WaterBoss 900 Water Softener / Poor product design, terrible customer support
After sending three messages to WaterBoss's on-line help department and not receiving a reply to any of them, I called their technical service people today because my new water softener exhibited a problem yesterday. This problem was not related to the original problem that I tried to contact them about. What I experienced when I called WaterBoss technical support was a nightmare.
I called because the Delayed mode does not work as described in the manual. Because of that, the softener can regenerate at any time of the day or night and not only will the user then be on hard water, but, if they are using hot water at the time, their water heater may then be filled with hard water which can take days to flush out.
The treatment that I received when I called WaterBoss was almost beyond belief. I am not exaggerating when I say that the treatment I received was possibly the worst I have ever experienced from anyone that I can remember in my nearly 60 years.
I first talked to a woman who was incredibly obnoxious and rude, in my opinion. My question was about why my unit was regenerating in the middle of the day when it was set in Delay mode (described below) and was supposed to regenerate at my set time of 3:00 A.M. when water wasn't being used. She said that the Delay mode "does not always work for some people." (???) When I tried to get a better explanation and one that made more sense, the woman immediately became sarcastic, downright nasty, and argumentative. When I could see that we were getting nowhere, I asked to talk to her supervisor. She said she would connect me to him but that he would tell me the same thing. Unbelievably, he (Rick Straight) was even more rude than the woman, in my opinion. In fact, he wouldn't even respond to me at times and I thought our connection had been broken. He then asked me what my name was and, when I told him, he actually moaned! I asked him what he meant by that rude expression and he said, "You're the guy who emailed us." I then asked him why, since he had just acknowledged that he received my email question, he hadn't responded to it. He said he “didn't need to”! (The question I had asked them via email was why my Waterboss 900 only held 90 pounds of pellet salt when the specs say it should hold 170 pounds. That's a very big discrepancy and it could cause a problem. I just wanted to know if something might be wrong with my unit that blocked salt from filling the cabinet. I can get 110-120 pounds into the unit if I poke individual pellets into tiny crevices which takes 20 minute to do but, even then, it holds 50-60 pounds less than the it is supposed to hold. The reason I asked about this is that if salt is not reaching behind the filter tank as it should, the proper amount of brine won't be produced. Mr. Straight simply refused to address my question, let alone attempt to answer it. In fact, one point, he refused to even respond to me and I thought the line had gone dead. I then asked him again but he said he didn't understand the question. He was clearly just being difficult. The question was very simple. When I re-phrased the question and asked him again what could cause my unit to hold 58-80 pounds less salt than it should, he simply said, "It holds 160 pounds." (Actually, the manual clearly states that it holds 170 pounds so Mr. Straight obviously doesn't even know his own product but, despite the specs, Mr. Straight insisted that they say it holds 160 pounds of salt. As anyone who looks up the product specs on-line will see or looks in their manual if they already own this unit, or even just looks at the carton that it is packed in will see, it is supposed to hold 170 pounds of salt. But Mr. Straight insisted on arguing about this. The only explanation I can think of to explain his bizarre behavior is that he wanted to argue this small point to avoid dealing with my question. He will probably feel a bit foolish if he looks it up for himself. But that was a small point so, ignoring Mr. Straight's lack of knowledge of his own product, I tried to get an answer from him again with no success. He again said, "It holds 160 pounds." (I would love to see Mr. Straight try to put 160 - really 170 - pounds of salt in my unit! That would be interesting to see.)
It was Mr. Straight's behavior that was the worst part of my experience with Waterboss. By the time I ended the call, I felt as if the support people at WaterBoss get their kicks out of treating customers as rudely as possible. In my opinion, something is seriously wrong at WaterBoss. No company should allow customer support people to treat their customers the way I was treated but the people I talked too made it clear, in my opinion, that they simply couldn't care less. I asked them a polite question and their responses were amazingly rude and obnoxious.
When I informed Mr. Straight that I was going to write a review of my experience with WaterBoss when I got off the phone with him, as unbelievable as it may sound, he said I couldn't do that!
I don't think that my experience with WaterBoss is an isolated case because other reviewers in other review forums have said they have had similar experiences. (I would highly recommend that anyone even thinking of purchasing a WaterBoss product first search for and read existing customer reviews, especially those by customers who had to deal with WateBoss support.
As for the product itself:
When you unpack the WaterBoss 900 (and I assume any of their other models) you will find an owner's manual and also a DVD. That's all well and good but the installation instructions shown in the manual are different than those on the DVD. They are each very specific but contradictory. I worked in the industry for years and am very familiar with the operation of all kinds of equipment but even I was a bit confused. Someone who is not handy may be very confused if they watch the video AND read the owner’s manual installation instructions. Either way may work but each insists that it is the right way. Toss a coin! Also, on the DVD they mention how, as a WaterBoss product owner, you are now a member of a "family" and WaterBoss is there to help you with any problem you might have with your Wateboss product. As you can imagine, that rings hollow with me after the horrible treatment that I received from them.
