Water Softeners and Filters

December 2, 2018
last modified: December 2, 2018

I closed on my house and was advised to get a water softener, if I want my plumbing to last. The area is known to have hard water.

I know some friends of mine accepted the door to door salesman pitch and ended up paying 10k for a whole house water softener and under sink RO system. That seems awfully expensive to me.

So, I looked on home depot and see them for sale for around 2k. That seems more reasonable. I saw home depot had a number for installation. So, I called it, thinking I would have a consultation at my house on what could be installed and the price. Well, that installation consultation was really a sales pitch from Rainsoft. In the end, they want 7k for a water softener installation and will install RO and Carbon filter for +$400 optionally.

That also seems extremely expensive.

His pitch claims "Well if you just buy one off the shelf for 2000, they are only made to last 3 years, your warranty will run up, and you'll have to buy another one. Whereas with us you will buy it one time, have a life long warranty, and we will change out the resin for you. Plus you get 5 years of free soap,.."

I said it was too expensive and then he offered a lower cost one with 10 year warranty for 5k.

Sounded awfully gimicky/pitchy to me.

Is there any truth to it? Should I go with these guys, or just buy one off the shelf?

Also, if I buy one off the shelf, I don't think I can transport it or install it. I looked up videos and you have you cut the loop and then solder piper together. I have zero confidence I could pull that off.

What to do? I want my plumbing to last.

Comments (18)

  • sushipup1

    Talk to your friendly local plumber for recommendations and installation. In our old house we had an ECO brand, or a Kenmore brand (Sears) made by ECO (I can't remember).. Uses a lot less salt than other brands, last time I shopped. Some of the machines really gobble salt.


  • mxk3

    I have a GE softener. Works just fine. Was here when I bought the house, not sure how old it is, but I've been here 2 years.

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    I am currently donsidering the following equipment: 1. Fleck 9100SXT Electronic 1" Meter On Demand Control Valve Twin Tank 40K Grain Capacity (each tank). 2.5CF of resin, 10gpm SFR, 2ea top distributor baskets, 2310 Float & safety overflow, 4' Fleck valve-to-tine tubing, 18" x 33" round brine tank, NSF Approved 10% Crosslink Resin, (will ask for gravel underbed). **Note: the Fleck 9100SXT 1" valve is directly connected to. If you need to bypass the water softener, you must construct your own plumbing bypass configuration Or should I go up in size to 3.0 CF of resin with 48K Grain in each tank as this model would allow for 12gpm SFR? 2. Also, per my wife's request I would like to install Carbon Filter to remove chlorine (at minimum) right before the softener. Would this eliminate the need of 10% crosslink resin and allow usage of 8% resin? Any specific model/brand that would fit nicely with above? Also, looking into R.O. system (not the under-sink type) that would feed 2 kitchen faucets, 2ea refrigerators. Again, any specific model/brand that would fit nicely with above? Thank you in advance!!
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  • iamtiramisu
    Find some local companies who specialize in water testing - they should also specialize in water softeners and filtration, etc. When we moved into our current home we found through water testing that we needed a softener, but not a filter. We got a whole house softener system installed for $1200 and was the same system/set up that a local plumber had quoted $2k for. The same company also installed the radon removal system that the former owners had installed as part of our inspection outcome and they have been fantastic.
  • wdccruise

    Maybe it would be a good idea to spend $10 to run a water hardness test before spending the big bucks, as suggested by this article.

  • Jake The Wonderdog

    You do have to test your water and know how hard it is. Is it city water or well water?

    So here's what I post often:A Fleck valve based unit with 10% crosslinked resin can be purchased on Amazon for $550, delivered. You just have to hire someone to connect it if you can't do it yourself. I bought one and they are great.

    Again, before you whip out your credit card you need to know how hard your water is. how many people in your home and if it's on municipal water or not.

  • PRO

    I live in a "hard water" area and I've never felt the need for a water softener system.

  • maifleur01

    The problem that people in this area have with water softeners is the suggestion to have at least one source of drinking water that does not run through the water softener for health reasons. Most consider it an extra cost and perhaps the current softeners are better but some of the old ones allowed too much salt to be in the water.

  • kathyg_in_mi

    We have lived with water softeners for the past 40 years. In this house we bought in 2006 they had a rented softener. After a year we had it removed and DH bought one at Menards. Cost $500 and he installed it. We bought one like this Softener.

    I liked it because the metal tank was inside the plastic, so you didn't have the metal tank sweating and have to keep wiping up the laundry room floor.

    We had the type with the tank outside of it in our last home like this Other , but it was in the basement, so it didn't matter if it sweated.

    Our water in the first home was very rusty and turned many things orange! But it was good tasting water.

    In this home just a few things turn orange, but the water does not taste as good.

  • Jake The Wonderdog


    Please let us know if you are on municipal water. If you are, please google "Water quality report and _______ (your water provider). You will get a link to the water quality report. Please share that link with us.

    The hardness test kit you want is the Hach 5-B.

    You don't want a test kit that you have to match the color strips - those are known to be inaccurate.

  • Jake The Wonderdog

    Thanks for the report.

    So a quote from the report was interesting:

    "Many consumers believe that their water must be
    softened to prevent damage to plumbing and fixtures.
    This is untrue. The average water hardness in Round
    Rock is 197 mg/L or approximately 11.5 grains per
    gallon. While this level of hardness may cause minor
    aesthetic problems such as water spots and dry skin, it
    does not cause damage to plumbing. "

    Other things from the report:

    -PH 7.9

    -Disinfectant: Chlorimine

    You will still want the above mentioned test kit, because this hardness level is generally an average.

