Top 10 Best Water Softener Reviews For The Money 2019
I was surprised when I first heard that water can be ‘hard’.
The surprise reached a new level when I got to know, about 85% of the American household is suffering from the ‘hard water’ problem.
If you are yet to grasp the severity of this problem, let me tell you some of the side effects of hard water- pale skin, stained clothes, and spotty dishes.
Hard water can reduce the flow of your shower head by 75% in just 18 months. It interacts with the soap and significantly reduces the cleaning power of detergents. Your house plumbing system will be affected, and if the problem keeps accumulating, it can cause major leaks.
It’s not exactly life-threatening, but it can harm your health too. Hard water changes the smooth internal surface of pipes and causes scale formation, making the inner surface of the pipes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
Sounds familiar? I’m sure one or two of them surely do.
Now, here’s a comforting fact. You can fight this problem, and the solution is easy, so simple that it comes down to one cool device.
Once you’ve acquired and installed the best water softener on the market, it’ll start taking care of your water. That too without needing any active supervision from your part.
But the catch is, you have to find the product suitable for your house, your condition, and requirements. This is where this detailed article can help you.
If you don't have time to read the whole article, check our top 4 best water softeners picks below in short!
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What Is Water Softener?
Before we jump into the definition of water softener, let’s talk about hard and soft water. Identifying the hardness level of water is the first step to determine whether or not you need a softener system.
Usually, your water will contain minerals like magnesium and calcium, which is perfectly normal. How do they come in the water? Well, because the ground contains limestone rock or metals, and the remnants travel with the water to your home.
Everything is normal until the quantity of these minerals reaches a certain level. Your water will be categorized as hard if it contains a minimum of 60mg of dissolved magnesium and calcium. In some areas, the quantity can even go up to 180 mg.
When that happens, you need to ‘soften’ the water. The process includes removal of minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, and manganese, and replacing them with sodium.
It might sound like a complex mechanism, but that isn’t something you need to concern yourself with. All you have to do is install a device that’ll do the work for you relentlessly. The water softener is the device, more accurately the system we’re talking about.
Our Top Pick Of Best Water Softener Reviews 2019
1. Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
There is a big difference between wishing things and getting them in reality.
You might think of many things you want in your water softening system, but seldom are the ones on the market able to fulfill them.
But hey, all-rounder systems do exist and Fleck 5600SXT is one of them. This is the best whole house water softener you can lay your hands on.
This beast was made to combat medium to very hard water. No matter how bad your water condition is, this one is capable of handling that.
Fleck 5600 SXT comes with everything you need to get started right away, the resin, the resin tank, the brine tank with safety float, digital control head, and a bypass valve.
The LCD display shows information and errors for easy operating and troubleshooting. You can effortlessly control the functions with the touchpad. Homeowners should be able to install this device with little plumbing knowledge, although the process itself might take time.
The water softening system comes with 48000 grains capacity, which should get you going for at least a few days. The system uses a flow meter to determine your water usage level and the regeneration time. This way, you won’t end up wasting too much water and salt.
This Fleck model features a water flow capacity of 12 GPM. As if that wasn’t enough, the system is able to provide a peak limit of 28 GPM, albeit temporarily. That means, up to 6 inhabitants can use water at the same time, without experiencing any drop in the water pressure.
Being a USA-made, versatile and salt based softener, you know this product can cover your all household water needs.
2. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
Meet the simplest solution to hard water limescale buildup.
This one isn’t your regular salt based system. Rather, this is an electronic device that works as an alternative to softeners. It’s a small unit and much easier to use.
Now, you might wonder how this device works. The good news is you don’t have to change any filters, refill salts or clean the tank at regular intervals. Also, the descaler cost significantly less than traditional systems.
The setup sits on your plumbing system and generates electromagnetic waves. This prevents hard water minerals to stick to the pipe surface and build limescale. While the process won’t completely soften the water, it’ll protect your clothes, tableware, and cutlery from staining.
The installation couldn’t be any easier. All you have to do is attach the 4 wires with the plastic or metal pipe. You’ll also need a power source to power the device. Don’t panic yet, the 110-volt system runs on only 5-watts of power.
What it’ll do after installation is stopping the accumulation of limescale on your system and also clean out any previous buildups. Thus, it might take some time for the device to remove the past grains and start truly functioning.
The device is not an inline water softener system, the wires are tightly coiled over the pipe. So there isn’t anything to hinder the water flow rate. It descales the entire water distribution system of your house, and you’ll see a great result up to and over 20 GPG.
3. Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck Water Softener
With great power comes great responsibilities.
Pentair WS48 is a truly powerful device when it comes to softening water. But there are many products that do the same job. What makes WS48 stand from the crowd is its versatile features.
For instance, this model is designed to soften water and remove iron from it simultaneously. Those who use well water know how problematic iron can be. On the plus side, it contains 10% crosslink resin that is chlorine resistant. So you don’t have to endure awkward chlorine smell from municipal water.
To summarize, no matter what your water source is, this is the best home water softener to provide you soft, clean water. And the 48000-grain capacity means it can do that while providing ample water for every member of the house.
The package comes with a complete softening system. You’ll get a 14x33 brine tank, resin tank, bypass valve, and adapter. The tank is made of polyglass, which won’t muddle with your water. And the 5600-valve is measured to be worth 27 years, so you will get long lasting performance from your system.
A heap of additional features makes the use even easier. The float in the brine tank helps you detect and stop any overflow issue. You can control the device easily with LCD display.
There is a 2 days backup system in place in case the power goes out. The O-ring lubricant, sanitization packet, and hardness test strips provided by the manufacturer will help you run this system smoothly.
4. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
A salt-free diet can keep you away from heart and kidney diseases. It will also make you look younger than you are.
Salt is addicting, I admit. But it comes with its fair share of health hazards if taken too much. Many people don’t prefer salt in their water as it increases the overall sodium intake.
And for these people, iSpring ED2000 can be an excellent choice.
The functioning of this device is super easy. No filter changing, no salt refill, no tank cleaning again and again. Just attach the cables on your pipe and they’ll do the rest. On top of that, the unit is freaking cheap! This is the best water conditioner you’ll get at such a competitive price.
To be honest, it’s not as effective as traditional softeners. It won’t remove calcium and magnesium like salt based systems. But it does its job well, which is preventing hard minerals in the water from scaling up on pipes and appliances.
Eventually, you’ll notice less and less limescale on your sink, geyser, showerhead, etc. It works wonders on extremely hard water areas where hardness range is 10-19. For hardness more than 25 grains, you’ll need a traditional softening system.
Another thing is, the device is effective for 50 feet, so if your house water system is larger, you’ll need additional conditioners. Also, if your water iron level is more than 0.3 ppm, you will need to use an iron filter alongside it. The device runs on low energy and pays back within 1 year in general.
5. Aquasana Whole House Water Filter
‘Incredible’ is the word you need when describing the Aquasana water filter.
This one isn’t a solo softener, rather it comes as a filtration system. There are two tanks paired with each other within the system. The result, an incredible capacity of 300,000 gallons!
It doesn’t just soften your water, rather it’s designed to filter it thoroughly. The UV filtration removes bacteria, germs, and pollutants from the water.
We’re not finished yet. With the innovative design, this system is capable to remove 97% of the chlorine from the water, which is even better than ‘American National Standards Institute’ standard.
Not only chlorine, but it also removes harmful contaminants like mercury and lead. The activated carbon filter removes pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals from your water, making it drinkable and tasty.
Being a salt-free conditioner, you don’t need salt, backwashing and electricity to run it. The Simplysoft Water Descaler prevent hard minerals from scaling up on your sink, showerhead and pipe systems.
The package comes with full installation kit, including 20-inch pre-filter, sub-micron post filter, brass fittings, bend supports, and shut-off valves. The dual tank design allows the water to be processed very quickly with a high flow rate, and the filtration is a cherry on the top.
The system is pretty bulky, which is understandable because it has two tanks. But make sure you have ample space to install and service it whenever necessary. The price might be a mood killer for many.
But the system is built to last at least 10 years. Thus, the price is justifiable considering the most important thing about a house is safe water. With durable filters and tanks, you will likely need minimal maintenance.
6. Fleck IRON PRO 2 Combination Water Softener
While watching Iron Man in action is fun, finding iron in your well isn’t so.
Those who use well water, iron can be one of their biggest headaches. It messes with the taste of the water and leaves stains on clothes, tile floor, and cutlery. And then there is the hard water issue.
Those who want to address all these issues together will find solace in Fleck Iron Pro water softening system. Whether you’re a small family, or family of 7-8 people, no worries. Iron Pro 2 comes in different sizes ranging from 32K to 80K grains.
Usually, water containing more than 7 GPG is considered hard water. This beast can handle even the hardest of water up to 50-85 GPG. It also removes iron through ion-exchange, the same method used to soften water.
The fine mesh of the tank can handle up to 8 PPM of iron. It also removes manganese, which is responsible for black stains up to 6 ppm, sand, rust, and sediment, etc.
There are two ways you can choose to regenerate the tank. Either by the usage of water or by time. Either way, the digital meter makes scheduling easy as a pie. Also, the method saves both water and salt for wasting.
The package comes with everything you need to run the system. The manufacturers provided detailed instruction, in case you want to install the system by yourself.
Overall, this is the impeccable machine you’ve been searching for your house. The competence to remove harmful minerals makes it the best water softener for well water.
7. iSpring 5-Stage Prestige Under Sink Drinking Water Filter System
You might be a fan of beverages, but you must admit, nothing is tastier than clean, drinkable water.
The product we reviewing now comes with the Water Quality Association gold seal, which means it meets every standard a safe water system should have. It’ll not only remove harmful organisms, but it’ll also deal with mineral contaminants.
This is a 2 in1 system. A reversed osmosis system coupled with a water softener which is placed under the sink. The combination will remove 99% of the contaminants, including the most irritating calcium, magnesium, chlorine, lead, arsenic, fluorine, and asbestos.
As the name suggests, it does so by a 5-stage filtration system. The first three stages include specialized filters, Polypropylene (PP) sediment filter, Granular activated Carbon Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) filter and a carbon block.
The fourth stage includes filtering the water through an RO membrane with 0.0001-micron hole-size. It filters even the smallest impurities from the water. The final stage is polishing the water with a GAC filter. The head of the machine houses the Reverse Osmosis system.
Impressed much? You should be. No wonder this product won the highest certification by WQA and meets NSF/ANSI standard 58. The package comes with all the parts and clear video instructions. The whole system fits under a kitchen sink, providing your family clean and safe water.
With only 75 gallons per day capacity, this system might not be enough for every household needs. But it’s more than enough to handle the drinking water needs even for a large family.
8. AquaBliss High Output Universal Shower Filter
Beauty is all about being comfortable in your own skin.
No matter what color, race, and gender you belong to, beauty is basically healthy body, smooth skin, and revitalized hair. Having dull hair and itchy skin isn’t a choice.
But truth is, hard water can damage your skin and hair. It can make the hair dull, frizzed and tangled. Your skin will lose smoothness and brightness.
