In your quest to find a water softener that provides you with clean water that is free from hard minerals, those made by AO Smith Water Technologies Corporation certainly merit consideration.
You will see that more clearly as I am about to do some in-depth reviews of AO Smith water softeners. In those reviews, I will look at both the highlight features of this manufacturer’s water-softening products and discuss some of the drawbacks that people have experienced with them.
That information will help you to determine if an AO Smith water softener purchase is the right option for your soft water needs.
Table of Contents
About AO Smith
If you like to factor in a company’s longevity when buying a product, A.O. Smith Water Technologies Corporation has got that covered and then some.
This Milwaukee, Wisconsin headquartered company was established way back in 1874. That means they have been making and perfecting their water softening and treatment equipment for well over 100 years.
Besides water softening equipment, they also specialize in reverse osmosis filtration, ozonation, water heaters, deionization, and final water treatment systems along with making replacement mechanical and electronic parts for the products it sells.
I would describe the salt-based water softeners that this company makes as being good quality products that are affordably priced. They don’t hold up well against such high-end water-softening equipment as those made by Springwell and Fleck, but you won’t pay as much for them either. A close comparison in quality and price to the home water softeners that A.O. Smith manufacturers would be those made by Rheem.
One of the biggest problems that I see with A.O. Smith salt ion exchange water softeners is that they are only available for purchase at Lowes. This means you are dealing with fixed prices that have no competing sellers to help keep prices down.
AO Smith Water Softeners Reviewed
Here is a quick overview of the main characteristics of A.O. Smith water softeners:
|Best Used For||Model||Highlight Features||Price|
Homes with 1 to 4 occupants and 1 or 2 bathrooms (AO-WH-SOFT- 350)
Homes with 3 to 4 occupants and 2 or 3 bathrooms (AO-WH-SOFT- 400)
|AO Smith Water Softener||
AO Smith 3500: $439.00
AO Smith 4000: $549.00
|Homes with 5 or more occupants and 3 or more bathrooms (AO-WH-SOFT-PRO-500)||AO Smith Premium Water Softener||$797.00|
AO Smith Water Softener
Although this is a very basic water softener system, there still is much to like about the way they produce soft water and help you reduce scale buildup and potentially avoid plumbing repairs.
This includes such traits as having a single cabinet space-saving design (encapsulates the resin and salt tank), a touch screen controller with salt sensing and water usage technology, using an efficient salt ion exchange water softening process, and having an included kit that makes installation easy (with bypass valve). These softeners are also known for having fast and quiet regeneration.
The 35,000-grain AO-WH-SOFT- 350 can handle the water softening needs of homes with 1 to 4 occupants and 1 or 2 bathrooms and the AO-WH-SOFT- 400 models can provide softer water to homes with 3 to 4 occupants and 2 or 3 bathrooms. They also work best for homes with city water or good quality well water with less than 10 ppm of iron.
The current price at Lowes: AO Smith 3500 = $439.00, AO Smith 4000 = $549.00
AO Smith Premium Water Softener
This model water softener is very similar to the standard model AO Smith water softener system described above but with a few more bells and whistles. Similar characteristics include a single cabinet space-saving design, touch screen controller with water and salt usage sensing technology, fast and quiet regeneration, efficient salt ion exchange water softening, and an included easy installation kit. They have a backup battery in case of power loss too.
One area where this premium model water softener differs from a standard model AO Smith water softening system is in the controls. It has a Wi-Fi capability where its other salt ion exchange water softeners do not. Although that Wi-Fi connection does not allow for remote operation, it will enable you to receive important low-salt alerts. A Wi-Fi or audible salt alert lets you react quickly when salt sensors go into alert mode to help you keep your water softener working efficiently.
It can also handle the water softening needs in bigger homes than the AO Smith 3500 and AO Smith 4000 models can do. This 50,000-grain unit can soften the water in larger size homes that have 5 or more occupants and several bathrooms with no difficulty at all. They also work well for homes with city water or good quality well water with less than 10 ppm of iron.
