8 Best Whole House Water Filtration and Softener System Combos of 2022

The SpringWell 2-in-1 filter + salt softener combo is the best water filter and softener combined system for city water. See our other top picks based on specific applications right here!

Hey, concerned homeowner! Welcome to our best whole house water filtration and softener system guide.

If you’re keen to eliminate dangerous contaminants and hardness minerals from your water supply, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve tested and compared dozens of the best filter/softener combos on our own tap water supplies in the US.

Feel free to spend thousands of dollars on a solution that ends up letting you down – but we strongly recommend investing wisely in a system that the experts deem to be the very best value.

#1 is our top pick, but #2 is the best cartridge-based system and #3 is best for well water.

By the end of this guide, you will know:

  • The best water whole house water filter/softener combos worth investing in in 2022
  • The science behind combining a whole house filter and a whole house softener
  • The key things you should consider when choosing the best water filter and softener combo

🥇 Best Whole House Water Filter and Softener Combo

📊 Comparison of the Best Water Softener and Filter Combos

SystemSpringwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo
Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo
SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
Evo E-3000
Evo E-3000
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner
Ranking1st1st2nd3rd3rd4th5th5th
Ratings5/55/54.5/55/55/54.5/54/54/5
Source WaterCityCityCityWellWellWellCityCity
Filter TypeCatalytic Carbon + KDFCatalytic Carbon + KDFCatalytic CarbonAIOAIOAIOCatalytic Carbon + ERA + Ion ExchangeCatalytic Carbon + ERA + Ion Exchange
Contaminants Removed10+3+10+4+3+4+10+10+
Filter Capacity1,000,000 Gallons1,000,000 Gallons80,000 Gallonsn/an/an/a1,500,000 Gallons1,500,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerSalt-Based Ion ExchangeTACTACSalt-Based Ion ExchangeTACSalt-Based Ion ExchangeSalt-Based Ion ExchangeTAC
Grain Capacity/ Max Hardness48K or 80K81 GPG75 GPG32K, 48K, or 80K81 GPGUp to 80K48K25 GPG
Flow Rate11 - 20 GPM9 – 20 GPM15 GPM11 - 20 GPM12 – 20 GPM6 - 12 GPM9 - 11 GPMnot specified
WarrantyLifetimeLifetimeLifetime (limited)LifetimeLifetimeLifetime on tank and other partsLifetimeLifetime

⭐ Reviews – Whole House Water Softener and Filtration System Combos

Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo System OR Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo System

Our Rating

2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener

Filter Capacity1,000,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain Capacity48K or 80K
Flow Rate11 – 15 GPM
WarrantyLifetime
SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Our Rating

Water Filter + Salt-Free Water Softener

Filter Capacity1,000,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness81 GPG
Flow Rate9 – 20 GPM
WarrantyLifetime

Our top pick for city water, the SpringWell 2 in 1 Water Filter and Salt Softener OR the Salt-Free Water Softener is a highly capable whole house water softener/conditioner and filtration system combo. The SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener is two separate tanks, while the SpringWell 2 in 1 Water Filter and Salt Softener has an an all-in-one design, so you won’t need to hook the softener and the filter up to your plumbing separately.

Key features:

  • Choose between softener or conditioner – Alongside the SpringWell whole house filtering system, you can choose between a water softener (the most compact option, using KDF and salt-based media in the same tank,) and a water conditioner (which comes in a separate tank – there’s not yet a 2-in-1 offering for this configuration).
  • Compact design option – The SpringWell 2 in 1 Water Filter and Salt Softener has a space-saving single-unit design that isn’t quite as big or bulky as some of the combo filter/softener systems on this list. You don’t get this perk if you buy the SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener, though.
  • Targets contaminants and water hardness – The filter and salt softener combo system completely removes calcium and magnesium from water, while the filter and conditioner combo uses template-assisted crystallization (TAC) to convert calcium and magnesium into crystals that can’t form scale. Both models also remove chlorine and chloramine, VOCs, herbicides and pesticides.

