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Thread: Iron Filter / Water Softener - how to choose

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    DIY Junior Member kellerdc77's Avatar
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    Default Iron Filter / Water Softener - how to choose

    The water (especially the hot water) in my house smells like rotten eggs. I have had the water tested and been told that I have the following:
    Hardness 13 grains per gallon
    Iron at 1.16 (PPM?)
    Manganese at .9 (PPM?)

    I have been told by one company that I need a sediment filter, then an iron filter, and then a water softener.

    Another company told me that I do not need the iron filter and that the water softener will solve the issue.

    I have read different threads here and elsewhere that say that the water softener can handle the iron, but that it will cause issues over time with the water filter. I am looking for some advice.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Google "water heater smell" to see another common cause of rotten-egg-smell in the hot water. I had that problem even with a good chlorinator->carbon->softener system to treat my well water (low hardness and iron). I'll let the experts here discuss the softener solutions; what worked for me to get rid of the smell was an aluminum/zinc anode rod in the water heater. I'll check it after 2 years and if that anode rod is badly corroded I'll spring for the big-buck "powered anode rod" solution, which is sort of the gold standard, but rare in residential applications.

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    DIY Senior Member mialynette2003's Avatar
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    A water softener will remove the iron. The iron will takes it toll on the valve of a softener over time, but then again, the iron will take it's toll on the valve of an iron filter. Installing a softener first will give you the answer. If the smell goes away, your problem is gone. If not, you need a softener any way and equipment to get rid of sulfur. I believe a softener will take care of the problem.

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    DIY Junior Member kellerdc77's Avatar
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    Agreed - looks like the best approach is to start with a water softener and then see if I need anything else. I have called two different places and gotten about the same price from each which is about $2000 to install a water softener. It seems like a lot to me since it looks like they can be purchased for under $800. A $1200 install fee seems high.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    A hot water only odor is caused by bacteria using an ion off the water heater's anode rod to produce H2S. Setting the water heater temp to 140f for a couple hours will prove bacteria if the odor then goes away. The bacteria is harmless to animals and humans and is called sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB).

    A softener or some type of iron and/or H2S filter won't treat the bacteria.
    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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    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    You should consider the extra salt usage, ground water supply issues, etc before using a softener for iron removal. in your application, you will use approximately double the salt to treat the iron and manganese with a softener. A proper iron/H2S removal system may make more sense.

    The rotten egg smell... go to your shower and turn on the cold water for a few minutes. Does it smell? If not, turn the shower to hot only and retest. If it now smells, the problem is in your water heater. A different sacrificial anode, sanitizing the water heater, running at a very high temperature for an hour...may correct the problem if the smell is only on the hot water side. Use extreme caution if you turn the hot water heater up, I wouold not have small kids in the house during this time.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    You should consider the extra salt usage, ground water supply issues, etc before using a softener for iron removal. in your application, you will use approximately double the salt to treat the iron and manganese with a softener. A proper iron/H2S removal system may make more sense.
    Double the salt is simply not true. He has Hardness 13 grains per gallon, Iron at 1.16 (PPM?)
    Manganese at .9 (PPM?) so the iron times 4 and the manganese times 2 and call those numbers gpg and add them to the 13 gpg of hardness. That would be an additional 5 + 2 gpg; 20 gpg compensated hardness. Now how does 7 gpg relate to double the salt for 13 gpg? Show us the math.

    And running some (1/3 cup) of Iron Out through the softener every 2 months to prevent iron fouling of the resin is much better for the OP than him spending hundreds of dollars on an iron/H2S filter.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    The rotten egg smell... go to your shower and turn on the cold water for a few minutes. Does it smell? If not, turn the shower to hot only and retest. If it now smells, the problem is in your water heater. A different sacrificial anode, sanitizing the water heater, running at a very high temperature for an hour...may correct the problem if the smell is only on the hot water side. Use extreme caution if you turn the hot water heater up, I wouold not have small kids in the house during this time.
    If sanitizing the water heater gets rid of the odor, it proves the cause of the odor is the bacteria I mentioned.
    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.

  8. #8
    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    Since I am not giving a training seminar today I guess I can try to guide you in the right direction.

    Iron in water... softeners should not be low salted... typically no less than 8 pounds of salt per cu. ft, preferably higher.

    1 PPM of iron =68 ppm of hardness, or 4 GPG for compensated hardness as a minimum, most companies use 5, but will use 4 to make your reply have a better chance at validity.
    1 PPM of Manganese = 2 ppm of iron, or 138 ppm of hardness, or 8 grains.

    So... by my caculation... he may actually more than double his salt usage.

    I am still not quite sure why you hate iron removal systems. Or why you think wasting masive amounts of salt to cure a problem that can be done with little to no waste, just a small up-front investment... and you wonder why so many municipalities are against water softeners.

    This is an old argument that has been discussed at length in this forum, always with the same reulsts.

  9. #9
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    Since I am not giving a training seminar today I guess I can try to guide you in the right direction.

    Iron in water... softeners should not be low salted... typically no less than 8 pounds of salt per cu. ft, preferably higher.

    1 PPM of iron =68 ppm of hardness, or 4 GPG for compensated hardness as a minimum, most companies use 5, but will use 4 to make your reply have a better chance at validity.
    1 PPM of Manganese = 2 ppm of iron, or 138 ppm of hardness, or 8 grains.

