Need advice choosing water softener...


  #1  
Old 04-11-07, 08:07 PM
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Smile Need advice choosing water softener...

I am in the process of choosing a water softener for my residence. My hardness is between 8-9. I have talked with Culligan (very turned off by package deal and pushy sales), Hague Water Watermax, Ecowater ERR 3000 and a company that sells the Reionator Classic 40 (Pure Water Oasis). I have tried to educate myself, but I am having a very hard time comparing warranty's, upkeep fees, what is filtered, quality of valve, companies, etc. Any information regarding these items would be greatly appreciated. I have read that Fleck is a fan favorite on this site, but I can not find a dealer in my area, and really do not feel comfortable buying online. Thanks in advance for any information!
 
  #2  
Old 04-11-07, 10:37 PM
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You are not in an uncommon situation. Many know nothing about water treatment until you have a gun (hose?) put to your head and have to learn... let me see if I can help a little.

Comparing warranties is easy. You're looking for...
1. length of the warranty on the entire softener or
2. length of warranty on what softener components
3. is the warranty just for parts or for parts & labor
4. do they stock replacment parts locally so it's a quick fix
5. what is their response time

As far as maintenance costs...
Most all softeners need basically the same attention. You look into the brine (salt) tank every week and add enough salt to cover the water you see. Once a year you empty out the brine (salt) tank and clean out whatever grunge you find and then put new salt in and you're set till next year.

As far as what is filtered...
You want the softener installed so all the water in your house is softened. Don't let them talk you into softening ONLY the hot water. That is a waste of your money and achieves little to nothing.

The softener will remove the hardness in your water. you will use much less soap and laundry detergent and shampoo. Your clothes will be softer and last longer. Your appliances will last longer and you won't have to clean that crunchy white stuff off of all the faucets.

As far as water softeners...
Water softeners fall into two main catagories (with some variations)

We won't discuss the Sears, GE, Morton, Whirlpool, North Star, WaterBoss, and all the other softeners sold at the big box stores. They are not designed to last and are harder to service and are not really less expensive in the long run.

First, there are the softeners where the companies design their own control valves and sometimes the other components so you need to deal with them when you need parts or service. There is nothing wrong with that although they are ususally more expensive.

Among these are Culligan, Kinetico, Rayne, Ecowater, and Hague off the top of my head.

Second, are the "industry standard" softeners sold by local indpependant water treatment professionals and some online companies. You don't want to buy online and that is best for you as you need installation and support.

These softeners use a control valve usually made by Fleck (the largest supplier worldwide), Autotrol, and a couple others. Then there's the big resin tank, usually made by Pentair or Structural, and the brine (salt) tank. Inside the resin tank there is the resin. The resin does the softenering and is usually made by Ionac Sybron or Purolite.

Generally there's a 5 year parts only warranty on the control valve and a 10 year parts only warranty on the resin tank. If you're dealing with a first rate local water treatment professional they should have enough faith in what they sell to offer a parts & labor warranty. If it's only a parts warranty then in the event of a warranty problem you get the parts for free but you pay for the labor... which is ususally more expensive.

Here's what I recommend to start...
Hit the Yellow Pages and call at least three INDEPENDANT local water treatment pros. They generally won't have a brand name softener or will have their own brand but they'll have industry standard components.

Give each an opportunity to offer suggestions and provide you with a quote to meet your water treatment needs. IGNORE ANY THAT DON'T TEST YOUR WATER THEMSELVES as they can't speak intelligently to water treatment without knowing what needs to be treated.

Ask lots of questions. Warranty, parts & labor, how long? Install, permits required, licensed plumber? Routine maintenance and costs? Do they stock parts? Response time for emergency (water leak) calls? If they don't explain things to your satisfaction that is a good indicator of how you'll be treated after the sale.

Ask your neighbors if they have any water treatment experience. They might tell you who's good or who to avoid.

Come back here and post the specific recommendations and hardware with the costs and we'll give you our opinions.
 

Last edited by justalurker; 04-12-07 at 12:05 AM.
  #3  
Old 04-19-07, 05:24 PM
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I'm also looking to have a new water softener system installed. I have found a local independent dealer that sounds very good; answered all my questions (and thanks to you for some of those!).

They sell a lot of major brands, including Fleck, Clack. But the salesman wants to sell me a WaterCare brand. Do you have any experience or opinions about that manufacturer?

Any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
 
  #4  
Old 04-19-07, 06:20 PM
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Hi Pete,

Unless a company is Culligan, Kinetico, Hague, or one of the disposable softener sellers like Sears, GE, Morton, et al who manufacture their own proprietary control valves local water treatment dealers usually represent companies who cherrypick components and assemble and test complete softeners.

