Our Featured Pick!

Our Top Water Softener System: ABCwaters 48k 56sxt 10SS 10% Resin Water Softener System

Space Save Model – Installation Kit Included

The reviews are in! This ABCwaters build Fleck model, is one of the best choices on the market.  If you’re looking for a solid, reliable and complete water softener system that will give you years of soft water, this is the way to go.

Page Contents

What Is a Water Softener System?

In case you’re new to the world of water softeners, don’t worry,  you came to the right place! It may seem overwhelming to understand what they do, especially if you never lived in a area where hard water is common. However, you will soon find out that these products aren’t so hard to understand, especially after you understand some common terms. Here at iWaterPurification we’re here to help you not only understand what they are, but know which models are good for you and your family.

What Does ‘Hard Water’ Even Mean?

Hard water refers to water that is high in mineral content. In many cities across the country, homes have to deal with hard water and the effects on your laundry, clothes, hair and of course, the taste of your water. This means that the water that supplies your home is rich in minerals, which is a situation you want to avoid as minerals can damage appliances and cause havoc to your hair!

A water softener system is engineered to remove the minerals and leave with you crisp, clean water.

This diagram shows the placement of the water softener in your home plumbing system. It’s basically a giant filter!

What Do Water Softener Systems Look like in Real Life?

Most of the magic takes place within the tanks of the system. From an outside perspective, the whole water softener system looks like a couple of big tanks in your laundry room.

As you can see, these units don’t look like much from the outside, but what they achieve is almost magical! Improve your drinking water, protect your appliances and say goodbye to stains.

By diluting or completely removing minerals like calcium and magnesium (which are present in hard water), water softener systems effectively turn hard water soft.

In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the world of water softeners and we will be reviewing some of the best water softeners 2018 has to offer!

Now, the question becomes, why should you buy a water softener?

Why not just stick with the water flowing out from your pipes? The answer is simple. Hard water is sometimes deemed unfit for use depending on the use. Although it is considered safe for general use, hard water has some effects on both humans and appliances.

People who use hard water to bathe have reported cases of severe scratching and sticky hair. Hard water also affects the efficiency of appliances, like water heaters, for instance. Moreover, hard water takes considerable time to reach boiling point, thereby causing an unnecessary increase in your energy consumption.

On the other hand, soft water, which is water softened using a water softener, has no obvious disadvantages. In fact, soft water packs a lot of benefits for homeowners. They include the following

Water Softener Benefits

There are many benefits to using a water softener in your home

Longer Lasting Appliances

Calcium, manganese, magnesium carbonate and other hard water minerals, have been found to accumulate on the insides of home appliances. This leads to a reduction in their efficiency, eventually leading to shorter overall lifespans. Water softeners produce soft and generally harmless water. Appliances like water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines, which use softened water, have extended lifespans. What this means is that, by using water softening systems, you’ll spend less money repairing or replacing faulty appliances.

Faster Water-Heating Times

Hard water takes a relatively long time to boil. Water heaters are able to heat softened water much quicker than hard water. With a water softener, you can assess hot water quicker wherever you need it in your home. Water softeners have been found to boost the efficiency of both electric and gas-powered electric water heaters. Faster water-heating times mean lower energy consumption, and by extension, lower utility bills.

Better Water Flow

Hard water deposits minerals and scales in your pipes.  These deposits will accumulate over time and cause blockages and corrosion.  This ultimately leads to a reduction in water pressure and flow. Conversely, soft water dilutes or dissolves mineral deposits in your pipes, thus improving the flow of water.

Stress-free Cleaning

When you use hard water to wash your dishes or clothes, you may end with more soap residue than you expected. Softened water leaves less soap curd behind. Dishes, clothes and other items washed in softened water always look and feel cleaner. Clothes rinsed with soft water feel soft because there are no minerals trapped in them. With soft water, you can also cut down on the quantity of soap you use for cleaning and washing.

Homeowners must, of course, install the right type of water softener to enjoy the benefits of softened water. In the next section, we take a look at the types of water softening systems. We also provide information that will help you decide on the type that’s right for your home.

What Type of Water Softener Should You Buy?

Homeowners who want to buy the best water softeners should know that there are two types available on the market.

Types Of Water Softeners

These include the

  1. Traditional salt-based water softeners
  2. Salt-free water softeners.

We take a look at each of them below.

