Water Softener: Which One?

I'm in southern california with very hard water, household of 2, and possibly one to two new family additions :) in the next 2-5 years. What size of a water softener would I need? Also, how do I know what size of pipes (1/2", 1", or 1-1/2") do I have?
I have narrow down my selection of water softener to the followings: 1. Sears Kenmore 100 or 150A or 200(?Not Listed) http://www.sears.com/ and type "water softener" in search box PROS: Popular Brand CONS: Big; Might Required Complex Installtion; Tedious Salt Replacement (Monthly basis?)
2. Kinetico 2020c: http://www.kinetico.com / PROS: No Electricity Required; Small and Compact CONS: $$$$$ (Price unknown, but probably very expensive)
3. HardWaterWizard http://www.alloysafe.com/?Page=../cart/categories.cfm&CatID37 PROS: Small and Compact; Cheap CONS: Unknown brand, might be scam???
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I have a Water King EM-III-30 from 1975 that has had zero problems other than replacing the timer clock motor. Get the brass valve.
I have no idea if they're even in business any longer, or if Toyota has bought them out or something.
--
Ron Hardin
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Wendi,
I own a sears conditioner very similar to the products you've listed. The timer motor wears out in about 3 years. It is easy to replace but costs about $50. Many of the seals needed replacement after 6 years. This is also within the capability of the "home handyman". The Kinetico's have a good reputation. Both Sears and Kinetico will require you to add salt (in 40 lb. bags) to the brine tank. The HardWaterWizard sounds like nonsense to me. Look at it really carefully. Get a water test done.
Good luck, Dave M.
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Dave,
Thx for your reply. Which model (or capacity) of the Sears unit should I get? I'm leaning towards the 150A that handles 30000 at 12.8lbs salt. It's ~$400. I read the city's report for water hardness, it's 15gpg. I signed up for the Kinetico free water test anyways. Do you have any idea how much the Kinetico costs? I found a used one on eBay for $150.
thx, -wen

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Wendi,
You need the results from your water test before you choose the right size appliance. Be sure that the salesman is aware of your plans for children since your water usage is an important factor in the right size. I've never owned a Kinetico and can not tell you what they cost in your area. Since Kinetico is doing your water test get them to look at your needs and determine which size softener to use. I'm sure that they will be happy to talk about the cost of their equipment. My experience is with the sears unit. It works fine. Parts may only be purchased through sears and are expensive. It is not hard to service if you have a talent for handy man stuff. Be sure to buy the optional bypass valve kit. Be sure that it is installed in a convenient area. Be sure you can lift the 40 or 80 lb bags of salt. Don't use rock salt. N. B. The softener will add NaCl (salt) to your water. This is not viewed as a problem unless you are on a low sodium diet. In Europe, however, salt is restricted in infant formula. I don't know why this is an issue but you might want to check this out since you are planning on kids. Some softeners can use KCl instead of NaCl to regenerate.
Dave M.
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Water Purification Systems are now available at PipeDoctorUSA.com
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IMO the best softeners use an Autotrol Clack or Fleck control valve and for a DIYer that will replace a part if needed, the Clack WS-1 is probably the best with the Fleck 7000 a very close second. You find them on the internet or through local independent water treatment dealers. If you buy over the internet and install it yourself you'll save considerable money.
The size of your tubing is imprinted on the tubing but can be hard to read. The OD (outside diameter) of 3/4" copper and CPVC is 7/8" and 1" is 1 1/8".
There are two parts to properly sizing a softener: compensated hardness to establish minimal capacity and the SFR (service flow rate) of the softener (based on size and type of resin used) required for the peak flow rate of your house. Large tubs, multiple head showers and numerous bathrooms dictate that. Most big box stores and many dealers don't get into the SFR requirement which causes the purchase of undersized equipment. If the SFR is exceeded, the softener will not be able to remove all the hardness and/or iron. You should start with a basic water test for hardness, iron, manganese if possible, pH and TDS (total dissolved solids).
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com Bulletin Board www.qualitywaterassociates.com/phpBB2
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I have the Kinetico 2040s Overdrive model. I don't know how it compares to the Kinetico that you are looking at but I must say that it is wonderful! I have 28 grain hard water and it handles it beautifully for my wife and I. The local Kinetico dealer is a friend of the family and said that it will handle 4 to 6 people and since there is no electronics you don't have to reset anything if the power goes out. (You only have to manually turn the unit to rinse if you run out of salt or potassium.) I was looking at a full height unit and choose this one since it only takes 11 minutes, 7 gallons of water, and only 1 pound of salt or potassium to regenerate.
Bruce

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28 grains is HARD water.
I suggest that you either go as cheap as possible or you get one that can be serviced by pros. Heres why.
After usage with such hard water the unit has to 'recharged'. This is where they take the material inside and replace it. The cheap ones from Sears isn't worth the effort, the more expensive ones are about the same as Sears, but the companies who sell them usually can and do change this material. They 'may' change the Sears, but why should they support the competition?
Some of our customers with such hard water buy the cheapest ones they can and change them when they die. Others go for the frills and salt savings. Its a tough choice for you to make.
Try a search in Google. Water Softener ratings
Also, please remember that the harder the water the better it is for heart tissue. Soft water is bad for the heart, it has no minerals in it, and the added salt is also bad for people with high blood pressure. You may consider Calcium Chloride, but it costs almost double of the price of salt.
rich

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OK so far.

