Water Softener Advice

denny_2007February 6, 2007

Could someone give me some recommendations regarding quality water softeners? I am handy enough to install myself. My Kenmore, 8 years old just bit the dust. I have been trying to do my homework regarding a new one.

Does Fleck make the entire softener or just the controls, and the softener is manufactured by someone else. The Fleck 5600SE is probably what I'm needing. There is another one I'm interested in because it takes only 14 gallons of water to regenerate which is somewhat a plus to me. Its a WaterBoss.

Any advice or research sites will be greatly appreciated. I'm a little concerned because it seems to me that most softeners only offer a parts warranty. Who do you get to repair? At least Sears offers a parts and labor warranty for one year. Thanks again for any guidance. Denny

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I am by no means an authority.. But I know the 1st questions people on this board will ask you are:
are you on city or well?
How much iron? How hard is water? Have you had it tested by a lab? If not, do so.

You say you're handy and can install yourself.. I'm in NO WAY related to this company, but have heard good about it.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 8:15AM
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Ok, water softener 101 ...

First, get a complete water test from an independent lab. This is a MUST DO because without it everything is a guess. A quickie water test from Sears or a water softener company won't be complete. They only test for the "profitable" stuff.

Second, hit the Yellow Pages and call at least three local water treatment pros. Make sure you call at least one of the big dogs like Kinetico or Culligan and at least a couple independent pros. DON'T TELL THEM YOU HAD YOUR WATER TESTED.

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.

After they've gone use your water test to compare with their's. Are all your treatment needs being addressed?

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.

If you're a DIYer then you have other options and here's a good place to start ...

These other threads may interest you ...

The negatives regarding the pre-built softeners are ...

Lower quality materials, mostly ABS which ages and becomes brittle. ABS does not do well with really hard water. On 3 gr hardness city water most any softener will give a decent service life BUT harder water than that seperates the pre-built box store softeners from the quality ones.

While all ion exchange water softeners use resin and "tanks" there's a big difference in the resin and resin "tanks". Again, the pre-built softeners do not use the top quality resin from companies like Purolite or Ionac and the materials their resin "tanks" are made of are not the same quality as the Structural brand (10 year warranty) resin tanks the top quality softeners come with.

Most of the parts are proprietary and available from limited sources and they tend to be expensive.

The pre-built softeners are "cabinet" (all-in-one) designs and are much harder to work on. The cabinet design puts the resin tank inside the brine tank. The routine cleaning of the brine tank is more difficult and takes a lot more time than a conventional design softener but the Sears type does take less floor space (the ONLY advantage in it's design).

The greatest falsehhood is that pre-built BOX store softeners are less expensive than the industry standard softeners.

The Sears softeners around 40000 hardness capacity generally run a little under $500. For $466 you can have a Fleck 5600SE electronic on demand metered softener delivered to your home including shipping. You'll need to assemble it (takes less than 30 minutes) and install it. You can have a plumber assemble it and install it (you'd need a plumber to install the Sears softener also or DIY).

You'll get a control valve that has proved it's reliability over 20+ years, is made of state of the art materials (Noryl) which does not turn brittle and is totally inert. You'll get a 5 year warranty on the control valve and ten year warranty on the resin tank. You can buy parts for the Fleck control valve locally or all over the internet. Complete parts and service/repair manuals are available for download and there is always someone everywhere who can service Fleck control valves as they are the long established industry standard AND they are as easy OR easier to program than the pre-built softeners. They tolerate the hardest water with no problem.

Real softeners generally last 20+ years EVEN on ludicrously hard water while the service life on a pre-built softener seems to be under 5 years (if you're lucky) on really hard water and lasting longer than that is a rare exception.

Sears, GE, Waterboss, North Star and the like are the most commonly complained about water softeners on this forum and all over the internet. The Fleck, Autotrol, and Clack water softeners just work and work and work and work and work ...

Why buy a lesser quality water softener for more money?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 9:38AM
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I have been doing some research on softeners myself because I am looking for a long-term solution to the water quality problems I have in my own home.

As you know, most of the water softeners out there use salt of one kind or the other to regenerate the resin bed in the softener tank. The main problem with these units is that they discharge salt water into septic tanks, ditches or municipal sewage systems.

