Water Softener Help

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13 Feb 2020
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Hi,

My house has a water softener installed (salt based system) and i am trying to figure out if my outside tap is connected to the system or not. To get a look at the plumbing would require part of the kitchen being removed.

Would a simple water hardness test kit be able to give me the answer? If so can anyone recommend me a test kit to buy?

Or is there another way for me to be able to tell? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
Jason
 

Witcher

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Maybe not a very accurate method, but if splashes/droplets of water leave no deposits of Calcium when dried out it means it's a soft water.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
i am trying to figure out if my outside tap is connected to the system or not.
Do you know where the "rising main" is? That should give you some idea, if anything spurs off before it gets to the water softener. Our rising main spurs off to the outside tap and drinking water tap, and then into the water softener cupboard.
Would a simple water hardness test kit be able to give me the answer? If so can anyone recommend me a test kit to buy?
It isn't a test kit, but you can do it by taste, our sodium softened water tastes thick and salty.

You should definitely have a tap, for drinking water, which uses your original hard water supply?

cheers Darrel
 

ian_m

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My outside tap, cold tap in main kitchen sink (for fish tank filling :)), filtered water in main kitchen sink, cold tap in 2nd sink in kitchen as well cold taps in the bathroom(s) are all un-softened water straight from the mains.

I very very much doubt your outside tap will be softened water, as ion exchange softened water is not recommended for watering plants, as well as being a "waste" of softened water.
 
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Thanks all.
I will try a taste test when I get home and see if I can notice a difference.
I know most water softeners usually bypass the outside tap but I can't risk that there wasn't a half assed installation so I need to know for certain for my own piece of mind.

I just bought tetra gh/kh test strips. I know that test strips are pretty inaccurate but surely they can give an indication if the water is treated or not compared to our kitchen tap water.

I will do a test as soon as I get home and post the results here.
 
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Ok so i just done a test,


Kitchen Outside Tap
KH 20 20
GH 0 0
PH 8 8
Nitrate 25 25
Nitrite 0 0

So it looks like both are connected to the water softener. Not too sure what i am going to do now :(
 
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Yes, the GH of zero confirms that it’s softened water. The KH is unaffected.

It’s useful to have both outside: softened water for washing cars, and unsoftened for watering the garden.
 

Siege

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Yes, the GH of zero confirms that it’s softened water. The KH is unaffected.

It’s useful to have both outside: softened water for washing cars, and unsoftened for watering the garden.

Can I ask why would you have a softened tap waster outside for washing cars?

Don’t they add salt which is bad for cars, hence you buy car shampoo and donot use normal washing up liquid?

never had a water softener hence the question?
 

ian_m

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Don’t they add salt which
No the salt is used to regenerate the ion exchange resin.

The resin removes calcium & magnesium ions from the incoming hard water and swaps them for sodium. Thus your softened water now contains sodium carbonate instead for scale/scum producing calcium/magnesium carbonate. The sodium carbonate does not react with soaps & shampoos, thus you need considerably less soap & shampoo to clean/wash and no scale on taps, no scum lines in bath. However it is not recommended to drink the softened water if you are on a low sodium diet or a baby.

When the resin is exhausted you regenerate it with strong brine (ie salt) solution that swaps out the captured calcium and magnesium back to sodium. The waste water from regeneration contains calcium and magnesium chloride.

If you test your softened water for chloride you will find none. Thus no salt in softened water.
 
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It’s amazing how many people assume that a softener adds the salt to the water! That would be crazy and would result in the water causing accelerated rusting of any steel objects it comes into contact with around the house.

The reason for not using washing-up liquid to wash cars is nothing to do with sodium; it is because washing-up liquid is far too harsh on the paintwork and would strip off any wax that you have previously applied.

Just to add to Ian’s post, the amount of sodium you end up with in the softened water will be below the specified limit for domestic water supplies, except perhaps in areas with the hardest water. So in general the water is perfectly safe to drink, it’s just that it doesn’t taste all that nice. But the taste is emphatically not because the water is “salty”. If you go to areas with naturally soft water, it also doesn’t taste as nice as hard water (in my opinion).

Softened water from a softener is not particularly good for fishkeeping, because the sodium ions are not ideal for fish health. In principle, I suppose one could use Potassium chloride as the regenerative agent, which would result in the resin being charged with potassium ions which would then get swapped into your softened water. This would have no negative health effects, and would provide useful plant nutrient. Does anyone know if a softener would work correctly on potassium chloride? Cost might be an issue.
 

ian_m

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Softened water from a softener is not particularly good for fishkeeping, because the sodium ions are not ideal for fish health. In principle, I suppose one could use Potassium chloride as the regenerative agent, which would result in the resin being charged with potassium ions which would then get swapped into your softened water. This would have no negative health effects, and would provide useful plant nutrient. Does anyone know if a softener would work correctly on potassium chloride? Cost might be an issue.
Yes it is perfectly possible to recharge your water softener with potassium chloride, in fact in quite a few US states with "inadequate" sewerage disposal, you are not allowed by law to use sodium chloride to regenerate softeners, due to the sodium load it adds to the waster waste water causing pollution issues. You must use potassium chloride.

