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The latest sales programs being promoted by dozens of high-pressure direct sales personnel in American homes is based on a concept called "whole house" water treatment.

  • Exactly what is this program?
  • Who is selling it?
  • Is these equipment really necessary?
  • Are there variations of what types of equipment constitutes the "whole house" system?
  • Can these products be purchased at equal or less cost in retail establishments?
  • What should the consumer be aware of when purchasing such a system?

We'll try to answer those questions now.


What is a "WHOLE HOUSE" Water System?

A "whole house" water system normally consists of two basic components:

(1) a water conditioner(softener) designed to provide soft water to the "utility water(both hot and cold) outlets throughout the interior of the home; and

(2) some type of under-sink or countertop water filtration or purification system designed to provide a few gallons of high quality drinking water at the kitchen sink and/or refrigerator.

The water conditioner(or softener) converts the incoming water "hardness", consisting primarily of calcium and magnesium to sodium(or potassium) salts; reducing scaling and spotting of dishes, showers and water faucets but also placing a significant amount of sodium or potassium chloride salts into the entire home water system.

The sodium salts are known to be a health concern to about 25 percent of the population which is known to suffer from hypertension, high blood pressure or other medical problems such as diabetes, heart and blood ailments.

For an in depth discussion of water softeners, how they work and precisely how much sodium may be placed in your home water system, go HERE.

Potassium Chloride salts are sometimes recommended by water dealers if the customer plans on drinking the softened water but does not want to invest in a water purification system to remove these salts.

Potassium and Chloride are both EXTREMELY DEHYDRATING salts for the body - in other words, they prevent consumed water from entering the body's cells. Try drinking seawater which is high in chlorides and potassium salts and see how long you live!

Water dealers conveniently neglect to tell you about these dehydrating salts.

In come cases the water softener may be combined with a carbon filtration component(usually in the softener media tank) to remove chlorine from the incoming house water. (We discuss below why this is NOT a good idea.)

The portion of the "whole house" water system that treats the drinking water is usually an under sink reverse osmosis system, producing a few gallons of filtered water to a separate faucet on the kitchen sink as well as to the refrigerator if that device dispenses cold water and/or ice cubes.

The drinking water appliance can also be other types of water treatment devices, primary steam distillers, providing much higher water purity, removal of bacteria as well as more thorough and long-lasting protection against the consumption of the copious amount of sodium being discharged into the home water system.

We will discuss these other drinking water appliance options below.


Who is selling these "whole house" water systems?

In the last 10-15 years, the market for home water softeners has diminished dramatically for both environmental and economic reasons, leaving these water softening companies with a basic survival problem.

Simultaneously, drinking water quality throughout the country began a downward trend, opening the market for home water filtration and purification systems.

The water softening companies began to expand their marketing into the home drinking water business, quietly attempting to delete references in these marketing activities to the water "softening" business, which had been getting a bad name because of the sodium/health link issues and instead began using the term "whole house" system and "water conditioning" to distance themselves from this sensitive health issue.

In this metamorphosis from water softening company to "whole house" water treatment specialist, they also decided to employ high powered, in-home direct sales personnel who would go home to home and now sell equipment that originally would cost only a few hundred dollars as most, now for several thousand dollars.

So, if you have had a phone call from a friendly sounding person offering to come to your home to do a "water test", it is simply the precursor for a grueling, multiple-hour, high pressure in home presentation by a pretty slick salesperson, attempting to extract thousands of dollars for equipment that can be purchased at local retail stores for thousands of dollars less.

Many of the "whole house" water sales organizations are legitimate members of your local business community. Others who may call on you at random, for the "free water test" or other inducement, may simply be what are called "boiler rooms": a crew of phone operators and sales personnel housed at a local motel or short term business office rental, exploiting unknowing citizens(and many seniors) of thousands of dollars for equipment that may not even be necessary.

See the following discussion.


Is this "Whole House" water treatment and filtration equipment really necessary?

It depends on two things:

(1) is your house water exceptionally "hard", imposing a burden on housework related to dishes, clothes, shower doors, windows, bathroom fixtures, etc?

(2) is the house drinking water objectionable from the standpoint of taste or is there a concern about municipal water treatment chemicals or other pollutants such as bacteria, parasites, heavy metals such as lead, industrial or agricultural residues, septic tank leach line drainage intrusion into co-located well water or others.

Is the Water Conditioner Necessary?

"Hard" water is a subjective thing to most people. However, when water has a hardness exceeding 10-15 "grains", a water conditioner makes a significant difference. Less than 10 grains of "hardness" is usually acceptable and does not cause significant degradation of household utility water uses.

The salesperson who may come to your home(or who perhaps has already visited you) will try to make a big deal out of a simple water test when that test shows more than a couple of grains of hardness. In reality, water with 5-10 grains of hardness would be water most housewives would give their left arm for in many parts of the country.

Therefore, if your water tests less than 10 grains of hardness, the benefits of a water conditioner/softener are truly questionable. From 10-15 grains it may be of significant benefit.

Greater than 15 grains means that you will notice a significant difference in utility water conditions with a water conditioner and you will also notice new smile on your wife's face because of easier water conditions in the parts of the house normally plagued with scale or spotting.

