Q: Help! What do I NEED to Know When Buying a Water Softener?

Don’t fall for the sales game

We’ve been in the business for many years now, ever since we started as a little The Water Source franchisee. In the past twenty years, we’ve sold almost every single type of water softener, from the generic Fleck-head brands to NorthStar, and now EcoWater – and the latter is the one we’ve stuck with the longest (over 15 years!).

And there’s a reason why.

We’ve come across pretty much everything that can go wrong in the life of a residential water treatment system, from minor problems like salt bridges to full-on system failures, and one thing that has remained consistent is the importance of buying a quality system. A water softener is not a small investment, and so we really believe in educating our customers, encouraging them to do their research, and making the choice that feels right for them.

If you’re still shopping around (or even if you’ve taken the plunge), we wanted to share some lessons learned from our experience, and from what our lovely customers have shared with us.

People can be duped into paying WAY more than they need to – we’ve seen people spend up to 5 times more than necessary.

The cold, hard truth? Because water treatment can sound technical, it’s not unheard of for water softener salespeople to take advantage. It’s easy to fall for sales when you aren’t familiar with the truth, but that doesn’t mean you need to get sucked in.

Never fear – we’re here to tell you how to avoid falling for the sales game.

The 4 essential softener-choosing factors

1. The water test

Does the potential supplier test your water to see what really meets your needs, or do they tell you what you need? If they start with your budget, that’s a good sign they’re just out to get your money.

A water test allows the dealer to size a water softener based on the following:

  • your water hardness (how many grains of minerals your water has per gallon);
  • the number of people in your home;
  • your estimated water usage; and
  • the ideal regeneration timeframe (how often your softener should clean out the resin to be able to perform effectively and efficiently over time).

2. Sales tactics and the pushy salesperson

Have they sent a pushy salesperson into your home? An in-person demo is a tactic the water industry has used forever. I’m sure we all know someone who’s paid up to $10,000 for a simple water softener and drinking water system because they’ve been pressured to sign on the dotted line… just to get the salesperson out of their home.

There is, obviously, validity to many of the claims that a water system salesperson can make. For example, a water softener, by extending the life of your water-using appliances, will save you money. A drinking water system will ensure that your children aren’t ingesting chemicals unnecessarily. But that doesn’t mean you need to pay 5 times as much as you need to for that value – before you’ve had a chance to do your research!

3. The after-sales service and the worst case scenario

Things can go wrong – eventually, it’s inevitable. So be aware of what it would look like in the worst case scenario. Look for a clean track record of performance.

Is the supplier someone you can trust?  Like it or not, you’re entering into a long-term relationship, so make sure the company is one you’re comfortable dealing with for years to come.

Be sure to ask (and push until you get the right answer!) where the parts could go from if something went wrong. Because a lot of the water softeners are made up from parts from abroad (usually China), we’ve had numerous customers come in exasperated that they can’t fix their softeners, and they’ve ended up paying a lot more to get out of their situation than they expected to (or wanted to) in the long run.

4. The long game

A cheaper softener may sound grrreat in the short term, and it very well may be. If you’re moving in a few years, it really won’t matter. But if you’re in a home you’re planning to grow your family in, you may want to make sure that the product you choose is a wise investment.

Again, make sure your water has been tested and your water softener is sized for your family’s water usage. A softener that needs to regenerates less than every 5 days, or more than every 8, is a lot less likely to last a long time.

Look for efficiency factors that determine your softener’s salt usage – no one wants to be lugging those heavy salt bags into their basement more often than they need to. Also, see if your water softener can be upgraded to remove chlorine and chloramines from your water. Your body can take in a lot more chemicals through your pores when bathing than it would from just drinking – especially important if you have a young family and you want to protect the health of your children long-term.

The nitty-gritty

We’re not going to lie – there are a few great brands we’d be happy to recommend other than EcoWater.

Kinetico, for example, has a great and top-quality product. But when it comes to a lot of the more generic systems (read: cheaper), we’ve been around long enough to see what really happens in the life of a softener and the effects that can have.

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