The instructions on how to program the unit are a bit confusing but once you figure them out, it's fairly easy. I would suggest that once you figure them out that you make your own notes for future reference since the instructions in the rather poorly written manual are unclear and ambiguous.
DO NOT use the default settings and DO NOT follow WaterBoss's recommendations to use the "Demand" mode or the "96 Hour" mode. They are separate programmable features and your softener will default to them.
The "Demand" mode is a mode of operation whereby the softener will begin to recharge the moment a set amount of water has passed though it since the last recharge. WaterBoss recommends that you leave it on that setting and they incorrectly claim that, when using that mode, you "will never run out of soft water." Nothing could be further from the truth! If you use that mode, your softener will recharge after a set amount of water passes though it no matter what time it is and, in most cases, it will start recharging when you are taking a shower or bath or washing clothes. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s logical because it will start charging when you are running water and the chances are greater that it will reach the re-charge point when you are doing something that uses up lots of water. When the recharge starts, you are then on hard water (bypass mode). That is exactly what happened with my unit yesterday and I am still getting hard water from my water heater today. If you need a water softener, your water is probably hard enough that it will cause a load of clothes to be dingy and your fixtures will have hard water ### on them - the very things you bought the softener to prevent. Even worse, if you are running hot water when it starts to recharge, your water heater may fill up with hard water and that can take a couple days to flush out of the system so you will be on semi-hard water for a day or two. Then, just about the time you have good soft water again, your WaterBoss will recycle again and you are back to square one. DO NOT use the "On Demand" mode! WaterBoss should never have set the unit to default to this mode and they should not recommend it.
The alternative and preferable thing to do is to set it to "Delay" mode. In that mode, the unit will (supposedly) recharge at a time that you set (but not always, as I learned yesterday - see below) preferably early in the A.M. When it reaches the point where the amount of water has run through it that would normally turn on the recharge cycle in the "Demand" mode, it will delay the recharge and schedule it to run early in the morning at your set time when water is probably not being used. (Note: In my phone conversation today with WaterBoss, I was told that Delay mode “doesn't always work FOR SOME PEOPLE"!!??? Not only does that comment make no sense but it is an understatement. As I mentioned previously, my unit started regenerating yesterday while I was using water and, at that point, I was then running on hard water and, worse, my water heater filled with hard water. I am still getting hard water today! When you own a WaterBoss, you are going to find yourself running on hard water sometimes even if you use the Delay mode because the delay mode doesn't prevent the unit from regenerating at any time of the day as the manual says it should. Apparently, when a set amount of water has passed through the unit, the program sets it to recyle at your set “delay” time. But if a reserve capacity is reached, it will recharge no matter what time of day it is, even if you are running water. That’s very poor design, in my opinion. Even my 15 year-old Sears watersofter didn’t do that. That softener kept track of the total amount of water that ran through the softener since the last charge and produced the precise amount of brine needed based on the actual amount of water that passed used. The WaterBoss’s chip is not intelligent enough to do what other water softeners have been doing for decades! Again, DO NOT use the default "On Demand" mode. If you do, you will definitely be running on hard water quite frequently and your water heater may be filled with hard water quite often. Unfortunately, as I learned yesterday, that is going to happen sometimes even if you use the Delay mode. Very poor design, in my opinion!
The "96 Hour" setting is also set by default and it makes no sense at all, in my opinion. If WaterBoss has a logical reason why it should be used, they should explain it in the manual but they don’t What it does is make sure your softener recycles at least once every 96 hours. If the WaterBoss is working properly, it will automatically recharge when needed (but sometimes when you don't want it to) so there is no logical reason to use that setting that I can think of. If, for example, you go away on vacation with the default 96 Hour setting programmed to run, your softener will recharge every four days even though no water has run through it. That's a waste of salt and water. It is the default setting so you have to manually turn it off. In fact, every time you make any program setting change, the 96 Hour mode is turned on again so you have to turn it off even if you just change the time.
WaterBoss water softeners make a set amount of brine and use a set amount of salt for each recharge. Unlike better water softeners, including my old Sears unit, it's chip is not intelligent enough to vary the amount of brine made based on the actual amount of water used. That’s very inefficient and poor engineering and it virtually guarantees that you will find yourself running on hard water at times.
The good: The unit is compact and it looks nice. It also appears to be well made. Another thing that I like is that by simply lifting the top off, you have access to all the workings of the unit including the valves, etc. That should make maintenance and repair easy - much easier than my old Sears softener which I did repair a couple times. I cannot judge it's long-term dependability.
Based on what I know now about Waterboss water softeners and especially after the truly terrible treatment I received from WaterBoss support, I would not buy any WaterBoss product in the future. And since Waterboss water softeners will recycle any time of day or night when you are using water, even if in Delay mode, I find its operation to be unacceptable. In addition, sine the main housing and media tank design prevent the user from putting anywhere near the proper of amount of salt in the cabinet, I will have to assume that the proper amount of brine is not being produced which would cause the softener to not work properly. For those reasons and the absolutely disgraceful treatment that I received from WaterBoss support, I am returning the unit for a refund and buying a good water softener from a company that cares about their customers.