Most helpful customer reviews
398 of 404 people found the following review helpful.
Don't buy into salt-free or more expensive models!
By D. Matheny
Since this review ran quite a bit longer than I intended, I'm going to run through some highlights for people who don't feel like reading the whole thing:
1) We had a salt-free Pelican softener before and I promise that salt free doesn't really work. If you don't want sodium in your water, just use Potassium in a regular softener instead.
2) If you choose to install this yourself, the process isn't hard at all - but don't forget to fill the brine tank with water before the first recharge. (The resin does come pre-charged so you won't have to worry about that for a while.)
3) According to other reviewers, installing the resin is a hassle; but, mine came from ABC Water Equipment with the resin already installed. They were also super helpful when I called them with a quick programming question.
Now, on to the real review!
Our water isn't super hard (around 12gr); but, the benefits of using a water softener are still well worth it to us - especially after coming from an area with harder water where we got used to using one.
About 5 years ago, I decided we didn't want to deal with salt or reverse-osmosis anymore, so we 'upgraded' to a salt-free Pelican 'softener' as well as a matching whole house filter. The whole house filter was excellent; but, the salt-free softener didn't appear to do much of anything. I kept a log as the hardness deposits started to build up - and it now looks like we never had a softener at all...
Since we're in the process of remodeling our kitchen, I decided it was also time to switch back to a real softener. I almost bought into the more expensive Kinetico or Culligan systems, but opted to try this Fleck unit out because of the massive price difference. It's seriously hard to justify the additional cost when the actual capabilities are identical; and, who cares if this lasts 5 years less since I can buy 10 of them for the same price. :)
We also decided to use Potassium instead of Salt this time around since I still don't want the additional sodium in our drinking water. I know it's more expensive; but, even with our family of 5, we're talking about just barely over 1 bag per month.
I was going to use a plumber to install this, but when the water softener arrived I decided to just give it a try myself. Thanks to the Internet and Shark Bite connectors, I was able to easily get it done in an afternoon. I did have one issue with the programming - but I called the seller (ABC Water Equipment) and they were extremely helpful and only took a couple of minutes to get everything ironed out over the phone.
I should mention that this unit came from ABC Water Equipment with the resin already installed - which seems to be the hardest part of the installation based on other reviews I read.
Since the resin was pre-charged and I didn't want to waste any potassium if I didn't need to - it took a while before it was ready to charge the first time. I'm glad I started the charge manually because I hadn't realized the brine bucket is supposed to be full of water before a recharge starts. I hadn't pre-filled it, so I ended up running 2 charge cycles that first time.
We also hooked this softener up inline with an Aqua-Pure Water Filter System since we've loved having our whole house filtered.
Anyway, now that it's installed, the water quality is excellent!
It's unbelievable how big of a difference softened water makes to how quickly everything gets dirty. Our shower stays looking cleaner longer - and we've always liked the feel of soft water. I wish I had skipped on the salt-free softener experiment altogether, but I guess you live & learn. :)
It probably sounds dumb, but water softened with Potassium has a slightly different feel than water softened with salt. It also tastes better in my opinion - although that may be in my head since I hate the thought of drinking 'sodium-enriched' water...
At the end of the day, I would definitely recommend this softener to just about anybody. It was fairly easy to install; but, it's also pretty inexpensive to have a plumber come do it if you don't feel like tackling the project. The end result is far superior than the salt-free system - and identical to the results from the premium brands. I can't think of any downside to using this system!
[*** Update 4/27/2015 ***]
This softener is still working flawlessly; but, I learned the hard way that it's not smart to completely fill the brine tank with potassium. Unlike salt, it cakes into a solid mass at the bottom of the tank and then doesn't dissolve well.
Please keep in mind that this issue is due to the potassium, and has nothing to do with this softener.
Anyway, to resolve the issue I had to break up the caked-up potassium with a garden transplanting tool and then recharge a couple of times until it was fully dissolved.
Now, I'm keeping the potassium level deliberately low (about half a bag at a time) so it won't cake up like that again. It's a little more of a hassle since I have to monitor it more often; but it's not a huge deal since I still only have to add potassium ever couple of weeks.
77 of 79 people found the following review helpful.
Don't realize how much you love soft water until you don't have it.
