Best Water Softener

Hard water causes an array of problems — from stained dishes and laundry to limescale buildup that damages your pipes and appliances. Furthermore, whereas minerals like calcium are beneficial, some of the other minerals that contribute to hard water can pose health risks, particularly when they’re present in high levels.

The good news is there’s no need to just accept your bad luck: water softener companies have a range of products to suit a variety of water types. By finding the best water softener system for you, it’s possible to effectively treat the water coming into your home.

As each water softener has something different to offer, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for and decide what features you need.

 

Best Water Softener Systems Compared

IMAGE PRODUCT FEATURES
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Aquasana EQ-1000
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: 7 GPM
  • Warranty: 10 years
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Spring Well Future Soft
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: 12 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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SoftPro Elite
  • Salt-Based
  • Water Flow Rate: 7 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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Pelican Nature Soft
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: 10 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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Crystal Quest
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: 12 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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Fleck 5600sxt
  • Salt-Based
  • Water Flow Rate: 7 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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Aquasana EQ-600
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: 7 GPM
  • Warranty: 6 years
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Filtersmart
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: 12 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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Pelican Advantage
  • Salt-Based
  • Water Flow Rate: 12 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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iSpring ED 2000
  • Salt-Free
  • Water Flow Rate: NA
  • Warranty: Lifetime
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Water Softener Reviews

All the above have received the highest water softener ratings from consumers and industry experts, but there are still some major differences between models. Some use salt; others are salt free. Some have pre-filters and other added benefits; others are budget systems. There is no single best soft water system, but all of the above are top contenders for the best water softener to eliminate your hard water.

1. Aquasana EQ-1000 Whole House Softener & Filter (Best Overall System)

This whole house water filtration and softener system from Aquasana is the best water softener system on the market and our top pick.

If you need a system that will take care of all of your home water softening and filtration needs in one device then you MUST get this system.

Especially if you are investing for the long run!

This 1,000,000 Gallon Rhino system is good for 1 million gallons of water and has a  10 year warranty to ensure it lasts.

This model is salt-free and also offers the option to include a UV filter for total home protection against bacteria and viruses.

With this system you will eliminate hard water minerals, remove contaminants, and produce the purest water available for your families water needs.

Pros

  • Whole house water softener & filtration system which takes care of all your water needs in one device
  • Uses innovative SCM salt-free technology to naturally and safely reduce scale buildup on internal pipes and plumbing without using harsh chemicals
  • Offers the option to add UV filtration which prevents all bacteria and viruses in your water supply
  • Super easy to install, replace, and maintain with the pro-grade install kit
  • Does not require backflushing or drainage lines
  • Contains sediment filter, water softener, copper and zinc mineral stone, activated carbon filter, post filter, and UV filter
  • Aquasana has top-notch customer service and product reviews
  • 10 year warranty

Cons

  • Not ideal for people who don’t want both a water softener and filter
  • Expensive, but worth it if you have the money

2. SpringWell FutureSoft

Named in many reviews as the best salt-free water softener, the SpringWell FutureSoft is quite different from most of the other models. Chemical free, it works using the template-assisted crystallization (TAC) process to soften water.

This product provides 99.6% scale prevention without using chemicals or salt and also ensures you have zero drop in water pressure throughout your home!

This version doesn’t waste any water or discharge any salt brine into the environment. You still get the healthy minerals in your water but the ions are changed so that they don’t cause scale and buildup in your plumbing systems that typical hard water causes.

If you’re looking for a quality salt-less softener and aren’t interested in the Aquasana or other brands then Spring Well is an excellent option to consider for the price.

springwell future soft

Pros

  • The TAC process leads to high performance, providing 99.6 percent scale prevention. You’ll notice the difference immediately when you shower or wash clothing.
  • Easy to install out of the box. There’s no need to purchase any additional parts, and the softener even comes with a bypass valve. 
  • Lifetime warranty on the parts and tanks 
  • Only maintenance the system needs is a filter change once a year

Cons

  • Some people want to feel the difference with a water softener: they want the water to feel slippery. You won’t receive that sensation with this model.

3. SoftPro Elite Water Softener (Best For Well Water)

The SoftPro Elite Water softener is Quality Water Treatment’s best selling water softener and for good reason.

This model is rated as one of the best for well water. Our other top picks are better suited for city water, but this model will get the job done effectively if you are dealing with well water.

This model features a fine mesh resin for well water, a big 18 x 33 brine tank, iron filtration up to 3 ppm, a lifetime warranty, automatic system refresher, and advanced technology placing it as one of the top water softeners for the price.

