The quality of the water that you are using at home is important for you and your family members. To ensure that the water you use is clean from chemical pollutants, a good solution is installing a water softener. If you’re looking for the best water softener system for well water, your residence or company, you have come to the right place.
Below you can find the best home water softener comparison chart of top 10 products in 2017. The whole house water softener reviews of products that are listed in the table should help you find the right system that will be most efficient for your home. Read on for the reviews and descriptions below the chart of the best soft water softener systems based on their performance, quality and water softener ratings.
- Iron Pro 48K
- Grains: 48,000
- Dimensions: 54 x 10 x 10
- water softener and iron filter combination, digital metered valve
- Price: $$$
- Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 Portable Water Softener
- Grains: 10,000
- Dimensions: 21 x 9.5 x 9
- portable, uses standard table salt
- Price: $
- Fleck 5600SXT digitial sxt metered whole house system
- Grains: 48,000
- Dimensions: 10" x 54" tank, 14" x 17" x 33" brine tank
- meter based regeneration
- Price: $$
- Iron Pro 2
- Grains: 64,000
- Dimensions: 48 x 12 x 12
- water softener and iron filter combination, digital metered valve, removes hardness up to 75 gpg, Iron up to 6-8 ppm range, Manganese up to 6 ppm, sediment, sand, rust
- Price: $
- WaterBoss 220 Grain Water Softener
- Grains: 22,000
- Dimensions: 18.8 x 14.8 x 25.8
- additional sediment and dirt filters
- Price: $$
- Eddy Electronic Water Descaler - Water Softener Alternative
- Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.6 x 3.5
- descaler, reduces the effects of hard minerals
- Price: $
Water Softener Reviews – Top 6 Products
- Water Softener Reviews – Top 6 Products
- Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
- Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 Portable Water Softener
- Iron Pro 48K Combination Water Softener & Iron Filter
- Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter
- WaterBoss 365 36400 Grain Water Softener
- Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
- Best Water Softeners Comparison Chart
- How Do Water Softeners Work?
- Guide to Choosing the Best Water Softener – Which Water Softener to Buy?
- Top Water Softener Brands List
- What Is A Water Softener?
- Do I Need A Water Softener?
- What Size Water Softener Do I Need?
- What Is Hard Water?
- The Effects Of Hard Water On Your Health?
- How To Test For Hard Water?
- Types of Water Softeners
- Salt Based vs Salt-Free Water Softener
- How To Install a Water Softener
- Common Water Softener Problems – Troubleshooting
- Water Softener Maintenance and Tips to Keeping It Healthy
- Water Softener FAQ
- Q. What is Regeneration?
- Q. When do the resins in the water softener need to be changed?
- Q. What kind of salt to use?
- Q. How often do I need to add salt to the brine tank?
- Q. Will the water softener make water safe to drink?
- Q. How much sodium is added to the water by a water softener?
- Q. Are there alternatives to salt-based water softeners?
- Water Softener vs Water Filtration Systems
- Can a Reverse Osmosis System Be Used as a Water Softener?
- The Bottom Line
Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
This is one of the best rated water softeners and it has a capacity of 48,000 grains, which means it will capture up to 48,000 grains of hardness before it needs to be recharged. This system is a salt-based one, but you can also use Potassium instead of salt if you don’t like the taste of salty water, or you’re on a salt-restricted diet.
If this is your first water softener system, it would be better to contact a professional to handle the installation to make sure everything is fixed as it should. However, if you used water softening systems before, you know which component goes where, and you usually work on different projects around the house, you should be able to install the system all by yourself without too much trouble.
The Fleck water softener features an electric system which will learn your conditioned water needs and regenerate automatically when necessary, lowering your expenses on salt and water. Fleck products are considered the most efficient water softeners on the market.
- Easy Installation – Installing this residential water softener is easy, and most handy people will be able to do it without the help of a professional. There are even some helpful installation videos online you can watch if you need advice or instructions.
- Good Customer Service – If you don’t know how to program the water softener, or you encounter any other problems while using it, you can always contact the manufacturer’s customer support. They will provide all the information you need.
- No Detailed Instructions – This water softener doesn’t come with detailed instructions regarding the programming of the controller and the timer. This might be a problem if you decide to install the unit yourself, but you can always contact customer support for more instructions.
Best suited for: this water softener is a great choice for larger households, and will only need one bag of salt per month for four people.
Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 Portable Water Softener
This is one of the top water softeners that was specially designed to fit and work in an RV, and it’s smaller and lighter than other systems. It’s the highest rated water softener among portable models. The small water softener only weighs 9 pounds, and has a height of 21” and a diameter of 9.5”. This is a salt-based water softening system.
Since this is a smaller unit, it doesn’t have an automatic recharging feature, so you will have to manually recharge it when needed. You will also have to recharge the unit more frequently than you would a larger unit, but the quality of the water produced makes it worth the trouble.
Unlike whole house systems where automatic timers and controls handle the water softening process, and you only have to put in the salt or the Potassium and leave the room, with this portable system you will have to do all the softening process by yourself. This means you will have to flush, backflush, and rinse it all by yourself, besides charging it.
- Great Quality – The water produced after the softening process is of very good quality, and you will be able to benefit from it anywhere if you install this system in your RV
- Small – As every experienced RV owner will tell you, no matter how large you think your RV is, storing space is actually limited and you have to make the most of it. This water softener is not large, measuring only 21 inches in length and 9.5 inches in diameter, so you will be able to find it a suitable space without interfering with your usual activities.
- Manual Softening Process – Despite the fact that this is a well-performing water softener, some people will have second thoughts about buying it because all the softening process has to be made manually.
Best suited for: this is a great fit for RV owners.
