DH202020

water softeners...recommendations?

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Good evening, does anyone have experience of or know of a good, low maintenance, easy to fill water softer for our new build 3 bedroom house?

 

We are in a hard water area (Kent) and being that a new high quality boiler is to be fitted, I'm trying to protect the system long term-_-

Thanks David.

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I looked around at loads of options and settled on a Harvey twin tank model.  It's great, very clean and easy to use, takes block salt which is easy to handle, doesn't need an electrical supply and only uses 18 litres of water to regenerate, for 750 litres of softened water.  It also doesn't stop delivering soft water during regeneration, as it has twin tanks that alternate, so the ten minute or so regeneration doesn't interfere with soft water delivery as the unit just uses the other tank.

It's also small, and will fit into a kitchen cabinet if need be.

The only thing to watch is the size of hoses fitted to it.  Ours came with some long, large bore hoses, but they weren't going to fit where we wanted to install it, so I had to hunt around for some large bore (19mm bore) short flexible hoses to plumb it in.  You do need to plumb it in with three full bore ball valves, so you can bypass it, and that may well make it a tight fit in a kitchen unit.  Ours is installed in the service area, next to the Sunamp PV, and you can see it in this photo:

Sunamp installed 3.JPG

It's the thing on the floor with the clear panel where the salt blocks go.

I've found that buying salt blocks in bulk reduces the price a lot.  I bought about a 2 year supply on a pallet delivery and they were around half the price some places charge.

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We have the Twintec which is, I believe, virtually identical to the Harveys machine.

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Does anyone know if the Monarch Scaleouts are any good, we are kind of thinking we should put a water softener in but the build is nearly complete and trying to run a separate cold feed to the kitchen tap for drinking will be a pain now? Our plumber has said they do provide some scale relief though no where near as much as a dedicated softner, the reviews are mixed so does anyone here have any experience

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There are essentially three types of product aimed at scale reduction.  The first is an ion exchange water softener that will prevent it completely by removing all calcium and magnesium ions in the water and replacing them with a lower level of sodium ions.  All these softeners use the same principle, and the ones mentioned above are ion exchange softeners.

The second type is the magnetic or electric coil (or sometimes some form of metal "catalyst") type that are claimed to change the charge of the magnesium and calcium ions and so reduce scale by preventing them from sticking to pipes, the kettle etc.  I built one of these about 15 years ago, cost around £4 IIRC, and it works in so far as it does stop scale sticking to things.  The big downside is that the scale just collects as powder in the kettle (and presumably unseen in the bottom of any hot water tank) and so you needs to flush the kettle out and never use the bottom inch or so of water in it, because it will be gritty with particles of precipitate.

The third type is the phosphate dosing system, where phosphate is added to the water and helps to both precipitate out the calcium and magnesium and stops it sticking to surfaces, but the phosphate also makes the water "feel" a bit less hard.  These units need regular (and fairly expensive) phosphate replacement.

I believe that the Monarch Scaleout is either the second or third type.  The "ceramic beads" may well be phosphate coated, or there may be some other magnesium and calcium ion charge change taking place.  It's clear that, like the system we have in our current house, it does produce precipitate, as they warn of it in their brochure.

 

As things stand, there is only one way of softening water, i.e. removing the magnesium and calcium ions that cause the problems, and that's an ion exchange softener.  All of the other products on the market are not water softeners, do not remove the calcium and magnesium ions and vary from being outright snake oil to products that offer a limited benefit to pipework only, IMHO.

Our softener (which is identical to the TwinTec - Harvey have licensed their twin tank system to two or three companies) was around £700, and based on current performance I think it will use around £50 to £70 a year in salt.  The general view is that those with hard water can use around 50 to 100% more soaps and detergents per year than those with soft water, so the probability is that the thing will save more than its running cost per year.

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Over the last 25 years living in Kent I have used Harvey, Twin-Tec and Kinetico. They are all very similar but for me the Kinetico was the most reliable with the Twin-Tec being the least reliable. A nice touch with the Twin-Tec was that it had a clear, see through, cover over the salt compartment. Wrekin have their own version which is a lot cheaper which I shall probably use in my new build.

 

Edit: I had brain fade, it was a Minimax not Kinetico I had.

Edited by PeterStarck

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As far as I know the Monarch water softeners require an electrical connection whereas the Harvey type don't need electricity to work. The Wrekin water softener I've got now has an electrical connection and uses salt tablets.

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Pretty much like any small single tank softener.  It'll work OK, but you either have no water, or hard water, whilst it's regenerating, plus as Peter says it needs power, I think.  The advantage of the Harvey and Kinetico designs (and they are similar and related - Harvey used to sell the Kinetico then designed his own) is that they have twin tanks, so can deliver softened water and regenerate at the same time.

