that I also purchase a carbon filter even though I am going to use a reverse osmosis water filter for my kitchen sink?

    I would hate to since I can't afford it but if I have to, what can you do? ☹



     
  12. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    I would not, but some are bothered by chlorine in the shower.

    Don't run RO water through metal pipe.
     
  13. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Reach,

    By the way, do you think that even 1.5 cubic ft might be too large given that might average daily water usage is 83? I know it sounds incredibly small and I've actually scheduled a guy to check the meter.

    Nevertheless, that indicates a daily softening requirement of 1,162. With a regeneration rate of 9 days, that comes to a total softening requirement of 10.5k.

    A 1.0 cubic ft of resin can handle 15k, at an SER of 5,000 grains per pound. So, it would appear that 1.0 would be more than sufficient.

    On the other hand, I know that the lower service flow rate for 1.0 cubic ft softener would mean non-completely soft water, given that I have 3/4'' pipes.

    Not sure which to pick...

    (I know that it would be hurting myself if the town find that the water meter was underreporting the water usage. I know it happens. And, it might be the case since my family definitely isn't good with water. )
     
  14. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    You normally set up the softener to regen at least every 30 days ("day override"), and you don't want many gallons left on the table.
    You are asking somebody to check your meter, because your water bill is not high enough? :D OK, you are probably not asking the city.

    Could it be that your water is billed in different units than you are thinking? For example, they report cubic ft and you are thinking gallons? https://www.livingstonnj.org/DocumentCenter/View/8868/Water-Sewer-Fee-List?bidId= says they bill in 100 cubic ft units, and that "1 Unit = 100 Cubic Feet and 100 Cubic Feet= 748 Gallons".
     
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  15. Bannerman

    Bannerman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    These major components are manufactured by various companies all over the world. While tanks may appear identical to those offered by another manufacter, the strength and quality between them can vary considerably.

    A 'minor' component where a compromise in quality is often made is the bottom screen. This is the screen located at the bottom of the riser tube than prevents resin from escaping from the softener and creating a mess throughout your home's plumbing. Some screens are made so cheaply, they can be easily crushed between two fingers.

    Online dealers will often omit bedding gravel, claiming it is of no benefit. While it is not essential for gravel to be used, it is recommended as it will assist to reduce hardness from passing through the resin bed by expanding the flow path across the diameter of the resin bed. In addition, gravel will often act as a barrier, to prevent resin loss into the home's plumbing if there is a failure of the bottom screen.

    When gravel is omitted, the resin will not rise as high within the tank so often, an online system will be equipped with a shorter media tank. Using the example of a 1.5 ft3 system, the usual tank dimension for 1.5 ft3 resin + 15 lbs gravel is 10" X 54", but after omitting the gravel, some online sellers will use a 10"X 48" tank. Not only will the seller reduce his/her cost for gravel and possibly for the smaller tank, but eliminating 15 lbs of gravel, and the smaller tank dimension will reduce the seller's shipping expense as shipping is included in the quoted price for online systems.

    While 10% cross-link resin will better tolerate constant exposure to chlorinated municipal water, 8% cross-link is the industry standard. Many systems sold online are equipped with subpar resin with 7% or less cross-linking. The type or brand of resin is rasely specified so most online buyers think all systems are similarly equipped and become shocked to learn upon experiencing flow problems soon after installatio, that their resin has failed and must be replaced.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
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  16. WorldPeace

    WorldPeace Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    Livingston, New Jersey
    Reach,

    Gotcha'. I actually called Aquatell and they strongly recommended the 1.0 but I'm going to go with the 1.5 on your advice.

    I've actually called the city to check. I don't want to pay the $300 or whatever it costs to hire someone. Maybe it was a bad move but I want to make sure that I get the correct size. I did check the billing unit but that wasn't it. Thanks though.

    Fun fact: I know a commercial property owner who always hires someone to check the water meter whenever he takes over a property. (You don't ask the city because they'll just take the meter if it's overreporting.) The last time, the water meter had been overreporting for 20 years. He ended up pocketing $60k because even though he wasn't the owner at the time, the current owner pockets everything up to that point.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------​

    I mean this seriously but you should provide a Paypal link so that people will compensate you for your advice. I know you do this because you like helping people. But, I strongly believe that people should be compensated for providing help. PM your Paypal and I'll send you $30. I think the info was worth it. I would send something to Bannerman as well.

    By the way, do you work in the water industry? I know that Dittohead does but I'm not sure about Bannerman.


     
  17. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    No. I am not a pro.
     
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