How important is water testing before getting a softener?

jseyfert3September 27, 2013

Hey all,
My Waterboss softener which was in my house when I bought it in August started getting stuck on regeneration after the first 4-5 regen cycles it did. After some research, rather then repair the 14 year old softener, I decided it was probably time to replace it.

I've done quite a lot of reading on softeners, a lot of which was actually here. I was wondering though, I always see a detailed request for water specs. I understand the hardness and iron, but why all the others if it's just a softener being installed? And where can a lab quality water sampling be done? Is there some good online ones that you can send a sample to through the mail?

It's probably dependant on the water testing, but I'm also looking for a suggestion on brand/source of softener to get. I did get a quote on a couple systems, Kinetico and Canature, from the local Kinetico dealer, but the price turned me off. I consider myself fairly capable of the DIY install of a water softener. Besides, the entire "water test" was basically a mild scare tactic to get you to buy a really expensive softener, carbon filter, and RO system. He referred to nitrates as being "sewage", asking how much sewage I want to drink (never mind Illinois is one giant farmfield), had me write the results of the "water test" down myself, and other such things, like saying the 16 gpg hardness was 9.6 lb of rock per month going through my pipes. Here's my "portable lab" results:

Needless to say, the entire thing just seemed like a joke to someone like me (sophomore engineering student) and they price really made me think about the install and realizing two water connections and one drain connection won't be hard at all.

This is my first house. I'm 22, I have a roommate who's around the same age. Eventually, I'll be getting married, and say 3-4 years down the road there MAY be a child or even two...who knows. I figure within around ten years I'll be somewhere else. 1.5 bathrooms, no fancy tubs or showers. Single knob, pull on/push off tub faucet will fill a 5 gallon bucket in 45 seconds when set straight between hot and cold...5 gallon bucket in 46 seconds when set on only cold.

Water supply is city water, treated with chloramine. The water supplier water reports from 2012 are available here in what they call
basic and detailed.

Anything else you need from me, let me know and I will do my best to provide it to you.

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bcarlson78248

Most water softener companies have salesmen that are very skilled at upselling to the best they have. If you only need a water softener replacement and all the plumbing is there, all you need to do is pick up a softener and install it yourself. Prices start out at about $500-600 for self install if all you need is the softener and new hoses.

I recently had a mid-grade Sears unit installed by a plumber for about $900, which I thought was a little steep-priced, but it was a rental and I needed to get it done. All the plumbing and electrical connections were there from the old softener, and its accessible in my garage, so I'm guessing that it took less than an hour to replace.

If you later decide you want to filter out all the "bad" stuff you call always add a high quality water filter. Some high priced softeners also add filters, but I prefer to keep the two functions separate to make the maintenance easier. I don't want to replace a high priced combo unit just because one part of it has gone bad.

Bruce

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 8:35AM
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jseyfert3

justalurker always asks for hardness, iron, pH (these three I understand), but also TDS, Mn, chlorine, and sodium. I just got the prices, and now ask again, why are all these important for just a water softener?

Hardness - $32
Iron - $22
pH - $11

$65, not too bad, I'd pay that. But then:

TDS - $22
Mn - $22
Cl2 - $11
Na - $22

$142 total - ouch. That's a lot. Are those bottom four really needed to properly size a water softener?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 1:16PM
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jcalhoun

I work for a fairly large municpal water company and we get comments like these very often. But, yes, the softener/filter/tasters/coolers salespeople try to make folks believe that the water they drink is practically poison. One saleman told a lady that his test machine found like 17 contaminants in her tap water. She about fainted when we told her that a certified lab test takes 3 days.

Anyway, most tap water has a hardness (CaCO3) of 35 to 45ppm. Iron and manganese will vary depending the source water and treatment techniques.

BTW, check out Penn & Telle'rs "Truth about bottled water" on youtube.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 12:54AM
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jseyfert3

If you later decide you want to filter out all the "bad" stuff you call always add a high quality water filter. Some high priced softeners also add filters, but I prefer to keep the two functions separate to make the maintenance easier. I don't want to replace a high priced combo unit just because one part of it has gone bad.
That definitely makes sense, and is the route I've decided. If I add any filter it's likely to be something for drinking water only.

"Anyway, most tap water has a hardness (CaCO3) of 35 to 45ppm. Iron and manganese will vary depending the source water and treatment techniques."
Well, maybe, but not here. That's like 2-3 grains per gallon. It's over 15 here for sure, and maybe higher. Central Illinois has some pretty hard water.

BTW, check out Penn & Telle'rs "Truth about bottled water" on youtube.
Hmm, I might have too. I don't drink bottled water, and realize half of that comes from city water sources and the other half from springs which probably don't even get tested . . .

As to my water testing, after doing a bit more research I had them test for hardness, pH, manganese, and iron. I have aquarium test kits for pH and hardness, and so after I get a lab test on those, I'll compare them to my aquarium test kit results (see how accurate my test kits are) and use them to keep on eye on the water quality. I know it works, cause when I test softened water, one drop changes the water to green, while with unsoftened water, it takes 25 drops (supposed to be 25 degrees of hardness, or about 26 grains per gallon). The question is just how accurate it is vs a lab test.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 2:29AM
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jcalhoun

FWIW, the test equipment at the water plant where I work is way more expensive than the aquarium kit and must approved by the US EPA. The pH meter is $600 and the machine we run the other tests on is $8000.

There is probably a lot of calcium in your water from limestone deposits.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 7:35PM
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