Best For: People looking for the most reliable, best-value softener filter combo from a reputable, trusted brand.

2-in-1 System

Pros:

  • The SpringWell 2 in 1 Water Filter and Salt Softener is a smart investment, costing around $500-$1,000 less than similar systems on the market offering virtually the same features.
  • With its all-in-one design, this softener combination is best if you want to save the most space.
  • The softener uses ion exchange, the most effective softening method on the market.

Cons:

  • Some of the fittings are plastic.
  • You’ll need to top up the brine tank with salt.

Filter + Conditioner System

Pros:

  • Suitable for very hard water (up to 81 GPG), which is rare for a water conditioner.
  • This filter and conditioner combo can reduce up to 99.6% scale, and we noticed a big dip in scale formation in our testing.
  • Uses no salt or chemicals, so it’s low-cost to run.

Cons:

  • Installation kit costs extra
  • Doesn’t actually remove hardness minerals

Evo E-3000 Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener Combo

Evo E-3000

Our Rating

Filter Capacity80,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness75 GPG
Flow Rate15 GPM
WarrantyLifetime (limited)

The Evo E-3000 is our top pick for the best cartridge-based filter and salt-free softener on this list. This system combines three filtration and conditioning media and costs just under $1,600, making it an exceptional value for money.

Key Features:

  • Conditioning, sediment, and carbon filters – The Evo E-3000 combines a sediment filter with a carbon filter and an eSoft cartridge within a single filter housing. Filtration, adsorption, and template-assisted crystallization combine to produce soft, filtered water.
  • Removes hundreds of contaminants & conditions water – The sediment filter in this system removes dust, rust, dirt, and more, while the carbon filter greatly reduces chlorine, chloramine, and other organic impurities. The eSoft conditioning cartridge prevents scale formation while retaining healthy minerals.
  • Good warranty and satisfaction guarantee – The Evo E-3000 is backed by a lifetime warranty and a 120-day satisfaction guarantee, so you can try the system risk-free.

Best For: Anyone who prefers the easier installation and maintenance of a cartridge-based softener filter combo, or anyone who has a limited budget and wants the best option for a lower cost.

Pros:

  • We love the convenience of all three cartridges – for filtration and softening – being combined in the same filter housing. It makes installation and maintenance much easier.
  • For a cartridge filtration system, the Evo E-3000’s flow rate impressed us. The system is designed for homes with up to 6 bathrooms, with a maximum flow rate of 15 GPM.
  • The quality of our drinking water supply noticeably improved with this Evo Water Systems model. Our filtered water tasted fresher and chemical-free, and we noticed a reduction in scale around our home.

Cons:

  • The cartridges need replacing more frequently than the media in a tank-based alternative. You’ll need to buy yearly sediment and carbon filter replacements. The good news is that the eSoft cartridge never needs to be replaced.
  • The Evo E-3000 can only remove the basic, common city water contaminants. The filters aren’t specialized enough to remove the likes of arsenic and fluoride.

Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener OR Salt-Free Water Softener

Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener

Our Rating

Well Filter and Salt Based Water Softener

Filter TypeAIO
pH Range6.5 – 10
Iron Removal7 PPM
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain Capacity32K, 48K, or 80K
Flow Rate11 – 20 GPM
WarrantyLifetime
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Our Rating

Well Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Filter TypeAIO
pH Range 6.5 – 10
Iron Removal7 PPM
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness81 GPG
Flow Rate12 – 20 GPM
WarrantyLifetime

Best suited for well water, the SpringWell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener OR Salt-Free Water Softener is the most capable dual system we’ve found for softening/conditioning hard water and removing common well water contaminants in one. Both configurations come with two separate tanks: a softening tank and an AIO tank.

