Do Injector & Injector Screen Really Need Cleaning Yearly?
We own a 2 yr old Autotrol 255/440i control valve system and are on well water. We've always had great water and never had problems with it or with our water softener until springtime of this year when we began to have very hard water. We change out our whole house sediment cartridge every 6 mos. We recently changed it and for the 1st time ever, it was so excessively dirty that it looked as if it was MADE of solid red clay dirt (the type dirt we have in Oklahoma). It was far more dirty than it had ever been in past replacements.
We've had our softener company out twice now who made adjustments to the regeneration and salt usage settings; however, we still have the hard water problem. This last time, he set the unit to regenerate daily and also told us to run the system until there was no more salt in the tank so that we could check for "mushy salt" in the bottom which might be clogging the unit, then wet vac the tank out and refill with salt only half way up from now on. We are waiting for the salt level to go down so that we can do this cleaning.
My question pertains to our request during BOTH VISITS for the representative to clean our injection and injector screen. It is mentioned in the manual that this should be done yearly as PM and that if hard water was a problem, this could be the cause. But both times, he explained that he didn't feel this was necessary or the cause of the problem and, therefore, didn't (or wouldn't?) clean them as we requested. I don't feel comfortable doing it myself, so am wondering if I should call the company a 3rd time and insist that this be done. I would appreciate your feedback on this question.
We've had a severe drought all summer long here in Oklahoma. I'm wondering if this is affecting the system at all. I left a posting on the whole house filtration system forum about how this same company has us using 20 micron, 4 layer, 2.5" diameter sediment cartridges despite the fact that we have a 5" diameter housing. I'm wondering if this, too, is contributing to our hard water problem. TY so much for your help!
Is the salt going down since it is set to regen daily? That's the first and most obvious indication of what the problem may be. The injector screen is easy to clean. Bypass the unit and use a screwdriver to unthread it from the valve and clean it. But, if the salt IS going down then the issue isn't in the screen. How old is the unit? Also, the service guy was lazy IMO if he wouldn't clean the salt tank for you. Sometimes I have to reschedule something like that due to my available bucket supply by that point in the day but I always clean a salt tank out if mush or buildup is a possible issue. You can do it on your own, but it is labor intensive if it's a full tank and you have to have somewhere to go with any "bad" salt you find. The filter issue is a separate issue and has little to do with the hard water...other than maybe letting dirt through that may have clogged the injector which would show itself if the salt isn't going down...assuming that there isn't a ton of mushy salt built up on the bottom of teh tank that isn't dissolving into teh water...which would be the reason for the cleaning of the tank to verify. Between the mush possibility and that screen I'm sure you'll have your answer.
Last edited by pawaterguy; 10-02-2011 at 08:08 PM.
Thank you so much, pawaterguy, for your help! And for replying so quickly to my posting!
It's only been 2 days since the service rep was here, so the unit has only regenerated twice, but the level of salt in the tank does seem to be going down a little bit -- and it definitely did prior to his visit when the unit was set on an every other day regeneration schedule -- so perhaps the injector and screen don't need to be cleaned afterall. HOWEVER, if we DO decide to go ahead and clean it ourselves just for future piece of mind, is it necessary to relieve pressure on the system before removing the injector/screen for cleaning? The instructions for cleaning the injector include this step, saying "relieve system pressure by opening Valve #5" (at the rear of the unit). I'm a little uncomfortable about this step. Do you think it would be okay if we skipped this step or would it be unsafe to do so??
I hate that the guy would not clean out the salt tank for us. Most disappointing! But I guess my husband and I can tackle that ourselves once the salt level gets closer to the bottom. We use the better Morton Softener Salt pellets, hoping that it would prevent clogging problems. It will be most disappointing if this is not the case.
Thank you again for your help!
You'll want to take the pressure off one way or the other. The easiest way is to bypass the unit and cycle it or leave the bypass alone and close the main house shutoff valve and then open a faucet and wait for the system to depressurize. Then you can get in and clean the screen without getting sprayed a bit when you start opening it. If you have the money I would also look into a more efficient unit..or at least a new head. Those day timers are very inefficient (you may be aware of this) compared to a unit that meters the water and only regens when it needs to based on how many gallons have gone through it. But, on the upside...if you have an iron issue then it is better for the system to be regenerating more frequently to keep itself cleaned out. The only downside there is that a single tank unit cleans itself with dirty (untreated) water. Eventually you get bleedthrough issues. Anyway...keep us informed as to what you find.
Pawaterguy, I like the idea of shutting off water to house & opening a faucet to depressurize. I can do THAT! Thank you!
I attempted to empty the salt tank today & it was physically impossible for me as I got down to the mushy part. I'm reluctantly having the company come back out on Friday and pay a service call for them to do it for me. I think the pick up tube needs to be checked anyway to see if it's clogged. After seeing those several inches of very mushy Morton softener salt pellets in the bottom, for the life of me I don't know how the softener could properly work. There was not a salt bridge per se (I had one of those in a previous softener that used small Culligan brand pellets so I know what one looks like), but the mushy salt sure was tightly compacted. If the tube is NOT clogged, could this heavy mushy stuff still be contributing to our problem with hard water? (The hot water tested 2 grains of hardness and the cold tested 1 grain of hardness.)
Re: this regeneration-based-on-demand type softener you mentioned, would you mind recommending some specific brands you like (for both the softener and the control valve)? I would like to look into this.
BTW, you mentioned iron. Heaven forbid that be another problem. We've had our water tested and that's never been present. I'm assuming what we saw in the filter cartridge was our usual Oklahoma red clay. We figured -- and the water softener company said -- that due to our severe drought, the aquifer is probably low and therefore red clay/mud is being "kicked up" and getting into the water source. We are desperate for rain here.
You are the best for helping!!!
Ah, the mush. I carry a feed scoop I bought at a hardware store to scoop that stuff out. I get as much out as I can...dump the water into my buckets and finish cleaning the tank out before setting it up again. What happens is that mushy stuff builds up and isn't dissolving into the water. So, now you have mush taking up space in the bottom of the tank and you end up "short salting" the softener and you'll start running out of capacity before the next regeneration (you're water will go hard to some extent before it gets soft again). I don't know any brand that doesn't mush eventually in a single tank softener brine tank due to the amount of water they hold. I think the more you shake the tank around the worse it is, too. Once the water is saturated with sodium from the salt pellets...if you bump the tank or shake it in any way the salt fines drop down into the water and never dissolve. It doesn't hurt to clean the tank once every couple of years. It also helps if you only keep the salt level barely above the water line so it cycles through more frequently and isn't laying in there. That's been my experience anyway. As far as brands go I always recommend Kinetico. Dual tank (cleans itself out with treated water), non electric and the most efficient thing out there as far as salt and water use during regeneration. But, sometimes there is more than brand to consider. How a system is sized, set up and installed has alot to do with how it will perform for you over the years as well. Make sure you get a reputable company to help you out.