The softener has also earned excellent recognition from IAPMO research and testing center.

There are different grain capacities but the most popular one is the 48,000 grain water softener.

The system is great for the price and comes easy to assemble.

softpro elite softener

Pros

  • Iron filtration up to 3ppm
  • Fine mesh resin for well water
  • IAMPO Certified
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Excellent customer service and reviews
  • Top model for well water
  • 18×33 brine tank
  • User-friendly LCD display

Cons

  • May need installation help 
  • Package systems are not cheap

4. Pelican NS3

A good option if you’re looking for a non-salt water softener is the Pelican NS3. This is another system that uses the template assisted crystallization (TAC) process. It works by changing the form of minerals, which removes the minerals from the pipes without the need for electricity or water waste.

This product by Pelican is certified for 99.6% scale prevention and offers a lifetime warranty. It is IAMPO and NSF certified, eco-friendly, and causes zero waste water compared to traditional salt tanks.

 Like most quality water conditioners that don’t use salt it does not produce the slippery water feel that you get from using a salt based system. 

This water conditioner leaves in beneficial minerals and is easy to install indoors or outdoors.

Pelican has been a leading brand and if you aren’t interested in Aquasana’s models Pelican is another top brand to choose for your softening system.

Pros

  •  Prevents 99.6 percent of scale — certified by both the DVGW and WQA, its effectiveness is guaranteed.
  • In addition to limescale, the Pelican NS3 removes sediment from water. Its pre-filter is rated to remove contaminants like sand, rust, and dirt down to 5 microns. Not only will this improve the quality of your water, but the filtration also makes the job of softening water easier.
  • If you have basic DIY knowledge, you’ll be able to install the Pelican NS3 yourself, which will bring down the cost. Everything you need for installation (including male NPT, rings, connection nuts, a wrench, and the mounting kit) comes with the system.
  • Lifetime warranty as well as a 90-day money-back guarantee, although it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any issues in that timeframe.
  • Rarely any need to replace parts or carry out maintenance other than switching the pre-filter, which needs changing every 6 months.

Cons

  •  Does little to avoid mineral stains. There will be no difference in how long it takes to clean glass, fixtures, and vehicles with this softener.
  • You’ll have to pay a large amount upfront for this system. It is important to decide whether all the extra features are worth the higher cost.

5. Crystal Quest Water Softener

A salt-free system with 4 stages of filtration.

This system by Crystal Quest has a new technology that transforms calcium (hardness) into mechanically stable and heat resistant calcite crystals which no longer cause lime deposits. The calcium is rinsed away!

The system features 4 stages of filtration where water flows through a sediment cartridge to remove sand first, then through the Crystal Quest eagle anti-scale media tank, then a solid carbon cartridge for removing volatile organic compounds, then lastly water passes through a 0.2-micron ultrafiltration membrane giving you super pure water.

crystal quest softener

Pros

  • Water softener and filtration system
  • Salt-Free
  • 4 Stage filtration
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee and all parts certified
  • Quality reputable brand 
  • Competitive price range

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Not as popular of a model

6. Fleck 5600sxt 

One of the top salt-based water softener brands is Fleck. Based in Minnesota, the company has been in business for more than 50 years and is a favorite in the U.S. It produces water softeners with a range of capacities and features. One of its top-rated models for homes is the Fleck 5600sxt.

If you have some basic DIY skills, you’ll find it straightforward to install the Fleck 5600sxt . You will need to have some knowledge of electrics and be able to set up the drain but the good news is that the main tank is pre-charged with resin and it includes the tank, control head, brine tank, and resin in the box when you order it making the setup as easy as possible.

Bear in mind that installation will take at least a couple hours, depending on external factors like location and weather conditions. This device can be installed outside because it has a water-proof control valve.

This Fleck 5600sxt water softener has top-notch technology built-in. It has a great display that shows the time of day and the amount of soft water remaining, adjustable cycle times, built-in capacitor to keep memory up to 48 hours, double backwash engineering and utilizes a compact turbine electronic meter.

The most popular Fleck5600 size is the 48,000 grain water softener.