    So... by my caculation... he may actually more than double his salt usage.

    I am still not quite sure why you hate iron removal systems. Or why you think wasting masive amounts of salt to cure a problem that can be done with little to no waste, just a small up-front investment... and you wonder why so many municipalities are against water softeners.

    This is an old argument that has been discussed at length in this forum, always with the same reulsts.
    Adding 7 gpg to his 13 gpg of hardness works very well and has for decades and without doubling the salt dose.

    The OP is not involved with municipal water or municipalities. That's because he has his own private well or he wouldn't have iron and manganese in his water. So there is no reason to bring up municipalities other than you always do. Maybe out there in California your municipal water has iron and manganese in it but the rest of the country doesn't.
    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.

  10. #10
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    A neighbor has very rotten-egg-smelly hot water.

    The well tests 17gpg, 7.5pH, 0.0 Fe. He has a Kinetico system (unknown model) which seems to be softening OK (house water tested 0.0gpg). He complained to Kinetico about the smelly hot water, and they installed a filter media tank (not backwashable) following the softener, which IMHO did no good at all (consistent with the 0.0 Fe test, maybe).

    I tried turning the water heater up to 150 for a couple of days while he was away, and sure enough --the rotten-egg smell went away. BUT with that gone, a strong blood/iron(?) smell remained, although that may be a consequence of very old galvanized plumbing. When I ran hot water through the length of the house to a bathtub to flush out the stinky water, I also flushed out a ridiculous amount of a very fine black particulate. That same particulate matter flushed out of a Rusco screen filter (mesh unknown) immediately following the Kinetico-installed iron filter, but there is no sign of any such particulate in the raw well water. Any idea what that might be?

    In any event, I'm going to give him a new anode rod for Christmas.

  11. #11
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    That is normal for old galvanized pipe and fittings. The black stuff can be from that or the probably upflow Kinetico filter. The bacteria live in the internal crusty build up in deteriorating pipe. Heat kills the bacteria as would some bleach added to the heater tank but that isn't easily accomplished. One way is to add it through the pressure/temperature relief valve but if you do, you should have spare because sometimes a used one won't shut totally.

    Or, based on the age of the valve/heater, remove the valve and then replace it with a new one. Heat or bleach, new bacteria comes in with the cold refill water as hot water is used so both are but temporary 'fixes' unless you leave the temp at about 140f.

    Which was the norm forever until our society was taught to be scared of everything and then the chickification of the American male took hold so together, now women mistakenly feel safer and more secure. Well there is the fact that there are more UPers (Urban Pukes - the opposite to Rednecks) today than us wholesome rural rednecks too. Proving to me anyway that the end is nearing, hopefully slower than I think it is... One thing hastening the demise is the fact of all different types of bacteria living in our residential and commercial tank type water heaters. BTW, some of that bacteria (Ligionella specifically) is deadly.

    A new rod may not solve the problem. If you scrape any material off the old rod as you remove it, what falls in the tank is as if you hadn't removed the rod. I've seen rods as big as my wrist, that is like a small underweight vegan's thigh, so good luck. Also, the new rod may be a type that doesn't have any effect on the odor, so no rod would possibly be a better choice. And yes, no rod voids any warranty on the heater tank if there is any left by now. Choices choices...
    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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    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    I added hydrogen peroxide (works as well as Cl bleach, and you don't have to flush the lines) to an old water heater I had some years ago, and, as you say, that got pretty old pretty fast. The quick solution was to add a small filter into the inlet line, with no filter element in it. Periodically I'd isolate the water heater and filter via shutoff valves, drain some water out the water heater drain, and pour a pint of pharmacy-on-sale H2O2 into the filter body. That replenished the peroxide and kept the sludge from building up in the WH. Ultimately I wound up with a solar system that keeps the water at a nice toasty 160 or so, with the backup electric heat set to 140. No stinky no more, although I do have an Al/Zn anode rod as well. Now that I think about it, it's time to check that.
    Last edited by Mikey; 11-26-2012 at 11:19 AM. Reason: Changed censored word to "pharmacy"

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Yep, I did the same thing and told many people how to do it but used bleach because everyone has bleach or can get it just about anywhere.
    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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    DIY Junior Member Platin465's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    Yep, I did the same thing and told many people how to do it but used bleach because everyone has bleach or can get it just about anywhere.
    I'm interested in this solution. I recently replaced my water heater and now I've got the smell. So should I just buy a filter housing, put shut off valves on either side of it, and put it in line before the inlet of the water heater? I've already got a water softener. Should I put it before the softener, or after? Any particular size filter housing? We've got a two-bathroom house with a 40 gallon water heater.

    Will this help the longevity of the water heater, or only get rid of the smell? I could also raise the heat permanently, but was hoping to keep it under 130 to avoid scalding people.

    Thanks for all the advice on here!

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    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    I used an old cartridge filter housing I had around. Way bigger than necessary, and a pain to take off and put back on. I'll bet you could get a small (H202 comes in pint bottles) Rusco filter housing and mount it upside-down, with the flush valve on top. Then you could turn off the upstream valve (actually I think that's the only valve you'd need), open a hot-water faucet to relieve the downstream pressure, then open the flush valve, pour the H202 through the flush valve into the filter housing as it drains out, then turn off the faucet, close the flush valve, and open the upstream valve. Done. As I recall, I didn't have to do this very often -- maybe once a month or so.

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