The current price at Lowes: $797.00
AO Smith Customer Service and Guarantees
Most people that have left reviews that mentioned AO Smith’s customer service are very happy with that service in some key areas. This includes such things as customer service response times and the courtesy that the company’s customer service reps show when they are helping a purchaser of their products.
One repeated area of concern for AO Smith water softener customers is that the operating instructions are not the clearest when they are trying to program the system for optimal softened water. It was mentioned more than once in customer reviews that the representative on the phone was not always able to clarify a customer’s confusion over how to operate their softener’s control head.
Although AO Smith’s water softener system warranties fall short of some competitors’ warranties which can be up to six years or even be a limited lifetime warranty, they are still very much in line with industry standards. They offer a limited warranty which includes 5 years for mechanical and electronic parts and a very generous 10 years for the resin tank, brine tank (salt tank), main control valve, and brine cabinet. It’s definitely a warranty that should be very comfortable for someone who is looking for a water-softening product in the price range of AO Smith models.
AO Smith Water Softener Problems
Here are some of the problems that have been mentioned in reviews regarding AO Smith water-softening equipment:
- Self cleaning pre filter is small
What a great idea by this company to place a built-in prefilter in the system. The problem is it is very small. Even though the company describes it as self-cleaning, the prefilter can be prone to getting clogged up too fast and cut down on water flows to your bathrooms. This can cause problems in your quest for soft water.
- Construction materials are only vaguely discussed
If you look at the description of an AO Smith water softener under its product specifications; it only states that the material used in them is ‘plastic’. For me to determine how durable that plastic cabinet is, I want to know what it’s made of. Is it a sturdier plastic material such as ABS or fiber reinforced plastic as opposed to a rigid type of plastic that may crack if an impact against it is hard enough.
- Lacking certifications from third-party testers
All companies that manufacture water softeners can come up with some good things to say about their products. So sometimes it’s hard to take everything that a company states about a water-softening product they make at face value. That’s why I tend to have more confidence in items such as water-softening equipment that has been tested by accredited independent third-party organizations such as NSF and the Water Quality association. I found little evidence of this being done with the AO Smith’s water softeners.
- Manufactured in China
Although AO Smith Water Technologies Corporation is headquartered in Milwaukee, they are a worldwide company that has several manufacturing locations. It appears from my research that their water softening products are not made in the USA but instead made in China. That always worries me a little because Chinese companies are not held to the same high standards as most American manufacturers are.
How Does AO Smith Compare to Competitors
Here is how AO Smith water softening systems compare to some of their main competitors:
AO Smith vs Rheem
I have already mentioned above that a competitor’s water softener that is the most like those made by AO Smith softeners are the ones manufactured by Rheem. This goes for everything from the size of the softeners filtration system, their single cabinet designs, water monitor functions, and their price ranges. Other than Rheem’s slightly more sophisticated controls, they are very comparable products.
AO Smith vs Whirlpool
If Rheem and AO smith water softeners are the most comparable, then Whirlpool water softeners are a close second for many of the same reasons mentioned above. That includes a single cabinet design, programmable water-saving control heads, and similar-sized and priced models.
AO Smith vs Springwell
I might have a slight bias here as I am a big fan of Springwell water treatment products. The water softener model that they make is no exception and it consistently shows up among the best-reviewed water softeners that we have researched.
It outshines AO Smith water softeners in such areas as grain capacity, sophistication of controls, and it comes with lifetime brine and resin tank warranties. You will pay more for a Springwell salt-based water softener. More details on Springwells top-of-the-line salt ion exchange softener can be seen here.
Are A. O. Smith products among the best water softeners that we have reviewed? I would have to say no. But there is a niche market for them that they fit very well. This is if you have a home that is supplied by city water (or have a low iron level in your well water) and you are looking for a more affordable and space-saving water-softening solution.
Some of the problems that have been reported with them that were discussed above also concern me as does the fact that they are made in China as AO Smith is not totally transparent about the materials used in their water softeners construction.