Pros

  • One of the most durable on the market
  • Has a large tank — holding up to 250 pounds of your choice of softener salt, enough for around half a year in most households
  • A customizable system, which also improves its efficiency
  • Uses a digital meter to monitor water usage, rather than relying on a preset cycle which means you will always have soft water (even if demand changes) and there’s no risk of wasting salt or water
  • Simple to install
  • Top of the line technology with a built-in display, built-in capacitor, and compact turbine electronic meter

Cons

  • The main disadvantage is its resin, which is the standard 8 percent crosslink. This results in a significantly shorter lifespan than models with 10 percent crosslink — particularly if your water is chlorinated, as chlorine damages crosslinks.
  • A second downside is that, although the package comes with almost everything you need to install the system, it lacks drainage tubing. You’ll receive the softener tank, brine tank with safety float, brine tubings, resin, bypass valve, control head, and connectors, but you’ll need to purchase the drainage tubing separately.

7. Aquasana EQ-600 Whole House Softener & Filter (Best Bang for Buck)

This is the lighter version of Aquasana’s Rhino whole house softener and filtration system. The Rhino is one of the best selling whole house water systems and for good reason. This is the only device you will ever need if you buy from Aquasana.

This 600,000 Gallon Rhino is more affordable than the 1,000,000 gallon model and offers the option to include a UV filter to eliminate bacteria and viruses, a whole house filtration system, and a pro-grade install kit so it’s super easy to install on your own.

This system is NSF certified to remove 97% of chlorine and it’s SCM salt-free technology naturally and safely reduces scale buildup on internal pipes and plumbing without the use of harsh salt or chemicals.

If you’re looking for one of the best and most affordable whole house water softening and filtration systems you can’t go wrong with this Aquasana product.

aquasana rhino

Pros

  • NSF certified to remove 97% of chlorine
  • Ultra delicious and pure water for whole house
  • Healthier skin and hair with water softening 
  • SCM salt-free technology to eliminate scale in plumbing
  • Option to add UV filter which removes 99% of bacteria and viruses
  • Easy to install
  • Awesome customer service and brand reputation

Cons

  • A bit bulky and cumbersome
  • Ships in multiple boxes

8. Filtersmart Water Filter and Softener Combo

Filtersmart is an up and coming brand in the water filtration business and this filter and softener combo is one of their best products.

It features a 1,000,000 gallon capacity and uses premium Jacobi coconut shell activated carbon filtration.

The carbon filter system in this model removes chlorine, chloramine, volatile organic compounds, synthetic organic compounds, THMs, pesticides, herbicides, and industrial solvents.

 The model is super easy to install, requires no electricity, backwashing, and doesn’t waste water.

Since this softener does not use salt it produces clean, pure, sodium free water for your household.

If you are looking for a quality filter and softener combo and aren’t interested in our top Aquasana pick this is a good option to consider.

 

Pros

  •  Uses Jacobi carbon media to filter water. The media include coconut shells, which are known for being one of the best ways to remove contaminants from water.
  • The filter can process 1 million gallons of water, meaning it will last around five years.
  • The water softener is a conditioner that breaks down ions into microscopic pieces. It does this without the use of salt.
  • You’ll receive a lifetime guarantee for both the filter and the softener.

Cons

  • The installation process is much more complicated than for the other water softeners, due to the additional water filtration system. Unless you are experienced with DIY, you’ll want to hire a professional.

9. Pelican Advantage Salt Water Softener (Best Salt-Based)

This model from Pelican is a true water softener that uses salt or potassium. All of Pelican’s advantage series softening systems are metered and only backwash when necessary wasting as few gallons as possible.

 There are two sizes: the 48,000 grain water softener and the 80,000 grain.

This system comes with a high capacity resin tank, and lifetime warranty on the electronic head. This model is easy to program, has a high flow rate, a chrome tank jacket, and high capacity resin.

If you are looking for a quality salt-based system then this model from Pelican is one of the top choices on the market.

pelican advantage

Pros

  • Large tank
  • High capacity resin
  • Easy to program metered electronic head
  • Top salt-based system
  • 7 year limited lifetime warranty
  • Easy installation and maintenance
  • Metered delayed backwash for minimal water waste

Cons

  • Salt-based, but effective
  • Expensive but worth it for a quality brand and product

10. iSpring ED2000 (Alternative Solution)

If you want a softening system that requires no salt or chemicals, a budget solution is the iSpring ED2000.

It is a scaler rather than a conventional water softener: it transmits electromagnetic waves through your pipes. This prevents minerals and limescale from accumulating.

This device does not soften your water or eliminate natural minerals but instead works on the pipes to help prevent scale.

It’s easy to install on your water line and can be installed on different pipe materials such as PEX and copper.

Although we would recommend Aquasana’s Rhino or one of Pelican’s products before this, if you’re looking for a cheaper option to try then this is a model to consider.