While hard water more or less affects everything it comes in contact with, your precious body isn’t comparable with the sink, is it? Many of us wish for a specialized solution for our bathroom, the shower head in particular.
AquBliss is the product that’ll address your shower issue without needing to install costly whole house softeners. This is basically a multi-layered filter which can be removed and attached easily.
The device consists of three layered filters, redox media, calcium sulfite, and activated carbon. It effectively removes contaminants like calcium, magnesium, lead, arsenic, and mercury, etc.
The device filters the algae and fungi present in the water, thus protecting you from eczema, rash, itchy skin, and other skin problems. More importantly, it’ll relieve you from the burden of using multiple creams, chemicals, and hair tonics. Hundreds of positive and enthralled AquaBliss water softener reviews speak for this product.
The device is designed to be a universal fit. Also, you should be able to attach and remove it instantly, there’s no additional tool needed. Once installed, the filters will clean and purify about 12000 gallons of water. Depending on the usage, you might need to replace the cartridge every 6-8 months.
9. APEC Top Tier 5-Stage Water Filter System
You might use water for many reasons, but the most important use of water is probably drinking it.
I mean, it’s said that water is life. Safe water is one of the basic needs and without it, you can experience even life-threatening diseases.
Apec Top Tier is the best water softener system for drinking water, made primarily to address your safe, drinkable water needs. The unit combines reverse osmosis and multiple filters to bring you the cleanest, safest of water.
Water can contain more than a thousand contaminants, and this device is capable of combating 99% of them. Not only it’ll remove living organisms like germs and bacteria, but it’ll also filter out chloride, fluoride, arsenic, lead, and heavy metals.
The device can filter up to 50 gallons of water every day. Since it’s intended for purifying drinking water, the quantity should be more than enough. With the filtration, the undrinkable municipal water will taste will the most refreshing beverage.
The filter system consists of three carbon filters which remove odor and harmful minerals from the water, and an RO membrane that can filter contaminants down to 0.0001-micron. The ROES-50 system has two carbon blocks that increase the surface and contact time.
Installing the device is a piece of cake. It’s intended to install under the sink, and clear guideline and video provided by the manufacturers should make the job easy. The teethed fittings are made of stainless steel and protected by an O-ring, so there shouldn’t be any issue of leakage.
10. Iron Pro 48K Combination Water Softener & Iron Filter
Iron can damage your water softening system if the amount exceeds 0.3 ppm.
If your water contains more iron than the permissible level, you’ll need to buy an additional iron filter. It’s to protect your system and your tile floors. Nobody like to see reddish iron stains on the bathroom floor, right?
Iron Pro comes with a combined system that includes both water softener and iron filter. This saves time, money and hassle from your part.
The system contains fine mesh resins which remove hardness and iron from water. Since the resin is kept in a compact environment, it can remove more iron than traditional resins.
Other than that, you’ll find the system almost identical to other Fleck based softeners. This one also comes with 48000-grain capacity, which can cover a family of 6 people with ease.
The device is controlled by an LCD display and touchpad. One thing you’ll like is the new scan and service app technology. The app synchronizes with the code provided with the device and delivers information about configuration, installation, and troubleshooting.
The metered controlled valve starts regeneration on demand. The system also has 48 hours of internal power backup in place. Once installed, it can effectively remove 48000-grain harness per cycle, 6-8 ppm iron, 6 ppm manganese, rust, and sediments.
Understandably, Iron Pro is one of the highest rated water softeners on the market, thanks to its versatile features. This whole house water softener reviews are so positive, even skeptical buyers will feel assured while purchasing this one.
11. Watts Flow-Pur RV-Pro Water Softener
Big isn’t always good, sometimes you need to cut your coat according to your cloth.
The water softeners we reviewed till now have one thing in common. They’re all made for household uses. But what about people on the run? What about RV owners who often run into the middle of nowhere?
For them, Watts water technology comes with RV PRO-1000 portable softening system. Being easily movable and maneuverable, this softener can be used on small apartments, RVs and camping trips.
The system is made for fulfilling the basic soft water needs. You can use your regular table salt to soften the water. The model contains a custom designed flow valve which can start the regeneration cycle without shutting the system.
Also, the built-in flow restrictor helps in regeneration and increases the capacity by 55%. There’s no LCD display and touch control in this device. This system is convenient for people on the run.
Obviously, being a portable device, it lacks the full functionality bigger softening systems provide. For example, the salt doesn’t recharge automatically. But that shouldn’t be a deal breaker for adventurers.
The product has a grain rating of 10000 grains. Which is not much if you were living in a house. The flow rate of 4 GPM might not seem super high. But for RV inhabitants who need a compact system, I’d say both capacities are enough. Make sure you check the filters regularly and replace if necessary.
12. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable RV Water Softener
This is yet another portable model from On The Go. It’s understandable from the name that the product is designed for travelers, campers and RV residents. People living in small apartments will also find this device convenient.
Compared to the previous Watts model we reviewed, this one comes with a slightly higher price tag. But don’t worry about it, it also comes with added functionalities.
For starters, this one has a capacity of 16000-grain. This means you’ll get 1.5 times more water supply than Watts. The amount of salts required for the regeneration cycle is only two boxes.
High-grade premium resins remove all the hardness effectively. You’ll get soft water within 30 minutes of applying the salt. The device has a capacity of providing 16000 gallons of soft water in its lifetime, which is equivalent to 40 days of water conditioning.
Being compact, you’ll be able to keep this device in compact spaces. It has a handle on top which helps the user carry it. Large mouth opening lets the user add salt without any difficulties.