Iron Pro 48K Combination Water Softener & Iron Filter
If you’re looking for the best whole house water softener on the market, another great option to consider is Iron Pro 48K model. Not only does this residential water softener remove the hardness from your water, but it will also remove the iron in it. This product has a 48,000-grain capacity so it will remove up to 48,000 grains of hardness, but it will also remove up to 6 – 8 ppm of Iron, up to 6 ppm of Manganese, as well as sand, sediment, and rust, which also makes it a good water softener for well water.
This product is specially designed to meet the whole water needs of larger households, so it will be able to provide soft and filtered water for up to 3 baths used by as much as 5 people.
The system uses a meter-based regeneration process, which means that all the water used is measured and the resulting feedback allows the system to regenerate only when it needs to. If your water needs are higher, the system will regenerate faster, and when the needs are lower, you will save money because the system will regenerate slower to conserve water.
- Softener And Filter – This system will provide filtered and softened water, so you won’t need additional hardware for these jobs lowering the overall cost of your fresh water. All the residue will disappear from your sinks and bathtubs, and your appliances will work without needing maintenance for a longer time.
- DIY Instructions Manual – Not only does this water softener and filter system come with installing instructions, but the instructions are actually created with DIY installing in mind. The installation steps are clearly pointed out in the manual, and additional information is provided by the customer support service
- Plastic Parts – Some of the more important parts, like the bypass valve or fittings, are made out of plastic.
Best suited for: this system is a great fit for people who have hard water with a high level of iron.
Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter
This combination of a water softener and particle filter also offers the best hard water solution in 2017 and will provide a high flow of soft and filtered water for your whole household. The water softening capacity allows this system to hold up to 64,000 grains of hardness before a recharge, while the particle filter will stop up to 6 – 8 ppm of iron, 6 ppm of Manganese, and other sediments, as well as rust and sand.
Hard water can cause a white build-up whenever it comes in contact with a faucet, a bathtub, and even with your dishes. Once you install this water softening system you will not experience this kind of problems any longer. In addition, this system will also remove the ferrous and ferric iron in your water, as well as the Manganese deposits. The iron in your water stains your faucets in a reddish-brown color, while the Manganese deposits produce black slimy stains.
This water filtering and softening system uses a meter based regeneration process, so the regeneration will be automatically adapted to your water use. The more water you use, the faster the regeneration starts, so you will save money when you use less water.
- Great Customer Support – Like with every mass manufactured product, some may present small or bigger problems. You don’t need to worry if this happens to the product you receive. The manufacturer’s customer support is great and they will solve all the existing problems without extra charges or arguments.
- High Water Softening Capacity – This system has a great water softening capacity, and it should remove up to 75 GPG of hardness.
- Vague Installation Instructions – The installation instructions are confusing, and people without previous experience in installing water softening systems will have problems following them.
Best suited for: this model is a good choice for larger households.
WaterBoss 365 36400 Grain Water Softener
Another good model that made it to our best water softening systems list is the Waterboss 365. This Waterboss water softener model was specially designed to meet all your water consumption demands and to provide soft water to all the members of your household. This powerful model has the capacity of softening up to 90 grains per gallon and it will also reduce the ferrous iron by up to 10 ppm while stopping all the dirt, sediment, and rust with particles larger than 20 microns.
The residential water softener has a compact design that will allow you to place it almost anywhere in your house, even in tighter spaces where other models wouldn’t fit. The compact design also allows the water softener to regenerate quicker than other models, in a little over 38 minutes when you use a salt setting of 6 lbs. The quick regeneration period will allow this model to use less water than other models.
Even though the water softener is not as large as other models, its softening capacity is very high. You will be able to feel the difference in the water hardness as soon as you start using it.
- Small And Compact – This unit is small and compact, so you will be able to place it somewhere in your house where it won’t bother you, or in a spot where it won’t interfere with your daily activities.
- Works Silently – This model was designed to be used inside a home, not in a shed or a garage, so the manufacturer designed it to operate silently. You won’t be bothered by it, not even when it recharges which is the loudest operation.
- Unprotected Plumbing – The plumbing on the back is unprotected, so critters or debris can enter it.
Best suited for: with its high capacity and compact design, this is a great choice for people with a large household but limited storage space.
Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
If you’re looking for a more affordable water softener, consider installing this Eddy electronic water descaler. This electric water softener can be installed on both plastic or metal pipes with great results and offers a no salt softening alternative for people on a restrictive diet who don’t want to spend a large amount of money on Potassium to soften their water.
The electric water softener uses electromagnetic waves to create a magnetic field around your incoming water supply. This way, all the water passing through the electromagnetic field is subjected to the magnetic field and the adhesion proprieties of the limescale are altered, so it will not deposit itself inside the pipework, or on the surface of your faucets or appliances.
One of the advantages of using this type of water descaler is that it won’t alter the chemical properties of the water supply, so you will still be able to benefit from the effects of different elements, such as calcium or iron which are naturally found in water. Another advantage is that it offers an economical and ecological alternative to salt water softeners.
- Maintains The Water’s Composition – This product does not add anything to your water source, but it does not block anything in it either. All the chemicals in your water supply will be the same as before, so the water hardness will also be the same.
- No Scale – Even though this water softener does not change the water’s composition, it will still keep the scale from building up. This happens because the minerals in the water are electromagnetically changed, and don’t cling to every surface any longer.
- Not For Very Heavy Water – If your water source is very heavy, the electric water softener might not be very effective.
Best suited for: this is the right choice for people who want a water softener but don’t have a very heavy water source.
