Water Softener - GE AvantaPure vs. Culligan vs. ???

Old 06-20-07, 12:29 PM
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Water Softener - GE AvantaPure vs. Culligan vs. ???

I feel like I've been reading blogs for hours, and still don't know what we should do. We've had Culligan and a GE AvantaPure dealer out. We called Culligan because they're national, and we called the GE guy because friends recommended them, and appearantly they're a GE Platinum dealer (for whatever that's worth).

new construction
well water
9 grains hard
0.7-1.2 iron
3 people Mon-Thurs
5 people Fri-Sun

Here's what we've learned:

1) We need a 1" valve - it's new construction, we have great water pressure, and want to keep it that way!

2) Seems like we want regeneration based on quantity, not a time-meter. We have 3 people in the house Mon-Fri, 5 on the weekends, and house guests that when they come, they stay a few weeks at a time.

3) Culligan said the resins need replaced every 12 years. GE said they don't. What's the real story?

4) GE has a top-of-the-line AvantaPure with a lifetime warranty on parts, which we were told would cover the resins (material only of course) if they did need replaced. Culligan's top-of-the-line also has a lifetime warranty. Culligan charges $125 to replace the resin every 12 years.

5) Do we need a system with a lifetime warranty? The control valves all seem to have 5-year warranties.

6) AvantaPure top-of-the-line brags about upflow: "And unlike conventional downflow water conditioners that do not fully regenerate the ion-exchange bed, the AvantaPure system uses countercurrent regeneration, which allows the water leaving the tank to pass through the most highly-conditioned zone in the ion-exchange bed." Anyone know if this is actually a benefit, or just good sales wording?

7) AvantaPure also brags about only regenerating in proportion to what is needed, for example, if it knows that it will need to regenerate on Friday because it won't make it to Sat night based on historical Sat useage (it has a 28-day memory), but it is only 40% spent, it will only regenerate 40% - is this also the case with Culligan? Is this as good as it sounds?

8) The Culligan sales rep said he won't sell a softener without also putting a filter on the system, add $200 to the prices below. The GE guy didn't mention a filter until we asked him, his price is $100, and of course he said that would be a good idea, but he didn't try to sell us one.

Overall, we liked the GE guy better, more of a tech rather than a salesman. In either case, we just don't know what is just fancy talk, and what features are actually worth their price.

Are there other dealers in the Pittsburgh, PA area that we should contact? We're hoping to get a system installed in the next few weeks...

All of these prices were a bit more than we wanted to spend, but we don't have time to deal with a crappy system or have it repaired all the time, as we both work, so we'd rather do this right the first time!

GE AvantaPure upflow, lifetime warranty, Autotrol: $1999
GE AvantaPure, downflow, 10-year warranty, Autotrol: $1699
Culligan Gold, Quadra-Hull tank, lifetime warranty: $2099
Culligan Gold, Medalist Plus, 10-year warranty: $1599

Old 06-20-07, 01:57 PM
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Your test results are lacking. Has anyone checked your well water for bacteria and TDS.

Yes, you DO want a "demand" regenerating softener. More water and salt (or potassium if you choose that) efficent.

Neither GE nor Culligan makes resin. The life of the resin is determined by the hardness, iron, manganese, and chlorine content of the water AND that the softener is properly sized, properly setup, and maintained. All things being equal, the resin will last the same length of time in either softener treating the same water with the same routine maintenance.

The GE Advantpure softener uses the GE Osmonics Autotrol control valve which has been around a long time. Don't confuse the top line GE with the cheapo GE you see at HD and WalMart. The Advantpure are top quality units.

Upflow vs downflow is always an interesting question. On paper upflow has advantages. In the field it's hard to see those advantages unless you do a detailed study over a long period of time. Downflow is the most common design.

Pre-filter or no pre-filter usually is determined by the TDS of the water feeding the softener. A pre-filter is one more maintenance expense and complication IF required.

The key in what you posted was "Overall, we liked the GE guy better" and that counts for a lot especially since friends recommended him.

If I were you, I'd call at least three independent local water treatment pros for quotes just for comparison. Independent water treatment pros will offer generic industry standard softeners with comparable features at less money. You ought to take a look at Kinetico also.

You should turn on "privates messages" in your profile
Old 06-20-07, 02:16 PM
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Question How do I find an "independent" dealer?

Thank you justalurker.

TDS < 50
Bacteria was negative.

Any advice for finding "independent" dealers? We're in the Pittsburgh, PA area, and when I search the online yellow pages for water treatment, I seem to get bottled water guys and water treatment plants! I think our GE guy is considered an independent, but they're authorized to sell AvantaPure as well as other systems.

I've read that I want Clack, Fleck, or Autotrol control valve and know that we want a metered system, but what about the tanks - is there anything I should know about there? Is a lifetime warranty worth anything, or is that just a sales tactic to charge more?

Thanks again!
Old 06-20-07, 02:40 PM
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Chatted with a Kinetico dealer for a while - sounds like a really great system - upflow, dual tanks to eliminate down-time while regenerating, etc! However, it was $3300! Is this system really that much better?
Old 06-20-07, 03:16 PM
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Kineticos advantages...

soft water 24/7
regenerates as necessary, VERY efficent with less water and salt use
no electricity required, control valve operated by water pressure
extensive dealer/service network, large and loyal customer base

If that appeals to you then it is worth the money. I like the design and wish I had a Kinetico but that's JMO.

