help me navigate the water softener maze


  #1  
Old 08-03-07, 02:39 PM
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help me navigate the water softener maze

I am in need of a water softener. We have had a birm filter for years that was dealing with an Fe, and apparently and Mn problem. (I doubt the Mn was being addressed to tell the truth because the pH was between 6.5 and 7.5 which I understand is too low (or high) for Mn removal with a birm system.

Anyways, the Birm unit has expired and I decided to look at the whole deal since we were going to have buy something anyways and have found a hardness value of 16 which is high. I was not surprised to see this number.

I decided that we may as well go wuith a softener and have had three opinions from Culligan, Ecowater and Aquatech. Aquatech wanted to sell me a new Birm and a Softener, Ecowater want to sell me an ECR 3000 softener while Culligan have recommended a Gold Series Softener with the warning that I may want to add a birm later if we fing and H2S issue that he thought he "might" have smelled.

I like his phased approach to tell the truth.

Anyways, all the systems we have looked at are in the $2k plus range (softener alone). I have noticed that there are cheaper options (
 
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Old 08-03-07, 03:14 PM
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Clearly you are interested in solving the problem. I have not had a lot of good things to say about birm filters. Recommended pH is above 6.9 and must have at least 15% dissovled oxygen in the water, which is hard to measure and regulate. Venturis get clogged and pumps are a pain.

From your test results, which are not challenging, you will need a quality piece of equipment as not to become penny wise and dollar foolish.

I am willing to say your TDS count is too low as the numbers don't chime. Probalbly closer to 300ppm. Anyway...

H2S can be deceiving as numerous causes can result in similar odors. Take care of your obvious concerns first and address those later if budget and information are not adequate.

Have you considered Kinetico products?

I don't want to get into the Sears/Kenmore/Whirlpool diatribes and why buying a disposable water softener is in the best interests of someone who claims not to base choices on price alone....

You want to look at the big picture and hope to buy a system that is trouble free for 20 or more years, right?

Post more questions of you'd like,
Andy Christesnen, CWS
 
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Old 08-03-07, 04:20 PM
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Andy,

Thanks. You have raised and addressed some of the very concerns I had. If there is a substantial difference between the two 'classes" of systems in terms of operational costs (consumables and maintenace/repairs) and lifespan then the choice to go to the higher end system becomes much easier. I was hoping for some guidance from the experts here in that regard and you have given me just that.

bTW I have a venturi in the birm system but it has been noted by a couple of the "bidders" that it was strange that I only had one tank. It seems my pressure tank may be doubling as a aeration/settling chamber which seems suboptimal.

The guy who recomended the ecowater system is a kinetico dealer. I shall ask him about those products.

Now on the interesting note about TDS, I noted in one of the filter tests that the TDS increases when one runs the water through a softener or other medium. The explanation I was given for this was that the water is bringing solids from the media into solution.

It seemed a little strange but not enough to question him too hard as obviously some dissolution will occur particularly with a brine type of system.

As for a filter media an pick up of solids into solution --- I suppose it seems reasonable when one realises that these systems are designed to remove supsended particles rather that disolved particles.

I take it from your response that my best move is to go ahead and buy one of the quality water softening systems and then relax for 20 years while it does its thing quietly and efficiently. I also take it from your reply that there is a signifigant difference in reliablity and lifespan between the more costly systems and the kenmore etc. types. That is important advice and I appreciate your providing it.

If you can, could you provide an estimate of the lifespan difference between the good systems and "disposables"?

Thanks again.
 
  #4  
Old 08-03-07, 10:21 PM
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Hardness, Iron, Manganses and low pH

Andy's right about your TDS. With 16 gpg hardness, one would expect a TDS around 278 before even factoring in other contaminants.

Your pH is also "too low" for the chemistry listed so far. Do you have high dissolved CO2 (lots of bubbles sticking to the inside of a glass of water after a few minutes) ?

A well buiilt softener/conditioner with at least 8% x-linked or structured matrix resin with an acid-based system cleaner should handle the iron without any problems.

