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Thread: General Ionics salt softener problem..

  1. #1

    Default General Ionics salt softener problem..

    We own a "General Ionics" brand salt softener, that's probably about 15 years old. We are the 3rd owners of the house, and it was here when we bought it. This is on a WELL, and the water is hard, and has some iron in it. When the softener is working, the water tastes better to drink than city water. It was working, but about 1 week ago, we noticed a lot of water had poured out of the brine tank. After looking it over, I noticed that the brine tank, had an overflow nozzle on the back side. So, what appears to have happened, is that the tank filled up with water, passed the overflow nozzle, and simply ran out on the floor.

    So, in other words, the overflow nozzle did what it was supposed to do. The issue is that the tank filled with water, and didn't shut off before doing so. I don't know for sure how these work, but after looking it over, it seems to work a LOT like a toilet-tank. It's not really supposed to ever get so full that it will reach the overflow nozzle. There is a large plastic tube in the corner of the brine tank. The hose for input water, goes through a nozzle, into this tube. It then plugs into the top of a metal valve inside, and there's a float in there. It appears that the tube should fill with water, lift the float, which moves a lever, and should shut OFF the input water at a certain level. Is that correct?

    If so, perhaps the lever that controls the valve to shut off the water, is corroded or stuck with built-up waterstone, or something, so it can't shut off. If anybody can give me an idea of whether they think this is fixable or not, I'd really appreciate that. I'm VERY handy with tools. Maybe I could take that valve apart and clean it with a fine scrub-pad? Now that we've had this bypassed for the last week, it's obvious it was actually still softening the water, as it's noticibly harder, and smells different now. I realise softeners aren't too expensive, but I can't afford to buy a complete new one at this time, and we can't do without it much longer.

    Any help with ideas? Are my suppositions correct in the way I describe it's works? Thanks!!
    Last edited by mengel; 12-15-2008 at 01:34 PM. Reason: added well info

  2. #2
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    You didn't mention if you have well or city water. Or the quality of the water.

    I would tell most people that after 15 years, they have had the best of a water softener and it's time for a new one. Some folks like to repair the old ones, but in the long run, that just delays the inevitable and costs more overall.

    Your softener is not drawing brine or it wouldn't be running over unless the clock died in mid refill. In which case it would continue to overflow until you bypassed it. The float devices in brine tanks don't normally last a long time, so I wouldn't put much faith in them.

    bob...

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    The first thing that needs to be determinded, is the unit drawing brine? The unit will shut the water off to the brine tank, but Ionics uses the float assembly to do it. So when the float fails, you have a leak. With the unit in service, remove the brine line from the unit and check for a drip. If there is no drip, you can adjust the fill time to meet the salt usage and prevent a brine tank overflow.
    Ok, I discovered something last night after attempting to clean the brine tank outside. Looks like somebody dumped a bunch of ROAD SALT in the tank, and it had hardened up in the bottom. I talked to my son at college, and he admitted when we were gone on vacation last summer, and he was home, it ran out of salt. He filled the tank with the road type crushed salt, instead of cube softener salt. That stuff made a big mess, but I got it all cleaned out. The softener has been working up to now, so it took this long before the suspended junk in that salt caused it to sludge up.

    After cleaning the brine tank, I put more cube salt in it, put some water in it about to the top of the salt. I then ran a cycle manually. That was at about 10:00pm. It definately sucked most of the water out of the brine tank, so that part is working. After it cycled, it refilled the brine tank (but with more water than it had taken out) and then shut off. Later, about 3am in the morning I checked it (that's just after the time cycle normally runs every night), and the brine tank was once again overfilled with water, darn!

    I took the cap off the big tube in there, that has the float in it. I noticed that the float has a rubber ring on the rod shaft for adjustment. The bottom ring was so low, the float could never float high enough to stop the water, as that tube has a plastic covering cap on it that would get hit. I don't see how that ring could have changed position by itself, as it's quite tight, but I know nobody has been messing with that.

