Table of Contents
- 1 What Is A Water Softener?
- 2 Best Water Softener Reviews 2020
- 2.1 1. SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener
- 2.2 2. Fleck 5600 SXT
- 2.3 3. Fleck Iron Pro 2
- 2.4 4. Filtersmart Salt-Free Softener
- 2.5 5. Fleck 9100SXT
- 2.6 6. Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener
- 2.7 7. Nuvo H20 DPHB
- 2.8 8. EcoPure EP7130
- 2.9 9. Poly Salt-Free Water Softener
- 2.10 10. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
- 2.11 11. Morton® System Saver®
- 2.12 12. Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System w/ Salt-Free Conditioner
- 2.13 13. Aquios AQFS220
- 2.14 14. Tier1 Everyday Series
- 3 Water Softener System Buyer’s Guide (2020)
- 4 Why Do I Need a Water Softener Anyway?
- 5 What is hard water?
- 6 Issues caused by hard water
- 7 Benefits of water softening systems
- 8 How do water softeners work?
- 9 What are the different types of water softeners?
- 9.1 Salt based water softeners
- 9.2 Salt free water softeners
- 9.3 Water Softener Variations
- 10 Important Features To Keep In Mind
- 11 How to install your water softener
- 12 How to test water hardness
- 13 Frequently Asked Questions
- 13.0.1 How much salt does a salt-based softener added to water?
- 13.0.2 Does my water bill increase with the use of a water softener?
- 13.0.3 When should I use a water softener?
- 13.0.4 Where are water softeners installed?
- 13.0.5 What is the difference between a water softener and descaler?
- 13.0.6 Why does my water softener smell bad?
- 13.0.7 Can I use potassium chloride in place of salt in my softener?
- 13.0.8 What is the difference between water softener and reverse osmosis systems?
- 14 Final Thoughts: Water Softening Systems
- 15 Best Water Softeners Comparison Chart
There are numerous other benefits to a water softener that might appeal to a home or business. Namely, whole house water softeners can improve the longevity of your water-based kitchen appliances, boost water flow, and provide better quality water for more efficient cleaning.
The best water softeners can even improve skin health and enhance water heating efficiency. We’ll cover the full benefits of water softeners later on in this guide.
Water softeners come in a number of different types, with each working slightly differently to produce the same result. There is a market for near enough every type of water softener, with each providing its own benefits. From magnetic to electronic, portable to showerhead, dual tank to combination, there’s a water softener to suit almost every need – get all the information with our water softener reviews right here!
What Is A Water Softener?
A water softener is a type of water conditioning system that removes minerals like calcium and magnesium from water. These minerals are what make water “hard”, and can have an effect on the quality of water produced.
Some people prefer not to drink hard water, or to control the mineral content of their own water. This is where water softeners become useful.
Best Water Softeners
- SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener
- Fleck 5600 SXT 48K Grains Water Softener
- Fleck Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter
- Filtersmart Whole House Water Filter & Salt-Free Softener
- Fleck 9100SXT Dual Tank Water Softener
- Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener
- Nuvo H20 DPHB Home Salt Water Softener System
- EcoPure EP7130 30,000 Grain Water Softener
- Poly Salt Free Water Softener
- iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
- Morton® System Saver® 30,000 Grain Water Softener M30
- Aquasana Rhino Whole House Water Filter System w/ Salt-Free Conditioner
- Aquios FS-220 Full House Salt Free Water Softener and Filter System
- Tier1 Everyday Series
- Do you know you just want soft water to shower with? Read this guide about the best shower water filters
- If you know you need a water filter system to remove total dissolved solids and other contaminants, learn more about reverse osmosis systems and whole house water filters in these info-packed articles
|SpringWell Futuresoft||Capacity (grains): 1M|
Flow Rate (GPM): Up to 20
Dimensions: 13 x 54 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Fleck 5600 SXT||Capacity (grains): 48K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 20
Dimensions: 10 x 54 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Fleck Iron Pro 2||Capacity (grains): 64K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 16
Dimensions: 14 x 7 x 21 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Filtersmart Salt-Free Softener||Capacity (grains): 1M|
Flow Rate (GPM): 12
Dimensions: 9 x 48 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Fleck 9100SXT||Capacity (grains): 96K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 20
Dimensions: 18 x 40 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener||Type: Electronic descaler|
Voltage: 110 volts
Wattage: 5 watts
Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.6 x 3.5 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Nuvo H20 DPHB||Capacity (grains): 20K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 15
Dimensions: 5 x 24 inches
👉 Read the full review
|EcoPure EP7130||Capacity (grains): 30K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 7.5
Dimensions: 24 x 18 x 46 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Poly Salt Free Water Softener||Capacity (grains): 30|
Flow Rate (GPM): 30
Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.5 x 10 inches
👉 Read the full review
|iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler||Capacity (grains): 19|
Type: Electronic descaler
Dimensions: 7 x 3.5 x 2 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Morton® System Saver®||Capacity (grains): 30K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 11
Dimensions: 17 x 21 x 43 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System w/ Salt-Free Conditioner||Capacity (grains): 1M|
Flow Rate (GPM): 7
Dimensions: 9 x 46 x 54 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Aquios AQFS220||Capacity (grains): 40K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 18
Dimensions: 5 x 23.5 inches
👉 Read the full review
|Tier1 Everyday Series||Capacity (grains): 48K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 11.2
Dimensions: 11 x 11 x 57 inches
👉 Read the full review
Best Water Softener Reviews 2020
1. SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener
The SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener reduces hard water causing minerals and prevents up to 99.6% of limescale without the use of chemicals or salt.
This softening system doesn’t waste water or cause a dip in water pressure in your home, unlike many traditional water softeners. As a completely salt-free system, the softener uses a process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to soften water. This doesn’t remove the hard-causing minerals from water, but converts them into crystals that are unable to stick to surfaces and leave limescale deposits.
If you’d prefer to enjoy the health benefits of drinking hard water without the hassle of limescale deposits, the SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener is a suitable softening option. This type of system conditions water rather than eliminating calcium and magnesium completely.
The components used in this water softener are NSF certified, and meet the high standards of performance, reliability and durability. As a manufacturer, SpringWell has operated for more than 20 years, and offers a 6-month money back guarantee on its water softening products.
Unlike salt-based water softeners, the SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener doesn’t require electricity, salt, or regular replacements. You can use a SpringWell water softener for years to reduce limescale without having to carry out more than the occasional clean.
This water softener works throughout your home to improve your plumbing and appliances. It protects dishwashers, showers, kettles and washing machines from hard water, and cleans out older pipes, breaking down any pre-existing hard water deposits. As a salt-free solution, the FutureSoft system won’t produce water with a slippery feel.
The SpringWell FutureSoft uses ActivFlo water technology, which allows the system to operate at all flow rates, ensuring your household doesn’t experience a drop in water pressure. Also included in the system is a pre-filter, which removes larger sediment and contaminants like copper and silica from water. This enables the softening system to work more efficiently for longer.
If you’re handy with DIY or understand a bit about plumbing, you can install the SpringWell water softener yourself. Otherwise, you can hire a plumber or a handyman to do the job. The whole installation process takes around 2 to 3 hours to complete.
An optional add-on to the SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener is a SpringWell UV Water Purification System. This filter kills 99.9% of harmful microorganisms in water, like bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. You may choose to purchase this add-on if your home’s water is particularly high in contaminants, or your home’s water comes from a well.
Read the full review: SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener Review
2. Fleck 5600 SXT
The Fleck 5600 SXT 48K Grains Water Softener is a whole house salt based water softener that uses a highly efficient ion exchange process to remove hard-causing minerals from water.
Loaded with resin in the mineral tank and partially pre-assembled, this water softening solution is designed with simple installation in mind. A user can set up the Fleck 5600 softener without the help of a professional plumber or handyman, through following the step by step instructions in the system’s user guide. Professional installation can be considered at an extra cost to the user.
The Fleck 5600 uses the ion exchange process to swap magnesium and calcium minerals with sodium ions, eliminating the cause of water hardness. This prevents limescale deposits from clogging up plumbing and water-based appliances in the home, providing drinking water with an improved taste and a better lather with soap.
A user will need to purchase sodium to use inside the system’s sodium tank. This is essential for ion exchange, in which sodium swaps with calcium and magnesium to form soft water. The Fleck 5600 is designed for ultra efficiency, helping a user to save money on sodium purchases. You can find more information on salt tank maintenance in the system’s user manual.
Included in the package are a 1. 5 cubic feet high capacity resin, 48, 000 grain (10X54) resin tank, 15x17x36 brine tank with safety float, which acts as a pickup tube for the brine solution and prevents flooding. The water softener also includes a bypass control valve, which can be used to divert water away from the unit during maintenance and cleaning.
