Water softeners - what do I need to know?

(30 Posts)
Murtette Thu 20-Sep-12 21:58:07

Today's kitchen question is about water softeners. We have horribly hard water so, when doing the kitchen, it seems sensible to get a water softener installed. What do I need to know? I'd always thought that it would cost ££££, be massive and have to be next to the boiler but I'm being told that I can have a smallish unit which costs about £150 and can be under the sink. It sounds a bit too good to be true. Any advice?

OliviaLMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 20-Sep-12 22:00:34

Aha. I know this one. Depends on the thickness of your water main I think.
Mine (installed but not yet working) as a fair bit £££ than that
Also need to factor in buying of salt - they use up more than a dw for example
I am dreaming of super shiny taps in my new bathroom (and admit that perhaps I need to get out more)

Murtette Thu 20-Sep-12 22:08:28

How on earth do I find out the thickness of my water main?!!!
The amount I save on limescale remover (and on paying the cleaners to apply it!) will surely outweigh the cost of the salt!! And it will be so nice to have properly clean hair. And to give my toddler a proper bubbly bath. That's another cost saving - DP not using half a bottle of bubble bath each time he does bathtime!

Lavendersbluedillydilly1969 Thu 20-Sep-12 22:14:44

We have had a softener for a few years now. It's small, basic, fits under the kitchen sink and does the job brilliantly. It costs about £80 a year to run salt wise and we just buy from home base so you can probably get cheaper.
It makes a huge difference to cleaning in a hard water area and I would never be without one again.

PigletJohn Thu 20-Sep-12 22:21:45

£150 sounds too little. £400 or £500 would be believable, or more.

Are you sure they are not trying to sell you a device that fails to magnetise the water, rather than removing the calcium? Or perhaps it is a miniature filter that squirts out purified drinking water by the glassful?

A real water softener works by ionic exchange, removes the calcium from the wayer, and you have to tip a sack of granular salt into it every month or two.

PigletJohn Thu 20-Sep-12 22:26:23

this is a water softener

this is a drinking water filter

this doesn't actually work at all except in so far as a copper bracelet cures rheumatism, or a coffee enema cures cancer

housebyariver Thu 20-Sep-12 22:38:56

I bought a water softener in 1984 and it cost about £400 - I think it was classified as an industrial water softener. I live in Suffolk in a very hard water area. It is a 3 foot high cylinder with a water meter on top (so you set it to run every 2500 litres) with a white plastic dustbin type salt holder which takes up to 4 25kg bags of salt to fill standing next to it. As it is a bit noisy when it is regenerating it is installed in the utility room. Worth every penny. I always shop around for the bags of salt as you can be ripped off by the big chains - currently my milkman delivers 5 25kg bags of salt for £35.00
If you have the space in a garage or utility room or shed then get the largest machine you can afford, and preferably one where you can control when it regenerates so it is not running at night when you are trying to sleep.

PigletJohn Thu 20-Sep-12 23:29:50

glad to hear you are big and strong

my local supplier delivers 20kg sacks which seem to be getting heavier and heavier.

myron Fri 21-Sep-12 00:58:25

I have had one installed recently. It needs to be near the mains water stopcock which for many will be under the kitchen sink. I buy 25kg bags of salt for approx £7 per bag from a local plumbers' merchant.

Murtette Fri 21-Sep-12 09:13:03

This is all very useful! I will ask further as to what they are actually planning on selling me and then shop around some more. I had an idea that I'd be paying £500+, hence my initial suspicion. I do know its not a drinking water filter but have no idea how the system works.

tubsywubsy Fri 21-Sep-12 22:23:14

We had a softener installed with a new kitchen about 2 years ago. We put it in the garage, which is on the other side of the kitchen wall. This makes it easier to top up with salt and saves using up a kitchen cupboard. But you can't connect the softener to the cold tap in the kitchen - the rising main - as you shouldn't drink softened water. So we still have water marks on the granite surfaces around the sink. However, I now have shiny shower screens and lovely, lime scale free bathrooms. You also use half as much shampoo, shower gel and washing powder, so you do get a return on your investment eventually.

There is a salt softener which adds salt to the water to stop the limescale building up.

There is also the 'reverse osmosis' system which requires a tank and some really fancy reservoir and filtering system.

We have a salt one which costs us about £100 per year for salt blocks and was initially about £1,200 about 4 years ago ..

PigletJohn Fri 21-Sep-12 22:42:57

the softened water contains a tiny amount of Sodium Bicarbonate (as used in baking powder and indigestion remedies). It does not contain salt.

I think I heard that a day's worth of water contains less sodium that two slices of bread or a bowl of cornflakes or half a Rennie, but I can't find the link. There must be figures somewhere.

Softened water is not recommended for people on low-sodium diets, such as diaslysis patients and bottle-fed babies. I am not convinced it matters to anyone else. All mine is softened except the garden tap.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Fri 21-Sep-12 23:03:24

After much research (and arguments with the plumber!), we also drink softened water! One of the big appeals of a softener for me was to have a non-furred up kettle and limescale-free sink, so hard water in the kitchen seemed a bit pointless.