Key Features:

  • Air injection for targeted contaminant removal – Both of SpringWell’s combo well water systems use Springwell’s air-injection well water filter. This single-tank system uses an air pocket to oxidize and filter out sulfur, iron and manganese.
  • Choose between softening and conditioning – You can choose to add SpringWell’s salt-free conditioner or salt-based softener tank to the air injection system. The salted system is recommended for most well water supplies wells that have a higher hardness level.
  • Impressive warranty and guarantee – Both combo units have a six-month money-back guarantee and a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty against all defects – a vote of confidence from SpringWell.

Best For: Well owners who are willing to make a big investment in the best protection against common well water contaminants and hardness damage.

Filter and Salt Based Water Softener

Pros:

  • Of all the well water whole home water filter and softener/salt-free water conditioner combo systems we tried, this SpringWell model made the biggest difference to our water quality. Our water looked, smelled, and tasted clean after installing this system.
  • The SpringWell Salt Based softener uses ion exchange, the most effective softening process.
  • If you have very hard water, the SpingWell salt-based softener and air injection system combo is ideal for you. We tried this combo on our well water supply and noticed an immediate reduction in limescale.

Cons:

  • This SpringWell system is on the expensive side, so it may be out of some people’s budgets.
  • This unit takes up a lot of space because two separate tanks are needed. There’s no all-in-one configuration.

Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Pros:

  • We enjoyed the maintenance-free aspect of the salt-free softener, which runs independently, and the water filtering tank, which uses an automatic electronic control valve that backwashes on a schedule, requiring no manual intervention.
  • SpringWell’s conditioner is one of the most capable salt-free softening options on the market, preventing up to 99.6% scale.
  • You won’t need to spend money on salt or filter changes for this system combo.

Cons:

  • This SpringWell model is another expensive option, and may be unaffordable for some people.
  • Again, this unit consists of two tanks, so it’s pretty bulky.

SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System

SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + SoftPro Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System

Our Rating

Filter TypeAIO
pH Range6.5 – 10
Iron Removal30 PPM
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain CapacityUp to 80K
Flow Rate6 – 12 GPM
WarrantyLifetime

For softening and filtering well water with a high iron content, the SoftPro Elite Softener + Iron Master Water Filter is the best filter combo on the market. The system softens water and provides up to 30 PPM of iron filtration, as well as up to 5 PPM of sulfur filtration.

Key Features:

  • Efficient performance: The SoftPro Elite is designed with efficiency in mind, and has a high-flow control valve that can be programmed according to your softening needs. The Iron Master filter is also highly efficient, with a control valve that maintains high flow rates, allowing for optimum performance when combined with the SoftPro Elite.
  • Dual softening and iron filtration – This salt-based softening system uses ion exchange to eliminate hard water minerals and air injection to remove up to 30 PPM of iron from water.
  • Multiple sizes available: There are three sizing choices for the Iron Master filter: 1.0 cubic foot, 1.5 cubic foot, and 2.0 cubic foot. The SoftPro Elite also comes in a number of sizes, measured in grain capacity, from 24,000 to 80,000.

Best For: Anyone who gets their water from a private well and is looking for the most efficient iron and hardness removal system that wastes minimal salt and water over the long term.

Pros:

  • This SoftPro model is one of the smartest water softeners we’ve tried, with features including a 15-minute “recharge”, which adds a small amount of extra salt to the resin if more is needed before the scheduled regeneration.
  • You won’t find many other water filters that remove up to 30 PPM of iron, let alone soften water within the same system.
  • If you have well water with a hardness and iron problem, this system combo will treat them thoroughly. Our iron issues were eliminated after installing the SoftPro Elite Softener + Iron Master Water Filter, and we noticed no new issues with scale.

Cons:

  • This filter combo is bulky, so you’ll need plenty of room to install it in your home.
  • There’s no option to buy this system with a salt-free conditioner, so salt top-ups will be required.

Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener OR Saltless Conditioner

Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener

Our Rating

Filter + Softener

Filter Capacity1,500,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain Capacity48K
Flow Rate9 – 11 GPM
WarrantyLifetime
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner

Our Rating

Filter + Saltless Conditioner

Filter Capacity1,500,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness25 GPG
Flow Ratenot specified
WarrantyLifetime

Our top alternate choice is the Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter and Softener OR Saltless Conditioner. The filter uses 6 stages of filtration to thoroughly remove a range of contaminants, and the Softener or Saltless Conditioner removes hardness minerals or crystallizes them, preventing scale formation. Both systems consist of three tanks: softening resin and brine tanks, and a water filter tank.

Key Features:

  • 6-stage filtration – The Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter combines six thorough stages of filtration: sediment pre-filter, a solid carbon filter, a SMART multimedia filter (featuring a standard and catalytic carbon filter and an ion exchange resin), and ceramic and tourmaline balls.
  • Thorough contaminant removal and softening – This filter softener combo can remove heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceutical by-products, and chlorine/chloramine from water. It also enhances water’s pH and alkalinity and either removes hardness minerals via ion exchange (if you choose the softener) or transforms them into calcite crystals (if you buy the conditioner).
  • Several sizes available – You can buy the Crystal Quest filter system in two sizes: 1.5 + cubic feet (for homes with up to 3 bathrooms) and 2.0 + cubic feet (for homes with 2-4 bathrooms). You can buy both the softener and the saltless conditioner in 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 gallon capacities.

Best For: Anyone looking for a softener and filter combo that can be tailored to their needs. You can choose between salt-free and salt-based softening, fiberglass and stainless steel casing, and there are optional add-ons, like UV sterilizers, leak detector smart valves, and oxidation systems in different sizes.

SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener

Pros:

  • The Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener is an ideal solution for people who want to thoroughly treat their water with cation exchange and multiple filtration media.
  • This Crystal Quest model eliminated limescale deposits in our testing, using a proprietary cation exchange resin bed to exchange hardness minerals with sodium or potassium.
  • Depending on the system size you need, you can buy this system for a fairly affordable price.

Cons:

  • The unit features two large tanks, so it takes up quite a bit of room.
  • You’ll need to frequently top up the brine tank with salt.

SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner

Pros:

  • The Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner uses a salt-free, chemical-free conditioning method that transforms hardness minerals into stable nanocrystals.
  • Of all the systems we tested, this one offered the most thorough water treatment. It’s rare for a whole house filtration and softening system to offer as many as six filtration stages and water conditioning.
  • The filtration and conditioning media last up to 10 years – so that’s minimal maintenance for you.

Cons:

  • Again, this system is bulky as there are no all-in-one configurations.
  • If your water’s iron, manganese, or hardness levels are high, the conditioner may require pre-treatment.

🧾 Buyer’s Guide – Whole House Water Filter + Softener Systems

Looking to learn more about whole house water filter and softener units before you buy? We’ve shared everything you need to know in this helpful buyer’s guide.

💭 Considerations When Choosing the Best Water Softener and Filter Combo

When deciding on the best whole house water filters and softeners for your family, consider the following factors:

Water Chemistry

Knowing exactly what your water contains is an essential first step.

You won’t be able to accurately choose the right system for you unless you know what you need to remove from your water.

We recommend getting your water professionally tested by a state-certified laboratory for the most detailed results, especially if you own a private well. Well owners are responsible for making sure their water is safe to drink – and that often means installing whole-house water filtration and softener units at the main water line.

Laboratory testing costs around $100-$250, depending on the type of test you choose. Many laboratories offer packages for well water or city water, testing for the most common contaminants. You may also pay extra to test for specific contaminants that are a concern in your local area.

You can choose the right type of media combination for your whole house filter system/softener combo based on the contaminants indicated in your water test.

If you don’t have the extra budget for a laboratory test and you get your water from a municipal supply, take a look at your water quality report. This report lists the trace contaminants detected in your water.

