While most homeowners don’t think about it, the reality is nearly 90% of homes in the United States have a hard water problem.
That means millions of families are dealing with hard water and don’t even realize it!
Hard water can be a huge problem, but the fix is quite straightforward: using a water softener.
At Aquafiny, we have over 7 years of experience in water filters and water softeners, so we’re here to help you choose the best water softener for your home.
Even though there are many different models out there, we’ve whittled down the list to just 14.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this detailed guide:
- Which are the 14 best water softeners on the market
- Why you need a water softener
- How to choose the right water softener
- How to install and maintain your water softener
Best Water Softener: Comparison table
Below, you’ll find a quick comparison of our favorite water softeners. We’ve actually reviewed 14 in this post, but if you’re in a real hurry, just take your pick from the table below:
14 Best Water Softeners(Our top picks for 2021)
Now that you understand what water softeners are, how they work and how to maintain them, let?s discuss some of the best whole house water softeners on the market.
1) USA Fleck 9100SXT Water SoftenerCheck Price
If you are looking for a water softener with a great flow rate, you will absolutely love the USA Fleck 9100SXT Water Softener. With a flow rate of 20 gallons per minute you will never have to worry about not having enough soft water in your home.
The great thing about this water softener is the fact it comes in four different sizes. That means you have the ability the choose the one that provides your home with the best flow rate and hardness capacity.
This Fleck salt water softener comes with two separate tanks. One resin tank and one salt reservoir. Both tanks vary in size depending on the version of the system you choose to purchase. The salt reservoir for the smallest version of the system is 14 x 25 inches and 15 x 35 inches for the largest version of the system.
The smallest resin tank is 8 x 44 inches and the largest one is 12 x 52 inches. Mounted on top of the system is the controller unit which adds to the height of the system. This system also includes basic parts for the plumbing connections in your home.
Being that this system comes in 4 different sizes the flow rate will be different for each system. The smallest version has a normal flow rate of 5 gallons per minute. That goes up to 7 gallons per minute. The smallest version has a hardness capacity of 26,000 grains.
The largest version of the Fleck water softener has a normal flow rate of 17 gallons per minute with a peak flow rate of 20 gallons per minute. The largest version has a hardness capacity of 70,000 grains. And again, being that there are 4 different version available, finding the one that works best for your home should not be a problem.
Please note this system requires a drain for the used brine solution as there is no brine tank, and it also requires electrical power for the regeneration controller. The regeneration controller gives you the ability to control when the regeneration process takes place.
You can set the start time, time of day and the how severe the hard water problem is. Well water can be very hard, for example. This way when the unit reaches a certain capacity it will automatically start the regeneration cycle.
Depending on the size of the unit you choose to invest in, you can expect to use up 20 pounds of salt during each regeneration cycle. During periods of heavy use you will be able to manually initiate a regeneration cycle.
The USA Fleck 9100SXT Water Softener comes with a 5 year warranty on the valve and 10 yrs on the tanks. If the softener is used to remove iron or magnesium from the water the media warranty will become void.
It will also become void if you use the system with water sources that have a high concentration of chlorine.
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2) WaterBoss 700 22,000 Grain Capacity Water SoftenerCheck Price
Like most other water softeners the WaterBoss 700 22,000 Grain Capacity Water Softener can remove both calcium and magnesium from your hard water. The one big difference however is that it can also remove clear water iron, which is commonly found in well water.
Since this is a salt water softener it uses the ion exchange process to trap the minerals that cause hard water. It can remove up to 10 parts per million of clear water iron and can treat water that has a hardness of up to 70 gpg. And thanks to its 22,000 grain capacity it can trap up to 22,000 grains of hardness before needing to go through a regeneration cycle.
Acting as an additional filter, the resin media will also trap sediment particles and prevent them from entering into your homes plumbing system. At its peak this system has a flow rate of 12 gallons per minute.
Like any salt water softener, this system must be connected to a wastewater drain and an electrical outlet in order for the regeneration cycle to function. The regeneration cycle is responsible for purging any calcium or magnesium that has been trapped in the system. It also flushes out any sediment that has accumulated over time.
Typically it will take around 19 minutes for the regeneration process to be complete. During the process the water softening system will use up to 16 gallons of water and just under 3 pounds of salt.
To help manage the regeneration process the system features an electronic control panel. The control panel gives you the ability to set the time of day you want the regeneration cycle to occur. This way you can avoid running the cycle during times when your family needs needs access to water.
If necessary there is also an option for you to start a regeneration cycle on demand. Additionally, the self cleaning cycle can also be initiated on demand.
The WaterBoss 700 comes with a built in whole house filtration system that can remove both sediment and dirt that makes it way into your water supply.
The great thing about this system is its single canister design. Because of the way the system is designed it has a very small footprint. It can hold up to 120 pounds of salt and comes with a three year parts warranty from the manufacturer. There is also a 10 year warranty on both tanks (including the brine tank) and the valve assemblies.
As far as installation goes this water softener comes with all the parts and valves needed. However, in some cases you may need to purchase additional fittings to finalize all the connections.
- A quiet, highly efficient water softener with built-in iron...
3) Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain(best value water softener)Check Price
With the ability to remove up to 140 gpg, the Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain softener has one of the highest hardness ratings of any softener on the market. Add that to a 9 gpm service flow rate and you see why this is one of the best systems for homes with extremely hard water and also the best value water softener.
The resin bed can handle up to 30,000 grains of hardness and can recover over grains per pound of salt during the regeneration cycle.
