Kenmore is a pretty well-known brand you’ve likely seen on a number of consumer electronics, from sewing machines to fridges.
However, just because the brand is a well-established name in various industries, it doesn’t mean that everything they produce will be state-of-the-art. Relying on our experience in water filtration, treatment, and softening, we can say that their water softeners are far from the best the market has to offer.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Kenmore water softeners are bad; they’re pretty decent, especially considering their price range. However, investing in a Springwell, Aquasana, or SoftPRO water-softening device might prove better in the long run.
That being said, a Kenmore might be the right fit for you. To help you reach that decision, let’s look into the brand, the water softener options they have on offer, and their pros and cons.
Who Manufactures Kenmore Water Softeners?
Kenmore is a brand that doesn’t have its own factories. Instead, products manufactured by numerous other brands, including industry leaders such as Samsung and Whirlpool, are sold under the umbrella of Kenmore.
Kenmore is a company founded in 1913 in Chicago. It was owned by Sears, a chain of department stores, almost for the whole century since its conception.
In 2019, Transformco, alongside other former Sears affiliates, acquired the brand rights. Although Transformco is owned by a private hedge fund based in Connecticut, it’s often referred to as the new Sears. So, the handover didn’t really change much.
The first household appliance sold by the Kenmore brand name was a sewing machine. By 1932, the brand had added washing machines and vacuum cleaners to its catalog.
During the 1970s, however, they significantly broadened their offer to include refrigerators, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers. Nowadays, you can see the brand’s name on almost anything, from stoves and washing machines to dryers and grills.
However, none of these goods are actually produced in Kenmore factories. They’re manufactured by other well-established companies like Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, Panasonic, and Electrolux. They’re then rebranded and distributed under the brand name Kenmore.
List of Kenmore Water Softeners
Currently, there are three water softeners that carry the name Kenmore on the market. Two of these, the Kenmore 350 and the Kenmore 420, are traditional water softeners. The third Kenmore water softener, the Kenmore Elite 520, on the other hand, is a hybrid device that brings together the features of a softener and a water filtration system.
Now, let’s delve into their technical specifications in a bit more detail. In the end, we’ll also provide you with a comparison table that shows how these units fare against each other.
Kenmore 350 Water Softener With High Flow Valve
It has a grain capacity of 32,000 and a flow rate of 7.2gpm (gallons per minute), both of which are ideal for households that have 1 to 4 bathrooms. Thanks to its ¾” high flow valve, it can maintain a steady water pressure at all faucets.
Its installation requires someone with plumbing experience and knowledge as it needs to be connected to the main water pipe of your house. That said, unlike many other water softeners that have separate tanks for the resin and brine, the Kenmore 350 is quite compact, with a single-tank design.
The IntelliSoft design this unit features automatically adjusts the salt levels required to regenerate the resin, saving salt and energy. Additionally, the regen system and water hardness levels can easily be monitored via the small screen that sits on top of the device.
The limited warranty, however, is cause for concern, despite the affordability of the product ($803). Kenmore offers only a 1-year warranty for parts, 3-year for the electronic system, and 10-year for the tank, which is far below the industry standard, especially when you consider that brands like Springwell or SoftPRO offer a lifetime warranty on their tanks.
Kenmore 420 Water Softener With Ultra Flow Valve
The Kenmore 420 is an upgrade on the Kenmore 350 with its 40,000 grain capacity, 9gpm flow rate, and ability to reduce hard water minerals by 120gpg, which makes it suitable for households that have up to 5 bathrooms. Similar to its more basic sibling, it’s NSF-certified.
On top of all this, the Kenmore 420 also provides you with water usage statistics. That way, you might keep an eye on how much water is currently flowing through your softening device.
This particular feature may show its worth primarily when the device isn’t functioning properly. Even a tiny drop in the water flow might indicate a clogged part inside the device, and the earlier you’re aware of it, the better.
Lastly, this Kenmore model has a 1” flow valve. In comparison to the ¾” valve of the 350 above, it’s able to maintain a better water pressure. That’s especially significant if you have a crowded family.
Of course, all these upgrades mean that you have to pay more. $93 more, to be more precise, as the Kenmore 420 is priced at $893.
Kenmore Elite 520 Hybrid Water Softener and Filtration System
This hybrid unit doesn’t only soften water, but it also removes contaminants like barium, radium, and chlorine thanks to its carbon filter. The carbon filter is independently tested and holds an NSF-42 certification, so you can trust its removal capabilities.
That said, the Kenmore Elite 520’s water-softening capacities pale in comparison to the two softener models above. It only has a 31,000-grain capacity, which is lower than both of the previous options, and it can remove only up to 100gpg of hardness.
Although it has a 1” ultra flow valve like the Kenmore 420, its flow rate is a downgrade on the said model with only 8gpm.
Most water filtration systems require filter replacements on at least an annual basis. However, that’s not a concern with the Kenmore Elite 520 since the filter is also cleaned during the water softener regeneration process.