A water quality report will give you a detailed overview of what your water contains, though it doesn’t account for daily fluctuations in contaminant levels, nor can it show you which contaminants may enter your water on its journey from the treatment facility to your home.

Use the EPA’s Consumer Confidence Reports tool to identify the report for your area. Alternatively you can use an online resource like this one from the EWG to get a basic idea of what might be in the water in your area.

You may want to buy an at-home water testing kit if you’re concerned about lead and chlorine levels in your water. These kits cost less than $20 online. DIY tests won’t give you the most accurate indication of your water’s chemistry, but they’re a good place to start.

understanding water chemistry

Whole House Water Filter Type

Now you know the contaminants you want to remove from your water, you can choose the most suitable filter type for your requirements.

Sediment Filter

Whole-house sediment filters can be standalone filters, or they may be included as part of a larger whole-house water filtration system.

The most common standalone sediment filter types are spin-down filters and cartridge filters.

Spin-down sediment filters

Spin-down sediment water filters are a particularly common option for well water that contains large grains of sediment or sand.

Water enters the top of the filter and spins in a centrifugal motion from top to bottom. This circulates the water through the filter, removing the sediment.

Some spin-down filters come with a flush valve, and you will need to flush them periodically to remove the sediment. Others offer automatic flushing for convenience. Spin-down filters typically have longer lifespans than sediment cartridge filters because of their flushing capabilities.

Cartridge sediment filters

Cartridge filters have a spun-cartridge or pleated cartridge design, and are commonly included as first-stage filters in whole-house water filters or reverse osmosis filters.

Spun-cartridge filters send water through multiple layers of spun, melted polypropylene. The outer layers of the filter have the highest micron level, and the micron level decreases with each layer towards the center of the filter. This means that the largest sediment is removed on the outside, while the smallest particles are removed when water reaches the inside of the filter.

Pleated filters have a folded or pleated design, and the same micron rating is used across the whole filter. Because they only remove particles of a certain size, pleated filters aren’t quite as effective as spun-cartridge filters.

Whole house water filter cartridges

Carbon Media

Carbon filtration media is most commonly available in two filter types: granular activated carbon (GAC) and solid carbon block media.

Granular activated carbon water filters

GAC media is typically made from a naturally absorptive media, such as coconut shell or coal. GAC filters have a large surface area consisting of hundreds of tiny micro-pores, which trap contaminants in a process known as adsorption.

GAC filters are best for removing aesthetic contaminants (those that affect water’s taste and smell) from municipal water, such as chlorine. They can also be used to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and certain heavy metals

Solid carbon block filters

Solid carbon block media is made from compressed carbon, rather than loose granules, and this compact design allows for a long contact time between the filter and the water.

When water flows through a solid carbon block filter, it must navigate a maze of pore sizes, which results in the broadest range of contaminants being removed.

Carbon block filters are better than GAC filters for removing heavy metals like lead, and some can even remove microbiological contaminants, as well as mercury, arsenic, radon and asbestos – depending on filter pore size.

coconut shell carbon

Oxidation Media

Oxidation media targets common well water contaminants, such as iron, manganese, and sulfur.

In the air injection process, a bubble of oxygen is injected into the top of the tank. When water is exposed to the oxygen, contaminants like iron are oxidized into their insoluble forms.

Once these contaminants have been oxidized, they can be filtered out of the water. A resin made from manganese greensand or a similar material is typically used to trap contaminants as water flows through the system.

Eventually, the resin becomes saturated with contaminants, and the system will regenerate, flushing the media and replenishing the oxygen bubble.

KDF Media

KDF, or kinetic degradation fluxion, is a type of filter media that produces a chemical reaction known as oxidation-reduction, or redox.

This zinc-copper alloy media is available in several different forms.

KDF-55 removes chlorine, making it a good option for municipal drinking water users. KDF-85 is more suitable for well water as it filters out iron and hydrogen sulfide.

Combination Media

Occasionally, you may come across a filter system that combines several different types of media to provide a broader overall filtration result.

