Water Softener “Bargains”.

They say "you can fool some of the people some of the time", but for some companies operating within the Irish market it appears they believe you can fool all of the people all of the time.

Water softeners, as with all other appliances, should be selected on merit and on ownership cost as well as purchase price. You wouldn't purchase a new washing machine without comparing the energy rating with other brands.

If something looks "too good to be true" it probably is!

In the case of one company advertising all over the web and even on television here "let the buyer beware" should be firmly held in the front of one's mind.

Now, I'm not saying that their product is bad or anything, it doesn't appeal to me for sure, but the way they are selling it is not really credible and some of the installations leave a bit to be desired.

Firstly, they are selling a system for €649.00, allegedly marked down from €1296.00, and they are throwing in a drinking water kit also, allegedly "worth" €190.00.

Sounds reasonable until you look for the specification of the Water Softener to compare and you realise there is no specification listed and that there is not even a photograph of the unit.

Having been called out to repair some of these I can tell you that a similar specified unit can be bought in most parts of the country for around €299.00 – €399.00 + installation of around €100.00. That adds up to less than €500.00 including vat and fitting.

So the offer is not worth the €649.00, let alone the € 1296.00 originally quoted. If they have ever sold this system for the price of € 1296.00 I would love to see the invoice, I bet that customer is really happy!

A bargain is only a bargain if you get a genuine reduction and receive goods to the value you have paid. Oh, by the way, that drinking water kit can be had for around €40.00 at any hardware store or retail park and the plumber would fit it for €20-30 while fitting the softener.

That brings me to my second point, that of buying locally.

The advantages of buying a water softener from a local company that you know and trust cannot be overstated. Should something go wrong with the appliance, your local stockist is the first point of call, as it would be for your washing machine, cooker or electric shower, water softeners are no different.

Giving custom to local businesses is good for local communities and keeps them vibrant, buying from internet sites and businesses that do not contribute to your locality may make sense if you were saving money, but as I have shown above, you are paying a premium to buy online.

Never lose sight of the fact that a water softener is an appliance. As such it is being fitted to the plumbing of your house. Ideally, this should be carried out by suitably qualified personnel, such as a plumber. I have seen water softeners installed in such a manner as they are treating only half of the house. Clearly this is not what the customer wanted when they made a decision to purchase. Should it have been a local plumber, they could have gotten them back to rectify the situation.

Warranty is another area where anyone looking to purchase a water softener should look at. Most units in the market carry a one year warranty. Often they will offer an ongoing warranty to cover the appliance for additional periods of time once an annual "service" is carried out.

So to be tied into spending say €100.00 per year on a service contract will cost €1000.00 over the course of 10 years. You could buy almost 2 more water softeners for that sort of money.

In most cases these small cabinet softeners are fitted under the kitchen sink where the water enters the house. Where the water supply is treated, ( ie. not a private water supply ) the only service required is if the unit malfunctions. The unit can be by- passed ( if properly installed ) and a service call scheduled. Most reputable manufacturers will offer a 2 year warranty.

Every reputable water softener manufacturer will strongly recommend a by-pass being fitted so as to enable the water softener to be taken off-line for repair, or to enable the water softener to be moved to a new location in the event of moving house.

Again, I have been called out to look at water softeners fitted without by-passes. This makes for a less expensive installation for the supplier, but it is not the right way to go. In the event that something goes wrong with the softener, you may incur the cost of a call out by a plumber to by-pass the softener and restore water to the house. In my experience scheduled call outs are half the cost of out of hours calls.

For a well system or a private water supply, a softener such as is offered would never be recommended. If in doubt consult a water professional, not an internet company.

Remember it is only a bargain if you are receiving a genuine reduction in price. Check the specification and compare before you make an ownership decision you will regret.

There are other Irish made products that are available locally with the support of local businesses you know and trust.