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Water softener advice?

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Joined: Apr 5 2003

We're in the Fairglen tract in San Jose, and because of 15 grain hardness water, we think we need to soften water. The house already had tank service (where every month a service exchanges tanks full of salt to replace the calcium and other minerals in the water.)

We're interested in getting rid of this. We talked with one of San Jose Water's for-profit water softener folks who mentioned that the tanks probably don't help for the whole month. His preferred water softener will require us to run a drain line into the house for getting rid of the hard water bits, and also suggested we get a drinking water filter so we stop drinking our heavily-salted softened water.

I'm questioning the whole idea of traditional salt-based water softeners. I'd just live with plain city water if I wasn't fearful I'd clog up our pipes and force us to replumb. For our model of Eichler, the water softener also is on the opposite side of the house from the garage, so there's no easy place to keep all the softener equipment protected.

So what are other Eichler owners doing? Do I really need to fear running non-softened water through the pipes in the slab? What sort of softeners do other south bay owners use?

And in the "if it's unusual, it ought to be in an Eichler" philosophy, has anyone heard of the AqaTotal water softeners ( or from Europe? These appear to use electric current to keep the minerals in the water from sticking together in the plumbing and water heater. They probably don't help soap sudsing like real soft water does, but they don't require trips to buy salt, don't require a drain line, and don't involve throwing tons of salt down the drain and out into the environment. They're also much cheaper than the premium system San Jose Water/Crystal Choice was offering. (The AqaTotal still costs more than a water softener from Sears or Orchard.)

Has anyone installed one of these Aqa Total softeners, or have other suggestions for non-traditional softeners?