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Thread: Clueless about softwater issues

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Default Clueless about softwater issues

    I was researching the cost of installing soft water systems recently.
    I cannot recall who or where I read it but this comment was made:

    "..(after installing a soft water system) you then will have to deal with
    the soft water problems, instead of hardwater problems..."

    I have no idea what this might refer to....?



    I live in the California high desert and our water is really bad (hard).
    Mineral stain/etching all over the place.
    My windows are permanently etched. I have washed the windows with CLR and it helps only some and not for very long...

  2. #2
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Don't remember the post on problems, but here are some factors to consider:

    Softeners are very effective and make very soft water (No hardness). That tends to make it difficult to remove suds. Municipal systems usually blend soft and hard water to deliver something on the order of 80 to 120 mg/liter of hardness. That is a little tricky for the system in your basement.

    Softening replaced the calcium in your water with sodium. If you are sensitive to sodium, that can be a problem, Usually, you don't drink enough water for it to matter.

    Very soft water can be more corrosive than hard water. You want to check your pH and may have to deal with corrosive water.

    You should have a water test to understand all of the issues with your water. Look especially for hardness, iron, manganese, pH, magnesium, nitrates, nitrites, total dissolved solids, and coliform bacteria. Sometimes they will report a corrossivity index for which the ideal result is 0 to +0.5. If it is negative the water is corrosive, if more positive you may get scaling.

    Sometimes people run a line to the sink to use unsoftened water for drinking because they like the taste better.

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    DIY Senior Member SteveW's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what they were referring to exactly, but reminds me that I recently installed a Desert Spring humidifier on my furnace. The Q and A that the company puts on the web make reference to white deposits which they claim softened water will cause the humidifier to emit into the air stream. Seems backwards to me -- you should get calcium and magnesium deposits with hard water, but seems you shouldn't have a problem with soft water.

    I have read that if you have old pipes with lead-based solder, hard water may cause the lead to be covered over with mineral deposits. I don't know if you then switched to soft water whether it might desolve some of those deposits and expose the lead?

    From my point of view, softened water has been helpful around the house. One of my outside hose bibs is plumbed to have soft water -- I rarely use that one for watering plants, but use it a lot for car washing, which is nice since it leaves fewer water spots if you don't dry it immediately.

    It does take a week or two to get used to the "slippery" feeling when you shower with soft water, but eventually you realize that you don't actually have soap residue on your skin. Rather, you're feeling what your skin feels like if you don't have residue created by soap + Mg + Calcium.
    Last edited by SteveW; 01-29-2006 at 06:03 PM.

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    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Very interesting...
    One concern for me might be my landscaping which consists of cactus, agave and yucca-not to mention the very rare Joshua Tree.
    These have thrived here for literally thousands of years with this hard water.

    Losing a Joshua tree would be awful. They cannot be replaced.
    You can't buy them full grown or transplant them.
    I dont think I should mess with mother nature......in my particular case.

  5. #5
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Mike, hard water can not etch glass, either there's something else doing it or

    "..(after installing a soft water system) you then will have to deal with
    the soft water problems, instead of hard water problems..."

    More than likely that is from someone that doesn't like the 'slippery' feeling. A feeling that they can't rinse the soap off themselves. They mistakenly believe it is due to the sodium in softened water, or the soap on their skin but neither is true.

    The feeling is due to the softened water cleaning their skin much better than when they wash in hard water. Hard water leaves a film on everything that it is used on or to clean etc..

    Softened water cleans the pores of the skin allowing the skin's natural oils to come to the surface, causing the 'slippery feeling'. Unless you use facial cleansers etc. your skin is never as clean as when washed in softened water. The reason is that hard water blocks pores keeping the oils from protecting the skin from dryness, cracking, scaling etc.. That is why so many women buy skin cleaners, bath oils, facial creams etc.. Softened water cleans everything easier and faster than hard water and softened water allows those things to stay cleaner longer. That saying "squeaky clean", it was never true unless there was oil or grease on the surface and it was removed with a rag etc. and then with hard water which will leave a film on the surface that by drawing a finger across it, will cause a squeaking sound.

    Another possible reason for the comment is that some people mistakenly believe that the added sodium is a problem but they have no idea of how much sodium is added; they just see all the salt in the brine tank disappear and mistakenly think it is all added to their water. The truth is that two ions of sodium is added per ion of (ion) exchange. And the formula to find out just how much has been added is 7.85 mg/l per grain per gallon. So if the water hardness is 15 gpg, then 7.85 * 15 = 117.75 mg of added sodium per roughly a quart of softened water. If you check the label on a loaf of white bread, you usually see between 120 to 150 mg of sodium per slice. So drink your recommended two quarts of this softened water per day and you get the same sodium, or less than a sandwich made with white bread alone... And those folks on sodium restricted diets know how to adjust their daily intake.

    As to softened water being corrosive. That is not true. If it were then harder water would be progressively less corrosive and that is not true.

