These are the best well water softeners, based on technology, efficiency, flow rate, and of course, affordability.
SpringWell SS Salt-Based Water Softener
SpringWell WSSS Filter & Softener Combo
SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water
📌 Things You Need to Know
- If you’re having trouble knowing which well water softener is best for you, it’s probably because most water softeners are generally aimed at all homeowners, and it’s not clear whether or not a system is up for the challenge of treating well water.
- We’ve noticed that other comparison review sites recommend water softeners without considering the features that are important for well water softening.
- We ranked the systems on this list based on their hardness and iron reduction potential, capacity options, flow rates, and other essential performance features.
- Essential considerations before purchasing a water softener for well water include your budget, water quality, your water usage and family size, and the system’s warranty and certifications.
Table of Contents
- 🥇 Best Water Softeners for Well Water
- 📊 Comparison of the Best Well Water Softeners
- 🧾 Best Water Softener For Well Water Buying Guide
- 💭 Important Things to Consider When Buying a Well Water Softener
- 💦 What Is Water Hardness?
- 🙋 How Do Well Water Softener Systems Work?
- 🆚 Salt-Based Softeners Vs Salt-Free Conditioners
- 📝 Other Methods of Treating Hard Water
- 🚰 Do I Need a Water Softener for Well Water?
- 👍 Well Water Softener Benefits
- 👎 Potential Setbacks with Well Water Softeners
- 🛠 Install Guide for Well Water Softening Systems
- 🔧 Softener Maintenance
- ❔ Frequently Asked Questions
🥇 Best Water Softeners for Well Water
- Our Top Pick: SpringWell SS Salt Based Water Softener System
- Best for Water with Iron >3 PPM: SpringWell WSSS Filter & Softener Combo
- Budget Pick: SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water
- Best Salt-Free: SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener
- Best for Well Water with Tannins: Springwell Tannin Softener System
- Best Electronic Descaler: Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler
📊 Comparison of the Best Well Water Softeners
|System||SpringWell SS||SpringWell WSSS||SoftPro Elite||Springwell Futuresoft||Springwell Tannin Softener System||Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler
|Process||Ion Exchange||Ion Exchange||Ion Exchange||TAC||Ion Exchange||Electronic Descaler|
|Flow Rate||Up to 20 GPM||Up to 20 GPM||Up to 23 GPM||Up to 20 GPM||Up to 15 GPM||n/a|
|Grain Capacity||Up to 80K||Up to 80K||Up to 80K||Up to 81 GPG||30K or 45K||n/a|
|Max Iron||3 PPM||7 PPM||3 PPM||Requires pre-treatment||3 PPM||n/a|
SpringWell SS Salt Based Water Softener System
In our opinion, the Springwell SS is the very best salt-based water softener for well water available today, and the best water softener for well water. Why? Because this highly capable system removes even the most hard water as well as up to 3 PPM of iron. The result? A great all-round option that will be a good fit for many well owners.
The system comes in three sizes, depending on the number of bathrooms in your home:
- 1-3 bathrooms (the SS1)
- 4-6 bathrooms (the SS4)
- 7+ bathrooms (the SS+)
What else do we love about the SS softener? It’s competitively priced, costing just over $1,500, and is backed by an unbeatable lifetime warranty and 6-month money-back guarantee for extra peace of mind.
- Effective hardness elimination – The SpringWell SS provides focused hardness removal with its targeted ion exchange performance. This salt-based water softener doesn’t just reduce scale buildup; it prevents it entirely. With the SS, you can extend the lifespan of your appliances, use 40% less detergent, reduce spotting on dishes and cutlery, and enjoy healthier hair and skin.
- 11-20 GPM water flow – Depending on the system size you choose, you’ll enjoy 11, 13, or 20 gallons of soft water per minute. That means you’ll get a fast water flow even at peak times of water usage.
- 10% crosslink resin – This SpringWell softening system uses a 10% crosslink resin, which is higher quality and lasts longer than 8% crosslink resin.
- Saves water & salt – The system’s environmentally-friendly metered regeneration measures how much water is used by the gallon, holding off on regeneration cycles until they’re absolutely needed, helping you to save money, salt, and water. Plus, the resin tank uses a Vortech plate, which further reduces salt and water usage by providing 30% more efficient backwashing.
