Anyone know how to buy a water softener?

I’m looking to replace a water softener, and in my online searches, water treatment sellers seem like the ultimate confusopoly. Home Depot doesn’t offer much help in selecting a model. I’ve figured out that I probably need at least a 40,000 grain capacity unit based on my city’s water hardness of 260 ppm, 5 people in the house, and using about 75 gal/day/person (using this calculator).

Is it helpful to buy the next larger capacity, or is there a sweet spot in efficiency?

Are there any brands that are better than others?

What else do I need to know?

I recently saw some episodes of This Old House which covered water softeners. Look on Youtube under “This old house water softener”. They covered whole house units,

They’ve got a couple of episodes showing how to install them, and one showing a salt-free system. The installation ones have guys from Culligan doing the installation of Culligan systems. They don’t talk about how to pick the right one–they just say Culligan tested their water and brought the system they needed. The salt-free system looks interesting, but the ones on Home Depot’s web site are twice the price, in addition to $300/year to replace the cartridge. I already have the plumbing in place for my existing softener, so I should be able to swap in a new conventional softener.

I just went through this. The ones from big box stores are just fine. Especially if it’s just a replacement. Any plumber can do the swap. Home Depot will deliver a unit to your house for free.

Skip the national full-service brands like Culligan or Kinnetico, etc. They want to sell you a whole house water purification system with a monthly service. Very expensive. They will quote like $3,000 and if you balk or say no they start immediately dropping the price. I don’t know anything about the salt-free versions.

I bought a Fleck water softener online in 2012 and had a plumber install it. We have about 100-140 ppm water hardness.

It’s similar to this one and cost around $750 from Amazon:

Never ask what you need. Say, I want to reduce xxx to under x ppm.

The people you speak with will be salesmen. They can go on about the horrors of impure water and disease. Ever notice that when you are looking for a house or a car their first question is “What is your budget” then show you things near the top of that number and in the end the total is above that?

Although not your case, I did remember a scam going around up in Canada. This was a free home water test and reported by the CBC which is like our PBS.