The device can be rotated 360 degrees. Connecting the inlet hose is easier than ever. The device requires no electricity to run. The softener also allows a high flow rate with minimal pressure drop.
The package includes several accessories. Cap and plug to prevent leakage, backflush adapter that facilitates reverse connection, test strips for testing hardness level, handle, storage caps and drinking hose. With all of these, you’re covered for your journey on the road.
13. ABCwaters 48k-56sxt-10SS 10% Resin water softener
A premium grade device with a space-saving design is all you can wish for your house water softening system.
Luckily for you, such products exist on the market. And we’re going to bring you the very product that has versatile features but takes up a relatively small space.
ABCwaters Resin water softener comes with a superior 10% crosslink resins. It’s better than 8% resin matrix and results in improved performance and lifespan for the resins.
Being a 48000-grain system, ABC Waters is suitable for families with 2-6 residents. The 12 GPM is decent and you shouldn’t experience problems like drip water.
ABC Waters uses a digital metered valve named digital flex 5600SXT. I’m sure you’ve heard the name because a lot of softeners comprise of this fleck valve. Being high quality, this valve should outlive the water softening system itself.
The package comes with complete tools to install and get started right away. Two USA made tanks, brine line, sanitizer pack, silicone lube, small parts kit, you’ll get everything to set the system up.
The package also contains hardness strips to monitor your water condition. Like a cherry on top of the cake, the manufacturers provide a detailed installation guide.
14. 3M Aqua-Pure Whole House Water Filtration System
Just like low hanging fruits are easy to grab, 3M belongs to low price range which makes it usable for people with limited budgets.
But make no mistake. This product isn’t an inferior one. In fact, it comes with a high water flow of 20 gallons per minute. This massive capacity makes it suitable for large houses.
The tank is made of stainless steel. Being anti-corrosive, you can expect it to last for a few years at least. This device is suitable for both household and commercial uses.
3M Aqua-Pure contains a sanitary quick change (SQC) system to allow quick change of the filter cartridge. Just twist off, remove and replace with a new cartridge. No additional tools or wrench needed.
The 902 model filter has the capacity to purify 100,000 gallons of water. The carbon filter removes rust, dirt, and sediments from the water. But more importantly, it reduces the chlorine odor and taste from the water. Populations using municipal water will find this feature extremely useful.
Aqua-Pure water softener reviews show that the users are mostly satisfied with the construction and performance of this device. Why wouldn’t they? The system is made of materials that are FDA CFR-21 compliant. The head is constructed with durable 304 stainless steel. It’s a bargain for the given price.
15. ClearlyC Shower Filter and Hard Water Softener (Upgraded Model)
I usually crave for sweets when I finish my meal. This is what makes the meal truly satisfying.
Since we’re at the end of our water softener reviews, it’s upon me to finish the list with a sweet product. No, it doesn’t taste sweet, but it brings sweetness to the very important thing of your presence, your body.
Hard waters make our skin dry, rough and itchy. The hair gradually becomes tangled and dull. Eventually, you’ll look like a different person when you stand in front of the mirror.
While whole house water softeners effectively address the problem, they aren’t always affordable for people with limited budgets. Also, some people might want an added layer of security for their family members. Either way, ClearlyC is one of the good shower filters for hard water you can lay your hands on.
As the name suggests, the device is attached on top of the shower head. Once installed, you’ll instantly notice the irritating smell of chlorine is reduced a lot. This is especially important because inhalation of chlorine can be harmful to infants.
The cartridge contains a filter that purifies the hard water come through your shower head. It’ll remove harmful chemicals like lead, mercury, chromium, nickel, harmful minerals like chlorine, calcium, and magnesium, and other impurities.
Over time, your skin and hair condition will improve. You’ll see less and fewer problems like dandruff, eczema, itchy skin and discolored nails.
Installing the device is pretty easy. You don’t need any tool or wrenches. The device is a universal fit, meaning it can be used with any shower with ½” threaded connection. The package comes with an additional cartridge. Together, both cartridges can filter you 20,000 gallons of water!
Benefits Of Water Softener
1. Prolonged Appliance Life
People residing in hard water areas know how irritating stained appliances can be. That usually happens because the water helps in the buildup of corrosion and discoloration, thanks to the minerals.
The water also reduces the lifespan of appliances and cutlery significantly. The next thing you know, you need to dig into your pocket to buy a set of appliances. The soft water system will remove the minerals detrimental for appliances.
2. Prevents Discoloration Of Fabric
Like we said before, the minerals in hard water leave stains and marks on the appliances. Same goes for white fabric, and sometimes more acutely. Sometimes the stain is too stubborn to be washed by detergents. Water softening systems can save you the hassle.
3. Cleaner Plumbing System
If you have ever checked the inside of a pipe after it has been removed from the system, you’ll find residue and layers of limescale. Sometimes the layers build up over years and clog the plumbing system.
Installing a softening system is the first step to enjoy a cleaner plumbing system. Obviously, the old residue will still be there, but they will stop accumulating. Use it with the house water filter, and you’ll get 98% clean water.
4. Saves Energy Cost
It’s not you’ll see right away, but the system can save you in energy costs. Hard waters need more time to boil than soft waters, increasing energy consumption.
Water softeners help you save some energy and money. But how much? WQA conducted an experiment which shows that you can save up to 24.2% for a gas storage water heater over 15 years of lifespan.
5. Saves Soaps And Detergents
It’s hard to form lather in hard water. The minerals prevent lather from gathering up. The result, we think the problem is ‘in’ the products and end up using more soaps or detergents.