- Good warranty & guarantee – If you need proof that the SpringWell team believes in their products, you’ll find it in the 6-month money-back guarantee and lifetime warranty. You have 6 months to trial the system, with no obligation to keep it.
Folks who want to prioritize high-quality water softening but also want to reduce their well water’s iron content with the best-value, most capable water softener available today.
- Based on our research, we think that the SpringWell SS offers one of the most efficient money-saving, water-saving and salt-saving performances of all salt-based water softeners for well water.
- With its efficient performance and 10% crosslink resin, the system requires less frequent maintenance than other water softener systems. Depending on your water usage, a 40 lb bag of salt (costing around $6) should last for between 1 and 2 months. Most people need to add around 6-8 40 lb bags of salt to their SS softener per year.
- We appreciate that this SpringWell unit is designed with high-quality, NSF-certified materials for long-term durability. The tanks are made from polypropylene, a tough, rigid material that has good weldability and chemical resistance.
- Installing this SpringWell system is possible to do yourself, with many customers praising installation for being “straightforward”. The user manual (view it here) is easy to follow, but if you do need any help, SpringWell’s customer service team is on hand to provide support.
- The SpringWell SS requires salt top-ups, so it’s not quite as convenient as the salt-free softening systems on this list.
- This system isn’t ideal for treating water with a very high iron content.
Read the full review: Springwell SS Review
SpringWell WSSS Filter & Softener Combo
We think that the SpringWell WSSS Filter & Softener Combo is the best water softener for well water with an iron content of more than 3 PPM. This unit combines SpringWell’s popular SS salt-based water softener and whole home well water filter systems, offering two benefits in one: complete water softening and the reduction of up to 7 PPM iron (ferrous and ferric), 8 PPM hydrogen sulfide, and 1 PPM manganese.
There are three system sizes to choose from: one for 1-3 bathrooms, one for 4-6 bathrooms, and a 7+ bathroom model, with flow rates of up to 20 GPM. The softener tank uses ion exchange, replacing magnesium and calcium carbonate with sodium ions, while the filter tank uses air injection to oxidize and remove iron.
- Combined softening & iron reduction – The SpringWell WSSS combines the salt-based water softener system reviewed above and SpringWell’s whole house well water filter system, which targets up to 7 PPM iron (ferrous and ferric), up to 8 PPM hydrogen sulfide, and up to 1 PPM manganese.
- Air injection water treatment – Before softening, water enters the air injection filtration tank, where it flows through a pocket of compressed air. The air oxidizes the iron, manganese, and sulfur in the water. When the water passes through the greensand media, the oxidized minerals are trapped in the media. By combining both air injection and greensand filtration, the SpringWell WSSS can remove more iron than well water filter systems that use either one or the other.
- Digital control programming – The filtering and softening tanks are independently programmed by their own digital control heads. Initial programming involves inputting the time and frequency of backwashing, and setting the filter values according to the instructions in the user manual.
Folks with a hard well water supply that’s high in iron, manganese, and sulfur, and want a combined filter and softening system that’s more capable of iron reduction than the average softener.
- We love that you get twice the benefits with the SpringWell WSSS, thanks to its ability to soften and filter water in one process
- Once you’ve set the system, that’s it – it’ll remember the programming and you won’t need to touch it again. The brine tank connects to the softening tank and doesn’t require its own head. The 11-20 GPM flow rate will keep soft water flowing at a constant rate.
- More good news is that because maintenance is minimal, ongoing costs are manageable. You’ll need to top up the softener salt tank with 6-8 40 lb bags of salt (costing about $6), and replace the resin after about 8-10 years. The filter tank is virtually maintenance-free because the greensand media has a lifespan of 18-25 years.
- You get SpringWell’s unbeatable 6-month satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime warranty when you buy this product.
- You’ll need a lot of money upfront (0ver $3,000) to afford this water treatment system. While the value is there, the initial price might be out of some people’s budgets.
SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water
Our recommended budget pick well water softener is the SoftPro Elite. This salt-based softener has a low upfront cost of just $1,300 (that’s $200 cheaper than the SpringWell SS) and is also one of the most efficient salt-based water softeners we’ve reviewed, helping to save money in the long run.
