Water Softener Info Help

law5115September 17, 2010

I've been studying all the threads here, and info on the web. The Ecco water guy has been here. I've got an independent water quality report, and now I'm asking for advice. We're renovating in a small rural OK town. The water here is very hard. Our report says:

Calcium ppm 75.2

Magnesium 16.4

Iron 0

Hardness ppm 254.9=14.9

The Ecco guy gave us a price of slightly over $2000. for a softener (cabinet) and RO system. Filters for the RO $87./change. I asked about information on the system, including tank sizing etc, and all he would say was 48K grains, no one uses anything else, and refused to give any more information. I think he's gone.

Our problem is while there are only 2 of us, our business joins the home so we will be here 24/7, we only have a master bath, and a half bath, the master has a very large air tub, and the shower has a shower head, hand held shower, and 3 body sprays. We also are installing a 15" icemaker (24lbs/day i think) and of course the icemaker in the fridge. I don't like the taste of chlorinated water, so the plan is to install the RO under the island for drinking, ice, and some cooking.

We are very rural, so our water company choices are limited. I've called Culligan, but they have yet to arrive. We have an exceptional plumber. So with his help, is this a DIY project? I see lots of internet choices, but not a lot of information on sizing for icemakers and body sprays.

Any advice will be appreciated.

Thank you!

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Well water or water system... makes a big difference.

15 gpg hardness with no iron is easily manageable.

48k refers to a 1.5 cu ft softener which will give you approximately 12gpm SFR.

Correctly sizing your softener will have to consider the extra flow rate demands of your uber shower. You should be able to come up with the SFR of the shower fixtures from the manufacturer.

Correct softener sizing will also consider the # of people who would normally live in the home so that down the road if you sell the house the softener will accommodate the new owners.

I expect that you'll feed RO water to the ice maker. I would... love those clear ice cubes. The RO will need a treated cold water supply and a drain and may require a larger holding tank than the BBQ sized tank residential ROs come with.

You can learn a lot about ROs by clicking here . Nice people quality product, fair prices, and they KNOW their RO stuff.

Plumbers are great to do the install but rarely know enough or care enough to properly setup a softener. You can DIY but when you do there's no one else to blame.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 7:25PM
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Not much of an EcoWater presentation because they usually emphaisis on all the bells and whistles that they find unique in their products such as remote monitors and control, high efficiencies, simple use, etc. For him to just say 48k capacity seems very strange.

Chlorinated water should be treated (removed) prior to the softener or resins will be damaged.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 8:37AM
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Opinions on removing chlorine before the softener when on a municipal water system vary and I'll disagree with Andy.

Chlorine is added to municipal water to kill bacteria. When chlorine is filtered at the water service entry the entire house, all the plumbing, every fixture, and every appliance loses that protection.

Yes, chlorine shortens the life of softener resin to some degree but unless there are unusually high amounts of chlorine softener resin seems to last a decade or longer.

If there were a way to count the number of softeners (just) in the US that are having chlorine filtered before them they would be a very small percentage of the total number of softeners that are proving reliable service for reasonable lengths of time.

If the taste or odor of chlorine is objectionable it's safer to deal with it by installing an RO or point of use filters.

Just a dissenting opinion...

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 10:11AM
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I agree with both. Chlorine does mess up softener media but, unless the chlorine levels are really high, it does take quite a while. On the other hand, the incidence of health issues in installations where chlorine is removed are practically non-existent.

In June I installed Kinetico's latest which does have activated charcoal stack upstream of softener media in a house that is only occupied once per week. This installation clearly has the risks justalurker described. If I have bacteria trouble, I'll be back to say so...but I don't anticipate a problem. In a normally-occupied residence I think the risk would be so slight as to be unworthy of consideration.

Then, again, I'm not a pro and Andy c and justalurker are so I'm paying attention.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 11:53AM
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Don't need to be a pro just need to spend some time researching the subject and being married to an ICP is helpful..

