Should I buy online, at a big box store, or from local providers?
When it comes to purchasing a residential water conditioning system such as a water softener, there are a few different options available at your bidding. You can pick from the following:
- Big box stores (e.g. Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.)
- Online water equipment retailer.
- Local water conditioning service provider.
Of course, it’s not hard to guess that each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, so not everyone’s choice will be identical. We all have our own preferences on how we like to do business and make our purchases.
It’s also easy to predict that the price you pay for a system online or from a big box store will be significantly cheaper than from a local professional. But wait, is price the only factor? Let’s take a closer look.
Differences to consider
- Water filtration and conditioning is a specialty trade that is best accomplished with experience in the field. In fact, many general plumbers choose to stay away from water conditioning because of the many variables involved.
- Water systems are not all created equally. Many manufacturers of professional line water conditioning equipment do not allow their systems to be sold by online retailers or big box giants. They market solely through water conditioning service providers who are accountable to the brand they represent.
- Local providers can offer you more personalized options. They are usually familiar with the water in your area, and often offer free basic water analyses. They should take the time to understand your specific needs and recommend a system that is right for you. The “one size fixes all” water conditioning approach from big box stores and online retailers, on the other hand, may not have the same level of expertise or experience in your local area and the water challenges unique to that area.
- Local providers, if they are offering a superior product, should also be able to sell their systems with a much better warranty and performance guarantee than the other options. Also, if in the future something should malfunction, a professional line-up of equipment often has more replacement parts available. Compare that to entry level equipment, where the recommendation often is- “pitch it to the landfill and buy a new one.”
- Local providers often sell their systems installed, which makes less hassle and problems for the homeowner. If the company is reputable and fully insured, that provides confidence that should a disaster happen from the equipment or installation, you should be fully covered.
- Local providers are more likely to offer ongoing service and support. Most companies are willing to come to your home and service your system if necessary, and they may be able to provide you with advice on how to maintain it properly, and the parts you need, if you choose to do the necessary maintenance yourself. Big box stores and online retailers, on the other hand, are not able to offer the same level of service.
- Local providers may have higher prices, but they often offer third party financing for their equipment if the total price is out of a homeowner’s basic cashflow budget.
- Local providers are much more likely to be invested in your success. They want you to be satisfied with your purchase, and they want you to be able to enjoy the benefits of clean, conditioned water. And it makes sense from their business viewpoint- a satisfied customer is priceless in the local community, since they are likely to spread the word about their positive experience. Big box stores and online retailers, on the other hand, may have less interest in keeping good customer relationships.
Again, not everyone’s needs and tastes are the same. If you are considering purchasing a residential water system, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each option and do your research well on each company or brand before purchasing.
Always research your local providers well
Unfortunately, some service-related businesses are more interested in making a sale than making a happy customer and maintaining a relationship with that customer. Specific to local water conditioning providers, here are some things to look for when tracking down a reputable company.
- Make sure the provider is certified and/or insured. (Water Quality Association certifies many professional water conditioning specialists.)
- Ask about the provider’s experience and qualifications.
- Get references from past customers. Online reviews can also be of value, but do read both the positive and negative reviews, if any.
- Check that the systems recommended are utilizing a proven treatment method, and/or backed by a certification approval such as NSF or similar.
- Be sure to get a written warranty on the system you are purchasing, and what all is included (e.g. parts, labor, entire system, partial system, etc.)
- Ask about the system performance guarantee (different from a manufacturer’s warranty against factory defects).
- Do not fall for short term low prices or other shady sales tactics designed to get you to commit to a purchase on impulse. Almost always, wiser decisions are made if you gather data and weigh the options carefully.
As a rule, hiring a local service professional to install a water treatment system will be a bigger investment compared to purchasing something from an online retailer, but you do get what you pay for. While not everyone’s needs are the same, if you do your research well for no matter what option you are considering, you should be able to arrive at a purchasing decision that will serve you well.
At Aquanology, we offer custom designed water systems for homes and businesses, based on your unique water supply and specific concerns. We also offer personalized services including parts deliveries, scheduled maintenances, and emergency service calls. Please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to discuss the options we can provide.