For customer peace of mind, the Fleck 5600 softener comes with a 5 year warranty on the unit’s bypass control valve and a 10 year warranty on the salt and brine tanks. You can contact the manufacturer directly for more information on warranties and customer support.
Read the full review: Fleck 5600 SXT 48K Grains Water Softener Review
3. Fleck Iron Pro 2
The Fleck Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter is a digital metered all in one water softener and iron filter for whole house use.
With A 64,000 grain capacity, this water softener and iron filter uses a fine mesh resin to effectively remove rust-causing ferrous iron minerals up to a 6-8 PPM range from water. Ferrous iron may run clear in water, but can cause rust deposits and give water an unpleasant metallic taste.
The Fleck Iron Pro also reduces manganese (up to 6 PPM), as well as sediment, sand and dust. Its water softening features effectively reduce water hardness up to 75 grains per gallon (gpg), removing hard water causing minerals that result in limescale build-ups in plumbing and home appliances. This makes for better tasting water, longer lasting appliances and cleaner plumbing pipes.
Combining high quality components for the most efficient performance, this water softener and iron filter reduces user maintenance and is designed to last for years. In households with lower water use, the system will regenerate less frequently, helping users to save money and water.
The Fleck Iron Pro uses a metered design that measures water usage and regenerates only when is needed. The system’s digital control panel allows for simple adjustments to maximize capacity or minimize salt usage according to a user’s requirements.
Included in the package are the Fleck 5600SXT digital metered control, almond resin tank, round almond brine tank with safety float, fine mesh resin for ferrous iron up to 6ppm, and 1″ male connections. Also included is a bypass valve, which allows water to bypass the system during maintenance and cleaning without shutting off the main water supply.
This softening system uses traditional salt-based softening to remove calcium and magnesium minerals from water. Sodium is required to switch place with these minerals during the ion exchange process. For this system to continue to work, a user will need to factor in for regular sodium tank top-ups. More information on tank maintenance can be found in the system’s user manual.
As manufacturers, AFWFilters offer user support for customers needing assistance with installation and maintenance. The softening and iron removal unit also provides guidelines that allows most homeowners to install the system themselves, with video installation tips for additional support.
The Fleck Iron Pro comes with a five year warranty. Contact the manufacturer for further information on warranty terms.
Read the full review: Fleck Iron Pro 2 Review
4. Filtersmart Salt-Free Softener
The Filtersmart Whole House Water Filter & Salt-Free Softener combines water filtration and softening in one to produce soft, clean, contaminant-free water for the whole home.
With a 1,000,000 gallon capacity, this filter and softening system is designed for long-lasting water filtration and softening for great tasting water at bottled quality. The system is installed at your home’s water point of entry, enabling filtered, softened water to be used in all household appliances, including showers, faucets, dishwashers, kettles and much more.
Filtersmart have partnered with Jacobi Carbons, the world’s largest manufacturer of coconut shell-based activated carbon, to provide activated carbon filters for the Filtersmart filter and softener. Through the process of adsorption, these carbon filters are designed to remove chemicals like chlorine and chloramine, VOCs and SOCs, pollutants like pesticides and herbicides, and industrial solvents from water.
As a salt-free softening system, the Filtersmart Whole House Water Filter & Salt-Free Softener requires very little maintenance and wastes no water during the softening process. It produces water with no added sodium minerals, which reduces limescale while maintaining its levels of calcium and magnesium.
The activated carbon filters in this system will require changing every 8 to 10 months. The system’s other components are built to last, with a warranty that covers tanks and valve heads for life. The manufacturer also offers a try-it-and-love-it-or-your-money-back 90 day full refund for the system.
Also included in the Filtersmart Whole House Water Filter & Salt-Free Softener is a pre sediment filter, which removes any fine sediment and debris from water. The manufacturer recommends this filter is changed every 8 to 10 months.
Most of the components in the Filtersmart softening and filtration system carry the NSF Certified mark. This guarantees that the components used in this model are designed to perform to a high standard.
If you’re confident in your DIY skills, you can install the water softener and filtration unit by yourself. The system comes with a user manual, which provides the instructions needed for an at-home installation. If you’d prefer to leave installation to the experts, you can hire a plumber or handyman for the job. They can determine the best point of installation for your system.
The Filtersmart Whole House Water Filter & Salt-Free Softener is ideal for homeowners who are looking to not only prevent limescale in their home, but enjoy cleaner, contaminant-free water for drinking, washing and other household use. The two-in-one combination allows for the production of healthier, purer conditioned water for whole home use.
Read the full review: Filtersmart Salt-Free Water Softener Review
5. Fleck 9100SXT
The Fleck 9100SXT Dual Tank Water Softener is a dual tank salt-based water softener for removing hard water-causing calcium and magnesium minerals from water and preventing limescale.
With 2 14″ x 65″ high capacity resin tanks, this water softening system uses an alternating control head to offer the production of soft water on a 24/7 basis, making it ideal for homes with high water hardness or high water usage.
The system comes with a standard 1″ MNPT thread for easy connection to your plumbing, making installation easier. The bypass valve allows the main water supply to bypass the system during periods of maintenance or cleaning.
AFWFilters have been in the water softening and filtration industry for 35 years, and design components at a high quality for longer-lasting efficiency.
Included in the system are almond resin tanks, an alternated digital metered control, and a large almond brine tank for holding salt used during the regeneration process. This measures approximately 18″ x 40″ and holds up to 350 lb of salt. Also included are a bypass valve and 1” male connections.
Installation can be carried out at-home by the user or a plumber, and takes roughly 3 to 4 hours to complete. The product manual offers guidance on where to install the water softener, and gives detailed instructions on installation. There are a number of video installation guides available online for additional support.
Getting started with the Fleck 9100SXT Dual Tank Water Softener is fast and easy. The system uses an LCD Display and touchpad for simple setup and added control, and a flow meter to measure water and regenerate based on water use for salt conservation. For more information, the user manual provides answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding set-up.
Unlike salt free water softeners, the Fleck system uses the process of ion exchange to physically remove all hard water-causing calcium and magnesium minerals from water. These minerals are replaced with a small quantity of sodium minerals, eliminating the limescale issue caused by magnesium and calcium.
The Fleck 9100SXT Dual Tank Water Softener can be used to soften water for the whole home. Installed at the water’s entry point into a home, this softening system can provide soft water for use in showers, faucets, washing machines, kettles, dishwashers and more.
For peace of mind when purchasing this water system, the manufacturer offers a number of warranties for the components: a 5 Year Control Head Warranty, a 10 Year Tank Warranty, and a 30 day Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee.
Read the full review: Fleck 9100sxt Water Softener Review
6. Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener
The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is a no-salt electric water softener that gives soft water benefits without changing the hardness. It retains hard causing minerals in your water supply, enabling you to benefit from them health-wise without having to deal with limescale and other hard water issues.
The Eddy water conditioner works by sending an electro-magnetic wave through two coils that surround your incoming water supply pipe. The water that passes through the pipe is subjected to a magnetic field from the coils, which alters the structure of the limescale-causing minerals to prevent them from depositing on your clean surfaces, and inside pipework and appliances.
Having been used worldwide in thousands of homes and businesses for more than 15 years, this softening conditioner is favoured for being highly economical. When compared to a salt-based softener, the Eddy Descaler is a much simpler eco-friendly and wallet-friendly alternative.
You can use the Eddy water softening conditioner on ingoing water pipes of all materials excluding lead and iron. We’d recommend that you speak to the manufacturer directly if you’re unsure whether the descaler is suitable for your own home’s piping.
Installation usually doesn’t require support from a plumber. The softener comes with standard cables for pipe diameters up to 1.5 inches, and all the instructions for a DIY installation, but people with no previous plumbing experience may not feel confident in their own installation skills. A plumber or a handyman can carry out the installation process in roughly 30 minutes.
If you’re looking to purchase with peace of mind, the manufacturers of the Eddy Descaler offer a risk-free, no-worry 12 month money-back guarantee and a lifetime repair or replace guarantee. It’s normal for good quality salt-free water softeners to work efficiently for years down the line with very few faults, but should you encounter a problem, you’ll know that you’re entitled to free replacements long into the future.
The Eddy water softener requires little to no maintenance when compared to a salt-based softener. There are no tanks to clean, no sodium to top up on, and no chance of clogging or blockages. Once you’ve installed the conditioner, your work is essentially done. This makes the Eddy water softener a great choice for people looking for a low-maintenance softening solution.
For homes that use a well water source, this water conditioner can be used for the same softening purposes.
Read the full review: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler Review
7. Nuvo H20 DPHB
The Nuvo H20 DPHB Home Salt Water Softener System is a salt free water softener that uses the scientific process of chelation to alter the composition of hard water causing minerals.
