Do you know that water is considered to be hard if it has some amount of calcium and magnesium in it? Sometimes the quantity of these minerals can go higher, and it can cause various problems such as stained dishes and pipes, ashy skin, hair fall, and spotty laundry. A water softener is a device that reduces the hard water effect on the user’s skin, hair, and on the pipes of the home. This device or system is attached to the main pipe of the house and is mostly installed exactly after the whole-house water filter. This is an unbiased water softener buying guide which we have compiled after thorough testing of the products.
How we Picked:
You should trust us about our selection because we are camping enthusiasts and we have years of experience in this regard. We have firsthand experience regarding the usage of water softeners and thus we have compiled a list of the top 10 for our readers.
How we Tested:We have carefully picked the best water softeners with trusted reviews and high ratings from most of the authorities. We have also picked the best water softeners based on the durability and usefulness of the products. Apart from their capacities, we figured out the features of these products by considering their lifespan too.
How to Choose The Best Softener – Buyer’s Guide
Water softeners are designed to improve the quality of life and a good and efficient system can reduce the daily irritations and other issues that are caused due to hard water. Water softeners remove calcium, magnesium, and other minerals found in water and thus eliminate the problems associated with the hard water. But what if you couldn’t get the best water softener according to your requirements? To help you with your buying decision, we have compiled a list of the essential factors that you should look in a water softener. Following are the things you should look for:
Water Softener Size:
Selecting a water softener of the correct size is very important. You will want to buy a water softener that can meet the requirements of your house hold and is affordable too. However, for a water softener the physical size isn’t the main issue, but the ability to remove hardness is important. Water softeners are available in various different sizes and there is a term used to describe their ability to remove hardness. ‘The number of grains’ tells you the hardness that a device can remove between regenerations.
There are many water softeners that can easily handle more than normal water usage. To buy the correct size of water softener, it is important to determine the amount of water is needed by your family in a day. To do this, you’ll have to multiple the numbers of people in your house by 75. Multiply this number to the number of grains per gallon and determine the total capacity of the water softener you need for your house.
If the area available to you is very small, you won’t be able to manage with a large softener. This is because the intake pipes are too small and they won’t be able to go well with the large size of the water softener. So if you have a small house and less space available, you’ll do well with a 2-piece system featuring a brine tank and iron tank. Dual tanks systems are expensive but very large so unless if you don’t have too much water usage, consider using a small model that suits your needs. It is necessary to ask the manufacturer for the particular dimensions and measurements of the water softener. You can also find the information of the device that is available online.
Water Hardness Level:
To buy the best water softener for your household, you must also determine the water hardness level. Some hard waters have more amounts of minerals while others have lesser. You can perform a quick test to determine the water hardness level at your place.
The water and soap test is the best one as it can easily help in determining the water hardness. You can first take pure drinking water in a bottle and put 10 drops of soap in it, then shake it for 15 seconds and notice the amount of bubbles it has created. Do this similar test with the tap water and if the tap water creates lesser bubbles or lather, it means it’s hard. However, to determine the exact amount of hardness in water, you’ll have to send the sample to a lab. The higher the level of hardness in water, the more number of grains of a water softener will be required.
Bypass valve is an important thing to consider as it allows the water to bypass the device. Buying a bypass valve won’t be a wrong investment as it can be used for other activities too such as for softening the water of a pool or other things which need water softening. A bypass valve is very handy and it is easy to find it too.
A salt based water softener is more expensive as compared to a residential water softener. A residential water softener will cost around $500 to $2500. If you’re tight on budget and looking for a more affordable option, you can go for a descaler. However, if hard water is of big problem for you and is affecting the pipes, appliances, and your skin then you must buy a salt-based softener. A salt-based water softener is not an expensive choice and extends the life of the pipes and appliances in the home.
Another thing to consider is the regeneration setting. You have to choose between a timed water softener and a metered one. You can decide the number and setting yourself and the device will regenerate after some water has been used. Depending on the water usage, the device will regenerate in a certain period of time, let’s say in some days. A metered softener regenerates only when it has to and a timed one regenerates every time the time comes. A drawback to a timed softener is that if the usage is more than planned, you can run short of soft water.
Features and Controls:
Before buying or leasing a water softener, you must know about some handy features that will help you in its usage. For example, you must know about the options to control the amount of water, the length of each cycle, and the regeneration cycles. Water softeners need refilling with salt and even automatic ones need occasional filling. There are different methods used to control the cycles but the two main ones are softener DIR controls and water softener timer controls.
