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#419451 - 07/04/08 11:20 PM couple of questions about water softener  
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Puddle Pirate 2 Offline
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We recently moved to an area with moderately hard water (15 GPG). The house originally had a water softener, but it was removed some time ago...probably when it quit, and wasn't replaced because the water isn't terribly bad. However, the appliances/fixtures that use mainly hot water (dishwasher, showers) have buildup that is annoying...especially the dishwasher. THe water softener is undoubtedly taking a beating as well, and it is 15 y.o.

I was thinking of installing a softener, but only on the hot water side. This would alleviate the hard water problems without requiring me to re-plumb a great deal of cold water lines (the ones that shouldn't be softened...like outdoor spigots, drinking water, etc).

1) What considerations/problems do I need to be aware of putting a softener only on the hot water side?

2) I have a 3" PVC vent pipe (to the main sewer line) near where I would put the softener. I am thinking of tapping into it (with a suitable trap) for the brine/purge water. I realize this is not code, but for a few gallons of purge water every 3 or 4 weeks at most, is it a big deal? I do nto have any floor drains, and the main sewer line is clear on the other side of the basement, and I'd have to run quite a lot of pipe if I put the softner near it. The original softener that was there dumped purge water into the sump (!) which I do not want to do.


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#419459 - 07/05/08 01:10 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: Puddle Pirate 2]  
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PP2, our house also appears as it was plumbed for a water softener. I haven't a clue as to them, so I'll be monitoring this post.. but the limited research I have done tells me that the sprinklers, and any other ancillary lines, such as outside bibs, should not be utilizing softened water.
I don't have the option of installation on the hot water side only that I can figure.
Great topic man! Sorry I can't help you out tho!


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#419481 - 07/05/08 08:02 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: NoMoBoatN]  
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casualboater Offline
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We've been on well/septic for 5 or so years now, here's my thoughts for you.

Most softeners are plumbed in pretty near the main line into the house. On mine, I have 2 hose bibs that branch off before the softener, and one in the garage after. I do wash my cars with that one generally. If you can put it in early, you don't have to do any replumbing. Odds are that most of your plumbing doesn't branch out until after the hot water heater, so if you can get it in somewhere around there, you'd be set. You plumbing may vary, of course.

Hot water does amplify the hard water effects, no doubt about it. I really think that if your going to soften, you'd get your best results by doing the whole house, minus hoses of course. Most softeners recharge on an on-demand basis. You program in how hard your water is, and the softener knows how many gallons of water it can treat at that level, and recharges when it needs to. If you have not very hard water, the softener will take longer to recharge.

I don't see any problem, code or otherwise, with putting the brine into the sewer. It's not supposed to be good to put it into the septic, but the sewer should be ok. I could be wrong on the sewer thing, and local codes may vary.


Last edited by casualboater; 07/05/08 08:03 AM.

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#419485 - 07/05/08 08:50 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: casualboater]  
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Just Bob Offline
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I installed a softener on my hot water only about 15 years ago, and just recently replaced the softener this year. I also had deposits building up on appliances that use hot water, as well as my boiler coil (I would have to acid wash it or replace it every few months without the softener).

I don't think tapping into the vent would be a problem, in fact, I'm not even sure it would be "against code". As long as there's a trap, I don't think it matters.

If you're even just slightly skilled at plumbing, this job is very simple. Cut the lines to the hot water heater, plumb in new copper to the sofetner, plug it in and you're ready to go!


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#419750 - 07/07/08 06:30 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: Puddle Pirate 2]  
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2Suns Offline
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Peoria,IL
Originally Posted By: Puddle Pirate 2
2) I have a 3" PVC vent pipe (to the main sewer line) near where I would put the softener. I am thinking of tapping into it (with a suitable trap) for the brine/purge water. I realize this is not code, but for a few gallons of purge water every 3 or 4 weeks at most, is it a big deal? I do nto have any floor drains, and the main sewer line is clear on the other side of the basement, and I'd have to run quite a lot of pipe if I put the softner near it. The original softener that was there dumped purge water into the sump (!) which I do not want to do.


