How much money will we really save with a water softener?

Q. My husband and I recently had a demonstration on how we could save money with a water purification system.The salesman said we needed a purification system for under the kitchen sink and in our basement. He offered us a five-year supply of soap made especially for soft water, and said that we could save over $200 per month with his water treatment system on things like soap, shampoos, detergents, water heating, plumbing repairs, clothing and beverages. He had a miniature water purifier, which he hooked up to our faucet, and preformed the tests. It sounded pretty good until he told us the system was $6000, but we could make monthly payments of about $160. My husband said he wanted to think about it, but the salesmen said that if we acted that night that he would give us a $1300 discount, which would make our payments $120 a month. We still wanted to think about it, so he called his boss who said he had one system for $3200 and our payments would be around $85. This was too much to pass up, so we sighned the contract (maybe we were just worn down by his four hour demonstration). After sleeping on it, we exercised our right to cancel the next day. Did we do the right thing or do you think we were foolish to pass up such a good deal? Also, are all those things he told us about how much a purification can save really true?

A. Since you did not mention what brand water treatment system or which dealer you were talking about, I can only offer the following advice: “Things that sound to good to be true usually are!” If someone tells you they have a “full house purification system”-BEWARE! It’s to expensive to purify water for an entire house, totally unnecessary (why flush purified water down your toilet?) and can damage your plumbing as truly “purified water” can “leach” copper from your water lines. I guarantee he wasn’t talking about purified water for your whole house.

Also, did the salesperson leave literature about his product? Does it use the word “purified” in it? There are some salespeople who make all kinds of claims in the home, but leave no literature to back their claims, and they fail to put anything in writing. While there is no rule of thumb as to what a water treatment system should cost (it really depends on what YOUR water is like and how much you should clean it up), generally it should be less than $2,500-usually a lot less in most areas, unless there are extraordinary installation considerations or unusual water problems.

A water specialist from a reputable local dealer should test your water for hardness, iron,pH, TDS, sulfur, chlorine, nitrates, manganese, tannins or other contaminants, which may be particular to your area of the country. You can always ask to see the salesperson’s certification. A certified water specialist will have an identification card from the WATER QUALITY ASSOCIATION (“WQA”) listing his degree of expertise (CWS-I is the lowest and CWS-VI is the highest). The WQA also has a designation for Certified Sales Representatives (“CSR”) and Certified Installers (“CI”). While these designations are no guarantee of expertise in itself, if you look for these certifications, you will you will have a greater likelihood of hiring someone professional and ethical for your home water treatment.

As to your question about possible savings from purified water, I am going to call it “softened water”. If you live in an area where the water is over 7 grains per gallons of hardness (“GPS”), and especially over 11 GPG, then you will definitely save money with a water softner. According to the WQA, you could expect to save in the following areas: soap and cleaning agents (50%), water heating (21-29%), clothing, plumbing, appliance repair, and beverages. A carbon filtration system or reverse osmosis system is often desired for for drinking water purposes. You should remember however that there are water problems which may require multiple pieces of equipment (i.e., sulfur, iron, tannins, acid, etc.) and that there is no magical black box purification system, which solves every water problem.

Did you make the right decision? Most likely, the salesman who spent four hours in your home would have made a huge commission had you purchased the system (some companies pay commission so high, you could probably hire a gangster to kill someone for less!). Keep shopping, and look for a reputable dealer with an established reputation in the community, who sells quality equipment. The five-year supply will cost you about $200, but you may not like it (I like Lever 2000, my wife likes Dove, my kids like Dial… you know the routine), so save your money on that.

This article has 5 Comments

  1. Reminds me of the Kirby salesman that came when I was a kid. Dad had him down to 400 or 500 dollars before he tossed him out hours later…lol!

    I will not buy anyting where the deal is only good for the next 30 seconds etc… what a bogus scare tactic to use on people.

    If only the Kirby guy had known my dad was in sales at the time…haha!

  2. I recently bought a dual media water softener from your website, and I have a question about salt. Do you think the “resin cleaning additives” that are in the System Saver type salt are worth the extra 20% that they cost over plain solar salt? I haven’t been able to find anyone at the stores that sell the salt that can explain the value that the “resign cleaning additives” provide.

    The Water Doctor Replied:

    No, buy solar salt. It won’t much and will save a lot of money. In my opinion, it’s better salt!

  3. i live in Mexicali, Mexico, which is the border town to Calexico, California. We are very interested in buying water softener. I am pretty new to this, and have been reading a lot about water softeners, and of course am very confused. We had a demontration at our house, where a lady from a company called Aquakleen, “tested” our water with some “chemicals”. She practically scared us with a reading of more than 612 particles in a glass of water from our tap water, into buying the water softening system which costs $3,500 which includes installation. I don’t know if she is riping us of, or if that is the real value of this equipment and the installation. I have svisted the aquakleen products webpage and found nothing of informational value to convince me to buy it, but like I said I have no idea if the system and installation is worth it. i also visited a website of a company called Kinetico, which uses no electricity in its salt softener systems. Can you help me please?

    The Water Doctor Replied:

    I am not sure what you are getting on their website, but on http://www.uswatersystems.com you can buy a professional-grade water softener and a reverse osmosis system for about a $1,000.00. It could cost $300 – $500 to install, but that is still half that price. Google “Aquakleen” and see what you get.

  4. You should never buy any appliance off the Internet that has to be professionally installed! You usually void any warranty and the contractor will not be responsible.

  5. Dave,

    1. At US Water Systems, the warranty is good no matter who installs it; and

    2. It’s not rocket science – most systems are not difficult to install.

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