There weren't code requirements for electrical and plumbing before people got sick or electrocuted. Like many things the government gets involved in, the incidence of problems rise to a level where attention is required. At some point the rise in occurrence of sanitary problems in potable water had to be dealt with and it's done so transparently in municipal water systems that we don't notice it.

It wasn't that long ago that people in the US died of smallpox. Now they don't, but the bug still exists. Out of mind doesn't mean out of existence.

So Asolo, how long did the media in your old Kineticos last being exposed to that nasty chlorine? did they fail or did you chose to replace them? Do you feel their service life should have been longer and that chlorine cost you money prematurely or might the chlorine saved you money in medical expense and saved you or a family member the possibility of pain and/or severe discomfort?

I'll have my water without bacteria thank you... because e coli, legionella, or giardia are so pleasant to experience.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 12:23PM
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As I recall, I had the media replaced in both installations 3-4 years ago after about (est) 13 years. Had noticed performance declining for previous 18 months so scheduled the service call. So, overall, I would estimate service-life of the media in that chlorine environment of, say, 11 years -- pretty close to what you said. Upon inspection it was, indeed, shot. Should have replaced at 10-11 years when first noticed performance difference instead of waiting another year and 1/2 for near-total failure.

Installation of the new Kinetico unit at one location was partially a lark and partially in response to discounts being offered. Existing unit was 18 years old and still working OK after media replacement some years earlier.

In any event, all water used for drinking, ice, and cooking comes through RO system....which I considered when agreeing to the charcoal stacks included in the new softening unit. Having read your many previous posts, as well as some from others, I did have this issue in mind when I made the decision to go ahead. If I've created a problem for myself, surely I'll be finding out in due course.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 12:51PM
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I wouldn't be confident that ROs filter out bacteria. That's why the usual filter compliment is sediment, carbon block and then membrane. The engineers expect sanitized (by chlorine or chloramines) at the supply for the RO and remove the anti-bacterials just prior to exposing the membrane.

Everyone's approach varies and the recommendations of a professional should be more considered than the knee jerk decisions of those less knowledgeable. IMO, it is irresponsible for a water treatment professional to advocate any action or inaction that may or can compromise the safety of the potable water after being treated. Again, just a dissenting opinion.

I have to KNOW that the water is safe after being treated and will do nothing to compromise that while you can choose to give up that protection for yourself and wait to see if you have a problem. When I stop by, bottled water please ;)

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 1:39PM
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After looking for more information, I have the following information to add to my first post. The town water system is well water, and as far as I know they only do chlorination, nothing else. Hubby used to be the mayor, and I don't think anything has changed.

Most people around here think I'm obsessing on the RO and water softener, probably that's why the Ecco guy was so casual. Most people here have very standard houses, so the only decision on water softeners is the cabinet size. Our commercial building conversion is so unconventional, we had to contract it ourselves. They are totally amazed that we would put in a wolf or icemaker. Total waste of money. But this is our last house, no mortgage, so IF we can pay for it, we can have it.

The body sprays are 2.5 gpm, as is the shower and handheld. The tub filler is 15 gpm@ 40 psi or 20 @ 70 psi. We are about a block away from the water tower, so we have good pressure. The new problem I have discovered is the icemaker. We do not have a gravity drain. According to KA, only a whole house RO system can supply enough water- 1 gal per hour. We knew we would need a larger than ordinary RO, but I didn't consider a whole house RO. Our plumber has plumbed the icemaker and fridge for RO water. I guess I'll be spending more time studying.

I like safe water, and I'm not worried about drinking chlorinated water, I just don't like the taste of chlorine or softened water.

Thanks for all the advice so far, and I look forward to any other advice or comments.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 3:05PM
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The town water system must meet EPA requirements for for bacteria and nitrates but not for aesthetic aspects like hardness, iron, and manganese.

