Return to the Plumbing Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Water Softener & Filtrer: Lots of General Questions

Posted by calgal59 (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 9, 09 at 15:21

Warning: this is a really long winded post!

We just relocated to Southern California and will close escrow on a newly constructed home at the end of March. In our rental we noticed obvious signs of hard water. We want to protect the appliances and plumbing in our new home (not to mention our skin and clothing) from hard water damage so we are considering a water softener.

I obtained the following information from the water districts annual report:

Hardness 11.8 grains per gallon or 201 parts per million.
Chlorate ppb 24 43(o) (by-product of drinking water chlorination; industrial processes)
Chloride ppm 88 (runoff or leaching from natural deposits; seawater influence)
Potassium ppm 3.9
Aluminum ppb 75
Boron ppb 140
Chromium ppb 0.11
Vanadium ppb 3.3
Arsenic, Barium, Lead, and MTBE essentially at non detectable levels.

Ive never lived in an area with water noticeably hard enough to soften, so water softeners are as familiar to me as UFOs.

I think I understand the basic process of how water is softened. In a nutshell its a process of exchanging calcium and magnesium ions in the water for sodium ions; the untreated water is passed through a resin media saturated with sodium ions; over time, the exchange of ions saturates the resin with calcium and magnesium ions; the resin is then "regenerated" with a sodium solution. The sodium solution is used to displace and flush the calcium and magnesium off the resin and re-saturate the media with sodium ions. Either salt or potassium chloride is used for the brine. Water softening simply removes the mineral calcium and magnesium; it does not remove impurities as it is not a not a filtration process.

That said, I have an ultra keen sense of smell, which means I have an ultra keen sense of taste; the tap water here isnt to my liking to begin with and my husband says I will probably notice a taste difference of softened water (hes used a softener in the past, but many, many years ago). So Im thinking about a water filter for the kitchen as well.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I'm in totally unfamiliar territory here.

Q1. What are the key features to look for in a water softener? In other words, what features do you look for to judge the quality of the system?

Q2. Chlorine filter vs. carbon in the resin tank: mixing carbon in the resin tank to neutralize the chlorine seems illogical to me. Carbon loads up fast and must be changed frequently to be effective. I know this because I must change my pre-carbon filters at 4x's the frequency as my HEPA filters on my air purifier. Resin doesn't perform the same functions as carbon; ions simply cling to the resin surface; it takes years before its surface is rendered ineffective so it does not need to be changed frequently; I also understand it is very expensive to replace. My guess is if you replace the carbon, you will end up replacing the resin before you really need to; so it doesn't make economic sense to mix the two in the same tank.

With the level of chlorine in our water, will a cartridge filter work? Or do I need something bigger?

Q3. Drinking water filters: will a reverse osmosis filter system improve the taste of water AND remove the potassium, aluminum, boron, chromium, vanadium in our water? If so

Q4. What are the key features to look for a reverse osmosis filter system? In other words, what features do you look for to judge the quality of the system?

Q5. Salt vs. Potassium chloride: discharge of sodium into the citys sewer system is fast becoming an issue in our state; one city in the area banned the use of residential salt water softeners; all salt water softeners in that city must be removed by June 2009.

Potassium chloride, is NOT recommended by some of the manufactures, such as Kinetico. Does anyone know why potassium chloride is not suitable for some softeners, but okay for use in others? What damage will result to the softener? What brands can potassium chloride be used in safely?

Q6. Is a sodium filter for water softeners available?

Q7. Since there is no room in our garage for a water softener (downsized house came with a downsize garage), the logical solution is to replace the humongous water heater with a tankless one, then put a water softener where the water heater currently sits. So the question is can I place a cartridge chlorine filter next to the softener, or do I have to find a location some minimum distance "up stream" from the water softener?

Note: I've read about the no-salt softeners. I believe in tried and true science; a no-salt softener will NOT soften my water as they do not remove the minerals calcium and magnesium from the water. Easy Water flat out states their system does not remove minerals from water, rather it "changes the physical shape of those minerals and is a descaler, not a softener." I give them credit for their honesty--some are not so honest.

Bottom line: if you don't remove theses minerals, you are not softening the water. That is why no-salt systems can't get certification from the Water Quality Association and/or NSF International--descaling qualities alone aren't good enough, they need to remove the minerals from the water.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Water Softener & Filtrer: Lots of General Questions

Q1. What are the key features to look for in a water softener? In other words, what features do you look for to judge the quality of the system?

...I have had excellent success with the a twin tank design. These give seamless treatment regardless of volume. They are highly salt and water efficient, which in CA is becoming an important issue. Kinetico invented the twin tank design.

...Because there are NO electrical components, there will be zero issues in service, maintenance, repair or replacement of electronics and electrical parts.

...Long warranties give an indication of reliability.

Q2. Chlorine filter vs. carbon in the resin tank: mixing carbon in the resin tank to neutralize the chlorine seems illogical to me. Carbon loads up fast and must be changed frequently to be effective. I know this because I must change my pre-carbon filters at 4x's the frequency as my HEPA filters on my air purifier. Resin doesn't perform the same functions as carbon; ions simply cling to the resin surface; it takes years before its surface is rendered ineffective so it does not need to be changed frequently; I also understand it is very expensive to replace. My guess is if you replace the carbon, you will end up replacing the resin before you really need to; so it doesn't make economic sense to mix the two in the same tank.

