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Thread: Advice selecting new softener...

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Default Advice selecting new softener...

    I want suggestion about a replacement for a softener I have had since 1979 that contains an unknown quantity and type of media in an 8 x 40 resin tank attached to an Autotrol 155 valve with a 6 day electro-mechanical time clock. The local man who installed the system, William Phair, passed 15 or 20 years ago, so there's no asking media he put in. I live in a small town northwest of Boston, MA, in Worcester County with lots of hills and many apple orchards although the best crop that boils fron the earth is stone, and all of it is iron loaded granite. The well water contains iron and manganese.

    The last time I had my well tested the water was 15 years ago, if I remember correctly it was 3 grains, 3mg clear iron, 0.5mg Manganese, or words that sounded like that 15 years later. The softener has been regenerated every 6 days with what the setting would have you believe is 10 lbs Morton rust remover salt (green bag), but the actual salt consumption is a bit under 40lb/month, so perhaps its better to use the actual lb than the setting.

    The compliants against the present system are;

    1) There has always been a pulse or iron loaded or salty water the morning after it regenerates. (I'm the 1st owner of the house, well and softener, so I do mean always.) There are enough of us in the house that this may be due to nocturnal visits to the toilet, but this was not always so although (2) below may contribute to this...

    2) It almost always shrieks like the banshee at some point early in the regeneration cycle. A crooning whine with a rising pitch. It follows up with a fluttering drum solo at the end of the regeneration cycle ending in a final crashing slam that shakes every pipe in the 4 bedrroom house. I say almost always because I can't swear it does this when we're away on vacation or only for our entertainment. The Autotrol pilot actuated flapper disc valve has been unquestionably admirably durable. Its lasted 34 years so far without needing any repairs. Its flaw is that its also been noisy the entire time. If this has been instrumental in preventing mineral build-up in the pipes... that's nice... but I still don't want the noise.

    4) The EM time clock... we frequently have brief power outages, (5-15 minutes) and infrequently (well, averaging annually) multi-day outages punctuated by generator power that runs out of gasoline over night. The point being that the softener clock is frequently wrong, the house waked to the shriek of the banshee, and all and sundry go unwashed in the AM lest they emerge from their ablutions with orange-brown streaks. The coffee pot get the last clean quart from the hot water pipe, and the toilets flush... almost ambiguously once the iron selltles. The un-treated water is un-pleasing.


    5) The EM clock... was the first part to fail, breaking some gear teeth. The firm that took Bill Phairs clients when he learned he would pass (Friot Water Treatment) was very kind and gave me 3 or 4 timers removed from service to take whatever I needed. After the 1st failure 18 years ago (aged 15 years) I started greasing the thing every 5 years or so with a plastic compatible teflon loaded grease for HO trains from Labelle similar to the "white lube" once used in VCRs and it hasn't failed since. The cam failed 2 years after the timer, and was swapped and has been greased since.

    5) The resin bed seems not to regenerate fully anymore. There is a faint taste of iron in the water that grows as time goes by. Cleaning the resin bed with Water softener cleaner was followed by Ball citric acid dissolved in water in the salt tank. This worked quite well 15 years ago, when I put in the pool and wanted to be sure of the fill water. It didn't help much now, although it took 20 minutes running the hose for extra rinsing after the citric acid to get rid of extra iron flavors.

    So... the key criteria are...

    1) No iron/salt pulse after regen...
    2) Quiet...
    3) Electronic clock...

    Fleck 9000 and 9100 series based systems have some appeal. Is one better or worse than the other for New England? Is there another type I should consider? I'm looking for something for me to install and maintain rather than a dealer-only brand or model. After 34 years I'm also inclined to believe that the expense for a seperate iron filter isn't justified. On the other hand I have no idea if I should or should not seek fine grain resin, or thin sheel resin, etc. I get the idea that higher crosslink percent resin is not needed for well water.