Not only you’re doubling up your cost, this wastes your valuable time as well. That goes the same for any other cleaning materials. By using a good water softener, you can clean your body, clothes, and dishes even faster and more efficiently.
Best Water Softener Buying Guide For Beginners
Traditional softeners use salt to condition the water. They use ion-exchange method to remove calcium and magnesium from the hard water. But that also means you need to refill the tank regularly with sodium or potassium salt.
Now, if you’re in a restrained budget or worrying about added sodium consumption, you can use a water conditioner instead.
While they might not be as effective as the salt-based solution, they act as descalers. That means they use magnetism or chelation technology to change the properly of hard water and prevent minerals from accumulating and scaling.
Salt-based systems are still considered as industry standards and they actually ‘soften’ water. On the other hand, descalers help reduce the effects of hard water on home appliances.
Your water softener comparison strategy must include the grain capacity. It basically reflects the power and capacity of a residential water softener.
Grain per gallon or the GPG is the unit by which hardness is measured. If your water hardness is 10 GPG and your family consumes 300 gallons of water every day, you’ll need to remove 3000 hardness grains per day.
The hardness removal capacity also depends on the regeneration cycle. During the cycle, the system washes and flushes out all the hard water minerals and get ready for further softening.
Now, the hardness grains a system can remove between two cycles of regeneration is the grain capacity. You’ll find systems ranging from 8000 to 80,000 grains on the market.
Now, if you want to run one regeneration cycle per week, your system should have a minimum capacity of 3000*7= 21000 grains.
So the capacity of your device will depend on the consumption and hardness level. Make sure you don’t have to run too much regeneration cycle, of the effectiveness of the salt, will reduce.
Water flow is measured by gallons per minute or GPM. This reflects how much soft water you can use at a given time.
If you have a big household, you’ll need a system with a higher GPM or flow rate. The last thing your family members need is a trickle in the shower. If you use a lower flow rate than the requirement of your family, it might not be able to soften the water properly during peak hours.
Here are some usage idea of your household outlets-
Shower: 2.0 – 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute)
Faucets: 1.0 GPM (gallons per minute)
Washing Machine: 25.0 GPL (gallons per load)
Dishwasher: 6.0 – 16.0 GPL (gallons per load)
Toilet: 3.0 GPF (gallons per flush)
There are several methods by which a system can regenerate itself-
Metered: Top rated water softeners mostly use this method. In this method, the regeneration cycle starts only when the system demands. It uses a digital system to measure previous water output and start a cycle only when needed. This is the most cost saving and eco-friendly method.
Timed: This is a timer based system. You set a regeneration time beforehand, typically when water consumption is the lowest i.e. at night. The system then backwashes and flushes hardness minerals.
However, it always uses the same amount of salt and water, regardless of your water consumption. Thus there’s always a chance of wastage.
Manual: This method is usually used on portable devices. You have to add salt to the tank and it’ll replace the hard water minerals. The regeneration cycle runs manually and whenever you want.
You should check if the product has any certification. Well, it’s not that other devices won’t probably perform well, but the certified ones definitely will. Also, it gives you peace of mind.
Apart from what water softener manufacturers claim, look for ANSI/NSF certifications. Another certificate is WQA gold seal. They all indicate that your system is safe and secure.
But the one specially dedicated to softening systems is the Standard 44 certification. It takes structural integrity, material safety, hardness reduction, and salt and water efficiency into consideration. The best-rated water softeners usually come with Standard 44 certification.
Operating Temperature And Pressure
Softening systems has an operating temperature range within which it is fully effective. If you live in the area where temperature can get extremely hot or cold in times, make sure your system is capable of coping with that. Use systems that won’t stop working even if the temperature drops.
Also, our house plumbing systems have a pressure which is measured in PSI. Now, the pressure should be corresponding to the requirement of the system. For example, if the system needs 40 PSI pressure, but your home piping system has 30, the system won’t work.
However, it should be huge concerning issue because modern water softening systems can work with pretty much any pressure home plumbing systems have.
How To Find Out How Hard Water Is?
There are several ways you can check the hardness level of water. Some tests are quick but don’t give you the exact data. Some can take time, but you’ll be able to make a more informed decision. Below, we discussed three ways to find out your water hardness and its level.
1. Quick Method- Soap Suds
It doesn’t exactly give exact hardness level, but it’s quick and you can do it with the household materials around you.
2. Observing Your Household Materials
You can check for signs that show that your home water is hard. Most of the time, you don’t need to actively look for them, the symptoms are something you’ve probably been seeing for a while.
3. Checking Hardness Level Precisely
Both of the above mentioned methods are based on observations. You might need to know the exact level of hardness when deciding the water softener model suitable for your house.
But before discussing the methods, here’s a tip. First, understand the units used to measure water hardness. Then you can make an informed decision based on the result.
Grain per gallons/ grains is used to measure the hardness. 3.5-7 is the acceptable range, anything higher means the water is hard.
In the USA, ppm or mg/L is used as a measuring unit. 60–120 is the acceptable range. Anything higher than this should be classified as hard water.
Here are some methods to evaluate the water hardness level accurately-
How Does a Water Softener Work?
We’ve discussed the problems hard water can bring to your life. You can do chemical treatments to address the problem. But the more suitable and popular option is using a whole house water softener.
But how do they work exactly? What is the pixie dust they pour in the water that it mystically softens? Well, there’s no magic involved, but science, pure science. But science is often more astonishing than magic, right?
You see, it’s the calcium and magnesium that increase the hardness of the water. So the challenge is to get rid of them. The water softener is plumbed into the water distribution system of your house. And it uses a simple method to get rid of these materials, trading them for something else.
