Big Box/ Home Improvement Water Softeners vs. Professional Water Softeners
A growing number of retail and home improvement stores are now offering water softeners. These “Big Box” store softeners are becoming quite popular as they are often half the price of the average professional grade water softener. These low priced systems can be appealling, however there are quite a few disadvantages with these systems when compared to the professional water softeners.
Salt efficiency is one of the most important things to look for when deciding on which water softener your family requires. The better salt efficiency, the less salt that your water softener will use. The Big Box store water softeners tend to barely surpass the NSF 44 efficiency requirement of 3,350 grains of capacity per pound of salt used during regeneration. In comparison, our Purifiner PDS water softeners have efficiencies as high as 5,500 grains per pound. That’s almost 40% less salt usage! Add the need for longer and more frequent regenerations and these Big Box store water softeners could have you using 1-2 bags a month. A Purifiner water softener would use as little as 2 bags every 3 months in similar conditions. Professional grade water softener’s are offer better salt efficiency which means less money spent on salt, less time lugging around heavy salt bags and most importantly less salt being expelled into the environment.
Big Box store water softeners are using lower quality control valves, parts and less efficient resin. They tend to need more frequent regenerations, extra backwashes/cycles and ultimately longer regeneration cycles. Because of all these factors, these systems will use significantly more water during their water softener regenerations. Some of these softeners have regeneration cycles which lasts almost 2.5 hours and use as much as 150 gallons of water! A Purifiner water softener in a similar scenario would only have a regeneration cycle of 75 minutes and use 60 gallons of water. Professional grade water softeners use higher quality resins and more efficient control valves which leads to individuals wasting less water.
It is often difficult to find out what kind of resin that these Big Box store water softeners use whereas professional grade water softeners will indicate which resin and resin brand is used. In most cases, you can assume that Big Box water softeners are built with 7% cross linked resin. This compared to professional grade water softeners using 8% and even 10% on municipal water lines. The idea is that the higher the cross link, the longer the resin will last. The 7% cross linked resin is seldom used by professional grade systems because of the resin being prone to breaking down. Another thing to consider is the heavier chlorination and amonia being injected into municipal water lines. These chemicals will breakdown most resin less than 10% cross linked leaving you with small plastic beads throughout your fixtures and your water hard again. Professional grade water softeners are built to each individuals needs and you will get the resin best suited for your application.
Resin quality is another factor which helps determines the overall efficiency, quality and longetivity of your water softener. The massed produced Big Box store water softeners may be using inferior low quality resin offered by the lowest bidder. One year they could be sourcing resin from company A and the next year they choose company C because they are cheaper by a few dollars. Professional grade water softeners rely on high quality water softener resins which have had proven and tested results offering the best of capacity and longetivity without sacrificing efficiency.
Control Valve & Parts
This is another important factors to consider when choosing your water softener. The Control valve is the water softener head which determines when the unit regenerates, how often, how long the cycles are and ultimately regenerates the softener. The regeneration relies on a number of moving parts and stationary parts in order to execute a regeneration. Big Box store softeners use a lot of cheap plastic parts which tend to wear out and last significantly shorter than professional grade water softeners. Parts have been known to break easily, cheap gaskets and seals dry up and break causing water leaks, and electronic boards often burn out. If this is not enough to deter you, Parts are not easily available. Individuals are forced to order parts in by calling in to customer service lines and waiting as much as 2 weeks for parts to arrive! This is because the Big Box stores do not carry parts for their water softeners most of the time. Professional grade water softener parts are accessible online, at plumbing stores and from the many professional water treatment distributors.
Warranties help provide you with confidence that your water softener is a protected investment. Big Box store water softeners will have fairly bad warranties. Most only offer a 1 year warranty on the control valve and electronics. This also raises red flags because it demonstrates the lack of confidence that the manufacturer has in their product. Most professional grade water softeners have a 5-7 year warranty on the control valve and electronics. If that is not bad enough, we all know how hard it is to claim warranties or return items at these big box stores. Claiming a warranty is a lengthy and tough process through Big Box stores. First you have to call the store, than they direct you to the manufacturer who may transfer you to another three people before you are assisted with your problem. at Aquapura, we pride ourselves on our customer service and are more than happy to help with warranty claims. For any professional grade water softener, warranties are easily claimed from distributors and manufacturers.
Conclusion: Stay Away from Big Box Softeners!
In the end, you get what you pay for and water softeners are not immune from this statement. As logical beings, we should understand that saving a few hundred bucks initially is not worth it if you are going to be spending more on maintenance and repairs anyway. The lower ticket price of these big box water softeners come with the high price tag of inefficiency, waste of time and money!