Unlike other salt free softeners, which use magnets to condition water, this softening system binds calcium and magnesium ions to a chelating agent, which keeps the minerals soluble and unable to cause hard water issues.
With FDA and NSF certifications, the Nuvo H20 DPHB softener is third-party proven to work as effectively as advertised. The system’s components are built to last, and designed to effectively soften water for the whole home.
The Nuvo H20 DPHB softening system is an eco-friendly alternative to salt based water softeners. It’s completely sodium free, and wastes no water or electricity, helping you to benefit from soft water without an increased energy bill.
Designed to lower the pH of water using a unique scientific process, this water softener produces soft, healthy water that can be used for drinking, bathing, washing, and plant watering. Your home’s water-based appliances can also benefit from using water that won’t cause limescale build-ups.
Included in the package are the NuvoH2O softener housing and its cartridge, a manual, mounting back plate, mounting bracket, screws, and housing wrench.
The Nuvo H20 is compact in design, making it simple to install at any location. When set up at your home’s water entry point, the softening system can extend the life of your water heater, plumbing fixtures and appliances.
A user will need to replace the softening cartridges for the unit after approximately 20,000 gallons of water use. Replacement cartridges are available to purchase directly from the manufacturer.
Built for simple customer set-up, the Nuvo H20 can be installed at home with the materials provided. It doesn’t require the help of a professional plumber or handyman.
Support is provided in the system’s instruction manual, which offers more specific information on step-by-step assembly. Installation of the Nuvo H20 is far less complex than other water softening systems, which may take up to 4 hours to install.
The Nuvo H20 works best in homes with 1 to 2 residents. It’s highly effective at removing existing hard water scale and preventing new limescale from forming, making it a handy whole home water softening solution.
Read the full review: Nuvo H2O Home Softener System Review
8. EcoPure EP7130
The EcoPure EP7130 30,000 Grain Water Softener is a US built, NSF certified water softener for household and small business use.
This softening system uses AutoSense Technology, a clever feature that calculates how much water is needed for regeneration, only using the water that is necessary. This reduces salt and water wastage, helping you, the homeowner, to save money and do your part for the environment.
Ideal for households of 1 to 5 people, the EcoPure softening unit removes high levels of water hardness and up to 8 PPM of rust-causing iron. It’s NSF certified, so you can be certain that the system operates as efficiently as the manufacturer claims.
The EcoPure works to tackle the most common hard water issues, like limescale stains, build-up on your faucets and in your plumbing,and spotting on dishes. Using the EcoPure on a longer-term basis will also help your water-based appliances to live for longer.
Offering a 1 year full parts and labour warranty, the manufacturer provides in-home service by trained professionals – a huge benefit for customers. You can extend your warranty to 2 years if you purchase 3 bottles of EPCL EcoPure water softener cleaner within the first year after ordering your softener.
Whether you receive the order from a city or a private well, you can use the EcoPure water softener in your household. Its ability to remove ferrous iron is particularly of use to people looking to soften their private well water, of which iron is a common contaminant.
The softening unit features a low salt light, alerting you in advance when your salt is low. This saves the hassle of having to remember to change your salt, and the potential problems that could arise from forgetting.
The EcoPure comes with a detailed, step by step installation guide to help you install your system at home. You’ll need the necessary connectors to your plumbing, access to a 110V electrical outlet, tubing and a drain. The manufacturer recommends cutting costs by installing the system yourself, but you may prefer to hire a plumber to carry out the job faster.
You should clean your EcoPure softener once every four months. The manufacturer offers a EcoPure EPCL water softener cleaner that’s specifically designed for use in the system.
The EcoPure is designed, engineered and assembled in the USA. Customer support looks promising, with a phone number to ring if you have questions about the product prior to purchase.
Read the full review: EcoPure EP7130 Water Softener Review
9. Poly Salt-Free Water Softener
The Poly Salt-Free Water Softener is a simple salt-free water softening solution for whole home use.
Designed using BPA free plastic, this softening system is compact and high in quality, and comes with a mounting bracket and steel inlets for installation. It’s fully waterproof and can be installed outside in above-freezing temperatures.
The water is softened in the Poly softener using a screen filter and polyphosphate. This removes calcium carbonate, which causes water hardness, while leaving calcium minerals intact. If you’re looking to remove limescale while still benefiting from healthy minerals in your water, this system is a good option for you.
A user should notice a clear improvement in limescale reduction after installing the Poly softener system. Not only can the system prevent new limescale build-ups on appliances, it can also remove old deposits from hard-to-clean places like inside your plumbing system.
Note that the Poly water softener is designed to condition water, meaning that you’ll still find calcium and magnesium ions in your drinking water. The system will also not remove other contaminants like chlorine, as it isn’t a water filter. To benefit from soft, filtered drinking water, you will need to use a combination of the Poly softener and a separate filter.
The system is designed for long-term use with high quality components and efficiency functionality. This is backed by the manufacturer’s 6 months satisfaction guarantee, which entitles a user to a full refund if they return a product within that time frame. Additionally, all components come with a 5 year warranty.
Replacing the filter media is essential for the system to continue to run properly, but won’t need to be done frequently. You will also need to replenish the system’s poly beads every once a year or so. Follow the specific user guidelines to ensure you replace the filters and beads in the correct manner.
The Poly salt-free water softener can be installed by a non-professional for household use. The softener is intended for installation at a home’s water entry point, which will provide the best soft water benefits for use in the whole home. The mounting bracket is provided to make installing the unit simpler and more stable.
Instructions for installation are clear and informative. Manufacturer support and video guidance are also provided online. You could opt for professional installation by a handyman or plumber if preferred, at an additional cost.
Read the full review: Poly Salt Free Water Softener Review
10. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
The iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner is a salt-free water conditioner that connects up to a home’s incoming water pipe to provide soft water for the whole household. It solves the standard hard water problems, like the build-up of limescale and poorly lathering soap, without removing beneficial minerals from drinking water.
Designed especially for homes in particularly hard water areas (between 10 and 19 grains), this water softener can effectively descale an entire home’s water system and prevent any further scale build-up in pipes. This in turn lengthens the lifespan of common water-based appliances, like kettes, dishwashers and washing machines.
Thanks to its small dimensions, you can install the iSpring ED2000 in a compact space without the need for any major plumbing. Installation simply requires setting the descaler up at your household water’s point of entry, and many people find the process simple enough to do themselves. If you follow the provided instructions in the user manual, the whole installation process should take no longer than an hour.
If you’re on a salt-restricted diet, the iSpring ED2000 is a good option for you, as it doesn’t add sodium minerals into the water. Equally, the conditioner doesn’t remove calcium or magnesium minerals, so you’ll still be able to benefit from these in your drinking water. To condition the water, the system simply alters the composition of these minerals, preventing them from forming limescale.
Because it doesn’t need continuous salt top-ups or cartridge replacements like traditional water softening systems, this water conditioner requires virtually no maintenance. Instead of using tanks and salt to do the job, the iSpring ED2000 consists of two cables that wrap around the main water pipe to form a coil, creating an electronic magnetic waveform. When this induces an electric field into the water, carbon dioxide is released, and the hard-water causing minerals are altered.
When the iSpring ED2000 is used in a home or business, it softens limescale deposits on your fixtures over time, making it easier to clean these fixtures without resorting to chemical use. Deposits on your shower heads, sinks, and faucets should also easily wipe off once these surfaces have been in contact with conditioned water. Additionally, you’ll find that soap lathers more effectively, making it easier to wash clothes, dishes and skin.
Read the full review: iSpring ED2000 Review
11. Morton® System Saver®
The Morton® System Saver® 30,000 Grain Water Softener M30 is a salt based water softening system designed for whole home or small business use. The system works particularly well for smaller households, and provides several benefits worth being aware of.
Due to the M30 water softener’s more compact size, it can be installed in any location that most suits the user. Without a secondary brine tank, the system is fairly simplistic and straightforward in design.
Featuring a brine tank at 43 inches tall and it is 17 inches wide, this water softener doesn’t produce a substantial GPM and is not intended for use in larger households or businesses. For users looking to save space in their small home or business, while still benefiting from softened water, this product is a cost-effective solution.
The softener has a 30,000 grain capacity unit, with regeneration cycles after about every 3 gallons of use. However, like many salt based water softeners today, the System Saver softener uses look-ahead technology, which enables it to predict your household water uses and plan regeneration cycles based on this information.
Due to the water softening features of the system, you can expect to benefit from water that doesn’t leave limescale on your home’s appliances, and lathers better with soap. Because the System Saver removes hard-causing minerals from water, rather than conditions water, you’ll experience much more notable benefits from your soft water.
