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Whole House Water Softener – In-depth Reviews

F or those who are uninformed on the topic, we will provide a quick explanation of what hard water is. For this classification to exist, the water must contain a minimum of 60 milligrams of dissolved calcium and magnesium. The repercussions are quite dire for appliances like the washing machine or coffee maker as it leads to a premature breakdown and loss in performance quality.

There are health consequences in humans as well, as you might experience vomiting and tiredness if levels of calcium and magnesium are off the charts. To tackle this issue, a water softener provides a proper solution to solve the situation, removing hardness causing agents so that scale deposits and other issues won’t emerge. These systems either base their operation on a salt-based or salt-free technology, each with their own set of benefits and drawbacks. However, they do have one thing in common – efficiency toward softening the water that runs through your pipes.

Top 12 Whole House Water Softeners Compared

Photo
Product Name
Type
Flow Rate
Maximum Working Pressure
Maximum Working Temperature
Technology
Warranty
Price
Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Image
Best Overall
Salt-free
7 GPM
100 PSI
90°F
SCM salt-free softening technology
6 years
Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free NS6 ImageBest Salt-Free
Salt-free
15 GPM
80 PSI
120°F
NaturSoft Media
Lifetime
Crystal Quest CQE-WH-02135 ImageEditor’s Choice
Salt-free
20 GPM
60 PSI
100°F
Saltless technology
1 year
Discount Water Softeners Genesis Duo ImageBest Salt-Based
Salt-based
12 GPM
125 PSI
100°F
Upflow brining
10 years for the control head; Lifetime for the resin tanks
ABCwaters 5600sxt ImageBest with Carbon Filter
Salt-based
12 GPM
N/A
N/A
Salt system
5 years
Pentair 5600SXT WS48-56SXT ImageBest for the Money Dough
Salt-based
26 GPM
125 PSI
110°F
Salt system
5 years for the control head; 10 years for the resin tanks
Apec FUTURA-10 Image
Salt-free
10 GPM
N/A
120°F
Advanced ceramic media
10 years
Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains Image
Salt-based
15 GPM
N/A
N/A
Cation resin media
5 years
Tier1 Everyday Series 48,000 Grain Image
Salt-based
11.2 GPM
120 PSI
100°F
Ion exchange resin
N/A
GE GXSH40V Image
Salt-based
9.5 GPM
15 PSI
N/A
Salt system
1 year for parts and labor; 10 years for the resin tank; 3 years for the electronic motor
Nuvo H2O DPHB Image
Salt-free
15 GPM
100 PSI
115°F
Chelation
5 years
Whirlpool WHES30 ImageBest for Well Water
Salt-based
7.6 GPM
125 PSI
120°F
Salt system
1 year for parts and labor; 3 years for the electronics; 10 years for the tanks

1. Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-free
  • Media replacement: After 600,000 gallons
  • Maximum hardness removal: 25 GPG
  • Flow rate: 7 GPM
  • Technology: SCM
  • Maximum working pressure: 100 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 90°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 6 years


If you have ever explored the market for water filtration products, a brand that you surely stumbled upon is Aquasana, a company that many, including us, view as the most serious manufacturer in this domain. Using the latest technologies so that it proves indispensable in households where hardness causes issues, the salt-free system is hands-down the best selection to go for.

Balancing the fantastic results and 6-year longevity with the asking price, it’s safe to say it is a bargain that anyone would be lucky to benefit from using. A clearance of 27 inches is needed to install it, and the tank measures 46 inches H and 9 inches D. Furthermore, the setup process is an easy one that you are sure to be able to handle on your own if you have minimal experience in handy work.

SCM Technology

The SCM technology inhibits scale buildup and turns dissolved minerals into microscopic-size crystal particles that harmlessly pass through the water and go down the drain. This method is more beneficial than you could imagine as it provides conditioning so that it won’t contaminate the water with high amounts of sodium.

Mention Worthy Features and Specs
  • Output between refills of approximately 600,000 gallons.
  • Maximum hardness removal of 25 GPM.
  • The full installation kit is included.
Maintenance
  • For the pre-filter – At first, the pre-filter is white. To make maintenance an easy task, you can perform a visual check every month to see if the color has changed. When it does, it means that cartridge replacement is needed so that you avoid clogging and fluctuations in water flow.
  • For the descaler – As the recommended capacity of the descaler is 6 years, it must be changed altogether when this period passes.
Benefits
  • Protection from scale buildup and extends the lifespan of certain household appliances;
  • Safer for irrigating plants;
  • Doesn’t pollute the water supply;
  • Your skin won’t feel slimy anymore;
  • Drinking water won’t contain sodium after you start using it;
  • Does not produce water waste.
Warranty

We start by mentioning it can be returned in case it doesn’t live up to your standards. Yes, Aquasana gives you the possibility to return it within 90 days of acquiring the system, refunding the full purchase price as long as you have not deteriorated it.