Pros

  • The iSpring ED2000 is the best whole-house water softener for families on a tight budget — it costs much less than any of the salt-based systems. It is also excellent if you’d prefer to keep your water free of sodium and you want to maintain healthy minerals in your water.
  • It is easy to install the iSpring ED2000 directly to the main water line for your home without the help of a plumber. There’s no need to turn off the water supply, cut any pipes, or do any soldering: you simply wrap the coils around a pipe, plug the system in — and it’s ready to go. Plus, you have the option to install it vertically or horizontally and around copper, PEX, or CPVC.
  • When the system is working, you’ll hear nothing: electromagnetic force is silent. 
  • Expect a long life and great quality from this model — it has the ISO 9000 Quality Standard certification. The majority of homeowners say that stains disappear immediately, the water feels softer in the shower, they need less soap to create a lather, and they stop suffering from skin irritation.
  • If you do run into problems, you can receive tech support at any time. iSpring is a top name for all kinds of water treatment products — this is a brand you can trust.

Cons

  • There is no scientific evidence to back up its claims.
  • It’s not suitable for very hard water. However, if it does fail to meet your needs, you can always take advantage of the 1-year money-back guarantee.
  • The softener needs to have a power source. This could impact where you are able to install the system.
  • If you have a high quantity of iron in your water, the system may be less effective. This is unlikely to be an issue with city water supplies, but it could be a problem if you have well water. A potential solution is to install a water filter that removes iron.

A Buyer’s Guide to Water Softeners and Water Conditioner Reviews

To narrow down the best home water softener for you, it is necessary to understand what exactly a water softener is and how it works. It is also important to know what results you can expect to gain from installing a water softener system.

What Is a Water Softener?

A softener system turns the water entering your home soft by either removing hard water causing minerals and changing them into sodium ions or changing the structure of these minerals to make them unable to stick to surfaces.

Both methods prevent limescale and other issues that come from having hard water.

Typical water softeners contain two tanks: a tall resin tank where the ion exchange takes place and an attached brine tank that works to flush the resin tank and provide salt to the system. Most systems also include an LCD display and automatic monitoring to notify you of how much salt is left.

Water softeners are usually installed in the garage or cabinet close to your home’s incoming water supply so that the water can run through it. 

What happens is your incoming city water flows through your water softener tank where there are resin beads that attract calcium and magnesium ions removing the hardness from the water. The softened water without these ions continues to flow into your home’s water supply giving you clean soft water. 

The only maintenance you will have to do with a water softener is refilling it with salt or potassium chloride pellets (if you’re using a salt-based system) when it runs out and checking the tank to make sure it is regenerating the resin beads properly. Usually, owners have to add salt to their system about once a month.

Hard Water vs Soft Water

Water that has at least 60 milligrams of dissolved calcium and magnesium in every liter is defined as hard water. In some areas, the levels of these minerals are far higher than the minimum: as much as 180 milligrams per liter.

Another way to define hard water is by the number of grains per gallon (gpg) of calcium carbonate in the water. Water with more than 7 gpg is hard water, whereas between 3.5 and 7 gpg is moderately hard water.

Soft water, on the other hand, has only low levels of minerals — between 1 and 3.5 gpg. This is far more desirable for multiple reasons, including that it is healthier, it feels more pleasant on the skin, and it keeps your appliances protected from limescale damage.

You can learn more about hard water vs soft water here.

What Does the Best Water Softener Remove?

Salt-based water softeners remove calcium and magnesium, whereas salt-less softeners don’t remove anything. Instead, they change the form of the minerals. A water softener does not remove sediment and other contaminants from water unless it comes with a pre-filter.

Do You Need a Water Softener?

To determine whether you need a water softener, look for signs that your home is receiving hard water. These include:

  • Residue on dishes, faucets, bathroom fixtures, and any surface the water touches as well as on the bottom of your kettle and coffee maker.
  • A blocked shower head.
  • Dry skin or even residue on your skin after showering.
  • Leaking or damaged pipes, plumbing, and appliances.
  • Stiff, discolored laundry, maybe with white spots.
  • A drop in water pressure.
  • A lack of lather from soap and shampoo.

Benefits of a Water Softener

If you have hard water, a water softener will provide you with a large number of benefits.

Prevent Limescale Damage

Damage from the residue of hard water can be as severe as internal damage to your pipes, which can cause pipes to become clogged or start leaking. With a water softener, you’ll prevent the scale and white limestone that leads to this damage.

