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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRINKING WATER TESTING
EPA GUIDE to WATER QUALITY
FHA WATER TESTS REQUIRED
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPE USAGE GUIDE
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PRESSURE CONTROL SWITCH ADJUSTMENT
REVERSE OSMOSIS CONCENTRATE DISPOSAL
SEWER GAS ODORS
WATER HEATER SCALE REMOVAL
WATER HEATER SCALE PREVENTION
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Water Softeners, operation, maintenance, adjustment, and repair home page: this water softener (water conditioner) article series explains how to inspect, diagnose, and adjust or repair water softeners or water conditioners. We describe how to adjust the water softener (water conditioner) for proper operation to minimize damage to a septic system, to set the correct salt dose, brine tank water level, and regeneration time
Here you will find answers to just about any question about water softeners, water conditioners, hard water, water treatment & water testing. The articles in this series explain what hard water is, describe how water softeners work, and tell readers how to be sure that the salt used by most water softeners does not become a problem for people drinking the water nor a problem for the septic system. Where septic systems are already in trouble, we describe how to reduce the load on the septic system by making some changes to how the water softener is used and how its discharge is handled.
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Water "hardness" refers to the level of unwanted minerals, principally calcium and magnesium, found in your water supply.
Hard water is an aesthetic issue (poor lathering, spots on dishes) and a mechanical issue (clogged pipes, expensive repairs, poor washing machine performance) but it is not a health concern. Hard water is found only in certain neighborhoods and usually only on private water supplies from a local well or wells.
[Click to enlarge any image]
"Water hardness varies throughout the United States. If you live in an area where the water is "soft," then you may never have even heard of water hardness.
But, if you live in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, or Indiana, where the water is relatively hard, you may notice that it is difficult to get a lather up when washing your hands or clothes."--"Common water measurements", USGS - see "More Reading". Municipal water is required by federal law to be treated and tested for sanitation, hardness, corrosivity, and other features.
You may sense that water is "hard" in a building if you find that you can't get a lather in the shower when shampooing, if you find lots of spots on dishes after washing them, poor performance of a washing machine, mineral deposits on plumbing fixtures such as a mineral ring around the tip of a faucet or in a toilet bowl, and mineral clogging of the tankless coil if you make your hot water using such a device.
Minerals dissolved in "hard" water precipitate out in building plumbing pipes and fixtures where they form a hard calcium/magnesium deposit which can severely clog piping and fixtures.
The photo at left shows a cross-section of scale build-up in a building water supply pipe.
What a Water Softener Does to the Water Supply
Water softeners remove unwanted minerals, principally calcium and magnesium,. from a hard water supply (correcting "high mineral content") by using one of several water conditioning or water treatment methods discussed here.
The most common water softener methods uses an ion exchange process that swaps low levels of salt (sodium ions) into the water causing other minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium and some iron) to precipitate out of the water supply.
Watch out: water softeners are not designed to remove other water contaminants such as bacteria, chemicals, odors, or sediment, though some softenes can reduce low levels of some odors. Your water system may need other water treatment equipment such as filters to remove sediment (TDS or total dissolved solids) or odors or sanitizing equipment to handle bacterial or chemical contaminants. See WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES for details.about other types of water treatment equipment besides water softeners or water conditioners.
Water Softener suggestions for minimizing the impact on septic systems, and suggestions about salt in drinking water
The mineral deposits on the dripping water pipe in the photo at left are evidence of both a protracted leak and hard water. But if a water softener is improperly adjusted, or if it is not working properly, excessive salt or softener backwash discharge, if sent into the septic tank and leach fields, can damage or reduce the life of the septic system.
Our photo shows a close-up image of mineral deposits (and some corrosion) on a faucet where the water supply was high in mineral content.
How do we Measure Water Hardness - Table of Water Hardness Grains
Hard water is generally taken to mean water containing minerals over 121 mg/L, micrograms per liter of water, or over 7 grains of hardness per gallon. The following table is based on information from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC.
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS Impact on Septic Systems - US EPA Information
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Special Issues Fact Sheet 3 - EPA 625/R-00/008
Description of the Effect of Water Softeners on Septic Tanks & Drainfields
Home water softeners, which periodically generate a backwash that is high in sodium, magnesium, and calcium concentrations, can affect wastewater treatment processes and the composition and structure of the infiltration field biomat and the underlying soil. However, attempts to predict whether impacts will occur and to estimate their severity are difficult and often inconclusive.
