Help selecting a water softener

drugdocJanuary 8, 2011

My wife and I are building a new home and could really use some help selecting a water softener.

Our home is:

3 full bathrooms (plus rough plumbing in basement for possible 4th bathroom)

~2600 sq feet

I have 2 daughters (total of 4 people in the home)

We are on a private well

We plan to live in this house permanently

I had 3 local companies come out and give estimates. I am having trouble sorting through the information and selecting the best product.

The water tested out as follows:

hardness = 26-30 (each came up with a slightly different number)

iron = 0.5ppm

pH 7

2 of the companies offered systems within our budget:

One company suggested a unit sized at 49,500 with a Fleck 2510 valve. The price was $949 completely installed. I believe this is a reputable company, but have one concern. My brother built a house across the street from me one year ago. He used this company and they installed the same size unit, but with a Fleck 5600SE. I called the owner of the company to find out the difference. He told me he could get me the 5600SE for $909, but he said his technician would never have recommended that unit to my brother because the turbine system tends to break down and become less accurate over time. My brother gave me the brochure from the company and it was the same tech that came to my house. The owner told me to avoid all the SE lines as they will all have this corrosion problem over time.

The second company recommended a similar sized Hellenbrand Promate system for $1215 installed. I believe this uses a Clack valve? This rep said the valve on this unit is newer/superior to the others that I was looking at. He said with this unit I would not need to worry about corrosion or inaccuracy. Because this unit has automatic variable reserve, He said I would make up the price difference in terms of efficiency and salt usage.

I'd appreciate any opinions or suggestions.

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Both companies are recommending softeners that are way undersized. They will waste salt and water and regenerate more often than is optimal.

With your water conditions and the number of people you'll need to remove about 7680 gpg hardness per day. That's about 53,000 gpg every 7 days. The 1.5 cu ft softeners, recommended by your two companies, can't achieve that K.

Best their softeners can do is 45,000 and that's using the maximum salt dose of 15 lbs/cu ft of resin for a total salt dose of 23 pounds each regeneration and you'd be regenerating twice a week. That is a salt INEFFICIENCY at Grains of Capacity PER lb of salt = 1957

A correctly sized and properly set up softener regenerating once a week would use 14 pounds of salt regenerating once a week for a salt efficiency at Grains of Capacity PER lb of salt = 3800

As far as control valves, the Fleck 5600 has proven to be one of the most reliable valves in the field and AFAIK there are no problems with the turbine. Both the 5600 and 2510 are 3/4" valves so it's be nice to know what size plumbing serves your house. The 5600 is limited to use on 12" tanks and under so if you get a correctly sized softener you can't use a 5600. A 2510SXT would be an excellent choice and so would a 7000SXT.

As far as corrosion, The Clack and the Fleck 5600, 2510, and 7000 are all made of exactly the same material... Noryl and have similar designs as far as motors and circuitry so if one is prone to corrosion then they will all be susceptible to corrosion... but I've yet to see one of any of them corroded unless there was a water leak that sprayed them.

Clack has withdrawn their control valves from internet sale so the only place to get them is from an assembler like Hellenbrand and then you are forced to get parts from them as Clack OEMs specific designs for them or a legitimate local B&M water treatment dealer. The Clack is a good valve but there always seems to be someone everywhere that services Fleck and sells parts and you can buy Fleck parts all over the internet.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 7:48PM
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Thank you for all of your information and expertise.
I didn't know there were so many differences/choices until I started looking at this a few days ago. I must say I was very overwhelmed and each person told me that their set-up was the best. Not knowing any better, I had trouble recognizing fact from fiction and just want the best set-up for my family.

I have 3/4" plumbing in the house.

With your information, I think I will skip the Hellenbrand option and focus on the products with the Fleck valves.

In terms of sizing: 2 of the companies that came out to test my water recommended a size around 50,000. The Hellenbrand dealer suggested a 32,000 size. I called him back to tell him what the others had said had he stated that the 32,000 size would be sufficient for my needs and that if I "oversized" I would reduce efficiency. After further discussion, he said if it would give me peace of mind for future needs I could upgrade to a 48,000 size for an additional $50.

What size system should I be looking for? 66,000 appears to be the next option.

Assuming I upgrade the size which valve would you suggest?
5600SE vs 2510 vs 2510SXT?
Can I expect a large price difference between each of these options?

I know the sales guy at this company is going to steer me away from anything that has electronic controls. He said in his experience the turbine system does not last as long. Especially on wells with the water conditions found in our area (Southeastern Wisconsin). He said they work well for the first 5-10 years, but then "lose accuracy in counting/metering." He said the electronic display on these systems do little more than provide people with clock in their basement and offer no other real benefit. Is this true? What other functions do the electronics provide?

Thanks again

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 9:33PM
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As I already said, both companies are woefully under-sizing the softener... PERIOD. None of those people know how to size a softener and if they won't tell you the volume of resin and quote softener size in thousands then they just are jiving you and you're going to get too small and an inefficient softener.

When a softener size is quoted the reference is the hardness removal capacity of the volume of resin in the resin tank and almost EVERY softener seller quotes that amount at the highest salt dose so the customer thinks they're getting the most for their dollar, but they are not.

If you're really a drug doc then think of it like this... a pill with 10mg of meds with 490mg of filler in a 500mg tablet or 10mg of meds with 40mg of filler in a 50 mg tablet... which do you think the customer will buy? The bigger one cause it looks like more for the money, but it's NOT.

They are both quoting you a 1.5 cu ft softener and the maximum hardness removal capability of that volume of resin is 45k at a 15 lb/cu ft (23 lb total) salt dose.

Maybe this will help explain salt dose and hardness removal capacity...

Sizing Capacity for various salt doses

Salt dose PER CU FT RESIN used:

6# 8# 10# 15#

Capacities of regular resin:

1.0 20,000 24,000 27,000 30,000
1.5 30,000 36,000 40,500 45,000
2.0 40,000 48,000 54,000 60,000
2.5 50,000 60,000 67,500 75,000
3.0 60,000 72,000 81,000 90,000
4.0 80,000 96,000 108,000 120,000

The same volume of resin can change it's hardness removal capacity based on the SALT DOSE during regeneration.

Based on the info you offered (4 people, 30 gpg, .5 ppm iron) you need a 3.5 cu ft softener with a 4 lb/cu ft salt dose (14 total lbs) at a capacity of 53k which will regenerate once a week. That size softener can not use a 5600 so your choice is a 2510SXT or a 7000SXT.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 10:16PM
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You could also go with a 2.5 cu ft softener set up using 7 lbs/cu ft of salt (total 17 lbs each once a week regen) at a slightly less efficient 3150 grains removed / lb of salt. That would still be far more efficient than the 1956 rate of the softeners you've been quoted.

You'd still be choosing between the Fleck 2510SXT and the 7000SXT.
Spend a little more for a correctly and efficiently sized softener, set it up properly, and the savings in water and salt will offset the softener... and you won't get hard water leaking though at peak water demand.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 3:01PM
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If you have already bought a system, I would like to learn which you finally chose? :)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 12:32AM
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