The most common filter media combination is KDF-F fine mesh and activated carbon. When these media are combined, they offer a more effective performance, removing a broader range of harmful contaminants.

kdf media

Water Softener System Type

Ion Exchange vs Water Conditioner

There are two most popular types of water softener available today: ion or cation exchange water softeners and salt-free water conditioners.

While both units produce very similar results, their processes that lead to these results are very different.

Ion exchange water softeners

Ion exchange systems use salt to soften water. Sodium ions are released into hard water, in exchange for the magnesium and calcium minerals that cause hardness. This results in soft water that is completely free of hardness minerals.

Salt-based softeners need to regenerate when the resin bed is saturated with hardness ions. Regeneration usually takes place at around 2 am, when most people don’t need to use their water.

Water conditioners

Water conditioners are a salt-free alternative that use a scale-prevention process, such as template-assisted crystallization (TAC for short). This coats calcium and magnesium minerals with a hard, crystallized overlay that prevents the minerals from being able to stick to surfaces. Check out this study if you want to nerd out on the science of it 🤓

Water conditioners don’t actually remove water hardness. Instead, they prevent limescale – the biggest problem associated with hard water.

springwell salt-based water softener system

System Capacity

It’s important to accurately determine the capacity you need for your whole house water filter and softener combo.

The larger the system’s capacity, the longer it will last before it needs to be replaced (in the case of filter media or resin) or it requires regeneration (in the case of a salt-based water softener). Capacity and water flow rate usually go hand-in-hand; the larger the capacity, the faster the water flow.

You’ll need to choose the right capacity for your daily water usage. If you purchase a system that’s too small for your needs, the filters or softening media may work too hard. For salt-based water softeners, that means the system will need to regenerate too frequently, which will result in excess water waste.

Buying a system that’s too large for your home is also a bad idea, as the speed of water flow could damage your pipes. For units that require regeneration, having an oversized capacity may mean that they don’t regenerate as often as they need to in order to flush out the media and prevent bacterial growth.

If you want to know how to size a water softener, you can check out our guide here 👈

Water Pressure & Flow Rate

Water pressure and water flow rate are two more important considerations when purchasing a whole house water filtration system and softener combo.

It’s important that both units can process water at a speed that can adequately supply your whole home, whenever needed. You should be able to use multiple water-based appliances at once, such as showering while using the washing machine, without noticing a drop in water pressure.

The best whole-house water filters and softeners have a pressure rating of between 10 and 15 gallons per minute (GPM).

Initial & Ongoing Cost

On average, you can expect to pay around $1,500 for a single water softener or water filter system – but if you buy them together, the manufacturer may offer a deal that knocks $200-$500 off the overall price.

Aside from the purchase cost, another initial expense to consider is hiring a plumber or handyman for installation. Professional installation of a whole house water filtration system and softener usually costs $150-$300, depending on the competition in your local area.

For whole house water filters, there are various ongoing costs to consider. Most filter units use cartridges that need to be changed once every 2 years, 1 year, or 6 months.

You might purchase a whole house water filter system or water conditioner that uses filtration media. Typically, media lasts longer – usually between 6 and 10 years.

Water softeners that use salt are the most expensive to maintain. They require salt top-ups every 3 weeks or so, and they also waste water during regeneration. While you can bulk-buy batches of salt for less online, it’s still worth being aware of these costs when deciding which system you can afford in the long run.

Cost Factor Average Cost Range
Salt (ion exchange only)$20 - $40/40 lb. bag
Potassium Chloride (ion exchange only)$40 - $80/40 lb. bag
Resin $100 - $150 cu.ft.
Water + Sewer (for ion exchange softeners) $20 - $30
ElectricityMinimal
Cleaner $10 - $20
Rust Remover$5-$15
Water Treatment Repairs $200 - $1,000

Physical Space Available

Even the best whole house water filter and softener combo will take up a lot of room in your home. You’re installing two units together, which often means two lots of tanks and separate equipment.

