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Repair Water Softener Backup & Regeneration Control Problems: this article explains how to diagnose & fix water conditioner / water softener leaks, overflows, backups, or building floods due to water softener malfunction.
We give steps in fixing a stuck water treatment device control that can otherwise leave your water softener running continuously in backwash or regeneration mode. We also explain other problems, such as a crimped water softener drain, that can leave the water conditioner stuck in regeneration mode.
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We had a water softener overflow into the kitchen and am wondering if this could be caused by the electricity being turned off for several days and then being turned on without resetting the water softener? Maybe it just kept on running since it was not reset? - (Anonymous)
Reply: Stuck Water Softener Controls May Be the Culprit
Loss of electrical power itself would not in a straightforward way make a water softener overflow - the softener usually works by a clock control and automatically backwashes itself on a timer scheduled basis.
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To overflow something else had to be wrong such as a lost connection between softener and its drain pipe or a problem in the control itself leaving it "stuck" in regeneration mode.
But if your water softener control equipment became damaged (such as by an electrical power surge that might have accompanied an electrical storm, lightning strike, or local power outage), or the water softener timer or control mechanism has been damaged (or corroded, leak damaged, or crud-jammed) so that it became "stuck" in its backwash mode, and if we had a compound error of a blocked or slow backwash water drain, the equipment might indeed overflow into the building.
So if there was an event that damaged the softener control and there was at the same time a new or pre-existing blocked or slow drain, the events might be related. In short, a softener ought not to backup or overflow due to loss of power, but coincidences are suspicious.
In the past when we have seen a softener problem like this, the control was "stuck" in regeneration (or "backwash") cycle. Sometimes moving the control manually (turning a timer dial) or resetting the control electrically will cure the problem. But watch out: keep an eye on the system or try a few manual backwash cycles to be sure that the system is stopping its regeneration cycle properly.
When a water softener gets stuck in regeneration mode what usually happens is water flows into the building drain continually, sometimes for days or longer before it is discovered. I've seen this flood a septic drainfield.
In the case of a softener that is emptying into a building drain, especially one on an upper floor, if we have the bad luck that that drain is itself slow, blocked, or draining into a blocked or flooded septic tank, the whole system can back up into the building.
Perhaps that's what happened in your case.
If the softener drain is connected to a different building pipe check the building drain system from that point onwards (downstream) for a blockage or partial drain blockage.
Finally, if the softener drain is improperly connected directly to a sewer line with an airtight connection such as shown in our photo at left, it is forming an unsanitary "cross connection" that is actually a technical building code violation as well.
A sewer backup can back into the softener and contaminate the building water supply. (See CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING)
When such a connection is made, if the softener gets stuck in regeneration mode and begins to flood a private septic system or drain into a blocked or partly blocked building drain, that too can cause drain backups and even an overflow on upper building floors.
Continue reading at DIAGNOSTIC FAQs for WATER SOFTENERS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Culligan Gold Water Softener Tank Leaks From Bottom
HI I HAVE THE CULLIGAN GOLD SYSTEM, MY MINERAL TANK LEAKS FROM THE BOTTOM WHEN THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS TURNED ON , ANY IDEA WHAT IS THE PROBLEM ? MY FURNACE WENT DOWN DURING WINTER AND PIPES FROZE ,IS THERE A SEAL ETC THAT MIGHT OF FROZE ETC , THANKYOU ! Mike: - 11/29/11
Mike, if by mineral tank you mean the salt tank, it's plastic and may be repairable - pretty simple. If you mean the media tank, indeed there are several bonded parts that make up some tanks, such as a plastic bottom connected to a stainless steel tank - those might have been broken from freezing. I'd check the parts explosion of your water softener manual - if you don't have the installation and maintenance guide you can certainly download one from Culligan - see the website address at our references below. There may be replaceable parts on the media tank base itself, but I'm doubtful. Keep us posted, what you learn will help other readers. DF
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