Salt-based Water Softeners

Salt-based systems soften water by truly removing the hard minerals in a process known as “ion exchange” where hard water minerals are removed and replaced with salt (sodium). Some individuals may not like the taste of their water after using a salt-based system. If you are one of these people, you can do a few things to prevent this.

You can add a water filter to the particular tap in your house you take drinking water from. Alternatively, you can have a by-pass valve installed, so you can control the softener as you please.

Pros

  1. Salt-based softeners are more effective than salt-free systems when hard water levels are really high.

Cons

  1. They are more high maintenance than salt-free systems since the salt has to be replenished regularly.
  2. The high sodium content of water softened with salt-based systems might have reactions with certain people.

Salt-free Water Softeners

Salt-free water softeners are also called “water conditioners”. These softeners don’t actually eliminate hard water minerals from your water. Instead, they stop these minerals from sticking to the surfaces of materials. In salt-free water softeners, hard water minerals go through a process of crystallization. What this means is that they lose their abilities to stick to different surfaces.

Pros

  1. They are more low maintenance than salt-based systems. Unlike salt-based softeners, you don’t have to replenish the salt quantity monthly.
  2. They are environmentally friendly. Salt-free systems are particularly suitable for people with heart disease and high blood pressure.
  3. Salt-free softeners don’t require salt, electricity or chemicals to operate.

Cons

  1. They are not really as effective as salt-based systems. Salt-free systems don’t work so well, especially when hard water levels are high.
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Every homeowner who wants to install a water softener should consider a number of things. They should look at the pros and cons of each system to find out which one suits their needs.

In our review of the best water softeners 2018, we consider both salt-based and salt-free water softeners.

Who is this Review For?

We created this review to help homeowners with a preference for softened water in their homes. This review article will point them in the right direction when they decide to buy any of the best water softeners available in the market. As we mentioned previously, hard water clearly has some negative effects. Soft water, on the other hand, has several benefits every homeowner should be looking to exploit.

Factors to Consider While Looking For The Best Water Softeners

factors to consider when buying water softeners image

Some of the major factors to consider while you are deciding on which water softener to buy include:

Technology Type

Your choice of a water softener will be heavily influenced by how effective the water softening technology is. Here, a water softener with an ion-exchange system is preferable. This kind of softener can remove hard minerals from your water while also regenerating useful content for your use. Ion-exchange water softeners are also low maintenance and relatively cheaper than other water softener types.

Size and Capacity

Another major consideration when you are selecting the best water softener is the size and holding capacity. Water softeners are available in different sizes, and you are supposed to go for the one that best suits your water needs. Thus, you must have an idea of the quantity of water your family uses daily. This is quite easy to calculate. First, multiply the number of people in your household by the number of gallons each person uses daily. Then, take this figure to multiply the number of grains per gallon of the hardness minerals in your water. This will give you an idea of the quantity of hard water that needs to be softened daily. You can then go on to choose the right softener based on that figure.

Installation and Maintenance Costs

Generally, you want to go for a water softener with low installation and maintenance costs. Do your research and seek a professional opinion on the costs of maintenance and repair of different softener types. Ensure you buy a water softener which can be regularly maintained at a relatively cheap price.

Certification

Make sure the water softener you eventually select is certified by NSF International. NSF International is an organization which tests and certifies all categories of water-treatment products. You can also check if the product carries a WQA gold seal. WQA is the main trade organization in the water industry.

Company Services

Approach as many companies as possible and request for information on the kind of service they offer and the costs. It is advisable you go for a company that’s well established, so you can be sure you’re getting quality service.

Our Reviews Of  The 10 Best Water Softeners 2018

Our review takes a look at some of the best water softeners available on the market. The review list includes both salt-based and salt-free water softeners.

We selected these particular products because they ticked all the right boxes. Several homeowners have attested to their quality and have even gone on to recommend them. In the following table, we do a quick breakdown of each product by selected characteristics.

