Why are water softeners so expensive?

I'm in need of a new water softener, my 8-year old Kinetico having given up the ghost after months and months of problems.
But far from being cheaper than 8 years ago - like every other domestic appliance - a new Kinetico is even more expensive than the eye-watering 615 I paid back in 1998. I've looked inside my unit and see nothing that justifies the ludicrous prices they charge.
What is it with the UK water softener market? Why does it seem to be insulated from competition? The products are expensive, they can only be bought from small local dealers, and finding information and prices is like trying to get blood from a stone.
Why don't domestic appliance manufacturers enter the market? Why can't I buy a water softener from one of the major chains like B&Q or Comet? This all reeks of anti-competitive behaviour.
Something is rotten here.
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I had a big look round when I purchased my new softener. I was swayed by Kinetico because ,well, I fell for the marketing. However luckily enough for me just before I bought one I found this guy in America who is a professional independent installer. He had had many many run in's with Kinetico about their pricing structure and the actual quality of their kit. From what I now understand the quality of the softener is all in the head unit. I -in my naivety- assumed they were pretty much all the same..Not so.
So after reading his forum and checking what was available in the UK (based on his recommendations) I emailed him a page from Ebay and he said 'go for it' I did saved a shedload against a Kinetico and was I delighted .The only casualty was my local salt distributor has gone bust- such was the dramatic reduction in consumption..
Forget getting one from B&Q etc buy a decent one !!
Cheers
Richard
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r.bartlett wrote:

Thanks for that. And I'm intrigued - what did you buy?
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I went here- (you may need to register)
http://www.qualitywaterassociates.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=2
Read up, posted then went out and bought this-
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/AQUA-SPRING-WATER-SOFTENER-ELECTRONIC-METER-CONTROL_W0QQitemZ7551102935QQihZ017QQcategoryZ20715QQcmdZViewItem
From these people
http://www.aquaspring.co.uk/domesticwatersofteners.htm (it's the same lot btw)
Good luck with your ongoing investigations ;-)
Cheers
Richard
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Thank you very much, you've been most helpful. I'll look into these.
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Unix Guru wrote:

Another of my "one-day" projects.... but the last time I looked into it I was heartily recommended the following by more than one respected member of the group... http://www.emwc.co.uk/Details.asp?ProductID
That's what I will eventually be going for.... when I get time. :)
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My 'one-day' crystallised last year as an 'Easter Project' :) Having read the FAQ's and comments on this newsgroup, I bit-the-Bullet and purchased the model described -which was on 'Special Offer' , at the same price, then! Experience has been excellent - the water is soft and it's difficult to describe what a difference it has made. Cleaning is easier; sinks, baths, hand basins and toilet stay clean. We've stopped using fabric conditioners and dish-washer salt and rinse-aid: soap, shampoo and bath stuff only need a smidgeon (technical term) rather than the dollop (another technical term) previously, Unfortunately, my accounting system didn't track itemised expenditures for such purchases -so I can't quantify how much we've 'saved' - but salt consumption seems to be the forecast one-block-per-adult-per-month.
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Brian