The system is available in 6 sizes, up to an 80,000-grain capacity – and all sizes provide thorough softening and reduce iron up to 3 PPM.
On the surface, the SoftPro Elite functions like a typical salt-based softener. But it packs in a whole host of features that make it smarter, more efficient, and simply more useful than most water softeners.
- Highly efficient ion exchange softening – The SoftPro Elite uses ion exchange to soften water by swapping calcium and magnesium ions and up to 3 PPM iron with sodium. The SoftPro Elite’s unique efficiency features make it a standout from other water softener units available today.
- 6 grain capacities – The SoftPro Elite comes in six different grain capacities (most softeners, including the SpringWell systems, only come in 3 sizes), from 24,000 to 110,000, so you can size this system to your home accurately.
- Lifetime warranty – Your purchase is protected by a no-risk money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty.
Anyone looking for a more affordable well water softener and still wants the same exceptional quality of the best water softener systems available today.
- You get a great-quality system for a great price. The SoftPro Elite is the most affordable softener on this list, offering the lowest-cost long-term performance. Plus, the system is backed by a lifetime warranty, so you’re covered throughout its lifespan.
- There are several efficiency features that we love in this system:
- If the total capacity of the tank ever falls below 3%, the system will undergo a 15-minute recharge to add additional capacity to ensure it can continue to soften water until it’s set to regenerate.
- The Precision Brining feature also saves salt by making only 70% of brine. Before the system performs a regeneration cycle, it calculates exactly how much brine you’ll need to regenerate the resin, preventing water and salt waste and helping you to save money.
- The system will even perform an automatic refresh if it hasn’t been used for seven days, helping to prevent bacteria growth in the brine tank.
- Customers agree that maintaining the SoftPro Elite is easy. The brine tank and resin tank included are wide-mouthed and high-capacity, so fewer regenerations are needed and you can spend less time topping up the salt.
- The SoftPro Elite takes up quite a lot of space compared to other water softener units. Installing this system is also fairly tricky as the instructions aren’t as clear as they could be.
Read the full review: SoftPro Elite Water Softener Review
SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener
In our opinion, the Springwell Futuresoft Water Softener is the best salt-free well water softener available today. This system offers 99.6% scale prevention (better than any other salt-free softener we’ve reviewed) using the popular TAC (or Template Assisted Crystallization) process to crystallize hard water minerals, preventing them from sticking to surfaces.
The unit comes in three sizes:
- 1-3 bathrooms, 12 GPM (FS1)
- 4-6 bathrooms, 15 GPM (FS4)
- 7+ bathrooms, 20 GPM (FS+)
The Futuresoft is around $100 more expensive than the SS, most likely due to the fact that the TAC process requires no salt and therefore very little maintenance, so you’re paying for the hassle-free softening alternative. While this system is up for the task of softening even very hard water, it won’t make a difference to your water’s iron content, so it’s best for iron-free well water (or combined with a separate whole home iron filter).
- TAC water conditioning – The SpringWell Futuresoft is a salt-free water softener that conditions water by crystallizing calcium carbonate and magnesium minerals. In their new, altered form, the hardness minerals are unable to stick to surfaces and form scale, but they’re still present in your water supply, so you can enjoy great-tasting mineral drinking water.
- Salt-free operation – If you’re on a low-sodium diet or you just don’t want to consume excess salt, the Futuresoft is an effective alternative to consider. An added bonus is that the Futuresoft doesn’t actually remove water hardness minerals, so you can still benefit from these minerals in your water.
- Great warranty & guarantee – Like all SpringWell systems, the Futuresoft conditioner has a lifetime warranty and a 6-month money-back guarantee, allowing you to make a risk-free purchase.
People who want to avoid the hassle, taste, and potential health effects of using salt-based water softeners but still want the exceptional scale reduction performance of the best salt-free water conditioner.
- Salt-free water softeners tend to be slightly less effective at scale reduction than water softeners, but the Futuresoft offers a performance that rivals the ion exchange process.
