What if I disconnect my Water softener

andrelaplume2July 24, 2007

We recently moved into a home that had a Kenmore water softener hooked up but turned off. After I got the salt bridge out and ran the thing a few cycles I tested the water with some strips from the pet store. It is still is showing HARD water.

Its been this way for 6 months. There is hard water in our area and most have softeners but my wife has no complaints. We have no issue washing clothes or showering nor do I see stains in the sinks.

I was prepared to get estimates on replacing the unit but my wife raised a good point, do we even need a water softner / soft water? What harm will come from using hard water over time? If there is no harm, should I have the old unit removed or just shut it off and let it sit?

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If the unit is relatively new, maybe disconnect and leave it there in case you change your mind. If it's older anyway -- which I suspect, since your description of salt-bridge and failure -- might as well get it gone.

If the hardness of your water was causing trouble, you'd see symptoms in sinks, bowls, dishwasher and taps. If you're not seeing that, you're probably fine. The vast majority of people do not have softeners and the quality of their lives seems not to suffer. It's a luxury/convenience item in most locations. Testing for hardness is pretty easy. For myself, I install softeners if I test out above 4 grains. Other people have different opinions.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 12:15PM
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I'll have to check the strip and see if it indicated how many grains. Can any harm come to the pipes over time; from hard water?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 2:05PM
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Yes, your hot water pitpes will build up with calcium carbonate deposits. In houses with hikes that have not used softeners to eliminate hard water, pipes will have decreased size due to buildup. A 1" pipe can end up with only a half inch hole due to buildup. The buildup can also ruin your hot water heater and will make cleaning more difficult. If your water doesn't have much hardness, buildup will take a long time. The higher the hardness, the faster you will see problems.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Sears water softeners are notorious (IMO) for breaking the vertical drive shaft that rotates the valve mechanism. It's not a bad DIY job, and the 'fix' they have for it is to give you some silicone lube to apply before installing the new valve.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 4:18PM
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It depends on how hard your water is.

The house we just moved into has 24 GPG, which is very hard.

I noticed hard water spots on our glasses and silverware the very first time I ran the dishwasher.

The house is 3-4 years old and the previous owners had no softener. The heating element in the dishwasher is heavily coated with chalky white (its black underneath there).

All water fixtures all showed white scale and needed to be cleaned up.

I did not notice any issue with laundry (yet, I'm sure it takes time to show on clothing).

I did not notice a problem with my hair or skin at all, not on me or on the kids.

If our water would have been less hard, I'd have left it as it wouldn't bother me at all to just deal with minor scaling.

But, 24 GPG is HARD and the effects were visible and bad. We just had a softener installed yesterday. :)

I suggest calling your water dept and asking how hard the water is, you can do more tests from there. But, they should be able to tell you quickly. Any person at city hall in my town knows the water hardess "is 24" here. ;)

So, see what the number is, but if its a low number, yeah, you might not need to bother. But, if most other people have a system in place, that seems a hint that it must be pretty hard. That, or a really good salesman hit your neighborhood! I don't think most people would mess with it for very mildly hard water. I know I wouldn't!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 4:35PM
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You can always push the bypass valve on the softener until you can repair it. Like others, I would recommend that you use a softener to take care of the hard water. New electronic water softeners such as the ones made by Whirpool, GE, etc., have a LCD screen, and you can program the softener to a number to match the hardness of the water, or to handle iron. Unlike the electri/mechanical softeners, the new ones sense when the softener needs recharging and do so automatically.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 1:43AM
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"Unlike the electri/mechanical softeners, the new ones sense when the softener needs recharging and do so automatically".

Not sense and not automatically, when properly setup they count down the gallons of water used and then regen at "0". All on-demand softeners operate the same way. There are some, a Culligan I beleive, that actually has a sensor in the resin to trigger regeneration but I pity the fool that has to pay to repair that softener.