    So, I moved the rubber ring, so it's right up to the water shut-off lever. So that now when that tube fills with brine water and lifts the float, it can actually shut off the water. I'm working nights the next couple of days, and don't want to to run without me there to baby-sit it, so I bypassed it, and unplugged it for now. I'll test it again Wednesday night, and watch it to make sure that water turns off like it should. Perhaps everything will be fine again.

  4. #4
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    A 15 year old Ionics will probably have a Fleck 2500 (brass) control valve. It has a brine valve on it. This brass valve in the brine well in teh brine tank is a safety system. The bottom grommet on the float rod has to be 1/8" below the arm the float hangs on.

    The road salt is solar crystal, it's a better choice than pellet or block salt.

    Check your drain line for kinks. Check the brine line doesn't have air bubbles going up to the control valve and if it does tighten the brine line fittings so they don't suck air.

    If all that is OK, your control valve has an injector, injector throat and injector screen filter under a sliver colored steel cap held on by two screws. The cap is in the center of the control valve, behind the backing plate the timer is on, looking down on the control valve.Under the cap is black plastic with a 3/8" gray tubing curving around to the backing plate where it connects to a brass valve. Shut off your water. Open a faucet to relieve pressure, close it. Put the softener into bypass. Remove the cap and don't tear the gasket under it, and clean all those injector parts. One or all will be blocked up, probably with rust.

    All that prevents all the salt water that is supposed to be sucked out of the salt tank and then the control adds back what it is supposed to and the salt tank overflows if the safety valve doesn't close. Yours couldn't close because the float's bottom grommet was adjusted wrong and couldn't raise to shut off the water.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    You can control the water lever in the brine tank with the control valve. The float assembly is a safety and not designed to be the primary cut off for the fill. I agree the float is faulty, but as I stated, you should use the valve to control the amount of brine water.
    Ok, so notwithstanding there's been a problem with the saftey float, you are thinking that something changed on a timer setting, that caused this? What runs that control valve? By "control valve" do you mean the solenoid that that the tube going to the brine tank connects to? How would I make an adjustment that limits or controls how much water goes into the brine tank?

    Nothing was adjusted to change this by any of us, so if it's out of whack, it did it by itself. The controls in this is all run from a electromechanical clock mech, with roller microswitches, and solenoid valves, and removable pins. No electronic circutry at all. I have all sorts of manuals for stuff in the house, but was never given anything on this softener. There's a little bit of info inside the covering for the time control, but not much.

    Thanks for trying to help, I think we are close to getting it right!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    A 15 year old Ionics will probably have a Fleck 2500 (brass) control valve. It has a brine valve on it. This brass valve in the brine well in teh brine tank is a safety system. The bottom grommet on the float rod has to be 1/8" below the arm the float hangs on.

    The road salt is solar crystal, it's a better choice than pellet or block salt.

    Check your drain line for kinks. Check the brine line doesn't have air bubbles going up to the control valve and if it does tighten the brine line fittings so they don't suck air.

    If all that is OK, your control valve has an injector, injector throat and injector screen filter under a sliver colored steel cap held on by two screws. The cap is in the center of the control valve, behind the backing plate the timer is on, looking down on the control valve.Under the cap is black plastic with a 3/8" gray tubing curving around to the backing plate where it connects to a brass valve. Shut off your water. Open a faucet to relieve pressure, close it. Put the softener into bypass. Remove the cap and don't tear the gasket under it, and clean all those injector parts. One or all will be blocked up, probably with rust.

    All that prevents all the salt water that is supposed to be sucked out of the salt tank and then the control adds back what it is supposed to and the salt tank overflows if the safety valve doesn't close. Yours couldn't close because the float's bottom grommet was adjusted wrong and couldn't raise to shut off the water.

    I will look this over, and see if this looks like what you are describing, and go from there. Thanks for the info!

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    The fact that you could stop the flow of water by messing with the safety float tells me that your head is worn out. The water is bypassing internally and will continue to do so each time the float fails. The head is what controls the amount of water put back into the brine tank. One gallon of water dissolves about 2.5 lbs of salt, so it's important how much water gets put back into the brine tank after each backwash.