In southern California, there are towns that have banned this type of softener due to the salt pollution they emit on every backwash cycle. There is an alternative. The link is below. These units are more expensive to buy but the benefits are worth it. The discharge water is friendly enough that you could water your flowers with it. You don't have to buy salt, lug salt or pour salt anymore so you have to take into consideration the cost of buying the salt and transporting it over the next fifteen years, let alone your time to deal with the salt.

Maybe your budget won't stretch that far but it is worth looking at. Let me know what you think.

Here is a link that might be useful: Softener

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 9:42AM
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To "soften" water is to remove calcium (among other things like iron) from the water and that is commonly done by one of two methods.

One method is ion exchange as done by a water softener. A water softener exchanges either sodium ions (if using NaCl) or potassium ions (if using KCl) for calcium ions in the hard water. That's it, no ifs, no ands, no buts, and no sales double talk. Simple chemistry and physics. Softening water is not black magic. It is physics and chemistry. No matter how hard sales people try (and want) to they can not violate the laws of physics or change the nature of chemical actions and reactions.

The other is by a filter, but no simple filter will remove calcium. You would need a reverse osmosis unit large enough to service your entire house. You would not want to pay for that big an RO nor pay for the service and routine maintainence it would require and RO water would be very agressive in your plumbing.

NO magnet(ic) gizmo or electronic gizmo will soften water but people waste their money on them EVERYDAY.

Pick the right softener (not a box store brand) and get a competent install and you should go 15-20 years.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing is that water treatment begins with a complete water test so you know what needs to be treated or filtered out to get the quality water you want. Are you on a well or a water system? Do that and post the results so we might help.

I believe that EPA investigations have shown no damage to septic systems from softener "salt" discharge.

I also believe that while most people use NaCl (salt), that is what is causing the concern. I believe (but check to be sure) that California will accept the use of KCl in water softeners. You will have to check to be sure.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 9:59AM
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What are your thoughts concerning the link below?

Here is a link that might be useful: Banned

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 12:09PM
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To comment about local ordiance I'd have to be there and do considerable research. I defer to water treatment pros who are in those areas to comment on how those laws effect softener sales and installations.

As far as the link you provided, I've already commented on that and similar products in my previous post in this thread.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 12:29PM
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I can second the recommendation for Ohiopurewaterco.com. Four years ago I needed a water softener, regenerative whole house filter and UV water disinfection. I had my water tested and based on the test bought all three items from the company. The two regen units (water softener and filter) had Fleck valves that have been bulletproof. The entire set of equipment came in 4-5 business days and I paid neither sales tax nor shipping.

I'm sure you can buy a good water softener through the yellow pages, but I found the prices for these door-to-door outfits to be outrageous. I paid less for all of my gear than one of the companies wanted for their water softener alone.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 10:37PM
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Hello! I'm looking into replacing a failing Sears water softener. Did a DIY water test - looks like I need to handle hard water (~150ppm), some iron (~0.5ppm), and pH around 8. Other tests show zeroes (TDS meter shows values between 340 and 360).

Many websites advertise "catalythic" water softeners (for example, see the filtersorb link). I dislike the "filmy" feel of softened water, so if their claim is true, I'm tempted. Though I'd still need a way to remove the iron - an iron filter would bring DIY cost to about two grand.

On the other hand, a Fleck SE model would cost almost $1500 less.

Are the "catalythic" advantages real? Is their "no maintenance" claim real? Are there any other advantages? Are those advantages worth $1500?

Any thoughts?

Thank you!


Here is a link that might be useful: Filtersorb catalythic water softener

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 3:56PM
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I keep on researching the 'catalythic' water softeners, and the longer I look, the less I like what I see. For starters, I found a reference to them in the junk-science-scam-rebutting page (see the link). Also, so far I haven't found any positive reviews - only advertisement and questions. The lone "I've used it and liked it" post that I found, didn't look convincing at all.

The 'how it works' is a pair of identical paragraphs, that seem to be copied everywhere, also listed in the junk-science page. I'm starting to suspect a scam.

Here is a link that might be useful: Catalythic scam rebuttals

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 10:27PM
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