Name of ProductGrain CapacityLCDRatingPrice Range
1. ABCwaters Built Fleck 5600sxt 48,000 Black WATER SOFTENER
(Best Resin System)
48,000Yes4.7$$$
2. Tier1 Digital Water Softener
(Best Electronic Water Softener )
48,000Yes4.7$$$
3. Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener
(Best Water Softener And Iron Removal System)
80,000Yes4.7$$$
4. Triple Action Poly Salt-Free Water Softener
(Best 3-in-1 Solution)
NANo4.6$$$
5. Fleck 7000 SXT (94FL-7000S) Water Softener
(Best Softener For Households With High Water Needs)
48,000Yes4.1$$$ - $$$$
6. Aquasana Whole House Water Filter With Salt-Free SoftenerNANo4.0$$$$
7. Morton® System Saver® 30,000 Grain Water Softener M3030,000No4.0$$$
8. Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water SoftenerNAYes3.8$$$
9. EcoPure EP7130 Water Softener30,000No3.7$$$
10. Aquios FS-220 Salt-Free Water Softener and Filtration System40,000No3.3$$$

1. ABCwaters Built Fleck 5600sxt 48,000 Black WATER SOFTENER (Top Choice)

Fleck 5600sxt 48,000 Black SPACE SAVER Water Softener

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The first water softener to come under our scrutiny is the Flleck 5600sxt. ABCwaters, the producers of this product, tagged it their best product. We thought it was just a marketing strategy until we came in contact with it. In this softener, ABCwaters incorporated a unique custom made Fleck 5600sxt digital valve. In simple terms, the Fleck 5600sxt lives up to expectation.

While reviewing some of the water softeners in this buying guide, we discovered that most water softeners with resin systems have the standard 8% resin system. The Fleck 5600sxt water softener is different from most softeners. In place of the standard 8% resin system, this softener comes instead with an upgraded 10% cross-linked resin system. The cross-linked resin system is better because it extends the lifespan of the water softener.

To further add value to their customers, ABCwaters also includes an installation kit in the product package. This installation kit has in it items like a sanitizer packet, a small parts kit, a 4ft. 3/8- inch brine line and a silicone lube. It also comes with an installation guide and a hardness test strips.

If you are looking for a softener that comes with its own kit, then the ABCwaters’ Flex 5600sxt water softener is your best bet. We also recommend it, having had a hands-on experience with it.

Video Review

Main Features

  • An installation kit containing a hardness test strip, amongst other items
  • A black 10-inch mineral tank pre-loaded with resin
  • A black 36-inch brine
  • Upgraded 10% cross-linked resin system
  • Fleck 5600SXT digital valve with 5-year warranty
  • 48,000-grain maximum capacity
  • The two tanks have a 10-year warranty
Pros
  • It comes with an installation kit so you don’t have to make a trip to the store to get one.
  • The upgraded 10% cross-linked resin system extends the softener’s life.
  • It is certified by the WQ
Cons
  • A bit pricey and as such not many people can afford it.

2. Tier1 Digital Water Softener (Best Electronic Water Softener )

Tier1 Digital Water Softener image

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Sitting princely on the second position on our review list is the Tier1 Digital Water Softener. Its touted as the best electronic water softener because of its efficiency in making hard water soft. Tier1 makes this best softeners list because of its user-friendly electronic features. This softener is fitted with an LCD display that shows time, regeneration mode and number of gallons left.

Tier1’s digital water softener also comes with a WQA gold seal. This is an indication of its quality.

This product is ideal for homeowners who want a water softener that can be easily operated. During the course of the review, we encountered minor challenges when adding the adapter.

Main Features

  • High-density polyethylene salt tank
  • 48,000-grain capacity
  • WQA gold seal
  • User-friendly LCD display
  • Digital meter control valve
  • Adjustable cycle times
  • Installation kit comes with a mineral tank, brine tank, adapter and a bypass valve.
  • Brine safety valve
Pros
  • The LCD display with its many features makes this softener very easy to operate.
  • It comes with a digital metered valve. This lets you regulate the softener operation based on your water needs.
Cons
  • Users may encounter a minor difficulty while attaching the adapter.

 

3. Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener (Best Water Softener And Iron Removal System)

Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener image

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The Iron Pro 2 combination water softener does more than soften hard water. Fleck, the manufacturers of Iron Pro 2, goes a step further by integrating an iron filter. What this means is that the Iron Pro2 removes hardness minerals from your water, while also eradicating ferrous iron. It is the perfect solution for any household with hardness minerals and iron impurities in their water.

Additionally, this water softener is fitted with a digital metered valve, which helps to regulate the regeneration process. In other words, the system regenerates water only when there is a need for it. If a household’s water usage increases, the system regenerates more to keep up. In the same way, if water needs decrease, the system regenerates less to save water.

