Ecowater Refiner / Softener (ERR3500) Opinions

builder28April 22, 2014

I'm thinking of having the Ecowater ERR 3500 installed. What interests me is that the carbon and resin are guaranteed for life and apparently can be regenerated indefinitely. I'm considering Ecowater because it has been around for a while and does business globally. Also, Costco has partnered with the local dealer and is offering several purchasing incentives. Beyond that, though, I've had a lot of trouble finding reliable information and therefore have some concerns about the purchase:

1. Quality of local service: Reviews of the dealer are nonexistent. I have no idea whether the dealer will do a good job or whether it will try to inflate prices and exploit customers. All I have to go off is Costco's reputation.
2. Price: The initial price I was offered for a softener/RO combination was $5500, which strikes me as excessively high. I am considering the softener only, and even after Costco's discounts, the total is about $3700. Other threads here about Ecowater mentioned paying around $3000 without any sort of discount. To me, this suggests that the local dealer might be trying to exploit customers. If I purchase the unit, I will have to work with a potentially underhanded dealer for the life of the hardware and pay whatever it says for maintenance.
3. Effectiveness of the unit: Ecowater provides almost no information about how well the softener removes various contaminants. Other manufacturers provide fairly detailed information, have gone through some kind of third-party testing, or offer other reasons to believe that their systems will perform well. For example, Aquasana claims to use the same carbon media in its whole-house system (the EQ-1000) as it does in its POU system, which is certified to NSF/ANSI 53. Aquasana also provides a long list of what contaminants are reduced by what percentages, and it specifies what particle sizes the filters can remove (0.35 microns). All I got from Ecowater regarding system quality was "we are a large corporation and have been around for a long time."

Is there anyone out there that can offer feedback about the ERR 3500 or Ecowater in general? In particular, I'm interested in what other people paid, how well the softener has functioned, and what experiences customers have had with their dealers. If Ecowater is no good, which manufacturer should I go with? Researching water treatment has been very confusing, so any advice from experienced people would be greatly appreciated.

For what it's worth, I'm on municipal water (fairly high chlorine, hardness of 9). Household size is two, and my primary interest is broad-spectrum removal of toxins (VOCs, heavy metals, etc.).

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Hi builder28 -- We are also considering an EcoWater system (ECR 3502R50S) sold through the Costco Program. We are in Southern California. Interestingly, we were quoted $7000 for the system, including EcoWater's reverse osmosis system, and yet what appears to be the "gold standard" Kinetico system is roughly $6000, again including the R.O. Why is EcoWater more expensive when it appears to use less sophisticated technology than the Kinetico? We are considering the Q850 OD.

From everything I have read online, people are generally satisfied with EcoWater softeners/refiners, although there is some concern that the carbon will need to be replaced after approximately 8 years. I don't know what that would cost. The Costco warranty covers the cost of the parts, but not labor and service. I also read some horrific reviews of an EcoWater office in my area that has since closed. I will try to research reviews for the office that provided our quote. Unfortunately it sounds like you don't have any such information. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:14AM
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Mixing media in a softener is not a good idea. The carbon will deplete and then the softener must be opened to replace the carbon.

The design of the ECO is proprietary and so are the parts. It is basically a better quality Sears disposable softener and an all in one cabinet design.

You will be married to the dealer for better or for worse. If you have a good dealer then they'll just be making an obscene profit off you but if you have a bad dealer you will be at their mercy and out a lot of money.

Read the warranty REALLY carefully. Down the road you may get parts for free but can they charge whatever they want for labor?

Shop around town for an independent water treatment pro who will be selling industry standard softeners for less than 25% of the ECO and tech info and parts will be available almost everywhere.

An industry standard softener with a backwashing carbon filter will cost less than $2k installed and I don't recommend removing anti-bacterials at POE. They are added to the water for a reason so eliminating that brings your softener price down under $1k.

The Kinetico K5 is a marvelous RO and does many things that many people may want, or may think they want, or are told they want for a REALLY hefty price. The WOW feature is nice but a good quality RO can be had for $300 to $500. Just make sure the parts are made in the US. The Kinetico K5 is also proprietary and maintenance parts will come from the dealer and at a much higher price than an industry stand RO will use.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:41AM
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Thanks justalurker -- I agree that based on everything I have read (including many of your posts), EcoWater's design is sub-optimal. The main thing I think EcoWater has going for it in this instance is the backing of Costco. In the event our local dealer stinks or causes damage, I believe Costco will step in. We have no similar assurances with our local Kinetico dealer who could choose to close up shop at any time, leaving us to find someone else with whom we have no prior relationship.

Yes, both of the systems we are considering are expensive, but we are not DIYers and I have not been able to find any local dealer who isn't married to a particular proprietary system.