If you use the correct salt in your system, you’ll also be able to benefit from the removal of rust-causing iron from your water. At an additional cost, you can install the Morton® rust remover to enhance the quality of your softened water.
When the Morton System Saver softener regenerates, you’ll still be able to use your water, as the built-in bypass valve allows water to bypass the unit whenever you need. You can also use this valve when performing maintenance and cleaning on your system.
Installation of the System Saver M30 water softener is designed for the user to carry out, but it’s a complex job. You might feel more comfortable hiring a plumber to install the unit at a much quicker rate. This water softener can be installed outside, but only if you live in warmer climates. If the unit freezes, it won’t work properly.
If you have questions regarding installation and maintenance, the manufacturer’s customer service is reliable and approachable 24/7.
Read the full review: Morton System Saver Review
12. Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System w/ Salt-Free Conditioner
The Aquasana Rhino Whole House Water Filter System is designed to filter sediment and 97% of chlorine from water for the whole home.
With a 1 million gallon capacity, this whole home water filter and softener is built with durability in mind. The filtration system can effectively remove contaminants like lead, mercury, pesticides, VOCs and more from water.
The highlight of the Aquasana system is its ability to remove almost all traces of chlorine from water. Drinking and inhaling chlorine can be harmful to our health. Chlorine can also affect the taste and smell of drinking water, so you should notice a difference when it is removed.
This particular model of Aquasana Rhino filter comes with an installation kit that includes brass fittings, a pre filter, post filter, and the bend supports and shut off valve for simplified installation and maintenance.
A major advantage of the Aquasana filtration system is the durability of its softening unit. The cylinder is designed to last for a minimum of 10 years, depending on household water use. The kit’s components are high quality, meaning you most likely won’t have an issue with faulty or broken parts during installation and in the years that follow.
Salt free technology is used in this system to alter the structure of hard-causing mineral ions, rather than removing them altogether. The Aquasana filter and softener crystalizes calcium and magnesium minerals, preventing them from being able to leave limescale deposits. Water retains its natural healthy mineral content without the addition of less healthy sodium minerals.
The clever, unique design of the Aquasana prevents clogging within the system while increasing water contact time with the filter media, enabling the greatest contaminant reduction. Water first flows through a pre sediment filter, which removes larger sediment like sand and rust. It then passes through the water conditioner, where hard-causing minerals are altered in structure.
There are three more stages of water filtration: a copper-zinc and mineral stone filter, an activated carbon filter, and a post filter. The numerous filtration stages result in the cleanest, purest drinking water for the whole home.
An optional feature to add to the Aquasana water filter and softener is a UV filter, which reduces up to 99.9% of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and chlorine resistant cysts. You may want to consider this option if you’re using water from a well water source.
Read the full review: Aquasana Rhino Filter Review
13. Aquios AQFS220
The Aquios AQFS220 Full House Salt Free Water Softener and Filter System is a dual water softener and filter that removes contaminants from water and softens it for whole home use.
If you’re looking to resolve limescale issues in your home, the Aquios FS-220 is designed to do the job. The softening system sequesters hard minerals, preventing them from being able to form coatings on the surfaces of your water pipes and appliances.
This water softener also offers corrosion protection for your home. It forms a coating over metal surfaces that reduces acidity, alkalinity, and a number of other mineral salts that often lead to rusting inside of water pipes and equipment. When used on a long-term basis, the FS-220 can ensure your home’s plumbing and appliances work effectively for longer and require less frequent maintenance.
Not all whole home water softeners come with a filter for removing contaminants from water, but you’ll find this as a bonus feature of the Aquios FS-220. The system uses a 5 micron coconut carbon block filter to greatly reduce chlorine from water. Chlorine can affect the taste and odor or drinking water, and may cause health problems when inhaled. If you’re looking to soften your water with additional decontamination benefits, the FS-220 offers a suitable solution.
Note that the carbon coconut filter isn’t designed to last forever. You’ll need to change the filter when it no longer filters water effectively. Look in the product manual for specific details on how often you should change it.
This system is designed for installation at your home’s point of entry. This ensures that salt, sand, rust, and hard causing minerals are removed from water at the earliest point possible, enabling a user to benefit from cleaner, soft water throughout their whole home.
You can install the Aquios FS-220 by attaching it to your wall at the section of your ingoing water pipe that best suits you. Keep in mind that this system shouldn’t be installed outside in areas that experience frost and freezing.
The Aquios AQFS220 comes with installation guidance and a user manual for customer installation. However, installation is quite tricky, and you might need to consider hiring a handyman if you have very little plumbing knowledge.
Because this model of water softener is salt-free, it requires very little maintenance. Aquios does not need to regenerate, and you won’t need to purchase sodium to add to the unit.
Read the full review: Aquios FS-220 Review
14. Tier1 Everyday Series
The Tier1 Everyday Series is a high efficiency digital water softener for whole home use. With 48,000 grain capacity, this water softener prevents scale build up by reducing calcium and magnesium minerals in water.
Featuring an easy-to-use LCD display showing important operational information, the Tier1 water softener is simple to get to grips with. With easy connect fittings on the main unit and brine line, drain line, and power cord, this system can be installed by the homeowner.
If you live with hard water issues, like scaling pipes, dry skin and hair, dull laundry, and inefficient appliances, the Tier1 water softening system can soften your water and improve its quality for use around the home.
The system consists of a sodium tank and a resin tank, which make it possible for ion exchange to occur. In this process, sodium ions are swapped with hard water-causing calcium and magnesium ions, softening the water.
Unlike salt-free water softeners, which only condition water without removing the hard-causing minerals, the Tier1 water softener eliminates a significantly high level of hard-causing minerals from water, making it a far more effective softening solution.
The Tier1 water softening system comes with a brine tank, pre-filled mineral tank with 1.5 cubic feet of Cation Resin, control valve, 3/4 inch water line connections, brine tubing, drain line, and the mechanical components required for standard installation. If your home is plumbed with PEX or CPVC supply tubing, you may need to purchase separate compression fittings.
For scheduling regeneration cycles, the softener has an easy to control head with adjustable cycle times. This design enables you to operate the system easily and more efficiently. Upflow regeneration drives the hard water minerals up through the already depleted resin and out to drain, saving salt and the unused resin for future use.
It’s easy to install the Tier1 water softener at the point that water enters your home. Quick connections, simplified installation instructions and online video tutorials are provided for simple set-up. A plumber or handyman is not required for carrying out the job, although some users may feel more comfortable leaving installation to an expert.
During set-up, a user can manually enter their household size and water hardness, which the system will use to determine how often it should regenerate. This helps to minimise unnecessary water and salt waste.
With a100% Tier1 no worries guarantee, the manufacturer offers technical support from an English and Spanish speaking team based in the United States.
Read the full review: Tier1 Everyday Series Review
Water Softener System Buyer’s Guide (2020)
With the plethora of water softener systems available, it can overwhelming even knowing where to start.
We put together the following water softener system buyer’s guide to help you learn everything you need to know about water softeners and how to select one for your specific needs.
Why Do I Need a Water Softener Anyway?
Water softeners reduce, alter, or eliminate hard water causing minerals. Hard water can cause all sorts of irritating problems such as limescale, water spots, and reduce appliance efficiancy.
What is hard water?
“Hard water” is a term we use when referring to water that has a high mineral content. Hard water can cause a number of issues for homes and businesses, which is why water softening – removing these minerals from water – now exists.
Minerals found in hard water
Typically, the hard water minerals include calcium and magnesium ions, iron, and aluminium. Hard water may also contain traces of other minerals, depending on location and water source.
The higher the calcium and magnesium content of the water, the harder it is. Households across the world have various states of water hardness, because each location has a slightly different water cycle for its drinking water. While hard water is perfectly safe to drink, it can lead to inconvenience and inflate water bill prices.
Hard water is formed when water passes through lime, chalk and gypsum deposits, which naturally contain traces of magnesium, calcium, iron and aluminium.
The water comes into contact with these hard minerals while still in its natural environment, in lakes, rivers and groundwater. When water then flows from these environments into water plants to be treated for drinking, the calcium and magnesium deposits are not removed. Water is then transported to our homes for drinking.
Calcium and Magnesium Ions
Most of us know calcium and magnesium as essential minerals for our health – but how do they affect our drinking water?
As the two most prominent minerals in hard water, calcium and magnesium enter natural lake and river water when it passes through areas of soil and rock. The degree of water hardness is generally determined by its magnesium and calcium content.
Calcium and magnesium are responsible for the indications of hard water you might notice around your home, like film over shower doors and bathtubs, reduced water flow, and spots on glasses and dishware that have been washed.
Although not present in water in significantly high quantities, iron can be of a particular nuisance to home and business owners when it gets into appliances.