Some of the filter/softener combos in this guide feature a single tank that does two jobs in one, but this is less common.

Ideally, you’ll have enough room in your dedicated installation spot for at least two large tanks. Most tanks need to be installed vertically, so you need more up-and-down room than side-to-side room.

You’ll also need plenty of room for maintenance, including filter changes and salt top-ups, if applicable.

I recommend carefully measuring your available room before looking for whole house filter and softener units. You should then read the specifications for the system you’re interested in and figure out how much room it’ll take up.

smart water softener systems

Installation & Maintenance

No matter which whole house filter and softener combo you opt for, installation will always prove challenging.

You’ll be required to cut into your water line and install several tanks, valves, and additional tech. You’ll also need to install a bypass valve to divert water away from your system during maintenance or regeneration.

While installation is fairly complex, manufacturers are getting much better at offering in-depth, step-by-step installation guides and videos that are designed to be followed by non-professionals.

Related: Should I install my water filter before or after the softener?

Once installation is out of the way, you shouldn’t forget about maintenance.

The exact maintenance your whole house water filter and softener combo requires depends on the type of system you own.

Whole house water filters with an activated carbon filter, such as a coconut shell carbon cartridge, need the most regular maintenance. Activated carbon filter cartridges usually have a lifespan of 6 months.

Whole house water filtration systems with a media bed usually last much longer without maintenance. They may need to regenerate, but this can be programmed automatically, so it’s no work on your part.

Water conditioners offer the lowest-maintenance softening option. They don’t need to regenerate, and they don’t require salt top-ups. You’ll just need to change the TAC media every 8 years or so.

Certifications

There are a number of certifications you should look for in a whole-house water filter and softener combo.

NSF/ANSI certifications are the most popular for whole-house water treatment units. For a system to be NSF certified, it must effectively perform the duty it is designed to perform (contaminant removal, usually). The filter must also pass tests relating to structural integrity, material safety and durability.

The best whole house water filter units may have several certifications. Some of the most common whole house filtration certifications are:

  • NSF 42, for the reduction of aesthetic contaminants, like chlorine taste and odor.
  • NSF 53, for the reduction of harmful contaminants with health effects (e.g. lead) – usually applies to a whole house filtration system with an activated carbon filter.
  • NSF 401, for treatment of emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals or currently unregulated chemicals.

The best whole-house water softeners (only ion exchange systems) should have a single NSF certification:

  • NSF 44, for the reduction of hardness (calcium and magnesium) minerals

System Warranty

Regardless of the type of whole house water filter and softener combo you buy, a good warranty is essential.

We recommend avoiding systems that don’t have any form of warranty. No warranty means you wouldn’t be able to exchange or return the system if it arrived faulty, or if it didn’t live up to the manufacturer’s claims.

A whole house water filter or softener should have at least a 2-5-year warranty on its most important components (such as tanks and valves). Most units will offer a 10-year or limited lifetime warranty on their tanks, and shorter warranties on other parts of the system.

Make sure you’re aware of any warranty terms and conditions, or anything you need to do to be eligible for the warranty. For instance, some manufacturers require you to register your system online in order to take advantage of your warranty.

✔️ Benefits of Using a Water Softener-Filter Combo

Alone, a whole house water filter system or water softener has its own specific set of benefits. Combining the benefits of these two systems means that you’ll get double the protection against drinking water contaminants in your home.

Some of the most notable benefits of using a whole house water filter-softener combo are as follows:

Protects Pipes & Appliances

The best whole house water filters and softeners can protect your pipes and appliances in numerous ways.

A salt-based water softener or salt-free conditioner can prevent the formation of limescale, or scale. Scale is incredibly damaging to plumbing systems and can prevent appliances from working efficiently.

Certain other contaminants, such as iron and manganese, can stain or leave deposits in your home’s pipes and appliances. The best whole house water filter for private wells can eliminate these contaminants.

