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Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Posted by DIYinMI (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 12, 14 at 0:28

I love all of the help provided on this site and hope one more question about water softener size and recommendation isn't one too many. Here is the information I have gathered:
- I would like to do the install myself
- 3/4" copper water lines
- 3 adults in the house regularly and 4 seasonally
- colonial with basement; softener in basement, 4 full baths, no hottub or jacuzzi
- municipal well
- water flow at 2nd floor tub (independent hot and cold levers) is 9.1 gallons/min
- average daily water usage (from meter readings) is 228 gallons/day; peak is 349
- we have a whole house filter that pulls in a lot of iron and water runs a bit rusty colored when the filter is not in use
- water left for awhile (dog dish) will leave leave a pink slimy film on the edge of the bowl and a lot of white crust (hard water spots)
- 2 different water "specialists" measured 25gpg hardness and 1 ppm iron (pre filter)
- municipal water info:
-- arsenic 7 ppb
-- barium 0.1 ppm
-- flouride 0.27 ppm
-- HAAS 2 ppb
-- TTHM 3.4 ppb
-- chlorine 0.35 ppm
-- copper 0.923 ppm
-- chloride 38 ppm
-- hardness 263 ppm
-- iron 1.3 ppm
-- sodium 16 ppm
-- sulfate 18 ppm

I am interested on a Fleck controller as it seems to be to be the one that's most serviceable and has has the longest history. Any help you can provide in tank size, options, settings, etc. would be greatly appreciated. Thanks upfront


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Tell me a bit more about your iron filter.
  1. What type and size is it?
  2. When it is not on use, how long is it out of service?
  3. Why are there times you don't use it?
  4. When it IS in use, do you see any signs of rusty waster in your home?
  5. With the filter operating, fill a clear glass with water. Let it sit for a few hours. Now fill another glass with water. Are the colors of the water different - has the first glass changed color?

I need a couple more analytical parameters for your water: pH, TDS.

You mentioned municipal well - is the water treated in any way?


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

AliceinWonderland,
Here's a follow-up:

1) 2) 3) 4) I guess its not that its not in use but when we go to change the filter and start the water again, the water runs very rusty for about 5-10 minutes. After that, with filter in place water has no apparent color or odor. There are rust stains on the is a 5 micron 20"x2.25"dia carbon filter for rust/odor/sediment

5) both glasses appear to look the same and are colorless

6) ph = 7.9; TDS = 513ppm

7) As far as treatment goes, the municipality does chlorinate the water and uses flouride is an additive. Report also mentions HAA5 count is a by-product of water disinfection.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

The good news is that your iron appears to be ferric (particulate) only, BUT I would suggest upgrading your filter. Either install a backwashing filter (it would look like a softener and would backwash periodically to clean the filter media) or install two 4" diameter cartridge filters in parallel, valved such that they can be blocked out independently for filter changes.

I would also run another iron test to see if you have any ferrous iron. Test for ferric and ferrous iron. It won't change your softener size because we need to achieve adequate flow rate, but will change regen frequency.

To ensure adequate flow rate, go with a 1.5 cuft softener. IF your iron is all ferric (fairly likely with city water), you will be good to go provided you get your particulate filtration working 100%. If you have some ferrous iron, you will need to periodically treat your softener to remove the iron. I can provide more details once you know for certain.

Ensure you get the following:


  • High quality American or German made resin. This will provide a tight size distribution for optimal flow within the resin
  • Since you have CITY WATER: 10% crosslinked resin. The oxidizers that city water treatment plants use, such as chlorine or chloramine, are harmful to softener resins. Higher crosslinking will resist chemical attack longer.
  • Top basket. This serves two purposes. It sets up a proper water distribution during normal operation and prevents resin loss during backwash.
  • Gravel underbed. The gravel underbed is there to set up proper flow patterns, improve backwash and prevent channeling. Many softener sales companies like to leave this out or sell softeners with a vortex system instead. Vortex systems weigh less than gravel so they cost less to ship. In addition, they are a more expensive item that adds profit for the softener salesperson, but provides no additional benefit to the homeowner . It simply adds another piece of equipment that can break.
  • Fleck or Clack valves. These set the industry standard. Be aware that you will not be able to purchase Clack valves online. This is not a problem if you purchase locally.
  • Noryl bypass. Most softeners are available with either Noryl or stainless bypass valves. Both are good valves, but the noryl tends to be more reliable when not used for long periods of time.
  • Install the softener with a three-valve bypass. This will make it so much easier if you ever need to remove the softener for repairs or wish to take it with you when you move. Use full-port, quarter-turn valves.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Thanks a million Alice! I'll follow-up as I get ready to install and have the ferrous/ferric question answered.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

I have ordered both tanks (hardness and iron) as you prescribed along with Fleck 5600SXT valves. I did have to talk the dealer out of the vortech version. The question I have is that he agree with gravel for the greensand system but no gravel for the 10% resin tank. He claimed the 'manufacturer' did not recommend it as it is not needed. so i am wondering if I should (or can) add gravel. I found this information on the web from another dealer:

"Less than 5% of residential softeners have gravel in them, and the only reason is to be "different", or in a few cases because the dealer added a cup or two of activated carbon ( waste of time, as too little carbon in the tank to do much for very long ) when "building" the system.