It’s unusual to find more than 10 milligrams of iron per liter of drinking water, but even in relatively small concentrations, iron can cause water to turn a shade of reddish brown when exposed to air.
Drinking water containing iron isn’t bad for your health – in fact, it’s essential for many important bodily functions – but when used in cooking, iron may contaminate foods with an unpleasant metallic taste.
The biggest issue with iron water is the rust-like stains it can leave on surfaces like bathtubs and sinks. These stains are hard to remove and can even get onto tableware and laundry.
Unlike the other hard water minerals, aluminum is not required for our health, and exposure to too much aluminum can be harmful.
Aluminum is actually added to water in the water treatment process to remove microorganisms and other impurities before it is sent to our homes for drinking. While we can quite easily absorb aluminum from water, problems arise when there are significantly higher levels of aluminum in water than normal.
It’s unlikely that the aluminum added to water during treatment will be in high enough quantities to affect your health. However, some areas of the US have shown to have unusually high levels of aluminum in their groundwater, which may raise the overall concentration of the mineral in drinking water.
Issues caused by hard water
Using hard water in your home or business can cause a number of inconveniences that may negatively impact your health, the aesthetics or functionality of water-based appliances, and the smell, appearance and texture of items that come into contact with your hard water.
Some of the most common issues caused by hard water can be found below.
If you’re noticing issues with your hair, don’t be so quick to blame the products you’re using – look instead to the water you’re washing in.
You might have picked up on the fact that your hair feels completely different after washing it when you’re on vacation. This is because you get used washing in your own water, which is probably harder or softer than water elsewhere.
A higher mineral content in water has been found to make hair less pliable and more difficult to style after a wash. It can also cause hair dye to fade faster, and a high level of calcium ions in water can even change the color of dye. Water that contains a significant amount of iron can cause your hair to pick up an unpleasant metallic odor, and may result in darker discoloration.
Hair is not physically damaged by hard water – while it may feel rougher to the touch, hard water won’t actually lead to weaker strands or more breakage.
Your skin is another part of your body that may be affected by water mineral content. Hard water doesn’t lather properly with soap, forming layers of scum that build up on appliances like showerheads and bathtubs – and your skin.
When you wash with hard water, the water residue deposits a film that clogs pores, leading to breakouts and aggravating skin conditions like eczema and acne. Water containing calcium and magnesium ions can also strip the moisture from the surface of the skin, leading to dryness and irritation.
Some studies have found that washing with hard water can lead to increased skin ageing, because the impurities in the water can promote the production of free radicals, a type of atom that damages healthy skin cells and breaks down collagen, the protein that helps skin keep its structure.
The effects of hard water are usually the most obvious on your glasses and dishes. You might notice that when you’ve washed your dishes, instead of looking clean and clear, they’re coated with a white, cloudy residue from the minerals that are left behind on their surface.
Try as you might, you won’t be able to remove these deposits from your dishes unless you start washing them with soft water. The more calcium and magnesium your water contains, the worse the issue will be.
If you live in an area of hard water, limescale will likely be one of the biggest household issues you face. You can recognize limescale by its appearance – it’s chalky and white in color, and can be found in your coffee maker and on other surfaces that come into frequent contact with your water.
Limescale is a type of deposit left by calcium carbonate when water evaporates. These limescale deposits can build up over time in places where hard water is present, and once you’ve got a limescale problem, it tends to stick – literally.
While you’ll be able to clear limescale from most easily accessible locations, pipes and other behind-the-scenes areas of water-based appliances are trickier to deal with.
Treating a limescale issue is frustrating, because as soon as you’ve cleaned it away, more will appear.
You’re most likely to find the highest quantity of limescale in your bathroom and kitchen.
There’s a great deal of controversy about limescale’s effects on your health, with some people saying that it could lead to problems with your bones, reproductive organs, and heart. More practically, limescale is aesthetically unappealing and may require you replace your appliances more frequently.
Faucets and pipes
In particular, limescale deposits from hard water can damage your plumbing. When hard water causes limescale build-up on faucets, it creates an ugly white coating that is near-impossible to scrub off.
The damage goes far beyond the kitchen and bathroom features we can see. The calcium minerals in hard water also build up in pipes, which over time can lead to a number of major plumbing issues. Water passing through the pipes is dragged back by the limescale, reducing water flow.
Hard water can even cause pipes to clog, and increase stress on pipes and fixtures, putting them at risk of permanent damage. Over time, you may need to factor in increased maintenance and repair work on your plumbing as a result of limescale build-up.
Perhaps the least appealing aspect of some types of hard water is a rotten egg smell, which is produced by an increased hydrogen sulfide content in the water.
Not all hard water contains enough sulfur to produce an odor – again, this tends to be location dependent – but if your water contains sulfur, you’ll certainly know it does.
Sulfur in water is not considered harmful in smaller doses. You won’t get sick from drinking water with an unpleasant sulfur smell – it’s more of a nuisance. The smell can be bad enough to put you off drinking the water, which will probably mean you’ll end up spending more on bottled alternatives.
Hard water that contains sulfur might also corrode your kitchenware, leading to tarnishing and discoloration. You may also notice a build-up of black or yellow-ish stains on the surface of your kitchen or bathroom appliances.
Over time, hard water running through your home’s appliances will start to cause damage. In your kitchen, your coffee maker will suffer from a build-up of limescale. If you want it to continue to perform efficiently without affecting the quality of the water, you’ll need to descale your coffee maker frequently.
Also in your kitchen, your dishwasher may clean your dishes less effectively if it’s using hard water to do so. Hard water can even lower the lifespan of your dishwasher, and it’s difficult to get to all the affected areas to regularly clean them. Limescale can wear your dishwasher’s components down over time, leading to decreased performance, eventually causing them to break down.
In the bathroom, while the effects of hard water might be more noticeable on your faucets and showerheads and in your bathtub, a build-up of scale in the toilet can cause the most long-term damage.
The calcium deposits inside your toilet can clog up small holes used to send water into your toilet after flushing, prevent the right amount of water from being released into your toilet bowl.
Water heater efficiency
A build-up of hard water sediment in your gas water heater can affect its performance efficiency. The layer of limescale at the bottom of the tank acts as insulation, preventing the unit from heating water up as quickly, requiring it to stay on for longer. The build-up also reduces the amount of space for water in the tank.
Hard water can shorten the lifespan of your heater, and it’s difficult to do anything about the issue. You can turn down your heater to reduce sediments, or flush the system every now and then, but you’ll struggle to remove the limescale fully.
Another noticeable effect of hard water relates to the quality of your laundry.
Not only does hard water affect the performance of your washing machine, it prevents soap from lathering properly. To clean your clothes properly, you’ll need to use almost twice the amount of detergent in a washing machine that uses hard water, compared to one that uses soft water.
You might notice that hard water leaves behind a streaky, chalky residue on your laundry. This can be scrubbed away, so it’s more of an inconvenience than a serious issue. Your laundry might also lose color and fade more quickly when washed with hard water.
If your towels and bedding feel hard and scratchy to the touch, this is again most likely caused by hard water. If you have sensitive skin, wearing clothes that have been washed in water with a high mineral content might cause flare-ups and increased skin irritation.
Benefits of water softening systems
Using a system to soften your water is the simplest way to eliminate hard water issues and enjoy a whole host of household benefits. Below are the some of the key benefits of water softening systems.
One practical reason to consider a water softener is for lengthening the lifespan of your water-based appliances.
The best water softener systems can remove up to 99.9% of all hard water minerals from water, thus preventing the common hard water issues that can lead to the deterioration of an appliance.
Soft water won’t damage an appliance in a way that hard water does. With no layer of limescale coating an appliance’s components, the appliance will last longer with less repairs and maintenance required.
Water heating efficiency
Running your hard water through a water conditioner can remove the minerals that lead to a build-up of sediment on the base of your water heater.
Without this sediment taking up tank space and acting as an insulation, your water heater can more quickly and efficiently heat up water, helping you to cut down on heating bills.
Water flowing through pipes that have been affected by hard water may experience a “drag” caused by a layer of limescale that covers the inside of pipes.
Water that’s been processed in a water softener contains no calcium minerals that typically cause limescale. For this reason, it won’t leave a scale deposit on pipes that might slow down water flow.
More efficient cleaning
If you want to improve the efficiency of your cleaning, a water softener can help you to do so. Soft water lathers with soap much more easily, which means when you’re hand-washing your dishes, you’ll need less cleaning liquid to do the same top-quality job.
Your household water-based cleaning appliances will also benefit from soft water. You can save money on expensive powders and detergents for your washing machine, because you’ll be able to use less cleaners to get the same results.
Your dishwasher is the same – soft water can help the appliance to clean your dishes, cutlery and glassware far more efficiently, without leaving a cloudy residue on surfaces.