Softened water is perfectly safe to drink (even for babies etc) provided the sodium level is below 200mg/l. Unless you live in an area where the water is VERY hard, it's unlikely to exceed this level after softening. The water boards all publish details about water hardness in your area so you can calculate whether or not it will soften to below the 200mg/l level. (If it's above you can still drink it, but shouldn't use it to mix up formula or if you're on a low sodium diet.)

We do, however, have a hard water pipe running to the kitchen sink so we could easily change over if we ever become neurotic.

RandomMess Fri 21-Sep-12 23:05:11

I did some research on which one to buy, it wasn't cheap, about £600 and uses £8 salt tablets per month but it is worth EVERY penny.

RandomMess Fri 21-Sep-12 23:06:36

We have soft water everywhere apart from the garden tap and a built in filtered water tap in the kitchen, but if we're boiling a pan of water it will be filled from the softened water - we have a black sink so no way could we use non softened water in it!

PigletJohn Fri 21-Sep-12 23:09:07

I did once ask the makers of Brita water purifying jugs if their cartridges put sodium into the water; they say no, they use a different method, and only hydrogen is released during removal of the lime.

Round here (hard water area) the hardware stores and supermarkets have special recycling bins for used Brita cartidges.

PorkyandBess Sat 22-Sep-12 12:06:48

Ours has broken, it was over 10 years old and massive.

We really notice the difference in the water now.

I want a small one that will fit in a cupboard and that isn't £££££

PigletJohn Sun 23-Sep-12 09:32:34

I just looked at a pack of soluble Panadol extra, which contain 427mg sodium each.<end bore>

Pannacotta Sun 23-Sep-12 10:17:17

Piglet can you recommend a particular model and where to source it from?
Is Screwifx a good place to buy one from or woudl a buidler get a discount at a merchant?

PigletJohn Sun 23-Sep-12 10:56:17

I first got a Permutit, which used to be thought the best, and when it eventually needed replacement, I got a reconditioned one. Permutit went bust and the brand name was bought by some other company who stick the name on a cheaper machine.

If you buy an unbranded machine, or a cheap one at B&Q, it will probably have to be thrown away when it goes wrong.

Culligan seem to be OK, but what I would suggest is that you locate your local water-softener company, who sells and delivers salt and repairs softeners (ring up and say "do you repair water softeners?") and you will find they sell, and probably also assemble, a preferred brand, which they guarantee and repair (the main working part is the meter, timer and valve, all in one piece, and I am told that almost all softeners use the same make; nothing else seems to wear out and the softener resin is bought in from some big chemical company). If you buy one from your local firm, it is worth paying a little more if you can trust them to repair it when needed.

Mine needed repair, on average, I would say at about ten-year intervals, when the "O" rings jammed with wear and needed to be stripped out, cleaned and lubricated, and new bits fitted. It is less than an hours work for an experienced technician, so I think very reasonable. The local firm also delivers salt sacks. I am not very weedy but I find the 20kg sacks quite heavy to lug about and lift up to pour into the machine. 10kg bags work out dearer.

Never carry sacks of salt in your own car, even a single grain falling out in the boot will eat a hole through any steel it touches. I have looked in the delivery van and at less than two years old, the floor is very rusty.

If you have a combi and no water-tank in the loft, buy the larger-bore connection hoses and valves, as they let water through faster. It will cost a little more

Fitting a softener is almost exactly the same amount of work as fitting a washing-machine for the first time.

Because of the heavy sacks you tip into it, put it somewhere easy to access. Many kitchens have an unused space in the corner of the kitchen where you can't put an appliance or open a door. If you are fond of kitchen-fitting you can make a hatch in the worktop that lifts out for salt-tipping.

The softener will be extremely heavy when full of salt and water, so stand it on the kitchen floor, not the bottom of a cabinet.

RandomMess Sun 23-Sep-12 13:38:42

We've got an Atlantis 210 the plumbers merchant strongly recommended it as the bloke who designed it worked previously for all the other water softener companie and nicked the best ideas from each one grin

Pannacotta Sun 23-Sep-12 15:20:39

Thanks for the recommendations Piglet and Random.
We have a pressurised system so no tanks in the loft, but the old lead main and pipework remains and cant be changed without huge expense, so need to make sure I choose sofener which wont reduce the flow rate any further (am also looking into having an accumulator put in).
All bit complicated in fact...

RandomMess Sun 23-Sep-12 15:23:31

I've got a combi so no tanks the atlantis comes with 2 different fittings - you just specify which one you want.

Sorry - am chucking this question around everywhere but hoping for some recommendations - anyone fitted aa watersoftner yet? If so what make did you go for? My builder seems to have a preference for some outrageously expensive one that costs about a grand - one of his main arguements is you can use block salt (easier) rather than having to fill from a sack. Would rather save £4/500 and use a jug/sack. Think it is TwinTec he likes. But is v ££££

Please can anyone recommend a make?

Thank you

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