Water softeners are great to have in your home as it comes with a multitude of benefits. Not only will it improve the quality of water in your home, but it can also help with extending the overall life of your plumbing.
If you’re not familiar with what water softeners can do for you, however, it may seem like a frivolous expense. Unbeknownst to most, the first water softening system was invented in the mid-1800s and since then, pure water has become an integral component of our overall health. Below, we’ll provide you with a detailed review of some of the best water softeners that we’ve found. Before that, however, we’ll talk a little more about what a water softener does, how they work, what you should take into consideration when selecting one and answer some frequently asked questions.
What is a Water Softener?
Simply put, a water softener helps remove minerals that causes a water to be considered hard. Typically, water softeners consist of a tank that you can easily connect to your water supply line. This tank comes filled with resin beads, while the top tank can be filled with other pellets – salt or potassium chloride. When the water enters the tank, it’ll first go through the resin tank where the minerals are removed. The salt pellets then proceed to replace it with salt ions.
Water softeners come with a plethora of benefits that we’ll discuss in greater detail below. As a snapshot however, water softeners can help with removing minerals that:
- Deposit on appliances
- Cause your laundry (especially your white shirts) to become discoloured.
- Cause dry skin and limp hair.
- Can be destructive to your plumbing system, fixtures and appliances.
- Can cause clogs and even reduce the water pressure in your home.
What are the Types of Water Softening Systems?
There are four different types of water softening systems and we’ll discuss each of them in greater detail below:
Saltwater softening systems have been around for a period of time and they’re incredibly popular and effective. While they do the job perfectly, saltwater softening systems can cause your water to have a bit of a soapy feeling and an aftertaste.
Salt-free water softening systems on the other hand have either electromagnetic pulses or a filtration system to help the water get rid of minerals. While they aren’t as expensive, these systems also can’t process a high volume of water. Depending on the system that you choose to get, some salt-free water softeners also won’t remove anything from the water.
Dual water tank softeners are some of the best out there because they come in pairs. That means you’ll not only get a brined tank, but also two large iron tanks. These are suited for households that consume a lot of water as it’ll provide you with soft water no matter the time of day. While dual water tank softeners are more expensive, you don’t have to wait for the resin to regenerate, and you’ll be reaping fantastic results in the long-term.
Finally, there’s magnetic water descalers. These are not as common but are still great water softeners to use as it’s hassle-free. This device is essentially an electrical device that won’t interfere with your piping system so there’s no installed required. All you’ve got to do is take a couple of wires, coil it around your water pipes and you’re good to go. How it works, is that the device will create a magnetic field around the pipes which changes the mineral composition of the water. It’ll also help prevent limescale from building up inside both your water supply system along with your fixtures.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
Water softeners help to remove hard minerals from the water. Examples of hard minerals include magnesium and calcium. If you’ve got hard water in your home, you may notice that your bathroom fixtures or shower doors have a white film on them. As mentioned earlier, hard water can also cause your clothes to become discoloured.
Here’s a basic overview of how a water softener works:
- Your water softener is installed at the main water line so that when water comes in, its first point of contact is the water softener tank.
- The main tank consists of tiny resin beads that’ll attract the hard water minerals and retain them in the tank. During this process, the hard water minerals will also be exchanged with sodium.
- Softened water will then leave the tank and continue through the rest of your pipes to wherever you require it.
- After you’ve softened a certain amount of water, you’ve got to clean the resin beads of hard water minerals and recharge with more sodium.
- This regeneration process can take about two hours, and most systems allow you to program when you’d like these two hours to take place.
With water softeners that are salt-free, some of them come with filters to remove the hard water minerals. With that, you’d need to constantly replace the filter. As a quick note, there are some salt-free water softeners that won’t remove the minerals from your water. Instead, they might crystalize it. With these systems, there’s no filter, salt or chemicals required, hence they’re completely maintenance-free.
What to Look Out for in a Water Softener?