Air gap, Air gap, air gap. Your water softener discharge should not be directly connected to any part of the sewer system in your house. Doing so creates a cross connection and a potential for contamination. Likely to happen? Probably not. But the potential is there.

By air gap i mean the discharge of the softener should indirectly discharge into a trapped drain with a physical gap between the discharge of the softenere and the drain.

One more thing- 3-4 weeks between regen. is too long, IMO. A water softener needs to regenerate at least once a week.


By the time they had diminished from 50 to 8, the other dwarves began to suspect "Hungry.-Gary Larson
#419771 - 07/07/08 07:53 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: 2Suns]  
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On Holiday Offline
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Why not install the WS just after it enters the house? I installed mine earlier this spring. The WS has a bypass in case you want to water the lawn. It is nice having soft water when washing cars, boats as it helps with reducing water spots.

It took my father and myself about half a day to install the WS and this was our first time ever installing one.

My WS regenerates around 2AM, I am not sure how often it does as I am sound asleep when it happens.

My softener discharges into the sewer and has the air gap that was previously mentioned.


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#419837 - 07/07/08 11:08 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: On Holiday]  
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Waterdog Offline
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What about one of those electric water softners that is now being advertised all over TV lately? I have no clue if they really work or not, but a friend of mine in the Woodland/Davis area of California (meaning horribly hard and very bad tasting water) had an older model electric one (no salt, wraps around copper water line) in her house and swore by it. Their water tasted fine. 2Suns??


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#419838 - 07/07/08 11:09 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: Waterdog]  
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Waterdog Offline
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I think this is the one being advertised on TV: Water Softener


Always remember Rule #6.
#419841 - 07/07/08 11:17 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: On Holiday]  
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seadog Offline
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First, think about a RO sytem Not a total system, but I would consider one on your hot water and drinking water. Softeners will replace the calcium with salt. Not all that healthy. Also, many towns are starting to get tough on brine water discharges. It is hard on their sewage treatment. If they forbid it, they will track you down and fine you.

A RO system will remove more than hardness, and can be tuned to your needs. Hot water would be better with a fuller removal, drinking water with a reduction system to get it down below 180 Mg/L (10 gpg). A RO system will require a backflush at times, but since it is not adding anything to the water, it would not create issues for the system.


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#419874 - 07/07/08 12:26 PM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: seadog]  
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RO water is extremely aggressive, isn't it Seadog? Copper or steel piping shouldn't be used with an RO, correct?


By the time they had diminished from 50 to 8, the other dwarves began to suspect "Hungry.-Gary Larson
#420065 - 07/07/08 08:37 PM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: 2Suns]  
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Not necessarily. Replacing calcium with salt can be corrosive too. I do not like to use steel piping any more because of other issues, but I doubt any problems would exist with copper. It depends on two issues, how much the RO system takes out, and how far it has to travel. RO systems are a range of filters. The issue with RO is that they are such restrictive filters, they require boosting the pressure to get them to work. Microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and others will remove different levels of contaminants. The biggest problem is that most water treatment outfits do not have the expertise to know how to select the appropriate filter system.

Also the way of plumbing is changing. The old ways of running copper and steel are changing. PEX allows the use of a manifold system that has a lot of virtues. Any time I look at a job that requires replacing any lines, I go with PEX.

Quote:
Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County prepared this information. It also is available on their website at http://www.nashville.gov/water/soft_h2o.htm

Soft water is neither healthy nor desirable for drinking! If you were a steam iron or a washing machine it would be great, but we are neither! There are good reasons you should not be drinking soft water!

Water is a universal solvent. Most materials, especially metals, are partially soluble in water. If that water is heated or softened it becomes much more aggressive at leaching metals from water lines. Lead in soldered joints and copper in pipe are particularly vulnerable and these are two of the heavy metals which shouldn't be present in significant amounts in your drinking water.