They use a Fleck or Autotrol (GE Osmonics) or Clack control but they put their "house" brand name on the softener. Then they sell them wholesale to the local people who don't need to assemble or test them but do install, setup, and warranty the softeners.

A Watercare softener won't do anything better than the same components WITHOUT Watercare's sticker on it unless they offer a better warranty.

http://www.watercare.com/index.html

You found a local dealer you like so let's make sure he's selling you what you need.

Did he test your water? What exactly is he recommending in a softener? Hardness capacity? How many people in your home? What's the SFR of your plumbing? What brand and model of control valve. What brand and resin? They should be able to rattle of the brand and model of the components without even thinking.

Ask them for references and call them up. Customers can be a gold mine of information to a potential customer.

If this company is the only one you've contacted I'd get at least two more to come in and quote you if for no other reason than education.

If we can help... just post.
 
  #5  
Old 04-19-07, 08:36 PM
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Thanks justalurker,

He did answer many of the questions you posed -- I used them from a previous post to throw at him! He didn't actually test my water, but his business is only a about a mile from where I live, and he knew my subdivision well.

The warranty on the WaterCare seemed good: lifetime on the tank, and ten years on most other parts, including the valve system. (He said the system had a Clack valve).

He said the Fleck is good, and used to be #1, and Clack is #1 now (whatever #1 means!). He didn't like the Kinetico, not that it was bad, but he said it had three tanks, and the non-electric system could be problematic.

He also agreed with you about Lowe's, Sears, etc. not being of good quality and would not last. He joked that many of these were owned by GE, who really is in the business of selling parts! lol!

I plan to meet with him again, and check more before I decide.

I did get three other estimates, one from my plumber (whose prices were astronomical, and with a little prodding, did suggest I could get better value from someone else); and another company recommended by two friends. They had the best price, too good to be true; I found out they install Northstars, which this forum warned me about. My friends were happy, but they have only had their systems about a year -- so I'll see how happy they are in a few years! I also checked with Culligan, and didn't like them at all.

Thanks so much for your help!
 
  #6  
Old 04-19-07, 09:27 PM
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Pete,

Is the warranty for parts only or with labor?

The Clack is a good valve but it is the new kid on the block. Only been around for 5 or so years... Fleck for decades.

He's wrong on the Kinetico, as most people who sell against them puposely are. Three tanks means two resin tanks and a brine tank. That gives you soft water 24/7 and immediate demand regeneration. More salt and water efficent design than one resin tank and one brine tank. The Kinetico "non-electric" system is anything but problematic and has proved it's reliability over decades. Water power worked great in the Roman aqueducts and still does at the Hoover Dam and if you ever lose water pressure then you don't have water to soften

North Star is the same as a Sears or a GE or a Whirlpool and should be avoided.

If your seller has properly sized the softener for your water conditions and family size and plumbing SFR then you should be happy.
 
  #7  
Old 04-19-07, 11:56 PM
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Pete,

Something I forgot... don't make the mistake of confusing a softener's hardness capacity with correctly sizing a softener for the SFR (service flow rate) of the house. They are two different things and many softeners are sold and installed that will not flow the SFR of the house's plumbing and there is hardness leakthrough.

Here's a thread you should read...

http://forum.doityourself.com/showthread.php?p=1145774

You have to "copy & paste" as HTML is turned off on this forum
 
  #8  
Old 04-20-07, 06:14 AM
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Thanks again,

I plan to talk with the salesman again before I decide, and I will use your suggestions to "grill" him some more to be sure everything is good. I am having good "feelings" about what he has said so far, but I will verify my feelings with some hard questioning!

I will let you know what I find out.

Pete
 
  #9  
Old 04-20-07, 07:58 AM
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Pete, not a matter of "grilling" anyone. The secret of getting effiecent and relaible water treatment hardware is premeditation and asking questions.

If asking questions and expecting accurate answers before the sale upsets the seller then that is a good indication of how one will be treated after the sale.
 
  #10  
Old 04-20-07, 10:26 AM
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justalurker,

Sorry, didn't mean to sound that I would be harsh toward the seller. Wrong choice of words. I am actually a very pleasant fellow, and I like the seller. Actually, I called him back and talked some more with him, and we had a good chat. He is a very pleasant fellow as well. He told me he enjoyed our conversation.
 
  #11  
Old 04-20-07, 03:50 PM
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culligan charges way to much for there systems. I bought my softner and a ro from xxx water. They seem to have the cheapest prices around and they are very knowledgable and helpful. xxxxxxx
 

Last edited by GregH; 04-25-07 at 05:24 AM. Reason: Remove link
 

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