When it comes to backing, the company covers it for 6 years against faults in materials or workmanship in manufacturing. However, we advise you read the warranty agreement as there are circumstances in which you can cancel it or situations that aren’t covered, which means that you won’t benefit from free repairs if those situations emerge.

See here the best Aquasana whole house water filter systems if you want to check out other water decontamination units provided by this indutry-leading manufacturer.


2. Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free NS6

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-free
  • Media replacement: NS6 media doesn’t require replacement, sediment pre-filter needs to be replaced every 6-9 months
  • Maximum hardness removal: 75 GPG
  • Flow rate: 15 GPM
  • Technology: NaturSoft media
  • Maximum working pressure: 80 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 120°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: Lifetime


Providing naturally softened water through a friendly process that doesn’t involve the use of salt, the Pelican entry was an inevitable pick. Are you wondering how it works? Well, let us explain it in short. The media has calcium carbonate crystal structures on the surface that have the role of attracting the excess dissolved hardness and removing it through integration with the aforementioned structures.

It is 100% Eco-friendly because it doesn’t produce any water waste, and it doesn’t draw on electricity to run either, which means that it adds $0 to the electricity bills to provide softened water. Maintenance-wise, you won’t have a lot of work on your hands as you just have to remember every 6 to 9 months to change the sediment filter.

The maximum hardness it can tackle is 1282 milligrams per liter, an aspect you must take into consideration as signs of it underperforming could indicate that your needs surpass its capabilities. Compatible with a maximum flow rate of 15 GPM, it is recommended for homes with 4 to 6 bathrooms.

In the package, aside from the system and the pre-filter are included the mounting hardware of the pre-filter system, as well as the bypass valve and 1” fittings. There is an installation manual included that provides the info you need to get through with the installation without any hiccups along the way.

The best Pelican whole house water filter systems are reviewed here in case you seek a water decontamination unit and you want to explore what this manufacturer has to offer.

Why we like it:

  • Certified to prevent scale buildup up to 99.6%.
  • Does not use salt.
  • Zero water waste and no energy consumption.
  • The slimy feeling after showers/baths won’t exist anymore.

3. Crystal Quest CQE-WH-02135

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-free
  • Media replacement: Every 6-8 years
  • Maximum hardness removal: 25 GPG
  • Flow rate: 20 GPM
  • Technology: Saltless technology
  • Maximum working pressure: 60 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 100°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 1 year


Another salt-free option which, due to its whole-house profile, ensures that regardless of the water’s output it will be free of damaging deposits, this Crystal Quest is a standout due to the performance it provides and versatility in terms of options to pick between.

Here, we review the stainless steel casing 2.0 cubic feet of resin model, but you can opt for a 1.5 cubic feet model for a cheaper price, or you can go with fiberglass for the casing to save up some money as well. It works by transforming the hardness it encounters into heat resistant and mechanically stable calcite crystals that cannot cause limescale deposits.

To guarantee the water doesn’t produce harm in any way, shape, or form, it uses 4 filtration stages. The 20” sediment filter utilized in stage #1 removes sediment but is also tackles dirt and sand.

In its following stage, it uses an anti-scale media tank where hardness issues are fixed. In stage #3 a 20” solid carbon cartridge handles the likes of pesticides, insecticides, and VOCs.

Lastly, in its fourth stage, it utilizes the 20” 0.2-micron UF membrane to remove bacteria, parasites, viruses, and colloids as small as 0.2 microns in size.

Aside from softening systems, the company also produces water decontamination units. If you are interested in making this purchase, see here what are the best Crystal Quest whole house water filter systems.

Why we like it:

  • Removes organic molecules that are as small as 0.2 microns in size.
  • Tackles hardness levels up to 75 GPG.
  • Provides an efficient regeneration process – wastes only 15 gallons of water.
  • Wide assortment – you can go for stainless steel or fiberglass for the casing and a capacity of 1.5 or 2.0 cu. ft. of resin.