Hardness and iron can be dealt with by a softener up to a point and chlorine can be filtered by point of use filters or an RO in the kitchen cost effectively.

The reason knowing the SFR is important when sizing a softener is that when the appliance exceeds the SFR of the volume of resin in the softener hardness will leak through and your water will not be soft.

Is the house's plumbing sized to provide the SFR that the bathroom requires? Two body sprays @ 2.5 gpm each and the shower and hand held @ 2.5 gpm each is 10 gpm right there plus the tub filler.

As for a whole house RO, is the plumbing copper or PEX or what because RO water is aggressive and will attack metal pipe.

I would use a conventional RO for drinking, cooking, and the fridge ice maker and then deal with the big ice maker, if you have to have it, seperately with a smaller commercial RO.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 8:53PM
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Thank you for your help. The building had only a half bath, so everything from the meter and main line is new. The plumber is one of the best here and would not hesitate to explain any problems and refuse to do less than we needed for our system. The icemaker was a last minute add-on, so I cannot blame him. He would have had the gravity drain, if he had known.

I will call him on Monday and discuss the bath. There is zero chance of us using the tub and the shower at the same time. And I think the shower valve will only allow 2 of the 3 to operate at a time-either body sprays and shower, or shower and hand held, etc.

The whole house RO is out of the question. My husband thinks I'm completely nuts. I will check into a 2nd RO for the icemaker. I like clear ice cubes. If we cannot solve the RO problem, we can bypass the RO and use city water. The icemaker will be here on Monday, so for better or worse, it's ours.

I will also call some water people in OKC, and ask for their imput, and the people you mentioned.

We can always use the silly thing for a coffee table.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 11:16PM
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FWIW....my Kinetico K5W RO unit refills its 2.7 gallon holding tank in about 50 minutes. My household water pressure is 60-65psi.

Recommendation for "whole house" RO system seems crazy to me. Thinking I've missed something in your post.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 12:50PM
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The KA installation guide said:

"Reverse Osmosis Water Supply
â Reverse osmosis water filtration systems can be used only
with ice maker installations that have a gravity drain. A
reverse osmosis system is not recommended for ice makers
that have a drain pump installed.
â The pressure of the water supply coming out of a reverse
osmosis system going to the water inlet valve of the ice
maker needs to be between 30 and 120psi (207 and
If a reverse osmosis water filtration system is connected to your
cold water supply, the water pressure to the reverse osmosis
system needs to be a minimum of 40 to 60psi (276 to 414kPa).

NOTE: The reverse osmosis system must provide 1 gal. (3.8L) of
water per hour to the ice maker for proper ice maker operation. If
a reverse osmosis system is desired, only a whole-house
capacity reverse osmosis system, capable of maintaining the
steady water supply required by the ice maker, is recommended.
Faucet capacity reverse osmosis systems are not able to
maintain the steady water supply required by the ice maker.
If the water pressure to the reverse osmosis system is less than
40to 60psi (276 to 414kPa):
â Check to see whether the sediment filter in the reverse
osmosis system is blocked. Replace the filter if necessary.
â Allow the storage tank on the reverse osmosis system to refill
after heavy usage. "

I don't have a gravity drain, so we ordered the one with the built in pump. I'm not a plumber or a water guy, so maybe I'm misunderstanding the whole thing.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 3:58PM
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Residential ROs don't output at water system pressure. While the service pressure to the RO may be 40 to 60 psi the RO water is held in a storage tank at 6 to 7 psi delivery pressure.

If you can't use the uber ice maker refuse delivery.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 4:19PM
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Seems to me there is ample to be misunderstood.

Far be it from me to quarrel with the manufacturer. However, certainly appears to be out-of-date information to me. In particular, don't understand 1) the bit about drain-pump prohibition with RO supply...what possible difference could water-quality make to a drain-pump? Maybe the "aggressive" nature of RO water over time? 2) requirement of 1gph CONSTANT supply...does the ice-maker melt off that much every hour? 3) their apparent assumption that ONLY a whole-house RO unit would be sufficient...notwithstanding that several point-of-use RO systems currently available would meet all of their specs. They seem ignorant of characteristics of presently-available RO units.

