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Getting my head around Water Softeners

Discussion in 'Plumbing and Central Heating' started by InMyHO, 25 Aug 2016.

  1. InMyHO

    InMyHO

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    Water softeners are one of the most confusing things to research on the web in my opinion. People who sell them drop straight into that snake oil selling mode even though they are valid appliances which do have genuine value. I have recently had one installed; a Monarch Midi. I have learned or surmised stuff and some of what I have guessed might be wrong so interested in feedback. Anyway; here are my thoughts...
    • The water gets softened by the resin
    • The resin is only good for a few (X) litres and therefore a few (Y) hours use
    • The resin is recharged by being washed in salty water (brine)
    • If the resin is fully washed (recharged) then it is as good as new but it is possible to under-wash it (see later)
    • The valve-thing does the job of washing the resin
    • The wash is carried out in the early hours of the morning (with softeners like mine - see later)
    • The valve starts by letting water into a tank of salt and creating brine
    • This is left for some time to let the salt dissolve
    • Then the valve lets the brine into the resin tank
    • Then the brine is flushed away - which is why they need a drain connection
    • Some softeners like the Monarch have a water hardness setting which is set according to how hard the incoming water supply is
      • I reckon that this changes how much water is let into the brine tank
      • More hardness, more water, more brine, more washing and also more salt used
    • Set this value too low and the resin will not last the full day (X will be less) so if you have a tank-fed system then the water will always be a bit hard and for direct connections the water will start soft and go hard at the end of the day
      • Set this too high and you waste salt
    • I think there is a key basic measure of a softener which are often hard to find in the brochures or understand;
      • The quantity of resin (per resin tank) sets how much water can be used in a day if regeneration is only once each 24 hours at night - more resin is better
      • The quantity of resin also sets the maximum flow rate through the device when combined with things like good design of the tank and connectors
        • So a twin-tank design (see later) might not need to last 24 hours on each tank but still needs a lot of resin in each tank for good water flow rates
    • Some valves, like mine, meter the water and apparently react to the level of usage
      • My guess is that in normal operation they let more or less water in the brine tank - like the hardness adjustment - according to how much water has been used that day. I guess that the system multiplies the water volume by the water hardness value to give a flush size value
      • I think some softeners can do an extra regeneration (wash) if the flow is really high but it is hard to guess when they might do that
    • Some softeners are mechanical
      • I reckon that the advantage of these is that they do not need connecting to an electrical supply
        • This is good because a plumber doesn't need to call in an electrician
        • and the distance from the supply could add a lot of cost
    • Mechanical softeners often have two tanks
      • I reckon this is because they don't know what the time is to regenerate in the middle of the night and by switching tanks it doesn't matter when they regenerate
      • There are other advantages claimed like the fact that you can take a bath at 02:30 without forcing hard water through the system
      • Apart from the idea that you need twin tanks if you don't have a clock I think the other advantages are probably spurious unless you have a 24 hour lifestyle
      • For a given flow-rate you need double - two resin tanks, twice the resin, two brine tanks and so on - so these are twice the cost
      • So it feels to me that if you can easily get to an electrical supply (as I could) then don't go for a mechanical twin-tank unit
      • If you can't then it is essentially a cost equation - more costly softener versus higher installation charge

    Finally I wanted to mention that I measured the hardness a few weeks after installation. I did this at the output of the softener and later in the day so it wasn't just after the regeneration. The water was quite hard. When I investigated it seemed that the salt had sort of got stuck and wasn't dropping down and filling the bottom of the brine tank. I just gave it a bit of a poke. All is now well and the water is completely soft. I reckon that maybe excessive cavities can form in the salt - when using lump salt - which if I am right reduces the saltiness of the brine and therefore the washing of the resin and ultimately the softening capacity. Another option in this situation is to turn up the hardness setting a notch and see if that makes a difference.

    As I said; comments welcomed. I hope this might be of use to someone.
     
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  3. picasso

    picasso

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    Are you retired by any chance:) ?
     
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  4. InMyHO

    InMyHO

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    No, why?
     
  5. picasso

    picasso

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    Just curious.
     
  6. InMyHO

    InMyHO

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    What causes you to be curious on this point?
     
  7. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson

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    The "life too short" factor probably.
     
  8. snes

    snes

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    I fell asleep after the 50th bullet point......
     
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  9. Agile

    Agile

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    You are pretty correct although have used the word flow wrongly.

    There is the maximum flow rate THROUGH the unit which needs to be matched to the house plumbing demands.

    What you mostly refer to is the VOLUME of softened water. That is of lesser consequence with the better designs which measure and regenerate when required rather than overnight regardless of how much water has been used. So the twin tank designs are more efficient at salt usage.

    You also imply that a plumber would need to employ an electrician. I would guess that most plumbers who fit softeners will be able to do the electrical connections. On boilers that would probably be over 95%.

    Why they question if you are retired is because you have the time to write so much with no very obvious purpose.

    Tony
     
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  11. Razor900

    Razor900

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    Blokes trying to be helpful. I imagine that people looking for info on softeners would find this useful.

    Why give him a hard time. I bet 2 out of 3 professionals on here haven't ever fitted one :LOL::LOL::LOL::LOL:
     
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  12. durhamplumber

    durhamplumber

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    I used to service and install lots of water softeners in commercial kitchens.They were a pain 15 years ago..Sounds like the technology has not moved on any.
     
  13. Agile

    Agile

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    I must be the 1 out of 3 then.

    Also been on the Harvey Softeners course as well.
     
  14. Razor900

    Razor900

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    I said professionals though Tony. Apparently you don't count :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

    ;);)
     
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  15. dreadnoughtheating

    dreadnoughtheating

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    My customers who have one, love it.

    Until.

    the resin core splits, and millions of resin beads of microscopic size are released en-masse and block up valves, taps, shower heads you name it.

    I see one every six months or so doing this, all makes included, from the £300 all-in to the £1500 plus ones.
     
  16. oilboffin

    oilboffin

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    Harveys softeners great and Harvey is a great guy and time served plumber
     
  17. Agile

    Agile

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    I have am old one and the resin pellets are about 6 mm diameter.

    There are two units, a brine tank about 1.6 m high and 500 mm diameter, and the softener unit 1.6 m high and 450 mm diameter and made of steel about 8 mm thick and weighs a lot.

    It has 1 1/2" inlet and outlet.
     
    Last edited: 27 Aug 2016
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