Kenmore Elite Review: 38620 Smart Hybrid Series Water Softener

Author: Rory Mullan - Published: 2021/08/11 - Updated: 2022/06/06

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links. If you buy a product or service through an affiliate link, we may earn a commission but at no additional cost to you. You can view our full affiliate disclosure here.

This product review features the Kenmore Elite 38620 Smart Hybrid Water Softener.

If you are tired of over-chlorinated city water and live in an area with high mineral content, the Kenmore Elite 38620 water softener may soon become your favorite appliance.

It provides a flow rate of 11.8 gpm and has a softening capacity of 31,100 grains. As a bonus, the water softener features an inbuilt carbon filter. Thus, it removes any weird taste and smells from your water, chlorine in particular.

But wait, there’s more! Keep reading to find out.

For Reviews & Comparison of Our Favorite Water Softeners Click Here!

Kenmore Elite Water Softener Review – Main Specs

Kenmore Elite 38620 Smart Hybrid Water Softener


See More Product Images at

  • For tap water and well water
  • Water softener type: Salt
  • Grain capacity: 31,100
  • Flow rate: 11.8 gpm (1-4 bathrooms)
  • Dimensions: 17” x 48” x 21” (W x D x H), 200 lbs salt storage capacity
  • Water pressure: 20 to 125 psi
  • NSF: 44


At the beginning of our Kenmore Elite water softener review, a few highlights:

Scale-Free Plumbing

The Kenmore Elite 38620 water softener removes all hard water minerals up to 100 grains per gallon hardness. Unnecessary to say, it protects your plumbing and all home appliances from limescale deposits.

Complete App Access

You can program and monitor the system using your smartphone.

Metered Regeneration

Metered regeneration means you save on water and salt with each regeneration cycle.

Chlorine and Iron

The built-in activated carbon filter is great for removing chlorine. Plus, the ion exchange process can handle up to 8 ppm ferrous iron.


  • Thanks to salt-based ion exchange technology, the unit effectively prevents scale build-up in your home’s plumbing system.
  • Whether you use municipal water or a private well, the system works effectively on both.
  • Not to mention, the system can treat water with up to 100 gpg hardness.
  • The Kenmore Elite 38620 is called Smart for a reason. Gone are the days where you’d struggle to remember adding more salt to your water softener. Instead, the Kenmore Elite connects to an app on your smartphone (iOS and Android). Use the app to check the water flow rate and the salt level in the brine tank from the comfort of your bed.
  • The app also alerts you when you need additional salt or of possible leakage in the unit.
  • Use the app to program the system according to your requirements. For example, you can select the hardness limits, regen cycle schedules, and bypass said cycles. All in all, increasing the efficiency of the unit and enhancing its performance is the goal.
  • If you don’t want to bother with an app, a light on the unit signifies when salt levels go low.
  • Compared to older Kenmore models and older water softeners in general, this unit is highly efficient at conserving salt and water usage. Thanks to metered regeneration, you can save up to 20% salt and 32% water.
  • Kenmore has also upgraded its flow valve to an ultra-flow valve. As a result, you won’t see a decline in water pressure even at peak times.
  • Moreover, the additional carbon filter removes chlorine – a significant contributor to funky-smelling water. Thankfully, the filters are self-cleaning and need no replacements.
  • The softener is also good news for people struggling with high iron content. The unit removes clear-water iron levels up to 10ppm.
  • Finally, we are excited to see two NSF certifications, signaling the claims are nothing but true. NSF 44 and NSF 372: The certifications imply hardness reduction, plus barium and radium 226/228 reduction, respectively. And lead-free system components.


  • While we love the wireless connectivity and increased efficiency, the unit sports a hefty price tag. It’s definitely convenient, but for many people, the premium prices are not justified.
  • What’s even worse, for some people, wireless connectivity does not work at all. It’s definitely something that Kenmore manufacturers should look into.
  • Some people have also complained about leakages in the unit.
  • Consumers have had trouble with Sears customer service. It is a significant turn-off for such a big company that sells multiple types of appliances.


Installing the Kenmore Elite is a little challenging. If you haven’t attempted any plumbing work around the house, this is possibly not the right project for you.

Hire a professional if you have doubts about getting it right since any mistake can result in premature failure of the water softening system.

With that said, if you are handy around the pipes and tools, go right ahead. Roll up your sleeves, spare an afternoon and ask a partner for help. In the meantime, you’ll also save a few hundred dollars.

