Water is very soft, but still spots like crazy


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Old 03-16-07, 07:09 PM
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Water is very soft, but still spots like crazy

Our municipal water goes through a properly operating softener, yet still leaves white spots on kitchen fixtures and everything else it touches.

The water feels perfectly soft, so why all the spots? Could it be salt?
 
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Old 03-16-07, 08:36 PM
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From your other thread it seems you have a Fleck 5600 demand based softener. Have you kill the "bees" in it yet?

Your softener may need some fine tuning and may not be operating as efficently as it can. Have you recently had a complete water test? That would be the best indicator of what's in the water.

The spots can be the TDS (total disolved solids) in your water. Softening removes calcium, magnesium, and iron (to a degree) but there can be other stuff floating around in your water.

If your TDS is higher than normal when the water dries or evaporates it will leave behind whatever is in it other than the "H" and the "O".

You can take a clean sample of your water from before and after your softener to a water treatment pro and they can test for TDS or you can buy a handy TDS tester for a reasonable price here...

http://www.pwgazette.com/roparts.htm (second from bottom and free freight)
 
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Old 03-17-07, 06:48 AM
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justalurker, thanks for the info. Yes we're still getting bug zapper noises, but I decided to wait before buying a replacement motor. The softener appears to be working fine aside from the buzzing (and the mysterious spotting problem).

This morning was regen time, so I took TDS readings immediately before and after the cycle:

Before: ~280 PPM
After: 0 PPM (or very close to it, the test kit I have uses a color wheel so I don't get exact numbers)

Immediately after the regen I put some water drops on our kitchen faucet and am now waiting for them to evaporate. If I still get white spots, just out of curiosity, what minerals/other stuff would be the most common causes?
 
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Old 03-17-07, 07:24 AM
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Pismojeff,

Addressing your white spot issue: Sometimes what appears as a softener working proper may be working "most" of the time. If you have the Fleck 5600 and it is a demand system, then you may have periods of time when the capacity of the softener runs out before the actual regeneration time. When that happens, hardness minerals return to the water and can leave spots.

Another result would be sodium spots. The way you can tell the difference between sodium and calcium spots are the sodium spots wipe off easily with a moist cloth and calcium spots will remain for the most part.

Your TDS reading is interesting. You say you have around 280ppm before regeneration and no reading after. That would not be an accurate reading as the TDS before and after regeneration cycles should be very similar. A softener is not a filter, it is an exchange process. An RO will reduce TDS to near zero, depending on the quality of the unit, its age and the quaty of incoming water among other aspects. I suspect your measuring instrument is not working properly.

Andy Christensen, CWS
 
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Old 03-17-07, 07:34 AM
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PismoJeff,

"This morning was regen time, so I took TDS readings immediately before and after the cycle:

Before: ~280 PPM
After: 0 PPM (or very close to it, the test kit I have uses a color wheel so I don't get exact numbers)"

I agree with Andy C. I think that you are confusing "TDS" with hardness. You don't check TDS with a test strip. A softener should not be reducing TDS. TDS is only reduced by a filter of some some like an RO.

Has this "mysterious spotting problem" just showed up or has it been doing this for a while?

Andy C also makes a good point "then you may have periods of time when the capacity of the softener runs out before the actual regeneration time. When that happens, hardness minerals return to the water and can leave spots".

If the hardness is "leaking through" you should be able to detect that just before the softener regenerates.

Considering the "bees" in your control valve and now the spots it seems that you have more than one problem. Whatever the buzz, that needs to be repaired. Your softener is not working fine and will not heal iteself.

You already know that you need a repair and are only guessing at the buzzing cause. The "buzzing" repair needs to be made and the softener setup AND operation needs to be checked.

Without knowing what you're looking for that is very difficult for a DIYer. time to consider bringing in a local water treatment pro.
 

Last edited by justalurker; 03-17-07 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 03-17-07, 01:58 PM
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Sorry for the sloppy terminology. I'm using a Marden 5-in-1 test kit for freshwater aquariums, and one of the tests is simply called "hardness". This is what showed 280 prior to regen and close to zero after.

From the comments about sodium, I think that's what is causing the spots. They wipe away very easily with a slightly moist rag or paper towel, or even with a dry fingertip.
 
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Old 03-17-07, 02:25 PM
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It's not a matter of terminology it's more our inability to convey what we are trying to tell you. Let me try again...

Hardness is not TDS. Hardness is calcium, magnesium, iron and other things. TDS or "total disolved solids" are the small rocks and twigs floating around in your water that you can't see.

If you have a sodium problem then either there is too much sodium in your raw water and you need to treat that, or your softener is setup wrong or your softener has a problem and someone with the knowledge and expertise needs to address that.

You still need to have the buzzing repaired.

AGAIN, spots just start to show up or has it been spotting for a while?
 

Last edited by justalurker; 03-17-07 at 06:37 PM.
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Old 03-17-07, 07:17 PM
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The spots have been there ever since we moved into this house last year (it's a rental). The softener is 24,000 grain, 3/4 cu. ft. which according to my calcs is underpowered for the amount of water we use and hardness we're trying to remove. Since it's not our house we're not planning to replace it with a higher capacity unit.

Trying to get it tweaked has been a challenge. One repairman (who did a media change last November) insisted the correct salt setting is 9 lbs -- even though he didn't even do a hardness test -- and sure enough, every time the unit would regenerate we would get less and less soft water. Eventually (within about six weeks) there was no soft water at all coming from the unit. So I tried bumping up the salt usage to 11 lbs (we were trying to avoid another service visit charge) and viola, soft water all the time.