- If you hate maintenance of any sort, you’ll love this system. The only two maintenance jobs required are changing the sediment filter and replacing the media. The sediment filter needs replacing every 6 to 9 months, while the Futuresoft media lasts up to 1 million gallons, or approximately 6 years. No salt needed!
- Don’t think the SpringWell Futuresoft is any less capable because it’s salt-free. It has an exceptional 12-20 GPM flow rate, reduces almost 100% scale, and treats a maximum water hardness of 81 GPG (that’s very hard water).
- Many customers commented that they saw a near-instant reduction in deposits on glass shower screens and showerheads after installing this salt-free water softener.
- Because the Futuresoft doesn’t eliminate water hardness, you may still have some scale issues in your water supply.
- The Futuresoft can’t reduce iron
- Most likely requires additional pre-treatment if there are high quantities of other contaminants
Read the full review: Springwell Futuresoft Review
Springwell Tannin Softener System
Based on our research, the SpringWell Tannin Softener System is the best well water softener for tannin-laced well water. This softener reduces hardness minerals and impurities that give water an unpleasant tea-like appearance, all within a single tank.
You can buy the SpringWell Tannin Softener System in two sizes:
- (1-3 bathrooms, 12 GPM(STR 1)
- 4-6 bathrooms, 15 GPM (STR 4)
This SpringWell Tannin Softener System backwashes and regenerates automatically, offering a near-maintenance-free performance.
- Combined softening and tannin reduction – The SpringWell Tannin Softener System consists of two tanks: a resin/tannin removal tank and a brine tank, which soften water with ion exchange while also removing tannins. Like magnesium and calcium ions, tannins have a negative charge. This means that they’re attracted to the resin inside the resin tank, and are exchanged for sodium.
- Includes sediment filter – Also included with this SpringWell system is a sediment filter, which protects the water softener resin from potentially damaging particles, helping to extend its lifespan.
- Good warranty & guarantee – The brine tank and tannin removal tank come with a lifetime warranty, so you’re covered throughout the lifetime of the system. SpringWell also offers a 6-month money-back guarantee, allowing you to try the system at no risk.
Best For: Folks with big budgets who want the most convenient all-in-one solution for removing tannins and hardness minerals from well water.
- We appreciate that the Tannin Softener System can completely remove tannins, so you shouldn’t need to reinforce the system with a separate filter. Plus, the sediment filter will remove larger sediment that may also give your water a dirty appearance.
- If you’re competent with DIY, you’ll be able to install the softener yourself using the installation guide or YouTube video, which is particularly helpful.
- How do you know you can trust the SpringWell Tannin Softener System? Aside from SpringWell’s leading warranty and guarantee, this system is manufactured using certified components, so you can be certain the system is well-designed for its intended purpose.
- The SpringWell Tannin Softener System is almost double the price of SpringWell’s salt-based softener, so it’s not great for small budgets.
- The system requires more frequent regenerations to prevent organic fouling of the inner resin beads. That means more water waste.
Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler
We think that the Yarna Capacitive is the best electronic descaler for well water currently on the market. This unit reduces scale buildup with a changing field of electricity, which converts calcium and magnesium into crystal form. Its unique tankless design requires virtually no installation and no maintenance, and doesn’t waste water or require salt, resin, or media to operate.
We were keen to include this salt-free water conditioner on the list because electronic descalers are gradually becoming more popular, thanks to their affordable price, low-hassle installation, and no maintenance requirements.
- Salt-free, media-free performance – The Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler isn’t your typical water softener. Unlike other salt-free water conditioners, this descaler doesn’t need media or a control valve. Instead, the system attaches to your existing pipe – without needing to cut into the pipe or divert the water – to provide electromagnetic descaling.
- Electromagnetic descaling – This 4-watt system sends electric pulses through a coil that wraps around the water pipe, preventing hardness minerals from causing scale buildup inside your pipes and appliances.
- Single-size unit – The Yarna Capacitive descaler comes in just one size (costing about $300) that suits the majority of customers, fitting pipes up to 1 inch thick.
People who don’t want a whole house water softener that takes a lot of effort to maintain, and are open to trying new concepts with minimal scientific proof.