With the level of chlorine in our water, will a cartridge filter work? Or do I need something bigger?

...What is your chlorine level? I don't like mixing tanks with resins and carbon, in part, for the reasons you stated. A carbon cartridge or upflow tank ahead of the softener will perform well and be easier to to maintain.

Q3. Drinking water filters: will a reverse osmosis filter system improve the taste of water AND remove the potassium, aluminum, boron, chromium, vanadium in our water? If so

... Yes, an RO will significantly reduce a very wide range of contaminants. The Kinetico K5 is certified to remove more contaminats than any other RO system available.

Q4. What are the key features to look for a reverse osmosis filter system? In other words, what features do you look for to judge the quality of the system?

...A self-rinsing membrane will provide up to ten times the life of the membrane. A metering or monitoring system that indicates when to change filters. A water pressurized (rather than air charged) holding tank provides superior water pressure, volume and recovery. A pressure pump will also greatly enhance performance and water quality.

...There other features that incluse aesthetics (designer faucets), easy of filter changes, availability of filter elements, filter options to handle particular water quality problems, A looong warranty, ability to handle new fridge water flow issues, and how long the membane is expected to last.

Q5. Salt vs. Potassium chloride: discharge of sodium into the citys sewer system is fast becoming an issue in our state; one city in the area banned the use of residential salt water softeners; all salt water softeners in that city must be removed by June 2009.

...I don't see a question here.

Potassium chloride, is NOT recommended by some of the manufactures, such as Kinetico. Does anyone know why potassium chloride is not suitable for some softeners, but okay for use in others? What damage will result to the softener? What brands can potassium chloride be used in safely?

...Not sure why you say Kinetico doesn't recommnd KCl...? That is perfectly fine and salt dosage charts are there to provide settings. The cost of KCl is causing some problems with dealers who don't want to sell it anymore. There will be absolutely no damage to softeners using KCl.

Q6. Is a sodium filter for water softeners available?

...I don't know of any sodium filter that will work and is cost effective. Are you talking about removing sodium from the discharges water (brine rinse)? An RO will remove it for drinking water purposes.

Q7. Since there is no room in our garage for a water softener (downsized house came with a downsize garage), the logical solution is to replace the humongous water heater with a tankless one, then put a water softener where the water heater currently sits. So the question is can I place a cartridge chlorine filter next to the softener, or do I have to find a location some minimum distance "up stream" from the water softener?

...Kinetico makes a quad-tank system that removes chlorine before entering the resin beds or a cartridge can be installed anywhere ahead of the softener.


 o
RE: Water Softener & Filtrer: Lots of General Questions

Andy C, thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions.

The info about Kinetico not recommending potassium chloride in their systems came to me 2nd hand. I realize now I should have called them directly to get confirmation. Environmentally, potassium chloride seems to be the best choice so we definitely want to use it--especially since water softeners are now becoming controversial in California.

Kineticos non-electrical design is incentive enough to meet with a rep for a thorough discussion of their systems. I like the idea of no electrical or electronic service or maintenance. Correction, I love the idea of no electrical or electronic service or maintenance! What also caught my attention about Kinetico was your comment about salt and water efficiency--these aspects are really important to me.

I checked out the Kinetico RO system on their website; sounds like the answer to my OCD germaphobia:) I drink bottled water; I cook with bottled water; I even give my cat bottled water in a purifying pet fountain. But I hate using all those jugs of water. Im beginning to suffer from plastic jugs landfill guilt. The Kinetico RO system's multiple filters will give me the peace of mind I need use water from the kitchen tap again; intellectually I know the tap water is safe to drink; emotionally, I can't bring myself to drink or cook with it. It started when we first moved to Houston, Tx--the water there reeks and tastes of chemicals. I don't think I drank so much as a full glass of tap water the whole time we lived in that state. I like that the Kinetico filtration system can be customized to my needs--I can add features I want specific to my water conditions and change them if and when I feel like it.

I really appreciate all of the details you provided me; I actually made a checklist of features from your response. Thank you very much.


 o
RE: Water Softener & Filtrer: Lots of General Questions

You're welcome. I am happy to help you with your questions.
Let me know if you need more.

Andy Christensen, CWS-II

Here is a link that might be useful: Kinetico K5 features


 o
RE: Water Softener & Filter: Lots of General Questions

I have a kinetico 2 tank softener and I was wondering if there is a way to dial-down the softness that I have? That is, make it LESS soft???
Thanks in advance.


 o
RE: Water Softener & Filtrer: Lots of General Questions

Larry,

Your questions are more likely to get the attention they deserve if you start a new thread. Additionally, this forum allows the original poster to have emails sent to them every time a response is posted to their thread, and new topics in an old thread can clutter an inbox pretty fast.

The short answer to your question is "no." However there is a caveat. Technically, the percentage of exchange sites on the resin that regenerate is dependent upon brine concentration. Lower brine strength = slightly harder water. But frankly this is not something the average homeowner is capable of controlling successfully, nor are you likely to be happy with the results. Why do you want harder water? If it is absolutely necessary for some reason, you could always plumb a partial bypass with a control valve, but this can get pretty complicated as well and, again, you are likely to be unhappy with the result.


 o
RE: Water Softener & Filtrer: Lots of General Questions

Thanks Alice for the info. Sorry about my inexperience with forums...


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Plumbing Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here