As far as Clack, Fleck, and Autotrol, Clack is the new kid on the block, the GE Advantapure uses the Autotrol (GE owns Osmonics/Autotrol), and the Fleck is the defacto industry standard with decades of proven performance in the field. There always seems to be someone everywhere that services Fleck control valves.

Your GE guy may be independent but he is a franchised GE Osmonics platinum dealer.

Resin tanks are pretty straightforward and rarely ever leak. Same is true with the brine tank. A leak is all that can go wrong with them. The aspects of a softener that may require repair are the control valve body and it's internal parts and it's electric motor and/or it's electronics, the control valve power supply, the resin (if fouled or at end of useful life), and the float assembly in the brine tank.

Put down that Iron City and grab the Yellow Pages. Independent water treatment companies are usually listed under Water Softening and Conditioning. May be listed under a different heading but always under "water" something.
Old 06-27-07, 09:20 PM
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Water softener choices - warranties, prefilters, attrition

Definitely choose an electronic metered system - I personally prefer the Fleck 6700 or 7000 valves over autotrol or clack as far as generic valves go. The 6700 is available in upflow with variable brining. The 7000 isn't upflow but also offers variable brining.

I'm a big fan of upflow brining when it is done properly. You can have less hardness leakage & greater salt efficiency.

Most good warranties are defect-only, which obviously means that they do not cover wear and tear. All the generic valve manufacturers offer similar defect warranties. In our industry, warranties are sometimes "oversold" by sales reps. At the end of the day, your warranty is really only as good as the person who is going to stand behind it.

Resin attrition is a form of wear and tear that refers to the natural breakdown of resin. Attrition depends on many factors, but is most affected by oxidants like chlorine/chloramine. A handy rule of thumb in calculating resin life (gel cation) is to multiply 10 by the ppm of chlorine in the water.

For example
Chlorine = 0.5ppm, max. expected resin lifespan is 20 years
Chlorine = 1ppm, max. expected resin lifespan is 10 years.
Chlorine = 2ppm, max. expected resin lifespan is 5 years.

The above doesn't apply to macroporous or structured matrix resins, since they are significantly stronger than regular gel resins. Since you're on a well, chlorine is not an issue unless you're adding it in yourself. The iron will contribute to attrition though. I'd recommend a good resin cleaner to keep the iron fouling low. Periodic system sanitization with a non-oxidative disinfectant would also be beneficial.

Be careful with prefiltering before the softener, since most prefilters in the $200 range are low-flow cartridge types that will inevitably drop the flow/pressure - negating the benefit of having a high-flow control valve. TDS is an electrical conductivity test which refers to a measure of Total Dissolved Solids, which are submicron in size and doesn't really correlate to turbidity/sediment in the water. If you notice opacity in your water or visible particulate, then a self-backwashing sediment filter would be recommended.

My $00.02 is to do business with a company that has a service fleet within range of your home and is WQA certified ( wqa.org ) - preferably CWS. Ask for testimonials and references. The good guys will be happy to provide them for you. Also check you local BBB for how they handle customer complaints.
Old 06-28-07, 12:56 PM
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Dri bee,

As justalurker recommended, check with Kinetico. For that price, what did they include? At 9 gpg a K system should go for much LESS than that…around the same a s the Culligan model. Let me know what they quoted you exactly. Was your K dealer Gordon Brothers or Martin or another dealer?

1. MACH series valves can handle plumbing up to 1.5” so no problem.
2. With your water usage varying as you say, the Twin tank design works perfectly without ever interrupting service.
3. The reason some manufacturers recommend changing resins every decade or is because of fault design and function. C-systems regenerate with hard, iron-laden water so naturally resin life is shorter and hardness leakage more likely. Kinetico regens with treated water, so that is not an issue and resins last decades or more without significant degradation.
4. Always beware whenever you see “lifetime” as a warranty marketing technique. There is usually an asterisk (*), which severely limits the life of lifetime. Culligan as a one-year warranty on the entire unit, five years on the valve (except internal parts,…Dah?) and so on. Kinetico has a full ten-year warranty on parts…all parts.
5. Look at all warranties in a comprehensive scale and not just as one item.
6. Kinetico also uses counter-current regeneration with “treated water”. This offers great reliability and durability as well as salt savings and water reduction during regeneration. As you noted, due to it being a twin tank design, you have continuous service.
7. I don’t think Culligan systems “think” that way. Again, with a twin tank design, there is no need to “calculate” how much salt to use; it always meters the water and regens EXACTLY when it needs to, not at 2AM.
8. There are many philosophies as to whether or not to pre-filter a softener. I believe it is an excellent way to protect your investment. Kinetico’s pre-filter has a 42-gpm flow rate so service flow will not be affected as with generic type filter housings and elements.

I agree with Greg in getting a qualified professional to help you out. But remember THEY are working for you, so make your expectations clear.

Good luck;
Andy Christensen, CWS

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