Installation difficulty level: Moderate

Time required: A couple of hours

Select an Appropriate Place

Consider the following points before installing the water softener.

  1. It should be placed at a point where water enters your house. Note that outdoor hoses don’t require softened water.
  2. Place it as close as possible to the water meter (city water) or pressure tank (well water).
  3. Keep it away from extreme temperatures. Damage caused by freezing or leaks renders your Sears guarantee void.
  4. The system needs a drain and an electrical port nearby.
  5. Always install water softeners upstream of the water heater. There should be considerable space between the two appliances to prevent damage from hot water.
  6. The highest allowable water pressure is 125 psi. Therefore, ensure you are below this range or install a pressure-reducing valve beforehand.

Setting Up

Now here is where things get complicated. No worries, our step-by-step guide is enough to help you. Nevertheless, consult the user manual for detailed instructions.

  1. Turn off the water supply and shut down the water heater.
  2. Drain any existing water in the pipelines. Open the highest and lowest faucets to drain completely. Don’t forget to turn them off.
  3. Now pull the two outward tabs to remove the water softener cover. Set it aside safely.
  4. Next, remove the two large plastic clips. Keep them safe for later use.
  5. Ensure the turbine and support are in place.
  6. Coat the O-rings with silicone and slide the bypass valve in the inlet-outlet port as far as it will go. Secure it firmly using clips, so the valve does not accidentally fall off.
  7. Again coat the O-rings with silicone and slide them onto the installation adapters. These adapters must now be fitted onto the inlet and outlet port. Finally, snap the holding clips into place securely.
  8. Measure, cut, and thread pipelines that will connect the appliance to your main water supply line.
  9. Connect the incoming water to the inlet port. Simultaneously, the outgoing water to your house should be fitted to the outlet port.
  10. Move on to the drainpipe connection. Use ⅜-inch tubing and attach it to the drain fitting. Secure it using a tube clamp.
  11. The other end of the hose should be directed towards the drain. Always leave at least 1½-inch in between the drain pipe and drain. Also, remember to secure the hose, so it doesn’t whip and doesn’t have any sharp bends that interrupt water flow.
  12. Finally, install the brine tank overflow hose. You will need a rubber grommet, adapter elbow, and tube clamp (all included).
  13. Push the grommet into the hole on the salt tank wall. Then, insert the adaptor into the grommet.
  14. Cut the ⅜-inch tubing according to the desired length and attach it to the adaptor. The other end of the hose should be directed towards the drain.
  15. Before turning on the system, open two cold water faucets and then bring your unit to bypass mode.
  16. Turn on the water supply and slowly bring the unit to service mode.
  17. After three minutes, open a hot water faucet to expel all air. Close it after one minute. Next, close the cold water taps that you opened earlier.
  18. Inspect all fittings for leakages. If all is well, put the lid on.
  19. Plug the water softener into the electrical outlet and turn on your water heater too.


Apart from adding salt, the system requires no regular maintenance. You may use sodium chloride or potassium chloride, whatever suits you best.

Like all water softeners, we do advise an occasional sanitization of the entire unit. It will help keep your system in good shape. But, again, refer to the manual for complete instructions.

Here are the instructions for initial programming: Use the up, down, and select button to select the present time, water hardness level, regen time, and the type of salt you are using.

Since salt bags are pretty inexpensive, the overall cost of maintenance for this unit is next to nothing.

What’s Included

  • All-in-one resin plus brine tank
  • Bypass valve
  • Clips
  • O-rings
  • Installation adaptors
  • Hose clamps
  • Adaptor Elbow
  • Grommet
  • Drain hose

Kenmore Elite Review – Conclusion & Best For

Kenmore Elite is certainly a sophisticated water softener that also removes unwanted contaminants like chlorine and iron. We love that you can connect the unit to your smartphone. So handy!

But is it exceptional? Well, it’s best for low salt consumption and less water wastage. But we still don’t totally recommend the system. There are better options out there.

If you have questions about our Kenmore Elite review please leave a comment below!

Further Reading


    Meet Rory Mullan

    Rory Mullan Rory has joined the Water Masterz team as a contributing writer. He has covered all sorts of topics in the last several years.

    Outside of his writing work, Rory enjoys photographing the Irish landscape and making music!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    2 × 4 =