There are a couple of factors to consider when it comes to purchasing your water softener:
- The first thing to consider is how much water you use. This is highly dependent on the number of individuals you’ve got in your family. If you’ve got a larger family, you’d probably need a saltwater softener with a larger resin capacity.
- The next thing to consider is your available area. If your intake pipe is too small, you can’t purchase a water softener that’s overly large. Most households are fine with an average sized water softener which consists of an iron tank and a brine tank. If you decide to go for a dual-tank system, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got sufficient space. If you’re unsure, you can always ask the manufacturer for specific instructions and details.
- Another thing to think about is the bypass valve. This valve is useful for instances where you don’t need softened water – such as filling a pool. If you choose to get a bypass valve, make sure that it’s both easy to operate and not difficult to find.
- The regeneration setting is another thing to consider. You can choose to either have it metered or timed. With the metered system, the resin will automatically regenerate after an amount of water that you’ve indicated has been used. With a timed system, it’ll usually regenerate every couple of days depending on how much water you would use.
What are the Advantages of a Water Softener?
A water softener comes with a variety of advantages:
- As softened water doesn’t have minerals in it, it tastes better than hard water. Some experts also believe that drinking softened water is better for your health.
- Softened water is better for both your skin and hair. Not only will your skin and hair be softer, but you’ll also have less issues with itchy and dry skin.
- Soft water also makes it easier for you to clean your home. With soft water, there’s less of a likelihood that your dishes and glassware will come out with spots on them. Your clothes will also be both brighter and whiter, and you won’t have to deal with grimy scum or stains that are left behind by hard water.
- A water softener will also help with prolonging the life of appliances such as your dishwasher, washing machine, water heater etc. as mineral buildup can cause these appliances to deteriorate and lose their efficiency.
- You’ll also see some improvement in the lifespan of your pipes and reduce instances of clogging. Hard water cases scaling which can restrict water flow in your pipes. Over time, this can lead to reduced water pressure and clogging issues. A water softener will help prevent these issues from happening and even reduce the existing amount of scale in your pipes.
- Finally, you’ll also notice energy efficiency improvements with a water softener. With this appliance, your washing machine, dishwasher and other appliances will use less energy. At the same time, your heating bills will also decrease over time.
How Do You Install a Water Softener?
While water softeners can be installed yourself, it’s wise to consult a professional plumber – especially if you don’t have any previous plumbing experience. If you do install your water softener on your own, it’s a good idea to install it before your hot water heater to protect it from any corrosion or buildup. Salt-based water softeners also need to be placed near a drain as they’d need to empty out each time the system regenerates.
To install your water softener, you’d want to follow the steps below:
- Turn off the water on your main water line and drain all of the water out. You’d also want to switch off your water heater.
- Then, cut into the main line at your preferred location and install a bypass valve so you can bypass the water softener system if necessary.
- Once that’s done, go ahead and use the compression fittings that come with the water softener to attach pipes that’ll help feed water into and out of the system.
- Then, you’ll go ahead and attach the drain hose, before connecting the overflow tube to your system’s brine bank.
- After that, you’ll flush the system to remove any debris before turning the system on and setting it to a backwash position.
- Then, go ahead and slowly open the valve to release any air before adding salt to the brine tank and setting your regeneration schedule.
When maintaining your salt-based water softener, all you’ve got to do is add salt, and make sure you’re adding the proper type of salt. You also shouldn’t add salt until the brine tank is empty and only fill it about two-thirds of the way. Once a year, you should also drain and clean your brine tank with fresh water.
There are also some systems that are easy to install and are maintenance-free and we’ll explain them in greater detail below. With these systems, there’s no modifications required to the plumbing and there’s no drain required. As these systems don’t use salt, you also won’t have to deal with any maintenance issues.
How Do I Know Which Water Softener to Get?