To help save space this system has a very simple design consisting of a one piece cabinet. The resin tank is located inside the salt reservoir which can hold up to 200 pounds of salt. When the system is running low on salt there is an indicator light that will turn on letting you know it?s time to add more in.
Everything needed to install this water softening system will be included in the box. However, depending on your set-up, you may need to purchase additional fittings to connect everything to your plumbing.
Unlike many other water softeners on the market, the Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain softener does not come with water conditioning features that can make the water taste a bit better.
The control panel allows you to set water hardness settings, time of day and the start time for the regeneration cycle. The controls give you full control over when the regeneration cycle takes place and ensures its not during a time when your family is using a lot of water.
For your convenience the system comes with a built in sensor that will trigger the regeneration cycle when indicated by the water use signal. If you set the softener to maximum salt use the regeneration cycle will use around 43 gallons of water to cleanse the media.
Both electrical power and drain connections are required in order for this system to go through the regeneration process. Whenever the salt gets too low the indicator light will let you know. It will also let you know the active flow rate which will help you identify potential leaks in your home.
To help with the removal of iron build up, this system features an iron removal setting that triggers an additional backwash cycle during regeneration. This is very useful if you have a well that has hard water, as iron is quite common in well water.
Besides being able to remove up to 140 gpg from your water supply, the Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain softener can also remove up to 12 parts per million of clear water iron. And with a service flow rate of 9 gpm this system can provide enough soft water for up to five people.
This system comes with several different warranties so you can be sure you are covered should something go wrong in the first few years of you owning the system, again reinforcing how it’s the best value.
- Whirlpool WHES30 is ideal for households of 1-4+ people and...
- NSF certified to reduce hard water symptoms such as...
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4) Aquasana 1,000,000 Gallon Rhino Water Softening systemCheck Price
The Aquasana 1,000,000 Gallon Rhino is a water softener that is in a league of its own. It is a saltless water softener that features a mechanical prefilter and two chemical filters. This combination creates one of the best water conditioning solutions for your home. And the best part is no drains or electrical connections are needed for the base system to function.
The system uses various filters to remove things such as algae, bacteria and other unwanted minerals from your water supply. When the water enters the system it will go through a prefilter cartridge where rust and silt particles will be taken away.
Once the water passes through the prefilter cartridge it will then make its way through a catalytic media where calcium and magnesium will be transformed into inert crystals.
While water treated this way will retain its original hardness value, the crystallized minerals will not form scales which means you won?t have to worry about spots or stains on your dishes. This also means draining for wastewater will be a thing of the past.
Unfortunately Aquasana does not provide any guidelines when it comes to how much hard water you can treat with this system. You will basically have to figure it out through trial and error.
Once the hard water has been treated it will make its way through two additional chemical filters. The first chemical filter is a copper zinc media bed. This filter is responsible for removing anything that will inhibit the growth of bacteria and algae. The second filter is an activated carbon media filter that removes organic chemical compounds.
You have the option to add additional components such as a post filter and a UV filter. The post filter will help get rid of the smaller particles that come in at 0.35 microns. These are the particles that can easily get missed by other filters.
The UV filter can help eliminate a variety of bacteria and viruses. The UV filter requires electrical power to operate. Adding it will cause your monthly power bill increase. If you live in a home that uses well water, these two add-ons can prove to pay off big time.
All components of this system have a 7 gpm flow rate. If your home is less than 3,500 square feet and less than 3.5 bathrooms, this system will be perfect for your home.
With a six year lifespan for the water softener media, and a 10 year lifespan for the main chemical filter, you are sure to have a water softener that will last for many years to come. The pre-filter needs to be changed up to 4 times a year and the post filter, which again is optional, only needs to be changed 2 times per year maximum.
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5) Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener(Best Home Water Softener)Check Price
This salt free whole home water softener comes with a prefilter that will remove sediments in your water supply. The softener will then kick in and neutralize any minerals that cause your water to be hard.
That’s why it makes it our #1 pick for best home water softener.
This water softener comes in two different sizes making it perfect for both smaller and larger homes. The largest version of the system has a 15 gpm peak flow rate and the smallest version has a 12 gpm peak flow rate. Both systems include a pre-filter that needs to be changed every six to nine months.
When you change it will depend on how often you use the system. Both systems come with four replacement filters in the box.
Note this system was designed to be used with municipal water supplies. If your home uses well water you will need to test it for iron, hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide before allowing it to go through the water softener system.
If any of these compounds are present you will need to eliminate them by pretreating the water. Once the compounds have been removed you can send the water through the system as you normally would.
This particular system can treat up to 50 grains per gallon of hard water. That means it can handle some pretty hard water.
Keep in mind this particular system does not remove calcium or magnesium from the water supply. It works by crystallizing those two minerals and turning them into stable forms so they won?t bind to surfaces and cause soap to be ineffective.
When treated this way the water won?t leave a slippery feeling on your skin that you often get from softeners that use salt.
And while this system does indeed prevent the formation of scale deposits, it does not remove any chemicals that can have an impact on how the water tastes. The good news however is you can install the system almost anywhere since it doesn?t require an electrical connection or wastewater drain.
All valves and fittings needs to setup the system are including. In some cases you may need to invest in additional plumbing to complete the connection.
All Eddy water softeners come with a 90 day satisfaction guarantee. You will also get a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects on all parts including tanks and valves.
The Eddy salt free water softener is the best water softener for homes using very hard water from the city. Not only will it neutralize a ton of minerals, but it will also condition the hard water, filter out sediment, get rid of hard water stains, reduce scale buildup and help your cleaning products be much more effective.
- 12 month 100% "no quibble" Money-Back Guarantee + Lifetime...
- Easy customer installation on metal or plastic pipes. Helps...
- No salt alternative to a water softener. Emulates softened...
6) GE 30,400 Grain Water SoftenerCheck Price
This salt based water softener uses a resin bed to eliminate the minerals that cause your water to be hard. It also gets rid of clear water iron and features a set of electronic controls that allow you to manage the entire regeneration cycle.
This system is perfect for homes with extremely hard water as it has the ability to remove up to 95 gpg and 7 parts per million of clear water iron. It has a service flow rate of 7.5 gpm and the resin bed can remove up to 30,400 grains of hardness before the system needs to go through a regeneration cycle.
Being that this is a salt based system and not a salt free water softener, it must go through a regeneration cycle a few times a year to ensure the resin beads can continue doing their job effectively. The resin bed is regenerated by flushing it out with a brine solution. The brine solution will remove calcium and magnesium from the resin bed.
For every pound of salt used, the regeneration cycle will remove 4,800 grains of hardness. The salt reservoir can hold up to 200 pounds of salt which means you don?t have to worry about constantly refilling it.
For every 1000 grains of hardness that gets removed during the regeneration cycle, 2.8 gallons of water is used. Generally speaking one regeneration cycle will use just over 35 gallons of water.
Being that this is a salt based system you will need a power connection and a wastewater drain. The power connection will give you the ability to control the unit by scheduling the regeneration cycle to take place at a specific time.
You will also be able to set the hardness level of the water which will allow the unit to calculate the resin capacity based on how much water is flowing through the system. Using these two features, the water softener will be able to easily determine how often the regeneration cycle should take place.
If needed, there are also additional controls that give you the power to force the system into an immediate regeneration cycle. You can also set a low salt warning alarm so you don?t forget to refill the salt reservoir.
This water softener comes with several warranties including a limited one year warranty on the system itself, a three year warranty on the electronic controller and a 10 year warranty on both tanks.
This softener does come with all the fittings needed for a basic installation. However, in some cases additional plumbing connections may be needed to complete the installation.
While the GE 34,000 Grain Water Softener does not come with additional filtration features, it does provide one of the highest softening capacities and can remove clear water iron.
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7) Discount Water Softeners Premier 48,000 Grain Water SoftenerCheck Price
This whole house system is designed for medium sized families that consist of a maximum of 4 people. And though its hardness capacity is below average, this system is still about to provide a decent service flow rate of 15 gpm.
The Discount Water Softeners Premier 48,000 Grain Water Softener is a salt based system that uses a resin bed to remove magnesium and calcium from the water. It can handle up to 24,000 grains of hardness before needing to go through a regeneration cycle.
For every gallon of water that goes through the system, 35 grains of hardness gets removed. Make sure you use this value when determining whether or not this system is right for you home.
This system also has the ability to remove up to 3 parts per million of clear water iron. Other then that this system does not provide any other treatment or filtration.
This is a salt water system which means regular regeneration is required to ensure calcium and magnesium don?t continue to build up and render the system ineffective. The regeneration process does require an electrical connection and a drain line.
One regeneration cycle for this system will take about two hours and will use just under 30 gallons of water. For every pound of salt the system uses, 4,880 grains of hardness get removed. The unit can hold a maximum of 200 pounds of salt.
The regeneration cycle is controlled by a demand initiated system and a timer. The water flow is measured and anytime it reaches a certain capacity, a regeneration cycle will automatically be initiated.
The timer gives you the ability to set the start time of the regeneration cycle at the most convenient time. The best time is usually late at night when very little water is being used. You can also override the timer and force an immediate regeneration cycle.
This system comes with a 10-Year Control Head/Valve Warranty and Lifetime on Resin and Brine Tank.
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8) Iron Pro 2 64,000 Grain Water SoftenerCheck Price
If you have a large household the Iron Pro 2 is the perfect water softener for your home. With a 64,000 grain capacity it has the ability to handle any level of water hardness. And thanks to a high flow rate of 16 gpm, this system is able to maintain adequate pressure even when multiple faucets are in use.
One of the many things that make this system so great is its all digital fully programmable head. This feature makes using and monitoring the system as easy as pushing a few buttons.
To save water the system uses a meter based regeneration process. Being that this is such a big system and it can use over 100 gallons of water for every regeneration cycle it goes through, having a feature that can help you save water is a huge benefit.
This is not the type of system you would want to install yourself. If you are new to dealing with water softeners it is best to call in a professional. Cutting pipes and installing fittings is not for amateurs.
If you do decide to set it up yourself, be sure to set aside several hours as this is a job that can take quite a bit of time to complete. You should also make sure you read over the manual thoroughly before you get started.
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9) Nuvo DPMB Manor Water Softener SystemCheck Price
If you prefer a salt and chemical free water softener, the Nuvo DPMB Manor Salt Water Softener System is a great option. However, just be warned it is one of the most expensive systems on the market.
To prevent ions from forming scales, this systems uses a chelation process that binds the hard water-causing minerals together. It also reduces how often scaling takes place by reducing the pH levels in the water.
If you live in an area with very hard water, the Nuvo DPMB is not the best option for you. Because even after you install it you may still find yourself dealing with a significant amount of buildup.
Being that this system does not do any filtering, you should really give it some careful thought before purchasing it.
10) Krystal Pure Tier1 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water SoftenerCheck Price
The Krystal Pure KS15HE Water Softener has a 17.5 gpm flow rate which is one of the highest on the market. Add that to its 48,000 grain hardness capacity and its easy to see why this is one of the best softeners for large homes that use a lot of water.
This is a salt based system which means it uses a resin bed to get rid of the calcium and magnesium that finds its way into your water supply.
It is designed to work with water sources that have a hardness of up to 60 gpg and up to 10 parts per million clear water iron.
The Krystal Pure water softener comes with two main components: a salt reservoir and a resin media tank. The way it?s set up, a simple two part layout, reduces the chances of brie flow being blocked by salt during the regeneration process.
The one big issue with the layout is how bulky it makes the system. The resin tank sits right next to the salt reservoir which means it will take up a bit more space.
With a peak flow rate of 17.5 gpm and a service flow rate of 12.8 gpm, this system can handle the demands of a large household. The system comes with all needed bypass valves and plumbing fittings. However, additional connectors may be needed to complete installation.
The Tier1 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener is able to remove up to 48,000 grains of hardness before needing to go through a regeneration cycle. Please note the system does not provide any water conditioning as far as taste goes.
The salt reservoir can hold up to 150 pounds of salt. Each pound of salt has the ability to remove up to 50000 grains of hardness during the regeneration process. Depending on the hardness of the media in the resin bed, each regeneration cycle can last between 80 to 120 minutes.
Being that this is a salt based system you will need a wastewater drain and an electrical connection to properly operate the system. With the control unit you can manually set what time you want the regeneration cycle to take place. The best time is late at night when most people are sleep and water isn?t constantly in use.
Manually setting the hardness level of the water helps the machine know when it?s reached a certain capacity so the regeneration cycle can be scheduled accordingly. You can also manually set how much salt you want to be used during each regeneration cycle. And if need be you can manually override the system and force an immediate regeneration cycle.
All Tier1 systems come with a 100% TIER1 NO WORRIES GUARANTEE.
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11) Morton 434,000 Grain Capacity Water SoftenerCheck Price
If your home has very hard water this is the water softener for you. Not only does it have a 34,000 grain capacity, but it also filter out sediment and remove clear water iron from your water supply.
Unlike many other water softeners on the market, the Morton 34,000 uses a single tank design. And as with other softeners, it too can remove calcium and magnesium.
This system can process up 34,000 grains of hardness before needing to go through a regeneration cycle. It?s safe to say this system can handle extremely hard water thanks to its 120 grains of hardness per gallon.
The great thing about the sediment filter is that it is self cleaning. That means you never have to worry about changing it. And best of all, this system is able to work with both well water and municipal water supplies.
To remove calcium and magnesium from the water this system uses resin media. When the media is at full capacity, the brine solution will automatically kick in and get rid of any minerals that have accumulated. Any sediment that has been drawn out of the water in your home will also get removed during the regeneration cycle.
Note you will need a wastewater drain and an electrical connection for the unit to operate. For every pound of salt that goes through the regeneration cycle, 5,089 grains of hardness gets removed.
The control panel allows you to set the hardness of the source water, regeneration time and time of time. Contact your local water provider to find out what the hardness of your source water is. You can also use a home test kit to figure it out.
Morton uses a look ahead technology that is able to monitor water usage and automatically start a regeneration cycle when needed.
To save space Morton enclosed the resin tank inside of the salt reservoir. The reservoir can hold up to 210 pounds of salt and has a 18 gpm service flow rate. This flow rate is significant for households of just about any size.
The system comes with all needed valves and fittings for setup. Morton offers a one year in home service warranty, a three year warranty on electronic components an a 10 year warranty on both tanks.
The system is equipped to handle both well and municipal water sources.
12) Aquious AQFS220C Full House Water Softener and Filter SystemCheck Price
If you would prefer to avoid having chemicals and salt in your water, the Aquious AQFS220C Full House Water Softener and Filter System is just what the doctor ordered. This salt free water system uses citric acid to change the properties of the minerals that cause the water to be hard.
By changing the properties of the hardness minerals scaling will no longer take place when water makes contact with certain surfaces.
With a flow rate of 12 GPM, the Aquious AQFS220C is a great option for both small and medium sized homes. You will be able to use multiple faucets at the same time without a noticeable loss in pressure.
The great thing about this system is how easy it is to install. Even if you don?t consider yourself a DIYer, you should still be able to get everything set up and running without needing to hire a professional.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is not a traditional water softener. While it does indeed change the behavior of the minerals that cause the water to be hard, it does not completely prevent scaling.
Also, if you have a large home with more than three faucets, this system will more than likely not be sufficient for your home.
As far as price goes the Aquious AQFS220C is a bit on the expensive side. However, being that it also comes with a very effective filtering system, the price can prove to be well worth it over the long run.
- System dimensions: 23.4" X 5.4" - Flow rate: 12 GPM
- Port size: 3/4" NPT, threaded brass
- Head design: In-head-valve with internal bypass and shut-off
13) Pelican Whole House Filtration system and Salt Free Water SoftenerNo products found.No products found.
This three part filtration and water softening system is probably the most expensive on this list. But when you look under the hood you will see why it might be well worth the $2,300 price tag. Let?s start by discussing the three parts the system consists of.
First is the mechanical pre-filter that helps remove the smallest particles from your water supply. Next is the actual salt free water softener itself and third is a chemical filter which removes chemical compounds such as chlorine. The chemical filter can make the water taste a lot better.
The interesting thing about this water softener system is that it is available with two different output capacities. If you have a smaller home with three bedrooms or less opt for the system with a 10 gpm output capacity. If you have a larger home with four to six bedrooms, opt for the system with the 15 gpm output capacity.
Both systems come with all needed valves and connectors for setup. However, you may need additional fittings to properly connect the system to your water supply. The pre-filter requires no electrical power and no drain connection. This gives you the flexibility to install both indoors and outdoors.
There are a few things you will need to do with this system to keep it properly maintained. First you will need to make sure you replace the pre-filter media and O-ring seal once or twice a year depending on how often you are using the system.
The carbon filtration media will also need to be replaced every 5 years or so. It will need to be replaced based on how many gallons of water have been treated during a certain period of time.
Replacing the carbon filtration media can be a bit complicated and will require you to disconnect the filter tank and soak the new media for at least 48 hours. The good news is you will never need to replace the water softener media.
Keep in mind this is a saltless system and it does not remove minerals from the water. It simply converts calcium and magnesium into crystals that do not bind together and therefore do not interact with any surfaces.
If your water source has a hardness of 75 gpg, which is very high by the way, this would be the perfect system for your home. It will prevent the buildup of scale and make your cleaning products more effective.
For this system to work your water supply cannot contain any hydrogen sulfide, iron or manganese. If it does you will need to pretreat the water before sending it through the system. If you don?t the impurities could cause the system to malfunction.
All Pelican water softeners come with a 90 day satisfaction guarantee. There is also a 5 year performance guarantee on the softener and the filtration system, and a limited lifetime warranty on the parts and tanks.
No products found.
14) Watts RV Pro 1000Check Price
If you are looking for a compact water softener that is great for road use, the Watts RV Pro 1000 is a winner. While it?s not as big and powerful as a whole house water softener, it does indeed get the job done.
This system is specifically designed to be used in an RV where water usage tends to be low. And with a 10,000 grain capacity this compact system has the ability to handle even the hardest water.
Because the system is so compact, you can easily take it with when taking a cross country trip. It is very easy to use and light enough for you to carry it around with you. However, with such a compact system there does come a bit of sacrifice.
This system is pretty much void of any automation which means you will have to manually do all regenerations yourself. The regeneration process needs to take place every 2 to 4 weeks depending on how much water is being used.
Besides having no automation, this system is also very limited and can only be used with up to 2 outlets at a time. The flow is too slow to be used with multiple outlets which is why this system will not work for even the smallest of homes.
Either way, if you spend a lot of time on the road in your RV, the Watts RV Pro 1000 is exactly what you need. It?s small but extremely effective.
- Built-in drain line flow restrictor provides a more...
- Custom designed flow valves allow regeneration without...
- Full cradle base keeps tank more secure than cometing open...
What Are the Different Types of Water Softeners?
So now you understand why it’s worth installing a water softening system, let’s explore the options available to you. There’s quite a lot of choice when it comes to the system you install in your home. Each setup comes with its own pros and cons; it all comes down to your specific house and area.
Ask your local plumber or water utility for advice if you’re unsure.
Salt-Based Water Softeners
Calcium and magnesium are the main culprits in hard water. More specifically, it’s the ions of these elements that are absorbed by the water as it passes through different rocks and soils.
A salt-based softening system treats your water by replacing these ions with salt ions instead. This significantly reduces the content of other minerals and softens your water.
One thing to note is that salt-based systems have a net negative impact on the environment. They introduce salt into wastewater sources which can harm local ecosystems and wildlife.
Salt-Free Water Softeners
A more accurate term for this kind of softener might be a ‘water conditioner’. Most of these systems treat the impact of hard water minerals directly but don’t actually remove them from the water.
This means that the water is often still technically ‘hard’, but it will be much less likely to leave limescale and similar deposits in its wake. There are multiple such systems available. We discuss some of them below along with some salt-based variants.
Dual Tank Water Softeners
These are sometimes referred to as twin tank systems. All salt-based water softeners need time to regularly regenerate. After a while, the system runs out of fresh salt ions with which to treat the water supply. A regeneration period gives time for the unit to add fresh sodium and then start softening the water again.
In a dual tank system, downtime from regeneration is eliminated. While one tank regenerates, the other treats your water. This results in much more consistent treatment levels and better overall results.
Magnetic Water Descalers
The first thing to mention about magnetic water descalers is that there’s not much evidence that they actually work. They claim to alter the chemical composition of your water by passing it through an electromagnetic current.
In reality, these units aren’t the best solution for softening your water.
Portable Water Softeners
As the name suggests, portable water softeners can be moved around wherever you go. They’re particularly useful for camping trips when you want to make sure the water from your RV will be up to scratch.
There’s a broad variety of different portable models available so it’s worth shopping around before pulling the trigger.
Combination Water Softeners
Combination systems use a softening mechanism along with a filtration system. If you buy the right model, this can result in excellent levels of purity for your home. Adding a good filtration system to your setup can remove far more elements and particulates than softening alone.
Whole House Water Softeners
This one is fairly straightforward. If you want to make sure that all water within your home is softened, you’ll want a whole house system. These units are usually installed at the ‘point of entry’ for water in your property.
This means that all water entering your house will be softened long before you come to use it.
Shower Head Water Softeners
If your main concern with hard water is how it will affect you when showering, a shower head softener is a good way to go. They replace your existing shower head and filter water directly while you wash.
Things to Look Out for When Buying a Water Softener
We outline a few things to watch out for when shopping below. Use our tips to make the right decision for your home.
There’s no point in buying a softening system until you know how large you need it to be. Consider the amount of water your family uses on a daily basis. This should be the starting point for any system you choose. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to contact a professional for advice.
The specific type of water softener you choose will be determined largely by your budget and the amount of water you’re hoping to treat. Remember that magnetic systems are largely ineffective and salt-based units can have a negative impact on the environment.
If there’s just one aspect of your daily life that hard water impacts – showering is a good example of this – then try to pick a cheaper system that addresses this one area directly.
Installation & Maintenance Costs
Are you able to install your softening system on your own? How much will it cost to maintain over five years? Would you know what to do if it broke down? The answers to these questions should help you buy the right product for your home.
The easier a system is to maintain, the higher its value tends to be.
Area Available to House the Unit
It’s a good idea to double-check the dimensions of any system you’re considering. Bringing a softener home only to realise you don’t have the space for it can be a massive headache! You’ll need enough room to not only install the unit, but also to access it once it’s running in your home.
This is a big one. The certifications that come with a given system tell you a lot about how effective and durable it’s going to be. Look closely for details on lifespan, efficacy, maintenance, and energy use.
More premium models might seem off-putting, but they tend to last much longer and do a much better job of softening your water.
What Is The Flow Rate In Your Home?
When you set up a water softening system that means all the water in your home must go through the system before you are able to use it. Once the water goes through the system it will be distributed to the various lines throughout the home.
In some cases, if the softener is not able to produce soft water quick enough, the flow rate will drop. If you have more than one faucet running at the same time you may experience a significant drop in water pressure.
Low flow rate can have a negative impact on your everyday life. It can also lead to hard water bleeding through the system when there is too much demand.
Make sure your home has the right flow rate will ensure your family can use multiple faucets without the pressure significantly dropping.
While the flow rate will vary from home to home, the average home with 4 to 6 people should have a flow rate of at least 12 gallons per minute (GPM). Larger family homes should have 20 gallons per minute or more.
What Is The Water Softener’s Capacity?
As we discussed in a previous section, the capacity of a water softener refers to the amount of hard water minerals the system can handle before it has to go through the regeneration process. Ultimately the capacity will depend on the water demands of your home. Big homes will need large capacity systems while smaller homes will need smaller capacity systems.
Generally speaking the capacity of a water softener will be indicated in terms of grains of hardness. The four most common grain capacities are 12,000, 24,000, 32,000 and 64,000.
The average family will only need a capacity of between 10,000 and 20,000 grains. And while this type of system will require more regenerations, it will also save you money when it comes to operating and maintaining it.
Manual water softening or Timed Regeneration?
When all the salt has been drained from the resin a process known as regeneration will take place. During this process magnesium and calcium ions will be removed using a concentrated salt solution known as brine, which is stored in a brine tank.
When it comes to the process of regeneration there are two key factors you need to consider. First, is the regeneration process manual or timed? And secondly, how long does the process take?
If you opt for a portable water softener the regeneration process will be manual. You will need to manually add salt to the tank and wait for it displace any hard minerals. Timed regeneration means the process will be done automatically.
Some systems will automatically start the regeneration process based on water output while other will require you manually set the time. Once the time has been set the system will take care of the rest. The best time to set a timed regeneration is late at night when water is less likely to be in use.
Is There A Warranty?
Having a warranty might not be at the top of your priority list, but it is something you need to consider. A warranty will protect in the event that something goes wrong with your system in the first year or two. A good warranty will give you peace of mind.
How Much Maintenance Is Required for your water softener?
Salt-based water softeners tend to require more work to maintain. If you want easy installation and easy maintenance opt for a salt free system.
Water Softener Brands
Water softeners are made by a variety of companies – some are well known, like Whirlpool and GE, and others are less known but more specialized, such as Morton, Tier 1, and Fleck. There are other brands too but these are the best known, which is why we’ve listed them here.
GE, or General Electric is a powerhouse corporation that makes everything from engines to light bulbs. From GE, you can expect the quality standards of GE’s reputation – but remember that this is just one product out of thousands that they make. So they’re not specialized in water softening.
The same goes for Whirlpool. They’re not as big as GE, but they still make a wide variety of products from refrigerators to washing machines to water filters. Most of their products however are aimed towards households, so they are indeed a bit more specialized.
Morton, the name we’re all familiar with in the salt industry also uses their salt to make water softeners and water filters. Morton water softeners are very good and since they’re in the salt business, they are specialized and know what they’re doing!
Morton also offers free technical support which is a huge plus point.
Tier 1 is a company specializing in making water filters and water softeners. They make really top quality stuff and their filters and water softeners are really easy to use and install.
Tier 1 has an unconditional satisfaction guarantee on their water filters and softeners.
Fleck is a USA based company that makes everything from home water softeners suitable for a small family to commercial water softeners in large operations.
Morton and Tier 1 are more focused on home systems, whereas Fleck makes both home systems and commercial systems(which can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars).
What Is A Water Softener?
In short, a water softener is a unit or device that removes certain minerals from hard water to make it soft. Significant levels of magnesium and calcium in water can make it ‘hard’. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including clogged pipes and damaged water systems.
When you want to eliminate or reduce hard water, you need a water softener.
Why Do I Need a Water Softener Anyway?
The calcium and magnesium present in hard water can cause a number of problems if left unaddressed. In certain plumbing systems, the residue it leaves behind can cause blockages or slow down the water flow significantly.
Another potential issue is that soap and other cleaning agents absorb less readily in hard water which can lead to sanitation concerns. Lastly, some people simply prefer the taste and feel of soft water when drinking it.
A good water softener can address all of the problems above very effectively.
What Minerals Cause Hard Water?
Depending on your area, your local water source may pass through various rocks and soils that contain any number of minerals and elements. As water is an excellent solvent, it easily absorbs them as it moves through.
Hard water is not a health concern, but it can be a pain to deal with in the home. The primary elements found in hard water are listed below.
Magnesium and Calcium Ions
The most common minerals that cause water hardness are magnesium and calcium. They are therefore the primary target of most water softening solutions.
In certain areas, iron deposits can be found at significant levels within the water supply. This isn’t harmful – in fact some consider it a health bonus – but can be bothersome in certain contexts.
In areas using aluminum storage tanks or water sources near industrial plants, above-average levels of aluminum can be found in the water supply. When kept to acceptable levels, this is generally considered to be safe and suitable for consumption.
If aluminum levels concern you, it’s worth considering filtration or water softening systems for your home. Speaking with your local water utility may also help alleviate any concerns.
What Happens if You Have Hard water?
So what happens if you have hard water in your home? We list some of the most common concerns below.
If you regularly wash your hair in hard water you may experience thinning, frizziness, breakages, and other issues. Of course, this all depends on a number of factors, including your type of hair and skin.
Some people experience dryness and irritation as a result of hard water. This type of water doesn’t absorb soap very readily which can also make it harder to remove toiletries from the skin when showering.
Similar issues can be found when it comes to your dishes. You may find that it takes longer to remove soapy residue from your pots, pans, and crockery. Water spots and similar marks are also more common with hard water.
If you regularly boil water in pans, electric kettles, or similar appliances, you may notice that unpleasant limescale deposits begin to build up over time. This is caused by the calcium in hard water and can affect the flavor of teas and foods.
Faucets and Pipes
Limescale deposits are also common on the surfaces of faucets and pipes. They can make it harder to keep your home looking clean and fresh. Perhaps more importantly, hard water can cause blockages within your plumbing system.
The mineral content of hard water is generally harmless, but it can have an unpleasant ‘eggy’ smell. This is especially noticeable in kitchen sinks and bathrooms.
The appliances you use in your home make your everyday life much easier. For this reason, damage from hard water can be a major concern. Build-up from limescale deposits, blockages from mineral residue, and other damage can significantly affect the longevity of your appliances.
Without regular cleanings or water treatments, you may find yourself replacing units in your home more frequently than you might like.
Water Heaters’ Efficiency
When hard water deposits build up in your heater tank, they can form a layer between your heater’s burner and the water in the tank. The result is a heating system that takes longer to work effectively and is more prone to breakdowns.
Another aspect of water heating that can be affected by hard water is water flow. If the build-ups in your plumbing system have become significant, it may take longer for heated water to move to certain areas of your home.
When washing laundry with hard water, you may find that your clothing feels stiffer and rougher than it did before. The mineral composition of certain water supplies can damage clothing and change the way that it feels when worn.
While fabric conditioners can help with this problem, hard water can work less effectively with cleaning products like this.
Why You Need a Water Softening System
By now, we hope we’ve established some of the main things you can expect when living with hard water. With this new information in mind, let’s explore the primary benefits of installing a water softening system in your home.
While it may feel like an expensive commitment, this kind of work can be less prohibitive than you might expect. What’s more, the change to your water and plumbing system can make it all worthwhile.
Many people find that once they’ve softened their water supply, their appliances start lasting significantly longer. Once you no longer have to worry about limescale build-up or other unpleasant deposits, there’s much less at play that can harm your appliances.
Another common change is that food and drinks prepared at home start to taste better when minerals like calcium and magnesium are no longer present at such high levels.
Water Heating Efficiency
As mentioned earlier, hard water can significantly affect the efficiency of your water heating systems. The main reason for this is that the minerals in hard water can leave behind a layer of mineral deposits between your heater’s burner and the tank water.
Once your water has been effectively softened, these build-ups will be a thing of the past!
Water Flow Rate
The flow rate of your water is a hugely important consideration that many first-time buyers overlook. It affects everything from your heating systems to the pressure of your shower. Hard water deposits can quickly start to slow down your flow rate at home.
Once you’ve installed a softening system and cleaned your pipes, your maintenance costs will reduce significantly. Your water should also start flowing much more efficiently than before.
More Efficient Cleaning
The mineral content of hard water means that it absorbs soaps and other cleaning agents less readily. This can impact the effectiveness of your cleaning and leave behind unpleasant soap scum and other deposits.
Soft water is an excellent solvent and can dramatically boost the efficiency of your cleaning. Expect soaps to absorb quickly and work at their best.
This is one of the most frustrating aspects of having a hard water supply in the home. Limescale deposits can be quite irritating to clean effectively and they crop up as quickly as you can wipe them away.
Homes with a soft water supply have far fewer water spots and limescale stains. Cleaning the kitchen can become much easier once you’ve installed a water softener!
How to Install Your Water Softener (Salt-Based Guide)
One thing to mention before we jump into this section is that you should only attempt to install a water softener if you’re very confident you know what you’re doing.
Our overview here is designed to give you a basic outline, but if you’re brand new to installations, you probably need a professional. Every softening system is different. Our guide here will broadly cover most generic salt-based installations.
You Will Need
When installing your water softener, you will need the following:
- Your softening unit
- At least 2, 1” NPT female connectors
- Tubing/ pipe material to connect to your existing plumbing system
- A power source and chord (for electronic systems)
- A drain (for salt-based, regenerating systems)
Step 1 – Determine Location
Your first step for installing your system is to decide where you’d like it to go. If you’re replacing an existing softener, this decision has been made for you. If you’re doing a fresh install, the process is a little more complicated.
Remember that the location you choose should:
- Have enough room for the unit, working room for maintenance, and a drain for regeneration
- Have safe access to a power source (for electronic systems)
- Have safe access to your existing plumbing system
Step 2 – Prepare for Install
Next up, you should switch off your water supply at the main and drain your existing water lines. This will keep things safe and clean when you work on installing your unit. The last thing you want is for water to flood your house when working – trust us!
Step 3 – Connect Your Unit
Using your female connectors and tubing, connect your unit to your existing plumbing system. Take great care to ensure that any new connections you make are solid and watertight.
Leaky pipes are a common occurrence for first-time installs.
Step 4 – Fill Your Brine Tank
It’s now time to fill your brine tank with the appropriate level of salt for water softening. This is usually about half-full. Your unit’s manufacturer will probably provide more detailed guidance within their user guide. Check this out if you’re unsure.
Step 5 – Test Phase
Once you’ve filled your brine tank, it’s time to check if you’ve installed everything properly. Turn on your water supply slowly and pay close attention to any pipes you’ve installed or altered. You’re checking for leaks or abnormalities here.
If everything looks normal, congratulations; you’ve successfully installed your new water softener! You can now reset your water to its typical level and enjoy freshly softened water every day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Water softening is a fairly obscure topic. For this reason, we encounter a fair few questions from people on a daily basis. In this section, we’ll run through some of our most common queries and clear up any confusion.
Read on to become a water softening buff!
How much salt does a salt-based softener add to water?
Many people think that using a salt-based softening system will suddenly make their water at home taste salty. In reality, things are a little more complicated than this. Salt-based systems use sodium ions to neutralize the calcium and magnesium ions found in hard water.
While this does slightly increase the sodium levels in your water, it won’t be to levels that are considered harmful.
Does my water bill increase with the use of a water softener?
One thing to keep in mind when using water softeners is that they can increase the amount of water used by your home. The main cause of this increased consumption is the regeneration process used by most salt-based systems.
When regenerating, a softening unit will inevitably ‘waste’ some water by re-ionizing the contents of its tank. If you’re concerned about your water usage, installing a smart meter can be a great way to mitigate the effects of softening.
Can I use potassium chloride in place of salt in my softener?
Those concerned about their sodium intake might like to use potassium chloride in place of salt in their softeners. It’s worth keeping in mind that your softener doesn’t know if you’re using salt or potassium chloride. As the latter is less efficient than salt, your unit will likely have to regenerate more often if you go with this method.
Setting your overall water hardness a little higher than before can be a good countermeasure to this problem.
What is the difference between a water softener and reverse osmosis systems?
In a nutshell, reverse osmosis systems are designed to purify your water, while water softeners are built to tackle the hardness of your supply. Most reverse osmosis units use some form of membrane that cleans your water as it passes through it.
A typical water softener uses sodium ions to neutralize the minerals found in hard water.
What Kind Of Salt Should Be Used?
You may be surprised at how many different options you have when it comes to salt. The key however is to get a salt that dissolves well. Salt that dissolves well is easier on the water softener system and will flush away without any problems.
Stay away from table and dicing salt as they tend to get stuck in the filter and cause all sorts of problems.
How Do You Turn Off A Water Softener?
This is a great question and one that gets asked quite a bit. The first thing you will need to do is identify which valves are directing the water into the system.Turn those valves so that water is no longer being diverted to the water softener.
Once you do this hard water will no longer pass through the water softener before entering your home. To completely shut down the system disconnect the power supply.
Do Water Softeners Make Water Safe To Drink?
Water softeners are designed to get rid of most of the impurities and chemicals found in your water supply. So technically, yes, a water softener does make your water safe to drink. However, that doesn?t mean it produces the best kind of water to drink.
While soft water from a water softener is safe to drink, there will still be people who prefer to drink bottled water or distilled water. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
Do Water Softeners Remove Chlorine?
A conventional water softener is not equipped to remove chlorine from the water supply. If you are concerned about chlorine being in your water, invest in a water filtration system as they are designed to remove chlorine and a whole host of other chemicals.
Hopefully you have found this guide to be helpful. Every product review is based on research and customer feedback about the products. All products listed in this guide can be found on online at a great price.
When looking to buy a water softener always take the time to do your research. The last thing you want to do is install a system only to find out it doesn?t meet your needs. Make sure you know the water flow rate, what type of technology is being used, grains of hardness and what all is covered by the warranty.
Use the information shared in the guide to determine what size water softener you need for your home. This should be your number one priority when it comes to buying a water softener system.
While there are many different brands to choose from, some of the best water softener brands include Fleck, Waterboss, Culligan, Aquasana and Morton.
Always remember not all water softeners are created equal. The one you invest in should meet the needs of your household and fit within your budget. If you use the tips outlined in this guide we have no doubt you will find a great water softener that everyone in your family will love.