In most cases, sodium what they exchange these minerals with. The process is called ion exchange. Here’s what happens during the process.
1. Water softening systems come with two tanks. The media tank contains small beads of polystyrene, also known as zeolite or resin. The brine tank contains a strong solution of water and sodium/ potassium salt.
2. The resin beads in the media tank carry a negative charge. They are bonded with positively charged sodium or potassium ions.
3. Calcium and magnesium both carry a positive charge. When the hard water passes through the media tank, both minerals adhere to the polystyrene beads.
4. Since magnesium and calcium contain stronger positive charges, the resins bond with them and release the weaker sodium ions.
5. As the minerals responsible for water hardness bonds to the resin, the water comes out of the media tank cleaned and softened up.
6. Over time, the minerals replace all the sodium ions attached to the resin. This is when these resin beads lose the capacity of softening any more water.
7. To fix this, the media tank enters into a regeneration cycle. Brine solution containing sodium/ potassium salt and water enters the media tank.
8. The sheer amount of sodium/ potassium in the solution forces the beads to give up the calcium/ magnesium ions and bond with them instead.
9. After the beads are recharged with sodium, the excess brine solution and calcium-magnesium minerals flush through a drainpipe.
10. The media tank is ready for the next water softening cycle. The regeneration process generates a lot of salty water (around 95 liters).
This is the main principle almost all home water softeners work on. However, the difference lies in deciding when the regeneration cycle will start.
1. Some systems use an electronic timer. The timer keeps track of time and recharges the tank at regular intervals.
2. Some use a digital measurement system that assesses the bead depletion based on average water use.
3. Some use a meter to assess the water usage and initiate a recharge cycle when the sodium is exhausted.
Almost all softeners initiate the regeneration cycle when the water usage is lowest like 2 am in the morning.
Some units cannot dispense water when recharging. Some softening systems have reserve resin capacity to back the regeneration period up. Some systems come with two media tanks, while one is recharging the other provides soft water and vice versa.
How To Install A Water Softener?
Let me be honest, installing a water softener can be a daunting task. Depending on your preferred location and type of pipe, the difficulty level can vary. It’s always better to hire a professional. But if you have DIY experience and know your way around pipes, you can give it a try.
1. Where To Install Water Softener?
For starters, you should install it in a place with low traffic, ideally in the basement, utility room or garage. There should be enough space around the setup for easy maintenance.
Place it in a place where a drain or utility sink is near to flush the water. You’ll also need electronic receptacle which can handle necessary amperage to run the system.
Do not put the system under direct sunlight or places where temperature can drop down below 4 degree Celsius. Place the softening system before the water heater. If you want to avoid high sodium percentage in drinking water, you should bypass certain points like drinking water pipe.
2. Installation Steps
1. Let all the water remaining in your water supply system run out by opening the lowest pipe valve.
2. Turn off the water heater power supply and shut off the system.
3. Now, choose a point to install the softener. Try to place the softener as near the house. Place it before the water heater.
4. Cut the main line and install an elbow fitting. This way you can operate two lines. Remember, hard water will enter the softener's inlet, and the softener will supply soft water to the house.
5. Measure the pipe size that’ll lead to the bypass valve, cut accordingly. Solder any fittings and nipples before you connect the pipe. Use the compression fittings provided with the softening unit to attach the pipes to the unit.
6. Attach the drain hose to the softening system, then direct it to a utility sink or drain. Make sure the end of the hose should be at least 2 inches above the drain to avoid wastewater coming back.
7. Now, attach the overflow tube to the brine tank abiding manufacturer’s instruction about placement and height.
8. Remember the bypass valve? Set it to the ‘bypass position’. Turn the water supply on and let it run through the softener. It’ll remove any sediment and expel the air in the pipes.
9. Open the valve connected to the water heater and turn the heater on. Check if there is any leak.
10. Now plug the softening unit and push the regenerate button until the valve comes to the backwash position. Check the instruction manual to set up schedules to flush and add salt to the tank.
Best Rated Water Softener System Brands On The Market
Brands are brands for a reason. While you can be dazzled with shiny commercials and promotions from unknown brands, often you’ll find a gap between expectation and reality. Water softener system reviews for unknown, never-heard brands are usually bad, with very rare exceptions.
Good brands have a reputation to protect, so they usually emphasis on R&D and quality. Usually, top brands inhabit higher water softener ratings due to their product quality. Below are some of the top water softener brands on the market-
The company is owned by US water systems. It’s located in Indianapolis, Indiana. They have certified water specialists that work on the improvement of their products and provide troubleshooting solutions.
Apart from different water softening systems, Fleck also provides structural ranks, valves and parts, and water filters.
Pentair provides different water solution systems and they’re good at what they do. They’re on the market for more than 40 years. Their water filtration and softening systems provide offer point-of-use and whole use applications.
They run their products through rigorous tests to make them meet the National Sanitation Foundation and Water Quality Association standards. Their products include valves, softening systems, filtration systems, pressure tanks, and vessels.
Aquasana is committed to staying at the front of water filtration technologies. To make sure of that, they use best-in-class technology. Also, their products are manufactured keeping the environment in mind.
They have a wide range of products related to water softening and filtration. Shower filters, whole house water filters, Salt-based and salt-free water conditioners, replacement filters, clean water bottles are some of their products.
Watts was named after Joseph Watts, the inventor of steam and water pressure regulators. The company is around for more than 160 years now. The Company changed its name from Watts Industries to Watts Water Technologies, to reflect their emphasis on water-based products.