The main problem I have with the use of Gravel ( that is Not needed ) in residential size tanks is the fact that once you have added the Media to the Tank, should you ever remove the Valve from the Tank, and the Pipe slides up an inch or two ( which is common ) you will NOT be able to put the Valve back on the tank, until you have dumped everything out, put the pipe back on the bottom of the tank, and added the "media" back in.

Having run into this problem a time of two, and the fact that 95% of the units do not have gravel in them is why I recommend that you do not add gravel when replacing the Resin in your water softener.

If you want to add it, it should not "hurt" anything, but since your flow rates in a house peak around 8 gpm, it's a waste of time, money, and "space" in the tank ( the empty space is for "expansion during the back wash cycle ) to add gravel to the residential size unit."


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

If your vendor claimed the manufacture does not recommend it, he was lying. I already explained some of the benefits of the gravel underbed. In addition, they prevent bottom basket failure and shifting. That the individual who wrote what you quoted used the fact that "less than 5% of residential softeners have gravel" speaks more to the fact that most softener salespeople have nearly zero education regarding proper sizing and operation of softeners. People that want to sell undersized tanks (tanks that are too short) resist including gravel because gravel takes up space in the tank - it is a way to get around the fact that they are undersizing their tanks, either intentionally or through ignorance.

Channeling, particularly during regen is a common operational problem. Bottom baskets will fail and shift - it's just a matter of time. If you fail to use gravel, you will NEED to remove the valve to replace the bottom basket at some point. Grave prevents those issues. The potential for needing to remove a valve from a softener with gravel is minuscule by comparison. Without gravel, you trade rare problems for more frequent problems. It's a bad trade.

As to the gentleman that wrote the quote, he specializes in repair, and he may be very good at it. But he is looking at softeners from an ease of repair viewpoint, not from a correct operations viewpoint (for which he has no expertise).


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

"Less than 5% of residential softeners have gravel in them...". Generally due to cost considerations and the zeal to squeeze the most profit from every sale by not including gravel and not paying to ship it.

"The main problem I have with the use of Gravel ( that is Not needed )should you ever remove the Valve from the Tank, and the Pipe slides up an inch or two ( which is common ) you will NOT be able to put the Valve back on the tank, until you have dumped everything out, put the pipe back on the bottom of the tank, and added the "media" back in".

So, let's not use gravel, which reduces pressure loss, so you can avoid the correct procedure for reseating the bottom basket in the dimple at the center bottom of the resin tank? The author's unwillingness to do the repair the correct way is based on wanting to squeeze the most profit from every service call and get more calls logged in per day. Often times the bottom basket can be located correctly simply by laying the resin tank on its side so the resin settles to the bottom (side) of the tank.

Softeners comprised of top tier quality parts and correctly sized and set uprarely need to have the control valve removed until it is time to rebed the softener and that should be a decade or so down the line. After 10+ years I want to empty the resin tank, sanitize it, and add new resin AND new gravel.

"If you want to add it, it should not "hurt" anything, but since your flow rates in a house peak around 8 gpm, it's a waste of time, money, and "space" in the tank ( the empty space is for "expansion during the back wash cycle ) to add gravel to the residential size unit".

There is not a single negative to using the CORRECT amount of gravel underbed in a resin tank.

And for the author of the quoted material... "... "the empty space..." is called FREEBOARD.

To the OP... don't believe everything you read on the internet until you validate what you read. Give even less credence to what an online dealer tells you pre-sale... consider the source and the dealer's motives..


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Thank you Alice and Justalurker - its always a pleasure to get great feedback with sound reasoning. Sure enough I am running into some issues from dealers just as you've warned other members about in this forum. I will continue to follow along with your recommendations.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Not trying to be nit picky but your entry of HAAS should be HAA5. It is a disinfection byproduct as is TTHM. HAA5 is halo acetic acids and TTHM is total trihalomethanes. The results on yours are very good.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Thanks jcalhoun. I noticed that after I posted and never corrected.

