Water softener newbie questions

All, I just recently had a new GE water softener installed in my home and I am trying to confirm whether the darn thing actually works. Here is what I do know...I originally put a 40lb bag in and 3 gallons of water. The water is slightly above the salt in the salt tank. I ran the manual diagnostics to see the meter reading when I turn on the soft water faucets. The meter runs which seems to me proof that its working properly. However, I was told that when you run a manual regeneration you should see water moving into the smaller brine well tank. I don't really notice anything happening at all when I do a regeneration other than hearing water noise and water running out the drain behind the filter. Is there a way for me visibly to see that this thing is working? It is set to regenerate at 2am...does that mean it regenerates every night at 2am...or only when it needs to? If I did multiple regenerations manually, shouldn't I notice a drop in the salt level?
I am a newbie here...but I don't notice a difference in the "feeling" of our water. We have had it for a week. Just want to confirm that I do or do not need to have someone come look at it. Please help. Thanks in advance.
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You need to buy some test strips or bring two water samples into a store that will do the tests for you. One sample should be unsoftened water (before the softener) and one should be after the softener.
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rlp2955 wrote:

You shouldn't need to add any water if that is what you did. You probably need more than 1 bag of salt 2 or 3 at least. You need to wait over night or several hours at least after adding salt before you do a regeneration.

What do you mean by 'soft water faucets'? Do you just have a few faucets on soft water? Just the Hot water or your entire water supply? Hopefully the outdoor faucets were plumbed to not be on the soft water.

Did you stand there 1+ hours and watch? I think it's done at the very beginning or the cycle but not sure?

Not really that I know of.

Depends on the model. Look it up in the operators manual.

Yes if you gave sufficient time in-between regenerations for the salt to dissolve and make brine.

Is there a bypass system on the softener or plumbed into the pipes nearby (3 shutoff valves)? Perhaps the bypass is not set correctly? Soft water feels slippery or slimy. Kevin
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On Tue, 8 Jan 2008 21:31:12 -0800 (PST), rlp2955

First off some general good practice guidelines.
Never use rock salt. Use the pellets with rust remover if needed.
Never put more salt in the container than what is needed.
Read the manual. You probably have a screen and injector that should be cleaned once a year.
********************************
The water softeners salt usage is set by an adjustment. The person who installed the unit should of adjusted it. The dial is calibrated in pounds of salt per one regeneration.
The frequency of regeneration should of been set by the person who installed the unit. Typically it should regenerate two or three times a week. It really depends on your water use and the hardness of the water.
******************************** As far as determining the salt usage. It is a slow process. During one point in the regeneration cycle the brine solution will be drawn out of the tank. It is difficult to see this occur but if you did not overfill the tank with salt you should be able to mark the water level and see if it goes down during that portion of the regeneration cycle.
Toward the end of the regeneration cycle the now mostly empty brine tank will refill with water for the next regeneration cycle.
The different sequences of the regeneration cycle should be pointed out in your manual. If not search for a typical cycle on the Internet. The system will become very simple once you understand the steps and there order.
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"Manual Diagnostics" ? Is that how you start a "Manual regeneration"? Are you sure that you are putting the softener into a regeneration cycle?
I take it your timer is an electronic timer rather than the mechanical/electric timer. What model? Consult your manual. Most of your questions should be answered in the book.
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rlp2955 wrote:

"...had a new GE water softener installed..." If someone else installed it, you might want to consult with that person for expectations.
Remember that your hot water heater was filled with previously unsoftened water, so it might take a little bit of time to flush all that through.
The water in the brine well should be the same height (approximately) as the water in the salt reservoir, as there are holes near the bottom.
I installed a new GE softener just a few years ago, and unlike older softeners, the water level was very low, except during certain stages of regeneration.
Check your manual, but if it is like mine (and I suspect most newer softeners), it only runs at 2am "when it needs to". Of course, its definition of "when it needs to" is probably based simply upon the number of gallons of water that have passed though since the last regeneration, not any measure of water hardness.
As other posters have mentioned, the true measure of whether it is working is whether there is a difference in hardness from before to after the softener. You can take samples and have them measured, you can use pool chemistry measurements kits, or you can try washing your hand in the before and after water with bar soap (not liquid soap, which is not actually soap).
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Thanks everyone for the quick responses. To answer a few questions:
-My softener is setup to provide soft water to most of my indoor plumbing but due to a finished basement we couldn't get cold soft water in the kitchen, only hot. (Softener was installed 3 years after finishing)
-The guy who hooked my water softener up was a plumber...not someone who is an expert in installing water softeners. But he has hooked a ton of them up before so I am not as concerned about that....
-My GE water softener lets you electronically set the "hardness" number. My water before the softener had a hardness level around 23 or 24 so I set it to 24.
-Someone asked about the bypass valve...funny story....when the water softener was first hooked up, the bypass valve was on so for 3 hours I was trying to regenerate and nothing was happening. Then realized the valve was closed. I hope I didn't damage it? Once the valve was open, that was first and only time since I have had the softener that I actually saw water move into the brine well. I have manually generated the softener about 6 or 7 times in the last week and I still don't see a decrease in the salt in the bottom of the tank??? Should regeneration that many times have depleted my salt tank?
-On the manual diagnostics questions....it lets me go into a diagnostics mode where I can see a "meter" type reading that first starts out at "000". When I turn on a soft water faucet, that number is supposed to increase as water moves through. It is doing that...but does that necessarily mean that is soft water? Seems to me its only a mechanism to show water coming through, even if the water isn't getting softened.
I guess what I am really wondering bottom line is why my salt hasn't decreased after a week. All the salt pellets look completely intact...like I just dumped them in there. My water is about 2 inches above the salt. In the brine well, as someone else stated, the water level is the same as what is in the salt tank. My hot water heater should have flushed through by now (we have three other people in the house...my wife and two kids...laundry, dishwashing, baths, etc.)
Thanks again everyone...maybe this new information above leads to some other things I can look at? I definitely need to get one of the water test kits...maybe that will ultimately provide the answer.
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By the way, here is a link to the model I have: http://www.geappliances.com/smartwater/model_fs.htm?GXSF30H
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I don't think it is working. Having it by-pass didn't hurt it. You should have seen the salt go down quite a bit with all the manual regens. You don't want to fill the salt tank, 1 bag is sufficient and if you know the salt dose in pounds, you can calculate how long 40 lbs will last.
When first set up, you have to add water to the salt tank. But now you have too much water in the salt tank. That is probably due to the unit not sucking salt brine; lose brine line connections allowing air to be sucked instead of heavy brine, a blocked/kinked drain line, blocked venturi or its screen etc.. With Pre refill there should only be 2-3" of water in the brine tank between regens. Go to: www.gewater.com and watch the animations of how the softener works and then go through the troubleshooting animations there. Also, make sure the in/out plumbing is correct and not hooked up backwards; inlet water to the outlet etc.. The inlet water comes in on the right rear looking at the front of the softener and over the top; right is in, left is outlet water. There may be arrows.
Gary Slusser Quality Water Associates
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rlp2955 wrote:

The softener has a built in bypass but sometimes a plumber will install a manual bypass usually consisting of 3 ball valves. One on inlet pipe and one on outlet pipe and one on a cross pipe between the in/out pipes. If your plumbing does have this then ALL 3 valves must be positioned properly in addition to the built in bypass being properly set. If the valve on the cross pipe is open then most of the water will not go through the softener. The manual bypass system allows you to completely disconnect, service or remove the water softener without having to shut off the main water supply.
This does not explain your no salt usage though? Kevin

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Softeners do not have an internal by-pass valve. They usually have internal hard water by-pass during regeneration only. Meaning that if wqater is drawn during regeneration, you get hard water; unless the control valve is a (rare) no hard water bu-pass type (usually only used in commercial).
A factory by-pass valve is made for all control valves and are model specific. A 3 way manual valve by-pass 'system' is plumbed into the water lines and is not a good choice. If needed, the control valve and resin tank is easily and quickly removed from a factory by-pass valve leaving it on the plumbing which allows water use in the house. In 21 years I've only had 2-3 factory types go bad, one was on a seasonal rental for ten years and used frequently and had been in a house for 6 years before that. And they don't create dead ends in the plumbing and I've heard they are against code in some locations.
Gary Slusser Quality Water Associates.
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Your salt pellet usage depends on what your hardness level is set at. It will be difficult to watch the pellets disappear because the water will only dissolve the pellets if the water is not at 100% saturation. If the water is saturated with salt it will not dissolve the pellets any further.
Typical salt usage may be between 15 and 30 pounds per week.
If you are still concerned it would be best to manually regenerate the softener and actually watch to see if the brine level lowers during that brine portion of the regeneration cycle. If nothing else this portion of the cycle can be identified by very salty water coming out of the small drain hose to waste/sink.
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On Jan 10, 3:14 pm, snipped-for-privacy@mucks.net wrote:

The salt usage depends on how much and what type of resin is in the softener and that establishes the salt efficiency of the softener, and.the salt setting establishes the K of capacity of the softener and that establishes the days or gallons of soft water between regenerations; or the service run of the softener.
There is no such thing as typical salt use because there are varying sizes of softeners all with varying salt efficiency. Most of my customers use from 3 to 12 lbs per 8 days with harness from 7 to 60 gpg of hardness.
Gary Slusser Quality Water Associates
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Dunno, but I do know you have to leave the water in with the salt long enough to get "salty". -----
- gpsman
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I ran another manual regeneration last night after removing some water from the salt tank. As soon as I select the manual regeneration, I see water moving into the smaller brinewell and my float valve starts to rise. Then about 10 mins in the water level in the salt tank starts to go up slightly. I didn't stay down there for the full regeneration. But it does indeed look like its working. I also bought some of those water test strips and it showed I had soft water where it was supposed to be soft. I compared that to another area in our upstairs that was not fitted for soft and it was definitely hard.
So I think my mystery is solved. I guess my softener is just extremely efficient with salt. It has an "efficiency" setting that is on so maybe that is part of it.
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