If you’re not sure which water softener to get, there’s a few quick things to consider:
- How hard is your water? To figure this out, you can send a water sample in for testing or purchase a test kit and do it yourself.
- How many gallons of water do you use a day?
If you have a traditional home with hard water, a salt-based water softener will be the most effective. Not only is maintenance minimal, but with most systems you can just set it and go about your day. The only disadvantages with these systems are the fact that they take up a sizable amount of space, and there is plumbing knowledge required. You’d also need to place it near a drain. There are however, some water softeners out there that take up less space.
Alternatively, you can opt for a salt-free water softener. These require no maintenance and will neutralize minerals within the water through crystallization. If you’ve got very hard water however, these may not be as effective.
If you’re someone that wants additional features, there are also plenty of water softeners that do more than just soften water. They’ll also remove other unwanted elements and some even come with a UV filter to help get rid of bacteria and viruses. You can always test your water results to determine if you need these additional features.
10 Best Water Softeners
This highly-rated salt-free water softener from SpringWellWater is exactly what you need for your home. Not only does it come with a lifetime warranty, but it also comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Additionally, it also prevents 99.6% scale prevention without the use of any chemicals or salts. Unlike some of the other salt-based water softeners, this particular product also helps you with saving water by producing no waste, and won’t discharge any salt brine into the environment.
By installing this salt-free water softener, you’ll not only extend the life of appliances in your home, but it’ll also help with getting rid of any scale. Its special design also means that this particular model requires no electricity as it uses a crystallization process. Water pressure also won’t be decreased, and you’ll get everything you need for installation. Best of all, this product’s practically maintenance-free – except for one filter change during the course of the year.
- Lifetime warranty.
- 99.6% scale prevention.
- Zero waste production.
- No electricity required.
- Difficult to install.
This particular water softener neutralizes the minerals rather than using a salt-based process to remove them from the water. There’s no salt or brine discharge required for this salt-free water softener, and no electricity is required. Instead, minerals are crystalized to prevent them from gathering on appliances and pipes. In terms of effectiveness, this salt-free water softener is 99.6% effective and also comes with an industry-leading limited warranty.
With this salt-free water softener, the quality of your water will improve and your appliances will also last longer. It can also be installed inside or outside, and you’ll get everything you need for a swift and easy installation process.
Unlike other systems that aren’t good for the environment, you’d be happy to know that this particular salt-free water softener isn’t just eco-friendly, but it doesn’t waste any water.
Price-wise it’s also relatively inexpensive and this is undoubtedly one of the best water softeners out there that’s made of high-quality materials while utilizing innovative engineering.
- No salt/brine discharge.
- 99.6% efficiency.
- No water waste.
- Good price.
- Connectors aren’t standard.
This particular water softener from Whirlpool is great for households that have about one to four individuals and can remove up to 8ppm of clear water. Not only will it help to get rid of stains, ferrous iron, calcium, magnesium and other minerals, but it’ll also remove any build-up that you may have on your plumbing and faucets. It’ll automatically calculate how much salt and water is required to regenerate and will only use what’s necessary. As it comes with a low-salt indicator, you’ll also know whenever the salt needs to be refilled.
Since it uses a demand-initiated regeneration, the system will only regenerate based on what your household uses – saving both salt and water savings in the long run. For your convenience, you’ll also get a one-year parts and labor warranty which can be extended to three-years if you purchase their Whirlpool water softener cleanser. Those that have purchased this particular water softener mentioned that it’s easy to install, is made of great quality, and works well.
- Removes build-up from plumbing/faucets.
- Low-salt indicator.
- Saves salt and water.
- Easy to install.
- Best if used with the Whirlpool water softener cleanser.
Fleck water softener is suited for medium to large households and comes with a digital metered system that’s incredibly easy to use. What’s great about this system is that regeneration is also automated so there’s virtually no maintenance required after you’ve installed the system. As it has a 48,000-grain capacity, it’s ideal for softening extremely hard water. Upon your purchase, you’ll get both a bypass valve along with all of the other parts that you need.