    Softening water does not decrease the TDS (total dissolved solids) content of water, it slightly increases TDS, due to the added sodium ion; recall the two for one above? Naturally soft water, low TDS and thereby usually acidic water is corrosive, but not ion exchange softened water. And BobNH, the Langlier Saturation Index (LSI) was never meant to be used to determine the aggressiveness or curiosity of ion exchange softened water. It was invented and supposed to be used solely for determining if a given water would dissolve asbestos fiber reinforced cement water distribution pipe or not; and it has been misused ever since.


    Gary
    Quality Water Associates
    Last edited by Terry; 01-12-2009 at 10:21 AM.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    You should NEVER use softened water for any plant material. It contains enough sodium to make the leaves turn yellow. If you use calcium chloride instead of sodium chloride, I think it is ok, but the salt is 2 to 3 times the price. Generally, the best idea is to just install the softener at a point in your system that the outdoor water will not be softened.

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    Plumber/Gasfitter dubldare's Avatar
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    What about excess sodium in softened water (from a malfunctioning/incorrectly set softener). Does (or can) the excess sodium precipitate water heater failure?

    I have my theories, but I'll sit back and listen.

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    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    I'd really like to soften the inhouse water if i can accomplish that.
    I've had it before and slippery is good..! heh

    But you know what? Im not paying anywhere near a thousand dollars
    to get that accomplished.

    Hell, for that money I could stop washing in the river and pissing in the stream in a proper bathroom around here... lol
    Last edited by Mike50; 01-30-2006 at 08:50 PM.

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    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Presumably you can search the internet. The link is the first one I found; now you can comparison shop to see if you can do better.

    http://www.qualitywatertreatment.com/watersofteners.htm

    Get a water test and you can figure out what you need, or you can ask here.

    You can get different heads with different bells and whistles, but simpler is better. I installed one at my mother's place about 15 years ago and it still works fine. It has a little turbine meter that measures usage and starts a clock cycle for regenerating. Nothing fancy. If you can solder 3/4 copper you can install it yourself. It wll cost you a lot less than $1000.

    Differences in price for the same head are based on the size of the resin tank, which is based on your hardness level and demand. You must have the water test to determine what you need. They are inexpensive and often available from public agencies.

  10. #10
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Here is a quote from a recent post by Speedbump, who sells water treatment systems and is a respected member of this forum. Note that the softener that he remarks on is the same model as is available at the link in my previous post.

    " I have a very wealthy customer who wanted a softener installed at his dock so he could wash off his 40 some odd foot boat. . . . . . he called me and asked what I thought of magnetic softeners. . . . . . . it sure did look nice all plumbed into his PVC plumbing out at the dock. He now has a 1 cu. ft. unit with a Fleck 5600 metered head to actually soften his water."

  11. #11
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dubldare
    What about excess sodium in softened water (from a malfunctioning/incorrectly set softener). Does (or can) the excess sodium precipitate water heater failure?

    I have my theories, but I'll sit back and listen.
    It would be very difficult to get a softener to pass "excess" sodium into the softened water and the control valve set up can't accomplish it. So no, sodium is not gong to cause water heater failure.

    The primary cause of water heater failure is a failure of the glass lining of the mild steel tank allowing water to rust the tank until it leaks. All waters have some sodium in them and there is no "excess" sodium other than that which is added as part of the ion exchange process. As part of the regeneration all softeners rinse all the sodium out of the resin tank that is not held on the resin bead sites. As ion exchange occurs, two sodium ions are released per ion of calcium, magnesium etc. that is removed by a softener. If the glass lining in the heater is intact, there can not be any rusting (corrosion), and if the outside didn't rust, which is impossible, the tank would last forever.

    As to the web site page mentioned above, be careful, there is some incorrect info there. Read the 5600 spec sheet and you'll see the control valve is being used on tanks larger than it is supposed to be. And there is no mention of SFR rates of the various size softeners; the SFR of the control valve is not used for the resin, that is done by the resin manufacturer solely.

    As to control valves, I think the Clack WS-1 is the best choice all around and especially for a DIYer that will replace a part if needed. There is no control more simple in design as to ease of repair. The Clack is extremely simple, easy and faster to repair and there are no special Fleck control valve specific tools required; as most Fleck valves require.

    As to using potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride and especially with plants, the link given above has a number of answers in the Potassium FAQs sectin concerning that, including a number of cautions.

    Gary
    Quality Water Associates

  12. #12
    Plumber/Gasfitter dubldare's Avatar
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    How about the excess sodium that results from an undersized, excessively long or otherwise restricted drain hose? Another situation would be a shallow well that cannot produce the sustained GPM necessary for the rinse cycle.
    The sort of situation where the hose can pass enough water for the brine cycle, but not enough water for a thorough rinsing.

    I have fielded issues of brine residue/salty taste in softened water. Most of the time the issues are a softener not calibrated to actual hardness, systems of relatively low hardness that are removing high amounts of iron, old timed systems which are regenerating far too often, dramatically oversized systems or what I've already mentioned above.

    To simply say that an issue cannot happen (and even if it did...it can't, and there's already sodium in the water, so any more can't have an effect) is a classy way of side-stepping an issue that, from what I read here, can never happen.

