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Where to Buy a Water Treatment System: Big-Box Store vs. Local Professional


Deciding to install a water filtration system or a water softener is a good first step toward improving your water. But your next decision can feel overwhelming: Where should you buy this beneficial equipment?

A big-box store likely comes to mind if that’s your go-to choice for home improvement items. However, there are good reasons to work with a full-service, local water treatment expert.

After all, these purchases require different kinds of considerations compared to buying other appliances like ovens or dishwashers. Understanding what’s in your water through a professional water test is important, as the solution needs to align with your specific water chemistry. There also can be complex product specifications involved, and price is only one variable to consider. Here are some questions worth asking before buying a water treatment system off the shelf.


How well do you understand your water quality and water source?

It’s hard to treat water when you don’t know exactly what needs to be treated. Water treatment is all about customization, and the solution you choose should be able to solve your specific water problem.

If you’re seeing rust stains in your shower or tub, can you identify the reason? Is manganese causing the issue or iron? If it’s iron, what form of iron is it? (The right solution depends on knowing the answer.) Your local water service professional can conduct a water test to help you not only understand what is causing your water issues and learn about other potential contaminants in your water, but they can also recommend the right solutions.*

Likewise, if you have signs of hard water—like scale on showerheads or mineral buildup in your coffee maker—do you know just how hard your water is? The answer should be part part of finding the right system to fix the problem.

Understanding nuances about your water source can also help you choose equipment with features you’ll appreciate. For instance, if your municipal water system frequently switches among different water sources that have varying degrees of hardness, a softener that can adjust to those changing conditions would be beneficial.


Do you know the right size to buy?

Like households, water filtration systems and water softeners come in different sizes. You need to buy the right size for the unit to operate efficiently.

A whole-home filtration system that is undersized could fail to reduce contaminants at the rate the water is used in your home. If it’s too big, filtration can be affected and you could waste a lot of water.

Softeners that are too small, meanwhile, could regenerate more frequently and use more water and salt. Oversized units won’t soften properly at lower flow rates, like when running a bathroom faucet with a flow restrictor.


Who will install the unit?

Local water service professionals often both sell and install their own company’s systems. As you wave goodbye to the installers, you can be confident that your equipment is not only working, but also performing optimally.

On the other hand, many big retailers rely on independent contractors who generally aren’t water treatment experts.

While putting in a system yourself can save you money on the front end, installation isn’t always easy. There may be both plumbing and electrical components to address. There are also little mistakes that can cause big problems for DIY installers. Proper water safety considerations for installation materials and plumbing connections, for example, is important. One common issue with DIY installations is cross-connections, or when the supply-side water connection is directly connected to waste pipes.


Who will handle the unit’s regular maintenance and any service needs?

Like any home appliance, water treatment systems require some regular maintenance. Filtration systems need filters to be changed, for example, and softeners require salt. A local service provider often will sell – and even set up regular delivery for – supplies necessary to keep your system working at its best, without requiring much effort on your part.

You should also consider the support aspect. Local experts typically offer service programs for regular maintenance and repairs. In fact, with customer permission, dealers can sometimes even remotely monitor the status of smart water softeners (Culligan Smart RO App) and smart filtration systems (Culligan Smart Filter App).

Without a service partner, it may be hard to know when a unit stops functioning properly. When you do know something’s not right, it could be time consuming and expensive to find someone to diagnose and repair the problem.


How long has the manufacturer been in business?

A reputable company that designs, engineers and manufactures its own systems is likely to support its products with repairs and parts, even if it discontinues a product line. If you buy from a retailer, you may have trouble tracking down replacement parts, especially when manufacturers consolidate with other companies or go out of business.


What kind of payment options are available?

If you aren’t interested in purchasing a water treatment system outright, will you be able to finance one through an affordable payment plan? Or do you have the option to rent a unit, perhaps even with a rent-to-purchase arrangement? Local experts may offer all three choices.


Is a warranty available?

High-quality filtration systems and softeners may have higher price tags than off-the-shelf units, but they should offer more than a decade of service and strong performance. Look for products that offer lengthy or even lifetime warranties on parts. As a bonus, consider systems that come with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.


Choose your water treatment provider carefully

In the end, it’s not only a water treatment system that should give you peace of mind – where you choose to buy that system should as well. Culligan is a full-service provider that offers many solutions including water softeners, whole house filtration systems and reverse osmosis drinking water systems.



* Contaminants may not be in your water

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