    I'm (now) an old engineer who fixes everything, TVs, computers, air conditioners, oil furnaces, automobile engines, transmissions, cars totalled by the kids get welded, straigtened, repainted and given back (totalling the car be shouldn't be rewarded with a new one...). I do plumbing, electrical, carpentry, roofing, tree felling, and so on. I gave up on minor surgery though. The lack of anaesthesia got a lot of push-back. (umm... hold off on the reply button, that one was a joke...) You do have to drawn a line though - I have never considered pumping the septic system myself, and never will. No Way. Digging down to the lid is enough. Those flies are vicious. Anyway, the point was that I'm looking for something for me to install.

  2. #2
    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    A little more information than I have time to go over fully right now but in short,

    The A155 EM front gear breakage, normal, common. Cam failure, normal, common. Discs lasting a long time, common. The A155 is a good valve for all of its flaws, it is one of the most durable valves on the market.

    I wont even guess at a proper system replacement without you getting an updated water test for your well. This is important for many reasons.

    900 vs 9100, no contest, 9100. The 9000 is the opiginal and has a brass body that has a tendancy to fail in the lower piston center section over time. The 9100 is a plastic body that we have yet to ever see a valve body failure on.

    A-155 = noise. I especially like the loud slam when it goes between cycles. All systems will make some noise. The 9100SXT should be slightly quiter.

    Salty water, the A-155 should not bypass salty water during regeneration. Something else is going on there. The whine may be due to a restricted drain line which can cause salty water issues.

    What color is the valve body of your A-155? Yellow or tan? Can you post a picture of this classic system?

    Once you show us an updated water test, we can easily recommend a proper system that will meet your needs.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Default Photos now, water test later...

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    What color is the valve body of your A-155? Yellow or tan? Can you post a picture of this classic system?
    Its neither yellow nor tan its Battleship grey.

    Re: Attached Photos - I finished the basement 25 years ago, the piping faces the treads, so its awkward to get a photo of anything interesting but this is it with the covers off.

    In the meantime, Its plumbed with 3/4" sweat copper. A pair of full port ball valves replaced a pair of gates that couldn't cut off tight and dripped from the stems, but the bypass is still a 1/2" globe. As I type this I think I regretted leaving that, but it seals and changing it to a ball would have been a lot more fittings. I did have the presence of mind to put the softener on a pair of unions so I wouldn't have to cut it out someday. Everything is buried under armaflex or rubatex or foam because the well water is *cold* all year long - in the high 40's or low 50's - and it drips much of the year otherwise. You can see rust rom condensation on the ball valve handles. The resin tank is wrapped with a vinyl faced fiberglass hot water tank kit. for the same reason. It was what I could find in the '80's and it sealed up well enough to work without mouldering. The expansion tank for the well behind and below (left in the photo) the softener piping is wrapped similarly, but not as neatly. The brine tank lid is just visible in the lower right corner of the 1st photo.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    Salty water, the A-155 should not bypass salty water during regeneration. Something else is going on there. The whine may be due to a restricted drain line which can cause salty water issues.
    Its 20' of 1/2 inch copper with 4 90 and 4 45 elbows into a trap. It was originally 1/2" polyethylene, but 20 years ago, after the 3rd burst line, it was changed to the copper line so the basement could be finished with confidence. It has whined equally vigorously with both drain lines. There is no closer drain to aim for. It might be possible to switch to 3/4" to the trap, but it would have to be up 4' over then down 7' run rather than down 3' and over since the channels between the sleepers on the slab under the floor are no longer accessable, and the route was awkward enough to plumb the 1st time anyway. There is a 2nd 1/2" line on the same path that was for a dehumidifer that sat on the 2x4 braced shelf on the left in the 2nd photo. It would be easier to parallel that line.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    Once you show us an updated water test, we can easily recommend a proper system that will meet your needs.
    Working on that...
    Attached Images Attached Images   

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Default Water Test Results

    After dropping off samples and waiting a week for results from the local softener people, the results were vague and non-numerical. Took samples to a pool store and got the following for raw well water and after the (35 year old) softener. It was last regenerated 3 nights ago and will regenerate tonight, so its at the end of its cycle.

    Raw Well Water After Softener Units
    TDS 45 45
    pH 6.5* 6.7*
    Total Alkalinity 29 45 ppm
    Total Chlorine 0.0 0.1 ppm
    Total Hardness 82 40 ppm
    Total Hardness 4.8 2.3 gpg
    Copper 0 0 ppm
    Iron 5 0 ppm
    Manganese No** No**

    * I'm not sure I would rely on the 6.5 and 6.7 phenol red pH readings, an electronic red-ox (ORP) (Oxidation Reduction Potential) meter gets 6.9 for both, ditto after using the reference solution to clean the probes to and recalibrate, the meter reads 7.0 for a DW sample (distilled water).