Best Water Softeners Comparison Chart
|Fleck 5600SXT||48,000||10" x 54" tank, 14" x 17" x 33" brine tank||meter based regeneration|
|nuvoH2O Manor||60,000||31.3 x 10.1 x 8.8||salt-free|
|Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002||10,000||21 x 9.5 x 9||portable, uses standard table salt|
|WaterBoss 220||22,000||18.8 x 14.8 x 25.8||additional sediment and dirt filters|
|Eddy Electronic Water Descaler||electronic descaler||6.7 x 1.6 x 3.5||descaler, reduces the effects of hard minerals|
|Metered water softener with 1.25" Fleck||64,000||18" diameter x 33" brine tank||metered regeneration|
|Aquios FS-220||40,000||27 x 10 x 8||Salt-Free, All-In-One system that conditions, filters, eliminates scale|
|Aquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener||50,000||14 x 5 x 23||salt-free|
|Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener iron filter Fleck 5600SXT||64,000||12 D x 48H||meter based regeneration|
|Metered water softener with 1.25" Fleck||MEP media life: 5 years||9D x 52.5H||salt-free, dual-stage carbon filter, no backwashing|
How Do Water Softeners Work?
To understand the concept behind the process of how water softeners work the video below will be very helpful.
Using hard water on a daily basis can have many negative side effects. You might experience dry skin and hair, as well as rough clothes and more.
To find the best water softener for the money, there are several important details you should know. First, you will need a unit that will be able to provide enough softening water for the whole family. So look for a powerful enough unit, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be too powerful, as it will be a waste of money.
Secondly, you should find an appropriate space to accommodate the water softener and buy one with the size that will fit that space.
If you have decided to purchase a water softener system, you probably know what hard water is. When water is passing underground rocks and soils, it carries with it the so-called hard minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and other metals. Hard minerals in the water you use at home can have the following negative effects on you and your home.
Scale from dissolved magnesium and calcium will build up in the plumbing fixtures and will cause erosion and clogged pipes.
The hard minerals will make the fabric of your clothes rough and dingy, thus in short time they might start looking worn out.
Water Softeners works by destroying calcium, magnesium, and certain other hard minerals in the water. They are usually measured by the capacity of grain removal. Water softeners usually require salt for their operation, however, some of the units can also work on such alternatives as potassium chloride or no salt at all.
Guide to Choosing the Best Water Softener – Which Water Softener to Buy?
Portable Vs. Standard
If you want to be able to take a water softener with you when you’re outdoors, for example when camping or if you want to have a convenient drinking water filter, you can purchase a portable water filter. These are cheap to buy and have a filter that needs to be replaced every few months. Portable water filters can be taken anywhere with you so that you can have clean water no matter where you are. Standard water filters are usually installed onto your existing water system. You can buy whole home water softeners or single faucet softeners that simply filter the water to one faucet or a shower. They are more expensive but they can provide more volumes of softened water and far more quickly than with portable softener systems.
Electric Or Non-Electric
Electronic softener systems can keep track of the water that you use and this can control the frequency of the regeneration. Although to purchase, these systems are more expensive than non-electronic ones, they will save you money in the long run as the filter will last for longer.
There are a few features that you will need to consider when you are trying to choose the best water softener system for your home. Do you want a whole house softener, a softener that just filters the supply to your faucets or would you prefer a portable softener? What kind of salt will be needed? How much are the replacement filters and how often will the filter need to be replaced?
You can choose from two main kinds of controls when it comes to water softeners. A timed controller system is designed to regenerate at a specific time of the week, set by the timer. Although convenient, this is a wasteful method of control, as the system may not actually need to be regenerated at these intervals. To ensure that you only regenerate the softener system when it needs it, you could choose a volume controlled or metered system. This will detect the amount of water that has passed through the system and will only regenerate when it needs to.
Single Vs. Twin Tank
A single tank system only offers soft water when it is required. If you choose a twin tank system, on the other hand, you will be able to have softened water around the clock. If you choose a single tank system, you will be able to use a tablet or granular salt. Dual tanks require block salt. If you are looking for a low maintenance solution, a single tank system may be better as it has fewer parts in comparison to a dual tank water softener.
Although the warranty on the water softener system is unlikely to be the most important thing to consider when you are making your purchase, you should keep in mind that having warranty will mean that you will not have to pay a lot of money if something goes wrong over the first few years that you own the softener system. The better the warranty, the more peace of mind you can enjoy.
Top Water Softener Brands List
Below we have listed some of the most popular water softener manufacturers that stand out and which consistently receive top ratings from users.
- Fleck – one of the oldest water treatment brands. Fleck has been on the market for over 50 years and has led the way in implementing the advancing technologies in control valves, water softeners, and filtration applications. It is the top recommended brand of water softeners. Fleck products have the best reviews and highest water softener ratings.
- Waterboss – one more brand with long experience in helping people improve the water quality in their homes. They have a range of water softeners with quite high ratings. The water softening systems they produce are made with the concept of reducing the water wastage. So their units use less water than any other water softener on the market.
- Morton – a known brand by many mostly because of the salt products. It’s been producing salt for over 160 years and is still the leading salt producer in North America. Except for different types of salt, in their line of products they also have water softeners. There are several units available that have received a wide range of positive reviews from buyers.
- Aquasana – this well-known brand has also been on the market for a while providing products for clean water and healthy environment. They focus on providing water filtration and softening products but with keeping the environment in mind. The products are engineered with minimal waste and reusable parts. They have some good whole house water softening systems, shower head filters, and faucet filters.
- Culligan – this trusted name has been on the market of water treatment industry for around 75 years and has proved to be a reputable brand. They have a wide range of water treatment products.
What Is A Water Softener?
