Water Softener/Whole Home RO

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Jmac14

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Biggest of the questions I currently have:

Would a water softener be able to actually reduce hardness if my natural sodium level is 350 mg/L or would it just be constantly regenerating?

The Story:

My wife and I just closed on our first home two weeks ago. This is the first time I have had well water. It was new build and I had a home inspection done. The builder did no water testing, my inspector tested for Arsenic, Ecoli, and Coliform. It had ~12 ug/L Arsenic (higher than EPA limit of 10), and Coliform. Builder, Realitor, and inspector all said to shock the well and that the arsenic would go down over time. The builder shocked the well and we didn't put much thought into it until we finally moved in.

The nightmare begins with our dishes coated in white/yellow. The shower smells like rotten eggs and you feel slimy when you get out. I have to brush off the shower head before each shower. The water tastes salty. Time to call Culligan.

To shorten things up here, Culligan gets out and tests the water with a quote of $5k-$8k for water softener system. I think that's a ton of money for that so I call 4 other companies and get quotes. Everyone has a somewhat different solution with a similar price point of $20k-$25k. I am of course going to do all the research I can, surprisingly limited resources out there, and here I am.

The general consensus is full house RO with addons. Questions come down to what addons for better water and RO life expectancy.

The Report:

TDS - 1606.1 mg/L
pH - 7.6
Calcium - 290 mg/L
Hardness - 860 mg/L 50.3 GPG
Iron - 0.23 mg/L
Magnesium - 32.6 mg/L
Manganese (Mn) - 1.32 mg/L
Potassium - 26.8 mg/L
Silica - 41.6 mg/L
Sodium - 350 mg/L
Strontium (Sr) - 2.79 mg/L
Arsenic - 11.86 ug/L
Chloride - 192.9 mg/L
Sulfate - 1018.5 mg/L
Total Alkalinity - 220.73 mg/L

Coliform and agressive Iron Bacteria (2200 cfu/mL) after shocking the well 3 times.

Link to full report on google drive.

Current Rough Solution:

Water Pressure Tank > Sediment filter (20micron) > Chlorine retainer/chlorine tank > Water meter>
carbon something for dechlorination > water softener or de-scaler > 2000gpd RO > 300Gal tank >
water pump > UV light > maybe a re-mineralizer > carbon filter > house / additional arsenic filters if needed for drinking water

The Questions:

Really any advice, resources, examples of other full home ROs, or commenting "Well that sucks" is appreciated.

  • Would a water softener before the RO work with the high sodium?
  • How effective is an anti-scalant at keeping the RO mesh intact with this high level of hard water?
  • Assuming I use a chlorination system for the bacteria/arsenic3, whats the best de-chlorinator system to use?
 
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ditttohead

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Softeners work fine with only a few hundred parts per million of sodium, this is not an issue at all. When you are regenerating the softener the sodium ions overwhelm the calcium and magnesium. I see there solution, it is not a bad idea. Other methods may be acceptable depending on your budget/water quality desires. Do you want great water throughout the house r do you primarily want "acceptable/not nasty" water throughout the house? Are you capable of installing the equipment yourself or are you going to need someone to do basic maintenance regularly?

Anti-scalant with silica sequestrant is a must for your application, a softener is optional. It is a simple cost analysis, how much for the softener/salt, vs simply replacing them membranes on occasion?

Chlorine, dechlorinate in this application with a properly designed carbon backwashing system.
 

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Biggest of the questions I currently have:

Would a water softener be able to actually reduce hardness if my natural sodium level is 350 mg/L or would it just be constantly regenerating?

The Story:

My wife and I just closed on our first home two weeks ago. This is the first time I have had well water. It was new build and I had a home inspection done. The builder did no water testing, my inspector tested for Arsenic, Ecoli, and Coliform. It had ~12 ug/L Arsenic (higher than EPA limit of 10), and Coliform. Builder, Realitor, and inspector all said to shock the well and that the arsenic would go down over time. The builder shocked the well and we didn't put much thought into it until we finally moved in.