4. Discount Water Softeners Genesis Duo

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 48,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: 20 GPG
  • Flow rate: 12 GPM
  • Technology:
  • Maximum working pressure: 125 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 100°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 10 years for the control head, lifetime for the resin tank


Recommended for large-sized households, this 48,000-grain capacity system uses salt to ensure scale buildup won’t happen ever again. It features a large-size brine tank that can hold a maximum of 300 pounds of salt, and tank tux jackets that reduce sweating to upkeep performance are included.

It relies on carbon to reduce chlorine, so if your municipality tends to abuse chlorine use to tackle bacteria and other harmful contents, it will deal with the chemical to solve issues related to the taste and odor it tends to leave.

One of its biggest highlights is the up-flow brining that ensures an optimal amount of salt is used for the regeneration process to save on maintenance and operational costs. When a week passes since it hasn’t been used, the stagnant water is flushed automatically by the System Refresh to ensure that bacteria won’t grow in it.

The recharge mode, one of its most useful features, guarantees that in times of need when heavy water usage is due, you will be provided with soft water. On the display, it shows key information through rotation, including:

  • Flow rate;
  • When the last regeneration process took place;
  • How much volume is left until the next regeneration process ensues.

Why we like it:

  • Flushes stagnant water after a week to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Features upflow brining that calculates the exact amount of salt brine needed for the process to reduce salt use by up to 30% as opposed to competitive models.
  • Can hold up to 300 pounds of salt.
  • Regeneration wastes only 9 pounds of salt and 64.3 pounds of water.

5. ABCwaters 5600sxt

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 48,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: 20 GPG
  • Flow rate: 12 GPM
  • Technology: Salt system
  • Maximum working pressure: N/A
  • Maximum working temperature: N/A
  • Wasted water: 1:1
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 5 years for the valve, 10 years for the tanks


A more affordable option, this system is a budget-smart solution to upkeep appliances, keep the pipes clean, and preserve skin and hair health. Moreover, it uses salt in the process too, which adds to its efficiency.

As the recommended service flow for it is up to 12 GPM, it is recommended for houses where up to 5 people live. It boasts a 48,000-grain capacity, and as the resin it utilizes is 10% cross-linked, a longer lifespan is granted.

What we especially like is the high activity carbon media which boasts an up-flow design and ensures efficient filtration of pollutants like chlorine, pesticides, THMs, chloramines, and more, without the necessity for backwashing ever existing. If 14 days have passed or when 0 gallons are remaining, it automatically regenerates to upkeep its performance.

Of course, we cannot overlook the fact that it uses the high-end Fleck technology which keeps you aware of how the unit’s process is going and notifies you regarding water quality aspects of interest. It provides you with a countdown on the gallons used and remaining so that you always know what to expect.

Why we like it:

  • The upflow carbon filtration design tackles filtration without the necessity for backwashing.
  • Water is not wasted in the process.
  • The 10% cross-linked resin it uses ensures a longer lifespan.

6. Pentair 5600SXT WS48-56SXT

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 48,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: N/A
  • Flow rate: 26 GPM
  • Technology: Salt system
  • Maximum working pressure: 125 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 110°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 5 years for the control head, 10 years for the resin tanks


Although it is a salt-based system, it is among the easier to install models out there, and it doesn’t necessitate much in the way of upkeep work either. This 48,000-grain system is suitable for small to medium-sized households and uses an 8% crosslink resin to filter out minerals.

Its 20 GPM flow rate (26 GPM max) ensures low pressure won’t be an issue no matter how many fixtures and faucets are used at once. The float prevents overflowing and water spillage to keep waste at a minimum.

It features intelligent regeneration in the sense that it uses a meter to calculate water usage in the house for regeneration to be performed at the optimal moment. The digital display provides useful info that includes the amount of time left until the regeneration process, water use up to that point, and troubleshooting error codes.

It utilizes only 45 gallons of water when the regeneration process ensues to produce as little waste as possible. Moreover, the manufacturer backs it with a 5-year guarantee for the control head, as well as a 10-year guarantee for the salt and resin tanks, so repairs are covered free of charge if defects arise while the agreement is active.

Why we like it:

  • Advanced programming lets you pick between 6 independently adjustable cycle times
  • LCD shows system status and error codes
  • 48-hour internal power backup capacitor ensures it will keep running even during a power outage
  • The flow meter measures water use to pick the right time for the regeneration process
  • The 10-year guarantee provided by the manufacturing company

7. Apec FUTURA-10

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-free
  • Media replacement: Every 3-5 years
  • Maximum hardness removal: 25 GPG
  • Flow rate: 10 GPM
  • Technology: Advanced ceramic media
  • Maximum working pressure: N/A
  • Maximum working temperature: 120°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 10 years


It provides an advanced, Eco-friendly technology that employs ceramic media to attract and neutralize hard water properties. It doesn’t use salt in the process, which means that backwashing and regeneration aren’t aspects to worry about.