Today, they offer various products and services including rainwater harvesting, flow control solutions, drainage solutions, and water softening systems.
5. ABC Water Softeners
ABC believes in honest approaches. They try to keep their prices to a minimum while providing most authentic warranties on the market. Their water softening systems and valves are made by Fleck, one of the leading valve makers in the world.
Apart from water conditioning systems, they also manufacture iron filters, acid neutralizers, carbon tanks and reverse osmosis system.
Water Softener Vs Water Filter-Which One to Buy?
There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding both systems. Some people believe softening the water somehow purify it as well. It’s simply not true. While water softeners address the minerals responsible for hard water, they have no effect on the purity of the water.
On the other hand, some people think water filters also treat the hardness of the water. Which is not true either.
That drives us to our next question, what is the difference between them? And which one to use when?
Like we said, water softeners only address the hardness issue of the water. It removes the magnesium and calcium from the water which are the main culprits behind limescale.
The water filtration system consists of activated carbon, reverse osmosis system and other filters. Together, they remove lead, mercury and other impurities that might be hazardous for your health from water.
Another difference is, the water softener is a point of entry system. It is plumbed with the water supply system and usually provides soft water for the whole house.
On the other hand, a water filter is usually used with a single water outlet, i.e. the kitchen sink. But it’s not uncommon to see whole house water filtration system, although these are costlier.
So which one should you use?
That’s a burning question. Each one addresses completely different issues. And that’s why the solution lies in your particular situation.
First, you have to determine which type of water problems you’re dealing with. Is it regular stains on your clothes, limescale buildup, less efficiency of detergents? Or does the water contain unpleasant odor and taste, and you’re experiencing frequent water-borne illnesses?
Once you’ve determined your problems, address them accordingly. But remember, water filter and softener cannot be replaced for each other. So if you want to be completely safe or experiencing both sets of problems mentioned above, you’ll have to install and use them simultaneously.
The Most Popular Types Of Water Softening System
There are four types of water softeners. While the salt based one is widely known and used, other types aren’t less suitable for home use. It’s important that you use the type that’s most suitable for your needs.
1. Salt-Based Water Softeners
These are the most popular and most efficient water softeners. They’re also known as ion-exchange softeners. As the name suggests, they use salt to exchange ions and remove minerals like calcium and magnesium.
There is a maintenance cost associated with these systems. They need to be refilled with the appropriate type of salt in regular intervals. So that’s a cost the users need to take into consideration.
2. Salt-Free Water Softeners
The drawback with salt based systems is, the water contains a high percentage of salt. That’s why many households who wish to lower the consumption of sodium opt for salt-free softeners.
These systems use potassium chloride instead. They are more like a water conditioner or descaler. They don’t actually reduce hard water minerals, rather they change the chemical structure of the water to prevent minerals accumulating as limescale. It’s not effective as conventional softening, but still better than not softening at all.
3. Dual Tank Water Softeners
They are more heavy duty systems. They come with an additional tank as a backup to the brine tank. Traditional water softeners are designed to be disconnected during the regeneration cycle. So they are basically out of order.
That’s why the dual-tank system comes with two resin tanks. They are operational 24 hours. While one tank is regenerating, others ensure a continuous supply of water and vice versa.
4. Magnetic Water Descalers (Electronic Water Softeners)
These don’t operate like the traditional softening systems. Which means they don’t add or remove something from the water. Also, the functioning doesn’t include any salt.
Instead, they are placed with the metal pipes that carry water to your house. They send electrical pulses through the metal pipes. This creates a magnetic field that prevents hard water minerals from sticking to the pipe surface.
Electric water conditioners aren’t effective in actually removing hardness like traditional ones. But they prevent the buildup of limescale on your pipe. That’s why they are known as descalers.
How To Take Care and Maintenance Water Softening Device?
Usually, water softening systems don’t need rigorous maintenance. With some light but regular care, you can keep your system running for years. The maintenance work mainly revolves around refilling, cleaning and servicing the water softener.
1. Refilling The Brine Tank
Salt is an important part of the water softening system. It bonds with the resin beads to remove calcium and magnesium minerals from hard water. Thus, refilling the brine tank regularly with salt is important.
But there is no need to make the process complex. Check the salt level at least once in a month. Refill with salt when the level is below the ¼ mark. Do not fill more than 2/3 portion to prevent clogging.
If the bridging/ clogging still happens, use a stick to break the bridge. Pouring hot water also helps. If bridging occurs regularly, cleaning the tank would be a good idea.
Also, know which type of salt to use. Check the manual to determine whether tablet, granular or block salt to be used. Granular salt is the most popular one.
Also, determine which grade of salt you’re going to use. There are three options, rock salt, solar salt and evaporated salt. The first one is the cheapest but contains lots of impurities which can reduce the efficiency of the system.
2. Cleaning The System
Softeners can go for years without cleaning. Thus, clean your tank only when the water is still hard after refilling the brine tank for a few days. For older models, an annual cleaning schedule is a good option.
Before cleaning, empty the tank. Use the bypass valve to flush all the water, and dump the salts. If there is any bridge or block of salt, dissolve it with water. Be careful of not disposing of salt in the garden, as salt kills plants.
Some models contain mesh platform at the bottom of the brine tank, remove it. Now dissolve enough dish soaps into one or two gallons of water. Mix them well, and pour into the tank.
Scrub the interior wall thoroughly with a long-handled brush. Rinse the soapy water. You can use a hose, that’ll make the job easier.
Now, pour 60 ml (around ¼ cup) of bleach into 2-3 gallons of water. Pour the mixture into the tank and let it sit for 15 minutes. It’ll sanitize the inside surface from molds. Flush out the mixture and rinse the tank with clean water thoroughly.