The Softener DIR (Demand Initiated Regeneration) is a sophisticated method that senses automatically when the resin needs to be charged. The method uses either a meter or electronic methods to calculate the usage. This method doesn’t recharge unnecessarily, and it saves the regeneration water and salt. It can provide for large water usages too. The other method used to control the cycles include electronic timers or clocks. These devices can be set according to your usage, but it can falls short if the water usage becomes high. This method regenerates regardless of recharge.
An automatic salt-based softener is very helpful as it adds salt itself and also notifies when the salt is low. Obviously, it is very handy when you don’t need to go through the routine maintenance tasks every day.
Water Softener Certification:
Water certification is necessary but that doesn’t mean that the device is completely error free. If a water softener is NSF certified, it can remove certain minerals from the water very effectively. These water softeners are rigorously tested to comply by the industrial standards. Also, a Gold Seal indicates that the water softener is of high quality and it has passed the strict requirements of the industry standards. The Gold Seal is from the Water Quality Association (WQA) and it tells about the durability, quality, and safety of the water softener.
Types of Water softeners:
There are various types of water softeners. Following are the four major types:
Salt-based Water Softener:
A salt based water softener uses iron replacement or ions exchange method for removing minerals from the water that cause hardness. Mostly, the calcium and magnesium ions are the ones that cause hardness and they are replaced by sodium ions which are present in the salt. These are the most common types of water softeners and they cycle the household water through two tanks; one with special resin beads and the other tank is filled with brine. Before the clean water is flushed out of the system during regeneration, the minerals are replaced by the sodium ions from the resin bed.
Salt-free Water Softener:
A salt free water softener doesn’t remove minerals from the hard water, instead it just prevents scale formation in the water. In short, it doesn’t soften the water but deactivate those factors that contribute to hardness of water. This way limescale is prevented in the pipes and the stains are also reduced. A salt free water softener is a good option for those who are worried about the salt intake and doesn’t want sodium in their drinking water. A salt-free water softener is actually a descaler and is not as effective as a salt-based water softener.
Dual-tank Water Softener:
A salt-based water softener has the regeneration cycle mostly set for night and while it is recharging, it disconnects from the water system. While it is disconnected at night, this can cause trouble for those who need soft water at night. If you’re a large family or live at a location where water is too much hard, you’ll need a dual tank water softener. Such a device will help make sure that the supply of soft water isn’t stopped even at night and you get soft water on a continuous basis. There are many different models of dual tanks available and size isn’t an issue at all but normally it is larger than the single tank one.
Magnetic/Electro Water Softener or Descaler:
The electronic or magnetic water softener is also called a descaler and it is available in the form of a small device. The small device is attached to the pipe system and it works almost in the same manner as a salt-free water softener. The water softener doesn’t remove minerals from the hard water. Instead it gathers minerals to prevent accumulation on the surfaces. The device sets up a magnetic field and change the properties of the minerals present in the water.
FAQs regarding water softeners:
Does a water softener remove the harmful bacteria?
A water softener is designed just to remove the hardness of water and it doesn’t remove the harmful bacteria. Most of the water softeners either remove the ions or replace those that cause hardness. So, it is necessary to make sure that the water is free from the harmful bacteria before it reaches the water softener.
How to control the salt level?
A water softener doesn’t allow you to control the salt level, but you can manage the settings according to your usage. Some water softeners use a sensor mechanism that is an electronic device that calculates and measures the water usage and the amount of salt that is being used. The salt filter works fine until your usage increases and thus the salt level also increases.
Which type of maintenance is needed?
Water softeners don’t need any particular maintenance except adding salt according to the requirements. If you have a salt based water softener, you must make sure that it doesn’t run out of salt as it can damage the device.
Top 10 Water Softeners 2019:
There are many good quality water softeners present on the market but the problem is; you only need one for your home. The above given factors can be considered if you want to buy a system that suits your requirements. We have picked the top 10 water softeners
Following are the best 10 water softeners for home use:
1. Fleck 5600 SXT – The Water Softeners 2019
Fleck 5600 SXT is one of the top notch water softeners on our list. The water softener allows you to control the regeneration cycles and easily regenerate only when you need. This saves a lot of time, money, water, and electricity because regeneration is not done automatically. If you have a large capacity, you can regenerate more often too using the digital control valve. The digital controller is equipped with many features such as the touch control with LCD screen. The screen is very easy to interpret and has a power supply of around 48 hours.
