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  1. #1
    Platinum Member
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    Default Water Softeners & snake oil


    A question for the collective wisdom of TBN regarding water softeners ...

    I have a deep well (600ft) at my house - and the water is neutral pH, only slightly hard, but has quite high iron content. The upshot is that we really don't have a problem with hardness - but we have a big problem with the iron. Everything we have that comes in contact with water seems to be turning rusty brown (no-one is anaemic in this house)!

    I've been waiting this one out for a year - we've only just been here that long - in the hopes that the well might 'settle down'. Now it's time to get the problem fixed. I've been told that I can either use an iron filter ($1500 - $2000) or a water softener (these also remove iron). A couple of questions ...

    1. Any of you guys have any experience with iron filters (including costs)? Apparently they use an air pump that oxidizes the iron in the water - this makes it come out of solution so it gets trapped in the filter. Any maintenance issues other than emptying the filter?

    2. I have been given two sets of quotes for the softener. One is for a 'timed' system (about $1000) - this washes out the softener on a pre-set timed basis. The other is for 'on demand' regeneration (about $2500). There is a big difference in cost as you can see. Which is best and is the cost justified?

    Supposedly the 'on demand' water softener is the best of the two softener types. The big downfall for the 'timed' one being that it is only good for a certain volume of water between automatic regenerations. Once you get past that volume you are just using the water as it was before - iron and all. Supposedly this is a big problem on wash day - the first load will be fine, but later loads will be stained.

    The 'on demand' regeneration gets around this by automatically cleaning itself when you use a certain volume of water (instead of having to wait until the next timed cycle). You could use a shorter timer cycle on the 'timed' water softener - but then I'm told you end dumping large amounts of water in the drain field for no good reason each time it regenerates.

    Sorry for all the detail there - just want to know what you guys experience is with all this. I don't have a good handle on what is snake-oil and what is not. I need to take care of this soon or else I will be having to shell out major $$$ for new bathroom fixtures and clothes for my dear wife!!!

    Thanks,

    Patrick

  2. #2
    Veteran Member
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    Mid-Missouri
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    Kubota L210

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    A friend just got a mid-range on demand softener from Home Depot for about $500. Don't know what the installation cost would be, but not another $500 I would think.

    Chuck

  3. #3
    Platinum Member PitbullMidwest's Avatar
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    Sep 2001
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    SE Iowa
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    1998 Kubota L2900GST

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    My timed unit has a high demand manual switch, I can regen any time I feel it is necesary. You will save money over the life of the unit with an on demand (less salt, less water) though.

    It didn't take long to figure out how often to regen our softener for our water usage and we have never run out of soft water while doing laundry for 3 adults and 2 kids. If in doubt, hit the backflush button and off you go again.

    BTW we have iron and sulfer content in our well that the softener completly takes care off.

  4. #4
    Platinum Member
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    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil


    I looked at the softeners in Home Depot - I believe they are all of the 'timed regeneration' type. The language is a bit confusing - they soften water 'on demand' - but 'regenerate' on a timed basis. It's the regeneration that is a pain to have to monitor - if you don't regenerate after a certain volume of water has been through the system then they basically stop working until the next regeneration cycle.

    That's the argument between the 'on demand' regeneration and 'timed' ...

    Patrick

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    44
    Location
    Central Texas
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    Kubota, L2500DT,

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    I have had a timed regen unit for 15 years. Still the same unit. As mentioned earlier, it's just a matter of finding out how often to set the timer to regen. My unit has 12 pins/days. I can regen any number of times on that 12 day cycle. If you were to watch it for a few weeks I think you will find that your usage will be about the same from day to day. Is wash day the same day every week? Also, the softener doesn't just shut down. You will notice a slow degredation of water quality over a couple of days. If every 6 days the quality starts to go down, then regen every 4 or 5 days, depending on how your particular unit is set up.

    I had one of those snake-oil peddlers out to the house when I first was looking for a softener. If I believed him, I would have to chew my water for all of the heavy metals, dirt, junk, microbes that was in my water. Had to all but threaten him with a gun to get him to leave. That was 15 years ago. Still alive and kicking and no I didn't buy from him.