The single tank units cannot do this, so they are often set to regenerate overnight, when shutting the water off for a short time may not be a problem, or they just go to bypass when regenerating and feed hard water to the house.

The supposed plus point of the Harvey design over the Kinetico is just the water meter.  The Kinetico has a simpler, but less sensitive, water flow meter than the Harvey, and so is supposedly less able to detect low flow rates.  Whether this is a significant issue or not I'm not sure, but Harvey make a fair bit of it in their advertising.  Even if you're not interested in a Harvey (or one of the others that use the Harvey internals with their own case, like the TwinTec) it's worth looking at the Harvey YouTube videos, as they are generally pretty informative about softeners in general (just ignore the hard sell from Harvey!).

I actually have two Harveys, one TwinTec and one Harvey (they are absolutely identical internally, just slightly different cases).  I bought one as a brand new demo unit from a Harvey sales chap, and also bought a supposedly faulty brand new unit (a return) for £150.  In fact both work perfectly, so I have a complete set of spares for the one that I have installed.  I installed the Harvey in the TwinTec case, because as Peter says, the clear lid over the salt box is useful, so my spare unit looks exactly like a Harvey in every way, but in reality has a set of TwinTec tanks inside.  I've stripped the spare unit down to check everything, and there really is very little in them that can't be easily repaired.  Early units had a less than perfectly reliable fill valve, but that can be swapped out for the newer float valve that is much better, and the only other bits likely to ever need work might be the meter shaft O seals (I've heard these can start to leak after a few years, but it's a ten minute job to replace them, they are a standard size) and the ion exchange resin.  The latter should last for years, unless you accidentally get too much chlorine in the water (not really a problem for mains water, except the water companies will sometimes disinfect pipes after work which can cause this to happen).  Changing the resin is possible, but messy.  It's not expensive, it's just a bit of a faff to remove the plugs and get the old resin out.  Pouring new resin in should be easy enough with a funnel.

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@JSHarris @NSS @PeterStarck - Whats your running costs like on the block salt based systems?

 

Rough £/month or number of blocks used etc. Any tips on where to buy etc.

 

Seeing the picture of the Sunamp heater in the other thread and looking at my kettle... I think I need to do something about it!!

 

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We have a single tank system that uses pellets, not blocks. 

 

Works fine and the bags are cheap enough if you buy bulk from the online suppliers. A 25kg bag will last a few months for us.

 

However it is a faff to fill and the bags are heavy when full so if you can't lug it in place you need to decant to a smaller bucket etc. Block would have been much easier.

 

However, wasn't there a block supply shortage last year? Can't recall what the underlying issue was.

 

 

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23 minutes ago, MrMagic said:

@JSHarris @NSS @PeterStarck - Whats your running costs like on the block salt based systems?

 

Rough £/month or number of blocks used etc. Any tips on where to buy etc.

 

Seeing the picture of the Sunamp heater in the other thread and looking at my kettle... I think I need to do something about it!!

 

 

We're using about one pack of salt blocks every 4 to 6 weeks, just two of us in the house.  I buy salt by the half pallet load for around £4.50 per pack, so the running cost is around £50 a year or thereabouts.

 

(A half pallet load is several years worth, 60 packs)

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3 hours ago, Bitpipe said:

However, wasn't there a block supply shortage last year? Can't recall what the underlying issue was.


There was. I was only able to buy around 6 10 [I checked] packets (pair of blocks per packet) sometime late last year I think it was. I asked the delivery guy, and from memory, it was something like two out of the three factories that produce these blocks temporarily closing at the same time for some reason.

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3 hours ago, MrMagic said:

@JSHarris @NSS @PeterStarck - Whats your running costs like on the block salt based systems?

 

Rough £/month or number of blocks used etc. Any tips on where to buy etc.

We use a pack of blocks around every 3 to 4 weeks and pay £5 a pack from our local supplier. We bought our Harveys Crown from https://www.fountainsofteners.co.uk/harveys-crown-water-softener-twin-tank-non-electric-15mm-installation-kit-c2x17510096

How much salt used will depend upon water hardness and usage. Our hardness is around 320ppm.

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I can highly recommend our salt supplier: https://www.uk-water-softeners.co.uk/

 

Best price I've been able to find, delivered reasonably quickly, and old-fashioned good communication and service. I didn't buy my softener from them, but based on my experience buying salt, I'd certainly consider them if I were buying another softener.