A water softener is a home appliance that uses an ion exchange process in order to remove hard minerals from the water running in your home. The hard minerals that get to be removed are calcium and magnesium. These minerals are absorbed from the earth.
There are many disadvantages of using the water with these minerals in it: it causes residue and buildup in the home appliances and pipes, the soaps and detergents don’t lather well, it creates white buildup on the dishes and makes your hair and clothes look dull.
Most of the time water softening units consist of two tanks: a water tank and a brine tank. One of the tanks contains resin beads, which have an opposite electrical charge to that of calcium and magnesium. As a result, when the water flows into the tank, an ion exchange process occurs and the hard minerals are exchanged with soft ones. The soft minerals can be either sodium or potassium chloride. These minerals you need to regularly add to the water softener in order for it to regenerate.
Do I Need A Water Softener?
When considering if you need a water softener or not, you will first need to find out if the water in your home is hard or not. Below you can find more information on how to test and determine if you have hard water and what it really is.
After determining that you do have in fact hard water, you will need to decide if you do want to purchase a water softener to combat it. Also when testing the water you should determine the hardness level it has, so if you do decide to obtain a water softening system, you would be able to get the right one for your needs.
As we have mentioned above there are many problems that hard water can cause to a household. It can be not just inconvenient, but also unhealthy and expensive as hard water affects your skin and hair and also shortens the lifespan of home appliances. So if you have hard water, your best choice would be to purchase a water softener. They can be quite expensive but in the long run, you will actually save money, and your health will benefit as well.
What Size Water Softener Do I Need?
Determining the right size for your water softener should be your first priority when you decide on buying one. The following steps should help you make an informed decision.
Determine The Hardness Of The Water
There are two ways in which you can determine the hardness of your water source, and they require different instruments. After finding out the water hardness, you need to keep it in mind because you will have to introduce it in the water softener programming tool. If the test results are reported in mg/L, divide that value by 17.1 to find out the GPG value
- Colorimeter – The colorimeter is an instrument which allows a light beam to pass through an optical filter and transmit a color or a particular group of light wavelengths to a photodetector. The photodetector measures the information and compares it with the amount of light received from a colorless sample. The amount of color light absorbed will determine the hardness’ concentration and will be reported by the meter.The advantage of using a colorimeter is that the value is more precise than that measured by a test strip. The disadvantage is that they’re usually expensive.
- Test Strip – Test strips are usually made out of plastic and have small pads at one or both ends. The pads are specially designed to react when they come in contact with different chemicals and produce a certain color change when it touches different ions. Once the pads take a certain color, they are compared with a color chart. The chart is designed to show which color represents certain concentrations of chemicals.The advantage of using test strips is that they’re cheap. A disadvantage is that the measurement is not extremely precise. Someone might appreciate that the colored pad belongs to a certain concentration, while others might say it belongs in another
Determine Household Water Usage
If you want to find out the right size of the water softener you need, you need to determine how much water you use daily. There are several calculating tools online, but none of them are optimized for a water softener.
A simple way of finding out how much water your household consumes is to look at the detailed section of your water bill. There has to be a line which tells you how much water you consumed in the month the bill was issued. Divide that value by the number of days to find out how much water you use daily.
If you can’t find this information in the water bill, a good assumption would be to multiply the number of people in your household by 75 gallons, which is the average consumption of a citizen in the US.
Determine The Amount Of Water Grains That Need To Be Removed Per Week
Now that you found out all the variables you need, you will have to calculate the necessary softening for each day.
Multiply your daily water usage by the water’s hardness. The result will be the daily softening needed for your household.
If for example, your water consumption is 200 gallons and the water hardness is 14, the daily softening required will be 2,800. This result is measured in grains per day. This means you will need to remove 19,600 grains weekly.
Choose The Water Softener Capacity
When you’re shopping for a water softener, you will notice that all the manufacturers advertise the number of grains the softener can recharge each week. These values can vary depending on the model and manufacturer, but they will be mostly between 16,000 – 64,000.
Choose the closest value to the one you calculated. If the calculated value is between two capacities, choose the higher one.
The size of your water softener depends on what you are planning on using it for, how often you will use it, what size family you have or how many users there will be of the system and how often the unit regenerates.
Do you want a water softener for your RV or for a mobile home? There are plenty of water softeners that are available for mobile purposes and these come in the form of tank style systems. They are easy to transport and are small enough to allow you to move it around but large enough to provide water to your appliances in your RV.
If you want to simply soften your drinking water, you can get smaller pitcher sized water softeners. These come with a filter that needs to be replaced every few months, but you won’t need to connect anything up to your water system. Simply fill the top of the pitcher with water and then leave it to drain through the filter. These filters hold enough water for a few glasses of water.
Alternatively, you can find a range of water softeners that are suitable for your whole home. These need to be fitted to your water supply and require a lot more salt in order to regenerate frequently enough for daily use.
What Is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that contains high quantity if dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. It’s a very common problem that affects more than 85% of households in the country.
What causes hard water? The rainwater falling onto the ground is naturally soft. But when it makes its way through the ground and eventually into our home waterways, the water picks up from the rocks and underground sand minerals like lime, chalk, and mainly calcium and magnesium. Some people prefer drinking hard water as it contains the essential minerals. It has health benefits and a good flavor, while soft water usually has a salty taste and not always suitable for drinking. But why would we want to soften our water then?
The difference you can spot when doing household chores, in the shower and on the appliances and clothing. It takes a toll on home appliances, which leads to them using more energy. Also, it leaves spots and residue on faucets, bathtubs, dishes and dishwasher. It makes the clothes look dingy and doesn’t let soap lather well.
