How to Install the Soft-Economizer Water Softener

Your new Soft-Economizer water softener comes with a detailed manual for the control valve (#268) and the electronic system (#460i) - these should explain pretty much everything you need to know to install and operate your new softener. However, we have also put all of the instructions here in an easier-to-follow format so that you can see how simple it really is to install this water softener, and also to help explain certain steps of the process that might be tricky. If you are somewhat mechanically inclined, have a little experience doing basic plumbing, and the discharge pipes and main cold water pipes are in an easily accessible area, we're confident you'll have little problem installing this great softener on your own.

Soft-economizer water softener control system

Before getting started...

If you have an electric water heater we recommend that you turn off the electricity to the heater while installing softener. Once you are satisfied with the installation, turn on a few hot and cold-water faucets, and let them run. Once you are certain that there is no more air in your pipes, then turn the electricity back on to the water heater.

Please note that this softener system can handle a pressure range of 25-95 psi, however like most residential plumbing, for best operation and least wear we recommend an operating range of 45-55 psi. If you're unsure about your water pressure, please test it beforehand to make sure it is within the recommended range.

You will need a standard 3-prong 120v grounded outlet that is not controlled by a switch, which can be 50 feet from your softener. The furnished 12V transformer has 10 feet of cord attached. If it is necessary to extend the length of the transformer cord, it may be spliced to a maximum of 50 feet. Basic 18/2 AWG or thicker wire may be used. Splice connectors and extension wire are not included. They are available at electrical or hardware stores.

You will also need a drain for the backwashing cycles. This should be no longer than 20 feet from the softener. You will need to purchase flexible 1/2" ID (5/8" OD) plastic pipe. You can use braided vinyl, polyethylene, or PEX pipe. The plastic piping should have a minimum pressure rating of 75 psi. The same size and type can be used in steps 4 and 8. This backwashing drain line will be under pressure (your normal household water pressure) when the backwash cycle is working, so you'll need something to secure the drain pipe to.

Step 1 - Determine the location of your softener

Location of your softener is important. It should be in a protected, dry, level and non-freezing area (35-100 degrees F). The 2 tanks should be set close to each other. The larger of the 2 tanks is your brine tank (for softener salt or potassium chloride), and it is the tank that you will have to refill sometimes; so make it the more accessible of the 2 tanks.

Step 2 - Fill the media/mineral tank

Once you have determined the exact location of your softener, it is time to fill the media/mineral tank (smaller of the 2) with the furnished media (looks like brown tiny beads and has a consistency of dry snow).

  1. Put the distributor tube into the mineral tank. The screen intake will be at the bottom, the open end will be at the top. The open end should be sticking about 1 1/4" out of the mineral tank. The screen intake should be resting on the bottom, centered.
  2. Use masking tape or scotch tape to tape over the open end of the distributor tube. This is to keep any media from falling into the distributor tube while pouring the media into the mineral tank.
  3. Place the funnel (provided) into the 10 or 12" mineral tank, and begin to put the media into the mineral tank. Be careful to keep the distributor tube centered as best you can, while filling. There should only be enough media to fill the tank 2/3 - 3/4 full. You want to have plenty of empty (void of media) area above the media. The mineral tank should not be filled to the top. It is necessary for the media to have room to move during the backwash cycle. An easy (but slower) way to fill the mineral tank is to take a small scoop and pour the media into the funnel. The media beads tend to stick to the funnel. By filling slowly, the media will go into the tank easier. If you try to fill too fast, you'll probably have a problem.
  4. Once the filling of the mineral tank is completed, remove the tape from the distributor tube. Do not pull upwards on the distributor tube.

Step 3 - Connect the control valve

The control valve (head) must now be screwed onto the mineral tank. As you start to screw the control valve onto the tank, make sure the hole in the center of the control valve fits over the distributor tube. NO pipe dope should be used on the threads. The control valve should be hand tightened, snugly, clockwise. Make sure to install the "in" and "out" correctly (in other words, don't reverse the in and the out, all brands of softeners have a directional flow).

