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Diagnose Water Softener Regeneration, Backup, Leaks, Stuck Controls
DIAGNOSE SOFTENER BACKUP / FLOODING - CONTENTS:How to diagnose problems with a water softener backup, regeneration, or cycle problem: stuck controls & leaks. Why does a water softener back up and flood a building - water softener gets stuck in "backwash" or "regeneration" cycle Still more diagnostic steps for a leaking or overflowing water conditioner.
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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.
Water Softener Stuck in Backwash or Regeneration Cycle Can Flood a Building or Septic System
Question: What Caused our Water Softener to Flood the Building?
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.
[Click to enlarge any image or table]
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.
Further Diagnostic Steps for Overflowing Water Softener
Can you trace the water softener drain piping to see where it is connected. If it's connected right at the sink or trap where the overflow occurred, check further for a blocked trap.
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.
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.
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
Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia
Questions & answers or comments about How to diagnose problems with a water softener backup, regeneration, or cycle problem: stuck controls & leaks.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
 North Dakota Standards for Water Softeners, North Dakota General Authority Law, Chapter 62-04-08, Water Softener Units http://www.legis.nd.gov/information/acdata/pdf/62-04-08.pdf. "The objective of this chapter is to provide a standard of quality, capacity,
and performance for water softener units. Water softener performance
is to be based upon referee tests procedures described in section
 Culligan Mark 10 Water Softener 1994-1998 Installation and Operating Instructions (covering models manufactured after 1995) (1-96) 01881948.pdf available from www.culligan.com
 Water Softeners, CMHC, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/wawa/wawa_005.cfm - October 2008. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation acknowledges the contribution of Health Canada to the development of this document. For further questions regarding water treatment and water quality, contact Health Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-957-2991 or 1-866-225-0709.
 "Commercial Water Softener Installation and Operating Instructions", IBC Filtration & Water Treatment Products (Australia) for commercial, industrial and residential application www.ibcwater.com.au (07) 3219 2233
 "Non electric water softener,
Installation and Operating Instructions", IBC Filtration & Water Treatment Products (Australia), op.cit.
 "Water Softener Twin Tank Installation and Operating Instructions", IBC Filtration & Water Treatment Products (Australia), op.cit.
 Our Water Hardness Table used at originated with but was edited and added to from http://www.bestfish.com/tips/110598.html and also from http://www.water-research.net/hardness.htm
 Thanks to reader [Anonymous] for discussing water softener backups and floods after an electrical outage - August 2010
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
"International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
"Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.