In a nutshell, these 3 softeners all share the same high-end manufacturing platform, and each is the 5th generation water softener, launched in 2020
They all supply flow rates greater than than 51 litres per minute peak, regardless of the marketing. They all use just 17.1 litres of water on a regeneration (lowest of all block salt softeners in the marketplace), they all have the same high flow meters, high performance gears, low pressure shuttle valve, and any inferred differences are marketing-related. Read more below...
Before we begin...
I need to qualify my experience and ability to give you the right information, and so 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. So I know the Harvey products extremely well, I know how Harvey's direct retail team sell, and I know the facts about the other players in the market, from running a network of 100+ businesses.
In addition to this, Harvey Bowden is very much a business mentor to me, and our friendship and business relationship should give you confidence that what I am telling you is accurate.
The Minimax range is expertly engineered by Harvey Water 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 three brands of premium grade softeners, but how do they compare.
Let's answer some of the most commonly asked questions with complete honesty and transparency.
Comparison – Is the Minimax Innova better, or worse, or the same as the Harveys Arc or the TwinTec Cobalt S5?
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 Harveys Arc. Is that true?
No, that is a misleading statement designed to cause doubt in the customer's mind. Harvey retail reps are only able to sell the Harvey Arc which comes with a 3-year guarantee. They don't like this, especially when the Minimax Innova has a 10-year manufacturer backed fully comprehensive parts guarantee.
A Harvey sales rep needs to make sales to earn their commission, and sometimes they may say whatever needs to be said to win the sale. Once they have sold the softener, and got their commission, the customer will never see the rep again, and will just deal directly with Harvey s Retail office.
On the other hand, you will always communicate with myself and my team, and we will look after you personally. That's really important to understand because if something we say should happen to be wrong or misleading, then I have to deal with it. I have no-one to pass the buck to as its my business, and my very experienced and well respected industry reputation at stake. So it is in my interests to ensure that you always have the right advice, right information and it is accurate.
The Minimax Innova comes off the same production line as the Harvey Arc. It has the same shuttle valve the same meters, the same brine valve, the same resin cylinders, the same injector. Where it does have differences, that are 'created' to provide a marketing difference which allows people to state, "buy my product, it's better".
The Minimax Innova has a whopping continual flow rate of 51 flows per minute and will perfectly meet the needs of a home with cold water storage tanks and a cylinder in the airing cupboard where flow rates are typically just 12 litres a minute. The Minimax Innova will also perfectly meet the needs of a home with a mains fed combination boiler where flow rates are typically between 24 and 36 litres per minute, and the Minimax Innova will perfectly meet the needs of a mains fed unvented high pressure water cylinder where flow rates can be as high as 36 litres a minute. The Minimax Innova is designed to cope with multiple power showers, plus a washing machine running, and a dishwasher, and even somebody flushing a toilet.
I've been told that the Minimax Innova is not geared for my specific water hardness. Is that true?
This is yet another bad sales technique created to confuse the customer. The truth is that the Minimax Innova features the IDENTICAL gearing options as the Harvey ARC and TwinTec Cobalt. We determine which softener is right for your home by measuring the water hardness using a very accurate Hach test kit, and from that, we can specify the right softener 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. Pretty much every other domestic softener sold in the UK is either imported from America or China plus there are some French softeners too, but they're not overly popular.
Some companies claim to be British, but they are in fact just assemblers, which means that they just buy foreign components from all around the world, and assemble them locally. By a quirk of technicality, because they have changed the product from what was imported in as a component, they can place a Made in Britain badge on their products.
Because Harveys is alone as the only true British manufacturer, and as such they take the UK very seriously, investing millions of pounds every year into growing the UK marketplace as well as in product research & development.
How Kinetico UK became Harvey Softeners
Right from the days when Harvey traded as Kinetico softeners, Harvey Bowden, chairman of Harvey Softeners, always believed that customers in the UK deserve 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, and 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 types of 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, and 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) which was 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, however, 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 were 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 was 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 were having 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 waste water unnecessarily by having a backwash facility - something that is needed in America where the water is dirtier.