Step 4 - Attach the control valve drain line

Now you can attach the 1/2" drain line you prepared before starting to the center outlet on the control valve. Make sure the drain line is secured. The drain line will need to drain into a drain, which should be a minimum of 1 1/2" size and ideally, should be below the top of the head of your softener. Local codes should be adhered to.

Never connect the drain line directly into a drain. Allow an air gap (if you make your own - it should have a minimum of 1" of air) between the drain line and waste line to prevent the possibility of siphoning stopped up drain water into your softener.

Step 5 - Install the bypass valve

You are now ready to install the bypass valve to the control valve. The in/out arrows on the bypass valve should be pointing the same direction as the in/out arrows on the outside of the control valve. (The arrows are molded into the plastic on both the bypass valve and the control valve.) The bypass valve has two (2) 1 1/4 IPS female swivel nuts and two (2) 1 1/4" IPS male threaded ends. The control valve has two (2) 1 1/4" IPS male threaded ends on the back of the valve, which are the inlet/outlet water connections. The two female swivel nuts of the bypass valve will connect by screwing onto the two male threaded ends of the control valve.

Use two of the four provided 1 3/4" o.d. rubber washers between the end of the male threads on the control valve and the female swivel nuts on the bypass valve, one on the "inlet" side and one on the "outlet" side. Make sure to tighten them evenly. Do not tighten one side all the way tight and then try to tighten the other. Tighten one side a couple of threads and then tighten the other side a couple of threads, until both sides are snug.

Step 6 - Connect your water source

Water connections to and from softener will now be connected to the bypass 1 1/4"IPS male threads by using the two 1 1/4" female nuts provided.

  1. Slip one 1 1/4" female nut over one of the flanged tailpieces so that the tube is sticking through the nut and the flanged piece is resting on the inside of the female threaded part of the nut.
  2. Use one 1 3/4" o.d. rubber washer to fit into the female part of the nut on top of the flanged tailpiece and screw the nut onto the 1 1/4" IPS male threads on the control valve.
  3. Do the same for the other side and then connect your water source to the tailpieces.

Caution! PTFE thread sealing tape is NOT needed on the 1 1/4" IPS male thread - it could cause a leak. The PTFE thread sealing tape could prevent the female nuts from being able to tighten the flange end with the rubber washer properly against the 1 1/4" IPS male threads.

Step 7 - Connect the two tanks

Between the two tanks you will need to connect the furnished line. It will be necessary to connect the tube attached to the brine tank to the mineral tank elbow located below the timer.

Step 8 - Attach the brine flow overflow drain

Attach 1/2" ID plastic tubing to the fitting from the brine tank and run to a drain. This drain line will not be under pressure, so clear vinyl tubing can be used (20 psi working pressure). DO NOT tie into the backwash drain line! If tied into the backwash drain line, the pressure from the backwash discharge could push the discharge water back into the brine tank. This line should be higher than your drain line. The brine tank overflow drain line must be run as a separate line to a drain, sewer, tub, etc.

Step 9 - Add water

With a clean bucket or hose, pour clean water (filtered water is best) into the brine tank.

  • For the #68 (and newer #88) pour approx. 4 gallons of water into the brine tank. Your tank has a platform (grid) on (in) the bottom of the brine tank. You can add more water until the water level is about 1" above the platform (exact height is not critical.) This is just so you can make sure the water is being pulled out of the brine tank when in the regeneration process which you won't see when the brine tank is full of salt.
  • For the #77 (newer #89) pour approx. 8 gallons of water into the brine tank. Your tank has a platform (grid) on (in) the bottom of the brine tank. You can add more water until the water level is 7" above the platform. (exact inches is not critical.) This is just so you can make sure the water is being pulled out of the brine tank when in the regeneration process which you won't see when the brine tank is full of salt.

Step 10 - Set your settings

Plug the softener in following the wiring guidelines described in the "Before Getting Started" section. Open the access door on the Electronic Controller located beside the black (sometimes it's red) pointer knob. You may need a small screwdriver to insert into the small opening at the side of the door and gently pry open the raised tab. You will see a set of pins with three words next to them - TIME, HARDNESS, and CAPACITY.