Only issue is potassium chloride is many many times more expensive than standard sodium chloride (about 5 times the price), as well as being less potent in recharging (about 1/3 less), which means you need more (weight wise) to recharge your softener. I pay £4 for 8Kg block salt for my softener, cheapest I found potassium chloride was £20.

Some people, in the States again, use potassium chloride with ion exchange water softener to provide fish tank water as being considerably cheaper than RO water.
 

ian_m

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Water softener porn. My TwinTec S3 naked.
upload_2020-2-21_13-49-12.png


Incoming cold water comes in at top (red cap) and exits at bottom (red cap). Waste water outlet is on other side, along with salt/brine inlet. Uses the incoming water to power it. It is a very clever design so that most valves & mechanics are in soft water, thus no problems of scaling up and all rubber seals are pressurized both sides, so they don't wear. It has two resin cylinders whilst one is in use the other can be recharged.

Reason for it being out on the floor, as opposed to standing in brine box, is it had it an issue, after 9 1/2 years, where it produced low water pressure. Mesh had failed in one of the resin cylinders letting the resin out and jamming the valves. As it has a 10 year warranty, both resin cylinders and all valves we replaced for free (along with salt control valves extra £40) so basically all new along with warranty until 2027.
 
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Had a plumber out today. He disconnected the outside tap and re-connected it to before the water softener so i now have a source of un-softened water for my aquariums. He also fitted a new kitchen tap for us. I have no idea what a good or bad price to get this done is but he done it for €120 which i was happy with.

Here is the untreated water.
KH 15
GH 8
PH 7.2
Nitrate 10

Does that seem like suitable water parameters for a planted tank?
 

ian_m

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Hey @ian_m is it a mixed bed one?
As far as I know it is not.
https://www.twintec.com/

Nice cutaway picture here, just shows resin in the cylinder.
https://www.twintec.com/water-softeners/

What pH do you have on the outlet?
Never measured the pH, never had reason to. It does make red cabbage water go from red blue when washing up though.

I know my incoming water is very hard (22dGH), as softener has the gear set installed for very hard water. These control how much water passes through before it recharges. I also have a blending bypass valve (needle valve) that allows a tiny bit of hard water past the softener so water is not 100% soft. If you shower/wash using 100% soft you always always always apply far too much soap/shampoo and have a right time washing the soap off. Hardening it a "bit" makes it much easier to wash soap off. Advantages are, no scum in bath, taps stay scale free, no scale on sinks, cars wash up wonderfully, dish washer washes superbly leaving sparkly clean stuff, clothes wash to soft and fluffy, need b*gger all washing liquid/powder to wash clothes exceptionally well, shower glass stays like new and soap and shampoo last ages (provided you remember to use only a small amount each time). Well worth every penny of the £1000 odd to get fitted.
 

ian_m

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Here is the untreated water.
KH 15
GH 8
PH 7.2
Nitrate 10

Does that seem like suitable water parameters for a planted tank?
Yes, this is fine. Having s GH above 4 is generally useful as it means things like test kits will work(ish) more reliably and provides some element of pH buffering to prevent accidental pH swings.

Just add dehlorinator and use in your tank, job done.
 

ian_m

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Now plumbing porn.

Yes the brochures show nice all piping perpendicular, nice and clean stainless steel piping, all impossibly small under your sink. Below is the connections in real world....
upload_2020-2-21_14-40-37.png


The two white pipes, with hydraulically sealed crimps, are the incoming and out going connections to the softener. There is also a pressure reducing valve (under kitchen units) as my incoming water is 8 bar and 5 bar is typically the max running pressure for water softeners. The valve in the middle is the "bypass" valve to allow water connection if water softener is disconnected. Other pipes are dishwasher connections, outside tap, washing machine connection, kitchen taps and drinking water filter.

Below is plumbing in water softener cupboard.
upload_2020-2-21_14-44-6.png


The two white pipes, labelled "top" and "bottom" (as I didn't know if the were in or out when I took things apart) as incoming hard water and outgoing soft water. The blending valve is on top left. The waste water feeds via the white pipe to a drain, along with washing machine drain.

There is also a brine tank overflow, vented to outside in case there is a leak and brine tank overflows.
upload_2020-2-21_14-50-4.png
 
Joined
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Yes, this is fine. Having s GH above 4 is generally useful as it means things like test kits will work(ish) more reliably and provides some element of pH buffering to prevent accidental pH swings.

Just add dehlorinator and use in your tank, job done.
Thanks Ian, you have been a great help :)
 
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Also our water softener is plumbed as crazy as yours. Not a clue what does what or what pipe leads to where. All i know is to add the salt and havent had any trouble at all with it in the past 5 or 6 years we have it.

When we were buying it we had a choice of the standard one that would flush the system every 24hrs or the upgraded one which was digital and that would measure water usage and only flush the system when needed. We went with the digital one
 
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