By Dean Buzzell
We've got some pretty hard water here in Jacksonville; even with City water, plumbing fixtures usually don't last long due to the soft limestone that permeates this area. When the low-end Whirlpool unit we purchased from a home warehouse store 10 years ago finally gave out, I looked everywhere to find a moderately priced, high capacity unit. Over and over, I read great reviews for Fleck, and reading the reviews here on Amazon really made up my mind.
The seller - Abundant Flow - shipped the unit so quickly it arrived at my home several days ahead of the earliest estimated arrival date. The resin tank was well packaged. Likewise with the brine tank - the control unit was packed inside the brine tank and it was well cushioned and protected. The only issue I had was boxes/bags the resin beads were shipped in. They must have gotten some rough handling during shipping, because both bags were split along the bottom seam for about 3 inches. Not apparent while the bags were still in the shipping boxes, but as soon as I lifted them out there were (and still are!) resin beads everywhere. I didn't lose much (maybe 4-6 cups of resin beads total), and that really was my only issue during this installation.
I discovered Shark Bite fittings, too. Wow, what a time saver! I couldn't believe fittings you simply push together would form a watertight seal, but they do. With the 'do-over' tool, you can remove the Shark Bite fitting if needed. I bought one (just in case!), but didn't need it.
I also installed a Watts WH-LD Premier Whole House Filter System at the same time. Between the softener, the whole house filter, and a couple of trips back to the home warehouse store, it took me just about 2 hours. The pictures I attached show the finish product supply layout. Isn't the prettiest job by a long stretch, but it works, and doesn't leak a drop.
As other reviewers have pointed out, installing the resin beads seems to be the single hardest task. The 'funnel' that comes with the unit doesn't really fit the neck of the tank all that well, and is very loose. You really should have a second set of hands to hold the funnel steady while you pour the resin in. The resin beads seem somewhat damp in the bags, and they can be pretty heavy. You DON'T want to have to split your concentration between pouring the beads in while keeping the funnel in place - you'll wind up with resin all over the floor if you're not careful. I didn't have anyone available to hold the funnel down, so I used duct tape to fasten the funnel to the tank while I poured, and that worked out pretty well. If you DO spill some resin, be certain to clean it up promptly and thoroughly - the beads are round, and could cause you to lose your footing and take a nasty fall.
Doing the installation yourself is pretty easy if you have just a little experience with DIY plumbing. Do yourself a favor, though, and make adequate preparations before you begin - your home's water supply will be OFF while you're installing the unit, so you must minimize the time your household can't use the toilet. 1. Make sure everyone takes their shower and uses the can before you begin. 2. Put a few gallons of water in the bathtub for flushing toilets and have some drinking water set aside. 3. Be certain you have the right tools on hand before you get started. SILICONE LUBRICANT IS A MUST!!! It doesn't come with the unit, so you'll have to purchase that ahead of time. Don't substitute a petroleum based lube - that will eventually turn your O-rings to mush and possibly damage your unit. 4. PLAN YOUR LAYOUT, and have the needed supplies at the ready. The decision to also install the whole-house water filter was a last-minute decision; it caused my layout to change, and thus, the hardware I needed also changed (reading between the lines = 'Another trip to the store'). As you can see in the photos I attached, I used 3/4" braided stainless flexible hoses. Because I was originally connecting 3/4" CPVC pipes directly to the unit's bypass valve, I purchased two flex hoses where one end was a shark-bite connector, while the other end was a 3/4" female connector that connected to the bypass valve with two 3/4" brass nipples. Adding the whole-house filter, however, required adding in another braided flex fitting (both ends 3/4" female connectors and a third brass nipple. The drain tubing also doesn't come with the unit, so you'll need to purchase enough to run both the backwash and the brine tank overflow to the drain. Purchase the right size for the push-on connectors on the valve head and the brine tank, and lubricate the connectors with silicone lube before pushing them on. The backwash tube will have water under pressure, so it can be run at virtually any angle to get it to the drain. Be sure you fasten it down so the end of the hose doesn't work out of the drain. The brine tank is a gravity-feed hose, so it has to run down and flat to the drain area. Be sure it isn't obstructed or blocked - should an overflow condition occur you want to be sure the brine will flow to the drain, and not all over the floor where you have the unit installed.