- The obvious benefit of the Yarna Capacitive is that it’s completely maintenance-free. There’s no salt or media to change and no control valve to set, so you can own this system without any need for regenerations or salt top-ups.
- Costing just over $300, this descaler is one of the most affordable available. For your peace of mind, the unit has an impressive 365-day money-back guarantee and a slightly shorter 1-year warranty.
- The Yarna Capacitive’s scale-prevention process doesn’t intercept your water and should have no impact on your water pressure or water flow whatsoever.
- The Yarna Capacitive uses a water conditioning method that isn’t backed by much scientific proof. You may be hesitant to invest in a method that we don’t know much about.
- Unlike other softeners, this descaler uses power, so you’ll need a power outlet near the install location.
Read the full review: Yarna Water Descaler Review
🧾 Best Water Softener For Well Water Buying Guide
Below, we’ve shared everything you need to know before you invest in the best softener for well water.
💭 Important Things to Consider When Buying a Well Water Softener
Before you buy a water softening system for well water, consider the following things:
Water softeners are a big investment, and it’s worth thinking hard about what you can afford – both upfront and long-term – before you commit to a purchase.
The water softeners for well water in this guide cost around $1300 to $2500, depending on the size of the system, the quality of the resin, and the popularity of the brand.
You don’t have to spend upward of $2,000 for the best system for well water. Our top pick, the SpringWell SS, costs around $1,400, which is a fantastic value for money.
The average annual operating cost for a well water softener system is $50-$400. The reason why this cost is so varied is that some types of softeners, such as conditioners, require much less maintenance than others, which brings the total costs down.
Testing & Certifications
To know whether a water softener system is truly reliable, it’s worth looking for official NSF certifications.
The sought-after certification for water softeners is NSF/ANSI 44, which is awarded to cation exchange water softeners that use sodium or potassium to remove hardness minerals from water. If a water softener is NSF 44 certified, you know it has met the NSF’s high standards for material safety, structural integrity, reduction of hardness contaminants, softening capacity, and more.
Several water softeners on this list don’t have an official NSF certification. However, many of those without official certification have third-party testing to NSF Standards, which is second-best to being actually certified.
Your Water Quality & Prefiltration Needs
Testing your water before buying a softener will tell you two things: your required system’s softening ability, and whether or not you need separate filters alongside the softener to treat other contaminants.
Most water softeners provide more than 99% scale prevention. Some softeners are better-performing than others, but the best water softening systems on this list make it easy for you to get the most out of the system – by allowing you to program the system’s settings to ensure optimal softening is provided for your water usage and hardness.
Also consider a water softener’s ability to reduce additional common well water contaminants, since this is more convenient than buying two separate systems.
For serious contamination issues, you’ll need a separate water filtration system. However, for minor contamination, an ion exchange water softener may be all you need.
Aside from tackling hardness minerals, ion exchange is used to reduce or remove arsenic, nitrates, perchlorate, and hexavalent chromium. The process can also be used to reduce heavy metals and radionuclides in water. Plus, some water softeners are designed for iron removal.
In all cases, we strongly recommend buying a water softener with an included pre-filter, or buying a separate sediment pre-filter for a softener that doesn’t come with one, to protect the resin from the sediment commonly found in well water.
System Size, Capacity & Flow Rate
The size, capacity, and flow rate of a water softener are essential considerations to ensure the system is suitably sized for your home.
Incorrectly sizing a water softener may mean that the system reduces your water pressure to the point that your appliances can’t run properly, or requires a high water pressure that your home doesn’t have.
Water softener capacities are measured in grains, and their flow rates are measured in gallons per minute (GPM). For most families of 2 to 4, a 24,000-grain- 32,000 grain softener, with a flow rate of 12-15 GPM, should fine.
Also consider the actual size of a system and whether it will fit comfortably in your install location. This is especially important to check if you’re buying a water softener combined with an additional filter tank (for iron removal, for instance). Take careful measurements of your available space before committing to a purchase.
Salt-Based Vs Salt-Free
Salt-based softeners and salt-free water conditioners each have their own perks and setbacks.
For very hard well water with iron, we recommend salt-based water softeners, since they’re capable of treating high hardness and up to 3 PPM of iron.
