Kenmore Elite Smart Hybrid Water Softener Review | Model 38620

    Kenmore Elite Smart Hybrid 38620

    Softener-Filter Combo: Kenmore Elite 38620

    •    Price: $$$
    •    Flow Rate: 11.8 gpm
    •    Capacity: 31,100 Grains
    •    No. of People: up to 6
    •    Metered Regen:

    Sears markets 4 different water softener models branded under Kenmore.

    There is the Kenmore 38350 with 32,000 grains, the 38420 with 41,000 grains, the 38300 with 24,000 grains and finally the Kenmore Elite 38620 Smart Hybrid Water Softener with a hardness capacity of 31,100 grains, which today’s review is all about.

    What makes the Kenmore 38620 Smart Hybrid special is that it allows you to track your water flow rate and salt level via the free Kenmore mobile app (available for both Android and iOS).

    For peace of mind, the app also alerts you when you are about to run out of salt and when the softener detects excessive or continuous water flow, for example due to a leak.

    You can also use it to adjust your hardness limits and schedule or bypass regen cycles for maximum water efficiency.

    Connecting the softener to the app couldn’t be any easier, by the way, but is not a must.

    The fact that we have a grain capacity means that we are talking about a salt-based (ion exchange) softener, of course.

    It prevents scaling in your water heater and other appliances as well as your plumbing and thereby also prolongs the life of your fixtures while eliminating ugly stains.

    Apart from softening, the unit also purifies your water making it ready for drinking by removing chlorine taste and odor with the help of a carbon filter layer.

    11.8 gallons per minute flow rate should be enough for families of up to 6 on tap or well water – doesn’t really matter.

    The maximum level of hardness that can be treated is 100 grains per gallon which is very, very hard water.

    Above that, the unit also provides an iron removal setting in case high iron content is something you are struggling with. Clear-water iron capacity: About 10 ppm. Red-water iron won’t be affected.

    Minimum and maximum pressure limits are 20 – 125 psi.

    What We Like

    There are a couple of features that we like about the Kenmore 38620.

    For one, due to metered regeneration it uses up to 20% less salt and 32% less water compared to older Kenmore models from back in the day.

    What’s more, the Ultra-Flow valve provides almost 50% more water than Kenmore’s old high-flow valve. This way you also have enough softened water at peak times.

    Then we have certifications according to NSF Standard 44 for hardness reduction, efficiency and the reduction of barium and radium 226/228, and Standard 372 for compliance to minimize lead contaminants (not in your water, but in the product itself).

    And lastly, you also get notified about low salt levels by a warning light.

    Kenmore Elite Water Softener Review 38620

    Installation + Startup Instructions

    First of all, installing the Kenmore 38620 can be compared to installing a Whirlpool softener: It’s not child’s play but can be done with minimal plumbing skills, also thanks to the modern and space-saving single-tank design.

    In other words, you shouldn’t have any problems with the setup as long as you follow the provided instructions precisely. Time required: A couple of hours.

    Here is a general outline of the process:

    If a softener is not equipped with a bypass valve, we recommend you provide for one for ease of maintenance. Also, make sure to comply with local plumbing codes.

    1. Where to Install

    There are a couple of factors that you should consider when deciding where to install your Kenmore softener:

    • As close to drain as possible (floor drain, laundry tub, sump- or standpipe)
    • Upstream of water heater
    • Do not install where the softener could freeze and also not in direct sunlight
    • Somewhere where water damage is least likely to occur in case of leaks
    • Close to electrical outlet

    You should also remember that there usually is no need to treat water for outside faucets. Keeping them on hard water will help you save on salt.

    2. Setup

    1. To install the adaptors/bypass valve, first turn off your main water supply.
    2. Shut off the water heater.
    3. Drain all remaining water from your pipes by opening the highest and lowest faucets in home.
    4. Remove the softener top cover.
    5. Carefully remove the two large plastic clips.
    6. Check that the turbine and support are firmly in place.
    7. Coat the O-rings with silicone grease and slide them onto the bypass valve.
    8. Push the valve into the softener valve’s inlet and outlet ports and snap the two large holding clips in place.
    9. Coat the adaptor O-rings with silicone grease and slide them onto the installation adaptors. Push the adaptors into the valve inlet and outlet ports.
    10. Snap the two large holding clips into place.
    11. Connect the inlet valve with the main water pipe.
    12. In order to connect the valve drain hose, attach 3/8″ inside diameter drain tubing to the drain fitting. Use a clamp to hold it in place.
    13. Connect the other end to a drain. Leave an air gap between the hose and the drain.
    14. Secure the hose so it does not whip.
    15. To connect the brine tank overflow hose, push the grommet into the hole in the tank.
    16. Push the elbow adaptor into the grommet.
    17. Push the 3/8″ tubing (included) into the tube adaptor. Secure with clamp.
    18. Connect the other end with floor drain.
    19. Open two cold soft water faucets nearby.
    20. Put softener into “bypass“.
    21. Turn on your main water supply.
    22. Slowly put bypass valve to “service“. (Be careful here. Check your manufacturer instructions for more details).
    23. Open a hot water faucet to release all remaining air. Close the faucet.
    24. Close both cold soft water faucets.
    25. Check everything for leaks.
    26. Put the cover back on.
    27. Plug in the softener.
    28. Restart your water heater.

    The Package (Parts)

    • All-in-one resin + brine tank, 48″x17″x21″ (HxWxD), can hold about 200 lbs of salt (1 cubic feet)
    • Bypass valve
    • Drain hose
    • O-rings
    • installation adaptors
    • Clips
    • Hose clamps
    • Adaptor elbow
    • Grommet

    Programming, Settings & Maintenance

    Programming this softener is quick and easy. You basically have to make 4 different settings:

    • Press the SELECT button until the display says “PRESENT TIME“. Press the UP or DOWN buttons to set the present time. Press SELECT once more.
    • Change your water hardness level. Press SELECT.
    • Next set the regeneration start time. Press SELECT.
    • Lastly, define the type of salt that you are using. You can choose between sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Press SELECT.

    In terms of system maintenance, you will have to add new salt to the storage tank every now and then. The carbon filter layer does not need replacement so you can save money on that.


    A manual is available right here.

    What We Don’t Like

    One aspect that we do not like about this particular model is that it’s much pricier than other softeners by Kenmore, for example the 38300. Obviously this has something to do with the fact that it allows smart control with wireless connectivity.

    However, the WiFi setup does not seem to work for everyone. The fact that it does not support true wireless N networks seems to be the issue.

    In addition, the sears customer service could so with some improvement.

    And most importantly, we read about a few customers having problems with salt and water leaking from the plastic tank. Still, the majority does not seems to have any problems whatsoever.

    Our Verdict

    The Kenmore Elite 38620 Smart Hybrid is a water softener and whole house filter all in one. It does a great job at removing hardness minerals plus contaminants such as chlorine.

    Also, the setup is easy and so is maintaining the system.

    Our verdict: 4 out 5 stars!

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    This completes our Kenmore Elite water softener review. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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