Best Salt-Free Water Softener

When looking at all of the saltless water softeners on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are best.

Some systems are going to spare your water pressure, while others are going to work better with water that’s naturally less hard.

Some come with carbon pre-filters that reduce other contaminants as well as condition your water, and some will need to be replaced sooner than others.

When picking the best salt free water softener it’s critical to make sure that it will work just as effectively for your home as a traditional salt model.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive review and buyer’s guide – to help make sure you get the best salt-free water softener for your home’s needs.

 

Best Salt-Free Water Softener Compared

IMAGE PRODUCT FEATURES  
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#1 Springwell Futuresoft
  • Scale Prevention: 99.6%
  • GPG Rating: 81 GPG
  • Flow Rate: 12 GPM
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#2 Pelican NaturSoft
  • Scale Prevention: 99.6%
  • GPG Rating: 75 GPG
  • Flow Rate: 10 GPM
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#3 APEC Futura-10
  • Scale Prevention: 99%
  • GPG Rating: 25 GPG
  • Flow Rate: 10 GPM
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#4 Aquasana Salt Free
  • Scale Prevention: 99.6%
  • GPG Rating: 25 GPG
  • Flow Rate: 7 GPM
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#5 Filtersmart Salt Free
  • Scale Prevention: 90%
  • GPG Rating: NA
  • Flow Rate: 12 GPM
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What to Look For in a Salt-Free Water Softener

There are multiple factors that will impact how well a water softener works in your home, and these are the main criteria you’ll want to consider before purchasing a salt-free system:

 

Scale Formation Prevention

Salt-free water softeners don’t soften water in the technical sense because they aren’t removing minerals. Instead, they condition the water by converting the calcium and magnesium into a crystal form that won’t form scale.

At the end of the day you’re trying to prevent this scale buildup, and the best systems are going to be able to prevent the vast majority of scale accumulation.

Grain Per Gallon (GPG) Rating

The grains per gallon (GPG) of your water describes exactly how hard it is. Based on the GPG, it’s assigned a designation of soft, slightly hard, moderately hard, hard, or very hard (image in the buyer’s guide below). Saltless water softeners aren’t usually as effective as their salt-based counterparts, and many will only work on water that is moderately hard to hard.

Knowing the GPG of your water source will let you choose a model that’s strong enough to be effective, and will help you get the best results from your system.

Flow Rate

One of the main customer complaints when it comes to water softener systems is the impact on the water pressure (flow rate) coming out of the faucet. The flow rate is going to affect how you’re able to shower, wash dishes, do laundry, etc. so making sure the flow rate will be high enough to meet your family’s needs is a must.

Durability and Maintenance

As with many things, you often get what you pay for when it comes to these systems. Most will come with some kind of warranty, and you can use that to gauge how long the manufacturers are expecting them to hold up.

You may pay $1500 for system A, but it comes with a lifetime warranty and lasts 20 years. If you get system B, it’s only $500 but it has a 5-year warranty and is likely to break sometime after the warranty period. Over the lifespan of the two, you’ll end up spending more money and hassle replacing system B over and over.

While many models have built-in sediment or carbon filters that need to be changed out periodically, salt-free water softeners in general require very little maintenance. It’s always good to double check before you buy, however, because not keeping up with any recommended maintenance can impact the quality of water the system produces.

Certifications

Both the NSF and WQA offer certifications for water softening systems. Being certified means that a system has been extensively tested through these third-party labs, and the manufacturer’s claims have been verified for each standard.

Common certifications for saltless water softeners are NSF/ANSI 61 and 42, which means that the system’s components are not contaminating the water in any way and that aesthetic bad odors and tastes have been removed from the water, respectively.

To learn more about the certification standards, you can see our guide here.

Price

Price is almost always going to be a factor for home improvements, and we made sure that our choices for the best salt-free water softeners are offering the best value possible for their price.

Review of the Best Salt-Free Water Softeners

Using customer reviews, product research, and industry knowledge, we’ve ranked the top water softeners on the market and broken down their key features to help you find the perfect fit for your home.

1. SpringWell FutureSoft (Best Overall)

There are many reasons why this is our top pick for the best salt-free water softener. To start, it prevents an impressive amount of scale buildup without compromising on flow, and it also works in areas with very hard water.