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Help me to understand! I'm sure it's a good machine if all here like it but its specs. say "up to 508ltr per tank at 250ppm". Given the dimensions of the beast, it's either a Tardis or I'm missing something! How much soft water can you actully run off at one go?
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Bob Mannix
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The 'device' is a two-cylinder model and (mains) water flows into the device and through a cylinder wherein AIUI Nasty (chalky) ions are captured by the resin in exchange for Nice (Sodium) ions this water is 'softened' _not_ soft water. The resin in the on-line cylinder will eventuall exhaust itself of Sodium ions and be full of Calcium ions. Due to some magic _volume_ measuring 'thingy' the device thinks to itself' Uh,Uh, better switch cylinders" and diverts the incoming mains water through the other cylinder , at the same time it pumps saturated salty water (brine) through the 'off-line' cylinder refreshing the resin which grabs the Sodium (nice) ions from the brine and releases the Calcium ions whch are discharged into the flushing water and then to a drain.The 'refreshened cylinder is then available for use ready to take up the slack when its companion cylinder needs replenishing . { this is a somewhat simplified explanation -the two cylinders sometimes work together, sometimes independantly - but the consumer doesn't have to bother } So; in practise you can run all the taps in your house - kitchen sink, washing machine , dishwasher, bath, shower, toilet, etc. etc. simultaneously and the softening machine will just ... cope. I'm sure that a hydrologist could measure the flow impedance of the device on the water supply - but to the average householder (and his wife and kids) there's no perceptible difference in flow. And: _all_ the water is 'softened'.
Note; the operation of the two-cylinder models with a mechancial water-metering and water-powered pumps system should not be confused with the single cylinder and/or electrically timed device which refresh their resins at fixed times and it is possible to exhaust a cylinder at some point in the day and subsequent mains water passes through without any 'softening' effect. { the obverse of this is that sometimes the resin hasn't all been exhausted and brine is wasted }
It was the perceived advantages of this 'mechanical two cylinder' type that made the decision for me - even though it was a 'suck and see' leap-in-thhe-dark'; I was intending to re-engineer the water system to provide SWMBO with 'mains-pressure' shower - and I wanted to have a clean-sheet 'softened' water system that relied on some chemical reaction I could understand rather than a hand-waving magic magnetic device that baffled me. .... also; I was bl**dy fed-up with dismantling the shower device and descaling it plus replacing 'O' rings that had got chewed up with chalky deposits. [ My SOP when someone yelled 'The showers stopped working!".]
HTH
-- Brian

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Yes, very good, thanks for that, I concur with your reasoning (you don't get 'owt for nowt, except hand waving) but price is a bit steep (having an ex SWMBO and less moolah!). I rely on shower heads with rubbery nozzles - when they get a bit scaled you just scratch them with a finger nail. Looks like the dogs danglies if you do want one though.
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Pet @ www.gymratz.co.uk ;) wrote:

It sounds similar to my Kinetico at about the price I paid in 1998. The "RRP 1150.00" sounds like pure fiction. Tellingly the manufacturer and model number are not stated, so it's not possible to compare the "Special Offer" price. It's just this kind of opaqueness that I find so suspicious.
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http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/AQUA-SPRING-WATER-SOFTENER-ELECTRONIC-METER-CONTROL_W0QQitemZ7551102935QQihZ017QQcategoryZ20715QQcmdZViewItem
Tempting. Any other views from the group?
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Get a metered one, it saves on salt whose price is related to gas as this is used to dry the salt.
Also you can get test kits to measure hardness, you add tablets to a sample of the water until it turns pink (?). My water in Hampshire was 22 Clark (very hard) thus had I had to turn the volume to regenration down from the factory supplied 600l/cylinder to 350l/cylinder or else the water would run hard.
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Ian_m wrote:

Yes, I would prefer a metered one. And thank you for the advice on tuning regeneration to the water hardness. That's something my Kinetico could never do!
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I was under the impression that you could fit a different number disc that would initiate the regeneration more frequently
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as this

to a

Hampshire was 22

regenration down

the
tuning
could
disc that

I have three commercial Kinetico machines, and those have the head gear ratio set to decide how much volume triggers a regen cycle. When I've seen the smaller domestic units they just looked scaled down versions, so I assume they work on the same principle.
AWEM
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Mj wrote:

Yes, that is correct, but one has to purchase additional discs separately. Kinetico don't make things easy!
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My Wizard softener you enter in the no of litres per cyclinder before generatiion. Takes a couple of months to find right setting as you have to sample the water just before it regenerates (which is does indicate on its display, litres to go before regeneration) to see if its "gone hard", then decreasing the litre setting until soft.
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Ian_m wrote:

That sounds more useful - you can tune the cycle without incurring extra expense if you get it wrong! Of course the ideal would be for the softener to detect the water hardness itself. I don't know whether that's possible with current technology at the right price.
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