Admittedly, he did recognise that by removing the backwash facility, it would mean he could not go and sell his products in America, but then 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 first started out as Kinetico, he sold his softeners through a group of small family-run businesses across the UK, and he continued that model when he separated from Kinetico and created Harvey Softeners. The Harvey dealer brand was called TwinTec.
Harvey then continued to also sell directly to the homeowner through his own employed sales reps, and developed a brand for the direct sales team. Today, the brand his direct sales team sell is called the "Harveys ARC", which is 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) and 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, and so Harvey's son Casey decided that the time had come to create another premium brand to accommodate these water treatment professionals - Casey named this group, "Minimax".
While getting to know the Minimax dealers, Casey heard of myself, 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 in to that role, Casey and Harvey invited me to join Harvey Softeners with a view to managing the former EcoWater dealer group, now called Minimax. It took me a year to make up my mind, but I have never looked back. Within a few years, we had grown to become 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, very clever engineering and the best 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 local business to look after their needs.
To help grow the marketplace in the UK, Harveys manufacture these three top brands, 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 the Harveys ARC or the TwinTec Cobalt S5 product?
No, each brand is independent of the other and their brand is exclusive to them.
The three routes to market of these top brands mean that a TwinTec dealer can only sell the TwinTec brand, Harveys Retail (direct sales team) can only sell the ARC brand and Minimax dealers can only sell the Minimax brand.
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.
TwinTec dealers were historically a little more tied to selling just Harvey products, while Minimax Dealers have always been more independent, and thus have tended to access to more products in the market place. This approach has overall given the average Minimax dealer more knowledge of all the products available for customers to choose from.
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 the 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?
The problem is that the Harvey directly employed sales rep, or 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 is confusing to the customer, and often breeds untruth.
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, and this can lead to distrust in the products and in 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.
Between the top 3 named softeners, the Harvey ARC, the Minimax Innova or the TwinTec Cobalt S5, these all feature the same excellent features.
Each of these three 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!
In fact, in their testing, they actually 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.
The TwinTec and Minimax dealers who sell the names brands, (Cobalt and Innova) are both classed as the same Elite Dealer group, and there are just 28 companies who have been given the opportunity to enter this category.
Is there much difference between these 3 top-specification brands?
Under 'the hood', the Minimax Innova, TwinTec Cobalt S5 and Harveys ARC are all very similar indeed - In fact, they are almost identical in every way.
All three brands have the same fantastic low salt and water efficiency at just 17.1 litres of water used on a regeneration, all feature high flow rates which is significantly greater than any UK standard domestic hot water system, all have the same metering, gearing, shuttle valve, same 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 even both share a 10-year guarantee on the resin against chlorine contamination.
While we accept 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 come 'factory set', and there is a big label on the softener that asks both dealers and customers alike to not adjust it:
(see image below - "FACTORY SET - DO NOT ADJUST").
In my own experience, despite a big red label saying "DO NOT ADJUST", these are frequently adjusted - meaning that the customer ends up buying 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 is an excellent safety feature to prevent someone 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 3 brands are really 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?
There is literally no difference in the resin capacity. 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'.
Harveys own model, today known as the Harvey ARC, continues to use the same smaller bead as the TwinTec, but this is just because that is the way it always has been.
And so, Minimax was relegated to the 'second league' of capacity, and so indeed, yes, we do have an approx 4.5 litres of lesser softened water capacity, however, interestingly the Minimax resin is the more expensive resin.
So, as you can see, so much comes down to marketing and perception . While two brands can make great hype about having a much better capacity (4.5 litres of water), one brand could equally make a claim that they have the more expensive resin.
Personally, I think this is yet another thing that is there to create doubt and confuse the customer.
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 their 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.