Just wondering if I should have a top basket on the iron regen tank also or if there is a problem with iron fouling a top basket.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Wondering if I should have a top basket with a greensand/iron filter tank also or if there is a problem with iron fouling a top basket


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Yes - a top basket should be used with any media filter that requires backwashing.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Alice - you offered help in setting up the control valve settings on the 5600SXT. Well I have everthing in place now and am looking for for that additional help with much gratitude. I was also able to confirm that the iron is ferrous. I also talked to the city and they said they try to keep the iron ferrous by adding a phosphate compound.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Okay. I just need the information from your BLFC sticker. Here's a pic to help you locate it:

This post was edited by aliceinwonderland_id on Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 12:06


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Got it:

0.60 GPM
1.5 LB
Salt/Min


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

If you look close that should be...

0.50 GPM
1.5 LB Salt/Min


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Enter Master Programming Mode

  1. DF=Gal
  2. VT = St1b
  3. CT=Fd
  4. NT=1
  5. TS doesn’t matter because you only have one tank
  6. C=38
  7. H=32
  8. RS=SF
  9. SF=15
  10. RC=0 (You are using a % reserve rather than a fixed reserve)
  11. DO=4
  12. RT=2:00 (or another convenient time when you won’t be using water for a couple of hours)
  13. Regeneration cycle step times
    BW=10
    BD=60
    RR=10
    BF= Since your BLFC is 0.5 gpm set BF=9
  14. Ensure all days are set to ON, unless you have a specific day of the week when you do not want the softener to regen.
  15. CD doesn’t matter unless you set a day to OFF in step 14.
  16. FM t0.7
  17. doesn’t matter

Exit Master Programming Mode.

Pour 5 gallons of water into the brine tank. Add salt.

Reset your clock to actual time.

At this point it’s a good idea to force the softener to step through the regen steps. There is no need to allow each step to complete. Just leave it in each step long enough to verify that the valve has changed position then move on to the next until you are back in service mode.

Enjoy your soft water.

You softener will need some help removing the ferrous iron from the resin. I will address that in a separate post.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

The problem with iron-laden water in a softener is that softener resin has a great affinity for iron and does not release it easily. Iron will slowly foul the softener resin from the inside out. Extra measures need to be taken to remove the iron. For this you have several option.

  1. The easiest option may be to simply use Iron-Remover salt.

  2. Alternatively, you can use Super Iron Out. You may choose to layer this in with your salt. If you choose this option, use 1/4 C per 40 lb bag of salt.

  3. Super Iron Out is a bit more effective if used monthly with the following procedure:
    1. Ensure you have a strong brine in your brine tank - at least 24 hours since the last regen.
    2. Dissolve 1 C Iron Out in cool water and pour it into the brine well inside your brine tank. If you don't have a brine well, for some reason, pour it down the side of the tank rather than through the salt.
    3. Place your softener into manual regen and stay right there.
    4. When backwash is complete, the softener will move to the brine/slow rinse mode. Pay attention to the way it sounds. After 10 minutes or so the sound will change when there is no more brine to draw. At this point, we want the Iron Out to sit in the softener for an hour. To do that, push the button to advance to the next regen step, then the next until your softener is back in service mode. Do this as quickly as you can.
    5. Switch your valves so your softener is bypassed and wait one hour minimum.
    6. Place your valves back in service mode and manually start a softener regen.
    7. Once the regen is complete you're good to go for another month.

  4. A liquid iron removal system such as Res Up can be installed in your brine tank to feed citric acid to the brine to aid with iron removal.

My preferred methods are A or D because they employ citric acid, which is a much safer chemical than those in Super Iron Out (sodium hydrosulfite and sodium metabisulfite). The choice is yours - pick a method and follow it religiously and your softener will give you many years of reliable service.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Thanks again Alice. I did fat finger the GPM figure I provided.
Now I am wondering what settings I use for the greensand iron filtration tank.


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Depends entirely upon the size of the tank and the type and amount of media in it. What did your vendor recommend? If you can provide the specifics of what you have I will take a look at it.

(edited to correct silly typo)

This post was edited by aliceinwonderland_id on Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 10:40


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

Fleck 5600SXT Electronic Timer
Manganese Greensand - 1.5 cuft
10x54 Resin Tank size
6 gpm service flow rate
3/4 Inch Noryl Yoke with Noryl Bypass Valve
Chlorine to be the Oxidizer


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RE: Looking for help Sizing Water Softener system

It should be set up to backwash at least every other night, but NOT at the same time as your softener. If the softener is set to regen at 2:00 AM, set the iron filter to backwash at 1:00 AM for 10 minutes at a flow rate of about 6 gpm.

It is unlikely that you will get complete iron removal at a 6 gpm service flow rate with a 10" tank if you have ferrous iron - with ferric iron it would work. A tank that size should get about 3 gpm service flow rate with good ferrous iron removal. Get yourself an iron test kit so you can monitor your results. I suggest the Hach IR-18C.

Once you have verified that your iron removal is working correctly, then you can change the hardness on your softener to 25 and your day over-ride to 8. Periodically check your iron level to make sure all is working as it should.


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