As the catalytic granules are used up during conversion, durability and a long lifespan are a given with the Apec system. It is easy to install, so if you are somewhat savvy in DIY tasks, you won’t have to spend money on expert installation. After you install it, the water won’t feel slimy anymore and will become ideal to clean dishes, windows, and hard water spots on the car. Take into account that it provides optimal performance when used for treating hardness levels of up to 25 grains per gallon.

The 10 GPM flow rate makes it suitable for use in houses with 1-3 bathrooms. It is covered for 10 years since the moment you acquire it so that you don’t have to spend money out of your pocket on repairs if anything happens during this period.

There’s even lifetime support provided by the company, so whenever you are tackling issues with the system, you will receive expert help immediately.

The company also specializes in the production of other water filtering solutions, and if you want to explore what else it provides, we recommend that you check out the best Apec whole house water filter systems here.

Why we like it:

  • It provides an Eco-friendly manner to treat hardness as it doesn’t use salt
  • Suitable for use in homes with 1-3 bathrooms
  • Completely maintenance-free – no backwashing, salt replacement, or drainage
  • The manufacturer backs it with a 10-year warranty and offers lifetime support

8. Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 48,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: 110 GPG
  • Flow rate: 15 GPM
  • Technology: Cation resin media
  • Maximum working pressure: N/A
  • Maximum working temperature: N/A
  • Wasted water: 6 gallons
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 5 years


Suitable for large-sized homes with up to 4 bathrooms, due to the efficiency of the cation resin media that subjects the water to softening measures, it helps make your hair and skin feel smoother and look healthier, all while improving performance in appliances like the washer and coffee maker.

Systems with backwashing like this Aquasure can be quite convenient as long as they feature the latest technologies, and as it can pinpoint when the backwashing procedure is needed to save as much water and salt as possible, you can see why it ranks high. Another mention-worthy feature that adds to convenience is the fiber-reinforced polymer bypass valve that lets you perform maintenance without turning off the water.

It is made with heavy-duty materials throughout to ensure longevity and measures only 62” in height by 10” in circumference to occupy little space. Moreover, Aquasure ensures free repairs if manufacturing defects appear for the first 5 years after you buy it.

Why we like it:

  • Suitable for large-size households where softening requirements are high.
  • The bypass valve allows maintenance work without water service interruption.
  • Eliminates calcium, iron, scale, and magnesium to reduce service interruption.
  • Installation kit included.
  • Provides a metered regeneration option to reduce salt use and wastewater.

9. Tier1 Everyday Series 48,000 Grain

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 48,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: N/A
  • Flow rate: 11.2 GPM
  • Technology: Ion exchange resin
  • Maximum working pressure: 120 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 100°F
  • Wasted water: Wastes 80 gallons for the regeneration process
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: N/A


Before it begins the regeneration process, it processes up to 48,000 grains of hardness. When the automatic system regeneration does come into play, it takes approximately 2 hours for it to finish, and in the meanwhile, the water service is interrupted.

The mineral tank measures 10” by 54” and contains 1.5 cubic feet of resin, which are small polystyrene beads that can attract hardness-causing minerals so that these don’t pass on with the water afterward using a negative ionic charge.

The brine tank can hold up to 130 square liters of salt. Woefully, it lacks an indicator to show you when salt levels are low and replenishing is required. The cycle times are fully adjustable, so you can make proper adjustments according to water hardness and family size.

The operating temperature range spans from 40 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the peak flow rate is 11.2 GPM, while the operating pressure range spans from 20 to 120 PSI. It features a user-friendly LCD that shows all the information you need in regards to operational stats. Best of all, you spare money on the setup process due to the quick connections on the brain and drain lines as this setup makes it an easy DIY project to take up on your own.

Why we like it:

  • Monitor important operation info and set your desired settings with the help of the LCD control valve.
  • Features a precision turbine meter into the bypass valve floor space.
  • Uses ion exchange resin for maximum efficiency.
  • Hassle-free maintenance – filter media must be replaced every 120 months.

10. GE GXSH40V

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 40,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: 125 GPG
  • Flow rate: 9.5 GPM
  • Technology: Salt system
  • Maximum working pressure: 15 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: N/A
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 1 year for parts and labor, 10 years for the resin tank, 3 years for the electronic monitor


The 40,200-grain capacity system is reliable for the removal of grains, iron, and other hardness-causing agents. It features up-front electronic controls that grant intuitive use. To make maintenance work as easy as possible, the indicator lights let you know when salt levels are low, and replenishing is needed.