The Fleck 5600 SXT is especially designed to remove the minerals from the water that cause hardness. It comes with a durable polycarbonate and a manufacturer warranty of 10 years for the tank. There are safety features like the safety float one that prevents overflow or overfilling of the drain. The water softener uses a salt-based system and running it up and installing is very easy. When it comes to softening of water, this is one of the best systems on the market.
The water softener is good for small to medium households and you’ll need a 120V power supply to run it. It will take up around 3ft X 18 inches of area so you must have this space at your home for setting it up. It can easily soften moderate to very hard water and will treat up to 12 gpm service flow rates.
- It is very easy to install and can be set up using DIY methods.
- The LCD display is easy to read and the touch-pad controls are very easy to use.
- It has a 10 year warranty on the tank and 5 year warranty on the system.
- It has a meter regenerated system that saves water and electricity.
- It is heavy and bulky.
- The salt level must be checked and the salt pellets must be replaced often.
2. iSpring ED2000 – Best Whole House Electronic Descaler
If you want to avoid salt intake but still concerned about your skin and hair, you must go for the iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler. The iSpring ED2000 is not like a normal water softener because it doesn’t remove the minerals from the water, instead it prevents the buildup in the water system by dissolving it. There are two antenna cables that are wrapped around the water pipe attached to the primary source. This creates an electromagnetic field and prevents scale deposition. The system not only prevents scale deposition, but also dissolves the already existing buildups in the pipes.
Using this system, you’ll be able to make lather from your soap and the limescale deposits on the shower head, sink and faucets will also be removed easily. The descaler is designed for very hard water and it is very efficient in extending the life of the appliances. It can work on all types of pipes including PVC and PEX and is totally maintenance free. There are no plumbing modifications required and there is a 1 year money back guarantee too.
- It offers easy installation.
- No maintenance is needed.
- It is very affordable.
- It is suitable for very hard water.
- It uses an efficient electromagnetic technology.
- It saves electricity and is very energy efficient too.
- It doesn’t make the water soft.
3. Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600 SXT – Efficient Water Softener
The Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600 SXT is a very efficient water softener and the best thing about it is that it removes iron from it too. With this device, you’ll be able to have iron free water up to 6 to 8 ppm. It will easily remove the calcium and magnesium ions from the water and make it soft enough for use. This way you’ll be able to enjoy soft water which is free of any odor and taste. Most of the water softeners remove only calcium and magnesium but this one removes iron too and saves the cost of any other filter system.
There will be no black or red stains on the dishes and crockery as it removes manganese from the water and keep your appliances safe and beautiful. It has a high capacity of 64,000 grains ion replacement as it replaces the ions by forming salt crystals. It has a meter based regeneration system and is much more affordable than a timer-based system. This water softening system is not only suitable for home uses, but can also be used in offices and small industries.
The Iron Pro 2 uses an iron filter and is capable of removing 64,000 grains from the water. There are resin beads that remove calcium and magnesium from water and the pH value of the water is increased this way. The system is capable of measuring the water needs and regenerating accordingly. The water softener also makes sure that large quantities of water are softened.
- It has a high water flow rate and there is no need to wait for water regeneration.
- It has a ten years tank warranty, one month satisfaction guarantee, and 5 years head and valve warranty.
- It has a high water softening capacity.
- It has easy to flow installation instructions.
- It removes iron along with other minerals.
- It has a very heavy tank.
- The assembly is a bit difficult but manual is there.
4. Fleck 64,000 Water Softener – A Really Great Water Softner but Bit Expensive
The Fleck 64,000 water softener is a very useful one and though it is a bit pricey, it delivers excellent value for money. It offers easy navigation and there is an upgraded wheel meter that improves the water dispersion. The brine tank can hold around 4 bags and is good for a family of 4 people. The water softener is very effective in removing hardness from water. It removes magnesium and a low level of iron too, though it isn’t particularly designed to remove iron from the water.
The water softener is a complete kit as it includes all the items that are needed, which are resin, the tank, brine tank, and the control head. There is an LCD display and touchpad controls too. The LCD displays the error codes and current status and the touchpad controls allow easy and quick settings and operation. There is bypass valve with 1 inch yoke connection for smooth serving ability and in/out plumbing connection.
The system comes with a preloaded resin and a flow meter which allows you to see how much water has been used. The good thing is that, the flow meter regenerates itself and saves water wastage and excess salt in the water. The installation is easy and you also get an email from the manufacturer in which you’ll be provided with a tutorial to install the whole system. There is a 5 years warranty on the valve and a 10 year warranty on the tanks.
- It comes with a long warranty.
- The resin comes preloaded which saves your time.
- It has a huge capacity.
- There is a metered control head which is very handy.
- The upgraded paddle wheel meter is the latest technology.
- The resin is just an 8% one.
- It is very expensive.
5. ABC Waters Built Fleck 5600 SXT – Best Salt Based Water Softener
The ABC Waters Built Fleck 5600 SXT is a complete whole house system. The water softener is designed by ABC waters and the digital valve meter is the popular Fleck 5600 SXT. It has a 48,000 grains capacity which is considered high and good for small to medium households. It uses an upgraded 10% cross-linked resin which extends the life of the system. Most of the resin systems are standard 8% ones but this system features a 10% one.
The package is available with American made mineral and brine tanks that are very durable. The good think is that there is no need to preload the resin as it comes already fitted. The 1.5 cubic feet cross-linked resin is loaded by on to the system by the manufacturer before shipping.
The components of the system are made up of eco-friendly materials and the system uses lesser salt which is good for the health.
The water softener is WQA certified which adds to the overall value and trust of the brand. The water softener is very easy to use as there are additional items provided for easy installation. There is a large LCD display that allows the users to check the current status of the water softening system. There is a hydraulically balanced piston for regeneration and service too. The good thing is that, the programming is always stored in the memory and it isn’t lost if there is no power.
- It softens water very efficiently.
- It reduces the stain on the dishes and appliances.
- The skin problems are reduced and hair gets soft and silky.
- On demand regeneration helps save time, water, and electricity.
- It is a bit expensive.
- Plumbing skills are required.
6. Pentair WS48-56SXT Fleck – Another Versatile Salt Based Water Softener
The Pentair WS48 is a salt based water softener with a high capacity, that is, of 48000 grains. The water softener is very easy to install and removes hardness from the water very efficiently. The resin is a high capacity one and is of commercial grade for longer lifespan and improved durability. The control head is the most popular 5600 SXT which offers digital controls and has a LCD display that tells the error codes and status of the system.
The system comes ready to use as it is preloaded and is ready to install. The system is metered on demand and thus the regeneration is very easy and there is no waste of water. This is done by using the flow meter which allows you to regenerate when it’s needed. The stronger paddle wheel style meter is stronger and it holds up with fewer leaks. The installation instructions are very easy to follow and there is an installation kit available too.
The brine tank available is very durable and is of standard size. The brine tank comes with a safety float so that overfilling is prevented. There is a bypass valve and yoke connection too that makes installation much easier. There are one inch threaded fittings that allow easy connection to the water pipes.
- It is very easy to install because of the bypass valve and yoke connection.
- Metered regeneration is there.
- Installation kit is available.
- On flow demand makes sure no water is wasted.
- LCD display and touchpad controls allow quick settings.
- Plumbing skills are required.
- The instructions are not very clear.
7. Triple Action Poly – Best Salt Free Water Softener
The Triple Action Poly Salt Free Water Softener and it is an ideal option for you if you are on a salt-restricted diet. This water system can be installed outside because there is no need of waterproofing, but you have to care if the temperature is very low. You can even mount it outside but make sure it doesn’t freeze because this way it will get damaged. For maximum effectiveness, the water softener should be installed after a 5-micron sediment filter.
The system softens the water by using a combination of polyphosphate and screen filter. Because of this combination, calcium will still remain in the water but the calcium carbonate will be removed completely. The device doesn’t remove iron and chloramine as it isn’t a water filter. The salt-free technology is good to remove limescale. After some days of usage, you’ll notice great improvement in your water’s softness. You’ll note that all the dishes and faucets are cleaned properly and there is no build up on them.
The system comes with a mounting bracket and this makes it easier to install. The polyphosphate will come preloaded in the system and its volume is 10.5 oz. The drain valve is only ½ inches thick and there are male installation nipples too that can be bought separately. All parts have a warranty of 5 years and a 6 months satisfaction guarantee is also there. The whole kit is very durable and its expected lifespan is around 10 years.
- It can be installed anywhere unless it isn’t frozen.
- It has a BPA-free plastic body.
