(Mis-)Adventures in trying to get a whole house water filter.

I’m allergic to the water in our area.  If I take a bath or the shower filter wears out, I end up with super-flakey skin and sometimes it itches.  Generally we handle this with a shower filter in the master shower and a sink filter for drinking water in the kitchen.  But then I started getting an itchy spot on my back where one of my bra straps hits (sort of on the right side), and we thought maybe instead of a blemish (there’s no bumps) or some kind of neurological problem it might be me becoming allergic to cloth, specifically the water it’s washed in (we’ve already narrowed down laundry soaps I can use).  I’m not convinced that the itchy spot is from the water, but we figured this was something to try.  Add to that that DC2 seems to have inherited a lot of my skin allergies, and the praise one of my colleagues who is allergic to chlorine gives his whole house water filter, we decided this was worth trying.

In fact, we decided it was worth trying back this summer when DH started getting paid again.  (This was our celebratory purchase.)  We decided it so much that I ended up buying a whole house water filter on “60%” sale from aquasana off amazon (quotes because it’s always on at least a “40%” sale).  From online searching, we determined it would probably cost another $700 -$1K to get the thing installed, and we were fine with that.

We still don’t have whole house filtered water.

My colleague had told us it was so easy.  They just hook up to the waterline and put it in your garage, he said.

My colleague does not have a corner lot where the garage is on the other side of the house (with the pipes imbedded in the concrete slab under the house).  There is no real feasible way to put the filter in the garage.  It has to be attached where the waterline comes into the house.

So we had the plumbers out and they said first we’d have to find the water line, which they could do but they didn’t have the specialized equipment so that would mean digging up a good portion of the lawn searching for it.  So they recommended a service who doesn’t do plumbing but just finds leaks.  That guy found our water line… and a leak (a real leak– that part of the lawn was definitely much greener than the rest of the lawn, we just hadn’t noticed).

So we had the plumbers out again to fix the leak.  Our home water pressure improved noticeably.  They still needed to get back to us on the cost of installation of the water filter.

Then weather happened and the plumbers couldn’t do non-emergency stuff for a while.

Then school happened and we didn’t have time to contact the plumber.

Then our sprinkler system started leaking, so we had to have a new sprinkler repair person out.

Then some hose connections started leaking (at which point we began to suspect that the increased pressure was busting out wherever it could bust) and we had the plumbers out again and they were able to get us an estimate on the whole house filter while they were out.

Then we accepted the estimate and made an appointment.

Then the two plumbers who were supposed to come out couldn’t because one had a wife in the hospital and one had a baby in the hospital (both emergencies, though with the baby it was a preemie so not entirely unexpected and the prognosis and eventual outcome was good).

Then they rescheduled for the next week when I was out of town for a conference.  They came out and fixed another hose connection thingy.

Upon further inspection, they realized that the hot water closet didn’t have enough room for both the water heater already housed there and the whole house water filter and told DH to get a shed.  DH took the day off work and went out and purchased a $300 ugly grey plastic shed and spent $30 on truck rental to get it home.  Then he put it together.  Then he realized he’d need a concrete floor or something to use it for the filter.  Then he realized the plumbers wouldn’t be coming back that day.  Then he realized the shed violated our HOA agreement.  [Update:  he has since resold the shed on Cragislist and so is only out $130, not $330, and we no longer have the ugly thing in our backyard waiting for the HOA to notice it.]

After much discussion, we decided to contact the HOA architectural committee for advice.  They didn’t give advice (the helpful lady had stepped down and was replaced by a guy who spent a long time explaining to DH why rules are important) but they gave us a horrifically lengthy and detailed document we would have to fill out if we wanted to get a shed (only wood are allowed, and boy are they pricey and difficult to find as small as we would want).

Then Thanksgiving happened.  Then Christmas happened.  And today is New Year’s.

So now we have three options which may or may not work.

  1.  (The one we’re leaning towards):  Install the filter without the pro kit (looks something like this but is 10-year, not 6-year).  This cuts the width from ~44 in to ~22 in and might allow it to share the outdoor closet with our water heater.  We don’t know yet and would have to have the plumbers out again.
  2. Remove our tanked water heater (which is going to have to be replaced in a year or two anyway) and replace it with a tankless water heater.  Then install the entire filter.  This should be possible, but it may cost another $2K, one K for the tankless water heater, another $1K for installation.  We have to do more research on this.  If money were no option, we’d be in the ideal situation for tankless as this water heater services two bathrooms and nothing else (meaning if we all took showers and baths at the same time we’d only be using 8 gallons max) and we’re in a warm climate.   Apparently the installation of tankless water heaters could be difficult or could be easy depending on where the hookups are and how big the tubes are.  Some newer tankless heaters have more standard hookups than did older models.  But we have to figure out which is which.  (Our garage water heater replacement will be another tank because we like running the dishwasher and clothes washer at the same time.)
  3. We could keep trying to get a shed just for the water filter.

Am I wishing that I’d held off buying this filter?  YES.  Especially since my back hasn’t had that itchy spot for a while (it went away whenever I traveled, so right now my primary suspect is a different environmental allergen).  And the plumbers aren’t returning our calls.

We could cut our losses at this point and either try to return the filter at a loss or sell it on Craigslist at a loss.  But it would also be nice to take a bath from time to time without having to shower afterward (or regretting it later).

So I had hoped to have a happy post about how great whole house water filters are and how it’s changed my life etc…. but… instead I have this warning post about how corner lots and HOA suck and man, home improvement sure can suck away a lot of time and energy.

