Water softener sometimes leaves water salty

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum' started by edlank, May 7, 2009.

  1. May 7, 2009 #1

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    I have a Culligan water automatic water softener with salt bin. About 5 times in the past 16 months, it has left the water supply very salty. We have gotten up in the morning and the initial water draw is brine. I run the recharge manually, and in a few minutes, we were back to normal water. It may be months before it happens again. I have water that is not very hard even without treatment, so have set it to recharge once every 6 days, and the minimum salt charge, but it did this once before I lowering the salt usage.

    The system is passive, meaning it has no pumps. Therefore, I am guessing it uses a venturi effect to draw up the brine from the salt bin, and then after a delay, purges the brine from the resin tank. I am guessing it is not allowing long enough time to purge the salt from the resin tank, and leaves brine in the softener tank. If so, why is this rather random and rare? The cycle appears to have completed by our wake up time, so it does not appear we ran water before the cycle had completed. What can I do to avoid this?

    Culligan was unhelpful, and simply said it should not do this.
     
  2. May 7, 2009 #2

    Redwood

    Redwood

    Redwood

    Certified Lunatic

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    887
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well thats the beauty of companies like Culligan and Kinnetico...
    They don't want you to fix it...
    They want to come do it themselves...

    With a water softener the brine solution typically goes into the resin tank in the wee hours of the morning when no water is used...

    It sits in the tank and regenerates the resin then it should discharge out the drain line and rinse the resin then be ready for use. There is something wrong with the valve. So it isn't fully rinsing the resin...

    I fear that you probably will find a proprietary valve that locks you into only having them service the valve...
     
  3. May 7, 2009 #3

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    I think I understand how it works, just not the flow paths from an outside view. But as far as I can tell, it works most of the time. If I disassemble it, I would expect to find standard size O-rings and be able to replace them, and perhaps remove some scale. If there is too much friction, petroleum jelly (or what should I use?) should improve the movement of valves/solenoids. I am not afraid to try, but wondered if anyone knew if there was an obvious cause, or had heard of this happening.

    What should the residence time of the brine in the resin tank be?
     
  4. May 7, 2009 #4

    Redwood

    Redwood

    Redwood

    Certified Lunatic

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    887
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ed the thing is that the O-Rings come in so many different sizes that it would be virtually impossible to just pull it apart and match them up. There might be a whole bunch that are close enough that you think they match and unless you get very lucky and hit it just right they will not work properly.

    Without the benefit of knowing the # of the O-Ring I'm Afraid you are a fish out of water.

    I would not use a petroleum based grease either. Silicone based plumbers grease would be what you need...
     
  5. May 19, 2009 #5

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    Update:

    I have been allowing the salt bin to drop because the manual indicates that the bin should be emptied occasionally and any insoluble stuff removed from the bottom. I did that, and as the salt dropped toward the water level, the salt became dark. I scooped it out, and some of the salt was pretty dark gray. I removed the perforated false bottom, and there was black sediment and the water was opaque black. I assume it was a relatively insoluble salt impurity, such as magnesium carbonate or something like that. I wonder what effect that would have on the resin. I now have about 30 lbs of salt with black water which settles onto the white salt if left undisturbed a few days. If I agitate the slurry and decant off the water, I can progressively clean up the salt mixture. I might be able to use it to make ice cream.

    I now assume this has never been done, and is 18 years of accumulated insoluble impurities from the water conditioner salt. Any comments out there?
     
  6. May 19, 2009 #6

    nukes00

    nukes00

    nukes00

    Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2009
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    0
    Edlank, While rubbing elbows with the rich, who were not so famous, for a few years; I managed to see first hand what a reverse osmosis water treatment machine could achieve. Ocean water made drinkable right from the tap, and to my palate, much tasteier than Perrier.
    You might search out an ice cream vendor to buy the machine that puts salt into your water, and look into these new fangled machines that take the salt out of the water.
     
  7. May 19, 2009 #7

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Water well etc.

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    672
    Likes Received:
    72
    One thing for sure about Culligan, they are proprietary. You won't find many things in that head that will be easily replaced. It would be my guess that the head is getting stuck in it's cycle and not allowing the final rinse to take place and that's your salty water episode. If that's the case, I would think you can expect it to get stuck one last time in the not too near future.

    bob...
     
