Softener: Help me understand our water quality

hazel2011August 2, 2011

We are moving to a new place and here is the city water report for the area. I am feeling quite overwhelmed with all the numbers. How should I interpret them and decide on a water softener? I would rather not have a reverse osmosis filter unless really needed. Two adults plus one baby in a 1300 sq ft house with two bathrooms (one tub, one shower), two dishwashers that are not expected to be running at the same time, washer/dryer. No jacuzzi's. Looking for an economical option.

Substances Range Average

Gross alpha particle activity ND-7.1 1.37 pCi/L

Radium 228 ND-1.3 0.14 pCi/L

Uranium ND-12.08 1.34 pCi/L


Barium ND-0.18 0.08 ppm

Fluoride ND-0.28 0.12 ppm

Nitrate (as nitrate) 5.19-39 29.23 ppm

Total haloacetic acids ND-44 19.8

Total trihalomethanes ND-68 41.5

Chlorine ND-2.16 0.64 ppm ppb

Chloramine ND-2.2 1.36 ppm ppb

Calcium 60-140 84.95 ppm

Chloride 33-100 55.4 ppm

Chromium ND-2.7 1.35 ppb

Color ND-1 0.14

Hardness 260-500 327.87 ppm

Magnesium 20-50 27.98 ppm

Odor ND-2 0.43

pH 6.83-8.38 7.48

Sodium 21-45 31.16 ppm

Specific conductance 530-1100 737

Sulfate 17-75 36.94 ppm

Total dissolved solids 320-630 439.6 ppm

Turbidity (groundwater) ND-1.9 0.3

Vanadium 3.99-6.79 5.56

90th percentile Average

Copper 0.38 1 of 30 ppm

Lead 0 1 of 30 ppb

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The Gov't required water quality reports are always confusing.

Keep in mind that those reports reflect the water conditions at the treatment facility and not necessarily the conditions at your water meter.

The short story is that you have hardness of about 20gpg, no iron, PH 7.48, and a highish TDS @ 440 ppm.

Manageable with a correctly sized and efficiently set up softener but with that hardness and TDS you'll probably want an RO in the kitchen for drinking, cooking, and ice making duties.

Are you thinking buying online and DIY or shopping locally for a water treatment pro?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:24PM
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I have a plumber overhauling the rest of the plumbing and he orders stuff online.

Why do I need an RO even with the water softener? I thought hardness would be taken care of by the softener. I understand that there are other dissolved solids but is there a detrimental health effect? I would anyway have a separate drinking faucet in the kitchen that I could have installed with a possibility of adding RO later on if it turns out that we want it.

How does one choose between a Fleck 7000, 5600 or 2610? What about the sizing. According to an online calculation, I would need 48k. Any opinion?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:55PM
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I would avoid your plumber being involved in water treatment unless he is an exception to the rule especially if he orders online and not through his plumbing supply. It is a rare plumber who is knowledgeable in water treatment but they're OK to just hook softeners up... although there are reports of softeners plumbed in backwards and resin populating the house plumbing.

Softeners soften and ROs clean up water and address taste.

20gpg is pretty hard so the amount of sodium (or potassium) exchanged in the softening process along with the high TDS will influence the taste of the water so an RO may be desirable. Why are you reluctant to get an RO?

You don't have to get an RO and one can always be added later.

With your water conditions and water usage a 1.5 cu ft softener will do nicely. If you're on 3/4" plumbing then a Fleck 5600SXT with top basket, Noryl bypass, and gravel underbed would be a cost effective and reliable solution. Set capacity @ 30k and short salt at 9lbs for efficient operation and there you go.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 8:13PM
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My concern with RO is that we lose out on some of the good nutrients too. I guess we will play this one by the ear.

I think we are on 1" plumbing but I need to confirm with my plumber.

Our plumber has installed quite a few water softeners with good recommendations so I fee comfortable letting him do this..

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 1:45AM
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So called "good nutrients" found in water is a myth. Water should not be a supplier of nutrients but a transporter, instead. Depend on your diet and supplements for proper nutrition.

What nutrients were you referring to?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 8:10AM
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Find out what size the pipe at the softener loop will be and make sure the softener loop is interrupting the water service to the whole house, not just to the water heater.

You'll also need a drain and an electrical outlet where you install the softener.

If it's 3/4" then a 5600SXT will do. If it's 1" then consider a 7000SXT.

Also a good idea for the plumber to install a three ball valve bypass at the softener loop. That way, if the softener bypass ever requires service you can continue to have (unsoftened) water to the house while waiting for repair or parts.

If you ever drink bottled water or water from the machine at the store... it is RO water and makes the best, clearest ice cubes you ever saw.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 9:30AM
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Thanks. Looks like I need to read up on RO then.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 1:15PM
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