Not to mention, many other reviews list the SpringWell FutureSoft as the top saltless model as well.

Like the other softeners in our top 5, this system uses Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) technology. This process takes the hardness-causing minerals in your water like calcium and magnesium and converts them to crystals that won’t stick to your plumbing, appliances etc. – which means they won’t form scale.

Clearly Filtered

Main Features

Scale prevention: With the ability to prevent 99.6% of scale formation, it’s safe to say that this system works.

GPG rating: You won’t have to worry about whether this product can handle your water – it’s rated for areas with up to 81 GPG.

Flow rate: This model ensures you’ll have adequate water pressure for all of your needs with a 12 GPM flow rate.

Durability and Maintenance: Durability is no concern – this product is backed by a lifetime warranty. There’s also minimal maintenance required aside from changing out the sediment pre-filter every 6-9 months.

Certifications: This product is not NSF certified, but you can trust in SpringWell’s 20 years of experience.

Price: Like most saltless water softeners, you can get this system in two sizes – one intended for houses with 1-3 bathrooms, and one for houses with 4-6 bathrooms.

The price of the smaller unit is almost $1400, which makes it one of the most expensive systems on the list, but you can be sure that you’re paying for a superior product.

Who the FutureSoft System is Best For

If you live somewhere with very hard water and want the same performance as a salt-based system without the maintenance, then this is a great product for you to consider.

If you’re also someone who wants it all and doesn’t mind paying a little more for it, then you’ll love this softener system.

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t matter if you’re using well or municipal water and it doesn’t matter how hard it is – this model will give you all the benefits of maximal scale prevention without taking away from your flow.

You can check out our SpringWell water review here to learn more about the SpringWell brand.

Pros

  • Prevents 99.6% of scale formation
  • 12 GPM flow rate
  • Works with both well and city water
  • Easy to install
  • Minimum maintenance aside from changing the sediment filter
  • Lifetime warranty on the parts and tanks and a 6-month money-back guarantee
Cons

  • Expensive
  • The tank is heavy to handle

2. Pelican NaturSoft (NS3)

A close runner up to the SpringWell FutureSoft is the Pelican NS3. This softener system also delivers on the prevention of scale formation with its TAC process, and has undergone extensive testing through multiple 3rd-party labs.

Waterdrop-G3

Main Features

Scale prevention: Like the FutureSoft model, the NS3 also prevents 99.6% of scale build-up.

GPG rating: No matter where you live, this softener system should have you covered with a rating of up to 75 GPG.

Flow rate: There is a small impact on flow rate, but at 10 GPM you should still have plenty of water pressure for your family’s needs.

Durability and maintenance: This product is also backed with a lifetime warranty, which means you don’t have to worry about its durability. It comes with a 5-micron sediment pre-filter that likewise needs to be changed out every 6-9 months.

Certifications: You won’t find a more extensively tested and certified product on the market. This system has been NSF/ANSI certified for standards 61 and 42, and it has DVGW and IAMPO certification as well.

Price: This system is also at the high end of the price range at $1,444, but with its significant 3rd-party testing you can rest assured that you’re getting exactly what you pay for.

Who the NaturSoft System is Best For

If you want the piece of mind that comes with independent certification and a system that provides maximum scale prevention, then this is the salt-free water softener for you. The lifetime warranty is also great for those who don’t want to worry about replacing the system down the line.

It should be mentioned that this system doesn’t do as much to prevent mineral stains as some others on our list, so if that is a major concern for you then this might not be the best option.

The Bottom Line

We recommend this product as the 2nd best salt-free water softener because of its impressive scale-reducing performance and high level of trust. It’s easy to install and low maintenance, and with a 75 GPG rating it should work for virtually any water supply.

For more information about this brand and their products, check out our complete Pelican review.