    Note: that althoughthis level of hardness is considered "Very hard"you don't have to have a softener. If you get one, I like the quality and the pricing of what I linked to earlier.

    In order to size it properly we would need to know how many people in your household. For the sake of example, we will assume 4 people.

    The math looks something like this:

    4 people x 70 gal a day = 280

    280 gal x 11.5 grains = 3220 grains per day

    A 48k grain softener derated to 10lbs of salt per cu ft = 37k grains

    37k grains / 3220 grains per day = ~ 11 days between regens

    This would work pretty well.

    Note: We made some assumptions about family size (4) and grains of hardness (11.5) that may not be valid to reach this.

  • handmethathammer

    I have always had a water softener, in every house we have owned. I can tell when it is low on salt because soap doesn't rinse out of my hair as well, there are spots on the glasses, and more soap scum in the baths.

    Last time we had to buy one, it was less than $1000 and was still going strong when we moved out of that house after 14 years. I don't think you need to get a fancy one, but you do want someone to install it for you. I'd use a local plumber, not a national chain like Culligan or Rainsoft that may try to upsell a system you don't need.

    These things are pretty simple and I don't hear of them wearing out much (unlike water heaters.) The above poster mentioning you don't want some cold water taps softened is correct. Softened water is salty and gross tasting, so we don't have our cold water taps in the kitchen softened or the outdoor spigots.

  • maifleur01

    To add to the salty and gross tasting it can be harmful to people with various health problems such as some heart diseases or people with salt reactive blood pressure. There are other health issues but the are specific to only a small group of people.

  • DavidR

    If you have a septic tank, you might want to think twice about installing a water softener. There's some difference of opinion over this, but the backwash brine may cause it problems.

  • mike_kaiser_gw

    I've lived in areas with hard water most of my life and it's always been softened. $10k is just absurd and so is $7k or even $5k. Someone linked to a nice softener earlier for under $600, so add a grand for installation if you don't want to do it yourself. You will need an electrical receptacle near (6') where you want to install it and a drain (which may add to the installation costs, especially if you need to bring in an electrician).

    I don't see much sense in softening half the water supply, for most healthy adults softened water poses no risk. Obviously your lawn doesn't care about soft water so if you can run, say, outdoor spigots before the softener you can save a little money in salt. That's not always a practical or cost effective option after construction.

    I believe that for the most part the U.S. water supply is pretty darn safe and the only reason to filter it is for taste. There's several options there from a carbon based filtration to some kind of reverse osmosis system. All, obviously, will add to your cost.

  • Jake The Wonderdog

    mike_kaiser_gw is correct - A good unit with a Fleck valve is $500- 700 depending on size. Since there's already a softener loop installed, installation should be a couple hundred bucks.

    Just to clear up a few other misconceptions:

    1. A properly adjusted softener adds very little sodium to the water. In the past, the control valves weren't that sophisticated, they regened based on time rather than actual water use and the result was not great. The new usage based valves save a lot of salt and don't leave excess salt in the water. Especially ones set to use significanltly less salt than 15# per cu ft of resin will not leave the water salty or "slimy".

    You can estimate the amount of sodium in the water by (grains per gallon x 2) = sodium in mg. In this case about 23 mg of sodium in an 8 oz glass of water. Compare this to 118 mg of sodium in a 8 oz glass of milk.

    2. Outdoor hose bibs aren't plumbed through the softener. Newer homes that have a "softener loop" are already plumbed so that the outdoor bibs aren't using softened water.

    3. It's common practice to leave the cold water in the kitchen unsoftened for drinking and cooking - although again with the new softeners it's not necessary. A better solution is to have a separate drinking water faucet ( that you can carbon filter if you like).

    4. Mike is correct. For the most part, water provided by a larger municipal water company is pretty darn safe. A carbon filter can remove residual chlorine and taste and odors - along with some other residual "stuff". This can be done inexpensively, particularly for the drinking water. If there are contaminates that carbon won't remove (nitrates, for example) an RO filter for drinking water is a solution. That said, additional filtering isn't needed most of the time.

  • homechef59

    Ask a few local plumbers for a referral to a local water treatment specialist. No need to pay for big names and advertising. On the other hand, you want better equipment, quicker and more expert installation, and local service. They are out there, just ask around. Ultimately, it will cost you less to hire a local expert. They will be very familiar with the local water issues and know how to deal with them in a reasonable manner.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    IMO you came to the right forum to get advice on water softeners. These folks have the most practical advice I've seen anywhere.

    I moved to San Antonio (very similar water source) in 1981 and have not felt a strong need for softened water. I had water softener in California, but the hard really isn't bad. Our water tastes great without filtering. Every area has different chlorine systems, so yours might be different. I like to fill a glass of water and let it air out before drinking, anyway. Point is I would never consider an RO system for taste in this area.

    Having said that, if I were to get a softener I would go with Jake's Fleck system. You don't even have to assemble it. It weighs 20 pounds. All you (or your plumber) have to do is tip it up, add water, and connect the pipes.

    You have already said you don't want to cut lines or solder, so you need a plumber. Call your Realtor to get some recommendations. They always have a long list of tradesmen helpers and are always happy to help out their clients. Literally any plumber can do this job. In fact any apprentice plumber or handyman could do it. It is a DIY job for anyone with soldering skills - and I see you are not comfortable with that, but again, any plumber can do this.

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