  1. Start with the "jumper" on the set of pins next to the word "TIME". Depress the black TIME SET BUTTON to set the time-of-day to the closest hour. PM hours are indicated by a light next to the letters PM on the window display.
  2. Pull the jumper off the TIME pins and place it on the next set of pins next to the word "HARDNESS". Depress the black TIME SET BUTTON until your correct hardness is displayed on the window display. The hardness range is from 1 to 99 grains per gallon.
  3. Pull the jumper off the HARDNESS pins and place it on the next set of pins next to the word "CAPACITY".
    • For the #68 (or newer #88): Depress the black TIME SET BUTTON until the number 24 is displayed on the window display. The capacity range is in kilo grains. The maximum capacity of the #68 (newer #88) softener is 35,000 grain or 35 kilo grains, however we recommend setting the capacity at 24 kilo grains for optimum efficiency. No adjustment of the salt dial is necessary. It is factory set (at 7-8 lbs) for the best efficiency. Note: you can change the setting to as much as 16 which will give you 35,000 grains, also you could theoretically get as much as 40,000 grains capacity but it would not be efficient and also you must have a special salt cam installed which we do not recommend due to inefficiencies.
    • For the #77 (newer #89): Depress the black TIME SET BUTTON until the number 40 is displayed on the window display. The capacity range is in kilo grains. The maximum capacity of the #77 (newer #89) softener is 48,000 grain or 48 kilo grains, however we recommend setting the capacity at 40 kilo grains for optimum efficiency. No adjustment of the salt dial is necessary. It is factory set (at 12 lbs) for the best efficiency. Note: you can change the setting to as much as 17 which will give you 48,000 grains, also you can theoretically get as much as 64,000 grains capacity but it would take a special salt cam and would be very inefficient and there for we do not recommend doing so.
  4. Pull the jumper off the CAPACITY pins and place it again on the top set of pins next to the word "TIME" and close the access door. The jumper must NOT be left on any pins other than the top pair next to the word "TIME". Failure to do this will cause the unit not to operate.

Step 11 - Add more softener media

Purchase softener salt (or potassium chloride) and put only 40 lbs at this time into the brine tank (being careful not to get any dirt into the tank). The tank will take up to 400 lbs (we recommend installing a maximum of 350 pounds), which means you won't have to fill very often.

Step 12 - Purge the air

Make sure the main water supply is off. Depress the black (sometimes red) indicator knob and rotate counterclockwise until it points directly to the word "BACKWASH". With the main water supply off, place the bypass valve into the service position. Open the water supply valve very slowly to approximately the 1/4 open position. In this position, you should hear air escaping slowly from the drain line. CAUTION: If opened too rapidly or too far, some mineral may be lost.

Step 13 - Start the backwash cycle

When water begins to flow steadily from the drain, signifying the air has been purged from the tank, open the main water supply valve all the way. Let the unit run through a complete backwash cycle. This will allow the softener salt (or potassium chloride) to be introduced into the mineral tank so it can begin to soften your water. The backwash needs to be done before the regeneration cycle begins. Water is passed through the resin bed in the opposite direction of normal flow, which flushes suspended matter out of the resin tank. Backwashing also loosens the resin bed which becomes compacted during the softening (service) cycle.

Step 14 - Check for leaks

Check for leaks.

Step 15 - Check the water level

After the backwash cycle is complete, (it takes approximately 80 minutes) observe the water in the brine tank. The water level should be the amount of water needed for the next regeneration cycle. It should be at the following levels:

  • Approximately 1" to 2" below the grid for a salt dial setting of 8.
  • Approximately 1" to 2" above the grid plate for a salt dial setting of 12.
  • Approximately 5" to 7" above the grid plate for a salt dial setting of 17.

If the water level is extremely higher or lower, then see the "Troubleshooting" section in the control valve manual. If the water level is close to these water levels, go ahead and finish filling the brine tank up with salt (or potassium chloride).

You can now enjoy your soft water!

Some quick tips and notes about installing and using your new softener!