  6. #6
    Super Member
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    Apr 2000
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    Shingle Springs California
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    New Holland TC40D

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    We have heavy iron in our water. We went with a Rain Soft timed unit. We have had it for 6 years now. Rainsoft asked some questions, and based the initial setting by what we told them our use would be. It has worked well at that setting since.

    Everything in our house had stains on it when we moved in Within a year of having soft water, most of the stains are gone. Some stubborn ones have stuck around, or were gone when we replaced the appliance.

    For the first seven years, the people who lived here before us used bottled water for drinking, and well water for everything else.

    We do have a RO under the sink specifically for drinking water, but all of our soft water is pretty good too.

  7. #7
    Platinum Member
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    Oct 2000
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    Tully, NY (Syracuse)
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    Kubota L3010HST

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    Well I'm sure this is going to really upset somebody but here goes anyway. I think water softener installers are one of the biggest ripoffs around.

    I got quotes 6 years ago when we first moved into this house and the numbers where $1500 - 2000 installed. I decided to go over to Sears and buy a water softener there. I ended up with the cheapest unit they had. I think it was somewhere between $150 and $300 for the thing. I installed it myself which only took about three hours. It has worked fine ever since.

    I didn't see the need for the automatic regeneration and to be on the safe side I just have the unit regen every night at 2:00am. I probably use $50 - $75 in salt per year. For what I paid for the unit and for the extra it costs me to regen. every day it would take me a long time to justify the cost of a automatic regeneration unit or a dealer installed unit.

    One disadvantage I saw to the automatic regeneration units is that the softener may decide to regen. in the middle of the day and I would end up with unsoftened water for a couple of hours. With the timed unit I know that the softener will always be regenerating in the middle of the night when I'm not likely to be using the water.

    BTW, having soft water is much better than the hard water we dealt with for the first couple of months we lived here. It is a good investment.

  8. #8
    Platinum Member
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    No longer have :-(

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    Patrick,

    My experience with high content in water has taught me that your post subject is very appropriate <font color=blue>"Water Softeners &amp; snake oil"</font color=blue>. This is not to say that all water softener people are snake oil salesreps but this industry seems to have its more then its fair share of salesreps that are enthusiastic and less then adequately trained for situations like yours or mine.

    Around here a demand system might cost roughly $200 more than a timed system if all other things are equal. One of the factors that most sales people overlook when trying to "close the sale" is the water demand, gpm (gallons per minute) required for your home. When purchasing my system I would specifically point out that our master bath has a tub with a tub filler that is rated for more then 17 gpm. These turkeys (the questionable salesreps) would tell me that their system would supply that just fine but look on the brochure that they just handed me and it would rate the gpm at 10 or less! "Oh, but it will still fill the tub" they'd tell me. Yes, but I did not spend the extra dollars to run 3/4in supply lines to the tub and install a high flow tub filler to have it limited by the softener [img]/w3tcompact/icons/frown.gif[/img]! "Well. most customers buy this model and we haven't had any complaints" was their typical retort. "Next please..."

    Finally talked to a guy in California (I'm in Illinois) and he custom built a system for me and I had to install it. Custom filled the softener and separate multimedia filter to match my water requirements. This system coupled with occasional use of super-iron out and pre and post filters gives us plenty of clean water to meet our needs -- and no more orange sinks, toilets, dishwashers, etc.

    Unfortunately this purchase required almost as much research and learning as my tractor purchase but it has been well worth it (no pun intended).

    My system cost more then $3500 but in addition to iron I had very, very high sediment levels, and hardness levels.

    Don't know about the costs involved with iron removers but will be interested to learn from the others here.

    What are your current iron content counts? I'll get mine out for comparison purposes tonight but thought I'd share my 2 cents now.

    For water with substantial iron content most water softeners will not deal with the iron entirely without substantially oversizing the softener.

  9. #9
    Platinum Member
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    No longer have :-(

    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    kevincook,

    All of the auto-regen units I looked at a year ago are programmable to regen at a certain time, once demand requires. This allows for regen to occur at night avoiding the middle of day issue. And yes, many softeners are a ripoff. Like you I purchased a softener for my last house from Sears and installed it myself. For the water needs I had there it worked great but wasn't up to the challenge of the new house.

  10. #10
    Super Star Member Egon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Water Softeners & snake oil

    RPM:
    If you have septic and field system and do not reqire softening why overload the disposal system with salty water?

    Egon

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