The hardness of the water can be measured in two terms: either parts per million (PPM) or grains per gallon of water (GPG). In most of the U.S. household, the hard water level is between 3.5 and 10.5. Below 3.5 GPG you will probably not notice any negative effects of the hard water.
The Effects Of Hard Water On Your Health?
Water is essential for life. Besides drinking water for hydration, we also use it to prepare and cook our food, as well as a sanitation and hygiene agent and for other purposes as well. A source of clean water is needed to ensure access to adequate quantities of water and has an important role in protecting your health.
It’s considered that 51% of the world’s population has access to a centralized water system, but only a small proportion of these people apply some for of treatment to the water within their home.
A source of water is considered hard if it contains a high concentration of Calcium and Magnesium. Other elements, such as Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Strontium, or Barium, can cause hard water but are less frequent.
Hard water affects your health because of the salts dissolved in it, and it sometimes provides an important supplementary intake of Calcium and Magnesium. If the total intake of Calcium and Magnesium is too high, some adverse effect can appear.
A strictly regulated intestinal absorption mechanism protects most individuals from the excess intake of Calcium, but an excess intake can lead to a reduced absorption of other minerals. An excess intake of Magnesium can lead to diarrhea.
How To Test For Hard Water?
To determine if you have hard water issues, before purchasing a water softener you should do a water test. You can either do a test with just some home tools or get a test kit that will give you results on all types of contaminants in the water.
For the unscientific home test, you will need just a plastic bottle and soap liquid washing soap. Take an empty small plastic bottle and fill it up with water about halfway. Then add 5-6 drops of liquid soap and screw on the bottle cap. Give the bottle a couple of good shakes and remove the cap. If it’s full of soap suds, you do not have hard water. But if the water didn’t foam up but only created a soapy film on the surface of the water, then most likely your water is hard.
If you know that your home water is hard, you can get a DIY test kit to more specifically measure the hardness. There’s a wide range of these kits available for purchase on Amazon.
If you are not sure what is the exact issue with the water in your house, then these kits will also help you to find out that. They test for all the water contaminants, so after the test, you will be easier for you to decided what kind of water treatment unit: a water softener or a water purifier.
Types of Water Softeners
Basically, there’s just one type of water softeners – the traditional one. All the standard water softeners use for their hard water processing either sodium or potassium chloride. Using one or the other has its own benefits and disadvantages, and it’s more to individual’s preference.
Each one has advantages and disadvantages.
Salt Based Water Softening Systems
These are the most popular water softening systems. They are usually designed to fulfill all your water needs, but some models are designed to work in mobile homes or RVs.
A typical whole-house water softener uses the principle of “ion exchange”. Without getting into the chemical technicalities, this principle uses sodium chloride (salt) to substitute the hard minerals, such as Calcium, Magnesium, or Iron from your water source.
This kind of water softener system usually has two tanks, one for storing resin, known as a mineral tank, and one for storing salt, known as a brine tank. Besides the two tanks, the water softener usually has some type of control system as well.
Your main water supply line is connected to a control valve at the top of the resin tank. When the water enters the tank, it makes contact with resin beads. The resin beads have a negative electrical charge which will attract the mineral ions like Calcium and Magnesium in the hard water, making them adhere to the surfaces of the beads while releasing sodium ions. When the water reaches the end of the column of beads it is softened. The water is then pumped back into your house through a cold water line.
After some time, the resin beads are coated on all their surface with mineral irons and have to be cleaned or “recharged” to be able to attract minerals again. The water softener’s control system will automatically control the cycle of backwash, recharge, and rinsing of the beads. Some controls schedule the cycle after a number of days, while others schedule it depending on the amount of water which passes through the water softener. If your water softener doesn’t have an automatic control, like some models developed for RVs or mobile homes, you will have to do all these processes manually.
- Whole House System – This type of water softener provides enough soft water to cover all your household’s usage. The main water source is treated, so the water coming out of the faucets or entering your appliances is soft.
- No More Lime Scale Buildups – This type of water softener will completely eliminate the minerals in the water when it’s sized properly, so you will no longer have problems with lime scale buildups.
- Quick Results – You will be able to see the difference in the water quality as soon as you install this water softener system.
- Salty Water – This type of water softening system catches the minerals in the water on the surface of the resin beads, but eliminates salt into the main water source. This makes the water taste a little salty, which some people won’t like.
- Not Good For People On A Diet – Because the water contains a high amount of salt, it is not recommended for people on a strict diet.
- Pricey – These might be some of the most popular water softener models available on the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. In fact, most people will think twice about buying one after they see their price.
- Regular Maintenance – These water softeners need regular maintenance. The brine tank has to be periodically changed, as does the resin tank.
Salt Free Water Softening Systems
Some people are concerned about the high amount of salt in the water softened by salt-based softeners, while other might not be allowed to use the salty water because they’re on a strict diet. Whatever the reasons, there are salt-free alternatives for all who demand them.
- Using Potassium Instead Of Salt – Some people don’t like the taste of salty water, but they still want to use a whole-house water softening system. All of these systems can work well using Potassium Chloride instead of Sodium chloride.
Potassium chloride is mineral naturally found in nature, but it’s most commonly used in agriculture. This mineral replaces the salt in the brine tank, but it works in the same way when it comes to removing minerals. The hard water minerals will attach themselves to the surface of the pellet beads, but instead of releasing salt, the beads will release potassium.
Potassium chloride is an important nutrient for the human health and it has an important role in many of the body’s functions. The good functioning of nerves, organs, and muscles cannot be accomplished without potassium chloride. However, people seldom have a deficit of potassium chloride in their body, as the chemical can be found in fruits, meat, dairy products, and vegetables.