    ** Not sure if "No" means it wasn't tested or was too low to report. An Iron to Manganese ratio between 10:1 and 20:1 is typical in this area.

    The most obvious conclusion is that the 0.75 cu. ft. softener is struggling at the end of the cycle. Iron drops from 5ppm to zero but the hardness only dropped from 4.8 to 2.3 (grains/gallon). The residents (my family) taste a rising trace iron level in the soft at this stage despite the negative test result.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Lacking any suggestions other than to choose something using the 9100 rather than the 9000, at the end of today I'm going to order what the dartboard selected from the range of (possibly) correct capacities (between 1 and 2cu ft) and options suggested by the charts and calculators of online vendors. The dart struck the image of the brine tank attached to a Fleck 9100SXT system with a grid in the rectangular brine tank and 1.5 cu ft of fine grain resin in each 10 x 54 tank and plain tank insulation jackets (alas, no chrome). If this would be a mistake, please reply to this thread.

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    DIY Senior Member mialynette2003's Avatar
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    I don't see a need for a twin tank system. IMO there is no need for soft water 24/7 in a residential home unless you use the water 24/7. Have you checked out the Clack valve? They are a very good DIY valve and very efficient.

  7. #7
    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mialynette2003 View Post
    I don't see a need for a twin tank system. IMO there is no need for soft water 24/7 in a residential home unless you use the water 24/7. .
    At the beginning there was a saga with the rationale for twin-tank, but to put it in a nutshell, after 35 years we're sick of getting a faceful of iron or salt in the morning shower 5 or 6 times a year.

    Quote Originally Posted by mialynette2003 View Post
    Have you checked out the Clack valve? They are a very good DIY valve and very efficient.
    My understanding is that Clack exited the DIY market about a year ago, and will cut off those who sell to DIY. They have no simple twin tank system, they have only multiple systems with crossover valves and lockout contacts,etc.

  8. #8
    DIY Senior Member mialynette2003's Avatar
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    Clack does make a single valve twin tank system. IIRC it has come out this year. I have spoken to my supplier a lot about selling Clack systems. They say they will ship any system anywhere and not to worry. I've been delivering Clack systems to different states for over a year without any problems. I think Clack did not want to field all the calls from DIY'ers when problems arose. Some of the online sellers did not tend to the customers needs after the sale. I take care of my customers and they know I will address the problems and not try to pass them on to others.

  9. #9
    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mialynette2003 View Post
    Clack does make a single valve twin tank system. IIRC it has come out this year. I have spoken to my supplier a lot about selling Clack systems. They say they will ship any system anywhere and not to worry. I've been delivering Clack systems to different states for over a year without any problems. I think Clack did not want to field all the calls from DIY'ers when problems arose. Some of the online sellers did not tend to the customers needs after the sale. I take care of my customers and they know I will address the problems and not try to pass them on to others.
    I stand corrected. After some searching on the Clack site I found brochures for the valve with three different timers the WS1EE/EI/CI twin. There is also an OEM Operating and Service Manual. They all appear well written and complete. These also show up elsewhere on the Internet if you steer the search well enough.

    It's good to hear that this alternative is available. Obviously there won't be an enormous number of installed systems to have experience from yet, but some anecdotal success stories or installation quirks would help. Every manufacturer has a few new products that have teething pains. While I'm sure Clack and its dealer network are well equipped to manage the product introduction as painlessly as possible, it might be awkward to jump in too early as a DIY assisted remotely if there are any problems they send people out to the sites to figure out, for example.