If you’re worried about not knowing how to install this water softener, you’d be happy to know that it comes with full instructions along with a video. It’s also efficient, not overly expensive and comes with an LCD display that will provide you with information about the system. This water softener can also be used with both well and city water. Perhaps the only drawback of this water softener is that it’s relatively bulky in size and won’t be suited to households that don’t have a whole lot of space. In terms of warranty, however, you’ll get a 10-year warranty on the tanks and a five-year warranty on the valve by purchasing this grain water softener.
- Easy to use.
- Digital metered system.
- Little maintenance required.
- Comprehensive instructions.
- Bulky in size.
This unique water softener has the best of both worlds – it’s both a water softener and an iron filter in one. Not only will it help with eliminating any red staining that is caused by high concentrations of iron, but it will also prevent scale build-up and help with softening your water. It comes with a 64,000-grain capacity and has a fine mesh resin that’ll remove iron with ease. The flow rate of this particular water softener is also high, so you’ll have plenty of water pressure for the entire house.
Other than removing iron, this water softener will also remove manganese, calcium, magnesium along with a range of other minerals during the filtration process. In addition, it can also filter out sand, rust and even sulfur. Some other key features of this water softener include a bypass valve and a cone that will prevent resin from entering your pipes when you’re not using this system. It will also regenerate automatically to help prolong the life of the resin, and you can set the controls to regenerate at a certain time. Those who have used this water softener are pleased with the easy-to-use touchpad controls and how simple it is to maintain the system. While installation isn’t as straightforward as some of the other systems, a professional plumber will be able to assist you with no issues at all.
- Doubles as an iron filter.
- Prevents scale build-up.
- High flow rate.
- Filters out sand.
- Easy to maintain.
- Installation isn’t straightforward.
The Aquasure water softener will help to reduce hardness in the water and eliminate both scale and spot build-up. It can treat 64,000 grains of hardness and remove minerals such as iron and magnesium that can cause skin irritation. This technologically advanced system also comes equipped with an Aquatrol advanced digital on-demand meter control head along with pre-filled premium grade resin.
There are three ways for you to control this water softener – manual, time-delayed and metered, so you can select the method that best suits your needs. As this particular water softener is also made of high-strength corrosion-resistant fiberglass, you can be assured that it’ll last for many years to come. You’ll also get a 5-year manufacturer warranty with your purchase, and it’s a system that can handle a household that has up to seven people. Individuals are impressed with this water softener and mentioned that it’s made of high-quality material, looks good, and comes at a great value. Installation wise however, you may want to get a professional plumber to assist as it can be a little difficult to install on your own.
- 3 ways to control.
- Made with high-strength corrosion-resistant fiberglass.
- Suitable for up to 7 people homes.
- High-quality construction.
- Best installed by professionals.
If you’re someone that’s always on the go, this water softener will do the trick. Not only is it compact, but it’s also salt-based and can produce at least 40% more soft water than units of the same size. Built for those that have RVs, this 16,000-grain unit will regenerate with two boxes of common table salt in less than 30 minutes and provide you with enough soft water for up to 40 days. As it’s compact it won’t take up too much space and it also comes with high flow rates.
While it might be a small system, it’ll still effectively prevent any rust stains or scale buildup in pipes, appliances and fixtures. Not only does it have an easy to carry handle that allows you to move it around with ease, it also comes with a large opening that makes it easy for you to add salt. Additionally, it also comes with high-grade resin and is built for both quick and simple regeneration. The only con with this particular system is that it isn’t big enough to handle large amounts of water.
- Compact construction.
- Good for RVs.
- Carrying handle.
- Prevents rust and scale build-up.
- Can’t handle large amounts of water.