For an appliance that performs two functions at once, Iron Pro 2 still has a sleek design. It sports an LCD display, coupled with touchpad controls. It also comes with a 1-inch stainless steel bypass valve. This means that the valve can be easily removed and reconnected during installation and maintenance.

Video Review: 

Main Features

  • Complete brine tank, including brine well and a float assembly
  • LCD display plus touchpad control
  • 1-inch stainless steel bypass valve
  • Digital metered valve
  • 64,000 maximum grain capacity
  • 5-year warranty on control head and a 10-year warranty on tank
Pros
  • Iron Pro2 softens your water, while also removing iron impurities.
  • The digital metered valve regulates regeneration. You get just as much water as you need whenever you need it.
  • LCD display and touchpads make the Iron Pro2 easy to operate.
  • Plumbers can easily remove and replace the stainless steel bypass valve.
Cons
  • The installation manual is a little hard to grasp. Homeowners who like to get hands-on may have some difficulty.

 

4. Triple Action Poly Salt-Free Water Softener (Best 3-in-1 Solution)

Triple Action Poly Salt Free Water Softener

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As the name implies, the Triple Action Poly water softener performs 3 functions. It acts as a water conditioner, a water softener as well as a water filtration appliance. Triple Action Poly first filters water, and then it breaks down the calcium in it to form aragonite crystals. The third and last step occurs when siliphos poly-phosphates crystals are added to the water. Siliphos helps to keep the aragonite crystals suspended.

Let’s take a deeper look at this three-way process:

  1. The first step in the process is water filtration. Triple Action Poly is fitted with a stainless steel 50-micron filter. The impurities in your water are removed when it passes through this filter. The clean, but still hard, water then moves to the second stage.
  2. The second stage is where your water is conditioned.  Triple Poly Action has an electro-mechanical water conditioning core. This conditioning core breaks down the calcium in your water to form aragonite crystals. Aragonite is a much milder form of calcium which won’t accumulate in your pipes or cause corrosion. Now, your conditioned water is ready for softening.
  3. Triple Poly Action contains 10.5 ounces of Polyphosphate Siliphos crystals. These siliphos crystals complete the water purification and softening process by suspending the aragonite crystals in the conditioned water. Put simply, siliphos rounds up all the aragonite crystals in your water, and keeps them in perpetual suspension. Now, your water has been filtered, conditioned and softened.

Triple Poly Action is perfect for homeowners with water filtration and softening needs.

Main Features

  • Permanent stainless steel filter
  • 5 oz. of polyphosphate siliphos crystals
  • Salt-free water softener
  • High impact rust-resistant poly filter housing
Pros
  • Triple Poly Action takes care of all your water filtration and softening needs. It eliminates the need to buy separate systems for filtration and softening.
  • The Permanent stainless steel filter is, well, permanent. This means you don’t have to keep buying filters. The stainless steel filter can also be removed at any time for cleaning.
Cons
  • You might experience a bit of a struggle while putting the pieces together. This happens because all the fixtures are close together.

 

5. Fleck 7000 SXT (94FL-7000S) Water Softener (Best Softener For Households With High Water Needs)

Fleck 7000 SXT (94FL-7000S) Water Softener

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The 7000 valve is the second Fleck softener on our list. It was designed for use in residential and light commercial contexts where there is a high demand for water. Fleck recognized that large homes would need a high capacity softener that wouldn’t restrict water flow. It was with this in mind that the Fleck 7000SXT was manufactured. This water softener is able to cater to the high water needs of large households, with no significant pressure loss.

Additionally, the 7000 comes equipped with advanced electronic features. These include optical positioning, flexible programming, double backwash, and a soft water brine tank refill. Another notable feature of this water softener is the connect clips on the valve body, which make maintenance easy.

Main Features

  • Mineral tank comes pre-loaded with resin
  • Digital metered valve
  • High flow water softener
  • 48,000 capacity
  • Double backwash
  • Soft water brine tank refill
  • 5- and 10- year warranties respectively on the valve and tanks
Pros
  • The 7000 is perfect for households with high water needs. Homeowners can soften their water with no fear of pressure loss.
  • It is easily installed.
  • The connect clips on the valve body help make maintenance easy. It can easily be removed, serviced and replaced.
Cons
  • The 7000’s price is a little bit on the high side.