Some of the best water conditioners are just as capable as salt-using water softeners, and offer the benefit of a salt-free, virtually maintenance-free performance. However, conditioners don’t produce softened water – they simply prevent hard minerals from forming scale – so they don’t eliminate all issues associated with hard water.
In terms of cost, softeners and conditioners are about the same. You might end up paying $100-$200 more upfront for a water conditioner for the benefit of lower long-term maintenance costs.
There’s a lot to say on this topic, so if you need help choosing between salt-based water softeners and salt-free conditioners, you should find this guide helpful.
Warranty & Guarantee
Even if you think you’ve found the very best water softener for well water available, you shouldn’t buy it unless it’s backed by some sort of warranty.
At the very least, a water softening system should have a 1-year warranty. Many of the systems on this list have a limited lifetime warranty, which covers you against manufacturer’s defects throughout the softener’s expected lifespan.
Many of the best softeners also come with a money-back guarantee, which allows you to try out a system for a specific trial period. If the softener doesn’t live up to your expectations, you can return it for a full refund within this time.
Several other considerations we made were:
- System control and efficiency. We favored the water softeners that were the easiest to operate. Most of the best water softeners for well water come with digital touchscreen control heads, and some even come with a Bluetooth app for convenient operation.
- Grain capacity options. A water softener’s grain capacity refers to how much softened water can be produced before the system needs to perform a regeneration cycle. Grain capacity is important to make sure you always have enough soft water. Most systems on this list have a minimum 64,000 grain capacity, with larger 80,000 grain systems or higher for bigger families.
- Local regulations. Make sure to check your local plumbing regulations before you spend your money. Some states don’t allow ion exchange water softeners that don’t meet certain criteria.
- Metered vs timed regeneration. Well water softeners that use metered regeneration are more efficient than those using timed regeneration, because they regenerate based on water usage rather than on a timer.
💦 What Is Water Hardness?
Water hardness is water that contains certain minerals that form scale, namely calcium and magnesium.
The hardness of a water supply is a measure of how many scale-causing minerals it contains. The harder the water, the more minerals it contains.
Causes of Water Hardness
Hard water is caused by a buildup of minerals in a water supply.
Water hardness is a natural occurrence. Certain regions have a higher concentration of mineral-rich rocks, like sandstone and limestone. When well water seeps through rocks and soils containing hard minerals, the minerals are picked up by the water.
Iron and other minerals found in groundwater may also contribute to your overall water hardness.
How to Test for Hard Water
Testing your water will tell you exactly how hard it is. Water hardness levels can be divided into five categories:
|Hardness||Grains per Gallon (GPG)||Parts per Million (PPM) & mg/L|
|Soft||<1||0 – 17|
|Slightly Hard||1.5 – 5||17 – 60|
|Moderately Hard||3.5 – 7||60 – 120|
|Hard||7 – 10||120 – 180|
The easiest way to test your water hardness is to use an at-home testing kit. Simply dip a test strip in a water sample and wait for it to change color, indicating your water hardness.
Compare your test results to these categories to determine whether your water is soft, hard, or very hard, and whether you’d benefit from using a water softening system for your well water supply.
🙋 How Do Well Water Softener Systems Work?
There are four aspects of water softening;
Water softening, especially well water softening, should always start with sediment pre-filtration.
A sediment pre-filter removes large particles of sand, dirt, dust, rust, and other debris from water, protecting the softening resin and extending its lifespan.
You may need another form of pre-filtration, such as a separate iron filter or a chlorine injection filter, depending on the quality of your water.
The resin tank is where the softening takes place in salt-based softeners.
As water flows into the tank, the resin bed attracts the charged calcium and magnesium ions, releasing an equal amount of sodium ions to balance the water’s charge. By the time water leaves the resin tank, it should be free from all hard minerals.
Eventually, the resin tank becomes saturated with calcium and magnesium ions, and the system regenerates, flushing these ions out of the resin.
During the regeneration cycle, salty water (brine) is carried into the resin tank, depositing fresh sodium ions in the resin beads, ready to begin the softening process again.
The control valve controls everything that happens inside the water softener’s resin and brine tank. Based on your initial programming, the control valve will schedule the softener to perform regeneration cycles when needed.
