Harveys Minimax VS Harveys Arc VS TwinTec VS Gemini
In a nutshell, these three softeners all share the same high-end manufacturing platform, and each is the latest 5th generation water softener, launched in 2020.
All of these water softeners share these specifications;
- Each of these models have flow rates greater than 51 litres per minute continuous. They all do 55 litres per minute at peak flow.
- They all use just 17.1 litres of water on a regeneration (lowest of all block salt softeners in the marketplace)
- Each model uses just 300 grams of salt per regeneration. The salt is dissolved to create brine, and only 1 litre of brine is used to flush the captured chalk down the drain, and then the remaining 16.1 litres of water is used to flush out the flavours, leaving the water clean and refreshing to drink. The brine water never goes anywhere near the drinking water supply.
- Each model has the same high flow meters needed to guarantee high flow rates, making them perfect for multiple power showers.
- Each model has exactly the same high-performance gears.
- Each model has the same low-pressure shuttle valve, which means they are ideally suited for bathrooms over three floors.
- Each of these softeners share the same high-performance resin, and the Minimax and the TwinTec models feature a 10-year resin guarantee, while the Arc has a 3-year resin guarantee.
But, before we go further...
I need to qualify my experience and ability to give you the right information, so as to give you confidence that what I am telling you is correct.
Prior to purchasing this business, I spent many years working for Harvey Water Softeners, running their UK Dealer Network.
I know the Harvey products extremely well, how Harvey's direct retail team sell, and the facts about the other players in the market from running a network of 100+ businesses.
In addition, Harvey Bowden has been very much a business mentor to me, and our warm and close friendship plus business relationship should give you confidence that what I am telling you is accurate.
If you wish, you can read my experience and long-standing industry relationship here.
Harvey Water Softeners expertly engineer the Minimax range of softeners
You may have seen the ITV advert played in early 2019 by Harvey Water Softeners. If not, here it is here...
Harvey Water Softeners manufacture four brands of premium-grade water softeners, but how do they compare?
Let's answer some of the most commonly asked questions with complete honesty and transparency.
Is the Minimax M3 / Innova better, worse, or the same as the Harveys Arc, TwinTec S5 / Cobalt or the Gemini V4 / V5?
Let's clear up the confusion and answer that question with transparent frankness.
I've been told that the Minimax Innova is an inferior product to the other Harvey brands. Is that true?
No, each of these three models is of the same high-quality specification, and any suggestion otherwise is marketing hype.
The Harvey Arc can only be sold by Harvey Softeners directly, and this comes with a 3-year guarantee. A customer can purchase an extended guarantee to increase it to 10 years if they wish to, but it would cost them an extra £525 for the extra 7-year guarantee.
The Gemini brand is sold by the local showrooms that are owned by Harvey Softeners. You will be dealing directly with Harveys, but with the feel of a local showroom and their Gemini brands have a 10-year parts guarantee.
If you wanted to deal with a genuinely local business, Harvey Softeners have created a select group of dealers known as Elite Dealers:
The TwinTec dealers within that group can offer their clients the TwinTec Cobalt and TwinTec S5, and these have a 10-year parts guarantee.
The Minimax Elite Dealers within that group can offer their clients the Minimax Innova and Minimax M3, also with a comprehensive 10-year parts guarantee.
These models are of the same high-quality specification as the Harveys Arc, under the 'hood' or cabinet.
Each of these models comes off the same production line as the other. They share the same shuttle valve, the same meters, the same brine valve, the same gearing, the same resin cylinders, and the same injector.
Where it does have visual differences, these are created to provide a 'marketing difference' which allows people to state, "buy my product, it's better".
Each of these models have a whopping continual flow rate of 51 flows per minute and will perfectly meet the needs of a home with a:
- Gravity-fed cold water storage tank and a cylinder in the airing cupboard where flow rates are typically just 12 litres a minute.
- Mains-fed combination boiler where flow rates are typically between 24 and 36 litres per minute
- Unvented high flow hot water system (Megaflow) systems will equally be perfectly met where flow rates can be as high as 36 litres a minute!
The softeners are designed to cope with multiple power showers, plus a washing machine running, a dishwasher and even somebody flushing a toilet.
One important thing to remember: Combination boilers and Unvented cylinders are mains fed. This means that if you run a tap in the home, such as a shower, and then turn on another cold tap or flush the toilet, you will always get a reduction in flow rate. Installing a water softener will never make this worse; it's just the nature of modern plumbing systems. Ironically, the best systems where this doesn't happen are the older gravity-fed systems.
I've been told that the Minimax Innova is not geared for my specific water hardness. Is that true?