Since potassium chloride is less used than sodium chloride, the extraction process is more expensive, and so the mineral is also more expensive than salt. However, people who are on a sodium-restricted diet, those concerned about their sodium intake, those who are very health conscious, and those who are preoccupied about the well-being of the environment might prefer using potassium chloride over sodium chloride.
- Whole House Softening System – Just like salt-based water softening systems, this one can be used for your main water supply and offers the same benefits.
- Healthy – Potassium chloride provides more health benefits than sodium chloride, so it will be a better fit for people who are heath conscious or heath-oriented.
- Expensive – Potassium chloride is expensive, and using it instead of salt will elevate your cost by up to three times, sometimes even more if you don’t have a seller in your area.
- Distinct Taste – Just like with the salt-based systems, the water has a particular taste after the potassium chloride is released in it. Some people might prefer the salty taste over this one, while others won’t.
Magnetic Water Softening Systems
Magnetic water treatment is still a controversial method of softening the water. Some of the leading voices in the water softening industry still claim that magnetic water treatment is unproven and unscientific.
This water treatment should make the lime molecules to precipitate as round crystals, so they won’t deposit on surfaces, remaining in the water flow.
- No Lime Stains – This system should make the minerals in the water unable to deposit, so you won’t have lime stains in your home any longer.
- Limited Range – These are not whole-house water softening systems, so you will need more than one to cover all your water needs.
- Controversial – These systems do not remove the hardness from the water, so even if you use them, the water hardness test results will be the same.
Electronic Water Softening Systems
These systems are supposed to use electricity to create an electromagnetic field around a water pipe, so they pretty much work in the same way as the magnetic water softening systems.
When the water passes through the electromagnetic field, the minerals in the water change their shape, so they won’t stick to every surface they touch remaining in the water flow.
- Cheap – These water softening systems are cheaper than other models.
- Small – These units are small, so they’re great for tight spaces.
- Reduces The Lime Scale Buildup – These devices will reduce, but not eliminate the lime buildups.
Chelation Water Softening Systems
These water softening systems use a chelation agent to bind the mineral ions in the water. As a result, the minerals remain suspended in the water, and they won’t stick to the surfaces.
This softening method won’t reduce the water hardness, but it will keep your appliances, faucets, and bathtubs free of deposits. However, scale deposits will form where water sits.
- No Scale – This softening system will keep the scale from forming on every surface, so everything will look better and appliances will work for a longer time without maintenance.
- Cheap – This water softening systems are cheaper than the salt-based ones, or other salt-free systems.
- Scale Can Form – Scale can still build up in the places where water sits, like pools, or water heaters.
- Some Chelation Agents Are Dangerous – Some chelation agents, such as citric acid and EDTA can be dangerous to your health, so you have to store them properly.
Salt Based vs Salt-Free Water Softener
Choosing between a salt-based and a salt-free water softener can be a personal choice, as some people don’t like the taste of salty water, or they are on a restrictive diet, but there are also technicalities involved. Here is a list of pros and cons for both systems.
- Completely removes calcium and magnesium before you turn on the faucet if they’re sized properly, or reduce them dramatically if they’re not.
- Efficiently protects your plumbing and appliances from limescale build-ups.
- You will notice results as soon as you start using the water softening system.
- Are usually more expensive
- Can be pretty large
- Moderate level of maintenance
- Might need professional installation
- Unlike salt-based water softeners, these ones don’t add anything to the water, and they don’t take anything from it, either. This can be important, as the Calcium and Magnesium in the water can make up a large part of your regular intake.
- No taste
- Low to no maintenance
- Small and compact
- Usually cheaper
- Can be used by people with salt regulated diets
- Reduce, but don’t eliminate the lime scale build-ups
- Show results slower than salt-based systems
- Not effective for very heavy water
How To Install a Water Softener
Besides investing a lot of money in a water softening system, you will also have to spend some calling a professional to help with installing the system in your home. This guide will explain how to install a water softener by yourself, so you can save your hard-earned money.
- Read The Instructions Manual – This is the first thing you should do when the manufacturer delivers your water softening system. Some manufacturers provide detailed installation instructions in the manual, and other will even include links to instructive videos, so you will be able to install the softener by yourself without any problem.
- Shut Off And Drain – Make sure you turn off the main water line entering your home. Once you have turned it off, turn on all the faucets in your home and garden to drain the water lines. After you drain all the lines, proceed to step 3.
- Place The Water Softener – Make sure that you place the water softener on a dry a level surface, and that the two tanks you locate close to one another.
- Measuring And Connecting – Measure the distance between the bypass ports on the tank and the cold water line. You will need a copper tubing of that length to connect the two. Once connected, you can either solder fittings or use Shark Bite connectors on the ends.
- Install The Discharge Tube – Installing the discharge tube to the softener’s head is done differently depending on the model, so you should seek the manufacturer’s instructions on how to do it.
- Overflow Tube – The overflow tube attaches to the water conditioner tank. You have to connect it and the discharge tube to a drain.
- Install The Bypass Valve – Place the bypass valve on top of the conditioner’s head valve and tighten the clamps with a screwdriver.
- Connect The Bypass Valve – Connect the tubing delivering the water to the bypass valve.
- Connect The Water Conditioner To The Water Lines – And make sure the connection doesn’t leak.
- Scrub The Fittings – Now you either have to scrub the fittings and solder them, or use Shark Bite connectors again to make sure everything fits properly. If you solder the fittings, you will also have to apply flux and melt it with a propane torch to make sure every fitting will be waterproof.
- Turn The Water Back On – Your job is done and the water softener is installed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to start the system.