Lime/stain free surfaces
Practicalities aside, the staining that limescale can leave on surfaces like sinks, bathtubs, faucets and showerheads isn’t very visually appealing.
Water that’s been softened in a conditioner won’t contain any calcium or magnesium minerals that cause this staining once water has dissolved. With a water softener, you’ll save yourself hours of cleaning limescale deposits from surfaces that come into contact with your tap water.
Hair and skin
While hard water causes hair to take on a stiff texture, making it difficult to style, soft water balances your hair’s pH, helping it to maintain its moisture and smoothness.
Because soft water lathers better with soap, you’ll be able to wash your hair more effectively, encouraging your hair to maintain its condition for longer between washes.
Soft water is beneficial to the skin for similar reasons – the sudsy lather that the water forms when it comes into contact with soap helps to give skin a better rinse and washes off more thoroughly with water.
This means your skin won’t be left with a layer of scum on its surface, helping it to retain its moisture and preventing breakouts.
How do water softeners work?
There is no single way to describe how a water softener works, because there are a number of different water softeners available on today’s market, and each of them uses different components and techniques to remove calcium, magnesium and other minerals from water.
The one guaranteed thing that all water softeners have in common is their goal: to soften incoming hard water by removing as many impurities from the water as possible.
What are the different types of water softeners?
Nowadays, we’re fortunate to have the freedom to choose between a wide range of water softener types to meet our water softening needs.
You might personally prefer a certain water conditioner because you like the technique it uses to soften water, or because it works well for a particular appliance in your home.
It’s helpful to know of the types that are available when deciding which water softener is right for you.
Take a look at the sub-headings below to learn about the most common water softeners for home and business use.
Salt based water softeners
One of the common ways of softening water involves ion exchange, where calcium and magnesium are removed from the water, in replacement for a sodium (salt) ion.
Salt based water softeners contain resin beads, which have a negative charge. The calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water have a positive charge, and because opposites attract, they move towards and pass through the resin beads, where ion exchange takes place.
- Unlike salt free water softeners, a salt based water softener’s resin effectively strips all hardness out of the water as it passes through, leaving absolutely no calcium and magnesium minerals behind.
- Many salt based water softeners are NSF certified to give customers peace of mind that a product works as effectively as the manufacturer claims.Salt free water softeners do not meet NSF standards.
- Salt based softeners offer a wider range of benefits aside from just reducing the build-up of scale on water-based appliances.
- Salt based water softeners tend to be more costly because of their efficiency in removing hardness-causing minerals from water.
- Not everyone wants to add more sodium into their water, even in small amounts. Salt based water softeners might not be the best option for people on a low sodium diet.
- A salt based water purifier’s softening method may result in more maintenance than a standard salt free water softener.
Salt free water softeners
While ion exchange is an effective way to soften water, it is possible to remove the hardness from water without the use of salt.
Many people don’t see salt free water softeners as “softeners”, but “conditioners”, because they don’t get rid of the minerals that give the water its hardness.
Instead, salt free water softeners use something called a TAC media that changes the composition of these calcium and magnesium ions so that they’re no longer capable of depositing limescale onto a surface.
- Because the calcium and magnesium ions are not actually removed from water, you can still benefit from the nutritional value of these minerals when you’re taking a drink of your salt free softened water.
- Salt free water softeners tend to be on the lower price end of the water softener market, and don’t usually require as much in-depth set-up or maintenance.
- Without salt, a salt free water conditioner uses less electricity, is more environmentally friendly, and is suitable for a person on a low sodium diet.
- You might not experience all the benefits of a salt based water softener if you opt for salt free. While this type of water softener will prevent the build-up of limescale, the hard water minerals are still present in the water, so you may still notice issues with hair, skin, laundry etc.
- If you want to use a salt free water softener on well water, you won’t be able to. Well water usually has a high content of iron and manganese, which can actually coat the TAC media that crystallizes the magnesium and calcium ions, preventing the system from doing its job.
- Saltless water softeners don’t work well in areas where water hardness is higher than 75 grains per gallon. It’s worth testing your water hardness before purchasing a salt free water softener to make sure you’ll get the most out of the system.
Water Softener Variations
Dual tank Water Softeners
A dual tank water softener, otherwise known as a twin tank water softener, is a popular water softening solution for homes and businesses.
This water softener model consists of 2 resin tanks and 1 salt tank. The role of the resin tank is to accumulate resin beads, which are used to remove the minerals that cause water hardness, while the salt tank stores the salt needed for the ion exchange process.
Dual tank water softeners are particularly useful because they allow for a higher water capacity. When water runs out of one tank, the system automatically switches over to the second tank, preventing a lag in water production.
While dual tank water softeners are slightly more expensive than their single tank predecessors, you’ll be able to benefit from soft drinking water at all times, without having to wait for regeneration.
Keep in mind that you’ll require more space if you’re looking to install a dual tank water softener.
Magnetic water softeners
A magnetic water softener is a form of water treatment that removes minerals from hard water as it passes through a magnetic field. It offers a chemical-free water softening solution.
A powerful magnet on the outside of the system alters the magnesium and calcium ions in your hard water when it passes through the strong magnetic field, softening the water before it enters a household plumbing system.
This method of soft water treatment doesn’t remove the calcium and magnesium ions; rather, it alters their form.
Magnetic water softeners are most efficient in preventing the build-up of scale, because they alter the composition of the calcium ions to eliminate their scale-causing potential. You’ll still be able to benefit from the nutritional aspects of hard water minerals, without the build-up of limescale
It’s worth being aware that because magnetic water softeners don’t actually remove calcium and magnesium from your water, you won’t be able to measure your water softness effectively, because the hard water minerals are still technically present.
Portable water softeners
If you’re looking to enjoy the benefits of a water softener on the go, a portable water softener is the best solution for you. Whether you need soft water for your motorhome, boat, spa, or anything else that might require water softening, you’ll be able to use a portable water softener to provide the results you’re after.
Portable water softeners are useful to take with you on camping trips, and can help to give you clean drinking water. Some portable water softeners can be used to treat well water. They can also keep the fixtures in boats and RVs working efficiently for longer.
Usually, portable water softeners are smaller versions of single tank salt based softeners. This means they consist of a resin tank and a salt tank, and produce soft water through the process of ion exchange.
Because they are compact and space-saving in design, you’ll obviously get less water out of a portable water softener than a full-sized model. They’re not intended for permanent household or business use unless you’re prepared to wait longer periods for regeneration.
Combination water softeners
For hard water that contains high quantities or iron, combination water softeners can filter out iron, magnesium and calcium particles using just one system.
Combination water softeners are particularly useful for treating water that contains ferrous iron, which commonly causes rust stains. Being two-in-one water softeners and iron eliminators, combination water softeners also remove hard water minerals from water, reducing scum, soap stains and limescale.
Most commonly, combination water softeners use a standard salt based single or dual tank system to filter water. This consists of 1 or 2 resin tanks and a salt tank, which produces soft water using the ion exchange process.
To remove iron from water, a combination water softener uses a fine mesh resin to trap ferrous iron, or a dedicated iron filter to remove ferric iron. Ferric iron usually causes water discoloration, while ferrous iron doesn’t.
It’s worth knowing which type of iron your water contains while deciding which combination water softener is for you.
Electronic water softeners
Electronic water softeners work very similarly to non-electronic standard water softeners.
The key difference between the two is that an electronic water softener uses a timer, which works out exactly when the resin tank needs regenerating.
The timer will notify the electronic water softener at a set time – usually around once a day – when it needs to flush the resin bed with salt and water. This makes it possible to continue producing soft water, although it may clean the resin bed before it actually needs cleaning.
Electronic water softeners come with a salt tank and either a single or a dual resin tank. Dual tank systems are better for households or businesses that need water at a fairly constant rate, as while one tank is regenerating, the other tank can still be used.
The process of ion exchange is used to remove the hard-causing minerals in an electronic water softener.
Salt is used to replace the calcium and magnesium minerals.
An electric water softener might be a more convenient solution for some users, because of the timer element – but bear in mind that this may also mean that the tank regenerates itself when it isn’t necessary, which may waste more water and salt.
Whole house water softeners
Whole house water softeners are designed to do as they say – soften the water flowing into your house to be used in all appliances including heaters, washing machines, showers, faucets and dishwashers.
Most water softeners are available for whole house use, and generally, the bigger the water storage capacity, and the faster a system can produce soft water, the better.
Whole house water softeners can be either salt based, using the ion exchange process to entirely remove calcium and magnesium ions from water, or salt free, altering the composition of calcium ions to prevent them from causing scale.
The set-up of whole house water softeners enables them to treat water flowing into the home at the point of entry, which can then flow into your household’s plumbing, protecting pipes and appliances and providing cleaner, more enjoyable soft drinking water.