Have you ever gotten a whole house water filter?  How about a tankless water heater?  Any advice on getting a small (under 6 feet) wooden shed (and does it need a concrete bottom)?

25 Responses to “(Mis-)Adventures in trying to get a whole house water filter.”

  1. Miser Mom Says:

    The more you write about your home, the happier I am to live in a neighborhood that doesn’t have an HOA. Now I also get to be glad I’m not allergic to our water! But I’m sorry this has been such a PITB for you and your family. Yuckers.

  2. What Now? Says:

    Oh my gosh. This is what I expect to happen every time we attempt any home improvement, which is why we so rarely attempt them. Good luck getting the situation sorted out!

  3. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I’d be concerned about shifting ground under something connected to water lines (i.e. I’d be hesitant to do it without some kind of really rigid footer, like a concrete slab). The self-contained slab thing my air conditioner is on has developed a tilt already, in the last three years!

    Also, sympathy and solidarity in the everything-itches department. I have some kind of mystery mast cell disorder (manifests as ‘chronic idiopathic urticaria’!) and… everything always itches.

  4. bogart Says:

    Oh argh — I’m sorry. How frustrating!

    Not directly relevant, but DH and I have talked about having a house built in a spot we’d like to retire to (nothing exotic) and I’ve internally debated the slab-versus-crawlspace (which are the two likely options in the area). Slab seems so easy and affordable but also so hard to deal with if problems arise, and your situation is yet more evidence of that.

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Aw geez, I’m so sorry! I get nervous about every single itch that I get after bathing because I worry I’m developing allergies like Mom had or I have a bit of PTSD from that horrific case of weeks of nonstop itching (hi PUPPPS, I hate you) a couple years back, so I would have attempted the same thing, but gosh it sure feels like it wasn’t worth all your time and energy.

    We’re not due to change out our water heater for a little while but it’s coming up soon and we had considered tankless. I am now nervous about that prospect….

  6. chacha1 Says:

    A quick Google suggests that for a wood shed up to 8×6, a level base of crushed stone + leveled concrete block *or* treated lumber should be an adequate foundation. If you are in a location where things freeze, I would hesitate to put any water-related appliances in an uninsulated shed, but in a warm climate this wouldn’t be an issue. In this situation, I would choose the tankless water heater nevertheless because HOA = PITA and I’ve never seen a quality wood shed that was less than $800. Might as well spend that money to have the filter etc in the existing space.

    We have an on-demand water heater at our new old house and it works great for the laundry, kitchen, and shower/tub. The bathroom faucet can take what seems like forever to run hot water (I’m assuming because it is a water-wise fixture and thus low volume) so on the really cold mornings (cold for us! 40something!) I’ve resorted to running the tub faucet for 10 seconds or so to get a flow of hot water in the sink.

    The installation of our tankless water heater seems to have been a relative breeze. It’s actually outside the house, mounted on the exterior wall on the other side of our laundry area, so the plumber didn’t really have to work around anything.

  7. Linda Says:

    Following! My hot water heater is more than 10 years old and makes funny noises, so I’m thinking it will need to be replaced in a year (or two at most). I’ve been considering replacing it with a tankless heater since it will take up much less room in my tiny garage.

    I hope you get the itchy thing figured out so it doesn’t come back soon.

  8. accm Says:

    I have a gas-fired tankless water heater (Rinnai; it also provides hot water for the heating system). On the whole it’s fine, but one thing to be aware of is that it’s not “instant hot water” as you get with a big water tank. It can take 45 seconds or so to produce warm water if it hasn’t been used in the last few minutes.

  9. Katherine Says:

    My dad and his wife have tankless water heaters (one in the house for kitchen and bathroom, one in the detached garage for laundry). They work well and are common in the part of Europe our family is from. They were installed when I was a teenager, and it was really awesome to not have to take a cold shower if you were the last shower of the morning! I’ve never noticed that it takes shorter or longer than I expect for the water to warm up.

    In our house now we have a tank water heater in the basement. One thing I’ve noticed is that the length of time to hot water is almost nonexistent in the bathrooms ( one directly above the water heater, the other in the basement) and significantly longer in the kitchen, which is farther away. Maybe we should see about insulating the hot water pipes to the kitchen better …

    • Linda Says:

      I think the only way to ensure that one gets instant or very quick hot water with a tank is to install a circulation pump on the hot water line.

      In thinking about installing a tankless water heater, I’ve considered installing two: one to supply hot water to the kitchen and laundry area, and another to supply hot water to the single bathroom in the house. I’m not sure if that is possible with the way my house is currently plumbed, but that would be the ideal since I then could run the hot water in the kitchen and take a shower at the same time. Currently, that’s a bad combination since there is a noticeable drop in water temperature and pressure in the bathroom when that happens. I’m sure that’s because the hot water tank is located next to the kitchen right now, and so hot water has to pass through that area first before it reaches the bathroom.

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        We had a recirculating pump installed with a bathroom remodel decades ago. We unplugged it after about a year and had it removed some time later. It saved a few seconds on hot water to the shower, but at the cost of much higher electric and gas bills. Better just to let the tub faucet flow for 10–20 seconds to flush the cold water out of the pipes before showering.

  10. Debbie M Says:

    I laughed at your free bonus leak detection. Sorry. And then the higher water pressure from fixing that had bad side effects–ugh.

    I bet you could find someone to just build you a small shed. And I’m wondering if the helpful HOA lady who stepped down is still findable and still likes to help.

    Yikes, good luck!

  11. What we decided to do with “all that extra money” | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] we get the water filter thing figured out, in theory we will move on to replacing the counters (I want quartz that looks like […]

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