Water Softener Blues

Old 03-19-02, 04:42 PM
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Unhappy Water Softener Blues

I live in the Houston, Texas area and am in the market for a Water Softener system for my home. I've spoken to Culligan and Rainsoft but just can't believe how expensive their systems are. Anywhere from $1900 to $4000...this seems outrageous!

Can anyone give me a good alternative to the big boys that is reasonably priced?

ALSO---I have a small family of three, what size and kind of system should I look for? I haven't had a water test done yet but I'm sure it's very hard.

I must confess this is all new to me and I want to make sure that I make a prudent decision before I buy.

Thanks in advance for your help!!!

Old 03-19-02, 06:31 PM
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Rainsoft and Culligan make good products but I think it is more than what many people need ( or can afford). A good place on-line is:
They offer a little information on what makes a good water softener and you can buy theres if you like it and the price is right. I would reccommend getting one that generated automatically based on the number of grains and water use you tell it. I also think Sears (or like stores) sell a plently good enough softener for most people.

Good Luck
Old 03-19-02, 07:09 PM
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Thanks John. I'll check it out. I knew I would find help here. BTW---are you THE John Dillinger?

Regards, Paul
Old 03-20-02, 08:58 AM
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Culligan and Rainsoft make good equipment and have been around for years. Problem I have, with Culligan at least, is that they are the only ones that will work on the system. The $1900 sounds about right for a Culligan Water softner - at least in our area. And that's the other problem I have with Culligan - they are vastly overpriced for what you get. probably due to the advertising budget The high price quoted - $4000 - is probably a water conditioning system which is different than a simple softner. Water conditioning systems can include filters, carbon, potassium based softners, iron removal and Reverse osmosis. Each of these may or may not be required, depending on the quality of the water and what you, as the user, require for quality in your drinking water.

I know quite a few guys that have left the business because they could not compete with some of the dishonesty in the business. We had one local company here, advertising on TV, the benefits of their system. The closing shot was a mother holding her baby and the voice over said, "don't you want the best quality drinking water for your children" This is how they sell products that, in most cases are unnecessary.

These systems are cheap to put together and when they can sell one for 4 grand, they make a lot of money. Do they work - the answer is mostly yes but abetter question is, are they needed in the first place?

You should be able to get a good 35,000 grain system, with an automatic regeneration based on use, in the area of 1000.00 - maybe less depending on if you have "connections" with a plumber or wholesale house. You can also shop around the internet. They are not hard to install (check your local codes - some areas require vacuum breakers or RPZs on the drains) A softner will take care of the calcium and magnesium hardness, barium (if any), some amount of iron, and will remove some of the chlorine (chlorine attacks the resins in a softner)
Old 03-20-02, 09:08 AM
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I went to the plumbing store as suggested in the above post and looked over the specs on the softners. I'm impressed. the Autotrol valve is an excellent selection. These are guys that talk about flow rates through the resin (important) (ask your culligan salesman about this and I'll bet he won't be able to answer). Another point that caught my eye is the way they advertise the capacity. It considers the most economical setting for salt usage. Usually, what is advertised for capacity is 35,000 grains per cubic ft of resin - which is not incorrect technically. However, that would be for the very first use of the resin - one would not obtain that after the first regeneration, and, to get 35,000 grains, one needs 15 pounds of salt per cu ft of resin. The settings they are advertising are the most economical.
Old 03-22-02, 05:22 PM
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Thanks Dave F.

Great info! I called the Culligan and canceled my appointment simply because I felt the price was very inflated.

I found a couple of softeners on PlumbingStore.com for $600-$700 that sound like they do about all that the Culligan/Rainsoft systems to.

Of course, it's a do-it-yourself project and I've got a Father-In-Law that's a Master Plumber so I think we can tackle it.

Do you have any suggestions where I might find a good home softener for a good price?

Thanks again!
Old 03-22-02, 06:37 PM
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Home Depot carries a line of water softeners, as does Sears. Actually, there are only a few manufacturers, who make the parts and than resell them to the Culligans, Sears, Rainsoft etc. There are two basic types. The first incorporates the resin tank inside the salt holding tank. This is a space saver. Some have a separate resin tank and the salt holding and brining operation is done elsewhere.

I have had a Sears Unit for more than 10 years. Have done a little maintenance, but overall am very satisfied. Installed myself, and built my own bypass assembly, as I wouldn't install the plastic one that Sears was selling for the DIY. A couple of good ball valves and some copper pipe. Sweat fitting and done.
Old 03-25-02, 08:59 AM
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IF your father-in-law is a master plumber, he must have some connections with plumbing wholesale houses - start there. The ones advertised on the web site are good quality and the price is reasonable - but you have to add shipping.

I prefer the two tank models for simplicity of service.

Sears are good but you have to be careful of their ratings - they tend to overrate everything they sell. The only other problemI have with sears is getting parts sometimes.

Brands sold at places like HD are probably a good deal as well - the previous writer is correct - there are only a few manufacturers in the US.
Old 03-25-02, 12:18 PM
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No problem getting parts for Sears, just need to call their parts number and get it sent in.
Old 03-26-02, 04:42 PM
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Thanks Joel,

I think I will tap into my Father in law's resources and contacts. If I can get him off the golf course long enough for this project, it might work!

I appreciate everyone's comments. They've been very helpful!


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