Do I need a water softener?

abbeygurl4March 27, 2008

We've got hard, city water. My skin always feels dry and we've always got mineral build up in our pipes and appliances.

Are some brands better than others? What about maintenance and salt?

Thanks for any advice!

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You seem a prime candidate for a water softener...

As a general rule industry standard water softeners sold by water treatment professionals are better designed, better built from better materials, are more reliable, easier to service, and last longer than pre-built softeners from big box stores like Sears, Home Depot, and the like.

A properly sized, properly setup, and properly installed softener requires little maintenance other than looking into the brine (salt) tank and adding a bag every couple weeks or so.

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 for comparison and at least a couple independent pros.

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. Softening the entire house or just the water heater (bad idea)? Warranty, parts & labor or just parts, how long and on exactly what? 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 components with the costs and we'll give you our opinions.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 11:55AM
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Yes, some brands are better than others.

FWIW, I've had two Kineticos for over 15 years. Just refurbished both for a couple hundred each. Except for that, neither has required any maintenance at all (except for adding salt) for the entire period. I'd buy them again in a heartbeat. Added benefit is they require no electrical supply. Powered by the water that flows through them.

Suggest isolating irrigation supply from household supply upon installation.

Also agree with idea of proper analysis before purchase. The device must be matched to the conditions.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 12:19PM
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Ron Natalie

Make sure if you have a septic that you have the backwash from the softener go somewhere other than that. I've got a neighbor who's learning that the hard way.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 1:00PM
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lowe's and home depot sell water testing kits that are under 20 dollars. they are good to give you a general indication of the water quality - and would give you a quick indication of how hard your water is. the test takes only a few minutes.

when our house was near completion, the builder brought in someone to do a detailed professional test. he told us we had hard water (9 grains per gallon) and a lot of iron (2 parts per million). he then tried to sell us an $8000 water treatment system - and my wife threw him out of the house.

i wound up using this forum to learn about softeners and iron filters and then bought one of those test kits from lowe's. i found that my water was indeed hard (it registered between 9 and 13 gpg on the stick) BUT it had ZERO iron. i tested it another time (bought another kit) just to make sure - still zero. i think the salesguy was lying to us on the iron issue.

in the end we purchased a water softerner on line from Abundant Water Flow. I paid $700 for the system (delivered) and paid a plumber $300 to put it in. I have since tested my water twice and the hardness is zero - it really works!

the water softeners use either Sodium or Potassium Chloride pellets to periodically clean the softener filter - a process caalled regeneration. We use the postassium pellets and my DW did not like the aftertaste in the water. so I wound up adding a whole house water filter (called a Big Blue) just after the softener output and that fixed the aftertaste issue. Abundant sells those too.

in the end I spent about 1300 dollars but now have execllent quality well water. i now realize that we should have had water treatment for hardness in our other house that we lived in for 13 years. the hardness does cause itchy skin, but even worse, the calcium in the water causes spots on stem ware and pots, gunks up humidifiers and ice makers - and who knows what all those deposits due to your body. I am very glad I discovered this topic on the GW and thankfull to aliceinwonderland and justalurker for their very insightful posts.

best of luck

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 1:08PM
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Call your city water department, who should be able to give you information about water hardness (grains per gallon or GPG), also ask about iron. They should have a report available.

We don't like the taste of softened water. When we remodeled the kitchen, we had a line of unsoftened water run to a special tap at the sink with a GE SmartWater filter (available at Home Depot) installed under the counter.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 1:09PM
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"Call your city water department, who should be able to give you information about water hardness (grains per gallon or GPG), also ask about iron. They should have a report available".

Those specs are the water conditions at the point it leaves the municipal treatment facility and not necessarily an accurate report of the water conditions as it enters your home or at your faucet.

Best to get a comprehensive test of the water you are going to treat at the location you're going to treat it.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 1:50PM
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Duh to me, I assumed that because I have city water I dont' have to worry about hard or soft water, I don't have noticable problems but thanks for making me aware of this. I guess next time I get a report from the city water dept. I'll actually read it. I found this site informing, sorry I can't do a proper link,

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 5:02PM
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"Make sure if you have a septic that you have the backwash from the softener go somewhere other than that. I've got a neighbor who's learning that the hard way".

I'd be interested in hearing the whole story behind that remark.

According to my own experience and everything I've read from reputable sources... with a properly installed, properly sized, properly setup, and properly operating water softener there are no legitimate documented studies showing that water softener effluent causes damage to septic systems.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 12:10PM
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