Improve Appliance Efficiency

It requires more energy to heat hard water than softened water. In addition, appliances become less efficient over time as scale accumulates.

Tank water heaters are at especially high risk, as they hold water for hours on end. However, even tankless water heaters have a shorter lifespan when they deal with hard water — and they require cleaning twice as often.

Avoid Stains

Hard water stains everything it comes into contact with. You may notice discoloration on places like faucets, sinks, toilet bowls, your bathtub, and shower heads. Spots may also appear on items you wash, including dishes, glassware, clothing, and even your car. If there is a large amount of iron in your water, the stains may be yellow, orange, pink, or red.

When you have a water softener, these stains disappear instantly.

Use Less Soap

It’s often possible to remove stains left by hard water — it just requires a good deal of scrubbing and a large amount of soap. Softened water allows you to avoid this task completely.

You’ll also need less soap in general — for everything from laundry to dishes. This is because soap doesn’t lather properly with hard water. When you have softer water, you’ll find that you’re able to clean much more efficiently.

Improve Your Skin and Hair

A healthy balance of minerals in your water can be good for your skin and hair, but an abundance of hardness causing minerals can lead to damage. The minerals strip your body of its natural oils, leaving your skin and hair too clean and, as a result, dry.

Your hair may also be greasy, heavy, and lack its natural buoyancy and your scalp may be dry and flaky. If you dye or highlight your hair, the color will fade sooner. If your hard water also contains a high level of chlorine, the water may even change the color of your hair, tinting it green or orange.

Having water without hard minerals is extra important for people who suffer from skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Once you have a water softener, you’ll notice less irritation and you’ll be less likely to suffer from razor burns.

Soften Your Laundry

Hard water minerals cause clothes and towels to come out of the washing machine stiff and scratchy. As soon as you have a water softener, the texture of your laundry will improve.

Enhance the Flavor of Your Cooking

It’s not just drinking water that has a better taste — softer water impacts the flavors of anything you cook with water. You’ll also have better-tasting hot beverages like coffee and tea.

The Different Types of Water Softeners

sAs you will have noticed from the list above, water softeners come in a variety of types.

Salt-Based Softeners

Conventional water softeners use salt. Sometimes, they are called ion exchange softeners after the process that softens water: the exchanging ions of the minerals causing hard water for sodium ions from salt. The system traps the hard minerals in a resin and flushes them out during its regeneration process (the cleaning part of the process). 

Salt softeners are highly effective but owners have to add new salt every month and the type of water they produce contains added sodium as well as generating more waste water. 

Dual-Tank Softeners

Some salt-based water softeners have a pair of tanks. These systems are called dual-tank softeners and are suitable for both commercial settings and homes that require a large amount of water.

With single-tank softener systems, there are times when you’ll be unable to receive soft water because the resin in the tank is regenerating. Usually, this takes place during the night, although it may occur after the system has processed many gallons of water.

With a dual-tank softener, you’ll never run out of soft water. During the regeneration cycle of one tank, the other tank is able to soften water. This feature comes with a higher upfront cost, but if you have high water needs, you may decide it is worthwhile.

Salt-Free Softeners

Salt-less softeners are a more modern alternative. Instead of using salt, they use a process like template assisted crystallization (TAC) to reshape hard minerals. The process turns minerals that are causing hard water into crystals that cannot adhere to surfaces.

Magnetic Water Descalers

One type of salt-free softener is the magnetic water descaler. Instead of using the TAC process, electromagnetism keeps water free from scale. Although there are fewer magnetic water descalers on the market than other types of water softeners, they are gaining popularity for their simple installation. Instead of connecting the system to your water source, you coil wires around the water intake pipes and then plug in the system.

Just like with the TAC process, the magnetic field of the water descaler turns minerals into larger crystals to prevent accumulation of limescale.

Water Conditioner vs Water Softener

Technically, only a salt-based system is a true water softener. Those that use a process other than salt are water conditioners. Either option has its share of advantages and disadvantages.

Water softeners are more popular, which means you have a large amount of choice in terms of products. However, softeners do require more maintenance than salt-less conditioners, as you’ll need to periodically refresh the salt. They also need to be connected to an electrical outlet and they do waste some water during the regeneration cycle.

Water conditioners allow you to gain the benefits of soft water without adding any sodium to your water. They also cost less to maintain and usually require no electricity. These characteristics are helping them gain market share, and they are now available in from many top manufacturers of water softeners.

