Thursday, February 16, 2012

Installing a New Water Softener: Everything You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask.

Finally, after a couple weeks of living with white deposits on our dishes, itchy skin and much complaining by my better half, we had to install a water softener. The old one we had used more water to condition the water we actually used than we actually used. This was to the tune of 3600 gallons or half of a $90 water bill; Ouch!
Since the old one was a Culligan (can't remember the model, only that it weighed more than two horses and took everything I had getting it into the dumpster), I briefly considered one from the same brand. In an even briefer moment of lucidity, I recalled the last time I invited a salesperson in my home to sell me a Kirby vacuum sweeper. At $1600 a pop in 1997, and practically having to give him the heave ho, an alternative was in order. To make a long story short, we bought a water softener from Lowes; A Whirlpool Model WHES30 that has the salt storage and resin tank in one container. This was especially important because we live in a double wide and the softener is in the closet. Sure, there were smaller ones out there, but the footprint was the same and the smaller ones were 20 percent more in price.
This is the situation and appliance I'm using and there are many variations of the same. Read the directions and follow all local codes. If you live in Massachusetts, you have to call a licenced plumber to do the job. There may be similar codes in your area and it's your responsibility to check. You need to have some knowledge of plumbing, minimal knowledge of electrical and at least a three hour window of time to do this.
As you know, death, injury or property damage can result from working on plumbing. The directions and local codes take priority and when in doubt, call a professional. Do this and any repairs or installations at your own risk.
Cross linked Polyethylene or PEX is easy to work with, but not everyone is familiar with the methods of working with it. There's the couplings, the bands and the special tools to clamp the bands. I'm not going there this round, but I'm using Shark Bite fittings to get this done. Since the directions included with this appliance do a good job of getting you started, I'm not going to add to them much. Just place the softener where it will fit and where you can hook up it up.
I'm using 3/4 inch PEX and the water softener uses 1 inch male fittings but not going to use galvanized couplings to hook this up. This is because this is in my closet and these fittings will corrode over time. The service clerk at Menard's tried to sell me on this method because she couldn't find anything else to do the job. Nothing wrong with Menard's, but I'm not sweating copper in a mobile home or using copper or galvanized on plastic pipe.
So I went to Lowes and they hooked me up with two 1 inch CPVC female adapters, two 1 inch to 3/4 inch bushings and a five foot length of 3/4 inch CPVC.
What is CPVC? It's a lot like PVC or the white pipes used to drain with, but they're harder and able to handle pressure. You will need a special cement and regular old purple primer to glue the pipes to the bushings to the adapters. Prime the spots that fit together and apply the cement while the primer is still wet, then put them together. Use plumber's tape on the threads of the water softener and install the fittings BY HAND. Using tools on plastic risks stripping or breaking them. Make sure the other ends of the pipe are clean and straight before you push the connectors on.
There is a valve drain hose to contend with. The original one I had was ran behind my shower stall in 1/2 PEX through to the laundry drain. In short, it was going to be a pain to run 3/8 vinyl tubing behind it. I just used the 1/2 pipe as a sleeve to run the tubing through to the laundry room (don't use more than 30 feet). Since the tubing can bind inside the pipe, I used some cooking spray inside the pipe as a lubricant. You don't need much, but thread enough through the pipe to get it started and clamp the other end to the water softener. Once everything is where you want it, you can trim the tubing to fit. Finish the directions, charge it up and you're done. Maranatha!

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