Each softener, the Minimax Innova, the Harvey ARC and TwinTec Cobalt and the Gemini are all geared for your local water hardness.
As professionals, we should all determine which softener is right for your home by measuring the water hardness using a very accurate Hach test kit. From that, the right softener can be specified for your home.
Why does Harvey have different brands?
The first thing you need to know is that Harvey Softeners is the only manufacturer of water softeners in the United Kingdom. Almost every other domestic softener sold in the UK is imported from America or China.
Some companies claim to be British, but they are just assemblers, meaning they just buy foreign components from around the world and assemble them locally. By a quirk of technicality, because they have changed the product by doing the assembly here in the UK from what was imported as a component, they can place a 'Made in Britain' badge on their products! Odd hey!
Harveys stands alone as the only true British manufacturer, from designing, moulding, assembling and testing in Woking, Surrey. They take the UK very seriously, investing millions of pounds every year into growing the UK marketplace, as well as in product research & development, and best-in-class manufacturer back-up.
How Kinetico UK became Harvey Softeners
From the days when Harvey traded as Kinetico softeners, Harvey Bowden, chairman of Harvey Softeners, always believed that customers in the UK deserved a better quality of softened water than that which most of the softeners available at that time in the UK provided.
In those days, as Kinetico, Harvey tried to make improvements to the American Kinetico softener. He started off by purchasing the valve, the main component, from the USA, made his own cabinets, sourced his own cylinders and made Kinetico a household name across the UK.
As time went by, Harvey made subtle changes to the Kinetico to overcome problems that he noted customers were experiencing in their homes.
In England, there are traditionally three plumbing systems: Loft tanks, Combination boilers, and Unvented cylinders. Harvey found that the Kinetico softener performed poorly across the different types of British plumbing systems. With the agreement of Kinetico USA, he was able to create for the UK a low flow Kinetico model (called High Efficiency for marketing purposes) suitable for loft tank systems and a high flow model for homes with combination boilers or unvented cylinders. Along the way, Harvey also invented block salt.
Eventually, Kinetico USA got fed up with Harvey's 'tinkering' and told him to either put up with their product as it was or go back to England and sell something else. Understandably, Kinetico saw the UK market as tiny in comparison to their American market and was reluctant to invest in a UK product.
And so, Harvey took their advice and stopped selling the Kinetico. He followed his dream to create a British softener for all British homes.
Harvey Softeners were born.
Harvey wanted to produce a water softener that could work in every British home, regardless of the type of hot water and heating system installed.
He didn't feel it right that British customers had to compromise between high flow rates or high efficiency, and he didn't feel it right that a softener fitted to mains water in the UK should wastewater unnecessarily by having a backwash facility – something that is needed in America where the water is dirtier.
Admittedly, he did recognise that removing the backwash facility would mean he could not go and sell his products in America. Still, that was never his plan – he was making a softener for British homes. By removing the backwash facility, he saved the customer between 6–7 litres of water per regeneration – quite a substantial saving!
How the different Harvey brands came about
When Harvey started as Kinetico, he sold his softeners through a group of small family-run businesses across the UK. He continued that model when he separated from Kinetico and created Harvey Softeners. The Harvey dealer brand was called TwinTec.
Harvey then continued selling directly to the homeowner through his employed sales reps and developed a brand for the direct sales team. Today, the brand his direct sales team sells is called the "Harveys ARC", their 5th generation softener.
When I got made redundant from EcoWater at the start of the credit crunch in 2008, unbeknownst to me at the time, almost all of the EcoWater dealers took the bulk of their business away from EcoWater in protest to my redundancy (I had been running the EcoWater dealer network and had built up a lot of loyalty within their network). 23 of 26 of these dealers took their business to Harvey Softeners instead.
At that time, there was no space in the TwinTec group for these dealers as many of them were based in areas where there were already TwinTec dealers. So Harvey's son, Casey, who was Sales Director at the time, decided that the time had come to create another premium brand to accommodate this new group of water treatment professionals – Casey named this group "Minimax", and then began to look for someone to lead that dealer group.
While getting to know the Minimax dealers, Casey heard of me and began to put out feelers to find out what I was doing, and to meet me without letting it be known why he wanted to meet me.
I had stayed in the industry and was running a water softener and window cleaning equipment manufacturing business in Basingstoke at the time.
About a year into that role, Casey and Harvey approached me and invited me to join Harvey Softeners, with a view to managing the former EcoWater dealer group, now called Minimax. Casey had also dumped into this group a range of other local dealers that didn't fit anywhere else in the Harvey structure, creating a group total of 120+ businesses.