    You are beating a dead horse. You said buying a new one wouldn't be a problem. So get with Gary and do yourself a favor.

    bob...

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    You can tell by some posts that they don't know what they are talking about.
    Look dipwad, I don't care how much you think you know about softeners or anything else for that matter. There comes a time in every manufactured items life that its usefulness has been exceeded. If he want's to keep trying to fix this thing by making adjustments to something hasn't been touched in 15 years, then he should keep taking your advice. When his basement floods with saltwater, you tell him I told you so.

    I've forgotten more about Fleck and Autotrol heads than you will ever know.

    bob...

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    Your resorting to telling a poster we don't know what we are talking about and that we are just trying to sell him something is totally immature and ignorant. What do you think of that dipwad?

    When you get one tenth of the experience we have, you can start calling people names. Not until that time though.

    Customer service is not trying to bandaid something together that is doomed to fail. There are times when it is necessary to bite the bullet and get a new unit. Just like cars. There comes a time where the nickel and dimes each month are larger than the normal car payment.

    bob...

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    You can tell by some posts that they don't know what they are talking about.
    Let's see who that is...

    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    The pins need to be adjusted. The first set of pins are for the backwash. Should be five of them. Then you have a blank space. Should be 30 empty holes. This is for the brine draw. Then there are 2 pins.
    What are these 2 pins doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    And next is an open space. This is the brine refill. Ionics leaves a big space here so the float will shut off the water. Then 2 more pins.
    What do these 2 pins do?

    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    There should only be about 3-6 holes open. Each hole is 2 minutes of time. With a .5 brine flow control, 3 empty hole will use about 9 pounds of salt. I'ld say they have 10 or more empty holes. Thus when the safety float fails, you have a brine tank over flow.
    Where is the final rinse if not those 6 or 20 minutes?

    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    By changing the pins, you control the amount of time the unit stays in a refill cycle and the amount of water into the brine tank. To adjust, move the last set of pins counterclockwise so there are only 3 holes (with .5 BLFC) or 6 holes (with .25 BLFC).
    And along with the time, you also set the lbs of salt used per regeneration. That establishes how much capacity is regenerated and that determines how frequently the unit regenerates.

    BTW, the color of the motor's piston drive wheel (black or white), and IIRC the brine valve cam wheel, dictates IF the last set of holes prior to the last set of pins, is brine refill or not; and/or if the brine refill is a separate cycle position or part of the final rinse.

    And your assumption that Ionics uses the safety 23x0 valve (brass is a 2300, black plastic a 2310) to set the salt dose is totally incorrect. Call them and check that out and come back and apologize. There is a separate brine valve on the control valve as you say there is. When it is closed no water flows into the brine tank unless that valve fails or is opened by the brine drive motor cam wheel.

    Also, his softener has been working for 15 years with the current settings. Now he has too much water in the salt tank, and I know you know the normal causes are a kinked/blocked/frozen drain line, air suction in the brine line and brine pickup tube and blocked injectors, throat and the screen etc.. And yet you haven't mentioned any of them as the cause of his too much water in the salt tank!

    You are missing the fact that he hasn't changed the safety brine system valve float bottom grommet until now. The way it was set worked for 15 years until now when it was actually needed FOR THE FIRST TIME. And the pin settings have worked for 15 years....

    IMO you are screwing him up by suggesting he change the pin settings. If he changes the refill time as you suggest, he gets fewer lbs of salt which will regenerate less capacity which will cause a problem of hard water leakage and then, what will you suggest he do if not increase the salt dose lbs or buy new resin!
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  11. #11
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    Resorting to name calling shows your lack of maturity. If he can fix the unit and have another 5-10 years worth of use, I'ld say that was a better trade off than to just buy a new unit. NOW THAT'S CUSTOMER SERVICE.
    You started attacking by saying someone doesn't know what they're talking about...

    And Mengel is not your customer, he's a DIYer asking questions here in a forum as to how HE can fix his problem.