This is one of the most popular water descalers out there – and for good reason. Not only is this water softener inexpensive, but it’s also easy to install and won’t require a professional plumber. Since it doesn’t need any salt, maintenance is also minimal. While this particular water softener won’t help with altering the chemical hardness in your water, it will prevent any build-up of limescale and help with dissolving existing deposits.
How it works is that the water descaler uses an electromagnetic wave to alter the adhesion properties of the minerals that can cause hard water. These waves will then travel through the coils that are currently wrapped around your water pipes. If you’re not looking for an overly bulky unit, you’ll be happy to know that this particular water descaler is very small and compact. It’s also eco-friendly as it doesn’t use any electricity, and there won’t be any salt or harmful chemicals released. While this is a great system, it won’t work if you’ve got metal pipes or if you’ve got water that’s extremely hard. Warranty wise, you will get a lifetime warranty on this product along with a 100% money-back guarantee for a 12-month period.
- Compact construction.
- Good for RVs.
- Carrying handle.
- Prevents rust and scale build-up.
- Doesn’t work with metal pipes.
This particular water softener will help with removing any excess calcium and magnesium from your water through electric impulses. You won’t need to add salt or any other chemicals, and you’ll get everything you need with your purchase. What’s great about this system is that it’s also resistant to physical impacts and chemical corrosion which means that the descaler system can withstand heavy use along with adverse environmental conditions.
It also works well with any pipe up to 1” thick and you’d only need a device for a small house. It can effectively remove up to 99% of limescale and prolong the lifespan of your appliances and devices. After you’ve installed this system, it’s also virtually maintenance-free and there won’t be any salt or chemicals released into the environment. It’s also economical as minimal electricity is used and is great if you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank. Perhaps its only drawback is that it can’t remove iron, and it’s not great if you’ve got extremely hard water. Warranty-wise, you will get a 10-year warranty upon purchase.
- Removes excess calcium.
- Withstands heavy use.
- Resistant to impact.
- Little maintenance.
- Can’t remove iron.
Lastly, you’ve got this great water softener that’ll not only remove 97% of chlorine, but also any additional contaminants such as lead, mercury, herbicides and pesticides. With this device, you’ll have great tasting water every single time. It’s specifically engineered to reduce scale while maximizing filtration and will leave only healthy minerals in your water. If you’d like, you can also add an optional UV filter to help with removing bacteria and viruses.
It’s cost-efficient and easy to maintain as there’s no draining or backflushing needed – you’d just need to replace the filters every three months for the best filtration rate. In terms of installation, you’ll get everything you need with your purchase, but you might want a professional to assist you with installing all the components. You’ll get a 10-year warranty with this purchase, and it’s a highly rated product. Individuals who have purchased this no longer have a buildup of lime around the kitchen sink or shower walls, and they love how the water tastes good from every faucet in their home.
- Efficient in removing chlorine.
- Reduces scale.
- Easy to maintain.
- May reduce water pressure.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
How long can a water softener last?
Most of these systems can last at least 10 to 15 years – especially if they’re maintained properly. If your water is quite hard however, your system may have to work harder and, in those cases,, you will need to replace your water softener sooner.
How do I know if I require a water softener?
An easy way for you to figure out if you require a water softener is to test the hardness of your water. If you don’t test the hardness of your water, other ways to figure that out includes noticing if your skin and hair is dry after showering, if there is scale buildup, clogged pipes etc.
Does having a water softener increase home value?
It could possibly increase the home value of your water softener as installing water softener is not inexpensive to begin with. While a homeowner can install the unit themselves, it can also take a considerable amount of time. If you’re selling your home, make sure that you’ve let the buyer know that the area has hard water and you’ve installed a water softener to mitigate that issue.
We hope that you’ve found this article helpful and learned more about water softeners. When it comes to deciding on what’s the best water softener for your home, start off by figuring out the hardness of your water. From there, you’ll be able to determine which water softener would work well with your needs. Other things you’d need to consider include the number of individuals in your household, the amount of space you have along with cost and ease of installation.