How to choose a water softener for your home!

How to choose a water softener for your home

With the vast amount of promotion from different water treatment providers and the confusion that it creates we have developed a list of simple steps or guiding points to help you in the selection process. Keep in mind that the ultimate decision is: “what quality water do I want in my home”?   The second determining factor is the water.   Water systems are not universal.  The suggestions below are for city or treated water.  We have other suggestions for well water or special applications water.

Using these simple guiding points, you will have a better way of choosing what system you chose for your use.

These points may be a bit confusing so if you need help understanding them feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help bring understanding to you, or you can get more information from our websites, or by getting our one on one 15 minute NO HARD SELL presentations in your home.

The amount of confusion that is out there is amazing!  The amount of options being offered is also staggering.   1 tank; 2 tanks; Multi-stage units;  Magnets;  Salt or non-Salt,  and so many other options.

So here we go:

1.Make sure the place you buy has a LOCAL REPAIR facility as part of their operations.

These places are better able to care for your unit or units and have the parts needed on hand.  Many times, people will buy on-line and or from those companies that come to town and blanket sell units and then the buyer beware.  It has been a great source of revenue for our service department.

2.Make sure the units are built with NON-PROPRIETARY PARTS.

This is different from a PROPRIETARY DESIGN!   Some units use parts that are made by a manufacturer that makes similar valves, but they have the parts modified so that you need to buy them from them.  These units are made to help secure future service for the dealership.   Not a bad thing if you are the dealership!  But, in some instances the dealership leaves the area or the fly by night salespeople are nowhere around when a part fails, and the local repair places can’t buy parts.  Some parts are not available except to branded dealers so a small $0.29 gear can cost $180 or more to get it, and have it installed.

3.Adjustable or programmable heads.

There are many types of control heads on units that fall into the following categories:  An adjustable head will give you the most efficient service and it can be changed according to the water.  Here are a few of the more common control heads;

  • Timers: 

These are units that have a specific clock and the units will clean themselves according to time not water use.  If the unit reaches its capacity to hold stuff before the timer settings, then you get what we call BLEED THROUGH.  This is a condition where hard water is passing into the home while the unit still has not reached its timed setting to clean itself.

  • Mechanical or Metered controllers:

There are companies that claim no electricity needed because they use gallon counters.  These require an initial setup and that can create an issue of either cleaning itself too soon or not soon enough.

  • Time of use replacement units.

Some units are installed with no regeneration capabilities and you need to replace or replenish the internal guts or MEDIA every few years.  These are my least favorite units.   If the life of the media is expected to be replaced every 3 to 5 years, then in the 5-year version as an example the unit efficiency is -20% less every year.   It isn’t like a light bulb that burns out at a certain time.   And like the fridge filter you may be able to continue to draw water way past the point where it no longer works correctly.

  • DIR units: 

DIR stands for DEMAND INITIATED REGENERATION.  These are the best units.  Most have as part of their design the ability to set the cleaning or regeneration of the unit to the water and its specific conditions of hardness.

4.Salt or NON-SALT

. There is still not a system that gives the same quality water as a salt system for hardness except for a Reverse Osmosis unit but those get really expensive for a whole home and they are not cheap to maintain and they require a large footprint in  a home.

There is much discussion within the industry that companies claiming non-salt units should even be able to use the word softening in their promotional materials.  They may have the best-looking websites, but they are not designed for the same optimum water.   And they are honest about it, but those honesty points are buried deep into the fine print on the last of many pages or web promotions.  Then there are the add on filters that need to be replaced frequently creating an ongoing expense that helps create revenue for the company selling the units.

There isn’t a single true water professional that I know that wouldn’t be excited about a non-salt unit!  Still not built to give the same quality softness of a resin-based system.

5. Multi-staged:

Today’s water requires today’s technology.

Simple softeners have long lost their opportunity to give ultimate water in today’s environment.  They do have a place in the mix and are a central part of most quality units.   The different stages in today’s water treatment products are designed to reduce other things floating around in today’s water.

Some companies sell a 2-tank system with Resins in one tank and the Carbon in a separate tank and an added salt to hold the salt that is used to help clean or regenerate the softener part of the unit.   Beware of those that tell you that the carbon will last longer than 5 years in a separate tank.  That is not going to happen.  Carbon is great and every Fridge Filter has that.  But the carbon will eventually rot and breed bacteria.

So, any NOT SO LOGICAL common-sense claim should raise your concern.  I’ve heard stories that are so amazingly impossible but impressive.  One guy sells a unit that has a 5-micron filter as part of his softener that never needs replacing!   That would be like having a coffee filter that never needs changing nor cleaning.  The fact that they claim a small 5-micron hole as the size of the filtration means it is going to hold back items larger than 5-micron so it will plug up!

There are those applications or situations like well water where different tanks may be needed.

6. Warranty:

Warranty provisions are also very wide and varied.   The key points here are what are the exclusions.   As an example, on a simple softener the RESINS (Media used to remove hardness) may have a long warranty but not from failure due to chlorine damage.  And I can tell you the main source of resin failure in units we see is CHLORINE!  MAKE SURE THE WARRANTY IS IN WRITING!

7. And a very important point is this:

Do you have specific challenges with your water!  One through 6 above are for units installed in homes with pretreated community or city water.   If you have well water, or water with specific challenges then some of these may not be adequate as a single solution.   An example would be if you have a well water system with excess iron in the water.  OR A Rotten Egg Smell from the water, a regular softener would not work even with multi-staging unless specifically built for that.  If this is the situation then you will need a true professional to help you fully address the concerns or issues with your water.

8. Water professional or sales organization?

The hype of water treatment systems varies by the organization selling them.   A true water professional will be able to help you navigate and select a unit.  Those who are proprietary dealers may have limited resources but some sections of water system providers have no clue!  So ask a bit about the water professionals’ attitudes and experiences and qualifications.  The passion and desire to help will become evident quickly.
So to summarize:

  • Local Repair Facility
  • NON-proprietary parts
  • Softening with Resins that need salt to clean regenerate their capacity.
  • Multi-Staging for better quality water
  • Adjustable DIR Control Head to adjust to the water.


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