Now, you’ve got yourself a clean, fully functioning tank. Now replenish the tank with water and salt like before.
3. Additional Servicing
Apart from regular salt refills and tank cleaning, there are some more upkeeps you can do on a regular basis. These will increase the lifespan and effectivity of your softening system.
• Check the valves once in a month. Twist them to off position, and then return them to the original position. Check for any drips or leaks. Replace damaged seals, washers if needed.
• Use water softener cleaner. You can either apply it before a regeneration cycle starts, or use an attachment to add a small amount of cleaner every time a regeneration cycle starts. This addresses problems like high iron in your system and keeps the resins functional.
• Do not forget the pipes and valve between the brine and media tank. Detach and clean them at least twice a year, or when the tank gets clogged. Check your manual for instruction. Relieve the water pressure before disassembling to avoid accidents.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I Need Plumbing Knowledge To Install Water Softener?
Answer: Well, a little plumbing knowledge helps the installation, to be honest. However, installing these products isn’t rocket science. Usually, the best water softeners come with a very detailed instruction manual. So you can install the system in a DIY way. If you still don’t feel confident enough, you can always call a plumber.
2. What Size Water Softener Do I Need?
Answer: It’s important to determine the size of water softener, otherwise you’ll be underserved by the system. The general rule is, multiply the number of inhabitants in your house with the average water consumption in gallons. (Usually, it’s 80 gallons).
Now, again multiply that number with the grain of hardness found in your water. This way, you’ll get an estimation of how much grains need to be removed every day. Now, look for a system that can handle the requirement. Usually, a four-person household needs around 33,000-grain softener unit.
3. Which Salt I Need To Use In My Water Softener?
Answer: There are several types of salts you’ll find in the stores. Some are cheaper than others but isn’t highly effective. With so many types and brands, it can be hard to find the one suitable for you.
You’ll basically find three types at the stores. Salt pellets, salt crystals, and potassium chloride. The first two is sodium chloride. Salt crystals are found in two forms, rock salt, and solar salt.
The rock salt is mined from the ground and contains a lot of impurities. Solar salt is extracted from seawater through evaporation and much cleaner than rock salt. Both are cheap, but not as effective as salt pellets.
Salt pellets are the purest form of sodium chloride (99.9%). They are the most effective but comes with a slightly pricier tag. Those who want to avoid sodium in the household water can use potassium chloride as an alternative.
4. How Much Salt To Put In Water Softener?
Answer: It depends on the hardness of your water. The more hard water you have, the more salt you’ll need. Usually, the system will determine the amount of salt you’ll need. You just need to check the salt reservoir and make sure it’s regularly refilled.
If you must have an idea, here’s an estimate. If you have a family of four persons and the water hardness level is 7-10 grains, then you’ll need about 10 pounds of salt per week. You’ll need a bag of 40 pound salt per month.
5. Why Is My Water Softener Full Of Water?
Answer: One of the common problems user's face is finding the salt tank is flooded with water. There are some indications like water coming out salty or water flow getting weaker. When that happens, it can be one of the following reasons.
• Your water softeners are too old and have started malfunctioning.
• The valve that regulates the water entry of your home is damaged and broken.
• The float valve is placed too high which is resulting in excess water.
If you experience these problems, see if you can address the issue. If you can’t, you should call a water softener repairmen. Most companies and manufacturers have experienced team of repairmen who can assist you when you contact them.
6. Where To Discharge Water Softener Backwash?
Answer: People take a different approach when discharging water softener backwash. Since it contains a high amount of sodium, disposing it just anywhere or your garden isn’t an option.
Most use their septic tank to dispose of the waste. But if the tank is too small, the salt can kill the bacteria responsible for breaking down the sewage waste. You can use the drain usually used to exhaust rainwater unless that leads to someone else’s property.
A lot of people dig drywell and dispose of their backwash there. Make sure the drywell is within your property line, but distant from home and garden.
7. How Much Does Water Softener Cost?
Answer: So, that’s the burning question. The system is great all right, but what are the costs associated with it?
Usually, water softener price can end up anywhere from 350 dollars to 3,500 dollars and more. Depending on the materials, features, capacity, and flow rate, the price will fluctuate. But usually, an average softening system should cost between 200$ and 700$.
Then there is the installation cost. Depending on the system and your piping diagram, the installation might cost between 400 to 10,000 dollars. On average, you would have to spend 3000 dollars. Obviously, you’ll save the money if you install the system by yourself.
8. How Much Does Water Softener Salt Cost?
Answer: While purchasing and setting up traditional water softeners is a ‘once in a decade’ expense, your system needs regular replenishment of salt.
Depending on your hardness removal level, your salt requirement will be different. On average, a household system that can treat 7-10 grain hardness level will need a bag of 40 pound salt per month.
Usually, the cost of a bag of salt ranges between 5$ and 25$, depending on the fineness quality and whether the salt is sodium/potassium based.
All good things come to an end eventually, and so is our extensive guide on best water softeners. Hopefully, this guide had all the information you needed. If you have more questions, feel free to ask us below.
Now, you know how important having a home water softener is, especially if you live in hard water areas. The system needs refilling and maintenance, sure. But compare it with the buildup of limescale and stains in your clothes and tableware, and you’ll get your answer.
The products we’ve reviewed come with different capacities, features, and advantages. We covered products for people with different requirements.
Take the one that suits your needs and you’ll not be disappointed. We hope you’ll be able to reap real benefits from the one you choose. Wish you a happy and healthy life!!