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Water Softener Questions

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  • Water Softener Questions

    I have hard water and find that between the scale build up on the fixtures and the soap scum, it's a real chore. According to the local water company, the total hardness of the water here averages 21 grains per gallon, but can go as high as 24 gpg. I've had water softeners in previous homes and they seem to make a big difference... so I'm about to install one here. Just for the record, I've researched the magnetic "conditioners", "Easywater" and "zetarod" units and while they might have their place, I am much more comfortable going with a conventional and proven ion-exchange type system that actually removes the calcium and magnesium.

    My question is about the control valve. The most popular softeners seem to be based on either the Fleck or Autotrol control valves, although there is also one called "Clack". Which one do you think is better/more reliable? I have to figure a group of professional plumbers would know!

    Thanks in advance,


  • #2
    Re: Water Softener Questions

    Fleck has always been the go to valve for me. Very reliable and easy to work on and get parts for.


    • #3
      Re: Water Softener Questions

      The Water treatment company I work with/for uses Fleck and Autotrol systems. Both are reliable and have been in the industry for a very long time.

      Autotrol units tend to be better for smaller applications mostly do to price and simplicity. The Autotrol units we use are typically for 10/40 tanks(i can't remember the grain count) single and twin tank systems. Autotrol units usualy use a system of flapper valves that are controlled by a cam. rarely do they ever have issues. When they do have issues with the valves it can be a very time consuming problem to resolve. On units over 20 years old we typical recommend replacement. It however is not uncommon for us to service a system that's been in service for 35+ years.

      Fleck units are more flexible and have more selection options and make better fits for larger systems. Be aware with Fleck they have multiple lines including low end ones that are crap in comparison to the higher end units. You get what you pay for if you go for the cheapest option. Flecks cycles are typical controlled by a piston. The piston and associated O-rings are less resistant to damage then the flapper valves but replacement and service is much simpler. Fleck units we repair and replace parts forever.


      • #4
        Re: Water Softener Questions

        Thanks guys, great info.

        How do you define "large" from "small" system? I am looking at either a 48k or 64k size. For residential, the Fleck units I seem to be seeing a lot are the 5600 either "SE" or "SXT" or the 7000 SXT. They both seem similar to your description with the piston valve but the 7000 model flows quite a bit more at the same pressure drop - and costs quite a bit more. Not sure I need all that flow. Are these models the ones to get or the ones to stay away from?

        For Autotrol, as best as I can tell the latest and greatest is the Performa 268/Logix760 or 762. Again, are these the ones to get?

        Again, THANKS! Your experience and information is so valuable!




        • #5
          Re: Water Softener Questions

          Forgive me my mind is a little bit out of date as I have not worked in sizing equipment or the sales end of things for a while. Usually when i sub contract for them now its more for my physical ability and knowledge of operations than my sales knowledge in the equipment. I started working for the company when I was 12(my father took over part of there operation for a few years I stayed with them after that) 12 years later i moved into other fields as a full time occupation.

          When sizing equipment you need to know the flow required, typical you use control head that can handle flow at the size of the main. If you say used a 3/4 control head on a 1 main your going to see a noticeable loss of flow. You need to be able to establish an estimate or water usage and know the specific qualities of the water to ensure the unit has the capacity to soften the water through contact time with the resin bed and to establish how often a unit would need to regenerate. If a unit is to small it may not soften the water fast enough or it may need to regenerate to frequently.

          Larger systems tend to be for 1 1/4 and above mains. Though it could also be larger do to capacity required. Like a Home with a 1inch main that runs water almost continually during the day. The Autotrols we use are for 10inch diameter tanks 40 inches in height. I think that's a 48k grain tank but I'm not positive.

          Another factor to consider is single and twin tank systems. Single tank systems are typical set to regenerate during no peak hours wen people are not running water.(default is 3am) If you run water during a regeneration you will get untreated water. Twin tank systems use too tanks when one is exhausted it automatically switches to the next tank and immediately starts regeneration of the exhausted tank. With a twin tank system you never get untreated water.

          For both Fleck and Autotrol when they tell you a twin tank system is 40k grains each tank is a 40k grain tank. Some individual dealers may be deceptive. Other manufacturers may market a twin tank system as 40k grains but they are actually two 20k grain tanks. For twin tank systems we use autotrol 9000's. We avoid Flecks Twin tank systems for most household do to cost. They can be a lot more money then the average household is willing to spend. In larger municipal systems Fleck is the Manufacturer of choice.

          To give you another example as to the difference between Fleck and Autotrol. An Autotrol catalog is maybe 25 pages it has less then a dozen control heads and the associated part with those units They send out a whole new one anytime it changes. They do not have a lot of flexibility for covering out of the ordinary applications. If your household falls into the specs of one of the models yours golden if not probably not a good brand to go with. Flecks catalog is a 3 ring binder about 3 inches thick it contains dozens of control heads with hundreds of options for different applications along with pages of parts lists for all the different models. They send updated pages regularly to adjust for changes in their lines.

          Autotrol is going to be less money then a Fleck unit spec'ed for the same application. They use Autotrol because it is very cost effective and reliable. If they could only choose one or the other they would have to choose Fleck for its flexibility. The casual consumer can probably select an autotrol unit for themselves. Fleck on the other hand I would not recommend purchasing without consulting someone with knowledge of the systems and the ability to select what you actually need.

          For autotrol the company I work with used to use both 155/255 and 168 systems. The 155's then later 255's are a 3/4 inch control head, I believe they have progressed to a newer number but I'm not sure what it is. They stopped using 255's because the price point for 255's and 168's has gotten much closer then in the past so its much easier to simpler stock 168's which can be used for both 3/4 and 1inch applications. 168's are a 1inch control head. The Logix760/762 refers to the computerized timers used to control regeneration. In the past we avoided computerized timers from autotrol like the plague. In the past ten years they have turned around that reputation and the components are now rock solid, thus standard practice for all new installations. I can't tell you the differences between the timers as I don't regularly work with them.

          With Fleck in general the higher the number the higher the quality. They do not offer lower quality systems for 1 1/4 and above. The 5600's are I believe a 1 inch control head made of brass. Amusing I'm correct with that they are a good quality piece. The 5700's are the 1 1/4 heads I think. We also used 5200 for neutralizers those are of plastic make. I would not recommend any fleck head of plastic construction for softner applications.