Clean and Soft Water

Hello y’all. Dale here. Finally getting around to writing up my first post. My wife has been actively writing up several posts but I have been too busy until now. I hope you enjoy and I have many more to come soon.

The first major project I completed on our new house was installing a water softener. Kallie has been wanting soft water for years and she finally convinced me to put one in. Some of the advantages to a water softener are better skin and hair, longer lasting appliances, and as we have noticed cleaner dishes and laundry!

To start off I took a good look at my well pump house to assess the space and what supplies I would need. The pump house is well insulated and has power to it and our winters don’t get too terribly cold, so I figure that the softener would survive the winters without damage. Plus, the pump house has plenty of room and is the only logical place to install the softener without requiring major plumbing work.

Well plumbing before install

Well plumbing before install

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Placing the softener

I will take a quick moment to explain how a water softener works, in the most basic form. Hard water is water that has dissolved minerals in it, usually calcium, magnesium, and iron. These minerals will often deposit themselves on the walls of your pipes, inside of your appliances, and just about anywhere else they can attach and can cause shorter lifespan on appliances or other plumbing problems. A water softener traps these minerals in a big tank that is filled with special gravel-like particles that acts like a filter. This “gravel” has a charge and subsequently the minerals will bond to it, leaving behind soft water free of minerals. Many might then wonder what salt has to do with the process. The softener uses the salt to make a brine solution which it then uses during a regeneration process to flush the minerals off the “gravel” allowing it to continue attracting more minerals from the water. The salty water that now has minerals in it is flushed into a drain or to someplace outside. So the salt is not directly added into the drinking water coming out of the softener.

Taking down a list of needed supplies, I headed to the major home improvement store. I bought a Whirlpool 33,000 grain capacity softener after reading the reviews online. The grain capacity directly relates to how hard your water is and how many gallons can be run through the softener before it has to recharge. The 33k grain capacity is well suited for the two of us. For a household with four or more people a larger capacity is recommended. I digress. Since we are on a private well, there is a good possibility of larger particles such as sand being present in our water. Sand would harm the water softener. To combat this, I bought a whole house water filter to go upstream of the softener.

We only have two faucets on the outside of the house, both in inconvenient locations. Since my well house is right next to our planned garden location, I bought three faucets to install on the outside of the pump house so I will have plenty of hose bibs. However, I did not want to water my plants with softened water because that would just be a waste. So I put a tee before the water filter and softener to use for outside water.

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Whole house filter with shutoff valves and one line leading to water softener.

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Drop tee for outside water faucets and pressure switch after I moved it.

The whole install took about half a day and was uneventful and relatively easy. I used 1 inch PVC for the water leading into my house so I would get the best pressure possible and 3/4 inch PVC for the outside faucets. Punching the holes through the cinder-blocks to run the drain lines and for the faucets was accomplished by using my air compressor and a pneumatic hammer.

I did make one mistake while installing the whole setup. I did not move the well pressure switch, which controls when the well turns on and off, in front of the water filter. So I turned on the well with one of the valves closed causing the whole system to over pressurize. That in turn caused a leak in the drop pipe which is the pipe coming up from the pump to the well head. Several days later the wife and I pulled up the pump and all 100’ of pipe to fix the leak. That sucker was HEAVY!!! As it turns out, the leak was not a crack in the pipe but rather from an old breather valve that shouldn’t have even been on the pipe. It was a leftover part from an older pump system that had rusted up, but when I over pressurized it, the rust got knocked off and it began to leak. Simple fix – just remove the valve and plug it up. Then I moved the pressure switch to before any cutoff valve so this could never happen again.

The well pump that normally sits 100 feet down.

The well pump that normally sits 100 feet down.

Well pump and drop pipe laying out in backyard.

Well pump and drop pipe laying out in backyard.

One important note – if you open up your well head, you should sterilize the well. This can be accomplished by pouring 2-3 cups of bleach down the well and then, using a hose, recirculating water back into the well for about 10 min. Then turn off the water and let the well sit for at least 30 minutes. Afterwards you can flush out the well until no more bleach can be tasted, if you want.

Well head inside pump house.

Well head inside pump house.

The water softener was a relatively easy install and we have been living with the softener for several months now and love it. The water is clean and dishes and clothes are cleaner than they’ve ever been. Also, water spots are almost non-existent now. It takes five bags of salt to fill up the softener and it looks like I will only have to fill it up about three times a year. There is maintenance involved with a softener, though. Every six months a softener cleaner should be added to help breakup any hard to remove deposits in the gravel bed. The cleaner that is added is just a strong citric acid.

Taking a beer break with a refreshing shiner!

Taking a beer break with a refreshing shiner!

I hope you enjoyed this first post. As I said, I have many more coming up, including some other plumbing projects.

-Dale

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