It can tackle 125 GPG maximum hardness removal and iron removal of up to 10 PPM. The salt capacity it boasts is 230 pounds to spare you from replenishing it too often. To clear the water of contaminants in the process too, it uses a self-cleaning sediment filter that removes small-size impurities and sediments. One of its main highlights stands in the SmartSoft technology that can learn the water use patterns of your household so that it ensures enough softened water is available at any given moment.

Another neat feature is the Custom Select blending valve that lets you choose the softness level of the water. The Salt Saver technology makes it 34% more efficient when it comes to salt consumption, and it even consumes 35% less water when it runs to be efficient on all fronts. It measures 14.4” in width by 22.4” in depth by 47.6” in height and weighs 105 pounds to make maneuvering it non-problematic during the installation process.

Why we like it:

  • SmartSoft feature “learns” the water-use patterns to ensure you never run out of softened water.
  • Status indicator light announces when salt replenishing is needed.
  • Features a self-cleaning sediment filter that protects against small-size impurities.
  • Uses 35% less water and 34% less salt as opposed to competitors.

11. Nuvo H2O DPHB

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-free
  • Media replacement: Every 20,000 gallons of water
  • Maximum hardness removal: 30 GPG
  • Flow rate: 15 GPM
  • Technology: Chelation
  • Maximum working pressure: 100 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 115°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 5 years


The Nuvo H2O DPHB provides optimal performance in homes with 2-3 residents that are up to 2000 square feet. Thus, it is a viable candidate for most homeowners, especially considering the reasonable asking price it comes at. What makes us giddy about it is that it doesn’t use salt or electricity in its operation, nor does it waste water, so it’s a 100% Eco-friendly option to consider.

The revolutionary technology behind it lowers the water’s pH level through chelation. How does chelation work? Well, the mineral ions which are at fault for hardness are bound to the chelation agent that keeps them soluble so that calcium, magnesium, and other minerals don’t cause trouble anymore.

It uses 2” by 20” replaceable cartridges that require to be changed after filtering 20,000 gallons of water. Thus, routine maintenance doesn’t come around too often, and it’s not costly either. It provides a 12-15 GPM with 1” ports flow, so chances are that there won’t be shifts in water pressure after installing it.

With the acquisition, you also receive the complete installation kit that includes the mounting backplate, bracket, screws, and a housing wrench. Furthermore, the manufacturer backs it with a lifetime warranty that is fully transferable if you sell the house.

Just make sure that you use genuine replacement cartridges from the manufacturer when routine maintenance is needed and that you follow the instructions to not void the warranty and fully benefit from it.

Why we like it:

  • The chelating agent keeps the minerals soluble so that they don’t cause hardness issues anymore.
  • Recommended for homes with 2-3 residents.
  • Cartridges require changing after filtering 20,000 gallons of water.
  • Eco-friendly option – doesn’t use salt or electricity and doesn’t produce water waste.

12. Whirlpool WHES30

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Specifications:

  • Type: Salt-based
  • Capacity: 30,000 grains
  • Maximum hardness removal: 95 GPG
  • Flow rate: 7.6 GPM
  • Technology: Salt system
  • Maximum working pressure: 125 PSI
  • Maximum working temperature: 120°F
  • Wasted water:
  • Retention of beneficial minerals:
  • Warranty: 1 year for parts and labor, 3 years for the electronics, 10 years for the tanks


The Demand Initiated Regeneration helps it automatically monitor water usage to keep operational costs as low as possible and boost its environmental friendliness by figuring out the best moment for the regeneration process. Of course, its main highlight performance-wise is the fact that it can remove up to 95 GPG of hardness, so regardless of how severe hardness issues are in your specific situation, you will enjoy soft water after installing it.

During the regeneration process, it uses 35.2 gallons of water, less than most systems available right now. As it requires electricity to run, you must install it near a 110/120V outlet. Speaking of installation, a comprehensive guide that leads you through the process step by step is included so that you can perform it on your own.

It has a 30,000-grain capacity, and it boasts a rated service flow rate of 7.6 GPM that ensures water pressure won’t drop. Moreover, the manufacturer warrants it to be free of defects during the first year, it covers the electronic control board for a total of 3 years, while the salt storage tank and fiberglass mineral tank are warranted for 10 years.

