Aquatell vs Amazon Water Softeners January 20, 2020 18:52

We get lots of questions about how our softeners compare to others on the internet. And the most common question we get is "why are your water softeners more expensive than Amazon?". It's a fair question and one that we're always happy to answer. We've given the "basic" answer first below, followed by a much more in-depth analysis for those who really want to dig in. And if there's anything you don't understand, please just ask us!

How Do Aquatell Softeners Compare to Amazon Softeners?

  • Softeners like a "Fleck 5600" aren't a built system. They're a collection of assembled components. So our Fleck 5600 won't necessarily be the same as everybody else's (spoiler alert - ours is better!)
  • Amazon vendors are notorious for lack of pre and post-sales support. Buying the correct softener is an important (and expensive) decision. We answer our emails and phone calls to help you.
  • The control valve is one of two critical components (like the Fleck 5600). The other is the softener resin. We use upgraded resin that our competitors do not. This equals better performance and longevity.
  • We offer a 10-year warranty on our resin for this reason. Our competitors typically state the "tanks have 10-year warranty" but if you ask them, they'll tell you that that does not include the resin.
  • We ship our softeners with the softener resin loaded into the tank so you don't have to. This eliminates a tedious and messy step for installation.
  • There is an increasing incidence of Amazon 3rd Party Sellers shipping counterfeit products.
  • If the product is being shipped by Amazon from outside of Canada, the purchaser will be responsible for duty and tarrifs.
  • Some softeners on Amazon advertise as Softener + Iron Filters. All softeners will remove iron, including ours.

More Details on how Aquatell Softeners compare to Amazon Softeners:

What's In a Name?

Water softeners online are usually (and unfortunately) named for the control valve they use. A great example is the "Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener". It's unfortunate because it creates the impression that the Fleck 5600SXT is a system that is fully built when it leaves the factory, and that anybody selling one is selling the exact same one as all other vendors. This is just false. The Fleck 5600SXT (just like the Fleck 5810, Clack WS1) is simply a water conditioning control valve. Manufacturers of softeners, like Aquatell, take that control valve and then add the rest of the components to the build. So not only is the quality of those components critical (resin, for example) but the experience and skill of the assemblers is also important.  We use really high-quality resin (10% cross-linked vs 8%) which provides more softening capability per cubic foot, and it's much more resistant to fouling and breaking down in a chlorinated environment. This simply means it will last longer. It's why we're able to commit to a 10-year warranty on our resin. This resin also happens to be a little more expensive than the other stuff, but that cost becomes a saving when you consider that it would be very unusual to have to replace the resin on an Aquatell softener at any point over its lifespan. This is not uncommon for inferior resins.

Pre & Post Sales Support

Buying a water softener is a pretty major purchase. If you have questions, you should have them answered by the manufacturer of the product, not by visiting a plumbing forum that will give you generic answers or by reaching out to your social network. Don't get us wrong, these can be important elements to any purchase, but probably shouldn't be your sole informational source for a $1000 purchase made online.  At Aquatell we pride ourselves on putting customer education first (check out our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Water Softener) and we're happy to answer any and all questions you have about our products, including common questions like size and model selection. Put simply, we want you to be happy with your complete experience. So we'll go the extra mile up front to make sure you get what you need. And yes - this often means talking customers out of larger, more expensive systems that won't deliver any extra value than a cheaper model.

And once the purchase is made, we're still here for you! If you have questions about installation, programming, performance, or anything else, we're just as committed to getting these support questions quickly addressed as we are the sales questions. Don't take our word for it though, we have an amazing Google Vendor score, with many comments being made about our post-sales support.

Warranty

Our softeners all carry a 5-year warranty on the control valve, a 10-year warranty on the tanks, AND a ten-year warranty on the resin! This is because we use a very high quality and expertly sourced 10% cross-linked resin. Cross linkage is an indirect measure of the hardness of the resin, it's capacity to soften, its resistance to being fouled by iron and manganese, and it's resistance to being broken down by chlorine. 10% cross-linked resin substantially outperforms 8% in every aspect. It's not a coincidence that we have chosen this resin product. We have chosen it so that the resin has a very high likelihood of lasting for the entire lifespan of the rest of the components. We understand that people are busy, and nobody wants to mess around with a resin replacement in 6 or 7 years, or go through the hassle and expense of buying a whole new system. We have built the softener that we would want to buy as consumers, plain and simple.

Shipping Method

Many of our competitors (including the low price-point players on Amazon) are able to offer a slightly cheaper price, because they ship their softner as components. This means that when the softener arrives it's in pieces. Pieces that you need to put together. Most of the components are admittedly quite straightforward to assemble but adding the softener resin to the resin tank is a messy and tedious job. It's virtually impossible to do without spilling some of the resin and/or without accidentally getting resin the distributor tube. So at Aquatell, we choose to ship our softeners with the resin already packed in the tank with a secure cap on top. This avoids the most difficult part of the assembly, and minimizes the chances of errors and resulting in poor softener performance.

Shipping Origin

As of the writing of this blog entry (Jan 20th, 2020) all of the water softeners for sale on Amazon.ca ship from the United States. This has several consumer consequences.

  • it creates very long lead times (why wait if you don't have to?)
  • it increases the likelihood of long travel distances, which increases the chance of shipping damage (either seen or unseen)
  • it creates a small chance that the order could be held at Canadian Customs
  • if the product ships from the U.S. the buyer will be responsible for the duty and tariffs on the product.
  • even if the product shows no HST in the shopping cart, Amazon will add it when the transaction is finalized. 

The Counterfeit Possibility

In early 2019 Amazon acknowledged in their annual report that the prevalence of counterfeit products on their site - specifically with 3rd Party Marketplace retailers. While we have not seen any direct evidence of water treatment product knock-offs being sold online, there are many "hidden" components in a softener that could be substituted for inferior 3rd party products. This includes the control valve internal components, resin, tanks, and safety float, and interconnecting hardware.

Iron Removal By Softeners

Some of the softeners for sale on Amazon advertise that they are Softeners + Iron filters. All softeners (including those sold by Aquatell) will remove iron but, in our opinion, it is a little misleading to advertise like this. This is because there are two main forms of iron that can exist in water. One form, often referred to as "clear water iron" will be removed by a water softener - any water softener. But there is another form of iron, that will not be removed by any softener and it's important for consumers to know which kind they have. Also, the softeners on Amazon that advertise iron removal invariably use fine mesh resin. This is a type of resin where the particle size is very small so resin surface area is maximized. While this resin has the potential to remove slightly more iron than typically-sized resin, it absolutely has the potential to substantially increase pressure loss through the softener, and reduce home water flow. To make matters worse, fine mesh resin is always 8% cross-linked resin which is more prone to becoming fouled by iron over time. So the lifespan of fine mesh resin in an iron-rich environment will be short.

FREE OFFER: Well, if you made it this far, you are one committed shopper, and your efforts should be rewarded! Should you decide to buy a softener from Aquatell, add this resin cleaning product to your shopping cart along with your softener.  Use the coupon code FREECLEANER on checkout and it will be discounted to zero dollars. Used periodically, it will add extra life and performance to your softener. Enjoy!

P.S.  If you're thinking about buying a Fleck 5600SXT softener, you may want to think about an alternative. It's a fine system with a massive number of online reviews, but in our opinion it's dated and is missing some key technical features (like soft water brine tank refill), and its ease of use (installation, maintenance, repair) is inferior to the Aqualux Prosoft which uses the rugged and full-featured Fleck 5810SXT control valve. Our Aqualux Prosoft is our best seller by far because it simply offers better performance and better overall consumer value.