So, with just a little thought and planning, the time your home's water supply is shut off can be minimal - just a couple of hours.
Oh, one other thing to consider - your water heater may be filled with hard water, and it'll take a bit of time to replenish the hard water already in the tank with soft water, so be patient - it'll take a couple of days under normal usage - more or less, depending on how many people live in your home that take baths/showers, or how often you run the dishwasher or do laundry.
All-in-all, a great unit that was pretty easy to put together and install. The seller was fantastic, and provided some fairly easy to read guides that were pretty helpful (both via email and US mail).
I very much like having those flexible braided hoses instead of rigid copper or CPVC - it gives me the ability to quickly disconnect should the need arise, and I can move the tank around a little for cleaning the floor around it.
**UPDATED December 7, 2015**
Wanted to check back in now that I've been using the unit for a couple of months. I neglected to speak to placement of the brine tank during my original review, and I should have. The natural inclination (at least mine was) is to put the resin tank front and center because it's smaller, and that makes it easier to monitor the control head. Really, however, it's the other way around - the brine tank should be placed to the front where it gives you easiest access to replace the salt. The brine tank is essentially a big garbage bin filled with salt pellets and water, so it's really heavy. So are the bags of salt you'll pour in, so make it a bit easier on your back and place the brine tank in a location with clear, open access so you aren't trying to reach into an uncomfortable position to pour the salt.
I couldn't be more pleased with the unit's operation. Everything just works as expected, and those Shark Bite fittings I was so happy to discover still don't leak.
I need to mention that whole house water filter. I was AMAZED at the stuff I found in that filter after a couple of months - grit, stuff I can't even identify, and rust - LOTS of rust. I recall watching one of those YouTube installation videos - the tech was talking about the very fine mesh filter that fits into the brine hose connecting the brine tank to the control head. He said 'don't even install this little guy, because it'll constantly clog on you.' I didn't put much thought into it at the time, but after seeing the amount of gunk the whole house filter is trapping, I totally get what he was saying. I installed the filter with my installation, but if I hadn't installed the whole house unit, I'd certainly be experiencing clogging issues. Just to be certain I DON'T, I purchased 5 micron Culligan filter cartridges to trap even more solids before it gets to my water softener. I just replaced one after running about 8,000 gallons through it, and the deep red color and visible grains of 'something' embedded in it makes me VERY glad I thought to add it into my water supply. It adds another layer of protection in front of my water softener, and makes me feel a lot more confident with the quality of water we're drinking. If you're getting ready to install a water softener, I VERY HIGHLY recommend you consider adding a whole house filter in front of your water softener, with 5 - 10 micron filters.You won't ever regret the few extra dollars when you see with your own eyes what it's keeping out of your drinking water.
179 of 191 people found the following review helpful. See all 179 customer reviews...
Abundant Flow redefines good customer service
By Jay Gallentine
We bought the Fleck 5600 SXT because it offered great specs for a respectable price. We have very heavy iron levels in our well water and the 5600 seemed up to the challenge. Our previous softener was also a Fleck but after 23 years with practically no maintenance whatsoever it was no longer regenerating when it was supposed to. I tired of lumbering downstairs twice a week to cue the process.
Abundant Flow delivered the product in a number of easy-to manage boxes and the owner of the company contacted me via e-mail immediately after the sale. In addition to introducing himself and providing direct contact information, he also enclosed a PDF of his own installation manual. It made for quite a pleasant contrast with the manufacturer's manual! Abundant Flow provided step-by step instructions for site prep and parts assembly. The only real complaint I could make is that the pictures were a little small and sometimes tricky to decipher because of large watermarks.
Abundant Flow also addressed a number of little details that always slow down an install. They tossed in a perfectly-sized funnel with which to load resin into the tank. They pre-lubed all the O-rings. This thing was as easy to assemble as a Lego DUPLO set and I had it up and running in about seven or eight hours - which included removal of the old equipment.
I did run into a problem after finishing the install, when the softener did not regenerate as it was supposed to. Abundant Flow maintained communication with me - even on the weekend - and immediately arranged for the manufacturer to send a replacement control head. This completely solved the problem.
Overall I was highly impressed with the service provided by Abundant Flow, and with the quality of the Fleck product. Great pairing!