Whole house water softeners vary in price from model to model. As they’re the most popular form of water softener available, you generally have the broadest range of options if you’re looking to purchase a water softener for your entire home.
Shower head water softeners
Water softening shower heads simply replace a standard showerhead to provide clean, soft water at the source. They’re effective at eliminating hard water contaminants, thus producing odor-free water.
A shower head water filter is generally salt based, meaning that it removes calcium and magnesium from the water using the process of ion exchange.
Some shower head water softeners also remove other contaminants from water, like chlorine and heavy metals.
Shower head water softeners may be the solution for you if you’re looking to enjoy the benefits of soft water for your skin and hair, improving soap lather and preventing a hard water coat from forming over your shower unit.
As they’re only based at your showerhead, shower head water softeners won’t affect the hardness of water anywhere else in your home.
In some cases, a showerhead water softener might not be as efficient as a standard full-sized home water softener, as the system is a lot smaller, meaning it needs to regenerate more frequently – which may cause frustration if you don’t want to wait around for water to wash yourself.
Important Features To Keep In Mind
There are a number of important features you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re looking to purchase a water softener for your home or business. It’s best to set out a clear list of exactly what you’re looking for, in terms of your budget, your water softening needs, your preferred unit size, and much more.
Take a look at the features to consider before you choose a water softener:
Water softeners vary in capacity from model to model, meaning that some water softeners will be capable of producing more soft water at a steadier rate than others.
For instance, single tank water softeners will only be able to produce one resin tank’s worth of water before the tank needs to regenerate, whereas a dual tank water softener will be able to produce double the amount of water at a constant rate, because while one tank is regenerating, the other tank is in action.
If you’re looking for a water softener to take with you on vacation or on a camping trip, capacity won’t be so much of an issue for you. If need to provide water for your entire home or business, however, you’ll have to determine a water softener capacity that suits your requirements.
As covered in our list of the most popular water softener models above, there are a variety of different technology types that can be used to soften water.
When you’re considering which technology type is for you, it’s best to look at how each process works, the components that are used, and the outcome of the water produced.
You may personally prefer a certain water softener technology type because of its treatment of the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water.
For instance, you may prefer a salt based water softener if you would rather remove all calcium and magnesium ions from your water. Equally, you might not want to remove these ions, but only change their form to prevent them from producing limescale, for which you might prefer a salt free water softener.
Installation & maintenance costs
Technology type can also affect the initial costs and long-term maintenance of a water softener.
Generally, salt based water softeners are more expensive to purchase than salt free alternatives, and upkeep can also cost a little more. Your budget might have a bigger impact on your purchasing decisions than you realize.
Installation and maintenance costs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Sometimes, it’s worth paying that extra $100 or so for a system that is highly acclaimed for its efficiency and durability – but if you have reason to believe a water softener isn’t worth its advertising price, it’s probably best to avoid it.
Area available to house the unit
With varying capacity comes varying unit size. Once you’ve determined a location to store your water softener, you’ll need to make some careful measurements of the available space, and match this up to the water softeners you’re considering purchasing.
The larger your storage area, the better, but, of course, very few of us can free up an entire cupboard’s worth of space to house a unit. Just keep in mind that the closer a water softener’s measurements is to your storage space’s measurements, the harder the system will be to install and maintain.
A bypass valve is used to switch off water supply to your water softener, while still allowing water to flow through your home’s pipes and into your appliances. You might need a bypass valve to allow you to cut off water while you’re carrying out maintenance on your water softener. It’s also useful to have a bypass valve to manually divert water away from a water softener while it’s regenerating.
Not all water softeners come with bypass valves, although most do. If you’re looking to purchase a water softener without a valve, you should determine whether it’s worth the extra cost to buy a separate valve, or whether you should look for a similar system that included a valve as part of its package.
The best water softeners for home and business use should be certified by one of two independent organisations: the Water Quality Association or NSF International. While certification is not a legal requirement, it generally looks good for a manufacturer to successfully certify a product they’re selling.
Keep in mind that salt based water softeners can achieve WQA or NSF International certification, but because salt free water softeners don’t actually remove calcium and magnesium ions from water, it’s far more difficult to test their credibility. For this reason, salt free water softeners aren’t usually certified by the WQA or NSF International.
Water Quality Association (WQA)
The Water Quality Association, often shortened to WQA, provides product certification for manufacturers to prove that their water softener meets the expected water softening standards.
The organization gives customers peace of mind that a product is “safe, reliable, durable and capable of meeting the claims made on its packaging and literature”.
Businesses looking to certify a product with the WQA must submit a product’s details to the organisation, fill out an application agreement, and allow for the product to undergo rigorous performance testing to ensure it complies with the certification standards.
NSF international works similarly to the WQA, and provides third-party certification that proves that a product complies to the regulatory and purchase specifications set out by the organization.
The NSF certification process is product-specific, but generally, a manufacturer applying to certify a product will need to submit relevant product details, before offering the product for evaluation and lab testing.
NSF International will inspect the manufacturing facility and sample the product, before reviewing test results and signing the contract. Businesses working with the NSF should also comply to annual plant inspections and retesting.
How to install your water softener
Water softeners are fairly simple to install without the help of a plumber or handyman. Each system will require a slightly different installation process, and your water softener will outline specific step-by-step instructions for the task.
Step by step process – salt based
If you haven’t purchased a water softener yet and you’re curious to learn more about the installation process, we’ve outlined the step-by-step process for installing a salt based water softener below:
- Find the best location for your water softener in your home or business. Ideally, you’re looking to install it as close to the water’s entry point into your home as possible. This means you’ll be able to send water from your water softener into your heater, so that the hot water won’t damage the water softener.
- Make sure your incoming water pressure is between 40 and 70 PSI, at a minimum of 30 PSI and a maximum of 120 PSI.
- Turn off your main water supply, and drain water from your pipes. You can do this by opening a valve at the lowest point in your home.
- Turn off your water heater. Make sure the power leading to the heater is also switched off.
- Use a pipe cutter to cut into the main line where you want to position your water softener. Some water might come out of the pipe at this point – a little is nothing to worry about. You can catch it with a bucket to prevent spillage.
- Install an elbow fitting to feed water from the pipe into your filter. At this stage, if you’re using a bypass valve to divert water around the filter during maintenance, the elbow fitting will allow you to do this.
- Use the compression fittings that come with the unit to attach the elbow fitting to your system.
- Attach the hose to the unit and clamp it in place. Make sure it feeds to where water will drain, such as a sink or floor drain.
- Attach the overflow tube to the salt or brine tank. You’ll need to look at your product’s specific instructions to know exactly how to place this.
- Adjust your valve to the bypass position and flush it with water. This will remove any sediment that may be lingering inside.
- Plug in your unit and return the valve to the backwash position. Slowly open the valve, allowing water to pass through bit-by-bit while freeing air from the pipes. You’ll then need to flush your system as per your manufacturer’s instructions.
Step by step process – salt free
The installation process for a salt free water softener is slightly different, based on the different components that make up the system.
As there are a number of varying salt free water softeners, we’ll just focus on the magnetic softening system for this guide, a more popular model that filters the water using powerful magnets that change the composition of the hard-causing minerals.
Follow these steps to install a magnetic water softener:
- Locate an appropriate area of your mains water pipe, as close to the point of entry into your home as possible, to situate your magnetic water softener. Make sure to keep your magnetic units apart prior to installation, as they are extremely strong, and you’ll have an incredibly hard time pulling them apart if they come together.
- Remove the wing nuts from the backs of the magnetic units and split each unit into two.
- Separate the halves of each unit and set them at least 8 inches apart. Be aware that they can jump together from surprisingly wide distances apart!
- Place the unit halves over and around the pipe, and slowly lower them together until they’re touching the pipe.
- Replace the wing nuts and tighten then with your fingers to lock the units in place.
Maintaining your water softener
Salt based water softeners require simple maintenance to keep them working efficiently and help them live longer lives. If your soft water doesn’t seem to be flowing like usual, here are a few basic tasks you can perform to improve the situation:
Clean out your salt tank
On occasions, your salt tank will need cleaning to prevent a build-up of a hard crust or dome inside the tank. This can sometimes be caused by adding too much salt to your tank, but may just happen naturally over time.
You can easily clean out the tank by breaking up this salt crust and removing it. Then wash off with soapy water and rinse it out. Try to do this every half a year or so, or whenever your water flow takes a negative turn.
Clean out your resin bed
This one is especially appropriate if your drinking water naturally contains a high iron content. The iron can damage the resin bed that removes the hard-causing particles from your water.
In this case, you just need to refresh your system by running an iron rust or stain remover through the resin tank. Add the right amount per the product’s recommendations and then manually regenerate your tank.