0.44 ppm of Manganese is more of a challenge though. EPA MCL for Mn is 0.05 due to the severe risk of staning. That level of manganese could seriously foul your resin and significantly decrease your salt efficiency and projected system lifespan.

If you can guarantee yourself a healthy flow/pressure for backwashing (20 gallons at 50+ psi), then you might consider a KDF-85 prefilter upstream of your softener/conditioner to reduce the Fe & Mn.

A Potassium permanganate-based MTM oxidizing filter would also work extremely well here without breaking the bank in regenerant costs.


"Disposable Softeners" - Those of us that design/sell water treatment systems professionally tend to sneer at the box-box retail systems, since they're built for the lowest common multiple - a one-size fits most approach. You local pro will design and integrate a system for exactly what you need. I wouln't use a big-box system in my own home on city water and especially not in your situation. We call them disposable because they tend to have very short service lives (often less than 5 years). I have seen systems designed by our company & other reputable companies that have lasted over 40 years. Regardless of which brand you select, make sure that you have solid local support in the event that something goes wrong.

I hesitate to use the set-it-and-forget-it approach when dealing with water treatment, since water chemistry can change over time.

You should have your local water specialist perform a tune-up or multipoint inspection on your system every year to ensure that you accomodate for annual attrition loss and reprogram it in a relationship to the tested water chemistry.
 
  #5  
Old 08-04-07, 09:54 AM
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Greg,

I have had the very discussion about the Mn with culligan and ecowater guys and they have claimed that the 5 gpm I have from my well pump is sufficient to backwash the Mn from a softener.

Should I be "quizzing" them further about this claim?

There is no point in buying the long life system only to have a chemical issue shorten that life.

Thanks to all here I quickly dismissed any further consideration of the "disposables"

I always prefer to buy quality but I like to know what I am getting and why I am getting it.

You have all told me what I wanted to hear.

I thank you for that.
 
  #6  
Old 08-04-07, 11:04 AM
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Manganese, backwash rates etc...

Hardness, iron, manganese and other ions are attracted to the ion exchange sites on and inside the resin. During regeneration, the mass action of saturated sodium chloride (brine) in solution will force sodium ions back onto the exchange sites and the comtaminants are left in solution as regeneration byproducts.

Iron & manganese are more difficult to remove during regeneration. That's why resin cleaners & performance enhancers like res-up, pro res care, hydroclear & pur-gard exist. The acids, surfactants and sequestering agents aid in removing oxidized/unoxidized metals from the resin. The negative to most of these cleaners is that they can damage resin over time. The only one I know of that is specifically designed not to damage resin is Pur-Gard. I'm sure there are some others out there too. High cross-linkage resins will resist this damage.

5 gpm at 50+ psi is barely enough to backwash about 1.5ft3 of standard mesh cation resin.

If you have an average-size family (4 persons), then I would recommend a 2ft3 softener with macroporous resin & a systemic performance enhancer injector if you're not planning on prefiltering, since that will ensure you have system longevity and enough column depth to remove as much Mn as possible.

If you have an additional pressure tank installed to provide enough backwash flow, then you could comfortably prefilter with an oxidizing filter to provide the ultimate in reliability and longevity.

Has your local pro sized your softening system for you yet ?
 
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Old 08-04-07, 11:13 AM
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size

One of the units I am considering has a 47lb resin bed while the other is a 9" dia by 48 inch resin tank.
 
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Old 08-04-07, 12:04 PM
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System sizes

Not sure what a 47lb system is, unless they're referencing the amount of salt used per regeneration. If so, presuming a max regen of 15lbs/ft3, then that could possibly be a 3ft3 system. Another thing could be referencing is the weight of the "dry" resin. Resin usually weighs around 35-50 lbs/ft3 depending on moisture content. What size is the tank ?

Depending on freeboard and underbedding, a 9x48 tank is usually loaded at 1 - 1.25 ft3 of resin.
 