Water softeners remove "hardness" (dissolved calcium and magnesium) through ion exchange processes. Incoming hard water passes through a tank of containing high-capacity ion exchange resin beads supersaturated with sodium. The calcium and magnesium ions in the water attach to the resin beads, replacing the sodium, which is released into the water. The softened water is then distributed for use throughout the house.
Over time, the ion exchange resin beads become saturated with calcium and magnesium ions. When this occurs, the tank must be recharged by flushing with a salt brine solution. Sodium ions reclaim their position on the resin beads, and the calcium and magnesium ions are released into the backwash water. The backwash water then exits the tank and is discharged to the wastewater treatment system. The number of times the tank is recharged and the amount of wastewater generated depends on a number of factors, including the hardness of the water, the amount of water used, the size of the water softener, and the capacity of the resins to remove calcium and magnesium.
The wastewater generated during the recharge phase of the water softening process mixes with other household wastewaters, enters the septic tank, and eventually moves to the soil adsorption field. Studies conducted by soil scientists at the University of Wisconsin and the National Sanitation Foundation conclude that the wastewater effluent generated from properly operating and maintained water softeners will not harm onsite systems that are designed, operated, and maintained appropriately. Specifically, the studies conclude the following:
Regarding the last conclusion, some people have the misconception that the salt brine that enters the ion exchange tank also exits the tank as wastewater. In fact, the influent with its high concentration of sodium ions is very different than the effluent, which has a high concentration of calcium and magnesium ions. Consequently, the potential for chemical clogging of clayey soil by sodium ions is reduced. The calcium and magnesium input may even help improve soil percolation.
Risk management issues Regarding the Effect of Water Softeners on Septic Tanks & Drainfields
The human health impacts of ingesting softened water are increasingly discussed in addition to the traditional benefits of reduced use of surfactants and plumbing repair requirements. The choice of the homeowner to soften or not to soften will factor into all arguments. Also, the preceding descriptions are predicated on whole-house-supply softening. Today point-of-use devices designed for use with specific features in the house make the traditional advantages and disadvantages less clear.
Also see WHAT CAN GO INTO TOILETS & DRAINS?, a guide which explains how to extend the life of the septic system by being careful about what goes into it.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Identifying, Installing, Adjusting & Repairing Water Softeners or Water Conditioners
If your water softener is not working, see DIAGNOSE WATER SOFTENER PROBLEMS. Additional water softener diagnosis and repair questions and answers are at Questions and Answers about repairing water softeners and at SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS.
Question: Can You Help Identify Our Water Softener Brand and Get an Operating Manual so we can Set the Controls?
Attached are two photographs of our water softener. We do not know what type of softener we have or how to set it. Can you give us a clue to the manufacturer and where we could get a manual?
We are guessing what the different knobs are? We can't seem to set it to run on the timer. We set it to "in service" and the time of day, but it won't run on its own at that setting.
So we have been setting it to regenerate to get it to run manually. We would like to get it to run automatically. We need help. - B.B.
I don't know this specific brand for sure but doing some research on stainless steel water conditioner brands I found that
So your unit may be a Crystal Quest or an Aqua Maid POE (Point of entry) water conditioner or water softener similar to their models CQE-WH-01127 or CQE-WH-01128 but with an older control head.
The Water Conditioner Control Valve is the Key to Setting & Using a Water Softener
It is the control head or water conditioner "valve" mounted on top of the unit that controls the system's regeneration cycle and salt usage. So that part is key.
Start by looking carefully on all sides and under covers or the control head cover and back for a manufacturer or brand, or if you cannot find any such labeling, you could try contacting local water softener distributors, since your unit was most likely installed by a local supplier.
You can also try contacting the water conditioner manufacturers we list below. Since the control valve on your water softener matches photos of units at the Aqua Maid website I'd start by contacting Aqua Maid and asking for (or downloading) the installation and operation manual for their equipment.
Aqua Maid can be contacted at 3375 Hwy 98S Suite B-1 Lakeland, Fl 33803 Phone: 1-888-925-0213 Fax: 863-665-9595 email@example.com http://www.aquamaidwatersystems.com/Products/SSC.aspx
Crystal Quest 2130 Northwest Pkwy S.E. Suite - i Marietta, GA 30067 1-800-934-0051 1-770-951-5600 1-800-716-7718 1-770-953-1600 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com http://www.crystalquest.com/watersoftener.htm
From just looking at your photo of the control valve I see that you can set
Question: how do I identify the model and brand of my water softener? Where do I get water softener operating instructions.
Attached is a picture (shown at left) of the control for the water softener that came with the house three years ago. I just started running the water softener after cleaning the brine tank and filling it up with salt. I left the settings as is.
