Checking and testing a Kinetico water softener can be done by the average DIY person, providing you have a little bit of mechanical skill and some decent documentation. I have had Kinetico softener systems since the early 90s since I had worked for them for about 12 years.
Their unique and patented system is simple and reliable providing you perform regular maintenance on it and always keep salt in the brine tank! They offer a cool “non-electric” twin tank water softening system with a radically simple water driven controller on top of the resin tanks. Typically these systems barely need any attention other than salt, but after a while everything on the planet is destined to break down, and checking the water hardness plus regular filter changes are all that is required of the customer.
There are a lot of competitors in the water softener marketplace but I would be interested in seeing another one come up with something this radical and amazing! Kinetico has an injection molding shop where they make all the plastic parts for the Kinetico valve module, and other injection molded parts.
Making water soft in and of itself is not a really complex task, but doing it reliably with no interruption of soft water supply even when a cleaning cycle is going on is a monumental task. The design trick which the founding fathers devised uses twin tanks with one in service and a second one in standby. The patented Kinetico control module regulates which tank is in which position, and it also takes care of the brine eduction and the rinsing plus the refilling of the brine drum.
These systems seem complicated when you look at the control module with the polypropylene tubing lines coming out, and the clear dial window on the top, but it really is a very simple system to operate. What you need to start understanding these systems is the official Kinetico owners manual. If you do not have one you can either go down to your local dealership and ask for one, or you can call corporate at: 1-440-564-9111. Ask for residential softener technical service department.
With a strong light look down on top of the clear cover on the top center of the black control module. Look at the white disc inside and notice there are tiny teeth all around this wheel. There are two sets of gears inside this control module each with a tiny turbine wheel spinning only when water passed by. Primary one is for counting the gallons used, and the other is to advance the control disk through he regeneration cycle. These can be adjusted to your water conditions but the technician would have to replace some specific plastic gears which are on stainless pins inside the top level of the control module.
There are six levels to the controller each with it’s own particular function. These levels control the inlet and outlet flow, plus they control which tank is in regeneration. Level one is where the in and out pipe connections are made and is where the control disk lives. There is a venturi built in that allows the control head to draw the brine liquid into the controller and depending which tank is being cleaned, sends the brine flowing upwards into the left or right tank. Whichever tank is not being washed with brine is the on-line tank.
Testing each tank separately first calls for running cold water for about a minute at the nearest tap to the soft water supply. Take this into a clean glass bottle which has been thoroughly cleaned of any and all deposits.
The dealer should be able to sell you an “Hach 5B” hardness test kit. With this kit you can tell where your water is in relation to how hard or soft it is.
The test is really simple to do and consists of a sample bottle, a measuring vial, a hardness test powder, and a liquid hardness reagent. The sample vial is poured into the sample bottle, and one scoop of powder is put into the mixing bottle. Then shake and stir this bottle until some color change has occurred. The water is softened if the powder turns blue in the sample bottle. if it stays pink, then you need to swirl the bottle while you count the drops of reagent that has to be added to the sample bottle and this equals your Grains of Hardness. Too many drops and your water is harder to treat than you can manage all by yourself.
If you take a yard stick to check and record the level from the top edge of the drum down to the top of the salt pack inside your drum, then after a while you will see that this is not necessary and that the float is letting the salt level rise and fall with each regeneration. Please make sure to document the salt level at least once a week, more often if it helps you track salt usage.
To call or not to call for Kinetico service? Here is the simplest outline of what will happen if you do call them in. First you can express your concerns and ask any questions about things that may be unfamiliar to you. Next you can possibly learn a few tips and tricks from the technician that you can use later. Taking the time to thoroughly go over your system with a tech helps you gain important technical knowledge so that you can be a well informed consumer. You are not trying to become a tech so stick to the basics of how your system should operate.
Now looking down on the clear cap, you can see a raised nub on the white control disk and there is a pointer at either six o’clock or the 12 o’clock position. It is important because you need to make sure it is rotating slowly over time. The pointer has a small black dot and perhaps a black sharpie line on it. If the black dot/line is at 12 O’Clock position then you are using the right tank and when the white disk rotates clockwise into regeneration then the gears will advance it forward for you. taking into account that the other tank is on-line now you will need a sample bottle of the water for each resin tank.
While the disk shows that the regeneration brine draw is in action, you can gently remove the brine fitting from the side of the control module, noting that this is the smaller of the two tubing lines. This line should be under vacuum the entire time you are in brine draw, this is what sucks the brine into the resin tank.
If you do not have any suction then the module will need to be repaired. Sometimes this is due to debris stuck in the venturi when the cleaning was going on. If you have pressure at this line instead of suction then you are not getting any salt into the softener. Instead of wrestling with this for an hour at least then I will call the local dealers to say “chop chop” which he does not seem to mind.
Now remembering that we had to use a flashlight to see where the disk indicator is pointing and at the 6 o’clock position then the left or main tank is being used. The second tank is in standby waiting for regeneration to begin so that the house gets uninterrupted soft water supply, and the tanks are always switching back and forth each time the unit regenerates.
Armed with a little knowledge I am certain that you can at least troubleshoot the system enough to call Kinetico to see what they think the problem is. Please send me your system specific questions on any brand make or model softener.
thanks for reading my articles, and you can ask me anything on this topic anytime!