  #9  
Old 08-06-07, 12:06 AM
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Richard,

An EcoWater ERR 3000 R30 would be a recommended product for your needs. It has carbon in it which would tend to remove any small amount of H2S that might occassionally be there. This will also tend to remove other odors, also.

It should have enough capacity to remove your hardness, iron, and manganese. It includes some fine mesh resin for additional removal of iron and manganese.

It has a good backwash to also aid in cleaning the bed, although 5 gpm isn't a lot to work with. Nevertheless, it should work in this case.

I would only use a countercurrent regeneration unit such as EcoWater. Culligan only offers cocurrent regeneration and I imagine Aquatech is offering only the same. Kinetico also uses countercurrent regeneration like EcoWater.

The TDS of softened water increases because water with sodium ions in it conducts electricity better than water with hardness ions, and TDS is routinely measured by measuring the conductivity of water. Nothing is "added".

The weight referred to is the amount of resin. Divide the amount by 50 and you will get the approximate amount of cubic feet of resin in the softener.

I would also recommend a reverse osmosis unit for drinking and cooking water.

Kirt
CWS V
 
  #10  
Old 08-06-07, 08:20 AM
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Kansas,

You say that the Ecowater system has carbon to remove odors. Do you know how many cubic feet that would be and are the resins and carbon in the samr vessel or seperated somehow?

Is the resin bed packed or is there a freeboard (volume of water above the resins)?

Thanks, just some tech ?s.
Andy
 
  #11  
Old 08-07-07, 11:13 PM
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Andy,

I think it is about 12 to 15 lbs of coconut shell carbon in the same resin tank.

It has a normal freeboard of 1/3 volume of the tank.

Kirt
CWS V
 
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Old 08-08-07, 01:27 PM
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Thanks Kansas,

I suppose the carbon is an option or is that a standard application for Ecowater systems? Of course carbon has a shelf life, right? So I would imagine that it needs to be replaced after a period of time.

Thanks again,
Andy
 
  #13  
Old 08-12-07, 09:45 PM
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Andy,

The carbon is part of EcoWater's ERR Series. The ECR Series is the same softener without the carbon.

Conventional wisdom would say that carbon has a "shelf life", but EcoWater offers a lifetime warranty on their resin with the carbon. They warrant that the carbon will remove the chlorine from the water for the lifetime of the unit. They do specify a qualifier of a high limit for the incoming chlorine - 3 ppm I believe.

Under normal operating conditions the carbon would not need to be replaced. Part of the reason for this is the type of carbon - coconut shell.

Kirt
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  #14  
Old 08-13-07, 06:50 AM
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Ecowater

Kirt are you still running the Ecowater Dealership in Hutchinson, KS ?

What do you guys do to prevent bacteria from growing in the carbon bed ?

Best regards

Greg
 
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Old 08-15-07, 10:51 AM
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Kirt,

Thank you for the reply.

I guess I am from the old school that has carbon on the shelf-life shelf. My thinking has it that regardless of what type of carbon it is, there is a limited capacity to its adsorption capabilities even if it is regenerated with hydrogen peroxide or some other chemical that will "help" prolong its use.

Also, in my experience, when carbon and resins are in the same tank, a freeboard must be present to allow appropriate backwashing and expansion of 50-70%. Resins and carbon graduals are nearly the same specific gravity, as they reconstitute, the blend and intermesh quite completely. This begins to defeat the chlorine removal attributes to help save the resins from chlorine damage.

Also, resin is resilliant and carbon is brittle. Resin will have a tendency to grind of the carbon into fines which are backwashed out during regeneration.

Also, there is a set of standards as to how much chlorine (in ppm) can be rermove per cubic foot of carbon. I don't have that data on hand but I will look to see for future reference.

IOW, personally, would recommend separating carbon tanks from resin tanks, warranty regardless. And if it is under warranty, that is great, but what a chore to replace it when warranty is in effect.

I don’t mean to say the equipment is not adequate, it’s just different from what I understand what water systems can do and from what I recommend.

Bes to you,
Andy Christensen, CWS
 
 

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