 

6. Aquasana Whole House Water Filter With Salt-Free Softener

Aquasana Whole House Water Filter with Salt-Free Softener

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Halfway down our review, we bring you a combo product. It’s the Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Water Softener. Aquasana is combining both a filtration system and salt-free water softener system. This softener is able to prevent the build-up of scale in your pipes through purely natural means. While softening, Aquasana still leaves behind all the important minerals. Because it doesn’t require salt or any other chemical additive, your water remains salt-free.

Aquasana’s filtration system uses a UV Sterilight filtration which kills off all bacteria and viruses in your water. The UV Sterilight filtration system kills off bacteria like giardia, E.coli, and cryptosporidium.

All homeowners should try Aquasana’s filtration and water softening system. It is particularly ideal for homeowners with large households and a preference for naturally purified and salt-free water.

Main Features

  • Uv Sterilight filtration system
  • Pre-grade installation kit with items like the filtration tank, SimplySoft tank, brass fittings, 20-inch pre-filter and bend supports
  • Items in the installation kit, including the sub-micron post filter and shut-off valves fit a 0.75-inch pipe
  • High-performance filtration and softening for 1 million gallons or 10 years
Pros
  • Aquasana demineralizes your water without eliminating the important minerals.
  • Since it’s sodium-free, anyone can consume water softener using Aquasana.
  • It takes care of all your water filtration and softening needs simultaneously. 
Cons
  • Aquasana is the most expensive softener on our list. This is probably due to the fact that it also acts as a filtration system.

 

7. Morton® System Saver® 30,000 Grain Water Softener M30

Morton® System Saver® 30,000 Grain Water Softener M30

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Morton’s water softener makes our list of best water softener, particularly because of its compact design. This softener promises all the functionalities of a conventional water softener but it’s a little different from the average softener. Most softeners come with a two-tank system. Morton’s softener, on the other hand, comes with just a single tank.

Morton, the producers of this softener, assures users that the single tank system won’t affect efficiency. In fact, this softener reports a flow rate of over 11 gallons per minute. Morton’s softener also uses 50% less salt than other salt-based softeners.

This softener is perfect for homeowners with small and compact-sized houses.

Video Review:

Main Features

  • Compact design; takes up 1.3 sq. ft. floor space
  • Deluxe single disk rotary valve
  • Installation kits include washers, copper connectors and bypass valve step down conversion nuts
  • Installation items fit ¾-inch copper plumbing pipes
  • Immediate regeneration button
  • Electronic “look-see” technology to monitor water usage
Pros
  • Morton’s water softener takes up just 1.3 square feet floor space. It is the best option for homeowners with small houses.
  • Due to its compact size, this softener uses 50% less salt than other systems. This means you don’t have to worry about excessive salt in your water.
Cons
  • Morton has a limited handling capacity.
  • Replacement parts are expensive.

 

8. Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener

Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener

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This is the probably the most unique and certainly the cheapest softener on our list. Eddy Electronic water softener isn’t like the traditional salt-based and salt-less softening systems. This water softener doesn’t use any additive at all, either salt or otherwise. Instead, it emits an electromagnetic wave to soften water.

The waves are applied by way of two cords attached to your home’s incoming water supply pipe. The water that passes through the pipe gets subjected to a dynamic magnetic field. This field changes the adhesion structure of lime scale so that they don’t stick to your pipes or other fixtures.

Eddy works on all types of water pipes except those crafted from lead and iron.

Main Features

  • No salt, or any other chemical additive
  • Life time repair and replace warranty
  • Standard cables for pipes with 1.5-inch diameters
Pros
  • Eddy is extremely cheap, in comparison with other softeners. It might well be the cheapest water softener available on the market
  • It’s quite low maintenance since it doesn’t require any kind of additive
  • It is compact and easy to install. 
Cons
  • Eddy stops being effective after about 6 months. After 6 months, the scale starts to build up again, although it becomes easier to remove.

 

9. EcoPure EP7130 Water Softener

EcoPure EP7130 Water Softener

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EcoPure EP7130 is another stand-out item on our review list of best softeners, mainly because it is NSF-certified. This softener is unique because of its initiated regeneration system. According to EcoPure, this system will regenerate your water based on its hardness and your need for soft water.  Water regeneration will take place only when you initiate it, thereby leading to considerable water and salt savings.