    While it shouldn't happen on paper, the truth is that much happens in the real world. Be the cause from an installer who just puts it in, and has no clue of how to set the head, a salesmen who gives the customer 'the best one they make' not fully realizing whether the system is oversized, or using a softener primarily for iron removal.

    What I'm trying to get at is simply this. Does excess sodium, how ever it gets into the water, make the water more corrosive.

    Thanks for your time.

  13. #13
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    I already said no to the "is sodium going to cause water heater failure", but then went on to say why because of your sitting there with your own theories.... which now you state a few and seem to be wanting to hear that the answer is yes, sodium causes heater failure but, how stills has to be stated...

    So, let me say that if those things were present, the softener has not been working correctly from the git go. And anyone that allows the softener to sit there not working... or working that way... Well I was seeing a softener that was, or had been, set up and working correctly and then all of a sudden is allowing a salty taste.

    A more restricted drain line, all softeners have a flow control, will prevent the brine from being drawn out of the brine tank, hence it isn't in the resin bed to be added to the softened water. The clue for that is higher and higher water level in the brine tank and hard water leakage into the softened water, or said another way, having hard water instead of softened.

    A well that can't produce say the 3.0 gpm to backwash say up to a 2.5 cuft softener for up to 12 minutes ( a 'normal' shower can flow more and usually flows longer!), isn't going to be doing much good when the softener isn't in regeneration... And maybe you're confusing the recovery rate with the delivered water peak demand flow rate OR you're forgetting the storage capacity of the well. I.E. a 6" well has 1.47 gals/foot of water. Plus, most folks don't use much water after midnight, and that allows the well 2 hours of recovery before the softener goes into a regeneration. So the well should be fully recovered from most late night water uses such as a couple showers and toilet flushes.

    To my knowledge sodium does not make water corrosive, and salt is sodium chloride, not just sodium.

    Chloride is corrosive. The chloride part of sodium chloride and/or potassium chloride goes right through a softener and out to drain. If you have incomplete rinses, you leave brine (sodium, or potassium, chloride) in the resin tank that will cause a salty taste but it takes little salt to make water taste salty. BUT, if you've left brine in the resin tank, then you have the salt dose set way too high and/or the rinse times way too short. And you'd know that immediately after installation, well, after the first regeneration, but close enough.

    The slow rinse/brine draw (brining) position/cycle is always, in the vast majority of softeners, from 45-75 minutes and the flow is usually .25 to .5 gpm. During all that time the well is recovering from the prior backwash water use that usually happens before brining. That time is usually no more than 6-12 minutes; at the same flow rate as backwash.

    If any of those things exist, then I agree, the dealer/installer etc. have it set up wrong (and deserve to have the complaint and expense of salty water IMO! LOL). If the drain line ID is too small or the run is long enough to require a larger DLFC (drain line flow control) and they didn't increase the ID and/or raise the DLFC, dittos. If they didn't check for proper pressure and/or flow rate or time on a well water system, dittos. Personally, I've seen plumbers, well drillers and some DIYers do those things but not dealers and their installers.

    Gary
    Quality Water Associates
    Last edited by Gary Slusser; 01-31-2006 at 07:57 PM.

  14. #14
    Plumber/Gasfitter dubldare's Avatar
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    Not many private water systems that I know of have 6" casings. Four inch is more on par around here, while many seasonal homes have 1 1/4" sandpoints that are maybe 25' deep at most. It's the sandpoints of which I speak.

    When I speak of a restricted or long drain hose, I'm meaning one that will pass the .5 gpm for brine draw, but will not pass the full volume during the backwash cycle.

    While all of this goes back to incorrect installations (or applications), not everyone is an engineer, nor do many plumbers completely understand the processes.

    I've seen many (mostly old) softener installations where only the supply to the water heater was softened, not any other cold lines. One customer in particular was averaging 13 months per heater with such an installation. He is now on warranty heater #5 (all were tank leaks/52 gal electric). The last replacement was done by me, and the old antiquated (20 year old) softener was bypassed after conferring with the homeowner. The softener was an old rental unit that had long since been forgotten, just the customer dutifully adding salt since the company went belly-up. The city water in that area is around 7 grains, so the softener is not a total necessity. While time is not on my side, yet, that last replacement was 15 months ago.

    I'm not implying that there are not other factors which may be the cause, but I've seen a few things over the years that really gets me wondering on the 'what if' side of things.
    Last edited by dubldare; 01-31-2006 at 09:05 PM.

  15. #15
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    I've never seen anything other than 6" and 5 5/8" wells and I did pump work on many wells over the years. I don't know how people live with anything less than 4".

    Anyone setting up and/or installing a softener should know what they're doing or follow the directions, but they don't have to be an engineer. Yes many plumbers don't like following directions and refuse to read instructions.

    All those heaters had to have the glass lining breached. To prove the point, put any softened water in a water glass, or on a flat sheet of window glass and see how long it takes to harm the surface of the glass. There won't be any in our lifetimes.

    Maybe where he was getting his heaters from, was dropping the tanks or otherwise damaging the lining.

    Gary
    Quality Water Associates

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