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    Computer systems technologist for Geologists & Petroleum Engineers MiddleAgeSoftie's Avatar
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    Default Northstar water softener

    Hi. I'm new to the forum. I'm looking for a good water softener to replace a very old unit which was in the house I recently bought. I think it's working... It looks very old, it's timer based and I can't be certain that it's set properly for my water conditions and usage patterns and if its even working. It does go through salt though...

    I have a Direct Buy membership and through them I can get Northstar water softeners. My question is simple - the price seems to be right, are these reliable systems or should I look elsewhere?

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MiddleAgeSoftie View Post
    Hi. I'm new to the forum. I'm looking for a good water softener to replace a very old unit which was in the house I recently bought. I think it's working... It looks very old, it's timer based and I can't be certain that it's set properly for my water conditions and usage patterns and if its even working. It does go through salt though...

    I have a Direct Buy membership and through them I can get Northstar water softeners. My question is simple - the price seems to be right, are these reliable systems or should I look elsewhere?
    The Northstar made by Ecowater uses a slightly different control valve than the control valve on a Kenmore, GE at Home Depot and the Whirlpool at Lowe's. All cabinet models.

    The main difference is the cover on the control valve because it is exposed rather than under the cover of a cabinet model softener. The big box store softeners and their control valves are lower quality than an Autotrol, Clack or Fleck control valves and harder to find anyone to work on them and you normally will have only one parts supplier if you need parts.
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MiddleAgeSoftie View Post
    Hi. I'm new to the forum. I'm looking for a good water softener to replace a very old unit which was in the house I recently bought. I think it's working... It looks very old, it's timer based and I can't be certain that it's set properly for my water conditions and usage patterns and if its even working. It does go through salt though...

    I have a Direct Buy membership and through them I can get Northstar water softeners. My question is simple - the price seems to be right, are these reliable systems or should I look elsewhere?
    I've worked on these type softeners for years. It's a coin toss if you get one that will last. No very reliable.

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    In the Trades Akpsdvan's Avatar
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    NorthStar.,,,,,, Eco water small.......... Sears............GE ... all the same units with a little bit different packaging outside.... they share the same valves and controls.

    They are made to last about 5 years and then are cheaper to replace than repair..

    If you would like to save the land fill.... buy some upgrades for what you have, like a new metered valve/control(the part that is on top of the media tank) new resin and a new float assembly and you should be good to go for 10 + years....

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    Computer systems technologist for Geologists & Petroleum Engineers MiddleAgeSoftie's Avatar
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    Thank you for the feedback it has been helpful. It sounds like the consensus is that there are better choices than Northstar. Apart from Akpsdvan's suggestion of refitting the unit I have (I wouldn't even know where to begin with that... Sounds kind of like rebuilding a computer. That I could do. A water softener, as I said, I wouldn't know where to begin.), what would some better water softener unit choices be?

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    A correctly sized softener based on the family size, number of bathrooms and type of fixtures in them using a Clack WS-1 CS control valve.
    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.

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    In the Trades Akpsdvan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MiddleAgeSoftie View Post
    Thank you for the feedback it has been helpful. It sounds like the consensus is that there are better choices than Northstar. Apart from Akpsdvan's suggestion of refitting the unit I have (I wouldn't even know where to begin with that... Sounds kind of like rebuilding a computer. That I could do. A water softener, as I said, I wouldn't know where to begin.), what would some better water softener unit choices be?
    Depends on what is there, any photos?
    Depends on how handy you are...
    If you have done some simple wiring, remodeling around the house... done some simple repairs on your truck or car... then rebuilding the softener would not be very hard..
    Yours right now either has the water coming in on the right of the back side of the valve or the left.. the new valve may be the same or different.. the new valve or control most likely could use the same drain line that is in place right now.
    Depending on the size of the tank that is there would say how much softener resin you would need to replace what is there right now.
    Should that current tank have a 2 1/2 or so open at the top under the control then to empty that resin out would be to put that end on the edge of a 5 gallon bucket and let the old resin come out, change buckets, and let more out... use hose to was out the rest..

    Follow so far?

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    I used to do that for customers and sell DIYers the parts to do that. And by the time he is done, even buying online, he'll have 1/2 to 3/4ths of the delivered price of a whole new softener.

    It's not worth the time, effort or money.
    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.