Why we like it:

  • Monitors water use to pick the right time for regeneration
  • Status light indicates when salt replenishment is needed
  • Compatible with use for municipal water supplies and well water



Negative Effects of Hard Water


There are plenty of ways in which hard water may affect your health as well as your home. Sure, as opposed to contaminated water, it seems harmless, but don’t be fooled as, especially in areas where this is a worrying issue, there are more than enough negative effects to be dealt with, as you will soon learn.

Health Impacts:

  • Even in healthy individuals, it increases the chances of cardiovascular disease developing.
  • The excess minerals in water increase blood pressure, which takes a toll on your health state.
  • In adults, hydration with hard water can lead to reproductive failure and amplify pre-existing issues in this department.
  • Increases chances of various forms of cancer to appear, including gastric, colon, ovarian, and esophageal cancer.
  • Leads to neurological disorders and diseases.
  • Predisposes individuals to develop diabetes.

Skin Problems Caused:

  • Dry and bumpy patches of skin appear as a result of the irritation and dryness caused by bathing with water that is too hard for the skin.
  • In children, it leads to the development of eczema.
  • Cleaning products do not dissolve properly, which causes skin irritations as rinsing is not performed well.

Effects on Your Home:

  • Pipes get clogged, an issue that you must tend to for proper water flow in your home. Pipes getting clogged directly affects certain household appliances as well, making them run less efficiently. Thus, not only is there a drop in their performance, but utility costs are bound to get higher as a result too.
  • The appearance of stains on sinks, showers, and bathtubs.
  • The formation of a thick scale on fixtures.
  • Dirty appearance of glass showers as they become opaque with time.

Water Classification According to Hardness Level


While there is a mixture of the water’s pH, temperature, and minerals dissolved in it that indicate the precise level of hardness, which means that a single-number scale cannot be used for the classification of water in accordance to its softness/hardness level, the U.S. Geological Survey has devised a classification table that helps identify water type based on this single trait more easily.

Soft water:
mgG-CaCO3/L
mmol/L
dGH/°dH
gpg
ppm
0 – 60
0 – 0.60
0 – 3.37
0 – 3.50
0 – 60
Moderately hard water:
mgG-CaCO3/L
mmol/L
dGH/°dH
gpg
ppm
61 – 120
0.61 – 1.20
3.38 – 6.74
3.56 – 7.01
61 – 120
Hard water:
mgG-CaCO3/L
mmol/L
dGH/°dH
gpg
ppm
121 – 180
1.21 – 1.80
6.75 – 10.11
7.06 – 10.51
121 – 180
Very hard water:
mgG-CaCO3/L
mmol/L
dGH/°dH
gpg
ppm
≥181
≥1.81
≥10.12
≥10.57
≥181

Types


Softeners are needed in almost every household, but the search for the right one will lead you down a path that you might not fully comprehend as there isn’t a single type you will encounter but rather multiple ones. While in our article you find salt-based and salt-free systems, there are other two options out there as well, and in the following, we will talk about all four types.

Salt-Free System

The complex procedure through which it reduces hardness involves template-assisted crystallization, which means that minerals are turned into crystals that cannot attach to surfaces. This is more of a conditioning process rather than a softening one but it is still efficient, and it presents a more Eco-friendly functioning, so its popularity is easily explainable.

Pros:

  • Not a lot is asked in the way of upkeep work.
  • Does not rely on electricity to run.
  • Zero water waste.
  • As opposed to salt-based models, these come at a more affordable price.
  • Installation can be performed by the user with ease to spare money that would have otherwise gone toward professional help.
  • No added sodium in your diet, which is good news for those who must avoid salt consumption due to pre-existing health conditions.

Cons:

  • Limescale buildup can still occur where water sits for a prolonged amount of time.
  • Takes a bit longer to go through with its operation as it relies on transforming the chemical structure of water.
Salt-Based System

It is comprised of a resin bed that exchanges sodium particles for the minerals in the water that passes through it. When the saturation point is reached, the regeneration process ensues where multiple backwashes are used to clean the minerals it has already trapped and replenished sodium particles so that it continues to work normally.

Pros:

  • High effectiveness as it removes minerals.
  • Scaling won’t be an issue anymore.
  • Less soap use for all activities.
  • Higher efficiency and longer lifespan of appliances.
  • Plumbing won’t require as many repairs or maintenance work.

Cons:

  • Higher costs upfront.
  • Salt must be routinely replenished, which implies extra costs.
  • Resin bed requires to be cleaned.
  • Involves water waste.
Dual Tank System

It is comprised of a brine or salt tank and two resin tanks. It can regenerate on demand and, when one of the tanks reaches its maximum capacity, it automatically switches to the other one so that there won’t exist interruptions in its operational process.