It took me a year to make up my mind, but I have never looked back. Within a few years, I took the Minimax group from the smallest-selling group in the UK to the biggest-selling group of dealers in Europe.
If Harvey Softeners only sold the Arc products directly through their own sales channel, and they didn't have their two main dealer groups as well, they wouldn't sell enough softeners in the UK to make it viable to invest so heavily in research, clever engineering and advanced industry-leading manufacturing processes.
This is the reason that Harvey Softeners have three main routes to market for their premium brands. This way, the customer can have three separate opportunities to get quotes and to find the best business to look after their needs.
Harveys manufacture these three top brands to help grow the marketplace in the UK, which are equal in performance, flow rates and efficiency.
This means that no one of these softeners is better than the other. They are all excellent water softeners.
Can a Minimax dealer sell another brand of Harvey machine, such as the ARC or the TwinTec or the Gemini?
No, each brand is independent of the other, and their brand is exclusive to that retail group.
The three routes to market of these top brands mean that a TwinTec dealer can only sell the TwinTec brand, Harveys Retail (their direct sales team) can only sell the ARC brand, and Minimax dealers can only sell the Minimax brand. Similarly, the Gemini range can only be sold by the Harvey locally run showrooms.
While the Harveys ARC brand is sold directly from Harveys, and a sales rep from Harveys will come out to see you, a Minimax and TwinTec dealer is a local family-run business that is only permitted to operate within strict geographical areas. The 'local businesses' that Harveys owns directly sell the Gemini. The reason they trade under local business names, such as Waterways, and not Harvey Softeners, is because Harveys purchased local businesses some years ago, and prefers to keep these as apparent separate businesses.
TwinTec dealers were historically a little more tied to selling just Harvey products. In contrast, Minimax Dealers have always been more independent and thus have tended to access more products in the marketplace. Overall, this approach has generally given the average Minimax dealer more knowledge of all the products available for customers.
This marketing approach allows the three brands to work cohesively in the same geographic areas, which gives the customer more choice from where to seek advice and who to buy from, hopefully selecting the business they would better prefer to have a long-term relationship with, which gives Harvey's three bites at the cherry to hopefully convince the customer that theirs is the best overall product for their home.
As the only British manufacturer, Harvey's needs the exposure to enable them to cover their high manufacturing costs.
I'm being told that one brand is better than the other or has better features. How true is this?
It can happen that the Harvey directly employed sales rep, the TwinTec dealer, or the MiniMax dealer is each typically trying to portray his or her Harvey manufactured softener as better than the other, and this might create confusion for the customer and could even breed untruths.
The benefit to them of doing this is that the confusion helps push the price up, but the downside is that the customer can get told these untruths, which can lead to distrust in the products and the industry.
The one thing I will insist on my team or myself to stand for here at Hydroworks is honesty, and so with my experience of the industry and Harveys, do permit me to clear these questions up once and for all as we have ourselves had these untruths used against us, as have so many other hard-working family-run local businesses around us.
Among the top 4 named softeners, the Harvey ARC, the Minimax the TwinTec, and the Gemini these all offer the same excellent features.
Each of these four top brand models is pressure tested to in excess of 1 million cycles at 10-bar - that's equivalent to far more than 100 years of reliable use on a family of 4!
In fact, in their testing, they decided to stop testing at 1 million cycles rather than stopping because the softener had stopped working. Their closest competitor stopped performing at approximately 70,000 cycles under the same test conditions.
Is there much difference between these three top-specification brands?
Under 'the hood', the Minimax Innova, TwinTec Cobalt S5 and Harveys ARC are all very similar indeed - They are almost identical in every way.
All three brands have the same low salt consumption and water efficiency at just 17.1 litres of water used for regeneration. All feature high flow rates, which are significantly greater than any UK standard domestic hot water system. All have the same metering, gearing, shuttle valve, injector, meter housings and resin tanks.
Each of the three models is filled with a highly chlorine-tolerant resin, and the Minimax and TwinTec brands both share a 10-year guarantee on the resin against chlorine contamination.
While we accept that there are indeed some differences in terms of specification, these are for marketing purposes, such as the fully adjustable brine valve on the TwinTec Cobalt and Harveys ARC.
These 'fully adjustable brine valves' come 'factory set', and there is a big label on the softener that asks dealers and customers alike not to adjust it (image right). In my experience, despite a big red label saying "DO NOT ADJUST", these are frequently adjusted by the reseller – meaning that the customer buys more salt than necessary.
