Water Softener Alternatives…

The Tank Water Softener Alternatives…

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  • #5283
    mthedude
    Participant

    I had a leaking water heater 2 days ago, much to my surprise because when we bought the house (last year) the owner said it was only a few years old. After reading up on water heaters and having never heard of this particular brand of heater I’ve come to the conclussion that the water softener combined w/the off brand “cheap” water heater most likely caused it’s demise.

    I read a very detailed article yesterday contending that “Soft” water was not more corrosive, it has more to do with the dissolved oxygen in the water. Our source water comes from a municipal lake, it’s then treated and sent to a water tower where it’s distributed to the city. Assuming the above is true my water softener isn’t the culprit but it does raise some questions. Having studied salt water a little bit over the past 3 years ( I have a saltwater fish tank) I know that the dissolved salt in the water makes the water more conductive, therefore this may be the real reason soft water may accelerate the corrosion of the sacrificial anode in water heaters. My question is if I switched to Potassium Chloride pellets, would this perhaps extend the life of the anode? My new unit is a Bradford White….really good effeciency and 2 inches of insulation, but it has the combo anode that I’ve read is hard to replace because you end up destroying the anode by removing it, thus, checking it every few years will mean replacing it.

    To summarize;

    1. Should I switch to Potassium Choloride pellets and perhaps try to soften only to 100ppm?

    2. Is there a good/better way to pull the anode out of Bradford White heaters that don’t destroy the nipple/threads/anode?

    #5285
    Larry Weingarten
    Participant

    Hello: Softening is OK (with reservations). Over softening is not OK. The National Association of Corrosion Engineers suggests leaving 60 to 120 ppm (about 3-6 grains) of calcium carbonate hardness in the water after softening. This protects piping. Softening down to zero is what many softener folks suggest. Over softened water can completely use up an anode in six months. So, it has to do with degree. If you soften too much, it will damage piping and kill your heater prematurely. There is no study I’ve seen that suggests potassium is different than sodium as far as plumbing is concerned. It is better in that it is easier to deal with at the treatment plant.

    Combo anodes come with different length nipples on top. A longer nipple is easier to get a wrench on without doing damage. The shorter nipple is good for boxing and shipping.

    Doesn’t your heater have a warranty against leakage for at least five years? 😉

    Yours, Larry

    #5287
    mthedude
    Participant

    Thanks for the info, I’ll lower the softening to 3-6 grains to hopefully protect the anode.

    As far as removal of the combo anode, is there a spot on the nipple that is machined flat to get a wrench on it or do I need to use a rounded pipe wrench to turn it?

    #5288
    Larry Weingarten
    Participant

    Hello: About getting the old anode out… There is no machined flat, it is just a pipe nipple. One trick is to jam a bolt or steel rod into the nipple before attacking it with a pipe wrench. This will limit the amount it flattens out and help to prevent it tearing off as you put pressure on it.

    Yours, Larry

    #5746
    Jerry_47266
    Participant

    I’m a professional plumber in the kansas city area and have had many customers coming to me with the problem of softened water and shortened anode life span. I would like to suggest a specific type anode to them rather than telling them that the water softener that someone else sold them, under the guise of extending water heater life, has trapped them into a maintenance ritual with the anode. Generally, they don’t watch their water hardness closely and don’t want to.

    Jerry_47266

    #5747
    Randy Schuyler
    Keymaster

    Hi Jerry,

    I grew up in the Kansas City area and still go back a couple of times a year.

    I think it’s less a question of metals than strategies. Magnesium is more reactive and more likely to be consumed quickly, but aluminum carries a lot of baggage with it, not least that the tank might fail even though there’s some aluminum left on the anode. Larry and I have seen this.

    One possibility to your question is a powered anode. Although it’s expensive, it doesn’t corrode away like a sacrificial anode does. On the other hand, people still ought to monitor the hardness. It’s possible super-conductive water could overmatch the level of current a powered anode feeds into a tank.

    Or you could put two anodes in a tank — one hex and one combo. The hex anodes sold here are 25 percent thicker than what usually comes standard with a water heater.

    You’d still want to check those maybe once every year or two. But that’s a good opportunity for a plumber to maintain contact with his client base and ensure they remain his client base. You could check the hardness of the water and the sacrificial anodes and anything else that is happening.

    In fact, it ties in with one of our beliefs: that people should NOT forget their water heaters. You SHOULD be inspecting them once a year anyway. Anybody who thinks that’s a waste of money should go to the Closet of Horrors under Fun Stuff, elsewhere on the site. I’ve inspected thousands of water heaters and the things I’ve found where nobody had checked since installation were as frightening as they were ubiquitous.

    So don’t tell them to blame the softener guy, but rather learn how to adjust a softener or else work with the softener guy and tell them you’ll take care of them and their water heaters, and do it.

    Randy Schuyler

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