Pros:

  • Reduced salt and water use.
  • Higher efficiency in its operation is granted by the extra tank.
  • Fewer water quality fluctuations.

Cons:

  • The extra tank automatically implies higher maintenance costs in the long run.
  • As the footprint is larger, it takes up more space.
Magnetic Descaler System

A less conventional system that proves to be more of an alternative rather than an actual solution for reducing water hardness, it isn’t as popular as the aforementioned types as it lacks operational consistency. It is quite similar to non-salt systems, preventing scale buildup up to a point.

Pros:

  • Completely hassle-free service.
  • No actual installation is required and there’s no interference with the piping system as you just have to coil wires around water intake pipes.
  • Reshapes the properties of the minerals it encounters.

Cons:

  • The least effective type of softener.
  • Newer technology – it hasn’t been perfected yet.

How to Install


We divided the installation instructions according to the system types as procedures differ. Beware to check the accompanying installation instructions and if there are differences, follow the provided guidelines as certain systems might have special requirements.

Installing a Salt-Based System:
  1. Start the procedure by shutting off the water supply to your home.
  2. Next, proceed to drain all the water in the pipes.
  3. After you are done, shut off the water heater and cut the power to it.
  4. Now you can pick where you want to install the system. A small tip – position it before the water heater.
  5. Cut into the mainline where you plan to install the system.
  6. To guarantee a proper fit, cut the pipes that lead to the bypass valve.
  7. Solder the fittings before connecting the valve and the pipe.
  8. Using the provided compression fittings, make the connection to the pipes.
  9. Clamp the hose to the system, feet it where it drains, and connect the overflow tube and brine tank.
  10. Now, make sure you flush out all debris and sediments using the bypass.
  11. Plug the system and set it to backwash.
Installing a Salt-Free System:
  1. The first step is to decide where you want to install it.
  2. Then, you can close the home water supply, after which you completely drain the pipes in the house.
  3. Cut the cold water supply pipe before the pre-filter housing.
  4. Solder or glue the shut-off valve to the pipe. The technique you use differs according to the pipe material. Soldering is required for copper, while it is advised to use glue for PVC.
  5. Now you can install the pre-filter.
  6. Connect the downflow outlet to the cold water supply pipe.
  7. Proceed to close the shut-off valves.
  8. Finally, turn on the water supply and check for leaks by slowly opening the shut-off valves one by one.

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener


As you research into hard water remediation, you inevitably come across two terms – softening and conditioning, each describing a different type of system. However, what both systems have in common is the reduction of water hardness effects on the plumbing system and various household appliances.

How water softeners work

Through the utilization of ion exchange, the system pulls minerals from the water going through the pipes, flushing them out of the system and replacing them with sodium ions.

As an exchange between minerals and salt is produced, the salt content in drinking water increases. This presents an issue for individuals who must follow salt-restricted diets as it poses a direct threat to their health, so keep this aspect in mind if you are faced with this dietary restriction.
How water conditioners work

Typically, they pass the water over or through a magnetic field that causes ions to realign so that they repel each other, which in turn causes them to not stick to plumbing and fixtures.

As the mineral content is preserved, you enjoy their beneficial actions in regards to your health, all while scaling is prevented and the effects had by hardness are diminished.
Differences
  • Water quality: Sure, softening systems are better at fixing the water hardness issue, but that’s pretty much all they’re good for. On the other hand, conditioners rid you of the problems related to scale on plumbing and fixtures and provide an added benefit as they help remove chlorine and other contaminants as well, leaving the water healthier for use and consumption.
  • Efficiency: In regards to efficiency, softeners are superior as they directly tackle the issue as opposed to conditioners that simply reduce the effects had by hardness causing minerals.
  • Costs: Softeners use the ion exchange process that involves electricity that inevitably drives up operational costs, and as salt is required, you can expect to spend an estimated $200 per year on maintenance-related tasks. On the other hand, conditioners don’t use electricity in the process, don’t create wastewater, and don’t require any maintenance aside from routine filter changes.

Conclusion: If water hardness has reached worrying levels, we recommend a softener as it exclusively tackles issues with minerals that lurk in the water as opposed to conditioners that simply reduce the effects of hardness to prevent scaling.