Improves Water Quality

Using a whole house filtration system and softener combination can greatly improve the quality of your drinking water.

Water softeners and conditioners can improve quality by preventing scale. The best option for overall quality is water conditioners, which retain healthy calcium and magnesium minerals while preventing them from forming scale.

Whole house filtration systems improve water quality by removing aesthetic contaminants, such as chlorine, manganese, iron, sediment, tannins, and other impurities that affect water’s appearance, taste and odor.

Makes Water Safe for Drinking

It’s common for tap water to contain traces of dangerous contaminants – whether you get your water supply from a public source or a private well.

The best whole house water filters can remove these problem impurities, providing a tap water supply that you’re happy for your family to drink from.

Some of the health-affecting contaminants that whole house filtration systems can remove include:

  • Lead & other heavy metals
  • Chlorine
  • Fluoride
  • Arsenic
  • Radium
  • Pesticides & herbicides
  • Uranium
  • Urban pollution

Not all whole-home filtration systems can remove every single one of these contaminants, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying if you’re dealing with a specific contaminant on this list.

Money-Saving Solution

There are many money-saving perks of owning a whole house water filter-softener combo. If you prefer the taste and quality of bottled water, using a whole-house water filter system should produce a very similar product. This means you won’t need to pay for bottled water, which can cost hundreds of dollars per year.

Because water filters and softeners can prevent damage to your pipes and appliances, they should cost less to run, as they’ll be able to operate more efficiently. You’ll also be able to own your appliances for longer without the extra cost of repairing or replacing them.

💡 How Whole House Water Filters & Softeners Work Together

Whole house softening and filtration systems may work independently, one after the other, or they may be combined in one system.

Independent Softening-Filtration Combos

These consist of two separate systems. Usually, the water filter system comes first, allowing water to pass through this system before reaching the softener unit. A sediment pre-filter may be hooked up before the water filter system.

These systems work as standalone units: first, water is filtered in the filter system, which removes a specific set of contaminants. Water then moves into the softener or conditioner, where hard water mineral ions are treated or removed.

Merged Combo Systems

These units typically use a single tank that uses a softening and filtration media. In these systems, water flows through the tank, where it is filtered and softened simultaneously. There may also be a sediment pre-filter installed before the system.

❔ Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a water softener if you have a water filtration system?

Do you have a hard water issue? Then yes. While filtration systems can remove a broad range of tap water contaminants, including heavy metals, chlorine, chloramine and sediment, only water softeners can remove hardness minerals.

Do you need a water filter if you have a water softener?

Again, this depends on whether you’re dealing with a contamination issue alongside a hard water problem.

Water softeners can only remove magnesium, calcium, and small amounts of iron. If you’re dealing with chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals, high iron and manganese levels, sulfur, sediment, pesticides, or any other contamination problems, consider buying a whole-home tap water filter.

What is the difference between a water filter system and a water softener?

Water softeners soften water (i.e. removes magnesium or calcium minerals, or prevents them from forming scale). Whole house water filtration systems remove specific contaminants that can affect the taste, odor or quality of water. Here’s a full guide on the difference between water filters and water softeners.

Are there any add-ons worth considering for a water softener-filter combo?

Potentially, yes. If you get your water from a private well, you may want to install a UV light purification system to protect against microorganisms like bacteria and viruses.

Will whole home softeners and water filtration systems affect my home’s flow rate?

No – not if you buy the right-sized system for your water usage. Check our section on system capacity and water pressure/ flow rate for more information.

I can’t afford a whole house filter and softener combo, but I still want their benefits. What can I do?

One more affordable option is to purchase a whole-home water softener or conditioner, and a separate point-of-use water filter. Certain types of POU filters are much more affordable than point-of-entry systems. For instance, water pitcher filters cost less than $30. They typically use a charcoal or coconut shell carbon filter to remove some of the most common contaminants from a city water supply, including heavy metals, fluoride, and chlorine and chloramine taste and odor.