However, as calcium and magnesium will still be present in your water with a water conditioner, the water is not actually soft. If you were to run a test on the water, it would still be classified as hard. Although water conditioners are often called softeners, they do not actually soften water.

Water Softener Installation and Maintenance

 

Provided you have some DIY knowledge, you’ll find that most water softeners are simple enough to install on your own. However, if you’re unsure when reading the manual, it’s better to call a professional.

All systems are easy to maintain without assistance. At the very most, they require refilling with salt every few weeks or months and changing a pre-filter periodically (between six months and six years, depending on the model).

 

How to Choose a Water Softener for Your Home

Now you understand the distinctions between different softeners, it’s time to figure out what you need from your system. This involves thinking about your requirements and carrying out a water softener price comparison.

Hardness of Your Water

You’ve already figured out that your water is hard — you also need to know how hard. A professional test will tell you the exact extent, as well as what contaminants the water contains and the levels of these contaminants. This is useful for knowing if you also require a reverse osmosis system for your drinking water or perhaps a whole-house filter system.

You can receive a professional test from a company in your area or you can purchase a kit online. The latter involves taking a sample of water and then sending it to a lab. Yet other options include asking your city for a report (this is not possible if your water comes from a well), checking the documents from your home inspection (if you purchased your property recently), or looking at a water hardness map for your area.

Type of System

If you find that you have very hard water, you should only consider salt-based systems. However, if you have moderately-hardened water, a system that does not use salt may be just as effective — in this case, what you choose will come down to personal preference. For example, if you enjoy the slippery feel of soft water, you may want a salt-based system. If a bigger priority is keeping sodium out of your water, a salt-free system is better.

Size of the Water Softener

If you opt for a salt-based water softener, you’ll need to pick the right size. To calculate the right capacity, you’ll first need to know the hardness of your water. Note: if there is iron in your water, add 5 gpg for every part per million of iron for a better picture of hardness.

In addition, you’ll need to have an idea of your daily consumption of water. You can find this on your city water bill — or you can assume that each person in your household uses around 80 gallons a day.

Once you know these numbers, multiply grains per gallon by the number of gallons you use per day. This will tell you how many grains per day your system needs to remove.

Finally, you need to consider the regeneration cycle. Ideally, your water softener will regenerate once a week. Therefore, you need to multiply the above number by seven. This will tell you the minimum grain capacity of your water softener.

For instance, let’s say your water has 8 grains per gallon plus one part per million of iron and you use 240 gallons of water a day (typical for a family of three). You’ll need a water softener with a capacity of at least 21,840 grains.

Price of the System

Water softener prices range from as low as $500 to as high as $2,500. Salt-based systems cost a further $5 to $10 for salt — more expensive if you use potassium instead. They also waste around three gallons of water a minute in regeneration.

Other factors that influence price are additional features of the system. Some water softeners have just the basic features you need to soften water and nothing else. Others have extras that could be worth the higher cost.

  • Brand — When you buy a softener from a well-known brand, you can be sure that you’re receiving a reliable system. Top brands include Fleck, Whirlpool, Pelican, and iSpring.
  • Ease of maintenance and installation — Decide whether you are willing to put in the time to maintain a salt-based system. Also think about your DIY skills: do you want a softener that can install yourself or would you rather just hire a plumber for the job?
  • Pre-filter — This filter will remove some contaminants from your water, but you’ll need to pay regularly for replacement filters.
  • Bypass valve — Only some softener systems come with a bypass valve. This allows you to bypass the softener when you don’t need soft water. It’s useful for tasks that don’t require soft water, like filling a swimming pool.
  • Regeneration setting — Regeneration can be preset or on demand. Softeners with preset regeneration rely on an accurate estimation of water usage: underestimate and the system will be inefficient, but overestimate and you’ll sometimes receive hard water minerals. Demand-initiated regeneration, in contrast, suffers from neither of these problems. The system monitors when resin is full of minerals and regenerates automatically.
  • One-piece or two-piece — If you have large water needs, consider a dual-tank system. If you have a small household, however, you’ll prevent wasted salt by choosing a single-tank softener.

Around 85 percent of households in the U.S. receive water that contains high levels of calcium carbonate, magnesium, and iron. However, only around a third are currently using a water softener. If your water is even moderately hard, you’ll benefit from a water softener. If it is very hard (10.5 gpg or higher), you should consider a water softener a necessity.

Use the above guide to figure out what types of features to look for. Then compare the top 10 models in the list to determine which best-rated water softener meets your needs. You can find a water softener for sale through the manufacturer’s website or on a third-party site like Amazon.

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