As you can expect, the hybrid system is more expensive than the two previous models. At $977, it’s the most costly Kenmore water-softening device.
Below is a table that compares the three Kenmore devices on the technology they employ, their grain capacity, flow rate, capacity to eliminate water hardness, warranty, and price.
|Specs/Softeners||Kenmore 350||Kenmore 420||Kenmore Elite 520|
|Technology||Ion exchange||Ion exchange||Ion exchange + carbon filter|
|Max. water hardness||90gpg||120gpg||100gpg|
|Warranty||1-year on parts, 3-year on the electronic system, 10-year on the tank||1-year on parts, 3-year on the electronic system, 10-year on the tank||1-year on parts, 3-year on the electronic system, 10-year on the tank|
Kenmore Water Softener Reviews: Users Feedback
The Amazon ratings of the Kenmore water softeners are:
Customers are, overall, happy with the compact single-tank design and the affordability of the Kenmore devices. However, many have also encountered problems in the shape of salt bridges, parts that break up or get clogged too easily, and complicated installation.
Most water softeners come with two tanks: the resin tank, where the softening process happens, and the brine tank, where the brine solution that recharges the resin is produced. This two-tank design tends to create placement problems for homeowners, but that’s not the case with the single-tank Kenmore units, which customers like a lot.
However, that design is also the central theme of the complaints as it’s the culprit behind the formation of salt bridges. Additionally, when the device can’t make good use of salt, its parts are likely to get clogged, reducing the water flow and the effectiveness of the softening, which is another customer complaint.
Lastly, although the instruction manual insists that the installation is DIY-friendly, most customers report difficulties when trying to install the device. That’s partly because the claim that DIYers can handle it is misleading and partly because the instruction manual isn’t that helpful.
Kenmore Water Softener Prices
The price tags of Kenmore’s water softener models are as follows:
- Kenmore 350: $803
- Kenmore 420: $893
- Kenmore 520: $977
Considering that the best water softeners that are currently on the market are in the range of $1,200 – $5,000, these are affordable products.
Pros & Cons of Kenmore Softeners
The affordability of the Kenmore softeners make them an appealing choice for those looking to soften their water, but is that enough? What are the other advantages of these devices, and do they cancel out the disadvantages?
Let’s find out.
- Affordability: As we established before, the Kenmore devices are some of the most affordable softeners on the market.
- Compact design: The single-tank design saves space.
- Efficiency: The grain capacities and flow rates of all three Kenmore water softening units are more than capable of handling the soft water needs of small households (1 – 3 bathrooms).
- IntelliSoft technology: This technology uses salt only as much as it’s needed during the regeneration process.
- NSF certification: NSF certifications are mostly overlooked when it comes to water softening units since these units don’t remove hazardous contaminants. However, Kenmore still had their devices certified to build trust in customers.
- Great customer service: Kenmore has responsive customer service that offers great help when the instruction manual fails you or when the device isn’t functioning properly.
- Salt bridges: Moisture is the archenemy of the water softener salt as it causes the salt particles to clump together and form a strong, less soluble body in the shape of salt bridges. When the softening process and brine production takes place in the same tank, it’s impossible to protect the salt from moisture, so the device will inevitably suffer from salt problems.
- Clogged or broken parts: When the salt isn’t employed properly as a result of bridges, it can clog channels, get into electronic parts of the system, and cause breakdowns. That’s a common problem with Kenmore products.
- No salt-free option: Nowadays, many leading names in the water-softening industry, like Aquasana and Springwell, have salt-free and eco-friendly options in their catalog. Kenmore doesn’t.
- Warranty: For devices with parts that are prone to malfunction due to salt bridges, the warranty options Kenmore offers are unsatisfying. When you consider that other brands like Springwell have lifetime warranties on both tanks and valves, Kenmore’s warranty doesn’t really inspire trust.
Is Kenmore a Good Water Softener?
Kenmore’s water softener options are good. They’re compact, effective, and maybe most importantly, affordable.
However, bearing in mind the limited warranty options Kenmore offers and the fact its devices have been known to malfunction, there are many better options on the market. If you’re open to investing an extra couple hundred, you can purchase the Springwell SS1, which has better technical specifications overall, as well as a lifetime warranty and more high-quality parts.
If you want to stay in the Kenmore price range, we can also recommend the Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner. At $799, it’s more affordable than the most affordable Kenmore. It also entertains a better grain capacity of 42k and is eco-friendly since it’s salt-free.
Kenmore is a popular brand whose name can be seen on many household appliances. The name also appears on three water softener models: Kenmore 350, Kenmore 420, and Kenmore Elite 520.
These water softeners are effective at eliminating hard water minerals, compact with their single-tank designs, and good value for the small price you pay for them. That said, they’re also quite prone to salt problems and clogging, and their warranty options are limited.
So, if you’re looking for an effective and durable water-softening unit, it might be better to research further. Luckily, we have the very guide for that: