There are so many different ways to soften water, how are you to know which is the best water softener system for you? If you are looking for a water softener and need some clarity, look no further! Once you know the basics, selecting the one that works for you is easy!
There are five different kinds of water softeners out there. Which one you choose will depend on your specific needs. You can choose from:
- Salt based water softeners.
- Saltless water softeners.
- Portable water softeners.
- Multi tank water softeners.
- Reverse-osmosis water softeners.
Each unit serves a unique purpose, so it important to understand the difference between them. If you are looking at our list and wondering, “what about all the magnetic water softeners I keep hearing about?” don’t worry, we haven’t missed them. They fall under the category of saltless water softeners, along with some other units.
Quick Breakdown of the Best Water Softening Systems:
If you are not interested in learning the inner workings of all the water softening systems on the market, here is a quick and simple breakdown of which kind you should look for:
Who Should Use Salt Based Water Softeners?
Except for some very specific cases, salt based is usually the best water softener system. It produces the softest feeling water and uses the most effective method of softening.
Who Should Use Multi Tank Water Softeners?
If you use an especially large amount of water in your home or business, multi-tank water softeners will likely be the best option.
Who Should Use Saltless Water Softeners?However, if your water is not extremely hard or if you require a more compact unit, saltless or portable water softeners are worth considering.
Who Should Use Reverse-Osmosis Water Softeners?
Hard water is not the same thing as contaminated water, so if your household has fluoride or sodium contamination, you will want to look in the direction of reverse-osmosis units.
Still not sure which is the best water softener system for you?
We’ll show you how each of them work, and help you understand the various usage scenarios that might lead you to select one or the other.
Salt based water softeners
These are the most popular types of water softeners. They use a process called ion-exchange that removes the minerals that make your water hard, producing purified soft water. It is by far the most common water softener for home and business owners struggling with the adverse effects of hard water.
A typical salt based water softener has 3 main components: a control valve, a mineral tank, and a brine tank. The control valve controls the flow of water from your water source, to your water softener, and eventually to your house. It ensures that only the processed soft water gets to you, while the hard water is sent to your drain. This also facilitates the water from the brine and mineral tanks to flow as necessary.
The mineral tank contains resin beads made of an insoluble polymer substrate that capture the minerals in your hard water as it flows through the tank. The ion-exchange process refers to the way in which the resin “pulls” the minerals out of the hard water. During the process, these mineral ions are replaced with sodium ions, hence the term “ion-exchange.” The minerals remain trapped in the resin while the purified soft water flows to your house.
The brine tank is filled with the salt water and used to rinse the resin free of minerals. The salt water from the brine tank interacts with the minerals trapped in the resin. The negatively charged salt ions attract the positively charged minerals and detach them from the resin. The resulting salty/mineral-filled water is the waste water, and this is what ends up in your drain and away from your house.
The process of cleaning the resin free of minerals is called “regeneration.” Salt based units produce the purest soft water because they actively remove the minerals from your water. It is perfect for households of 3-6 people. However, if you don’t use much water or don’t have a lot of space in your home, salt based water softeners can be overkill, and it might be worth considering a smaller unit.
What is The Best Salt Based Water Softener System?
If the salt based water softener sounds like it suits your needs, we recommend the Flek 5600SXT. It comes with a meter-based regeneration process, which is ideal for saving money and water. Meter-based water softeners regenerate based on water use, which means less waste and greater longevity for your product. It also has an impressive 48,000 grain capacity, meaning lower maintenance. Plus, Flek is a leading water softener brand and offers great warranties on their products (not that you’ll need it!)
- Produced by a trusted company with proven customer service and warranty benefits.
- Unit comes with an electronic controller and an LCD display for easy programming, use, and customization.
- A large brine tank that can hold up to 250 lbs of pelleted salt that will last for a long time.Uses the ion exchange process, the most popular and efficient methods of water softeners.
- Meter-based regeneration that allows control and flexibility in your water use, meaning your unit will last longer and your hydro bills will shrink.
- Durable and hassle free with 10-year warranty on the tank and 5-year warranty on the head (including the electronic components).
- Lowers hydro bills and plumbing equipment repair costs by reducing mineral buildup.
- High capacity at 48,000 grains.
- Not ideal for households of less than 3 people.
- Larger than some more compact units.
Saltless Water Softeners
Saltless water softeners use a variety of different methods to treat mineral presence. The most popular ones use magnets, or electromagnetic waves, to break down the minerals in hard water.
Other units use citric acid to produce the same effect. Many consumers appreciate this because they don’t require any electricity. Unfortunately, they are less effective than magnetic water softeners. Many are advertised as having the benefit of removing sodium from your water. Most health care professionals note that sodium levels in drinking water are inconsequential, but some feel that water desalination provides health benefits.
Saltless units are sometimes referred to as “water conditioners,” because they produce water that is still hard but does not cause the same levels of fouling or scaling. This is because the effects of the electromagnetic fields or citric acids changes the shape of mineral molecules, preventing them from depositing on appliances or piping. These units are perfect for smaller households of 1-3 people, or where space is an issue.
One of the great advantages of saltless water softeners is that they require little to no maintenance compared to salt-based units. There is no need to worry about salt build up in the product, and cleaning them is not necessary. You also save money that might other have been spent on specialty salts. They follow a less complicated process, and thus are often much cheaper as well. Furthermore, their more simplistic nature makes them easier to install. The only problem with saltless water softeners is that they are not ideal for households with extremely hard water. It is always a good idea to determine the level of your water’s hardness before choosing a water softener. You might find that your water is actually on the softer side, which can save you money if you opt for a saltless water softener.
What Is The Best Saltless Water Softener System?
For saltless water softeners, we recommend the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler. It’s extremely compact and because it uses no salt or water, it’s ecofriendly too! You don’t have to hook it up to any plumbing and it requires no maintenance. Plus, it’s much less expensive than other water softening products, without sacrificing quality.
- Very affordable, eco-friendly alternative to traditional water softeners.
- Easy to set up and requires no maintenance.
- Salt free.Same great benefits of traditional water softeners.
- Compact size great for any living quarters.
- Not ideal for extremely hard water.
Portable Water Softeners
Portable water softeners are great for travelers. They have a conveniently compact size and use the same ion-exchange method to produce soft water on the go. Portable water softeners boast many of the efficiency benefits of a typical salt-based water softener, but are easier to install and simpler to use. This makes them perfect for camping and RVing where ending up a campsite with hard water can put a damper on your holiday.
They are also a good option for someone who wants a salt-based water softener but doesn’t have much room for one. Just because they are portable doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your household, making them perfect for apartments and small offices as well. Because of their compact size, portable water softeners typically have a lower grain capacity than other salt-based water softeners. That just means they need to be maintained more regularly and their salt levels changed more often.
Water softeners are very easy to maintain, however, and their longevity is increased by doing so.
What Is the Best Portable Water Softener System?
If you think a portable water softener is the right fit for you, we highly recommend the Watts RV pro-1000. It is the top rated water softener among RVers and has a great 10,000 grain capacity. Even better, it runs on table salt, so you can save money on specialty water softener salts that some products require.
- Compact size and portability perfect for travelling.
- Runs on table salt, saving you the hassle of remembering water softener salt while travelling.
- Inexpensive compared to most water softeners.
- Good quality unit for a small price, with a 10,000 grain capacity.
- Not ideal for household use.
- Not ideal for large groups as a result of its small, conveniently compact size.
Multi-Tank Water Softeners
Multi-tank water softeners have the ability to produce much larger amounts of soft water than most household units. Multi-tank units can be saltless or salt based. Where the multi-tank water softener really shines is in larger households or businesses. If you go through a lot more water, you need a product that will keep up with a higher demand.
Obviously they are not ideal for smaller households due to their size, and they can be more expensive. However, if you do consume more water than most water softeners can handle, multi-tank water softeners will save you money in the long run. A typical water softener will not be able to produce enough water quickly to keep up with your needs. It will require more maintenance and be more prone to wearing out. Since it can take time for a water softener to process out the minerals, it is important to know your water usage before committing to a particular unit. Otherwise, you might be left waiting for, causing delays in your household, or worse, at your place of business.
If you know you use a high quantity of water, starting with a larger, multi-tank unit will save you the trouble of struggling to keep water usage down and keep up with maintenance of an over-worked, compact unit. Plus, you still have the option of choosing between salt based or saltless water softeners.
What Is the Best Multi-Tank Water Softener?
If a multi-tank water softener sounds like your fit, we recommend the Aquasana EQ-1000. It is saltless and does not require electricity, so it is very low maintenance, which is great for busy businesses. Furthermore, the Aquasana comes with the added benefit of removing 97% of chlorine from your water.
- Once installed, it will continuously soften your water for 10 years with an output rate of 7 gallons per minute.
- Does not require the use of salt, electricity or back flushing in order to work.Removes 97% of chlorine from water.
- Has a 3-stage processing system and a very high capacity over its lifetime.
- Can improve the air quality of your home by reducing the number of chemicals (such as chlorine) that can vaporize during a shower.
- Comes with a 10-year warranty and a 90-day money back guarantee.
- Not ideal for small households. Its 3-stage water processing that makes it a very large unit.
Reverse-Osmosis Water Softeners
Although they are often sold as water softeners, Reverse-Osmosis systems are not technically water softeners at all. Rather, they are more like water conditioners. They are used for water that contains specific contaminants like fluoride, or are used to de-salinate very salty water like sea water. It works by filtering out contaminants through a membrane, resulting in purer water. However, it can be hard to determine exactly which contaminants a specific unit is capable of filtering, since the range can be broad. Reverse-osmosis units are also not necessary unless your water contains specific contaminants that are dangerous compared to the minerals found in hard water. If you only struggle with hard water issues, reverse-osmosis units are a complicated and less cost-effective technology, and you are probably better off selecting one of the above listed types of water softeners.
This can make narrowing down your selection a little confusing. If you do have problems with water contamination, you should definitely look into reverse-osmosis products.
The Importance of Selecting the Best Water Softener System
Everyone has different water-softening needs depending on the size of their living or working quarters, the number of people living there, and the makeup of their water. For most people, traditional salt based water softeners will exceed their expectations and improve their quality of life. But for those who have slightly different needs or expectations, there are plenty of other types of water softeners to choose from, all of which come with their own added benefits. Whether you’re a homeowner tired of scrubbing soap scum from your bathtub, a business owner struggling to cope with the cost of plumbing repairs caused by mineral buildup, or a low income student in a small apartment with mild hard water problems, there is a water softener out there for you! Now that you know exactly which water softener best suits your needs, check out our list of the top 5 water softeners available online!