But, then, I don't have to understand it. Only you do. Would suggest talking directly with mfg tech and ask about these things.

Surely would be nice to have gravity drain, though.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 4:21PM
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I'll call KA tomorrow, before I talk to everyone else. Maybe they can shed some light on the situation.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 4:41PM
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What the manufacturer may be saying (poorly) is what we know about some late generation fridge icemakers... that RO output pressure is not sufficient to trigger the valve (solenoid or relay) that allows the icemaker to fill.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 4:51PM
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FWIW....the new Kinetico Ro unit designated K5W (wow = water-on-water reservoir) configuration that I had installed in June outputs at full line pressure. However, I've had two of their air-tank units running at two locations for 18 years connected to three different ref. ice-makers and never had a problem. All three refs manuals specifically recommended against using RO units to supply the ice-makers because the air-tanks varied from, typically, 30-35 psi full to 6-10psi when empty or near-empty. All I can say is they've always worked fine.

Certainly no problem for any installation with the new unit delivering at line-pressure. Don't know how many competitors there are available for WoW-type installations. Have not researched. Can tell you it is a tremendous improvement compared with air tanks.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 5:08PM
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I have to reserve comment on the KA ice maker till I've seen the literature. There's obviously more to it than the OP understands. If we had the make and model # we could look into it further.

WOW is a big improvement for sure. I'm not willing to pay Kinetico's price for WOW but I do envy the feature.

I've been reading warnings about RO supply in fridge icemaker lit for years and never had a problem till the last year when I ran across four instances where a conventional RO did not work and play well with those specific units.. They were not the same brand or model.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 5:16PM
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Yes, Kinetico does require their price which is quite a bit more than others. Very tight control of their chosen market that way. However, they do hold up their end of the bargain installation and service-wise. I was so impressed with my first replacement installation that I'm replacing my second unit at the other location Tuesday. One of my primary considerations was my impression of that WoW tank. Surely others have it or must soon have it given it's obvious superiority? Don't know. Have not researched. Actually, I don't even know how it works -- but it certainly does.

Interesting about increasing instances of RO tanks failing to operate ice-maker solenoids. I would have thought that by this time, with so MANY RO's out there, the ice-maker folks would have made them more -- not less -- compatible with RO output pressures.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 6:14PM
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The base model is KUIC15PLTS.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 6:22PM
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I'm well aware of the pros and cons of Kinetico hardware especially their WOW ROs. I'm simply saying that I won't pay their price for that feature but won't criticize any one who chooses to pay the price and I do admire and envy WOW.

No surprise to me that fridge manufacturers couldn't care less about ROs or interfacing with them.

I'd venture that the # of homes with ROs is a remarkably small percentage based on the sales of bottled water.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 6:26PM
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Hello all!

It's been awhile since I started this thread, but we've finally got it all installed, and it all works! I talked to all the regular water people again and the thought of paying $3500. or more compared to $1100. helped me decide. We called the crazy Texans, but it's OK, we're from OK, so in a pinch we can translate Texan-as long as there are no football or basketball games the same week. We purchased a water softener and a RO with a larger RO membrane, an extra tank, and a permate pump. It does make some noise, but not any louder than the icemaker. I love the icemaker! It's wonderful! Nice clear tiny little ice cubes, no odor! Perfection!

We did have a few minor problems and questions installing, but those guys were ALWAYS willing talk to us, and the minor error on the order was immediately solved with a simple phone call. No questions asked! Thank you Texans!

I couldn't be happier. Thanks to all who offered help and insight, it was truly appreciated! Thanks for your time and expertise!


    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 5:22PM
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