By Jeff Parvin CWS-VI

In last month’s issue, we looked at service department operations basics in the areas of scheduling, inter-dealership communications and overall practices and standards. This month, a component-by-component analysis of a service call.

Please note this is a simple checklist, designed for experienced personnel! It doesn’t teach the how or why of a system, but rather is a troubleshooting guide.

First impressions
When you arrive at the customer’s residence or business, try not to park so as to block anyone and avoid taking someone’s parking spot. Do not drive onto their lawn unless they instruct you to do so. Take your clipboard, basic toolbox and test kit with you into the premises. Use the main entrance to the house and a greeting such as, “ Hi, I’m (your name) with (your company’s name). I’m here to service your water treatment equipment.” Say whatever greeting is comfortable for you, but keep it friendly and professional. Identify yourself and state clearly why you are there. Have official identification—hopefully a photo i.d.—ready and visible.

Go to the equipment, being careful not to track anything in on your shoes if you are crossing a finished part of the home or business. If the customer is not already volunteering information about their system, ask some questions:

  • Is your softener consistently using salt?
  • Is your water soft all of the time or just sometimes?
  • How is your reverse osmosis system performing?
  • Have you noticed any stains, tastes or odors from your water?

The answers you receive will provide pertinent information to help you successfully complete the call.

The first action on almost any service call will be to test the treated and raw water to determine how the equipment is performing. A hardness test may be all that is necessary on a softener system on municipal water. Hardness, pH, iron, TDS (offer to take a bacteria sample if they do not have a sterilization system) will be needed for most well water systems. For a softener, if the complaint is that the water does not always seem to be soft, a test of the treated hot water may be helpful if they have a water heater with a holding tank to determine if there are times that hard water is in the system. Let’s take a look at a generic approach to troubleshooting some common water treatment equipment.

Softeners all basically exchange nuisance ions for non-nuisance ions to produce soft water. When they become partially exhausted, the softener regenerates the resin bed with a brine solution.

If the problem is hard water and no salt usage, check that:

  • The unit is in service and not by-passed.
  • There is a constant source of power to the timer.
  • The timer is operating and keeping correct time.
  • The settings on the control are correct.
  • The brine tank contains salt.
  • The salt is not bridged.
  • There is a sufficient amount of water in the brine tank (on wet brine systems).
  • The brine injector and screen are clean and not damaged.
  • If it is a metered softener, check that the metering device is operating properly.

If all of the above check out, put the unit into the brine draw position and observe whether brine solution is being drawn at a steady rate without air bubbles.

If you have suction but no brine is being drawn check:

  • The brine tank air check/safety float system is not malfunctioning so that it is blocking the brine draw.
  • The brine line is not ‘air locked’ (when air gets trapped between an air check and a brine tank overflow safety system).

If brine is being drawn, check whether the brine tank is built up with debris in the bottom to the point that it does not permit all of the brine solution to be used during the regeneration process.

If air is being drawn with the brine solution or just air is being drawn, find and repair the leak in the brine line or safety float system.

If all of the above are working and adjusted properly, salt is being consumed and the water is still hard or partially hard check the distributor system and the resin.

If the customer complains of salt in the treated water after regeneration, check for:

  • A partially clogged brine injector and/or injector screen causing a slow brine draw that does not allow enough time after the air check closes for a complete rinse; clean or replace.
  • Worn out resin that is not rinsing completely after the brine cycle and rinse cycles; re-bed the unit.
  • Chlorine level (if the unit is more than five years old and the chlorine level is above 2 ppm, the resin is probably worn out).
  • Inadequate feed pressure causing slow or fluctuating brine draw that does not allow for adequate rinse time; increase the feed pressure.
  • A distributor tube that was cut too short and has come out of the bottom of the control valve, replace the distributor.
  • Obstructions in the drainline flow control.

If excess flow loss is occurring, the resin is probably broken down and/or debris has built up around the distributor screen; re-bed the unit.