- It uses a salt free softening technology.
- It removes calcium bicarbonate.
- Good warranty and guarantee provided.
- It doesn’t remove iron and chloramines.
- Connectors are needed.
- Doesn’t provide good value for money.
8. Aquasana – Whole House Water Filter with Softner
The Aqusana Whole House Water Filter is a very effective one and it filters water very efficiently. It features a 1,000,000 gallon water filter and requires very less maintenance. It comes with a pro-grade install kit too which includes a pre-filter, a post-filter, brass fittings, and shut off valves. The system is very durable and lasts for 10 years because of the large capacity of water. Using this system, the water gets clean and odorless because 97% of the chloride is removed.
The water filter removes all the harmful materials such as lead and mercury from the water and organic chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides too. It also removes industrial solvents and make the water completely safe for drinking.
The filtered water also improves the skin texture and reduces dryness and itchiness. Bathing with the filtered water will make your skin healthier and more moisturized. The Aquasana whole house water filter uses UV Sterilight filtration that kills almost all the bacteria and other harmful substances in the water.
The good thing about this water filter is that it doesn’t adds salt or chemicals in the water or chemically removes the minerals. It is intelligently engineered to maximize potent filtration media to improve the performance. Also, the dual tank resin increases the water contact time and prevents media channeling and clogging.
- It uses high quality filters.
- It doesn’t add excess salt or chemical into the water.
- It doesn’t require any maintenance.
- It makes the water clean and odor free.
- Pex Crimper is needed for installation.
- Professional plumbing is needed.
9. DuraWater Fleck 5600 SXT – Great Value for Money
The DuraWater Fleck 5600 SXT is a digital metered water softener and the good thing about is that it regenerates when needed. To make the installation easier, there are mineral tank ships loaded on to the system. It comes with a high capacity resin that is of 48,000 grains and a bypass SXT metered control valve. The system easily and effectively removes the calcium and magnesium from the water and extends the life of the appliances and the pipes.
The regeneration process is meter based, which means that you can measure the water and regenerate only when it is needed. There is safety float included too which prevents overflow and over filling. The installation is easy to and it takes around 1 to 2 hours to set up the system. The system includes a safety float, upgraded paddlewheel meter, 1 inch noryl plastic male threaded bypass, Fleck 5600 SXT metered softener valve, ½ inch drain barb, and overflow elbow for brine tank.
The Fleck 5600 SXT is the most popular valve and it measures the water usage and also regenerates when it’s needed. There is a scan and service app that features spare parts, technical documentations, troubleshooting manual, and detailed configuration.
- It offers great value for money.
- It is very easy to install.
- It has a large capacity.
- The water quality is excellent.
- Safety float prevents overflow.
- It is heavy.
10. Nuvo H20 DPHB Water Softener – Another Very Good Saltless Water Softener
The Nuvo H20 DPHB is a household water softener and it doesn’t work like a traditional water softener. It doesn’t soften water by ion replacement or removal; in fact it changes the chemical composition of the hard water and reduces the limescale buildup. The device doesn’t use salt at all and thus some doesn’t consider it as a water softener. However, the device has many advantages and some drawbacks too.
Nuvo uses a proprietary chelating agent that reverses and prevents the scaling of hard water and thus makes it easier to clean the faucets, dishes, and plumbing fixtures. The device targets and removes the limescale deposits and thus extend the lifespan of the appliances There are many other devices that convert hard water into soft water but they aren’t able to clean the limescale deposits that are already present on the pipes and appliances.
- It is salt free and thus is good for those who are on a salt-restricted diet.
- It doesn’t remove the healthy minerals necessary for the human body.
- It removes the existing limescale buildup.
- It doesn’t soften water.
- It is not suitable for very hard water.
Water softening is not a new thing and it has been in the market for a long time. Hard water can cause many problems and it not only damages the faucets, plumbing, and dishes but also your skin and hair.
There are many different types of water softeners available, but some are better than others. Some water softeners are better in performance than others and thus you should look for the factors that you need in a water softener.
We have compiled a list of the best water softeners available on the market which we tested for their lifespan and durability. Some of the best features to look for in a water softener are ease of installation and usage, durability, space saving, and amount of water softened.
A good quality water softener removes contamination and makes the water safe for drinking. Fleck 5600 SXT Digital metered whole house system is our top choice because, it delivers excellent value for money and is very efficient in softening the hard water.