WATER HARDNESS
Calcium and magnesium are two minerals which make water "hard." Both of these minerals are classed as "contaminants," but that's a poor choice in terminology, for calcium is essential in our diet! A softener merely exchanges one group of non-toxic elements for another group of non-toxic elements. Water hardness is measured either in grains per gallon (GPG) or as calcium hardness in milligrams per liter (mg/l) or parts per million (ppm). GPG is based on calcium hardness. To convert from calcium hardness ppm, just divide by a factor of 17.2 and this gives you hardness in GPG. A soft or slightly hard water has up to 3.5 GPG; moderately hard water runs from 3.5 to 10.5 GPG; and very hard water is greater than 10.5 GPG. If your water is over 7 GPG, you might want to consider a softener just for the laundry.

Metro water is on the low side of moderately hard at 4.1 GPG (that is 70 mg/l of calcium hardness. This is an excellent value and highly desirable! Cities which have soft water are having difficulty meeting the new lead standards in tap water. Metro has had none of these difficulties in meeting the new standards!

SOFT WATER
A soft water is aggressive at leaching metals (like lead) from your lines and faucets. Most faucets are solid brass (with a relatively high lead content) and are chrome plated. This means that if you have soft water, there is a great chance that your initial drawing of cold water will have a higher lead content than normal. Hot or warm water from the tap should never be used for cooking, shortcuts, drinking water, beverages, or infant formula as it could be higher in heavy metals like lead!

WATER SOFTENERS
Besides making the water more corrosive and aggressive at leaching metals from your lines and fixtures, the zeolite beads from water softening systems may back-siphon into your toilet tanks, and the soft water may attack vital plumbing parts. While supposedly solving one set of problems, the softener could possibly introduce other problems which you may or may not be aware of! A water softener, besides leaching lead and other metals from your plumbing, can increase your sodium intake. In a water softening device hard water flows through synthetic resin beads. Sodium ions (salt) are loosely attached to each bead and the water exchanges hardness ions (calcium and magnesium) for the soft sodium ions. These devices can also be costly to run since they can waste up to 120 gallons for every 1,000 delivered.

A water softener is not designed (nor is it effective) to remove lead and other metals, chlorine, taste/odor compounds, nor chlorine by-products. Its purpose is only to make a hard water soft. Water treated to remove chlorine may encourage the formation of black rings in toilet bowls!

IN CONCLUSION...
Soft water is great for laundry, bathing, steam irons, and auto batteries, but definitely not for anything else. If you are contemplating installing a softener, there are serious questions you should ask: who will test the effectiveness of the softener, how often will these tests be run, and how will my drinking water quality be affected?




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#420088 - 07/07/08 09:50 PM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: seadog]  
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To be honest, I do not deal with home systems too much. I had to review to remember which of the regular filter systems was best for hardness. The order of filtration is RO, nanofiltration(NF), ultrafiltration(UF), and microfiltration(MF). Microfiltration is also the generic term to encompass all systems. Probably the best for hardness is a nanofiltration system. The problem is, most system sold are the ion exchange softening systems because they are cheap and the salesmen can talk people into them. There are some good home water technicians out there, but there are also a lot of snake oil salesmen that use scare tactics on the public. They accuse the municipal water systems of every crime in the books to make people scared enough to buy their products. In trying to find a few nanofiltration systems to give a place to start, I found it hard to get around the snake oil. And a lot of outdated data is used about filtering systems.

Filtering systems have improved so much lately that many new water plants are being built with MF technologies instead of the old filter bed systems, In the right application, they are becoming more efficient. In fact, it is almost getting to where deriving drinking water from the oceans is becoming practical on a large scale. I apologize that I cannot point to a good NF system, but hopefully one of the local water shops will know what is what.