Acid neutralizer filters
Acid neutralizer filters generally contain a sacrificial media—usually calcite (calcium carbonate)—and/or corosex (magnesium oxide), to increase the pH of acidic water. The treated water will have a higher pH (dependant on contact time) and increased hardness. New media must be added to the bed periodically (allow 50 percent free space in the filter tank for expansion during backwash).

If the customer complains of an excessive loss of flow or pressure, check:

  • That the neutralizer is backwashing often enough and with a high enough flow rate.
  • Whether debris from the media or raw water has built up in the bottom of the filter bed, requiring a re-bed.

Backwashing filter
If there is flow or pressure loss through the filter, it may be:

  • Inadequate frequency and/or flow rate to adequately backwash the filter bed. Sometimes a fouled bed can be backwashed clean but usually it will need to be replaced and an adequate backwash run.
  • Due to feed water volume, two filters may be necessary, in parallel, to provide enough treated water and to have enough feed water volume to properly backwash each filter on staggered nights (a filter usually requires more water to backwash itself than it is able to provide in service).
  • Service demands may be exceeding filter service rating.
  • The piping before the filter is getting clogged with precipitated contaminants.

If the original contaminant is not being reduced adequately:

  • It may be a fouled filter bed due to inadequate backwash (see above).
  • Test raw water to be sure that the conditions are right for the media.
  • The filter media is exhausted or worn out; re-bed unit.
  • Service demands may be exceeding filter service rating.

If there’s a leak to drain in service mode:

  • The internal seal may be leaking; if so, rebuild valve.
  • Debris/media may be keeping valve from sealing, remove same and replace any damaged valve components.

Ultraviolet (UV) light systems
UV systems basically expose water to ultraviolet light to render harmful bacteria and viruses harmless. On all such systems, the bulb has a useful life of about 9,000 hours continuous use. The water should be pre-filtered by at least a 50-micron sediment filter. The incoming water should be free from any contaminant that will coat the glass or quartz sleeve, such as iron or manganese. Annual maintenance should include cleaning the quartz sleeve, replacing the UV bulb, inspecting/replacing O-rings, cleaning the pre-filter housing, providing new cartridges for the pre-filter and chlorinating the entire water system down line from the unit.

If the bulb is not lit, ask yourself:

  • Is there a constant source of power to the unit?
  • Is the bulb burnt out or defective?
  • Is the ballast burnt out or defective?
  • Are all of the wiring and connections proper?
  • Is the cover safety switch working properly (if applicable)?

If the system has a UV intensity meter that is indicating lower-than-safe output:

  • Test with a new bulb.
  • Ensure that the sight port lenses are clean.
  • Test with a new probe.
  • Test with a new meter system.

Reverse osmosis (RO) systems
RO systems typically remove a minimum of over 75 to over 95 percent of total dissolved solids (TDS) from water. Most systems have pre- and/or post-filters. Service required varies from system to system. For most residential applications, a 6 -12 month service interval will be adequate. The pre- and post-filter cartridges should be replaced during a routine maintenance call. The RO membrane has a life of about two to five years. Sterilize the RO system according to manufacturer’s instructions after each service. Test raw and treated water for TDS and note the percentage of TDS rejection on the service ticket to establish a performance history for the system.

If the percentage of TDS rejection falls below the manufacturer’s warranty:

  • Check for adequate inlet water pressure.
  • Ensure that the seals are not leaking between the membrane and the housing.
  • See that the drain line flow control is in place and working properly.
  • Check that the automatic shut-off valve is working properly.
  • If all of the above are okay, replace the membrane.