The "material" inside is standard resin bead, no different between Sears labeled softeners and any other brand. Softeners work by transferring sodium ions from sodium chloride (salt) to the resin bead. Running water through the resin causes calcium ions in the water to swap places with the sodium ions. Eventually, the resin loses its ability to attract either type of ion and needs to be replaced, but as long as the water is not contaminated or has excessive amounts of iron, we're talking years between resin replacement.
One might argue that a Sears valve does not use standard parts and thus may be more expensive to repair. My experience has been that the only part needing repair after 10 years of an electronic control head were some o rings and the siphon diaphragm. Cost less than $10 from Sears parts.

Taking the valve body off the resin tank of a Sears softener isn't particularly difficult. In fact, since Sears publishes their exploded parts diagrams on their web site, you could argue that a Sears unit is easier to service by the homeowner.
While it's understandable that an independent dealer might not want to service Sears, it's a bit short sighted. Could be an opportunity to sell other filters or even an kitchen RO system. Certainly any competent plumbing company should be willing to do it. And if a last resort, why wouldn't you call Sears?

Once the plumbing is in place, swapping a relatively inexpensive $300 softener every 15-20 years is not difficult to do or an unreasonable expense. If you have to do it sooner than that, you probably have too much iron or other contaminate in your water and could use an iron or other prefilter. In any case, since most people move every 5-8 years, is it worth buying a arguably longer life unit for the next owner?
Salt savings is a harder argument to sell. Salt is inexpensive to begin with. Even if you use 40 pounds a month (which is unlikely with any demand based softener in a residential application), we're only talking $36 a year in most places.
While I've seen some manufacturers claim salt savings, even if we're generous and say it's 25% a year over a regular demand type unit (sounds impressive), that's less than $10 a year. And that savings can only come from the recharge cycle - the sodium transferred to the water is the same for every unit.

Hard water is nothing more than water with slightly elevated amounts of calcium. You could get as much by drinking a couple of glasses of skim milk a month, or take a general purpose vitamin. Most people say hard water tastes better. In fact, many of the bottled water brands add minerals (including calcium) for taste. On the other hand, there's an argument that says that elevated mineral content like calcium could contribute to kidney stones, if you are susceptible to them.

Soft water has exactly the same mineral content as hard water from the same source, with the exception of the calcium ions, which were replaced with sodium ions. Unless you have a reverse osmosis system, everything else gets passed through. The amount of sodium ingested from soft water for most people is equal to that found in a couple of slices of bread. Think about it: Most new construction kitchen cold taps are plumbed to a hard water line for cooking. How much non kitchen tap water do you drink? For that matter, how much kitchen tap water do you drink?

I suspect that calcium chloride will have no effect at all. I think what you meant to say was potassium chloride. While KCl is almost double the price of salt in percentage terms, we're not talking about huge dollars per year here.
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There're two primary reasons that I want a water softener. I have sensitive skin esp during those dry winter months. I used to keep a few bottles of drinking water in the bathroom and use them when my skin feels especially sensitive. I used them only on my face. Ever since I moved to this house (or this city), I notice my skin has gotten more sensitive. It's like I have to use bottle water all the time. I'm thinking maybe I should install the $150 Reverse Osmosis system from Costco instead.
The other reason is just less house keeping work. Dishes are never clean; and there're a lot more built-up in the showers, sinks, etc...
As for carrying 40lbs of salt, is 40lb the smallest size? Do they come in 2 bags of 20lbs?
-w
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What is your skin sensitive to? A water softner main job is to remove calcium and magnesium. It doesnt FILTER out contaminants, bacterial or other chemicals. In fact it adds sodium (salt) to your water.
Reverse osmosis is a filter and can remove out chemicals to some degree, I would however have to take a big look at a $150 filter. Reverise Osmosis take a lot of energy to do its job, make sure you know the cost of consumables before you get the RO filter for $150. You may find you have a $50/month filter cos.
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Ro filters waiste a gallon for every gallon made. Look into a good cartrige system, you will get bottled water quality. RO are usualy overkill and remove all good minerals
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So, we installed one a few months ago in the kitchen. It was good for two months and then it started to release carbon debris. We have sent a sample of the contaminated water back to the manufacturer and are currently waiting for a response.
-w
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You have to run your water through a water softener before it reaches a reverse osmosis system or the calcium in the water will shortly plug the "bladder" in the reverse osmosis. And that's a major expense to be replacing every six months or so. Have you considered using hypo-allergenic soap to wash with. I find that I have to use it whether I have soft water or not. Normal soaps with any type of fragrance will cause a sensitive, almost burning sensation. Is it possible that the chlorine in the water is what you are sensitive too....which could be removed with a simple whole house taste and odor filter system.
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they sell cheap shower filters might be worth a try
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:(.
shower (less calcium built-up)?
In addition I thought the installation of a whole house filter system is equally hard if not harder and the re-occuring cost of a filter system is more expensive (salt is cheap).
-w
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The "bladder" should be membrane. Having a softener before a softener is 'required' unless the amount of hardness, iron and manganese dictates one. And then it depends on the RO. No disposable cartridge filter will help with the dishes etc..
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com Bulletin Board www.qualitywaterassociates.com/phpBB2
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