The unit has a separate tank for the brine with a float inside. (tank size is 18" x 33") Unfortunately, I don't have any manual on the system and on top there is no manufacturer's name, model no.
Except there is hand written note "TT 948 56 AE". S/N 12671 Could you please help me identify the maker of this machine or how should I proceed to set it up correctly?
Reply: how to identify a water softener brand and obtain operating instructions
KD: the water softener control that is shown in your photo (above left) appears to be widely used across a variety of water softener brands and models, as you can read in the FAQ text just above.
That's because some OEM manufacturers of water softener controls and parts sell those components to a number of companies who then sell and install water softeners under their own brand.
For example in Sun City Arizona and other parts of that state, the water softener you show above is widely distributed under the Pro-Tec Water Equipment brand. Depending on where you live, choose and try calling one of the water conditioner distribution & sales companies listed just below, as all of them sell water softeners using the control shown in your photograph:
Some of the water conditioner's operating instructions are printed right on the front of the control. On many models, basic water softener adjustment procedures and guidelines are printed inside of the control cover or lid. But best is to obtain the installation and operating guide book from your equipment's manufacturer.
Make a note of your water softener's model and serial number if you can find it. Your note contained some of that information; Often, as our photo illustrates, the back of the water softener control includes a sticker with water conditioner model and serial number information. That information can help assure that the manufacturer whom you contact can provide you with the most accurate water softener operating instructions.
Please also see SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS where we explain how to adjust and set the controls on water conditioning and water softener equipment.
Question: Water-Rite 740 water softener has brine tank full of water - what's the normal liquid level in the brine tank?
Hi, can you tell me how much water should be in a brine tank of a water rite softener under normal use, now it is full of water all the time, is this normal. I think this will just melt all the salt in the tank all the time. It is a model 740 - M.C., Canada
Reply: you should not normally see liquid in the brine tank unless it's about out of salt
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem or in this case just what's wrong with your water softener. That said, here are some things to consider:
We don't know specifically by quantity, but in general, you should not see water in the brine tank unless salt has been used up to the last 6-12 inches in the tank. So we suspect that the brine tank float level control valve that sets the water level in the tank is not working properly.
Check the brine refill control valve in your water softener brine tank
The Brine Refill Control Valve device is found in the vertical tube in your brine tank. Typically it incorporates a float, vertical rod, and a switch that controls the water level in the tank during a brine generation cycle. The part is also called the brine refill control valve.
How to fix the brine tank water level
First check the water softener settings (SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS).
Try emptying the brine tank completely, cleaning all the parts, make sure that the brine control valve (the float actuated switch in the brine tank) moves freely up and down, then fill it at least 1/3 full of salt. For details about cleaning out the water softener brine tank see SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING.
Then send the water softener through a manual regeneration cycle (SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS) and watch what happens.The volume of water that is pumped into the brine tank and then out back through the water softener is set by the salt "dose" setting on the water softener control.
The manufacturer of your Water Rite water softener, properly a Water-Right water softener, can provide you with the installation, operation, and maintenance manual for your water softener if you don't already have one.
Question: Black stuff coming out of the water softener
I WAS RENTING A HOUSE WITH A WATER SOFTENER. SOFTERNER WAS WORKING PROPERLY AND MAINTAIN IT WITH SALT PALLET BUT WHEN I MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE THE OWNER WANT'S TO CHARGE ME FOR THE REFAIR AND LABOR. THEY CLAIM THAT THE SOFTENER HAS BLACK STUFF COMING OUT OF IT. PLEASE ADVICE. THANK YOU DIANA - 9/15/11
I'm sorry Diana, but from just the Information in your message, I don't know what to advise. Perhaps if you review our articles on water softeners you will be able to make clear to the owner just what you did and just what was the condition of the system when you left it.
Question: water softener keeps on draining
I have a autotrol 255 valve / 400 series control water conditioning system. flowing water is coming out of the drain hose after regeneration. - Deloras 10/20/11
If that doesn't work, see our water softener diagnosis & repair suggestions for a long-running backwash or regen cycle at Water Softener Keep Running Longer Than it Should.
Question: Where should I dispose of water softener drainage?
I am required to put a barrel filled with stone for my softener drain, I will only be 2' from my basement wall (concrete poured wall). Will I have problems with this? What should be a safe distance. The soil is sand. I have absolutely no other place to put it. Thanks for any information. - Joe 11/23/11
First, a solid barrel filled with stone won't work as a water softener drain destination; once the barrel has filled it'll just overflow. If you mean that you are trying to construct a drywell or seepage pit to accept water softener drainage, that might make sense. But you need to keep the drywell far enough from the foundation wall so that water from it doesn't leak back into the building, nor into the septic system.