The spot problem was there even when the unit was set to 9 lbs.

Anyway thanks very much for the info and help.
 
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Old 03-17-07, 07:36 PM
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Sure sounds like your softener is setup wrong or it's not working properly.

Another consideration that is often overlooked, a .75 cu ft (24k) softener has an SFR (service flow rate) of 6.75 gpm (gallons per minute). That means that with all things being equal, with the softener working and set up properly, if the water flow through the softener exceeds 6.75 gpm (gallons per minute) then all the hardness won't be removed. That situation is called "hardness leaking through" and that sounds like part of your problem.

We can set up the softener to deal with your water condiitions but since it's not sized correctly it may regenerate more often than you like.

How often is your softener regenerating now? Every how many days?

We can not compensate for too small a flow rate through too small a softener. You are stuck with that.

You could always buy a correctly sized softener for the house you'd buy down the road and the size family you intend and install that in the rental. We can throttle back a larger softener for the time you're in the rental house.

When you move take the big softener with you and put the undersized munchkin back in.

You can buy a Fleck 5600SE based 48k softener for $567 including delivery here...

http://www.ohiopurewaterco.com/shop/customer/home.php?cat=179

A modest investment for this rental and your next house or maybe you can get your current landlord to help with the cost of a new correctly sized softener. Soft water cuts down his/her plumbing maintenance costs (longer lived fixtures and faucet washers), and saves his/her washer/dryer and water heater.
 
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Old 03-17-07, 07:48 PM
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The softener is regenerating once every 3-4 days, sometimes 5. It's a metered Fleck 5600. I don't believe flow is enough to cause hardness "leaking", because it does provide nicely softened water all the time.
 
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Old 03-17-07, 08:28 PM
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Let me explain better, if the service flow rate exceeds 6.75 gpm (even in a burst) then there will be a transient hardness leakthrough. The leakthrough won't be constant so when you test for hardness at lower flows it will show soft.

That hardness leaking through will result is spots just like if the water is hard because it is transiently (momentarily) hard and that hardness (calcium) is mixing back into the water you think is "nicely softened".

Hardness leakthough is physics and not really open to belief or disbelief, it is verifiable scientific fact and explains exactly the spotting problem that you are having.

Using a bucket at a tub, with the hot and cold water running full flow, collect water for exactly 10 seconds and then measure the amount of water. Then multiply the volume by 6 to calculate the volume for 60 seconds which is the gpm. This is only the gpm of that tub and doesn't include other water that may be used normally while the tub was filling.

It might be easier to use an outside hose bib.

If you get say 1.5 gallons in 10 seconds then the SFR of the tub or hose bib is 9gpm and that would require at least a 1 cu ft softener. Bad news is that this is the SFR of only that tub or just that hose bib and doesn't take into account any other faucets or appliances that might be on using water at the same time.

Try this and if you get close to 6.5 gpm that is your spotting problem.

BTW, regenerating every 3-4 days is too often and you're using a lot of extra water and salt. Best to size a softener correctly and regenerate every 6 or 7 days to keep the resin happy.

Another thing, if the tech who replaced the resin put too much in and there isn't enough freeboard (free space above the resin) then the resin isn't being completely regenerated. The resin has to have enough freeboard (room) in the resin tank to float around and get completely washed by the brine when regenerating.
 

Last edited by justalurker; 03-18-07 at 10:37 AM.
  #12  
Old 03-19-07, 10:15 AM
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Since you're living in a rental unit, any money spent on your landlords water treatment system is money lost. If it's not operating correctly, AND it is in the lease/rental agreement as something he/she will maintain, have them get it repaired. If not, then I'd have him come out and disconnect it and have my own unit put in place. From my own experience with my rental properties, I never guaranteed soft water. It was there strictly for MY purposes, ie. appliances, and therefore if it quits working, I may/may not get it fixed. You might be lucky and get him to repair it though. Although you most likely could repair this yourself, and don't be discouraged by all the "get a professional" words of wisdom, I wouldn't put any money into something you don't own.
 
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Old 03-20-07, 01:38 AM
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The softener was shut off when we moved in (it just needed a media change), so it's not part of our rental agreement. We sprang for the cost of the media change ourselves. Beyond that, we don't want to spend any more money on repairs or replacement.

justalurker: we did test the water flow at both shower tubs (and all three sinks, one in the kitchen and one in each bathroom), and at full flow the showers each run at ~8 gallons/minute. However, since our water heater is small (40 gallons), we always run the showers one at a time, with no other usage, and at a relatively slow flow rate, 1/2 or less. I tested for hardness at the flow rates we use, and it was still right around zero.

However, the kitchen sink -- where we see these white spots -- was also ~8 gallons/minute at full flow, and we usually do run that at full blast. I tested for hardness at that rate and sure enough, it was over 150. So that's definitely the problem, or at least part of it. We hate flow restrictors, so we'll just make it a point to use that tap at 1/2 power or less from now on.

Again, thanks all for the advice and info. You've been a great help.
 
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Old 03-20-07, 06:47 PM
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Not properly or correctly sizing a water softener is a COMMON OCCURANCE and need not be.

Glad we could help.
 

Last edited by justalurker; 03-20-07 at 07:12 PM.
 

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