Post-filtration is another potential stage of water softening. Water softeners don’t come with a post-filter, but you can install a post-filter of your choice (such as an under-sink filter, a UV filter, or a reverse osmosis filter) to remove additional contaminants from your water.
You could also consider using a remineralizing filter, such as an alkaline water pitcher, to add healthy minerals back into your drinking water without the concern of damaging your plumbing and appliances.
🆚 Salt-Based Softeners Vs Salt-Free Conditioners
There are two popular water softening options for well water: salt-based water softeners and salt-free water conditioners.
How do these systems differ from one another?
A water softener uses the traditional ion exchange process to physically remove calcium and magnesium ions from water. The system has a brine tank that needs to be topped up with salt regularly.
Salt-free softeners use a no-salt conditioning method. A salt-free water treatment system doesn’t actually soften water – it just prevents hardness minerals from sticking to surfaces and causing scale.
📝 Other Methods of Treating Hard Water
There are two other ways to soften your well water:
Electronic or magnetic descalers use electronic/magnetic impulses to alter the formation of hard minerals, preventing scale formation. They don’t actually produce soft water – they retain calcium and magnesium in water, but prevent them from sticking to surfaces.
These systems are popular due to their affordability, easy installation, and no maintenance needs, but there is very little scientific evidence to support their performance so far.
Reverse Osmosis Filters
Water supplies with a low-medium TDS count and mild to moderate hardness may be softened with reverse osmosis.
An RO system forces water through a semi-permeable membrane, which rejects the majority of contaminants – including calcium and magnesium.
We don’t recommend using a reverse osmosis system alone to soften your well water because the contaminants in the water will damage the membrane and shorten its lifespan.
🚰 Do I Need a Water Softener for Well Water?
Technically, nobody needs a water softener for well water. Water hardness isn’t regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency because a high concentration of calcium and magnesium minerals isn’t harmful to health (although that’s not to say that these contaminants won’t damage your home).
If you have high water hardness, or you simply want to enjoy the soft water benefits, you might decide that you need a water softener.
Your exact water hardness depends on where you live, and your local geology. Only through independent testing will you learn exactly how hard your water is.
Some of the signs of hard water in your home are:
- Limescale deposits in your sinks and bathtubs, on your shower screen and faucets, and in your pipes and appliances
- Dry skin and hair after showering or bathing in hard water
- White, milky spotting on glassware and dishes
- Trouble lathering with soap, and more soap required to create a proper lather
If you notice any of these signs, you’d benefit from a well water softener.
👍 Well Water Softener Benefits
When you install a water softener system for your well water, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:
- They’ll extend the lifespans of your appliances. Expect your appliances to last at least 30% longer after installing a well water softener.
- They prevent hair and skin damage. Salt-based softeners physically remove hard minerals from your water. Softened water is mineral-free and won’t dry out your skin or hair.
- They eliminate limescale. No more spotting on dishes and glassware, and no more chalky stains around your faucets.
- They also reduce iron. Most well water softeners reduce up to 3 PPM of iron from well water. Some systems, like the SpringWell WSSS, come with a separate iron filter for even better iron removal.
- They make cleaning easier. You won’t have to spend hours scrubbing limescale off your bathroom surfaces, and you can use less soap and water to get a great lather.
- They help you save money. Well water softener systems might be a big upfront investment, but they help you to spend less money on water, appliance repairs, and descaling cleaners, so they’re cost-effective in the long run.
👎 Potential Setbacks with Well Water Softeners
Water softeners for well water have a few setbacks, too:
- They’re expensive. The average cost of a well water softener that uses the ion exchange process is $1,200-$2,500. Even salt-free conditioners cost upwards of $1,000. Electronic descalers are cheaper, but have limited evidence to support their descaling performance.
- They have long-term operating costs. Traditional ion exchange water softeners waste water when they regenerate, and require frequent salt top-ups.
- You need to plumb them in. A typical water softening system needs to be plumbed into your water line. You might need to pay extra for a professional installation if DIY isn’t your strong point.
- They add salt to your water supply. Salt-based softeners exchange hard minerals with sodium (salt), which gives water an unpleasant slippery texture and isn’t suitable for people on low-sodium diets. Of course, you could opt for a salt-free water conditioner to avoid these setbacks.