Pros

  • Prevents scale formation by 99.6%
  • 10 GPM flow rate
  • NSF/ANSI, IAMPO, and DVGW certified
  • Equipped with 5-micron pre-filter
  • Easy to install
  • Lifetime warranty with a 90-day money-back guarantee
  • Easy to maintain
Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as good at preventing mineral stains

3. APEC FUTURA-10

Coming in at #3 is this softener system from APEC. With the FUTURA-10 you’ll get significant mineral reduction through the ceramic TAC technology while maintaining a good flow rate, and you can also count on the carbon pre-filter to remove chlorine, bad tastes and odors, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Aquasana RO

Main Features

Scale prevention: The carbon pre-filter and ceramic TAC system removes 100% of manganese, iron, and oils while reducing chlorine to 2ppm and copper to 1.3 mg/L. It also prevents scale formation for up to 25 GPG.

GPG rating: With a GPG rating of 25 this system has a lower capacity than some of the others on this list, but it should still be able to work well in many areas.

Flow rate: You don’t have to worry about a sharp reduction in pressure with this system – your flow rate will stay at 10 GPM.

Durability and maintenance: Unlike the other top models, you do have to replace the ceramic media every 3-5 years in this system and the carbon pre-filter should be replaced every 6-9 months as well. The tank and parts come with a 10-year warranty.

Certifications: While this product has not been independently certified, APEC has been providing quality water systems for over 20 years.

Price: At $1,150 you’ll save a little bit up front compared to the top two models, but don’t forget to factor in the cost of media replacement at $550 every 3-5 years.

Who the FUTURA-10 is Best For

The main benefit of this salt-free water softener is the built-in carbon filter. Unlike the filter-softener combo systems, you still get the aesthetic advantages of carbon filtration without having to spend a fortune on a combo model. This softener is ideal for those who want the best of both worlds on a budget.

With a GPG rating of 25, this system is also going to be best for those who fall under that hardness level. If you have water with a higher GPG, this system isn’t going to be as effective at preventing scale and conditioning your water. Like the Pelican NS3, it also isn’t the most effective at preventing mineral stains.

The Bottom Line

If you want a good water softener that also filters out bad tastes and odors, you won’t find a more cost-effective option than the FUTURA-10. This system requires more maintenance than some of the other models, but it still has a 10-year warranty and puts out quality water.

Pros

  • Prevents most scale formation
  • Built-in carbon filtration system
  • Cheaper than a combo filter-softener system
  • 10 GPM flow rate
  • 10-year warranty
  • Simple installation
Cons

  • 25 GPG hardness limit
  • Doesn’t do as much for mineral stain prevention
  • Must replace ceramic media every 3-5 years
  • Still a bit pricey

4. Aquasana Salt Free Conditioner

Next on our list is this budget-friendly option from Aquasana. With their SCM technology this softener performs as well as the top models without breaking the bank.
pelican undersink

Main Features

Scale prevention: This system gives top-of-the-line performance with 99.6% scale prevention.

GPG rating: With a rating of 25 GPG, this system will be able to handle the water in most areas.

Flow rate: There is a moderate reduction to 7 GPM flow rate, but this is still faster than many other models on the market and should be sufficient for all but the largest homes.

Durability and maintenance: The SCM system is designed to be replaced every 6 years, and the product comes with a 6 year manufacturers warranty.

The sediment pre-filter should also be replaced every 6-9 months, and Aquasana does recommend having a plumber do the installation. Doing it DIY can actually void the warranty.

Certifications: Aquasana is one of the leading brands in the water industry, and even though this product is not NSF certified you can trust in the brand.

Price: The $729 price tag is much more affordable than some of the other systems, even when you factor in replacing it every 6 years.

Who the Aquasana Salt Free Conditioner is Best For

If you want quality scale prevention at half the price, this is a fantastic product to consider. You should make sure the GPG rating will work with the water in your area to ensure maximum efficiency, and the lower flow rate is best-suited for smaller households.

Aquasana also offers pre- and post-filter upgrades if you want to turn this softener into a combo system at a fraction of the price.

The Bottom Line

This salt-free water softener will give you the most bang for your buck as long as it’s a good fit for your home. You’ll get excellent scale prevention from a trusted company with a reasonable drop in flow, but you will need a plumber to install it.

Pros

  • 99.6% scale prevention
  • Can upgrade to a combo filter-softener system
  • Budget-friendly
  • 6-year warranty and a 90-day money-back guarantee
  • Brand confidence
Cons

  • Needs a plumber to install
  • 7 GPM flow rate
  • 6-year expected lifespan
  • 25 GPG maximum

5. Filtersmart Salt Free

Rounding out our top 5 is this softener system from Filtersmart. This model uses TAC technology to prevent most scale buildup without touching the flow rate, and it also has both sediment and granulated activated carbon (GAC) filters built in.

