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We have pretty hard water here, and are thinking of getting a softener.
For those of you with softner experience, what are things we need to know?
Other than refilling with salt or Potassium Chloride, what other maintanance is there?

Are there brands to stay away from?


Home Depot has some for around $450, is there any reason to buy one that is more expensive from a water softner store?


Any feedback is appreciated.
 

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I have a 20+ old Culligan unit. Nothing wrong with Culligan but they are expensive. The only items I would suggest are (1) I think you are better off if the salt container is seperate from the rest of the unit {resin tank & timer, etc}; (2) make sure there is a spigot BEFORE the softener so you can water your yard w/o using soft water; (3) if your house isn't/wasn't built for a softener, you probably will be better off by getting a plumber to install it.

Pros: soft water will cause your appliances that use water to last longer (my water heater was 20 years old when I replaced it but it still did not have any mineral build-up in it) and be more efficient. If you have faucets with seats/washers, you will find you will not be replacing them very often since soft water makes them last longer. You will use LESS soap & shampoo to get clean (cut back on soap & shampoo; you won't need as much as before). Your clothes will be softer and last longer and you won't need to use anti-cling sheets in the dryer.

Cons: You have to add salt periodically (my salt container holds 10 40lbs bags so I don't have to fill it but once a year--actually I fill it twice a year but with only half as many bags-I don't let it get too low). Soft water cleans up the inside of your galvanized water pipes and may reveal leaks in older pipes that were covered with accumulated mineral deposits. You have to get use to bathing/washing in soft water; it will make your body feel "slick" because you are actually cleaner with all the minerals removed; your wife/daughers will love their hair shampooed in soft water once they get used to it. The resin tank will have to be recharged (replace the resin) because it does get used up in the process; how often will depend on the hardness of your water and how many gallons you use per week.

If you search Google/Yahoo for water softener there is a company (in Pennsylvania or Ohio I think) that sells their brand of softener that is built just like Culligans but at much less price. They also have a very informative website.
You want to salt tank seperate to prevent the salt from corroding the rest of the unit.
 

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I bought one from Sears and it was a piece of junk. If you go to a "Softner" store the price is high. I bought two from these guys for two different houses. http://www.discountwatersofteners.com/Fleck-5600SE-On-Demand-Water-Softener-p/56set48.htm Hard water is hard on your appliances. A shower with soft water feels good. The main reason I got the softner is for the appliances. There is not much if any upkeep except keeping the salt tank full. We had glasses that had a film on them and shortly after the softner was installed the film went away. If you do the installation you kneed to be able to get to the water line before it goes to the whole house. There has to be a discharge line that I run outside on the ground. Some will discharge into the sewer system. Good luck
 

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Well all i can say about a cheap water softener is you get what you pay for. I dont know how many sears and other cheap water softeners that i have removed. A lot of what you get and how much it will cost is depending on the hardness of your water. The harder you water the more capacity will be needed. Most of the resin that i would use to replace old resin was 20,000 grain resin meaning it would remove 20,000 grains of hardness before each regeneration. So if your water is 20 grains hard and you have a 1 cuft resin bed then you are looking at 1000 gallons of water before each regeneration.. The softener has to be set up so that is will regenerate at 1000 gallons. There are alot of different brands some are good and some are just junk. Another thing to consider is the capacity of you salt or brine tank. I dont remember the numbers but you need a certian capicity of brine in order to regenerate your system. In other words if your brine tank is not large enough and not set up properly you will not be removing all of the hardness from your softener with each regeneration. Something you want to conisder also would be a sediment filter installed before your softener. This will help keep some of the larger particles out of your softener. Many different types of softeners. I would recomend staying away from the cheap ones and i would also recomend staying away from the kenetico's. A good brand would be a Fleck, or and autotrol. One that i really like is called a Clack i has taken the best from 3 or 4 different systems and combined them in one. Like was said earlier you really do want one with a seperate salt or brine tank. It is not hard to install if you know what you are doing. If the regeneration line is not installed in your septic or sewer system adn just running on the ground it will kill your grass. If it is running in your septic system it can kill some of the bacteria that eat other stuff in there. Important thing it know would be the actual hardness of your water. If you want send me a PM and i may be able to answer some more questions.
 

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I will be following this thread as I am going to get one. Just don't know where or how I am going to install it.
 

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i bought mine at lowes about 3 years ago for around $650 and haven't had any problems yet and i am happy with it's performance was pretty easy to install put it outside in the well house only problem was had to run a 110 outlet out to the well house. i believe the brand is a whirlpool
 

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Many water softner users will add a reverse osmosis unit with a special outlet to be used for making coffee and tea. The RO will reduce the sodium sodium concentration. This is important if your are sensitive to sodium (high blood pressure).
 

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We have had a EcoWater system for +10 years. You get what you pay for. Softeners remove hardness. Very little if any problems with this system. Service available from local office in SW Houston. Use multi media filtration on fridge & faucet. System benefits noted on other reply's are very valid. Remember you need some minerals in your agua!
 

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TNKFXR: What specifically don't you like about Kinetico? I have always liked their brand, even though they are overpriced. I have seen them last 20 or more years.
 

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Oh, by the way, if you put your brine tank too close to the well pump it will rust out your pump. Those pump motors have aluminum bases and the salt will eat them out fast.
 

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Excellent advice and post. Just a couple of additions.

Reel-tor said:
Cons: You have to add salt periodically (my salt container holds 10 40lbs bags so I don't have to fill it but once a year--actually I fill it twice a year but with only half as many bags-I don't let it get too low)
Good plan - never let it run out of salt.