  9. #9
    Computer systems technologist for Geologists & Petroleum Engineers MiddleAgeSoftie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akpsdvan View Post
    Depends on what is there, any photos?
    Depends on how handy you are...
    If you have done some simple wiring, remodeling around the house... done some simple repairs on your truck or car... then rebuilding the softener would not be very hard..
    Yours right now either has the water coming in on the right of the back side of the valve or the left.. the new valve may be the same or different.. the new valve or control most likely could use the same drain line that is in place right now.
    Depending on the size of the tank that is there would say how much softener resin you would need to replace what is there right now.
    Should that current tank have a 2 1/2 or so open at the top under the control then to empty that resin out would be to put that end on the edge of a 5 gallon bucket and let the old resin come out, change buckets, and let more out... use hose to was out the rest..

    Follow so far?
    Thanks for helping me out on this.

    Here's some photos;

    Attachment 10270Attachment 10271Attachment 10272Attachment 10273Attachment 10274

    I think I follow the bit about replacing the rezin. I'd remove the valve. Remove the bolts which hold on the top, remove the cylindrical thing inside the unit and dump out the rezin (I'm presuming it's inside of there). Presumably put new resin in (Where do I get that stuff?). And put a new valve on (where do I get that?). Voila I'm done. Is that about it (allowing for a little bit of plumbing and maybe some wiring)?

    Is this old resin something that I can just throw in the garbage or do I have to do something special with it?

    I also have a question about my current valve settings. There are six people in the household and we live in Calgary. I'm not sure what the hardness is here, I think it's middle of the road. Our water usage is average for a household of 6. Given those details, is my current setting correct?

    Again, Thanks for the help on this!

  10. #10
    In the Trades Akpsdvan's Avatar
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    Get a test of the water , hardness and iron...
    That is an older meter... but the valve is a 5600 metered unit... good long lasting..
    Maybe a rebuild kit or trade with some one that has a rebuilt valve body with control on top with the meter..
    While the media tank is out of the brine tank, get what is called a brine well and replace that thin thing that they are calling a brine well on the inside of the brine tank.
    Put a brine float assembly in it.. much better water flow in to and out of the brine tank..
    You should also replace the drain line, looks to be a kink in
    So when this all starts to go down after you have all the items on the list ... the three gate valves.. the two that are in line with the softener will get closed and the middle one opened and you will still have water.. unscrew the two screws one on either side of the meter, brass yoke assembly.. once those are lose you will be able to pull the whole unit away from the pipe and yoke. The valve unhooked from the brine line and drain line and unpluged will unscrew off the top of the media tank, the tan tank in the middle of the salt..

    With me so far?

    Step at a time....

  11. #11
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    To set a softener up, you can't guess on what your hardness is, you need to know. If this is public water and not a well, you can often get that from the supplier, but it may be a range. It is better to test it to compare their report with yours. It will verify that yours is between the max/min. If you don't want to test yours, you could use the max they list, but may be wasting salt.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by MiddleAgeSoftie View Post
    Thank you for the feedback it has been helpful. It sounds like the consensus is that there are better choices than Northstar. Apart from Akpsdvan's suggestion of refitting the unit I have (I wouldn't even know where to begin with that... Sounds kind of like rebuilding a computer. That I could do. A water softener, as I said, I wouldn't know where to begin.), what would some better water softener unit choices be?
    I don't like softeners with computer controlls. I use a Fleck 5600 meter demand unit. It's like a timex.....It takes a licking and keeps on tricking.

  13. #13
    DIY Senior Member Bob999's Avatar
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    I recommend a softener with the Fleck 7000 control head. It is a high quality unit and can typically be purchased online for significantly less than units with the Clack head.

  14. #14
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob999 View Post
    I recommend a softener with the Fleck 7000 control head. It is a high quality unit and can typically be purchased online for significantly less than units with the Clack head.
    The 7000 is quite a bit harder for a DIYer to work on and much less water efficient with the variable brining feature. It will use much more water.

    I started selling the 7000 when it came on the market in 2/2005 and in about 15 months I had more problems with the roughly 30 I had sold than the 320+ Clacks I had sold by then so I stopped and haven't sold any since.

    I do not recommend the 7000. If a 1.25" control is needed, the Clack WS-1.25 is a much better choice because it is identical to the Clack WS-1, just 1.25" instead of 1".

    The 7000 is a 1.25" control valve and overkill for the vast majority of residential sales. And Fleck came out with some special tool for the 7000 although I don't know what it is.

    Bob, how many 7000s have you sold and what failure rate have you had? Or haven't you sold any? Did you buy one for your house? Or, what is the basis of your recommendation of the 7000?
    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.

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