Among the many shortcomings of the Whirlpool, GE, Morton, and Sears style softeners they quote their softening capacity at max salt dose and don't have sufficent SFR for most installations and in reality they are undersized.

For the same money one can buy an industry standard softener that will last well beyond and of the pre-built softeners.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 1:51AM
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Just an FYI...
My Dad has had 3 Sears Soffteners in 20 years. Cost of course rises but his last one was about $600 installed and that was 3 or so years ago. New ones appear to be $750 installed. I figure he spent $1700 over the 20 years---things were cheaper back then. Now the question is what would a industry standard softener cost and how long should I expect it to last. Sometimes a lesser quality piece of equipment is cheaper in the long run. I am not saying that is the case here.

FYI....I used my water stip test on my Dad's water. All the tests it did read perfectly (alkalinity, hardness etc) so I know his softener is working...and working well. Most of the tests were in the OK range when I tested my water but some, including hardness were off. We live around the block from one another and have the same water.

Bottom line, I am convinced my softener is dead. Now the decision is to replace it with a Kenmore or look for an industry standard brand (what brands are they?) and compare the price difference and life expectancies.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 10:36AM
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FWIW...I've had two Kineticos at two different locations. Just refurbished both after 15 years. One because it needed it; the other because I figured it probably would soon if the first one did. No service of any kind needed along the way. Refurbish cost including new media and internal parts (some even though not really needed -- prophylaxis) was 209 for one and 258 for the other. The service intention was to, essentially, return them to new condition and go round again.

As I recall, Kinetico's are on the more expensive side but they do hold up their end of the bargain. Neither location has power supply close by. Kinetico's are powered by the water running through them, so no power needed -- an important consideration in my case. I've enjoyed the long trouble-free run before service needed. Would not hesitate buying again.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 12:38PM
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how much was the unit 15 years ago....? I may post a reccomendation post. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 1:55PM
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Going from memory here, which is incomplete. No longer recall the price paid and not at location where records available right now. Do recall they were the most expensive of 4 quotes obtained, but not by very much. As I recall, all four were within a few hundred bucks -- the top-end units supplied by best-reputation local purveyors. Both included RO systems and required some extensions/modifications to existing plumbing. They did everything. I did nothing. Their tech and salesperson -- who came together -- were by far the most knowledgeable and most personable. Neither over nor under, just responsive and site-specific about what they offered. Impressive features including no power supply needed were what pushed me over. Before encountering them, I had never before heard the Kinetico name.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 4:14PM
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"Sometimes a lesser quality piece of equipment is cheaper in the long run".

NEVER in my 57 years experience. $1700 to keep three Sears softeners running for 20 years is far more expense and a lot more work than a possible $200 rebed and a $100 valve repair on a $500 Fleck based softener over the same 20 years.

As Asolo points out, he paid a premium price and went 15 years sepnding nothing, except salt I imagine, and then spent $2xx and there he goes for another 15 years.

All things being equal and with the same routine maintenance an industry standard water softener seems to last about three times as long as the Sears, Morton, North Star, GE style softeners on harder and iron water.

Tech info and parts lists for industry standard softeners are readily available for free download and parts are available from sources on the net too numerous to mention. There always seems to be someone everywhere who services Fleck control valves.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 4:33PM
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At least for me the cheaper units have considerably kept the cost down. However, the reasons why that has been the case is because I install and maintain the water softeners at my home and rental units. I just replaced a Culligan water softener after 20 years of use, and only because I wanted to use a new unit with electronic controls I can program, not because it was not working.

There is no softener out there, regardless of brand or price, that won't need routine maintenance such as: water sanitizing, refilling with salt, breaking salt bridges, or cleaning the nozzle and venturi when needed.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Time-out folks:

Did I miss the part about where the OP did an actual water analysis beyond the basic test strips?

If it hasn't been done, that's the place to start. Who knows why the previous owner installed a softener-- perhaps a sales person got to them.

kate_ca has it right: It depends on how hard the water is and the only way to find that out is to do a proper test.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 6:18PM
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