Common Water Softener Problems – Troubleshooting
Water softeners are a complex system and as with any complex machine, it has the potential to have problems. Most of the water softener companies offer technical assistance. However, a lot of the problems can be easily solved by the user himself without the professional help which can turn out to be quite costly. However, if you are not sure about the cause of the issue, it’s best to advise a technician. Also, make sure that your warranty is not invalidated if you try to troubleshoot the appliance yourself. Below are some of the common problems that could occur in the process of water softener’s operation.
If your water softener has stopped running completely and doesn’t seem to be doing anything, to find the problem start by checking the following.
- Check the bypass valve. The bypass valve is the fixture that keeps the water flowing through the unit. So make sure that it’s open.
- Check the power. If your water softener is an electricity powered unit, make sure to plug it into a live outlet and check that it has power.
- Check the brine tank if it has enough salt.
- Do a manual regeneration cycle. On most of the units, you will find a lever on the control box, pushing which will start manual regeneration.
Other common problems of water softeners that you can troubleshoot without a technician’s help include blockages, salt bridges, motor failure, user error, or resin beads breaking.
As the salt and minerals flow through the pipeline, after some time they can start to accumulate and create deposits. The created deposits block the line of the water flow, thus impeding the path through the tank. Blockages usually occur either in the brine line or the filter screen.
One of the signs that the water softener has a line blockage is a considerable difference in the softening of water. If you discover a huge decrease in the water softening, you should check the lines for blockages.
However, this problem can be easily fixed. Start by turning off the water supply to your water softener by either turning off the incoming faucet or the bypass valve. Tap the salt or other buildup until it breaks up. Using a scoop or just a container, remove the loose buildup.
Sometimes sodium can create a deposit inside the brine tank, forming a hard crust at the bottom of it. Several factors could cause the salt bridges to form. It could be that you are using the wrong kind of salt, high humidity of the area where the water softener is installed, or water temperature of the area where the unit is operating.
Salt bridges create an empty space between the water and salt. So it prevents the regeneration cycle of the system since the salt can’t dissolve in the water. So if you notice that the water softener is not softening the water, there’s a high chance that the cause is a salt bridge.
Salt bridges are also quite easy to fix. You can either hire expensive professional help or fix the problem yourself by just using something like a broom to break up the crust. All the loosened build up, as well as the crust around the edges, should be cleaned out.
As with any other appliance, the motor is vital for proper work of your water softener. If the system fails to start, the issue is most likely the motor. However, before concluding that it is a motor failure, check that it’s not the disconnected cables that are causing the issue. If the issue is with the motor, it’s best to contact your manufacturer. They will be able to send a technician to check the system or offer a replacement motor.
A water softener is a system that requires the user to input certain settings. So it’s a manual process and with any manual process, things could go wrong due to user error. Most of the water softening systems are easy to use. However, some of the more advanced systems require more technical knowledge. To avoid the user error, make sure that you properly follow the instructions of the manual. And if you do get a user error, refer to your manual again for troubleshooting.
Resin Beads Breaking
Resin beads are only present in salt-based water softeners. Usually, they should last a lifetime. However, like with anything else, there’s still a chance of it breaking. It’s easy to determine if the beads are not working properly, as you will see small particles of the beads floating in the softened water. Also, if your system requires more frequent recharging, check the beads working improperly as a potential cause.
The solution to this issue is either to clean them or completely replace them. For more details, you can check the user manual for your system.
Water Softener Maintenance and Tips to Keeping It Healthy
Water softeners usually with very little maintenance can last a long time. However, it’s advisable to perform regular checks to make sure its optimal functioning. So below are some answers to some of the most common questions that there are regarding the water softener maintenance.
How often should I add salt?
Salt is an essential part of the whole water softening process. Either it is using sodium or potassium chloride, the system will require you to regularly add it to the regeneration process. So if you are not sure how much salt you need to add, the following factors will help you determine how much exactly your system needs:
- The size of your brine tank.
- The level of water hardness in your area.
- The number of people in your household.
- Your average household water consumption.
So if you have a larger family, you will probably require more water and will have a bigger sized water softener. Consequently, you will need more salt. To make it easier for you to control the regular salt addition, most of the water softeners and conditioners have valve control panel. This panel does all the calculations. You’ll know exactly when you will need to regenerate and when to add salt.
How much salt should I keep in the brine tank?
At all times the brine tank should be about a quarter full with water softening salt. However, you should also keep it no more than six inches below the top of the tank. This will provide optimum efficiency.
The salt level should always remain about a few inches above the water level. Before adding more salt to the brine tank, make sure that there’s no salt crust sticking to the base or edges of the tank. So if there are, loosen and break them up, after which remove it from the tank. If it’s difficult to break up, pour some hot water over it.
How much salt is required for my water softener?
For each water softening system the amount of salt required will differ. It will also depend on your water usage. So when buying a water softener, it’s important to size correctly. An average residential system will use about 10 pounds of salt per week.
How much water should there be in the brine tank?
Usually, the brine tank also contains some water at the bottom of it. But usually, it’s not more than 12 inches high.
Other Useful Tips
- Use salt pellets with iron remover. Regular rock salt might be less expensive, but the contaminants can cause problems in the long run. It can create sediment buildup in the brine tank. Also, it can clog the injector and the control valve.
- Add the salt only when almost all of it in the tank is already used up. Also, when refilling the tank, make it no more than two-thirds full.
- Iron-Out is very helpful at cleaning the resin bed, as well as the parts in the control valve. So you can use it once a year, to keep the system clean.
- Once a year perform cleaning of the brine tank of its contaminants.