Reel-tor said:
Soft water cleans up the inside of your galvanized water pipes and may reveal leaks in older pipes that were covered with accumulated mineral deposits.
Softeners work through magnetism. Resin beads are negatively charged, hardness ions are positively charged. the magnetic attraction is what strips the hardness from the water. When ths occurs, softened water becomes out of balance with it self - the softener has removed the calcium and magnesium ions, but does not remove alkalinity(which has a negative charge). Opposites attract, there is a +(calcium or magnesium) for every - (carbonate or bicarbonate alkalinity) in hard water. When you remove all the + the water will naturally seek to balance itself from the most readily available source; Old mineral deposits first, then ferrous iron. It will remove old mineral deposits, but the water doesn't know the difference between mineral deposits and ferrous metal. It can actually eat metal over time. Copper pipe is much more resistant to this which is why softeners come with copper fittings. Most homes have copper pipe as well.

Reel-tor said:
The resin tank will have to be recharged (replace the resin) because it does get used up in the process; how often will depend on the hardness of your water and how many gallons you use per week.
Resin will go bad over time (5 -7 -10 years is normal in non-industrial applications in San Antonio), but there are a few things that should be understood. Think of a resin bead as a boat marina with lots of little boat slips in it. There are millions of resin beads in a softener tank - once they are all full, they are all full and have to be cleaned through brine (salt) regeneration. This is the normal process.

The biggest enemies of softener resin are iron and chlorine.

Dissolved Iron (from the utility's distribution system, and/or naturally occuring) has a stronger magnetic bond to the resin than calcium and magnesium hardness does. The brine (salt) rinse that removes the hardness by breaking the magnetic bond during regeneration cannot break the bond of the iron.

Chlorine, used by the water utility to disinfect the water, attacts resin and turns it into mush. Install a carbon filter in front of the softener to extend the life of the resin.

Reel-tor said:
If you search Google/Yahoo for water softener there is a company (in Pennsylvania or Ohio I think) that sells their brand of softener that is built just like Culligans but at much less price. They also have a very informative website. You want to salt tank seperate to prevent the salt from corroding the rest of the unit.
I totally agree with the separate brine tank advice. The ones at Home Depot, Sears and everywhere else are almost like diposable units. Go ahead and spend a few extra bucks and get one that can be repaired easily.

For the most part Culligan uses proprietary parts and equipment. That means if it breaks , you have to go to them for replacements and service. Nothing wrong with that if you are on a service agreement with them. They are good. If you don't have a service agreement with them, it can be very expensive - like going to the Cadillac dealer for parts.

About 80% of the softener equipment in the market is made by a company called Fleck. Since they have the lion's share of the market, parts are very easy to come by. Virutally all softener companies install this brand, so if you are not happy with one company, you can easily find another.

The last thing I want to make you aware of is to specify a unit that regenerates on need rather than time. Time clock softener regeneration wastes water and salt because it regenerates solely on a time clock.

Need based regeneration is triggered by a water meter. The softener is programmed to regenerate after X number of gallons have passed through the softener. The number of gallons is determined by the amount of resin in the tank (number of boat slips in the marina). This ensures that your unit regenerates only after all the boat slips are full and it is being as efficient as possible.
 

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limey said:
Make sure it's large enough for your household needs. I bought mine from Gulf Coast Pump. It has the seperate tanks, they are supposed to be better.
That is called a twin alternating softener. It is designed to give uninterupted soft water. While 1 tank is regenerating, the other is providing treated water. These tend to be meter initiated regenerations which is the most efficient. Ideal for high volume users. You got a good one limey.
 

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TheGoose said:
TNKFXR: What specifically don't you like about Kinetico? I have always liked their brand, even though they are overpriced. I have seen them last 20 or more years.
I have never worked on one i have only removed them. In the areas where the water is extremely hard the just dont seem to hold up as well. I understand that they dont work on electricity and use the water flow to do all of the work etc... Maybe what i should have said is that i personally dont care for them. I know it is like everything else but it just seems like in this area they were breaking down more often then what i was installing was. I guess i made is sound like they were junk and didnt mean to sound like that i just dont care for them.
 

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If you check there are only 3-4 companies that actually make the units. Names like Sears, Whirlpool, GE... are re-branded.


If you like the technolgy of a brand see who makes the unit and check other brand names for price differences. (In other words, sometimes you are paying for the brand name and the same unit is cheaper with a different brand name.) I hope I did not confuse you.
 

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I am ready to buy. I live with in 20' of the water, brakish, and we are fed through a 1" line. I will probably be doing the installation so would want to use the money towards a good unit.
What brand to buy? Model? We have a two year old home with four bedrooms if that helps.
Tom
 

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Water analysis revealed 18 grains of hardness and clorine levels comparable to pool water. No iron detected. Leaning toward a Fleck 9100 series with dual 40,000 tanks.
 

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We have the Kenetico softner. We absolutely love it. We've had it for about 20 years. It requires little repair type work. If you have their repair people come out its highway robbery ... and since you can't buy new parts you have to find older ones you can buy for parts which is a pain, but Ebay is great for that. We love the fact you can hook it up anywhere because no electricity is required and since the dual resin beds are nice. We've gotten close to 20 years use. At our old house we had iron out the yazoo -- a tub full of water was opaque brown. It handled it with no problem. Here our water is just hard and it softens it fine.

We also have a lot of salt in our water and it does not remove that at all. We have an under counter reverse osmosis system that takes care of the salt for our drinking water and the ice maker.
 
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