Frequently Asked Questions



?How much does it cost to put in a water softener?
There are a few variables that must be taken into consideration to figure out an estimated cost for the installation – the type of system you bought, how difficult the machine itself is to install, and the fees of the contractor. If you take up the installation yourself, costs can range from $0 to $400 depending on whether or not you have all the hardware you need, while with professional installation it can cost thousands of dollars.

?Can I install the water softener myself?
Yes, as long as you follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or the ones given in the previous section of this article, you should be able to go through with the procedure on your own even if you’re not the handiest person out there. If you don’t trust your abilities at all, however, call in a professional. This way, you make sure that you will not damage the system in the process and void the warranty as a result.

?How long do water softeners last?
The typical lifespan ranges from 10 to 15 years. However, it varies depending on a series of factors like system quality, maintenance, and usage. Components eventually break, and there are issues independent from you that could alter the system, so its lifespan is bound to end at one point.

?How do I know what size water softener I need?
To estimate the size of the system, you must multiply the number of people in your household by 80 gallons. This is the average water use of a person throughout a single day, after which you multiply the resulting number by the grains of hardness your water tackles with to establish the ideal amount of grain removal per day.



Conclusion

Even though water hardness isn’t as pressing of an issue as water contamination, it still needs to be solved. This is because there are consequences to ignoring it, more precisely the fact that fixtures and appliances deteriorate with time, and even your hair and skin can be affected by the irritation and dryness that ensue.

The big three on the market appear in our top, Aquasana, Pelican Water Systems, and Crystal Quest. All three brands deliver salt-free systems that tend to this issue most safely and effectively possible to ensure hard water won’t be a problem anymore.

Best Overall: Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free

The SimplySoft is our favorite as it can handle 25 GPG maximum hardness, and provides a lifespan upwards of 6 years during which it doesn’t require extended maintenance. Instead of salt, it uses the SCM technology that inhibits scale buildup while turning minerals into microscopic crystal particles.

There’s no water waste involved either, a major perk that only salt-free systems benefit from. Moreover, a warranty is provided for 6 years, and you even receive a refund policy that is active for 90 days.

Editor’s Choice: Crystal Quest CQE-WH-02135

It is quite impressive, employing a 4-stage filtration process where it tends to soften, as well as making the water safer as a whole as it tackles eliminating a series of contaminants, including sediment, silt, sand, pesticides, VOCs, insecticides, bacteria, parasites. Of course, the fact that it can tackle hardness levels up to 75 GPG is no easy feat either as it makes the system a reliable option even in areas with severe issues.

Best Salt-Free Whole House Water Softener: Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free NS6

With an efficiency rate of up to 99.6% in scale prevention, a feat for which the system is certified, it is an option hard to overlook. Moreover, considering that it uses media with calcium carbonate crystal structures, it provides a natural manner to solve hardness issues. To explain its operation for short, the structures attract excess dissolved hardness and remove it through an integration process.

Best Salt-Based Whole House Water Softener: Discount Water Softeners Genesis Duo

Water waste is a common concern of customers with salt-based models, but the Discount Water Duo so clearly portrays this isn’t the case with all systems. It can hold up to 300 pounds of salt, which means that stock replenishment isn’t required all that often. Additionally, it uses an automatic system refresh that flushes out stagnant water once every week.

Best Whole House Water Softener with Carbon Filter: ABCwaters 5600sxt

The role of carbon media is to eliminate a plethora of contaminants that include, among others, chlorine and chloramines. As the ABCwaters features a high-activity carbon media with an up-flow design, performance efficiency is maximized, and there’s no need for backwashing. Once every 14 days, it regenerates automatically so that there are no performance disruptions or fluctuations.

Best Whole House Water Softener for Well Water: Whirlpool WHES30

Water and softening systems are usually directed toward a specific water source, their performance leading to better handling if used for either well water or municipal water. Nonetheless, the WHES30 breaks the pattern as it works just as well regardless of the source, the scale tipping towards well water. Its performance is comparable to that of salt-free systems, what convinces us to praise it so much being its ability to tackle hardness levels of 95 GPG. Furthermore, it’s almost maintenance-free as its 30,000-grain capacity ensures attendance to its needs isn’t required often.

Best Whole House Water Softener for the Money: Pentair 5600SXT WS48-56SXT

Generally, these systems can cost well over $1000, and that’s a sum of money not everyone can afford. If you have a tight budget, but you still want to soften the water running through the pipes to protect plumbing and household appliances, this Pentair entry is the go-to option. Although it comes at maybe half the price other models do, it can tackle 20 GPG levels, so performance quality is not lost. Moreover, it doesn’t produce a high amount of water waste either, boasting a low 1:1 ratio.