Water Softener FAQ
Q. What is Regeneration?
A. In reference to water softeners, regeneration is the process that occurs in a water softener system when the system removes the calcium and magnesium that the resin in the softener’s cartridge has drawn from the water supply. The minerals are removed by the resin by charging the resin beads with a negative charge and then the sediment in the water. It is naturally positively charged so it is drawn to the resin, like a magnet. During regeneration, a salt water solution washes the resin and this keeps the filter clean and effective for several months at a time.
Q. When do the resins in the water softener need to be changed?
A. There are a few different signs that you should look out for so that you know when to change the resins in the softener.
The resin can swell if you expose it to too much chlorine. So many users, especially those in cities find that they need to replace their resins every 10 years. You’ll know that you need to replace it if there are fragments of resin blocking the faucet or if you notice it come out of the faucet stream.
If you notice algae growing on the resin bed, it’s certainly time to replace the resin. In outdoor systems, this can be a common occurrence, so you should pay special attention.
Q. What kind of salt to use?
A. Water softener systems require a brine tank that is filled with salty water. This water is used to regenerate the filter periodically. It is important to ensure that the water has the best salt in to maintain the filter properly. You will notice all kinds of salt available at the supermarket, so you should choose carefully.
The answer is simple. You need to avoid dicing and table salt and try to choose a salt that dissolves well. If the salt dissolves well, it will be easy for the system to flush away when it has cleaned the filter. If the salt does not break down, it will get stuck in the filter and will only add to the problem.
Q. How often do I need to add salt to the brine tank?
Depending on the hardness of the water supply in your home and the number of people using water, you may require between 9 and 10lb of salt a week. You should add salt whenever the brine tank is running low.
If you have a water filter that regenerates often, you will need more salt than one that regenerates every few weeks. This is another factor that will determine how often you’ll need to add salt. You should check your instruction manual if you are still unsure.
Q. Will the water softener make water safe to drink?
A. Water softeners are designed to make your water safer to drink than your unfiltered water supply. This means that it will remove most of the impurities and the chemicals from the water. However, this does not necessarily mean that it will be the best kind of water that you could drink. Some people still prefer distilled water or water that has been bottled and specifically prepared for drinking purposes. In short, however, the water softener will usually mean that your water is safe to drink.
Q. How much sodium is added to the water by a water softener?
A. The average amount of sodium in an 8 oz glass of softened water is around 28.12 mg. This amount is an average and will depend on the hardness of your original water supply.
Q. Are there alternatives to salt-based water softeners?
A. You can find salt free water softeners and these are also known as descalers. They are a good alternative to salt based softener systems. They can still remove magnesium and calcium almost as effectively as salt-based systems. You will also be able to avoid the problem of sodium in your softened water.
Water Softener vs Water Filtration Systems
Most people hear of water softening systems and water filtration systems, but they don’t know exactly what each of them does. So they don’t really know what to buy when they want to solve one problem or another regarding the water quality in their home.
Water Softener Systems
Water softener systems use certain technology to eliminate the minerals contained by hard water. Most hard softening systems use small beads coated with salt which attract the minerals in the water to their surface. Once the minerals in the water touch the beads, they attach themselves to the surface of the beads. This releases the salt ions in the water. This process eliminates the minerals in the water and replaces them with salt.
People who are on a sodium-restricted diet, who are concerned about the harmful effects of sodium chloride on the environment can choose to use potassium chloride as a softening agent instead. Potassium chloride is a healthier and environmentally friendly option to sodium chloride, but it’s also more expensive.
Other softening systems use magnetic or electromagnetic fields, or chelation agents to change the form of the mineral ions so that they won’t make deposits on surfaces. These systems do not actually soften the water because they won’t change its composition. However, they will protect your plumbing, faucets, and appliances from the harmful effects of scale deposits.
Water Filtration Systems
These filtration systems use different filters with variable sizes to trap the particles in your water source. While some of them will only trap larger particles, such as iron or manganese ions, others will use smaller filters which will stop even bacteria from passing through.
Both water treatment systems are important. A softening system will provide a softer water which won’t stain any surfaces. A filtration system, on the other hand, will provide cleaner, healthier water.
Can a Reverse Osmosis System Be Used as a Water Softener?
A reverse osmosis system will physically remove most of the particles found in the water. These particles can be dissolved minerals, dirt, rust, debris, or other contaminants. When they pass through the filter, the generated force removes them from the water.
Here are the pros and cons of using this system.
- No Taste – The filtered water does not have a taste. This system will remove all the foul tastes your water might have, but won’t make it taste like salt or potassium either.
- Environmentally Friendly – The system doesn’t use any chemicals for the filtration process so it is environmentally friendly.
- Soft Water – Since most particles won’t be able to pass through the filters, the water also softens.
- Inefficient – While a reverse osmosis system will remove most of the particles in the water, the system is highly inefficient. Only up to 15% of the water will reach your faucets, the rest being will discard into the drain along with the removed particles.
The Bottom Line
The top 10 water softeners we have included in this article are all whole house water softening systems. They provide softened water to all water supplies in the house, including the shower, kitchen, and others.
If you’re looking to prevent scale buildup in your household or certain appliances. There’re also other systems that help with that. For certain appliances, you can use inline water filters. For particular taps you can use reverse osmosis water filters, that will reduce the salt level and purify the water, making it alkaline.
The best water softener reviews that we have included on this page are based on our research of different brands and models available on the market in this industry. We have reviewed their ratings, features, and reviews of users who have purchased these models.
There are other good water softener systems for home use that are also very effective and also near to these top rated water softeners. One of them is On the Go portable water softener. Its benefit is that it doesn’t require special installation and you can use it in your RV.
We hope that the information we have provided in these water softeners reviews was helpful for you. We hope that you were able to choose the right water softener for your home. The one that will fit your needs and your price range.