If the rejection percentage after the membrane is within manufacturer specifications and the filters are being properly maintained, yet the customer complains about off-taste, be sure the customer is using enough treated water.
If the customer is running out of treated water:

  • Check that the product water storage tank has the proper air charge in the bladder and the bladder is not leaking.
  • Measure the output at the membrane to be sure it is producing enough product water.
  • Test the automatic shut-off valve and ensure that it is working properly.
  • Measure the drain line flow to be sure it is within specifications.
  • Assess whether or not the customer is expecting more than the system is designed to produce.

If the faucet leaks, determine if:

  • The leak is from the base and if it is an air gap system, be sure that the drain line is not obstructed or ‘bellied’.
  • The leak is from the faucet outlet (most faucets can be adjusted; if not, replace it).
  • There is low flow from the faucet, check if it can be adjusted and make sure that the feed water is adequate.

Air injection systems
Air injection systems inject air into the incoming water via a differential injector or a pump, thus increasing the dissolved oxygen content of the water sufficiently to oxidize contaminants such as iron, manganese or hydrogen sulfide. Some systems use catalytic media such as Birm and/or Centaur to increase removal capabilities. Some hydrogen sulfide is removed in the air contact process by air stripping and gassing off.
If the original contaminant problem has returned, check:

  • The raw water analysis to be sure that the contaminant level has not increased beyond the system’s capabilities.
  • That the air injection system is adding air to the incoming line as specified by the manufacturer.
  • The filter is not by-passed or the media needs to be replaced.
  • Be sure that the compressor is running at the proper times and is adjusted to inject the right amount of air. Some newer systems use an air pump that can be triggered by the well pump or a flow sensing device.

If there is an excessive pressure or flow loss, check:

  • That the filter is backwashing often enough and at a high enough flow rate.
  • The piping before the filter, or the contactor tank itself, is not getting clogged with precipitated contaminants.

Excess air or lack of proper air gassing off (check the air relief system) can lead to cloudy water or air bursts from faucets.

Chemical feed systems
Chemical feed systems inject a metered amount of a chemical into a water system and may go through a retention period (depending on the application) followed by filtering (if necessary).
If the problem is that the original contaminant has returned, check:

  • The correct chemical is being injected.
  • The raw water analysis, to be sure the contaminant level has not increased.
  • The feed pump is feeding the proper amount of chemical.
  • The feed pump is coming on with the well pump or flow switch (if applicable).
  • The solution tank is filled above the pump pick-up screen.

If there is a retention tank, be sure it is being drained often enough to prevent buildup of precipitated contaminants on the bottom.
If there is a filter, check:

  • That it is not by-passed.
  • It has an adequate backwash flow rate and frequency.
  • Does the media need to be replaced.
  • The piping before the filter, or the contactor tank itself, is not getting clogged with precipitated contaminants.

If the customer complains of a low flow rate, check:

  • If there is a filter,that it has an adequate backwash flow rate and frequency.
  • That the piping is not building up with precipitated contaminants.
  • That the pipe is not building up with precipitated chemical at the injection point.

If the system is not using solution, check:

  • The feed pump is coming on with the well pump or flow switch (if applicable).
  • The feed pump rate is adjusted high enough (usually above 40 percent).
  • The solution tank is filled above the pump pickup screen.
  • The check valves on the feed pump and injection tee are not stuck.
  • The feed pump diaphragm is moving when the pump is operating.
  • For excessive build up of solid chemical in the bottom of the solution tank that is blocking the feed pump pick up.
  • The suction and discharge tubing are not clogged or restricted.

About the author
Jeff Parvin is Vice President of Sales/Marketing for Aqua Treatment Service Inc., a leading manufacturer of ultraviolet water treatment systems, stainless steel tanks and the AquaPRO Dealership Program. He began as a Goulds-Bruner dealer nearly 20 years ago, moved to wholesale with the Noland Company and the Water-Right Dealer Program and then to ATS. Parvin conducts water treatment application, installation and service seminars, provides support to ATS accounts and manages the firm’s sales/marketing program. He can be reached via email at [email protected]  or by telephone, (717) 697-4998.



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