    There's also a problem that (overly senior) engineers make terrible beta test sites because we know too much about what our juniors designed in that will go wrong. For example... You may note that these have a lithium coin cell battery backup. Lithium cell shelf life is limited by the seal/volume ratio and the partial pressure of H2O vapor (not exactly the RH, just moisture available w/o respect to dew point.) The ones installed in garages in Phoenix and Tucson and high in the mountains will work flawlessly for 7+ years, the ones installed in damp basements in the North East quadrant will last 3 years, and the ones installed outdoors in Florida will tend to be depleted before the power goes out. If I got one I'd put in a Tadiran AA lithium pack you attach to the housing with Velcro tape that has long leads and a coin cell shaped connector. It's a $10 band-aid for a parts budget that got 85 cents too greedy, but the AA seal/volume ratio solves the problem and they can put a AA lithium holder on Rev B.

    The above notwithstanding, it isn't a fixable $10 nuisance that keeps me from getting a quote for one, it's glass/resin fill ratios and molding finishing quality and injection gating flow temps and knit lines that will make almost identical plastic valves either last forever, or warp, jam leak and break or glass grind their o-rings with numbing regularity. Since I can't look at the flow simulation for the larger injection mould for the twin tank valve and figure out if the first run is going to be a winner or a loser I'd want to hear what's happened to some of the ones fielded so far before I wanted to buy one. There isn't any public "buzz" on the net.
    Last edited by polychromeuganda; 06-07-2013 at 05:37 AM. Reason: Typo

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    DIY Junior Member polychromeuganda's Avatar
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    Thanks to those replied to my request for advice, esp the 9000 vs 9100 and for this forum in general. I've ordered a Fleck 9100SXT twin tank softener with fine grain resin, 1.5 cu ft tanks, stainless threaded bypass, tank insulating foam jackets, and a rectangular brine tank with a support grid and safety float valve. I'll post a picture if it turns out to be an attractive installation with only 3 fittings that I hard soldered with Sil-phos in my excess of enthusiasm, and remain curiously silent if the supply house runs out of 3/4" 45s and 95/5 before I finish plumbing tanks perched above a flood on carved up plastic milk crates and leaning like that tower in Pisa.
    I'll also try to remember to post some water sample data. Hopefully, the hardness leakage will be nil. Running 12,000 gallons to fill the pool should flush the pipes enough for meaningful data.
    Thanks again...

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member lifespeed's Avatar
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    Twins will be great to fill the pool.
    Lifespeed

  12. #12
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Depending on what type pool it is, you don't want soft water in it because that can ruin the pool and, soft water usually messes up the chemistry of any pool and that costs a bunch to get the water right again.

    Also, most twin tank type softeners allow water through only one tank at a time and when a tanf regenerates, the service flow rate is 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.

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    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    The service flow rate of a twin tank is only reduced by the amount that the regenerating tank needs for its regeneration cycle. A typical 9x48 tank will only lose 2 GPM available to the system for 10 minutes during backwash and fast rinse. I have never had anyone even notice that.

    Pools for the most part should not be filled with soft water but... what do you do if your water is naturally soft? You simply fill it and adjust your chemicals, pH, etc accordingly.

    We do not recommend filling pools, or topping them off with soft water mainly because it is wasteful. It has been reported that the grout or plaster in pools can degrade in soft or very low tds water, but the lack of adequate studies makes this difficult to confirm. To be safe, most water softening companies recommend against it because, understandably, we dont want the responsibility or liability of a damaged pool.

    That being said, I have seen too many pools to count that were fed with soft water for decades... I have not seen any damage occur yet. This is not scientific nor a recommendation, just an observance.

  14. #14
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Maybe you haven't heard of it because you don't talk to or sell to twin tank owners with problems and as you said, that 2 gpm is only for a 1 cuft size tank, not all twin tank softeners.

    The reduction is much more, up to half the SFR for a twin tank that allows water through both tanks at the same time until a regeneration starts.

    And as we both know, naturally soft water is much different than softened 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.

  15. #15
    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    Twin tanks... lol. I sell thousands a year. I think I know about them.

    Naturally soft water vs softened water, your statements really show your lack of understanding. Explain to me the difference if water "naturally" has 150 ppm of sodium and very little calcium and magnesium, vs 10 grain hard water that is softened?
    Your trolling again.


    For anyone who is interested in the truth, not just some statement made by a troll, read the following article. http://www.wqa.org/pdf/NaturallySoftVsSoftened.pdf

    it is a short read and it was written in a fairly easy to understand way.

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