The nightmare begins with our dishes coated in white/yellow. The shower smells like rotten eggs and you feel slimy when you get out. I have to brush off the shower head before each shower. The water tastes salty. Time to call Culligan.

To shorten things up here, Culligan gets out and tests the water with a quote of $5k-$8k for water softener system. I think that's a ton of money for that so I call 4 other companies and get quotes. Everyone has a somewhat different solution with a similar price point of $20k-$25k. I am of course going to do all the research I can, surprisingly limited resources out there, and here I am.

The general consensus is full house RO with addons. Questions come down to what addons for better water and RO life expectancy.

The Report:

TDS - 1606.1 mg/L
pH - 7.6
Calcium - 290 mg/L
Hardness - 860 mg/L 50.3 GPG
Iron - 0.23 mg/L
Magnesium - 32.6 mg/L
Manganese (Mn) - 1.32 mg/L
Potassium - 26.8 mg/L
Silica - 41.6 mg/L
Sodium - 350 mg/L
Strontium (Sr) - 2.79 mg/L
Arsenic - 11.86 ug/L
Chloride - 192.9 mg/L
Sulfate - 1018.5 mg/L
Total Alkalinity - 220.73 mg/L

Coliform and agressive Iron Bacteria (2200 cfu/mL) after shocking the well 3 times.

Link to full report on google drive.

Current Rough Solution:

Water Pressure Tank > Sediment filter (20micron) > Chlorine retainer/chlorine tank > Water meter>
carbon something for dechlorination > water softener or de-scaler > 2000gpd RO > 300Gal tank >
water pump > UV light > maybe a re-mineralizer > carbon filter > house / additional arsenic filters if needed for drinking water

The Questions:

Really any advice, resources, examples of other full home ROs, or commenting "Well that sucks" is appreciated.

  • Would a water softener before the RO work with the high sodium?
  • How effective is an anti-scalant at keeping the RO mesh intact with this high level of hard water?
  • Assuming I use a chlorination system for the bacteria/arsenic3, whats the best de-chlorinator system to use?
...
 
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ditttohead

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upload_2020-12-9_18-22-48.png

Here is a basic idea of what you would be getting, it looks complex but it is really quite simple. From right to left, Chlorine injection controlled by a flow meter, Baffled contact tank, carbon backwashing tank, anti-scalant injection, Commercial RO, The over to the storage tank, out to house through the distribution pump and A UV. The tank should have a simple automated ozone sanitizing system.
 

Jmac14

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That's another vote for anti-scalant injection and another vote for water softener. Really the rest of the set up most companies can agree upon, with some tweaks depending on the choice.

There are two oxidation states of arsenic, 3 and 5. 3 is in solution, 5 is not. 3 can be converted to 5 by oxidation. there are also 2 states of iron (elemental aside), ferrous (iron II oxide) and ferric (iron III oxide). ferrous iron can be converted to ferric iron, again, through oxidation. manganese has 6 oxidation states, but is chemically similar to iron. it's more difficult to oxidize than iron because of it's wide range of oxidation states. so, chlorine injection combined with sufficient retention [time], followed by carbon sufficient to remove residual chlorine and arsenic 5 (after retention) will be necessary. the ferric iron and oxidized manganese will fall to the bottom of the retention tank and can periodically be drained. This will also eliminate the iron reducing (IRB) bacteria which result in H2S (rotten egg odor) production Total dissolved solids, which is comprised mainly of salts and chlorides can only be removed by reverse osmosis. an under sink point-of-use RO would provide you with around 90% reduction in TDS to provide water for drinking and cooking at A sink. So to answer your question, a mechanical filter would be recommended first to filter out already oxidized contaminants, followed by chlorine injection, followed by retention (usually 120 gallon pressure vessel w/drain down), followed by carbon, followed softener, followed UV, followed by POU RO. There are other options available. someone else might provide more feedback.