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Can I also suggest that if buying salt in bulk you have a think about where to store it.  I bought 60 packs, which is a half pallet load (works out at about £4.50/pack).  60 packs didn't sound like a lot when I ordered it, but when it arrived and I had to shift just under half a tonne of salt upstairs and stack it in our under eaves storage space I began to realise just how much it was (around 5 years worth).

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3 hours ago, JSHarris said:

Can I also suggest that if buying salt in bulk you have a think about where to store it.  I bought 60 packs, which is a half pallet load (works out at about £4.50/pack).  60 packs didn't sound like a lot when I ordered it, but when it arrived and I had to shift just under half a tonne of salt upstairs and stack it in our under eaves storage space I began to realise just how much it was (around 5 years worth).

 

Ha. We ordered 30 packs the first time and that was plenty enough to find space for - lasted us over 2.5 years I seem to recall!

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Similar to others, we use a pack (2 blocks) every 4 to 5 weeks. We buy 10 packs at a time for £55 4o monthly cost is circa £5. Only two of us in the property but I reckon we save as much as the salt costs in reduced use of soaps, shampoo, washing/dishwasher powder, cleaning products, etc.

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A while back I bought @PeterStarck's Wrekin 367/606 softener. (He has a new one in the new place that I believe doesn't require an electrical connection).

 

I've been put off fitting it as busy with the bathroom for one but mainly because of where to put it.

 

The house layout is a bit odd. On the NE face I've the mains coming into the small, original, cloak WC. That "end" of the house I've the:

 

NORTH WEST

- G.floor - Cloak - WC & basin

- G.floor - Main bathroom - WC, bath, basin & shower

- 1st Fl - Ensuite - WC, basin, shower

 

The cold water mains goes up into the loft, up the side of the dormer, then across the top the dormer to the other end of the house where it drops down on the SW face.

 

On the direct opposite, SW side of the house about 18m from the mains point of entry, I've the kitchen and oil boiler. So:

 

SOUTH WEST

G.floor - Boiler, Sink, Washing Machine,

Dishwasher

1st Fl - Hot water cylinder, shower pump

Above dormer ceiling - CWS tank and header.

 

Do I look to site the softener local to the incoming mains, somewhere accessible for salt dosing etc then just take a "softened" mains feed over to the other side of the house? 

 

Only place I can think of is the cupboard in the new bathroom? A bit of space in there though I know SWMBO was hoping to store a linen bin in there! The lagged pipe you see is teed off the incoming mains to feed the Geberit WC in the picture.

 

2019-05-27_07-46-47

 

Edited by Onoff

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I'm lost...can you or can you not drink softened water?

 

Sure on here there was a discussion that you could with no ill effects?

 

What's thrown me is the diagram below where it says "Hard water tee for drinking water and / or an outside tap". 

 

IMG_20190727_162317329.thumb.jpg.a0a2a7c2c60a50f45f4d41c49e10fe03.jpg

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Yes and no.  Harvey have an article that makes a lot of sense: https://www.harveywatersofteners.co.uk/water-softener/faqs/how-much-sodium-added-water-during-softening

 

Frankly, we drink softened water and I both regularly monitor my BP and keep track of my daily sodium intake, and it's nowhere near the recommended limit.  That does depend a great deal on diet, though, and I've been on a low sodium diet for around 30 years now.

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20 minutes ago, Onoff said:

I'm lost...can you or can you not drink softened water?

We use softened water for hot drinks and cooking but I use filtered hard water for my cold drinks because I have to drink a lot due to kidney stones.

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4 hours ago, Onoff said:

I've been put off fitting it as busy with the bathroom for one but mainly because of where to put it.

I would tee into the main where it enters the house, if it is possible, and use all the existing pipework in the house. Unless you have a medical reason why you shouldn't drink softened water I wouldn't worry, Wendy is doing well on it and has for more that 20 years.

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2 hours ago, PeterStarck said:

I would tee into the main where it enters the house, if it is possible, and use all the existing pipework in the house. Unless you have a medical reason why you shouldn't drink softened water I wouldn't worry, Wendy is doing well on it and has for more that 20 years.

 

Thanks. This is the current set up that I threw in when I replaced the old iron water main. This whole original WC set up will eventually go in favour of a wall mount one. (New bathroom is the other side of the right hand wall).

 

I should, if I do this, take the opportunity to continue the main in 22mm. Also need to sort why the pressure reducing valve isn't working/reading.

 

20161018_181259

 

No idea yet where I'll run the drain to. How much water comes out? Could I ditch it under the suspended floor?

 

Ditto the over flow, where does that go to?

 

Cheers

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