  • If using copper pipe, we recommend using type L copper. Type L is thicker than type M copper.
  • A common problem for beginners is overheating the copper stubouts, melting the plastic nuts that connect to the bypass valve. We recommend that you solder first and then install the nuts. The important thing is not to overheat the stubouts.
  • We highly recommend that you install a surge protector before the power supply. As in the case of most electronic devices, the power supply is susceptible to damage by power surges.
  • For quite some time your pipes and water heater might give off some hard water. Drain your heater at least once a week until you get no more sediment.
  • Remember to not use as much soap for dishwashing, laundry, etc. as you used to. No need for it! Many people report needing to use only about 1/4 to 1/2 as much as they previously needed.
  • Remember to check with local code officials and install the softener per local code.
  • Water softeners can accelerate the corrosion of anode rods in water heaters causing premature water heater tank failure. Learn more about the importance of anode rods and prolonging the life of your water heater.
  • If these instructions aren't clear to you, you can always call our technical support (you will receive the phone number with the softener).
  • We have one request ... if any instruction above isn't clear, please let us know! Others might have the same stumbling block, and we wouldn't know. We can't help others if you don't tell us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. "What is the purpose of the float in the brine/salt tank and what should I set it at?"
A. The float is a safety device. If the water level in the tank reaches the float it will shut off the flow of water into the tank. The water level for the #68 (newer #88) brine/salt tank should be approximately 1" above the top of the brine grid (platform), that is, about 6" from the bottom of the tank. For the model #77 (newer #89) the water level should be set at approximately 7" above the brine grid platform (12" from the bottom of the tank).

Q. "I have an existing softener tank that is leaking? Any hints on how I can transfer the ion media to the new tank that you sold me?"
A. Just go to our page and that should help.

Q. "How do I know when it's time to regenerate the media in my softener?">
A. Let's start by explaining how the resin/media works to soften your water. Water softening resin beads are not water soluable and have a negative electrical charge. To start the water softening cycle, the resin beads are covered with sodium (Na+) ions by washing them in a strong sodium chloride brine solution. The sodium ions attach to the resin beads. Untreated water enters the resin tank and passes through the bed of resin.

The negatively charged resin beads have a greater attraction for the two positive charges in the ions of both the calcium (Ca++) and the magnesium (Mg++) than they do for the single positive charge of the sodium (Na+) ion. The calcium and magnesium ions attach to the resin beads and the sodium ions are released. The resin beads exchange the sodium ions for the "hard water" ions allowing "soft" water to flow from the resin tank.

When the water softener (exchanger) reaches its capacity and can no longer exchange the calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) for the sodium (Na+) ions it needs to be regenerated. One of the reasons we sell these great softeners is because they have an automatic regeneration cycle - the softener calculates how much water has been used and uses your hardness and capacity settings to determine when it needs to regenerate.

During this process, the resin beads are washed with a strong solution of salt water which is called the brine solution. Since the resin beads prefer the calcium and magnesium ions, the slow rinse allows an overwhelming concentration of sodium ions to overpower and force the calcium and magnesium ions off of the resin beads and are then discharged down the drain. The resin beads are recharged with the brine solution after the slow rinse is completed. Then, the resin bed is rinsed to remove the excess brine solution from the tank and the resin beads are then ready to produce soft water again. During this final cycle, the brine tank is being refilled with more water to create the brine solution for the next regeneration.

Q. "Does the head require PTFE thread sealing tape on the threads where it connects to the tank?"
A. Do NOT use PTFE thread sealing tape there. PTFE thread sealing tape will prevent the head from securing all the way down and thereby using it would not to allow the o-ring to seal completely. Silicone lubricant can be used on the o-ring and it will make it easier to unscrew the head (generally you won't have to for many years to come).

Q. "During the rinse cycle it is noisy?"
A. You probably have a leak between the brine tank and the mineral/media tank. Check your fittings on both sides of the tubing. We are mentioning this as this is the number one installation mistake and hard to diagnose unless we point it out.

Q. "Does the control have a battery backup?"
A. No need to worry about changing the battery as it doesn't need one. All of the data in the microprocessor's memory is stored in a special electronic chip. This data includes time of day, water usage amounts, and the number of days since the last regeneration. During a power outage all information is stored automatically. If the power is off for a long duration then you probably will wish to reset the time of day as this will make your softener continue to regenerate late at night.

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