Wow! Thanks for all the detail! Planning on using chlorination to oxidize the arsenic 3. I thought the arsenic 5 was getting filtered out through the RO but if it gets pulled out by the carbon filter maybe I will need a carbon backwashing tank. If iron and manganese fall to the bottom do I want an in-out at the top chlorine retention tank? Thank you for your reply.


View attachment 68679
Here is a basic idea of what you would be getting, it looks complex but it is really quite simple. From right to left, Chlorine injection controlled by a flow meter, Baffled contact tank, carbon backwashing tank, anti-scalant injection, Commercial RO, The over to the storage tank, out to house through the distribution pump and A UV. The tank should have a simple automated ozone sanitizing system.

Really awesome diagram! I love seeing the whole thing laid out. You seem to be the guy to talk to on this forum, so I have a couple extra questions for you. Carbon backwashing tank or replaceable carbon filter like the "Evolve ONE Carbon Filter"? I understand how the carbon backwash works, I am just unsure which is a better application for this. Second question is, will the anti-scalant be effective enough with my very hard water? Larger concern here is I want the RO membrane to last as long as possible. Finally, could you elaborate a bit on a simple automated ozone sanitizing system? Is it for the storage tank? Thanks for the initial response and any further help you can provide.
 

Taylorjm

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Doesn't it matter what type of plumbing the home has if there's going to be whole house RO? I thought RO water was bad for copper pipes if that's what the person has in the house.
 

Jmac14

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Doesn't it matter what type of plumbing the home has if there's going to be whole house RO? I thought RO water was bad for copper pipes if that's what the person has in the house.

RO systems do cause the pH to become more acidic which is bad for pipes at a certain point. You can use a re-mineralizing post filter to bring to pH back up if necessary. However, I have no copper pipes. Only issue would be appliances and faucets.
 

ditttohead

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The Clack retention tanks are in/out the top, drain on the bottom, but the inlet is directed internally from the top to the bottom. The baffled tanks are much better but they do add some cost. They are in the bottom/out the top with a bottom purge.

upload_2020-12-10_14-49-31.png


Backwashing carbon for sure.

A softener is fine but remember that the RO has waste so you will have additional salt usage... salt is expensive and irritating when you are using a lot of it. The anti-scalant will not typically work as well as a softener but the cost of a softener is difficult to justify. You can pay more in salt then the membranes cost. membranes are relatively cheap and fairly easy to replace. Years ago membranes were about5x more expensive than they are now so we treated them very differently. Now they are considered a "consumable".

The ozone is the item strapped to the atmospheric tank, it automatically sanitizes the tank nightly. You could forgo that item and use bleach and clean the tank occasionally, the ozone system is nice for increasing the safety of the water... your tank will not turn into a swamp.
 

Water Pro

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The Clack retention tanks are in/out the top, drain on the bottom, but the inlet is directed internally from the top to the bottom. The baffled tanks are much better but they do add some cost. They are in the bottom/out the top with a bottom purge.

View attachment 68725

Backwashing carbon for sure.

A softener is fine but remember that the RO has waste so you will have additional salt usage... salt is expensive and irritating when you are using a lot of it. The anti-scalant will not typically work as well as a softener but the cost of a softener is difficult to justify. You can pay more in salt then the membranes cost. membranes are relatively cheap and fairly easy to replace. Years ago membranes were about5x more expensive than they are now so we treated them very differently. Now they are considered a "consumable".

The ozone is the item strapped to the atmospheric tank, it automatically sanitizes the tank nightly. You could forgo that item and use bleach and clean the tank occasionally, the ozone system is nice for increasing the safety of the water... your tank will not turn into a swamp.
yup. depends on the brand. Clack, as you stated, are in/out on on top, with (on outward appearance) a design similar to an up-flow head.
 
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