Main Features & Benefits

Scale prevention: The TAC media used in this softener system was found to prevent at least 90% of scale by a study from the University of Arizona.

GPG rating: The GPG rating for this product has not been published by the manufacturer.

Flow rate: With this system you won’t have to compromise on flow to get rid of hard water – the flow rate is maintained at 12 GPM.

Durability and maintenance: You won’t have to worry about replacing this system with its lifetime warranty, and there’s also minimal maintenance required besides replacing the pre-filter every 8-10 months.

Certifications: While the product’s claims of water conditioning haven’t been evaluated (aside from the UA study), the TAC media itself is WQA certified and the other components are NSF certified.

Price: This filter comes in the mid to high range of price at $1,150, which is reasonable because you get a lot of added value from the GAC filter.

Who the Filtersmart Salt Free is Best For

If you want the added benefit of a GAC filter without paying full-price for a combo system, then this is a great choice. Likewise if you have a large household with a high GPM requirement, this system won’t affect your water pressure.

Without knowing the GPG rating, it’s hard to guarantee this model will work on extremely hard water sources. It might be best to avoid if you have water with a GPG over 25 just in case.

The Bottom Line

This filter has the value of a combo system without the price, and is great for those who need a high flow rate. The lifetime warranty is great to have, but it would be nice to know the exact GPG rating and whether 90% is the minimum or the standard scale prevention percentage.

Pros

  • Added GAC filter
  • 12 GPM flow rate
  • Lifetime warranty
  • NSF and WQA certified parts
  • Cheaper than a combo system
  • Works for well water as long as iron and manganese levels are low
Cons

  • Unknown GPG rating
  • Potentially less effective at scale prevention

 Top 5 Salt-Free Water Softeners Feature Comparison

ProductScale preventionGPG ratingFlow rateDurability and maintenanceCertificationsPrice
SpringWell FutureSoft99.6%81 GPG12 GPMLifetime warrantyN/A$$$$
Pelican NaturSoft (NS3)99.6%75 GPG10 GPMLifetime warrantyNSF/ANSI, IAMPO, DVGW$$$$
APEC FUTURA-10All but 2ppm chlorine, 1.3 mg/L copper25 GPG10 GPM10-year warrantyN/A$$$
Aquasana Salt Free99.6%25 GPG7 GPM6-year warrantyN/A$$
Filtersmart Salt Free90%???12 GPMLifetime warrantyNSF, WQA (parts)$$$

Salt Free Water Softener Buyer’s Guide

Now that you’re familiar with the top salt-free softeners on the market, it’s helpful to know a bit more about how they work and their other specifics so that you can make an informed purchase.

That’s where this buyer’s guide comes in – to help answer the other questions you may have surrounding saltless water softeners.

Who Should Buy a Salt-Free Water Softener?

To call saltless systems “water softeners” is actually a bit misleading – softening in the technical sense means removing the minerals that cause hardness like calcium and magnesium.

Rather than removing the minerals, salt-free systems “condition” water by using Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC). This converts the minerals in your water from their regular forms (which build scale and cause problems) to a crystallized form that doesn’t stick to the surfaces of your pipes, appliances, etc.

The media that causes this transformation can be made of resin (most common), ceramic, or other materials that allow the catalytic conversion of the hardness minerals. The property of the media that facilitates this process is called fluidization.

Salt-Based vs Salt-Free

Unlike traditional water softeners, this media is not used up in the process of conditioning your water, which is why most of these systems require minimal maintenance compared to having to periodically refill the salt stores on a regular system.

Many people complain that the water that comes from salt-based softeners has an unpleasantly slippery feel to it due to the added salt. Since there’s no salt added with a salt-free model, you don’t have to worry about your water feeling any different.

Also, saltless softeners don’t require electricity to function, don’t waste any water to flush their media, and don’t pollute the environment with salt brine. They’re greener all around! The only downside – in areas with extremely high GPG, salt-based systems are more effective at preventing scale.