    As to fixing the unit, I agree. General Ionics used Fleck 25x0 controls for decades and then switched to the Clack WS-1 a number of years ago. I have rebuilt hundreds and hundreds of Fleck valves including the private labeled Ionics, McClean, Water-Right, WaterCare (the last three went to Clack also), Culligan etc., by changing the seals, spacers, piston and brine valve or motor. I've rebuilt hundreds of Autotrol valves. The parts and labor prices are a fraction of a new valve but, many people don't want to rebuild, they want a new one and frankly, Fleck valves are not easy to rebuild without the special Fleck model specific tools so DIYers are left in a bad way.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  12. #12
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    The unit will shut the water off to the brine tank, but Ionics uses the float assembly to do it. So when the float fails, you have a leak. With the unit in service, remove the brine line from the unit and check for a drip. If there is no drip, you can adjust the fill time to meet the salt usage and prevent a brine tank overflow
    Meet the salt usage where, on the control valve right?

    Then you say: Ionics sets the refill time too long and when the safety fails, a BTO will occur.

    THINK, if that is true then the float shuts off the salt dose, but you've also said that the salt dose is set on the control valve with the pins or holes; and that is correct. So why would they set the float to stop the water flow when the brine valve on the control valve would do it for them if they got the number of pins or holes right, right? Which you have described to be flow controlled and timed to the minutes, and that is correct.

    Now, Mengle says his float could not rise because of the brine well cap AND the bottom grommet on the float rod being waayy down too far to lift the 2300 valve's arm to shut off the water, right?

    So... how has Mengle's softener been controlling its salt dose for the last 15 years IF NOT BY THE PIN WHEEL SETTINGS that you now want him to change by decreasing the time?

    And based on what you have said, why aren't you having him set the float at the right height instead?

    And who are you to say a company as old and as large as General Ionics is doing it wrong by not knowing how to set the salt dose correctly on their own equipment!!

    P.S. What happens when Mengel's salt dose lbs are reduced?
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  13. #13

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    I thank everybody for your input, and there has been some valuable information to me given in this post. I will take all of it under consideration, and make the checks, and adjustments as needed after I look it over some more. Your info has given me more insight as to how these work, and run their cycles, which will help me decide what needs to be done.

    Just FYI: My qualifications: Over the years, I have been an home appliance technician and apprentice electrician, an electronic tech with down to the component level board repair experience, and a "in the field", field tech in a computer services group for the last 20 years in a Fortune 500 specialty chemical company. My mind thinks in the "black boxes" style of trouble-shooting, and I can flow-chart in my brain, and figure out pretty much anything I decide I have to (or NEED to in this case).

    My skills with electro-mechanical timers and water valves and such might be rusty, but are far from dead. I am very good at figuring out how devices such as this work, how they are SUPPOSED to work, and fixing them, after observation, and a little help such as given in this forum.

    I don't think we are yet at the deciding point where I need to just replace this unit completely, but that's always a consideration once I go through everything else. It's true this unit is around 15 years old, but does appear to be a high-quality expensive unit, and I don't want to just replace it with some of the newer cheaply made devices that might not even last 5 years.

    It does have the brass valve system such as Gary Slusser mentioned, and I'll take his advice in a possible tear-down and cleaning if I decide it needs that. He's also correct in saying that it's been working perfectly up to now. It has been in the last 7.5 years that I've owned this house, with nothing more than me dumping in salt, and resetting the "time of day" after one of our frequent power outages. It's also true that the safety float failed, which I think might very easily be in addition to the real reasons it's overfilling with water. So, I have the float adjusted and working now, and I can go on with the rest of the checks and possible adjustments.

    Anyway, after Wednesday morning at 6am, I'll be off work until Saturday night, and will have 3 nights in a row at home to observe, and work on repairing this. Thanks!