Clean the resin tank injector
It’s common for your resin tank injector to become clogged with sediment, preventing it from working properly. To clean it out, bypass your water from the tank, cutting off water supply, and manually regenerate the tank.
At the softener head, remove the caps at either side and get to work cleaning inside with hot, soapy water.
Your water softener may also require a small repair or two after a few years of use. Rather than splashing out on a whole new system, look into the issue, and first see if you can fix it yourself. If it’s beyond your expertise, look to hire a handyman to get the job done for you. It’ll likely be a lot cheaper than purchasing an entire replacement system.
How to test water hardness
There are a number of tests you can carry out at home to test your incoming water hardness. Some of the simplest tests to try out today include the following:
DIY soap test
Without going out of your way to purchase any additional equipment, you can test the hardness of your water with just a clear water bottle, detergent-free liquid soap and water straight from your tap.
Simply fill the bottle a third of the way with tap water.
Then add a couple of drops of the soap and close the cap on the bottle.
Shake vigorously for up to a minute, then take a look at the outcome.
If your water is starting to look cloudy, with very few bubbles, it’s an indication of hardness. If your water has a good layer of frothing bubbles at the surface, but remains clear elsewhere, it’s a sign of water softness.
Water quality test kit
If you want to go beyond the basics with something a little more advanced, you’ll need to look into purchasing a water quality testing kit. These can be found online or at a home store for a relatively low cost, and consist of test strips and a color chart.
To determine your water quality with a test kit, fill a cup full of water from your bathroom faucet. Then dip the test strip into the water and leave for a couple of minutes. Note that it won’t work to simply place your strip under running water.
The strip will change color over time, until it reaches a steady shade. At this point, you can test it against the color chart provided and determine your water hardness. For an even more in-depth test, you can also purchase a test kit for assessing the levels of other impurities in the water, like iron, chlorine and alkalinity.
Check with your city
Every year, you should receive a letter or email that reports on the quality of the water produced by your water supplier. This is called a consumer confidence report, and if you don’t receive one, your nearest water municipality should be able to tell you.
Try to find out where your water comes from and exactly what impurities it contains. If a report doesn’t include water hardness, you’ll need to find out yourself. This is a simple way to find out all the information you need to know about your water before deciding on a system for your specific water softening needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Looking to learn even more about water softeners? Or got a question that hasn’t yet been answered? Check out our water softener FAQs to find the answer you’re looking for.
How much salt does a salt-based softener added to water?
If you’re put off the idea of a salt based softener because you don’t like the thought of adding sodium to your drinking water, don’t be too worried – you’ll never end up drinking an unhealthy amount of salt, because the system won’t add anywhere near that much.
The level of salt added to your water depends on the level of hardness-causing minerals that make up your water in the first place.
In the ion exchange process, an equal amount of sodium is exchanged with calcium and magnesium minerals, so the harder your water, the more salt will be exchanged.
You can expect a water softener to add between 20 and 40 milligrams of salt to your water.
To put this into context, a single slice of white bread contains around 700 milligrams of salt. Unless you’re on a low sodium diet, your health won’t be affected by this relatively small addition of salt into your water.
Does my water bill increase with the use of a water softener?
Yes, installing a standard salt based water softener in your home means you’ll need to pay a slightly higher water bill as a result. To continue to work properly, your water softener will need to flush out the calcium and magnesium ions that have built up in the resin tank from time to time, thus effectively wasting water.
The harder your water is, and the more magnesium and calcium ions it contains, the more often your resin tank will need to be flushed out to prevent sediment build-up. Areas with harder incoming water may result in slightly more inflated water bills than areas with softer water.
It’s worth noting that you’re never going to pay a huge amount more onto your water bill than you usually do, even if your incoming water is the hardest in the country. Many people see the small increase in their water bill as worth it for the clean drinking water produced by their water softener.
When should I use a water softener?
You can use a water softener whenever you want.
Perhaps you only want soft water for showering or for drinking. Maybe you’re fine with the hardness of your home’s water but you need to soften water in your RV or at a campsite. Or maybe you’re keen to use a water softener for all purposes inside your home.
The choice is yours.
Your intentions for your water softener should determine which model you purchase. You’ll need a high-capacity, reliable system for whole home water softening, whereas the likes of portable softeners and showerhead softeners are more appropriate for occasional use.
While anyone can use a water softener, you should especially consider using one if your home or business’ drinking water is particularly hard.
Where are water softeners installed?
In most cases, you’ll need to look to install a water softener as close to your incoming water supply as possible.
You want to intercept the water before it can flow into any of your home’s appliances, so that every appliance in the house can benefit from your soft water. It’s especially important to install a water softener before water reaches your heater, as hot water can damage the components that make up the system.
Most people install their water softeners in their garage or basement, away from the rest of the house. If your home doesn’t have a garage or basement, try to store your water softener close to your heater, making sure to install it in an area of piping that is yet to reach the heater.
What is the difference between a water softener and descaler?
While a water softener removes calcium and magnesium ions, replacing them with sodium, a descaler doesn’t actually take these ions away. Instead, descalers alter the composition of the hard water-causing minerals, rendering them incapable of producing limescale.
This means that while your drinking water will still contain calcium and magnesium, these ions will be unable to deposit scale in your piping and water-based appliances.
Why does my water softener smell bad?
There are a number of reasons why your water softener might start to smell bad after a while of use. Most commonly, if you notice a rotten egg smell coming from your water softener, it’s because sulfur bacteria has built up inside your tank.
This bacteria is attracted to the sodium in the tank, and releases hydrogen sulfide – the cause of the rotten egg odor. You can resolve this issue by thoroughly cleaning your tank out regularly.
Additionally, if your incoming water contains a high iron content, you may notice a rust-like smell emitting from your water softener. It’s important to run a de-rusting agent through your tank from time to time to prevent build-up of iron sediment that could cause your system to work inefficiently.
Can I use potassium chloride in place of salt in my softener?
Yes, you can use potassium chloride in place of salt, which will work in exactly the same way during the ion exchange process.
Potassium chloride is a good sodium alternative if you’re looking to watch your salt intake, or you’re on a low sodium diet. Your system can’t tell the difference between salt and potassium chloride, making potassium chloride an effective alternative for softening.
Be aware that salt is more efficient at removing the hardness from water, so it’s worth moving your hardness setting up by 20%, to allow more potassium chloride solution to be used to remove an equal amount of water hardness.
What is the difference between water softener and reverse osmosis systems?
The main difference between a water softener and an RO system is its purpose. While water softeners are only intended to remove hard water-causing minerals from water, reverse osmosis systems are designed to remove hard water-causing minerals and up to 99% of all contaminants from water, including lead, arsenic, chlorine and bacteria.
Reverse osmosis systems are also structured differently to water softeners. They’re salt free in design, and usually contain a number of filters for eliminating contaminants, as well as a reverse osmosis membrane.
You should look into getting an RO system if you’d prefer to thoroughly cleanse your water of all impurities. But if you’re just looking to reap the benefits of soft water, a water softener will do the job perfectly capably.
Final Thoughts: Water Softening Systems
There’s certainly a lot to consider if you’re looking for a water softening system for your home. Knowing your options is the easiest way to narrow down a choice based on your water softening requirements.
Before you make a purchase, be sure to spend some time researching the product you’re interested in, checking out variations, and reading through reviews. Keep in mind the features that are most important to you, and don’t forget about the practicalities, like capacity, cost and upkeep.
Best Water Softeners Comparison Chart
|Water Softener||Relative Price||Capacity (grains)||Type||Flow Rate (GPM)|
|SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener||$$$$$||1M||Salt-free||20|
|Fleck 5600 SXT 48K Grains Water Softener||$$$||48K||Salt-based||20|
|Fleck Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter||$$$$||64K||Salt-based||16|
|Filtersmart Whole House Water Filter & Salt-Free Softener||$$$$$||1M||Salt-free||12|
|Fleck 9100SXT Dual Tank Water Softener||$$$$$||96K||Salt-based||20|
|Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener||$$||n/a||Electronic descaler||n/a|
|Nuvo H20 DPHB Home Salt Water Softener System||$$$$||20K||Salt-free||15|
|EcoPure EP7130 30,000 Grain Water Softener||$$$||30K||Salt-based||7.5|
|Poly Salt-Free Water Softener||$$||30K||Salt-free||30|
|iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler||$$||19||Electronic descaler||n/a|
|Morton® System Saver® 30,000 Grain Water Softener M30||$$$||30K||Salt-based||11|
|Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System w/ Salt-Free Conditioner||$$$$$||1M||Salt-free||7|
|Aquios AQFS220 Full House Salt Free Water Softener and Filter System||$$$||40K||Salt-free||18|
|Tier1 Everyday Series||$$$||48K||Salt-based||11.2|