Water with greater than 20-25 grains of hardness usually means that the standard water conditioner which the "whole house" water salesperson is promoting may not be adequate for your needs. A more robust water conditioner/softener with commercial grade and size components(such as those described in the following discussions) is strongly recommended.

Water conditioners/softeners offered at hardware or "big box" discount stores are normally out of the range of compatibility with serious water hardness and should therefore be avoided.

GO HERE TO REVIEW INFORMATION ON TOP QUALITY, AFFORDABLE WATER CONDITIONERS FOR AVERAGE OR LARGE HOMES.

Is the Drinking Water Appliance Necessary?

The need for the drinking water appliance portion of the "whole house" water system is equally important to evaluate, as well as the specific type of water treatment process being used by the appliance being offered.

This need is highly dependent on local water conditions and your family's commitment to the need for better water as part of better nutrition and health for the family.

Most whole house water sales companies offer an under-sink Reverse Osmosis filtration system(go HERE for more details on this type of system or HERE to compare reverse osmosis to other types of home drinking water appliances).

In short, reverse osmosis is a "water filtration" system which removes taste, odor and a portion of the dissolved minerals present in the incoming water. The unit fits under the kitchen sink and is connected to a separate faucet on the sink top as well as the nearby refrigerator if it makes cold water and ice from the house water supply.

Reverse osmosis is not a "water purifier", simply meaning that it does not remove or eliminate biological problems such as bacteria and other micro-organisms that may reside in the incoming water(and immune to chlorine or other water treatment processes) or from the house or water system plumbing.

Most in-home "whole house" salespersons will usually play fast and loose with the word "purifier" when discussing this multi-thousand dollar investment(with him) in your living room. The word "purification" strictly means the destruction or elimination of bacteria from a water supply; something reverse osmosis does not do.

Therefore, the first issue you face is:

are you and your family concerned about the possibility of unwanted chemicals, minerals and bacteria in your family's drinking and cooking water or are you interested in just better tasting water.

If the answer is simply "better tasting" water, a simple carbon filter costing less than $100 will more than suffice and you can dismiss the salesperson and get back to your evening with the family.

On the other hand,

if existing or potential water contamination is truly an important issue, then you need to consider not only the reverse osmosis option for your drinking water appliance but also a system such as steam distillation which far outperforms reverse osmosis, not only in the total destruction of any bacteria which might be in your incoming tap water, but also the complete removal of all the sodium being inserted into house water supply by the water conditioner portion of this "whole house" system.

Which leads us to the next question.


What are the types of drinking water appliances which can practically be combined with a water conditioner/softener in a "Whole House" system?

There are two types of drinking water appliances which can be combined with a water conditioner in a "whole house" water system.

(1) Reverse Osmosis(described and referenced above) and

(2) Steam Distillation

The positive features of a reverse osmosis system are:

(1) it is usually compact and hidden away under the sink, requiring only yearly replacements of filters and membranes.

(2) it can be purchased separately from a water conditioning company or "whole house" water treatment salesperson for anywhere from $150 to $1000, depending on water output and other features.

(3) it can provide up to 25 gallons of filtered(not purified) water during a 24 hour period(although only 2-3 gallons at most are usually required).

The negative features of a reverse osmosis system are:

(1) it fails to remove potentially dangerous bacteria which may evade water treatment by the municipal water system or which may reside in your own house plumbing, water well, water storage system or other area. Most in-home salespersons will not tell you this during their presentation.

If you have a brochure illustrating the reverse osmosis portion of this "whole house" system you will most likely encounter the caveat:

"must be used with potable water supply",

simply meaning, it is not capable of purification of water to remove or destroy any microorganism which may be present in the incoming water and which may or may not be hazardous to your family, your pregnant wife, your elderly parents, your children or yourself.

(2) it wastes an substantial amount of water during the water treatment process. Water waste of several thousand gallons per year is not unusual. The water waste goes down the sanitary drain under your kitchen sink and is not recyclable or recoverable. This is another one of the problems which the "whole house" salesperson hopes will not arise during his/her presentation.

(3) it provides gradually poorer and poorer water quality as the filters and particularly the membrane deteriorate due to exposure to bacteria and chemicals in the incoming water. Even simple chemicals such as chlorine will destroy the most popular reverse osmosis membranes on the market without frequent changes of some of the filters preceding the membrane processing stage.

This means that more and more sodium is coming through the water treatment system into your drinking and cooking water as the system progressively ages. At the end of a few months, with a typical reverse osmosis system you are drinking what essentially is tap water, mixed with a huge dose of sodium from the water softener/conditioner and of course any bacteria entering your home water plumbing as well as bacteria which may grow internal to the reverse osmosis system.

(4) reverse osmosis has a practical lifetime of only a couple of years before the entire system, including the water storage tank, needs to be replaced. Distillation, on the the other hand(described below) can provide up to 20 years of useful lifetime.

(5) the cost of operation is nearly equivalent to that of the steam distillation process. With a decent reverse osmosis system, one is replacing delicate membranes and filters on a yearly basis which typically will cost close to $150 if you do the servicing yourself. Add the cost of the water wasted water by the system and the cost per for typical family yearly useage approaches 35 cents per gallon.