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#420599 - 07/09/08 06:02 PM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: seadog]  
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Thanks all,

First, I planned on putting the outlet hose into a long piece of vertical PVC prior to a trap...sort of like the washer outlet. I wasn't planning on a direct connection. My wife's grandmother had a softener installed and they plumbed the outlet hose (clear vinyl) directly into the 3" copper main sewage line ABOVE the softener. The hose gets progressively more brown as it goes toward the sewer line...YUK!

Second, I thought about softening the whole house, but it seemed like a waste of softened water (toilets and all), and I don't want to soften the drinking/cooking water or the hoses. I'm too forgetful/lazy to use a bypass.

I'm not convinced the sodium (not salt) in softened water is really a big deal. It is the dissociation of sodium and chloride in water that causes problems with health and corrosion, and softened water contains mainly sodium carbonates, not sodium chloride. I was thinking softening the whole house and then RO for drinking water, but many RO systems waste so much water...something which matters more to me than what the water treatment facility thinks about brine water. Ecologically, I think one matters more than the other.

I've also never heard of any problems with systems that regenerate less than once a week excep tfor maybe salt bridging. If the system measures water flow, and knows the hardness, it will recharge when it needs to...which I wouldn't think would matter...is there a reason why a 3-4 week recharge interval would be a problem?


pirate
#420698 - 07/10/08 06:26 AM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: Puddle Pirate 2]  
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2Suns Offline
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Originally Posted By: Puddle Pirate 2


I've also never heard of any problems with systems that regenerate less than once a week excep tfor maybe salt bridging. If the system measures water flow, and knows the hardness, it will recharge when it needs to...which I wouldn't think would matter...is there a reason why a 3-4 week recharge interval would be a problem?


As I stated earlier, IMO, 1 week is about as long as I want to see a softener go between regens. What I've seen when you go longer, is the salt first turns to mush, about a mash potato consistency. For whatever reason, once that happens the mushy salt will never dissolve. Now your slowly displaying space in that brine tank where water should be. After a while that mushy salt starts to get hard. Like a rock, hard. We've literally had to chisel it out with hammer drills in the past.

If you want to go 3-4 weeks between regens, thats fine but you may have to clean the brine tank on a more than normal basis.

If you know your hardness, divide your softener capacity in grains by your hardness in grains. Divide that figure by 70 gallon per person per day. That will give you a close estimation of days between regenerations.


By the time they had diminished from 50 to 8, the other dwarves began to suspect "Hungry.-Gary Larson
#423035 - 07/20/08 08:22 PM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: 2Suns]  
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prober Offline
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I put a softener in last year when we bought this house. They already had a loop next to the water heater set up for the softener so it was a snap to install. Mine drains in the overflow pipe from the water heater so it eventually goes to the sewer but has an air gap to prevent contamination.

I got a softener that said it was for a family of 8-12, mainly because I wanted extra capacity and it also had the same size inlet and outlet pipes. The smaller models had smaller pipe than what is in my house and I did not want restriction issues.

Our city water is pretty hard, at least half the year. In the winter it is around 13 GPG and in the summer it is around 8 GPG so it has taken a while to get the softener set up. I do not use the computer. I used it for about three months but it never stabilized and used alot more salt. Now I have it set at the hardness number midway between my summer and winter extremes and have it set to recharge once a week.

What a difference though. Before, there was no way to keep the white deposits from forming on everything. We moved here from an area that had naturally soft water that tasted better than most bottled water, even the well water was soft. So it was pretty disgusting to see the white crusty deposits starting to form on all our brand new fixtures and countertops, not to mention the dishes. I was putting that sucker in by the end of the week.

As for drinking and cooking, coffee etc. we use bottled water. The softened water is a little salty so it only gets used for ice. I may eventually get a system just for drinking water but for now this works fine.

#423036 - 07/20/08 08:26 PM Re: couple of questions about water softener [Re: prober]  
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prober Offline
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By the way, it does not use that much salt. I use about 1 $5.00 bag a month to treat 150 gallons per day.


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