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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: Enphuego on April 27, 2015, 01:08:33 AM

Title: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: Enphuego on April 27, 2015, 01:08:33 AM
Our water is fairly hard - over 200 ppm CaCO3 and I've been thinking about getting a water softener installed.  It looks like a water softener costs around $500 plus I'd guess $500 or less for install.  I've got a small house that's easy to work on (raised floors) so I'd just have it hooked up to the washing machine, dishwasher and shower.  We don't use a ton of water either.

The softener is supposed to save you money by saving soap and making your clothes and appliances last longer.  Plus it should make cleaning a little easier which might save some time.

Running costs seem to be salt pellets, some electricity and extra water for flushing.  I'm not really certain about the environmental impact, it seems somewhat negligible so long as you don't water your lawn with softened water or use a reverse osmosis filter.

Do these things actually save money?  I'm having a hard time imagining it given the up front costs..
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: Fi(re) on the Farm on April 27, 2015, 03:38:43 AM
We have extremely hard water and my husband installed our water softener. In my opinion it's definitely worth the money. Before the softener our clothes had a dingy grey color and wore out quicker, and we had mineral build up in the washer. I wouldn't ever do something like Culligan, their markup is pretty high and you're stuck with a contract. I'm not sure why the installation would cost so much, it only took him about an hour but he's pretty badass with that kind of stuff.
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: lakemom on April 27, 2015, 04:45:35 AM
Definitely worth the cost.  Check into the water boss brand.  Use a LOT less water and a LOT less salt for the same effect. 
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: Clean Shaven on April 27, 2015, 07:42:31 AM
We have an inexpensive GE water softener, since we live in an area with very hard water. I like it a lot. It reduces the mineral buildup around spigots etc.

One nice but unexpected bonus - razor blades last a very long time now, so long as I wipe them dry after shaving. I can use the same blade cartridge for 3-4 months, where I used to run through one every 2 weeks or so at the old house, without soft water.

Cost for salt pellets isn't bad. I buy Morton pellets on sale at around $4/ bag.  The softener holds about 5 bags, and uses roughly one bag per month.
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: Enphuego on September 14, 2017, 04:30:43 PM
Just an update from 2 years down the road.

The initial cost was more than $500 paid for the softener.  The plumbing using PEX was more than I could handle and I ended up paying a handyman to do it.  That probably costed around $500 bringing the total price tag to $1000.  I also used the opportunity to put in an outdoor sink.  I did do the drain on the sink myself which wasn't too difficult.

I ended up going with a plumbing plan where only the hot water, dishwasher, shower, laundry and outdoor sink used softened water.  It really cuts down on the salt you use and it's easier for the waste treatment plant.  The downside is that it increases the plumbing cost.  If you are looking into it, I'd go figure out the cost of the plumbing first.  Plus some people get weird drinking softened water, but you can probably treat that purely psychological issue by running the drinking water through a carbon filter ($30 easy install at Home Depot).

If I did it again, I'd hire a real plumber to do it.  When I go to sell this house, I'll probably end up paying a plumber to rerun copper anyways just because new buyers might get skittish with PEX.  Plus I should have used a bigger diameter, the water pressure is fine but not the same as it used to be.  The good news is that I used Sharkbite connector and put in some ball valves, so it would be a pretty trivial job to rip and replace it later. 

I don't notice any difference in laundry.  The cloth diapers have lasted fine.  The dishwasher works a little better.  You can use less soap for laundry and in the shower and it foams better.  Your hair will style a little better too.

It's not saving any money though.  There's no way I'll ever save $1000 in soap or from clothes lasting longer.  The diapers you could just buy new ones halfway through for way less cost if the old ones had absorbency problems.

As far as money saving ideas, I'd recommend a giant skip.  Maybe you'll enjoy the soft water but at the end of the day it's just another luxury expense.
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: yachi on September 14, 2017, 05:21:54 PM
New houses are plumbed with PEX because copper's not very cost effective.  I wouldn't go through the expense of re-plumbing with copper in order to sell a house.
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: Laura33 on September 17, 2017, 06:58:23 AM
What you are really saving is the years of life on your appliances and water piping.

And most new houses are PEX now; I'd be surprised if that turned off a buyer.
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: zolotiyeruki on September 18, 2017, 08:40:50 AM
I installed one a few years ago.  Bought a used one for $80, and it cost about $200 to rework the plumbing (had to use copper, since our building code is stuck in the 20th century).  Like you, I wanted softened water for only some things.  So the kitchen, master bath, and laundry get softened water, the kids' bathroom gets softened hot water but untreated cold water, and everything else gets hard water. 

I wouldn't say there's been any financial savings, but rather it's a quality-of-life issue.  Showers are more enjoyable, soap lathers and cleans better, the laundry is cleaner, the dishes are cleaner, there's less mineral film on stuff.  The ongoing cost is minimal--a few bags of salt per year.  I DIY'ed the project.
Title: Re: Water softener - frugal or not
Post by: Cadman on September 18, 2017, 09:30:36 AM
A second vote for the water boss. The upfront cost may be a bit more but there's a reason they're top-rated. The integral flow meter allows the unit to regen based on actual water use, the overall unit size is compact and there's some flexibility in the programming.

Living on a well, we had rust staining in the fixtures and running this with 'rust remover' salt has made a world of difference. We go through about a bag a month.