- They’re bad for the environment. Sodium-softened water eventually ends up back in the environment, where it could threaten aquatic life.
🛠 Install Guide for Well Water Softening Systems
The obvious benefit of installing a well water softener yourself is that you won’t have to pay for a plumber to do it for you.
However, installing a water softener system is about a 7/10 on the difficulty scale, so if you’re not a confident DIY-er, you may want to hire a plumber (costing $150-$300 on average) to install the system for you.
Check out the general instructions for installing a water softener below.
You will need:
- A pipe cutter
- Plumber’s tape
- A wrench
- Flex or copper tubing
- A pair of slip joint pliers
- Suitable valves, tees, and fittings
Follow these steps:
- Shut off your water supply and open your faucets to drain the water.
- Switch off your electric heater (if applicable).
- Use the pipe cutter to cut into your water line at the install location (upstream of the water heater).
- Position the softener and connect the inlet and outlet ports to the water softener, sealing with plumber’s tape.
- Install the drain and overflow lines.
- Attach the brine tank to the resin tank using the included brine line.
- Add salt to the brine tank, then move the valve head into bypass mode and gradually open your water supply.
- Switch on a faucet and check the system for leaks.
- Plug the softener into a power supply and follow the user manual’s programming instructions.
Make sure to read your under manual carefully or watch video instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure you’re installing the unit correctly.
🔧 Softener Maintenance
Want to know the maintenance tasks involved in owning a well water softening system? We’ve shared them below.
Topping Up The Brine Tank
Your main maintenance task is to check the brine tank’s salt levels once a month and add more salt if necessary. The salt should always be about 3 inches above the water level, and the tank should never be less than half-full.
If you notice salt bridges, break them up with hot water and the back of a broom.
We strongly recommend using high-quality, high-purity salt in your water softener, such as evaporated salt. Avoid rock salt and other cheaper salts because these are higher in impurities, which reduces softening efficiency and clogs up the brine tank with dirt.
Cleaning The Brine Tank
Every 2-5 years, you’ll also need to clean out the brine tank. To do this, shut off the water supply and switch the softener to bypass, then disconnect the brine tank and dump the contents down a drain.
Use bleach, soap, and water to scrub the insides of the tank, then rinse the tank and allow it to dey before adding a fresh batch of salt.
We’ve shared detailed instructions on how to clean a water softener brine tank here.
Cleaning The Resin
If your well water contains iron, it’ll deposit this mineral in the resin beads, eventually leading to fouling of the resin.
You can use products like Rust Out and Iron out to clean the resin and bring it back to its former self.
Remember, if your iron levels are high, a separate iron filter can protect the water softener resin and prevent fouling in the first place.
❔ Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need water softener with well water?
You need a water softener with well water if your well water supply is hard, and you’re frustrated with the effects of hard water (such as mineral scaling in your pipes and appliances). Hard water isn’t dangerous, so nobody needs a water softener. However, water softeners can help extend the lifespans of your appliances, prevent skin and hair damage, and reduce your cleaning duties.
What size water softener do I need for well water?
The right sized water softener for your well water supply depends on your household size and water usage. Most families of 4 will do just fine with a 32,000-grain water softener. Upgrade to a 40,000-grain softener if you have a higher-than-average water usage or very hard water.
How much does it cost to put a water softener on a well?
It costs about $1,500-$3,000 in total to install a water softener on your well. The exact cost depends on the upfront cost of the softener, the cost of tools and supplies for installation, and whether or not you hire a professional to install the softener for you.
What is the best way to soften well water?
The best way to soften well water is with an ion exchange water softener. Ion exchange softening is best for well water because it’s the most effective method of treating moderately hard to very hard water. If your well water contains low levels of iron as well as hardness minerals, look for a water softener that can remove iron, too.
Is softened well water safe to drink?
Yes, softened water is safe to drink. However, softening water doesn’t remove dangerous contaminants. So, if your water contains high levels of chemicals or pathogens before it enters the softener, it will still contain these impurities after it has been softened. Make sure to test your water and combine your well water softener with a suitable water filtration system if necessary.