If you are someone who’s tired of hard water problems at your home, and looking for a good water softener system to get rid of it, then you have come to the right place. We provide user based reviews of the best Water Softener systems in the market out there. All the reviews are based on average customer input and the countless surveys we organised to find out which is the best water softener out there. Don’t hesitate to go through all the free information on this site about Water Softener Reviews, and if you have any questions or need personal guidance on choosing the right water softening system, then you can reach out to me using the contact form on this website. I’ll try my best to help you out.
Water is an important element in our life. In fact, 60% of a human body consists of water and we need to consume enough water every day to stay healthy. But it is necessary that the water we use in our life is safe to use. Hard water is one such thing that not only affects our health in a bad way but it also doesn’t allow us to do day to day task properly.
Hard water is very hard to work with and if you try using it with a detergent, you will notice that it won’t let you make a good lather but it will turn into a scum like material. In these cases, we need a way to soften the water and this is where Water Softeners come in. But choosing the right and the most suitable Water Softer for your home is not an easy thing to do. There are tons of such products in the market, and choosing the best one from such a wide range can be confusing for sure. But don’t worry – we will help you find the best Water Softener in this article. We have prepared below a table including the best Water Softeners in the market right. They are tested, and proven to work best for thousands of customers. Check out the best Water Softener Reviews below.
When looking at water softeners, it is important to take note of their grain capacity. The higher the grain capacity, the more water the softener is able to process before it needs to regenerate. A larger home will need a water softener with a higher grain capacity, and vice-versa. Keep in mind the size of your home, your household, and the amount of water you usually use in a day in order to help narrow down your options for the perfect water softener.
There are many excellent water softener options on the market, and this article is here to walk you through the pros and cons of each one to help you choose the right softener system for your home.
Top Water Softener Brands
Let’s now take a look at a list of one of the best and most popular models of home water softeners in the market right now. This selection was especially handpicked for users who may need only essential and basic, yet powerful systems, these models are all considered very flexible and will be able to comfortably meet the demands of any medium-sized home.
Best Water Softener Reviews 2017
#1 Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
The Fleck 5600SXT is a mechanical meter unit, one of the most popular commercial home water softeners.
One of the most outstanding advantages it offers is that it can cut your water and salt use by as much as 40% when compared to automatic timer water softeners; this is because, like all meter-based systems, it will only regenerate when the supply of soft water it holds runs over. Its regeneration cycles are also fully programmable and you can change the settings any way you want.
Another interesting feature is its timer which can keep the correct time even in the event of a power outage and even for 48 hours.
Its installation process is known for being fast and easy.
Manufacturer: Fleck Structural
#2 NuvoH20 Manor Complete Water Softening System
The NuvoH20 Manor water softener is the newest product by NuvoH20; designed for medium to big-sized homes, it can cover the water supplies needs of a 2,000 square feet home, having a top capacity for homes with 4 bathrooms and 6 people.
The greatest advantage of this system is its convenience and practicality: it does not require salt to work, instead it works with a chelating system, it works with cartridges which you only need to change every 6 months, each one being able to produce up to 50,000 gallons of soft water; each cartridge requiring less than 60 seconds to be replaced.
In addition to this, the NuvoH20 Manor system is more economic in the long run; being more efficient, it can reduce your water bills by using up to 4 times less water than other water softeners. Also, this system does not require any electricity to work.
#3 Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 Portable Water Softener
The Watts RV PRO-100 OR M7002 Portable water softener is one of the most popular and highest rated alternatives out there for people who travel (especially people who travel on RVs as the RV’s water tends to be very hard) and for those looking for a very basic and easy-to-use water softener.
The Watts RV PRO-100 OR M7002 is extremely easy to install, uninstall and pack, use and maintain; it is very compact (measuring 8 x 22 inches) and requiring common table salt to work, requiring less than 20 minutes and 2 pounds of common salt for recharging once the salt is depleted.
Each unit includes a free set of testing strips to measure the hardness of your water and ensure that your unit is working properly.
It is considered a must for anyone who travels often in RVs.
#4 WaterBoss 220 Water Softener
The WaterBoss 220 water softener is one of the most basic and essential models from Water Boss, it was especially designed to comfortably supply the water home and personal needs of families of up to 4.
Its extremely compact size of only 14” x 18” x 25” plus its small volume of production makes it an ideal alternative for small households and RVs, with its small size allowing it to fit into very tight spaces.
A smaller size and smaller volume of production also translates into much faster regeneration cycles, which consume less water and salt, saving you money and extending the softener life.
#5 Morton Salt MSD34C System Saver Water Softener
The Morton Salt MSD34C water softener is one of the newest models brought by Morton, it features a highly automatized patented electronic system that makes it highly efficient and economic in the long term.
First of all, the Morton Salt MSD34C is equipped with a computer that takes note of your water usage and essentially learns from it: it sets the most appropriate schedule for regeneration cycles which happens only when really needed and it also learns with the occasional upsurge in water use, like when you have guests at home. This makes it consume very little salt which is one of its most notable advantages; some home users report using as little as 4 bags of salt per year.
Less use of salt and regenerating only when needed also translates in a smaller water use.
#6 Aquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft Water Softener
From the Aquasana EQ series of water softeners, the Aquasana EQ-SS20 is the most basic and least expensive model, designed for small homes and families.
The Aquasana EQ-SS20 is a true salt-free water softener, as with other legitimate alternatives in this category, it uses Nucleation Assisted Crystallization or NAC to change the positive charge in the ions of salt that cause the hardness in water (Calcium and Magnesium), rendering them unable to build up in scales of lime inside pipes and to interfere with the action of soaps and detergents.
You can buy the stand-alone water softener or add it to more comprehensive filtering systems also offered by Aquasana if you want a more complete solution.
#7 Iron Pro 2 Water Softener
The Iron Pro 2 is a mechanical metered water softener and also integrates an iron filter.
As you already know, the mechanical meter type allows you a greater flexibility as it adapts both to your needs and patterns of use, and will only start the regeneration cycle whenever its soft water supply needs replenishing, so if your water use goes up for any reason, it will regenerate more often. Also, this softener uses the mechanical meter technology from the Flex 5600SXT which provides it with it renowned efficiency and simplicity.
#8 Green Wave Cascade 15 GPM: Water Softener Alternative
The Green Wave Cascade is one of the most simple and sophisticated alternatives out there for homes, it does not just removes hardness, it also filters it, and it uses no salt and does not need to regenerate actually.
The Cascade uses a 5 micron pre-filter to work, which means no salts or any other chemicals are needed for it to work; and it removes hardness by using a technology known as Nucleation Assisted Crystallization or NAC which works as follows: the NAC process will not remove the minerals and salts that cause hardness, it will simply change their molecular conformation so they will not build up in scales along the inner walls of pipes, or interfere with the action of soap and detergents; it will in essence render the water suitable for any type of human use and will not even require electricity to work.
This system allows it to reduce and remove a proven 99.6% of the limescale in your pipes and also comes with a lifetime warranty.
#9 Aquios Full House Water Softener and Filter System
- Very small and light weight at 9.4 pounds
- Best choice for anyone looking for a Sodium free solution
- Sodium is replaced by Siliphos
- Comes with starter carbon cartridge
Although the Aquios water softener and filter system is a full house system, it is very small, weighing in at only nine pounds. It works on a similar principle to the other softeners on this list, but it does not utilize sodium. This makes it a great option for anyone who is concerned about increased sodium intake while using a water softener.
TheAquios system differs from other water softeners in that it does not remove calcium and magnesium from the water. How can it help soften hard water, then? Rather than using sodium to replace magnesium and calcium, theAquios system instead adds Siliphos, a phosphate additive, to the water to help keep these minerals from building up in high levels.
This water softener comes equipped with a starter carbon cartridge that is good for up to six months of use. This cartridge works in a way much like a filter in a fish tank or a water pitcher might work, by breaking up unwanted mineral ions in the water. TheAquios system is a good alternative for anyone who might want to avoid sodium-based water softeners. It is ideal for keeping pipes clear of scale buildup, but it is not quite as effective atsoftening water for daily use.
#10 Iron Pro 48K Combination Water Softener & Iron Filter with Fleck 5600SXT Digital Metered Valve
- Can also remove iron from water
- Easily removes iron, manganese, and even rust and sediment.
- 48,000 Grain Capacity
- Meter based regeneration to keep an eye on water consumption
If you are looking for a water softener system that will work for the entire household, look no further than this very highly rated softener! This water softener is manufactured by Fleck, which is one of the leading water softener companies on the market today. In the spirit of Fleck’s excellent softener systems, the Iron Pro goes above and beyond what most others can do.
Aside from working as a water softener, the Iron Pro also removes iron from water. Iron may not be a significant cause of hard water, but it is often present along with calcium and magnesium, and therefore it can lead to trouble. When you use this water softener, you will also benefit from less red staining caused by iron in the water, and less scale buildup on tiles, faucets, and even in pipes. Why go for a simple water softener when you can get rid of iron buildup, too?
With the Iron Pro, you will never have to worry about remembering to regenerate your system again. This system features a meter based regeneration, which means that it keeps track of your daily water use and will not regenerate until it is absolutely necessary to do so. This saves on utility bills, since the system is not constantly operating, and it also keeps you from having to worry about manually flushing and brining the water softener every time it is needed.
The Iron Pro features a 48,000 grain capacity and an easy to use digital valve. This system is able to be used in a large home with multiple bathrooms, and can service up to seven people in a household. Using a mesh resin filter tank, this water softener is capable of removing not only calcium and magnesium, but also iron, manganese, and even rust and sediment. For complete water treatment, choose Fleck’s Iron Pro system. This is the #1 Water Softener as found on analysis by our experts. We highly recommend this product if you are looking for the best Full House Water softening system.
#11 Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 10000 Grains Portable Water Softener
- Portable & hence can be fixed in an RV too
- Small yet efficient
- 10,000 Grain Capacity
- Built especially for people on the go
This water softener, made by Watts Water Technologies, is an excellent smaller variety of the water softener system that is great for use in an RV or in a small home or apartment. If you are only concerned with softening water for one to three people, then the Watts RV Pro is a great choice for you! Although this water softener system does not function as powerfully as does a whole house system, it is a great starter water softener for those who are looking to try out the concept without sinking a lot of money into something that may or may not be right for their home.
If you are someone who enjoys camping in an RV, then you are once again looking at the right water softener. This softener is designed to be lightweight and portable, making it easy to pack up and go whenever you are ready to move on to your next great adventure. Weighing in at only nine pounds and standing only 21 inches high, this small water softener still packs a punch!
The Watts RV Pro is also an ideal option for anyone living in an apartment, duplex, or condo. Because it is so small and portable, it can be easily stored out of sight in even the smallest of spaces. There are many benefits to having this tiny, efficient system around!
One important difference between this system and one that is designed for a whole home is the absence of the automatically recharging brine. A whole house system generally has a brine tank that recharges on its own when the water gets low, or when the right time of day rolls around. When using a portable device, you must recharge it yourself, performing all flushes and refills on your own. This is important to keep in mind if you are looking for a hands-off type of water softener. This particular system will need to be recharged approximately once a month, but may require more recharges than that, depending on how much water you use.
However, if you are willing to devote a little extra time to it, this small softener can be a great asset to your home. You can even operate it using table or pellet salts, so you don’t have to purchase anything expensive or hard to find to use the system successfully. For a small water softener system that does a great job in a small space, the Watts RV Pro can’t be beat.
This water softener system features a10,000 grain capacity and a flow rate of 4 gallons per minute. It is equipped with a custom flow valve that saves you the trouble of disconnecting the system when regenerating. The quality features of this small water softener add up to make it the highest rated system on the market.
#12 Morton System Saver 30,000 Grain Water Softener M30
- Uses 50% less salt than previous models
- Small yet efficient
- Great option for a small or medium sized family
- Can be used in small businesses too
Made by the very same Morton company known for its table salt, this whole house water softening system is one of the best rated up-and-coming large-scale softeners currently on the market. It utilizes 50% less salt than its predecessors manufactured by the same company, making it a much more efficient model and improving upon those that came before it.
But the efficiency doesn’t stop there! This water softening system has a “Look Ahead” feature, which ensures that the system will only regenerate on an as-needed basis. Of course, it is possible to override this feature with the Recharge Now or Recharge Tonight options, if the need should arise to do so. These three different settings give the Morton System Saver plenty of choice for optimal use.
This water softener system is an excellent choice for a small to medium sized family home, or even for a small business that is plagued by hard water. One or two bathrooms and one kitchen can easily be serviced at the same time by this sturdy little system.
This water softener features a 30,000-grain capacity and a single-tank design focused on saving space. At 43 inches tall and eighty pounds in weight, this high flow system processes 11 gallons of water per minute. The Morton System Saver even comes equipped with power interruption protection that lasts for 8 hours, meaning that if the power should shut off, the system will pick up where it left off as long as it receives power again within 8 hours. This water softener is truly a convenient small package!
#13 On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener
- Portable yet powerful
- Easily works with table salt
- 16,000 Grains
- Takes only half hour to run its cycle
Don’t let the name of this water softener fool you! Although it is a great option for an RV or even for marine use, it is also strong enough to make it an excellent choice for those who are looking to soften the water in a small office, apartment, condo, or mobile home, as well.
As this system is a smaller model, it does require manual regeneration. However, it only needs table salt to regenerate, and it takes only about a half hour to run through its cycle, meaning that you only have to sacrifice your treated water for a half hour when the regeneration time rolls around. And don’t worry about having to flush the system very often—one regeneration cycle will last for forty days! In fact, this portable softener is so powerful that it is the largest water softener currently available that still fits into the compact category.
Although there are some other great portable water softener systems available on the market, this model does almost twice the work that its competitors do. It can easily soften the water of a small living space for one to three people, and it only requires minimal effort on the part of the owner. It is also one of the cheaper models available, making it an excellent purchasing decision for anyone who is just starting to fight back against hard water.
This water softener features a 16,000 grain capacity and a high flow rate. It has a swivel function that allows the hose to be connected easily, and it does not need any tools or electricity in order to be installed or to function. It even comes with a cap and a plug to help keep the system from leaking and to provide for extra-easy travel when needed. If you are looking for a portable Water softening system, the On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT is the best one to go for at the moment.
#14 WaterBoss 220 22000 Grain Water Softener
- Softens water and also filters out the iron
- Regeneration cycle takes only 18 minutes
- 22,000 Grains
- Comes with a quiet motos and a 20 micron dust filter
This whole house water softener, manufactured by WaterBoss, is a small but very efficient model. Like the more powerful water softener systems on this list, the WaterBoss 220 also filters out iron from the water, as well as calcium and magnesium. However, its smaller size and lower capacity make it less suitable for a large home, and better for a one- to two-bathroom house or large apartment or office.
Like most of its whole house counterparts, this water softener system uses an on-demand regeneration system, which means that it will not regenerate unless more water is needed. When the time does come, the entire system can regenerate in only 18 minutes. Because of its lightning-fast regeneration time, this water softener does not use as much water as many of the others on the market do.
The WaterBoss 220 features a 22,000 grain capacity and a 20-micron dirt filter. It also offers a quiet motor, ensuring that it operates almost silently. It weighs only 73 pounds, making it one of the lightest full house models available. At only 26 inches tall and 18 inches wide, this water softener system won’t take up much room at all! You’ll hardly even know it’s there. If you’re looking for a water softener for a small space that won’t be too intrusive, try the WaterBoss.
#15 North Star NSC40UD1 Ultra Demand Water Softener
Based on overall rating and state-of-the-art features, it’s hard to go past one of North Star’s premier products. Boasting better water flow rates and reduced pressure loss, the North Star NSC40UD1 is well suited for today’s home applications. One of the main benefits of this system, as with many new systems, is that water is softened on an ‘on-demand’ basis, rather than a ‘timed’ basis. This significantly reduces salt usage. Furthermore, the system learns your water usage patterns and therefore gets more effficient as time goes by. The easy to read display also allows you to keep track of time, hardness, percent remaining capacity, current flow, total daily usage and average daily usage. Overall, a fantastic unit and tops our list as the best water softener.
#16 nuvo H20 Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System
Okay, so this system is a bit different. You knew it as soon as you saw it. It utilises an innovative eco-friendly process known as ‘chelation’ whereby the metal ions causing hard water (calcium and magnesium) are bound to the chelating agent in an FDA-approved, proprietary formula – keeping minerals soluble and unable to cause hard water problems. Despite being saltless, it is amazingly effective and potentially the future of softening systems – although I know some may disagree. There is no doubt that this system is more expensive than most units, but doesn’t require the additional purchase of salt (just a change in cartridges approximately every 6 months). Also, it take up much less space than salt water softeners and doesn’t waste water.
#17 Magnetic Water Softener and Conditioner
As you know, I am not a huge fan of Saltless Water Softener Systems (despite having included two in my top 3!). The main reason is because they can be deceiving. Why? Well, because they are not water softeners. These magnetic conditioners are simply designed to reduce the impact that Hard Water has on your plumbing and pipes. However, it will not alter the ‘after-tap’ effects of Hard Water and does not permanently convert it to Soft Water, like a traditional true-to-label water softener will. The reasons I have included it in the top 3:
- It’s very affordable to buy and maintain
- It’s very easy to install
- It’s eco-friendly
- Have had excellent feedback on its effectiveness
- Will increase the lifespan of your plumbing and pipes
However, I still can’t help but see this as a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. A very low cost option… but will it perform? If you’re not concerned with the after-tap feel and effects of hard water and are simply looking to improve the lifespan and effectiveness of your plumbing, then this may be the answer.
Remember that it is very important to compare and contrast the best water softener options for your home. What works for one home may be completely unreliable for a different home with different water hardness. Take your time in making this decision, and you will soon be enjoying the benefits of having softer water!
By now, you should be well equipped with all of the information you need to know in order to make the best possible water softener decision for you and your household. You have learned that a smaller home, such as an apartment or a one-bathroom with a family of one to three people, can make the most of a portable water softener system such as those used in RVs. Conversely, you have also learned that a larger family will require a whole house system, and that these larger and more powerful alternatives have handy automatic regeneration functions.
The Best Water Softener Review 2017 – The Ultimate Guide
Water contains lots of dissolved minerals and salts; most of the times, these dissolved salts are composed of calcium and magnesium ions. It is the amount of these particles what is measured to determine whether water is hard or soft: the greater the amount of calcium and magnesium ions in the water, the harder it is; the lower the amount, the softer.
Most of the times, the amount of calcium and magnesium ions is not a matter of concern, if it is below a certain level then it simply will not matter and will cause no problems.
However, some types of water may contain way too much salts and minerals (that is, the water may be too hard), if it does, then lots of problems may arise and the water might even become virtually unsuitable for human use.
You may have not even heard about the hardness in water, and it may have been making your life harder, maybe even for years now.
In this article we will learn everything you need and have to know the quality and hardness of water: how to determine that level, the reasons for it, why it matters and what you can do about it.
Why Can Water Become ‘Hard’?
Most of the water supplied for human use is extracted from underground reservoirs and rivers (or dams where the water from rivers and streams accumulates).
Water from these sources is very accessible and very abundant, while water from other sources is scarce (like desalinated seawater or catching rainwater), so it is very cheap.
It is also reasonable clean: it is obviously filtered and purified but this process is much faster and efficient if the water is already almost ready.
However, water from rivers and underground reservoirs erode the surrounding soil and its salts; as a matter of fact, most of the salts in seawater come from the amount of salts rivers carry after they take it from their surrounding soil. Depending on your area, the soil can have lots of salts and so the water you use will tend to have lots of salts too. In southern California and some areas of Tennessee, for example, the water tends to be very hard. In those areas, in the past it was common for water that came out of the pipes to become orange or white after a few minutes.
Why Does It Matter?
Lots of salts in the water stick to the piping and create a buildup of limescale and promote corrosion if the pipes are metallic; but this scale can also build up in any other container, object or machine which is often in contact with the hard water: from water heaters to tea kettles and even coffee makers.
Even washing your car can be difficult with hard water: if water splashes your car windshield and you just let it dry, you can sometimes see the marks the drops of water leave over the glass, these marks are the salts that were dissolved in the water that were left behind after it evaporated, and the hardest the water is, the worst these marks will become.
Drinking hard water can also be detrimental to your health of you consume them: if consumed regularly, the salts can build up in your kidney as they filter these salts, and create painful kidney stones. Also, when soap is combined with hard water it tends to form a sticky residue and reduces the efficacy of soap and detergents, so you will find it harder to wash soap off your skin when washing your hands or taking a shower; but washing off detergent is also harder so you might notice this when washing essentially any other surface or thing: your dishes, your car, your windows, your tiles or your clothes.
Whatever the problems it might present, one thing is always consistent: using hard water is much more expensive than using soft water. If your water is harder then you use much more soap, you need much more water to rinse, the potential medical problems in the future will cost you much more, you need more water when washing your car or doing the dishes, and so on.
Assessing The Hardness Of Your Water Supply
The only definitive way to assess the hardness of the water you consume is you have a few options; the first and most simple one, is to inquire this with whoever is in charge of your water distribution system. If you use public water then you will have to contact the office where you pay your bills and ask for the latest water test results, telling them you want to know about the hardness. If you are on a private system then you should contact your local county health department and either asks for the latest results or ask to have your water tested in case they have not performed any tests at all or if the tests are too old.
Additionally, you can also do a test yourself, either by taking a sample of your water to a lab or by buying a test kit which is less accurate but much more convenient, cheap and fast, and since you only need a good estimate and not an exact number to decide whether or not to get a water softener, then buying and using a home test kit is the most advisable option.
But, even without a home test kit or any inquire, if the water you use is hard then you are likely to have already noticed some or all of the following common essential signs, most of these complains and problems with hard water are hard to notice and you might have experienced some of them for so long that you might even have not noticed them:
#1 Soap lather.
This is very often the first thing people tend to notice and complain about in regards to the quality of their water: the soap lather they get; you take a shower or wash your hands and instead of a rich and bubbly lather you get just a mostly sticky and oily weird foam which can be rather hard to wash off, requiring you a lot of time and lots of water to get rid of it. This is only natural simply because we use soap everyday and if there is even a slight change of difference we would notice right away.
So, hard water, as we saw above tends to create a sort of white sticky scum with soap and soft water tends to create richer and more productive soap lather which is easier to wash off from your skin, but remember hard water also affects the ability of detergent to form foam, so you can find it harder to wash dishes and clothes.
#2 Water spots.
When you wash your windows or your car windshield, do you notice lots of water spots? Water spots might be a normal occurrence and may not indicate nothing serious or a particular hard water, you see, almost every water in your supply can leave water spots on transparent surfaces, but with softer water you will most likely find the water spots are small and minimal: you get fewer of them and they tend to be just the outline of a water drop.
But the harder the water, the most notorious they are and the harder you will find it is to clean them off; water spots might even feel and seem like sticky stains and wiping them tends to just smear them.
#3 The taste.
Hard water tastes very different than soft water and anyone could almost always detect the difference right away. Soft water tends to have a refreshing slightly salty taste, which is usually minimal and hard to detect, but usually tastes very pure. Hard water on the other hand tends to taste saltier and bitter and if the water is very hard then it might become hard to drink it and feel disgusting.
Your hair and skin. As we saw above, hard water makes it hard for you to wash off the soap from your skin and hair but you might also notice other detrimental effects on your skin and hair. Washing your hair with hard water usually harms it and makes it look dry and dull, because the excess of salts in hard water dehydrates your hair and this also applies to your skin, which might also seem drier. Washing your hair and skin with hard water will also give you an uncomfortable sensation after drying them, like there are residues left, making you feel dirty. After some time, your hair will become brittle and flaky and if you dye it or use perms then you will notice those fade much faster than they suppose.
On the other hand, after washing your hair and skin with soft water you will not be able to feel any residues after drying them and they will feel unclear, while your hair will have very little volume.
So, how do we fix this? To fix this we rely on devices known as water softeners, which simply filter and remove the excess of minerals and salts in the water; so, as their name suggest, they ‘soften’ water. A modern water softener will readily and easily bring down the amount of salts in the water to an acceptable level and will last for years, even decades.
Depending on your particular case, using a water softener might be advisable or even a necessity, so let’s now take a look at how you can determine whether or not you could benefit from using one.
How Do Water Softeners Work?
There are two predominant systems used today to effectively remove water hardness; these two methods are reverse osmosis and ion-exchange polymers. Reverse osmosis is not suitable for personal use since it is expensive, very inefficient in small scale (it would purify 5 to 15% of the water it gets) and overkill (it is more suitable for completely clearing everything out of seawater, not for picking up a few stray particles of salts). So, we will focus here in the only system widely available and used for treating hard water: ion-exchange polymer softeners.
The basic principle of the ion exchange polymer softeners is essentially the same and is very simple: the magnesium and calcium ions are taken up and replaced with sodium ions, which are harmless; so this is the “exchange” of ions that takes place in the water softener. Sodium ions are added in very small and minute quantities, well below the maximum level allowed by the Food and Drug Administration, so it is harmless and can even help you replenish the sodium you lose through sweating or urine, and provide you with your daily sodium intake you need.
The exchange of ions takes place as follows: the water softener contains small polymer beads made of a resin known as zeolite. The beads have a strong negative charge and are also covered with sodium ions; because the sodium ions have a positive charge they are strongly attached to the negative-charged beads. The hard water is then pumped through the beads and as it flows and enters in contact with the sodium ions, the calcium and magnesium ions quickly exchange places with the sodium ions; this happens because the calcium and magnesium ions have a positive charge (as the sodium ones do) and are also attracted by the polymer beads, but more strongly than the sodium ones which are displaced.
There comes a moment however in which the beads have lost all their sodium ions and so they need to be replenished. This is why the ion-exchange softeners have to be loaded with salt; usually sea salt, although some home models can work even with regular table salt. Salt is made of sodium and chlorine and its chemical name is sodium chloride, so it provides the water softener with perfect source of sodium (the chlorine is not used, of course).
So, when the beads have lost their levels of sodium ions, then is time for what is known as the regeneration cycle of the water softener.
The salt is stored in a tank with a small amount of water, so as to create brine. When the regeneration cycle starts, the beads are flooded with the brine and, thus, with sodium ions: a HUGE amount of sodium ions. The calcium and magnesium have a higher affinity for the beads than the sodium ions, but the amount of sodium ions in the brine is so huge that their sheer numbers displace the calcium and magnesium and fill the beads with sodium ions again.
All that is left is brine water filled with calcium and magnesium ions extracted from the hard water, that brine is flushed out down the drain, and the amount of brine with calcium and magnesium salts can be huge, with up to 20 to 30 gallons per regeneration cycle.
As you can see, this process is not very efficient and wastes lots of salt, but salt is not a very harmful pollutant and is readily available anywhere in the world, while also being inexpensive.
How About Salt-Free Water Softeners?
There are several manufacturers out there that sell water softeners which (they claim) will not require salt to work; you must be wary of such claims and be very careful of those products.
There are commercial technologies available integrated into water softeners which allow them to be truly be “salt-free” and these are perfectly legitimate and indeed do not require salt to work; however, many of them are not, so you must find out as much as you can from a particular water softener and its manufacturer before even considering buying one if they claim to be salt-free.
Legitimate salt-free water softeners are those which use Nucleation Assisted Crystallization or NAC; this process does not need any salt because it does not remove the salts and minerals out of the water, it simply changes their structures so and renders them harmless; the way it works switches the electric charge in the ions of Calcium and Magnesium from a positive to a negative charge. As a result these salts will not be able to build up inside pipes in limescale and they will not interfere with the action of soap or detergents.
Other legitimate technologies use Reverse Osmosis which in essence uses a very small filter to take out not just the hardness out of water but also bacteria, fungi, viruses and anything bigger than a water molecule; however, Reverse Osmosis is not commonly used at homes as it is expensive, inefficient for such small applications, hard to install and maintain, very complex, hard on the environment and it is simply not necessary; it is more suited to desalinate seawater on a big scale, like to provide a steady supply of fresh water for whole cities and counties, not to filter the water supply for a home, which will never be that contaminated anyway.
Are There Different Types Available?
Yes. Since virtually all the commercial domestic water softeners available are of the ion-exchange polymer type which use polymer beads and salt, their main difference is how they operate.
So, we have three different types:
- Units which use a computer to calculate the level of sodium depletion in the polymer beads and automatically decide when to start a regeneration cycle.
- Units which work with a timer that starts the regeneration cycle on a fixed regular schedule that is set after you feed the softener fresh salt.
- And, finally, units which directly measure the water level in the tank with a mechanical meter and start the regeneration cycle when deemed necessary.
Each of them has its advantages and disadvantages: the softener models which use a computer usually carry a limited and small reserve of softened water so you can use some even when a regeneration cycle is running. The softener models that use a timer usually can’t dispense any softened water while a regeneration cycle is running. And finally, the units with a water meter tend to be always more flexible as they have two separate water tanks and so they can produce soft water and recharge at the same time.
Types of Water Softener Systems
You will find that there are 4 different types of water softener systems currently being sold. Here is a short explanation of each just to give you a basic idea of how each one works.
- Magnetic Water Softeners : This type of water softener uses magnetism to take calcium out of the water. The water source has to be close to the water softening device to function properly and the process lasts for only 2 days.
- Salt Water Softeners : This system uses ion inter-exchange reaction to get rid of calcium and magnesium in the water.
- Reverse Osmosis Water Softeners : This water softening system uses membrane or semi-permeable filter to cleanse the water.
- Salt Free Water Softeners : Among the types of water softeners, this is the friendliest to the environment. This toughens the calcium so that it can easily be discarded with the water.
TYPES OF SOFTENERS AND CONDITIONERS
#1 Salt Water Softener Systems
These are arguably the most effective and common type of water softener systems.
- METHOD: Salt is used to remove calcium, magnesium and other metal cations that harden the water.
- BENEFITS: Reduced calcium can eliminate lime scale build up that causes blocked piping.
- PRICE RANGE: Salt Water Systems tend to be on the more expensive side compared to other softeners and conditioners. This is simply because they are considered the most effective. Therefore, if it’s affordable, it’s best to do it right the first time and invest in a good Salt Water System.
- LIFESPAN: Approx. 20 years (depends on usage)
- SUITED FOR: Residential and Commercial
- Considered more effective than Saltless Systems
- Scientifically proven to work
- Eliminates scale build up in piping
- Eliminates soap scum
- Gives softer, smoother feel with soap
- More expensive
- Need to maintain a supply of Water Softener Salt
- Creates waste that is bad for the environment and may need to be disposed of in an approved manner
- Water Softened drinking water may not be suited for people on a low-sodium diet
#2 Saltless Water Softener Systems
These systems can also prevent build up and scaling on the inside of your pipes without the use of water softener salt that is needed in traditional Salt Water Softeners.
- METHOD: Uses various methods to reduce the impact of hard water on your plumbing including electric pulses, magnetic treatment or filters through a type of medium. However, these systems are not designed to remove minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
- BENEFITS: Can eliminate lime scale build up that causes blocked piping.
- PRICE RANGE: Salt Water Systems tend to be on the more expensive side compared to other softeners and conditioners. This is simply because they are considered the most effective. Therefore, if it’s affordable, it’s best to do it right the first time and invest in a good Salt Water System.
- LIFESPAN: Approx. 20 years (depends on usage)
- SUITED FOR: Residential and Commercial
- Lower cost
- Can eliminates scale build up in piping
- Suitable for drinking for those on low-sodium diets
- No need for storgage of salts and disposing of waste
- Eco Friendly
- Considered less expensive than Salt Based Systems
- Lacks solid scientific evidence
- Doesn’t change post-tap texture
Does a No-Salt Water Softener Actually Work?
To answer this question I need to know your objectives. But first, let’s just get ourselves on the same page.
For the purposes of this, I will assume you are referring to individual domestic or small office application.
A Salt Water Softener works on an ion-exchange principal. This generally involves replacing Calcium and Magnesium (and other metals) ions with Sodium ions. This is the only true way of permanently converting ‘hard water’ to ‘soft water’. Well, at least until that water is once again exposed to rock and soil that contains hard minerals.
Saltless Water Softeners (AKA Conditioners/Descalers) are not intended to permanently change the make-up of the water, but rather to temporarily ensure that the affects of hard water on your plumbing is significantly reduced. This is achieved devices that utilise magnettism or electricity techniques.
Here is a very general comparison between the benefits of a Salt-Based and No Salt Water Softener
#1 Salt Water Softener
- Reduces corrosion on plumbing
- Reduces limescale build up
- Reduces plumbing insulation
- Wont cause hard water hair
- Wont cause hard water stains such as soap scum and rings around plugs and stove-tops
- Gives hair and body smoother, silkier feel
- Improves the taste of water
#2 No-Salt Water Softener
- Reduces corrosion on plumbing
- Reduces limescale build up
- Reduces plumbing insulation
As you can see above, a No-Salt Water Softener changes the form of the water while it is in the pipes, giving it the characteristics of soft-water. However, the “after-tap” feel and effects will remain the same, as it is no longer exposed to the magnetism or electrical charge that was previously altering it’s behaviour.
The 9 Best Tips for Water Softener Resin
Water Softener Resin is the most important component of a Water Softener System. The Calcium and Magnesium in hard water both carry positive charges. The resin carries a negative charge. This means that the Calcium and Magnesium minerals in the hard water will cling to the resin beads as it passes through the tank.
You are probably reducing the effectiveness and efficiencies of your System – not to mention wasting money – if you are not following these important tips:
1 – Determine Hardness of Water
You need to know how hard the water coming into your System is, as this will determine the amount of beads that you should be using so that they are not easily damaged. Having too few beads for very hard water will no doubt impact the strength of the beads.
2 – Choose the Right Type of Resin
There are many types and brands of Resin at significantly different price ranges. The two main types are 8% Crosslinked Cation Resin and Mesh Cation Exchange Resin.
The majority of Water Softeners use the standard 8% Cation Resin, which has been pre-charged with Sodium. This Resin will generally last approximately 10 years (depending on initial water hardness) and is suited to water with lower Iron levels.
Fine Mesh Resin is noticeably smaller in size and therefore increases density within the tank. It is suited for water with higher levels of Iron.
These types of Resins do not vary in price compared to each other. It is generally the brand of Resin that will determine the price. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the more expensive brands will perform better.
3 – Amount of Resin
This is simple, but important. Putting the right amount of pellets into the System is imperative in ensuring that it works effectively. There is no ‘rule of thumb’ in relation to the amount you should use, as it will depend on the Water Softener System that you use.
In this instance, all I can say is READ THE WATER SOFTENER OWNER’S MANUAL together with the guideleines on the Resin packet.
4 – Adding Pellets
The process of adding Pellets to your Softener System is again something that will differ from System to System.
Does your system require you to add pellets manually or is it fully/semi automatic?
Many exchange tanks are filled completely, whereas aoutomatic systems require a provision to expand during back wash and therefore should not be filled to the brim.
5 – Changing Salts
Changing salts in your Water Softener System will help maintain effectiveness of the overall System. Changing from one salt to another though should probably be avoided as it will affect the water differently.
6 – Mushing
Mushing of Water Softener Pellets occurs when the Pellets break down into small crystals of evaporated salt over time and become sludge. At this stage your softener is no longer effective as the brine (which refreshes the pellets) is unable to continue producing soft water due to the thick build up of sludge in the brine tank.
7 – Clogging in Pipes
Water Softener Resin pellets contain a portion of non-dissolvable ingredients. The result of this is that the excess can build up and clog pipes over time. A clear sign of this will be reduced water pressure. Ideally you want to avoid getting to the ‘clogging’ stage by performing regular maintenance and cleaning of your System
8 – Fouling
This occurs where the Water Softener Resin Beads consume too much mineral content over time (which is inevitable). One option is to insert a filter to assist with the reduction of some minerals in the water
9 – Regular Check Ups
All in all, monitoring the level, quality and look of your Water Softener Resin will ensure that your System remains working in a manner that you expect it to. Softener Resin generally has a very long lifespan; however, there is no guaranteed timeframe for how long your Resin will last. Its longevity is determined by countless variables. If the Resin looks contaiminated with particles or if you begin to feel that your water is not as soft as it should be, it may be time to change the Resin. Hopefully it doesn’t get to this stage.
The water in your home may have some issues, but they can be easily solved, and they most likely aren’t harmful to you or to your family. One of the most common problems that faces tap water is the existence of too many calcium and magnesium ions, causing the water to be hard. Hard water forms when rainwater falls through dirt and rock, and catches minerals along the way. Although it is a very natural occurrence, it can be more than a little annoying!
The presence of hard water is an issue in many places, and it can cause problems of all sizes. And that’s when you start looking for Water Softener Reviews. But before going into that topic, let’s have a look at some of the problems caused by hard water:
- If you have ever washed your glasses, only to put them back on and find them spotty again already, then you are probably seeing the mineral deposits left behind by hard water.
- Faucets that are often exposed to hard water may become coated in a white, crusty film.
- Hard water can even make your hair lose its luster and look oily if you have the misfortune of having to shower in it.
- Hard water can also be detrimental to your skin. It can leave behind a soap-like substance when you wash in it, therefore causing your skin to dry out and to never feel completely clean.
- Even your clothes can suffer the effects of hard water: they will wear out more easily, and lose their color quickly, when subjected to hard water washing.
- Even more problematic than the effects on clothes and skin, however, are the problems hard water causes in pipes. Hard water causes scale to build up in water pipes and water heaters, too, causing damage to plumbing and increased utility bills.
So How Do Water Softeners Work?
The best way to avoid all this hassle is to install a water softener system. You may have heard the term before, but chances are that if you don’t already have a water softener in your home, you may not know much about how they work. Most people don’t!
What is a Water Softener?
To begin with, the water softener itself is a sturdy appliance encased in tough plastic that is installed most commonly in the home, garage, or a nearby shed. In some locations, a water softener can be installed outdoors, but it is important to note that water softeners should never be placed outside if there is a chance of the temperature dropping below freezing. Only in very warm climates should this be done.
How do I Install a Water Softener?
The water softener system should be installed directly into the home’s plumbing. Although a plumber is usually more than willing to do this job, most softeners come with easy directions that require minimal plumbing knowledge, so you can save yourself a lot of money by installing your softener on your own.
How does it work?
Once the water softener system has been installed, it can begin its work. All the best water softeners work by removing the calcium and magnesium in the water and replacing them with another mineral—sodium. The type of sodium needed for the operation of your water softener will differ depending on the system you choose, but for most systems, even simple table salt works just fine.
Inside the softener, a tank filled with resin beads catches the unwanted minerals in the water as it moves through the internal filter. The water inside the tank is then flushed forcefully with water, which effectively flushes away the unwanted mineral ions. The system then flushes itself again to remove any sediment. At this time, the cycle is complete, and the water is ready to be used. Because of the unique method in which these softener systems work, they do produce water that is much softer, but may have a very slight salty taste to it. This is important to keep in mind when weighing your options, but most people find that a little sodium is much easier to manage than hard water!
How is it maintained?
Water softeners can be flushed and recharged manually, or they can do the job themselves automatically. Most full house sized softener systems regenerate either on a timer or based on how much water has been used, and how much is left in the tank. Some of these do not even require electricity to regenerate. These are great options for those who live in locations where the power is prone to going out.
Types of Water Softeners
There are two different types of water softeners: portable and whole house:
- Portable systems are small, compact, and lightweight. Their original design was intended for use in RVs and mobile homes, but they have expanded to be widely accepted as great choices for apartments, offices, and even small homes with just one bathroom. Portable water softener systems save on size and weight by removing most of the mechanical and/or electrical pieces that are included in their larger counterparts. This means that they must be regenerated manually. For the most part, these smaller systems are less powerful than others, but they still pack a punch that is often plenty for those who use them.
- Whole house water softeners can weigh anywhere between 30 and 100 pounds, depending on the model. There are two primary types of whole house systems—electric and non-electric. Both types have the ability to regenerate automatically based on various controls and settings. The only real difference is in the use of electricity. Electric whole house systems cannot run without power, but the non-electric variety can.
Regardless of whether or not a water softener is portable or whole house, it works on the same basic principle of flushing out calcium and magnesium and replacing these ions with sodium.
Types Of Water Softeners
#1 Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softener
These water softeners cycle the household water through two different tanks; one filled with special beads made from resin, and the other filled with a salt water solution. The salt-based softener utilises ion exchange, softening the water by using salt as a substitute for harder minerals such as calcium and magnesium which may be present in the water. In this way, the salt is exchanged for the minerals.
- The best, and most effective way to soften water
- Eliminated water spotting and scaling on glassware
- Clothes and skin will feel significantly softer
- No water scaling occurs at all
- Not suitable for drinking water or for watering plants due to sodium levels present in the softened water
- Not suitable for use in people with sodium restricted diets
- Needs to be accompanied by a constant supply of salt which adds an additional cost
#2 Salt-Free Softener
These softeners regenerate using a potassium salt substitute, rather than a salt-based solution. The salt-free softeners function as a descaler, meaning it doesn’t remove the minerals present in hard water, but rather prevents these minerals from depositing themselves in the water. By transforming the minerals, the softener prevents them from attaching themselves to the water. For this reason, it is more accurate to think of this method as water conditioning, than softening.
- Great for people who are concerned about their salt intake
- Suitable for drinking water, Environment friendly
- Not as effective as salt-based systems
- Water quality not as smooth as that of other softener
#3 Dual Tank Softener
Dual tank water softeners are fantastic for big families who can’t afford for their water softener system to undergo any ‘down time’. When a water softener unit is recharging or regenerating, it is unable to be used or cycle any water through it. For this reason, regeneration is normally undertaken at night, but households with a lot of people or a large amount of water that needs to be softened may find that there is no real time when it’s convenient for the system to stop producing softened water. Dual tank systems are perfect for these situations. With two tanks present, one is always softening water, while the other is regenerating.
- Gives a more continuos supply of softened water
- No break in its service
- Can occupy a larger space
- Requires a drain for backwashing
#4 Electromagnetic and Magnetic Water Softeners
These are a more controversial options, but are another option for those who wish to purchase a system that is salt-free. The electric or magnetic softeners are plugged in and clipped onto the incoming pipe. The softener will then go about setting up a magnetic field that changes the electromagnetic properties of the minerals present in the hard water. This allows minerals such as calcium to disperse into small particles, preventing them from scaling.
- Great for preventing soap scum and water marks
- Inexpensive compared to other softener systems
- Easy to install
- Low maintenance
- Creates water that is only suitable for 48 hours (if not used within 48 hours the water will re-harden)
- Water hardness reduction is not that significant
Phases of Water Softening
Water softening is comprised of two stages. The first is the softening phase, and the second is regeneration. Regeneration is comprised of three stages:
Backwashing is a crucial phase in water softening as it removes the dirt from the system’s mineral tank. During the backwash phase, the residue from the water (excess mineral ssuch as calcium and magnesium that were removed during the softening process) is flushed out and disposed of.
Recharging takes place in order to recharge the resin beads in a salt-based unit. On a pre-set schedule, the water softening system will recharge itself, stopping the flow of incoming water in order to reset itself, ready for the next softening process. In salt-based units, this involves cleaning the resin beads so that they may catch the next lot of incoming minerals.
The final phase involves rinsing the mineral tank so that it is ready to undertake a new cycle. This is the most simplest of the steps and involves the unit moving the softened water out of the mineral tank, and the new hard water in. After this has taken place the unit will need to be replenished (if it is a salt-based system then it will need a fresh supply of salt solution).
Depending on where you live and the quality of your water supply, your supply may be of very poor quality; which is why is so important that you watch for the signs we mentioned: how much water you need to wash off soap or detergent when taking a shower or washing (especially when washing your clothes), how does your hair feels after a shower and how does your skin feels.
But also keep in mind that even if you are not having serious problems with hard water, or they are so mild that you have not even noticed them; it could still be a good idea to consider a water softener, remember that the softer the water, the less you can use and the more money you can save; so even if you do not consider it an urgent matter, it might still be a good idea to have one.