With all of this in mind, you may be wondering if a salt-free style of water softener is right for your home compared to a traditional salt-based system. There are several key considerations that will impact your decision:

Location: Depending on where you live, you may not have a choice either way. Some states like California and Texas severely restrict or prohibit the use of salt-based softeners, whereas depending on where you live your groundwater may be too hard for a salt-free system to handle effectively.

In order to know the exact hardness of your water, you can find free home-testing kits that will evaluate the GPG of your water as well as identify other contaminants.

This map shows the general GPG range you can expect your water to fall in based on where you live in the US.

Maintenance: If you’re looking for a system that requires minimal maintenance, saltless models are the way to go. At most you’ll have to replace a pre-filter every 6-10 months.

Ease of installation: Most saltless systems can be DIY installed, whereas many of their salt-based counterparts require a professional plumber.

Mineral stain reduction: One area where salt-based systems have an edge is their ability to reduce mineral stains. Salt-free models don’t tend to be quite as effective, though some systems like the SpringWell FutureSoft do a good job of preventing stains.

All in all, the GPG of your water is the only thing that will potentially prohibit you from using a salt-free system instead of a traditional salt-based model. The rest can be tailored to your preferences.

What Are the Lifetime Costs of Salt Free Systems?

As with many appliances, the ticket price isn’t the entire story when it comes to water softeners. You have the initial purchase up front, and what happens from there depends on the specific model you get.

For example, let’s say system A has a lifetime warranty and no other pre- or post-filters built in. This is the one system where your initial purchase is probably the only purchase.

System B, on the other hand, has a sediment pre-filter that needs to be changed out every six months and a 5-year expected lifespan that’s covered by a five year warranty.

In addition to the initial purchase, you’ll also be paying for two filter replacements per year at $50-100 each and then you’ll have to spring for a new system sometime after the five-year mark. While products with lifetime warranties tend to cost more up front, this usually makes them the most cost-effective choice over the long term.

How Easy Are Saltless Systems to Install and Maintain?

One of the great things about salt-free water softeners, especially compared to salt-based models, is their ease of installation, operation, and maintenance.

As mentioned, most can be installed DIY without a plumber, though you should double check to make sure this doesn’t void the warranty. And while you may be able to do it without a professional, depending on the size and weight of the tank it may be easier to do it with a friend.

It’s worth noting that some systems can be installed indoors or outdoors, while others are only rated for indoor use. Make sure you put your softener system where it’s meant to be, otherwise you could face an untimely replacement down the line.

Maintenance is also minimal, with most systems only requiring you to replace the sediment or carbon pre-filters periodically. This can usually be done in minutes without having to shut off your water supply

What Else You Should Know Before Buying a Saltless Softener

These are the final things you should take into account before making a decision on a salt-free system.

Flow Rate

In order to determine if a system’s flow rate is going to meet the needs of your household, you’ll need to determine your expected GPM usage. To calculate it, you simply add up the GPMs of the individual appliances in your house. These are the average GPM requirements for the most common fixtures:

ApplianceFlow Rate (GPM)
Bathroom Faucet
0.5 GPM
Kitchen Faucet
0.5 GPM
Shower
2.5 GPM
Dishwasher
1.0 GPM
Clothes Washer
1.5 GPM

Water Filtration

If you’re getting your water from a well, odds are you’re going to have higher levels of iron, hydrogen sulfide, and manganese than your saltless softener can handle. In this case, you’ll need to add a filter prior to the softener system to remove these contaminants.

Even if you’re getting your water from a municipal supply, you may still want to add a filtration system to ensure you’re getting the highest quality of water for your home. In this case, you can either buy a combined softener system that has built-in filtration or add a separate filter system to your water supply.

Conclusion

 

Salt-free water softeners offer all of the benefits of conditioned water. These include increasing appliance lifespan, preventing water spots and scale buildup, and saving money while requiring less maintenance and running more green than traditional systems.

The SpringWell FutureSoft is our top choice for the best salt-free water softener due to its high scale prevention percentage, minimal impact on flow, and lifetime warranty. No matter which system you decide to purchase, however, you should make sure that it’s going to work with the needs of your home.

If you’re still on the fence and are interested in checking out both salt and salt-free softeners, check out our best water softeners guide here for all the top models in one review.

 

Stephanie Nielsen
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