Culligan Water Softener Estimate for Parents

havemurseyMarch 25, 2013

Hello and sorry to post a "water softener" thread without contributing to the forum.

My parents recently bought a house in the countryside which came with an old Culligan WS unit. They had zero experience with water softeners in the past. Recently, they had a service tech come by for a $150 checkup and he recommended they replace the 20+ year old unit.

Today on the phone, my mother mentioned that a Culligan salesman came by and quoted them $3600 for a HE, 1.25", 10 inch unit and reverse osmosis under the sink. Apparently this would include a lifetime warranty as long as they had $150/year service with filter change every 4 years for more.

They live with 3 of my siblings, 5 people in total in a 4 bath house on well water. I looked around the forums here and ordered a Ward household mineral test to get more info. The Culligan salesman told my mom their water had 12 grains of hardness and 292 ppm dissolved solids.

My folks are worried about damage being done to their appliances, as the current Culligan unit does not seem to be functioning, so they are very eager to buy. Unfortunately, I've seen them both get taken to the cleaners many times in the past buying important things, and I'm worried they will get roped into spending more money than their budget on this.

From your experience, does this estimate sound reasonable? I've read experience users recommending Fleck systems, and a 40,000 grain unit (Fleck 9100SXT) seems to run ~$1000 without install or plumbing.

Thanks for your time.

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aliceinwonderland_id

First, have your folks call other local dealers. Culligan tends to be overpriced and under-educated. Why did the tech recommend replacing the unit? Is it no longer providing soft water? Is there a reason your folks want an RO? Frankly, if the water is safe to drink and they don't object to the taste, RO isn't necessary.

If this home is on a well (I made an assumption based on your description of the home being in the countryside), your folks will want to get the water tested annually by a certified water lab. If you have no idea where to look, you can call a local water treatment plant or look at your state website for certified labs. Different areas have different water issues - local labs will know what those are. Generally, well waters should be tested for: pH, TDS, hardness, iron, manganese, bacteria, nitrates, sulfides, heavy metals, VOCs + any local concerns.

At 12 grains of hardness, a 1.5 cubic ft unit is the correct size. When speaking to salespeople, ask them to give you the softener size in cubic ft of resin. This is the only way you will have adequate information to compare bids.

$3600 sounds high for a softener and RO. If you were to purchase a softener with a Fleck valve and a good quality RO online, you could expect to pay about $1000 for both, then pay a plumber to install. If you can find a good local dealer with some expertise, paying extra for their time and expertise is perfectly reasonable.

$150 per year "maintenance" fee is a bit high, in my opinion. Provided your water is reasonably clean, your softener won't need maintenance unless something breaks. The RO will need the pre and post filters changed every 6 months (this is a 10-minute job and the filters are inexpensive) and the RO membrane changed every 5-10 years. However, if your folks are not physically capable of changing those filters, perhaps $150 annually is worthwhile.

When looking around for softeners, you want the following:

1. High quality American or German made resin. This will provide a tight size distribution for optimal flow within the resin bed.

2. If you have WELL WATER: 8% crosslinked resin.

3. If you have CITY WATER: 10% crosslinked resin. The oxidizers that city water treatment plants use, such as chlorine or chloramine, are harmful to softener resins. Higher crosslinking will resist chemical attack longer.

4. Top basket. This serves two purposes. It sets up a proper water distribution during normal operation and prevents resin loss during backwash.

5. Gravel underbed. Many softener sales companies like to leave this out or sell softeners with a vortex system instead. Vortex systems weigh less than gravel so they cost less to ship. In addition, they are a more expensive item that adds profit for the softener salesperson, but provides no additional benefit to the homeowner. It simply adds another piece of equipment that can break. The gravel underbed is there to set up proper flow patterns, improve backwash and prevent channeling.

6. Fleck or Clack valves. These set the industry standard. Be aware that you will not be able to purchase Clack valves online. This is not a problem if you purchase locally.

7. Noryl bypass. Most softener are available with either Noryl or stainless bypass valves. Both are good valves, but the noryl tends to be more reliable when not used for long periods of time.

8. Install the softener with a three-valve bypass. This will make is so much easier if you ever need to remove the softener for repairs or wish to take it with you when you move. Preferably, use full-port, quarter-turn valves.

This post was edited by aliceinwonderland_id on Tue, Apr 2, 13 at 9:06

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 11:23AM
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