One more question for you: If a softener is properly sized (and I realize a lot factors go into this equation), should we experience any noticeable loss of water pressure? We have one dual shower head shower and want to maintain good pressure with both shower heads on at the same time. Thank you.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:12PM
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If a softener is correctly sized by someone who knows how to size a softener based on water use, water conditions, and plumbing considerations then there is usually no perceivable pressure loss. Homeowners can, and do, tend to install high flow appliances and fixtures so there is always a pressure loss and that is not the fault of the softener.
Based on the Kinetico installations I've seen they don't know how or don't care to correctly size a softener and that doesn't really surprise me cause few softener salespeople do. Kinetico makes some interesting claims regarding SFR through their softeners that flies in the face of the specifications from the resin manufacturers. Sometimes it's like Kinetico lives in their own world with different laws of physics, but their design is kinda cool.

As a longtime Costco member I agree that dealing with Costco they stand behind their stuff for almost EVER but I don't believe that extends to sub-sellers or partners cause you don't write the check to Costco. You may not have the security in your purchase that you think... so make sure to get that in writing.

It's not that both of the systems you are considering are expensive it's that you can equal the performance and not be tied to a dealer for FAR less money... but it's your money. For what it's worth the Kinetico is a better choice than the ECO if you have a good dealer.

It may be hard to find a local independent water treatment pro cause the big dogs beat them into submission but there is almost always someone who sells industry standard softeners almost everywhere. It's worth your time to find them.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:44PM
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Thanks again for your quick response. From what I understand, the Q850 OD is Kinetico's largest residential unit, though I agree that from the literature it is actually hard to tell. Doesn't help that they changed model numbers recently. The specs state that the Q850 OD has a SFR at 15 psi of 11 gpm, but the S250 OD claims 20.5 gpm, and the S550 claims 16.4 gpm. All very confusing. EcoWater's claims 20 gpm.

Re the EcoWater deal through Costco, the consumer actually pays Costco, gets the annual rebate on the expense, etc. So in this crazy world of small exclusive dealers who seem to hold all of the cards, the Costco name/reputation is meaningful.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:19PM
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The idea of Costco is to get a good product at a better price not to get an inferior product and wait for Costco to stand behind it.

I prefer the Charles Emerson Winchester III (of M*A*S*H) theory... do one thing, do it very well, and them move on. Softeners should be properly sized, installed, set up, and then only minded for routine maintenance. To compromise and spend more and then wait and see how it works doesn't make sense to me. But that's just me.

Kind of like buying a Suzuki auto. Great cars, only one dealer, now they're gone in the US and you still have loan payments to make.

There are more Fleck 5600 valves in service in the field than all other brands combined and Sears style (made by ECOwater) softeners are the most complained about and most inquired about repair of all the softeners on the internet.

Regardless of which manufacturer or which marketing department SFR is a function of flow through a given volume of resin as set by the resin manufacturer.

The spec I recall reading last by Purolite is 5 gpm for 1 cu ft of resin yet Kinetcio continues to spec their .7 cu ft softeners at 11 gpm. You usually get 12 gpm though 1.5 cubes of resin so who's numbers you want to believe?

The Kinetico "OD" models run both tanks of resin in service and then drop one tank out during regeneration. Smart marketing, but during regeneration you get half the SFR. They don't tell you that during the sales presentation.

I have no dog in this fight and have nothing to gain whatever you decide to do so let us know what you decide and how it works out.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Again, thanks for your quick response. We are making the decision this week. I will certainly let the forum know what we decided and then how it's working. Thanks again, and good luck to everyone out there who is also wading through this morass.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:01PM
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I spoke with Costco, and the rep said that the return policy would NOT apply to the Ecowater purchase. Costco is paid the money first so that members are able to get 2% back. After holding the money briefly, they distribute it to the third party seller.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:13PM
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I am a Certified Water Technician (Canada) and was a sales rep for Culligan and later for Ecowater, for many years.

Although I can't comment on the reliability of the dealers in your particular area, I can tell you that the EcoWater refiner (the one that softens and removes chlorine), is probably the best unit on the market today.

With an R/O (also very high quality & low maintenance and essential for removing some of the contaminants you are concerned about), the system should cost around $5,000 and include a 5-10 year supply of environmentally-friendly pure soap cleaning products.

The fact that you will not have to purchase bottled water ever again, or cleaning products for a number of years, more than offsets the amount you will pay for your system.

The softener can be remotely monitored, so even if you don't have good service locally, it is a simple matter to have your system analyzed with a phone call.

They are very efficient (low salt and water usage for regeneration) and rarely break down.

You will wonder why you didn't put one in sooner.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 2:24PM
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