While a concrete foundation wall is somewhat leak resistant, cracks, seams at the footing, and even direct moisture penetration mean that putting a drywell right next to your house is asking for an eventual water entry problem. With sandy soil it's an engraved invitation for water entry. If your foundation is a really tight one the water may not appear immediately, but eventually I expect it'll find its way inside. I'm sorry but I am doubtful that this will be a usable long term or even intermediate term solution. You'd be better off finding a more distant location (with sandy soils, 20 feet or more away) even if you have to use a pump to move the wastewater.
Question: house water pressure is slowly declining - taps were blocked with little brown balls of water softener resin
i have been renting a house with a water softer for 6 months and the water pressure in the house has been slowly declining until finally there was no water coming out of any taps on investigation the plumber found the taps were blocked with little brown balls which we now believe to be ion exchange resin .on inspection of the water softer i discovered that it was not turn on to power but was still connected to the water can you tell me if this is toxic to us as i think we have been drinking it for long time thanks sam - 12/13/11
It sounds as if your water conditioning equipment and controls are damaged - it is not normal for resin from the water softener or conditioner to leave that tank. I suggest that you:
Question: water test shows 1120 ppm of hardness and other data - how should I remove the hardness?
Shobia it does sound as if you'd need water treatment to make that water usable in the home; if you call two local water treatment companies they will be glad to propose systems to meet your needs, and typically don't charge for that advice. Using hardness as an example, it's quite simple to check the level of hardness you need to deal with against the capacity of the water softener system proposed. I can't say more as I don't understand your data - hardness is usually expressed in milligrams per liter or grains per gallon, not parts per million.
Reader Comment from Cullman 8/26/12:
You need larger size water softener to remove this high hardness. Also TDS (total dissolved solids) level is very high , so for drinking water I suggest using Reverse osmosis system at the kitchen sink. Ph level is good.
Thanks Cullman for the helpful suggestions to Shobia - Ed.
Question: orange water coming out of our water softener
water softener giving orange water will cleaning resin with acid hurt control or resin - Zane Bianucci, 6/22/12
Zane by NO MEANS would I use acid or any potentially toxic material to try to clean a water softener resin tank; you risk poisoning the building occupants as well as damaging the system. Instead, see SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING for details about how to clean out a water softener. In that article be sure to read the section titled Water Treatment Solutions using Iron Removing Chemicals (Super Iron Out).
Question: Water softener keeps regenerating & water remains hard
About once a year my softener will have salt in the tank and will run regenerating. But nothing happens and the water remains hard running throughout he house. May something is clogged? What should I look to do. Thanks so much. - Rob P. 7/24/12
Rob, check for a stuck float switch in the brine tank; See Water Softener Keep Running Longer Than it Should and see How to Adjust the Float Level in the Water Softener Brine Tank in two of our water softener diagnosis & maintenance articles.
Question: water pressurenow seems worse than before we installed a water softener
We recently installed a water softener in our home. Before we installed it, our water pressure was fine. Now that we have filled it with salt and recharged it, we have very little water pressure. Why is this? If I hit bypass, the water pressure goes back to normal. - Angela 10/16/12
Ps in links at page top see our article on the Bypass Valve for repair instructions.
Question: our water softener brine tank never fills up with water but we do see the salt level dropping - what's wrong with our water conditioner?
tank wont fill with water but salt level still goes down - Tom 11/27/12
Reply: probably nothing
Reader follow-up: what is the brine tank on a water softener?
the tank that holds the salt is the brine tank? or is the small tube with the salt level numbers the brine tank? - Tom
Reply: photo above shows the water softener brine tank, brine level float control tube, and water/brine pumping tube
The tank that contains the salt crystals or salt pellets is the brine tank (red arrow in our photo above). The small vertical tube is the location of the brine level float control and will be found in the salt tank at one side (blue arrow in our photo above). Water passes from the water softener resin tank (at the right side in our photo) into the brine tank through the black tube (yellow arrow in our photo above) to dissolve salt, and salty water is pumped back through the resin tank through that same tube.
Commode and kitchen sink gurgles/bubbles and water drains from commode bowl while neutralizer/softener operates. What is the problem, please? - Linda Kennedy 12/7/12
Questions and Answers about buying, installing, identifying, maintaining, and repairing all types of water conditioners and water softeners
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