Help! My “outdoor” GE water softener doesn’t work (and I think I know why)

Paul McKnight’s “outdoor” GE water softener stops working, and he thinks he knows why. Not only was it installed by an unauthorized plumber, but it turns out it’s an indoor unit. Can this filter be fixed?

Question

Hurricane Irma destroyed our outdoor water softener. I ordered a new GE water softener online from Home Depot. It was delivered and installed by a contractor I hired.

Shortly after that, I noticed my salt level was not going down. I called the plumbing company and asked it to verify the installation was correct. The company did. It said it installed the water softener correctly, but there was no change in the softener’s performance.

I contacted GE support and I explained the situation. As soon as I mentioned the unit was outside, they refused to help. They said I voided the warranty and essentially all bets were off.

OK, I get it, but a unit does not go bad if outside for a month. I could understand a year, but this had just been a month. Eventually, I found a sympathetic representative who asked me to take all the salt out of the unit and send pictures of what was in the bottom. I did that (and there was water in the bottom). I sent pictures, and they immediately told me again that I had voided the warranty.

Then I contacted GE by email (GEAppliancesServiceAppointment@geappliances.com) and was connected with another representative who patiently listened to my story and believed that at least I should get an authorized GE tech to take a look at the unit to verify it was installed and working properly.

I think the unit is defective, yet no one at GE wants to look at it. GE contacted another repair company, but it won’t help because I live outside of its service area. I’m stuck with a $424 GE water softener that doesn’t appear to work. Can you help? — Paul McKnight, Indialantic, Fla.

Answer

Your water softener should have been installed properly and should still work. I’m not sure if I buy the “indoor/outdoor” distinction, but even if it had been improperly installed, someone — your plumber, GE or Home Depot — should have stepped up and helped you. Why? Because a water softener should last longer than a month.

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You purchased a GE 30,000 Grain Water Softener (model number GXSF30V). The Home Depot page from which you ordered it does not warn that it’s an “indoor” model. In fact, the product manual displayed on the Home Depot site seems to suggest that it can be installed either indoors or outdoors. I don’t think you, or your plumber could have known that you would void the warranty by installing it outside.

Is this a GE water softener?

You could have reached out to higher-ups at Home Depot or GE. I list the executive contacts for Home Depot and the executive contacts for GE. But it turns out the resolution on this one was far from simple.

Before I get to it, a tip for next time. Make sure your water filters, or any appliance for that matter, are installed by licensed and authorized technicians. The one you worked with initially was not, according to the company. When that happens, companies can void your warranty or deny you service. They shouldn’t, but they do.

I contacted GE on your behalf. It turns out GE had sold its water softener unit to Haier. I contacted Haier, which promised to look into the problem.

The next morning a representative from Haier called you and offered a full refund, an unexpectedly generous resolution. I should note that you had admitted to making mistakes with this installation and were willing to pay for them. This is a happier ending than any of us could have asked for.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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