  14. #14
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biermech View Post
    It appears to me from your comments that you have never really studied an Ionics unit. You would have to check with Ionics as to why they place the pins for the refill so far apart.
    The valve has a BLFC to control the rate of flow. It also has a timers use to control the time the brine valve is open. By setting them correctly, not only do you stop the flow into the brine tank, you also control the amount of salt it uses. Would YOU ever set up a unit to have the float assembly shut off the refill instead of the brine valve?
    Studied? I've rebuilt many of their older controls. They are identical to those used by the other companies I mentioned and they are a stock Fleck 2500. I've sold 2500 and 2510 valves and set the pins on many of them as I built a softener or filter; both back washed only or regenerated versions.

    I used nothing but 25x0 valves on all my filters from 1987 to 2003.

    I've never seen any company use a 25x0 valve and use the safety float to shut off brine refill. There is absolutely no reason to do that except yours, which is absolutely wrong.

    Earlier you mentioned starting with 5 pins, you don't use 5 pins on all the various sizes of softeners or filters. The number of pins and holes varies widely depending on a number of things. And if the brine refill is part of the final rinse or a separate cycle position. That depends on the color of the motors cam wheels; there are 2 motors, piston and BRINE valve.

    Mengle, go to www.fleckcontrols.com and download the 2510 Service manual etc.. There will be parts breakdown pictures and most will apply to your 2500. Or search the internet for a 2500 manual. The 1500 is a side mount 2500 and has identical parts to your valve. And don't change any pins. If you find water going to the salt tank when your valve is in the service position, the brine valve is leaking. They are rebuildable but only cost like $15-20.00. The Teflon wears off the stem and binds. Use a sewing needle or paperclip to clean the lengthwise hole in your injector and throat. The throat is under the injector and you need a smaller screwdriver to get it out.

    BTW, the new controls are actually better than the old stuff, especially the computerized valves like the Clack WS-1.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  15. #15

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    Gary, I might now have another problem. I had the cover off of the timer assembly, and accidently swiped my hand down along the right side. It must have rubbed against the program wheel, as I heard a noise of gears grinding together, and I'm pretty sure the whole wheel turned clockwise a few inches to the wrong resting position. I did run 2 manual regens back to back, and everything worked, but now it's probably not really set right. Unless the 2 cycles somehow make it go back to a "zero" position?

    I didn't own the house when this was installed, and I think the original owners had people service it periodicly. They were very old, and from what I've been told, wouldn't have been able to even add salt as needed. They were only 2 people. Then, the people we bought it from in early 2001, were 3 people living here, and only lived in the house for 2 years. I don't know if they ever changed any settings. The original installers did NOT make any penciled notations anywhere as to what the settings originally were if accidently changed.

    It's a model 3210 timer. We had 3 people in the house, (now only 2, but I never changed that, sometimes my son comes home for short times from college, and it's 3 again) on a 95' well that produces 10 gallons per minute. We have 2 full bathrooms, with tubs and showers in both. Also we have a washing machine, and we are on a septic system. I can't remember what the hardness of the water is (I have to find that paper again, or get a strip to retest it) Even when this was working correctly, the insides of the toilet tanks get orange with iron. We don't have any sort of separate filter for that, and I can't taste it in the water when drinking it (unless the softener is bypassed, of course)

    Anyway, the "gallons" dial has a little clear plastic piece, that has a pointer on it that points to the right edge of the number 4. That clear plastic piece sticks up, and looks like some sort of "trip" for something on the timer. That "4" is also lined up with the other little dial for "50" that I think is the "grains of hardness" wheel. There is a little white dot on the program wheel however, that is lined up on the number "7" (gallons), and that also is lined up with a little white arrow on the metal timer backplate that is labeled: "Capacity (Gallons)". I wonder if that white dot should line up with the 4 instead? I'm not sure if I'm describing this correctly, but this is what it appears to be to me.

    Now after running 2 manual back to back regens, that whole program wheel is all lined up exactly as I describe above. By the way, I think the float inside the brine tank is now working properly, and it's no longer overfilling and running out the overflow nozzle. So, with the exception that I might have screwed up the program wheel by accidently turning it, the rest seems ok now.

    Can you help, or do you need any more info? Thanks! Your help is really appreciated.

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