The Minimax Dealer Network was lucky enough to have a brine valve fitted that cannot be easily adjusted unless it absolutely needs to be, in which case that requires specialist knowledge and takes time. This excellent safety feature prevents someone from adjusting the brine valve simply to make the customer buy or use more salt. This feature has become one of the most popular features of the Minimax, as it keeps things simple, highly effective and efficient. And probably ultimately saves the customer money too!
The Minimax Innova has an adjustable professional 2-stage brine valve suitable for every hard water circumstance in the UK.
The differences between the three brands are more marketing-related.
Each of these three brands are exceptionally high-quality water softeners, and should easily last beyond 25–30 years and probably much, much longer, too!
Resins! I hear the Minimax resin is inferior to the TwinTec or the Harveys. What's the story here?
Nowadays, there is no difference in the resin of the top brands, but in days gone by, historically, there was indeed a difference.
This is marketing hype at its very worst. Harveys are too clever a company to have their three top-selling brands with a poorer resin quality in the biggest-selling dealer brand.
In the early days of my time at Harvey Softeners, when I first ran their Minimax dealer network, the resin of the TwinTec and Harveys was indeed different to the Minimax, and had about 69 L better capacity than the Minimax, per regeneration. In those days, Minimax was a small dealer group with small sales, and so this was fair enough. Today, Minimax is the predominant selling dealer group.
However, along came chlorine contamination (where chlorine damages the resin), and there were only two resin beads classed as 'highly chlorine tolerant'.
Both resin beads were almost identical in capacity (about 4.5L better on the small bead, and a little cheaper per litre of resin to purchase), and one was a slightly larger bead which had the approximate 4.5L lesser capacity but was a more expensive resin to buy.
At that time, because the resins had 'evened up' in performance, Harvey said he wanted to streamline the manufacturing by buying just one resin bead rather than two, but the biggest Dealer brand in the country, TwinTec were insistent that their softener had to have the same smaller bead and 'better' capacity to that which was used in Minimax softeners – They felt they needed a perceived improvement so that the TwinTec resellers could sell on the prospect of this 'great benefit of better capacity.
It is great to see that Harveys today has cleared up this confusion by giving its top brands an equal specification and performance.
So what is the reason behind the different guarantees if the products are so similar?
What seems to matter to some customers, has absolutely no bearing on other customers.
The 10-year dealer guarantee has always been controversial. The Minimax and TwinTec brands both feature a manufacturer-backed 10-year parts guarantee and 2-year labour guarantee, while the Harveys retail team has a 3-year parts guarantee.
That said, the softeners are all so very reliable, and your need to call upon the guarantee is almost obsolete, which is why the Harveys ARC comes with only a 3-year guarantee. Harvey builds a product to last as its reputation depends on it.
This is PROPER British manufacturing at its best!
So, if they're all very similar, how can you as a customer choose the right softener and brand for you?
Well, as previously mentioned, each of the 3 brands is sold by a separate company. TwinTec is sold by TwinTec Dealers, the HV4 is sold by Harveys Retail directly, and Minimax is sold by Minimax dealers. We are a Minimax dealer, and in fact, Laurence used to run the Minimax Dealer network for Harveys for many years prior to branching off and buying this business in August 2016.
As all three products are equally good, our advice would be to simply choose the company you got on better with, and whom you want to look after you.
Certainly, we'll do our best to make sure you feel we are that company. You won't deal with a rep or an installer whom you won't see again, but instead, you'll meet myself, Laurence, my excellent installation engineers, Gavin and Alex, and each time you call in, you'll speak to either Daniel, Tracy or myself. We'll deliver your salt to you (if you want us to), and we'll get to know you very well over the years ahead.
We are a local family run business and we look forward to serving you to our very best ability.
A Local Family Run Business
We are a local family run business and we look forward to serving you to our very best ability.
While employed at Harvey Softeners, with Harvey as my boss for over 8 years, we developed a lot of respect for one another.
Since leaving the company to purchase this business, ER Longley Hydroworks, one of our Minimax Dealers, Harvey has continued to be a mentor and friend, and I am one of his biggest advocates as I have witnessed so much of the good he has done for the UK industry, first hand.
Imagine my delight when a customer of ours, Mrs Parsons of Herne Bay, presented me with one of the very first ever boxes of block salt, in mint condition. I immediately knew how much this would mean to Harvey, and so as thanks for all his support and mentorship over nearly a decade, I recently presented this to Harvey Bowden, Founder of Harvey Water Softeners.
Harvey was more than a little delighted :)
A huge thanks to Mrs Parsons of Herne Bay who had the foresight to keep this pack of block salt. Decades later, it is the only surviving pack that we know of.