  8. May 19, 2009 #8

    Redwood

    Redwood

    Redwood

    Certified Lunatic

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    887
    Likes Received:
    0
    Bob, What's his best bet when that happens?

    Should he call Culligan and have it serviced or, drop em like a bad habit and put in a new system that uses a head like the Fleck 5600 that he can get parts for and service himself?

    Good to see a water guru here vs. a plumber that only knows this stuff from reading your posts on forums...:D
     
  9. May 19, 2009 #9

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Water well etc.

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    672
    Likes Received:
    72
    If it were me, I would drop Culligan. Gary has good equipment at good pricing and he knows his stuff. I don't sell the head he likes, but I do sell Fleck and Autotrol and I like both of them. Have for years. He could also call a local dealer. There are some good guys out there. It's just that with softener companies, there seems to be more crooks than good guys, so it's buyer beware.

    In my opinion $1500 to $2000 is a fair price for a good softener installed. Anything more than that, your paying a salesman for his silver tongue.

    It's good to have a Plumber who's got my back when I screw up:D One thing that's for sure, you won't hear me answering any plumbing related questions. That's just not my strong suit.

    bob...
     
  10. May 20, 2009 #10

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    I cannot justify paying for a new system when the water is not hard anyway. A company displaying systems at a home show came to test our water. The water quality before and after the water softener and conditioner was very good. I had already decreased the frequency of recharging the softener to once every 6 days and I set it to use the smallest salt load I could. On water testing, there was insignificant iron, hydrogen sulfide and I forget what else, so it is hard to understand why the previous owner had it installed. The conditioner is a bleach-regenerated system. Based on the pipe path, both systems were clearly add-ons after the original plumbing. Perhaps the water quality was different then, but I do not think he sunk a new well to explain an improved water quality. My wife wanted me to keep using the softener rather than bypass it, though.

    The water is not salty except the rare morning when the softener was recharged and apparently did not finish the backwash. When that happens, I have it perform a manual recharge, and it seems to quickly flush the salt from the water line.
     
  11. May 20, 2009 #11

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Water well etc.

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    672
    Likes Received:
    72
    So how hard is your water before softener?
     
  12. May 21, 2009 #12

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    I thought we had numbers from the tests, but I do not see a sheet with test results now. The water softener lowered the calcium carbonate concentration some, but in the sales/technician's opinion, was already good enough without treatment. I see numbers from 1990 with the original owner's tests, and they had more calcium carbonate then.

    I wonder how the impurities affected the softener is as I let the salt level in the brine tank drop, and the fraction of the black stuff rose. It was very nasty looking, and very opaque with only 1/4" of water!
     
  13. Aug 9, 2009 #13

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    The latest is there has not been salty water after a recharge, but the recharging has become very loud. There is clearly cavitation in the valve assembly. I do not see any obvious tubing leaks. This makes me really want to disassemble it and see if there is any scale or bad parts I can replace.

    Suggestions?
     
  14. Aug 9, 2009 #14

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

    Water well etc.

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    672
    Likes Received:
    72
    Your testing my memory and it ain't the best.

    If it's a culligan, you might find more parts than you know what to do with. I think they put the extra parts in there to confuse people.

    If your feeling mechanical, go for it. What can you lose?
     
  15. Aug 10, 2009 #15

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    6,543
    Likes Received:
    1,174
    Could be as simple as a bubble in the line.....
     
  16. Oct 1, 2016 #16

    edlank

    edlank

    edlank

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    3
    Well about 5 years ago, I disassembled the valve, and took the O rings to a hardware store, and replaced and lubricated all of them. It has worked well and quietly since then without any mishap until now. It has left a little salty water in the resin. A very small water draw removed it. Maybe it is time for me to lubricate the O rings and valve assemblies again.

    I think I may now dive in to the bleach regeneration water purifier. I imagine it has a similar valve design. I have had it bypassed the past 8 years.
     
    slownsteady likes this.
  17. Oct 1, 2016 #17

    KULTULZ

    KULTULZ

    KULTULZ

    JACK of All Trades ~ MASTER of NONE

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2015
    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    84
    Just a thought-

    Excerpt Source- -The Effect of Chlorine on Softener Resin-
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016

Share This Page