Whole house salespersons typically like to say that the cost is only a few cents per gallon but that is certainly not the case.

(6) finally, some reverse osmosis system, particularly those sold at discount houses as well as earlier designs may contain dangerous chemical residues used in the actual construction of the system itself. One such toxic chemical, known for its carcinogenic and mutagenic characteristics is 1,4-dioxane, banned in California by state decree(Proposition 65) as harmful to humans.

Even so, some manufacturers continue to market such products, without the state mandated warning labels(I wonder why) to individuals who are purchasing a system they presumed would REMOVE such chemicals rather than have residues from its construction in the product water.


Steam Distillation(see technical details HERE, and news articles HERE) presents an attractive alternative for those who are concerned about the downside effects of reverse osmosis as noted above.

Positive features of a distillation system in a "whole house" water treatment system are:

(1) it can be compact and located on the countertop(as illustrated in one of the system configurations below) or located in a remote location such as a garage, basement or laundry area. Reverse osmosis occupies most of the valuable under sink space the lady of the house usually reserves for dozens of frequently used items(garbage can, cleaning supplies, etc.)

(2) it provides consistent, 99+ percent pure drinking water not only upon installation but for a lifetime ranging from 5 to 20 years, depending on system configuration. It removes the bacteria, chemicals and salts that a comparable reverse osmosis system would allow to pass through and its purity is consistent versus the gradually deteriorating water quality one can expect with a reverse osmosis system as the membrane deteriorates prior to replacement.

(3) unlike reverse osmosis, steam distillation systems do NOT waste any water during the process of producing purified water.

(4) most distillation systems are constructed of surgical grade stainless steel and have warranties of up to 15 years. Compare this to reverse osmosis systems which are made of plastic and brass with warranties of one(1) year.

(5) can be easily removed from one location and moved to next. This is unlike reverse osmosis which is permanently attached to the waterline and drain under the sink. With a projected 15-20 year lifetime, relocating a water distillation system to your new residence is a real possibility in today's mobile society.

(6)one size does not fit all. This simply means that compared to reverse osmosis, which may be oversized for even a family of 6, one can select a water distillation system to match the family size or space available. See the details below.

(7) US made products. Many reverse osmosis system components are manufactured out of country. Perhaps sending your money to a foreign country is not an issue; to some it is an issue.

 

Negative features of steam distillation are:

(1) must be periodically cleaned to remove chemicals, salts and metallic residue collected from the evaporation process. Fortunately, newer distiller designs are easy to clean and service and never require plumber assistance during these maintenance activities.

(2) uses electricity to boil and condense the purified water. When electrical costs, plus water and filter costs are added together, the cost of producing one gallon of steam distilled water will range between 15 cents and 35 cents per gallon, depending on electrical rates in your area(go HERE to find electrical costs in your area, multiply by 2.8 and you have the cost per gallon.)


What do these "whole house" water treatment systems cost, are they available with comparable performance at retail outlets and what else should I be aware of?

The costs of some "whole house" water systems sold by in-home presentations can be a financial shock. It is not unusual to find the costs of a modest water softener/conditioner and inexpensive reverse osmosis system ranging from $2500 to $7000, usually "whatever the traffic can bear".

When the customer balks at the price or seems hesitant, direct sales persons are known to cut a thousand dollars from the price, add a free VCR or even in some cases a trip to Hawaii.

There are no free lunches in the direct sales business of "whole house" water systems. The water dealers who employ such sales practices make huge profits on these systems, usually paying the professional salesperson upwards of $1000 for a couple of hours of high-pressure sales activities.

On the other hand, as can be seen from accessing the links below, costs of a COMMERCIAL GRADE water softener, combined with a Steam Distillation system can range between $1500 and $2500, depending on distillation system capacity and convenience.

In most cases, whole house water systems are sold on a "contract" basis, requiring some type of collateral such as a second mortgage, etc. because in some cases the fully amatorized contract can approach $10,000!

Some states provide a "cooling off period" of 72 hours during which the customer can withdraw from the contract without penalty.

Usually the water dealer will attempt to install the water system during that 72 hour period and once again use undue pressure on the customer(senior citizens are most vulnerable to this pressure) when asked to remove the system should the 72 hour recinsion be exercised.

Check your state laws to see if this applies before you sign any contract for long term payments for such a system from a local dealer. State law may or may not protect you from legally being bound to pay for the system, even if you found out 10 minutes after you signed the contract that you did not want the system.

Now, you can visit our website links which describe the various types of "whole house" water systems we have discussed above and that can be provided by our company at huge cost savings compared to the three-piece suit, high pressure sales program presented in your living room.


IMPORTANT: In each of the following links, touching on the individual system components on the linked pages will take you to other pages which provide in-depth desciptions, installation diagrams, component identification, operating manuals, etc. for the various components.

For more information, call toll free: 1-800-478-7342. No salesperson will call and information you may furnish to us during this sales activity will NOT to furnished to any other party.

CLICK ON CONFIGURATION YOU WISH TO REVIEW

 

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