Low Water Pressure caused by water softener

We have a Kinetico softener system.  The house and system are going on 13 years old.  We recently started having water pressure problems, and last night it became worse, to the point that flushing a toilet caused no water at all in another part of the house.  We had the city look at their part to no avail.  We finally suspected the water softener and bypassed the system, which solved the pressure problem. However, our water is horribly hard, so we need to solve our problem.  But, we haven’t been able to find a reliable, honest company to service a Kinetico, including Kinetico (too many bad experiences with the local company that sells/services Kinetico).  What can we do to solve this?

Answer:  Your problem is due to bed failure within the water softener.  You mention that you are using city (municipal) provided water.  Within the US, municipal water contains chlorine or (in some cases) chloramines. These chemicals present in normal low concentrations do not significantly affect water softener performance, however, over long periods of time, it’s possible for chlorine to degrade the resin contained within your softener.  Also, if a water main breaks, or if there is potential for contamination of the water supply after a hurricane or extreme flooding, periodic high concentrations of chlorine might be added to the water.  Chlorine attack can transform the normally hardened sphere shaped resin particles into a soft “mushy” material.  This causes the resin bed to pack, and leads to the loss of water pressure in the home as you mention.

You will need to re-bed the softener with fresh resin.  If you are unable to locate a water treatment dealer to provide this service, you may be able to find a local plumber that has done this in the past.  If you are reasonably handy, and experienced at basic home plumbing, you may be able to do this yourself.   The easiest way is to use a wet/dry shop vacuum. The instructions below are only general in nature – not specific to the Kinetico softener.  If any step is unclear, for personal safety reasons, be sure to contact Kinetico directly for instructions on how to replace the resin.  The normal procedure for replacement of resin is:

1. Un-plug the unit (not required in a non-electric Kinetico unit).

2. Close both the inlet and outlet by-pass valves.

3. Relieve the water pressure in the unit – we are not familiar with the Kinetico design, and cannot explain how to do this – but you normally move each tank (and you have two in your softener) into backwash position.  This opens the drain line, and will relieve the pressure.  Again, you will have to do this for both tanks!

4. Carefully unscrew the valve mounted on the top shoulder of the tank (counter-clockwise to unscrew).

5. Siphon off the water that is visible above the top of the media.

6. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, suction the spent resin out of the tank.  You should find 3 to 4 inches of gravel on the bottom of each tank – you can separate it from the spent resin, and reuse it - or just purchase new gravel (normal size is 1/4″ x 1/8″).  Place new replacement resin back into the tank (do not overfill!  Only fill to the same level as noted prior to removing the spent resin)

7. Re-install the valve – hand tighten, and then a little more to seal – do not over-tighten!

8. Slowly open the inlet by-pass valve, and allow the tank to fill.  When the tank is full, open the outlet by-pass valve.

9. With the unit still in backwash position, you will note that rinse water is running to drain.  At first this water may appear slightly “cloudy” – allow the unit to backwash until the water runs clear (normally 1 to 2 minutes).

10. After water is running clear, repeat the process for the other tank.  When water is again running clear, advance softener  into the Service/Conditioned Water position.  The softener is now ready for normal operation.

By the way, if you don’t have a vacuum, you can siphon off the excess water, lay the tank onto its side, and scoop the resin out – but this is a more laborious process.

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