EcoPure also comes equipped with simple electronic features. An example is the low salt indicator light which tells you when you need to replenish the salt in your softener.

This softener works reliably well for households with between 1 and 5 members.

Main Features

  • Installation kit
  • Bypass valve which fits a 1-inch male pipe thread
  • Auto sense technology
  • Low salt indicator light
  • 30,000-grain capacity
  • 1-year warranty on manufacturer’s parts, 3 years on electronic parts, and 10 years on the tanks.
  • NSF certified
Pros
  • EcoPure water softener is certified by NSF. You can, therefore, be sure that you are purchasing a quality product.
  • The initiated regeneration system helps you save on maintenance and energy costs. The system also helps you conserve water.
  • The low salt indicator reminds you every time you need to replenish the salt in the system. 
Cons
  • Homeowners may find the manual a little hard to understand. 

 

10. Aquios FS-220 Salt-Free Water Softener and Filtration System

Aquios FS-220 Salt Free Water Softener and Filtration System

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The last product to be reviewed is the Aquios FS220 Water sfotener. Aquios FS-220 is the perfect product for homeowners who need both a softening and filtration system. Aquios’s new salt-free water softener combines these two characteristics effectively. This water softener will remove such impurities like chlorine and sediment from your water. Furthermore, the Aquios FS-220 prevents hardness causing minerals like manganese and calcium from sticking to pipes and other surfaces.

As we mentioned previously, salt-free water softeners do not remove hardness minerals from water. What they do instead is that they prevent these minerals from accumulating in your pipes and other plumbing fixtures. Aquios is able to prevent the build-up of scale in pipes using an additive known as Siliphos. Siliphos impedes mineral build-up in pipes. Over time, these minerals will simply flow through your fixtures instead of sticking to them.

Aquios assures users that they won’t experience pressure loss or decline in flow rate.

Main Features

  • A carbon block filtration system (which is rated at 5 microns)
  • Non-salt additive (Siliphos)
  • A cartridge with 40,000 gallon usage
  • 20- Year warranty on both valve and housing
Pros
  • Aquios FS-220 is both a filtration and softening system
  • It uses a non-salt additive
  • It has the best warranty (20 years!!) we have seen on any product. 
Cons
  • It isn’t so effective for large households.

 

Thank goodness we are done reviewing the best water softeners for 2018. Let’s delve into another interesting part of this article, shall we?

If you are wondering what causes hardness of water, now is the time to find out. We made a slight reference to it in the first few lines of this review.

What Makes Water Hard?

Well, hard water is “hard” because it’s contaminated with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Beyond reacting with soap to form curd, these minerals also have some other negative effects. For instance, magnesium and calcium can accumulate in your pipes, thereby clogging them. To make your water less hard and softer, you must get rid of these minerals.

Perhaps the most effective way to get rid of the hard minerals in your water is by using water softeners. These appliances dilute or completely get rid of the hardness minerals in your water.

Water is important for day to day living. It is especially important as a tool, for washing dishes and laundry, and of course for bathing. But you don’t want any kind of water for these activities; you want soft water, not hard water. Why? Well, you have a hard water problem if you have noticed that your dishes are stained with spots after washing. If your pipes are clogged, you most likely have a hard water problem too.

Hard water makes washing and cleaning very difficult activities. It makes soap and detergents less effective. Instead of dissolving in water, soap reacts with hardness minerals to form soap scum or curd. This insoluble soap scum is what leaves spots on your dishes and on every other surface you wash. Soap curd can also trap dirt in fabrics, thus stiffening them.

To know if the water you use at home is hard water, you need to test it.

How To Test For Hardness In Your Water

In the last section, we took a look at what makes hard water hard. Here, we are going to learn some steps on how to check for water hardness. Perhaps, you have a sneaking suspicion that your water is hard because your dishes are stained with spots. You might also think that if your skin doesn’t feel so clean after a bath. The following methods will help you conclusively tell if your water is hard.

In-house Soapsuds Test

This is one of the easiest ways to test for hardness in your water. To conduct a soapsuds test, follow the steps below:

  1. Look around for a plastic bottle or clean glass with a cap. Next, fill a third (1/3) of the container with water from your faucet. It should weigh between 8 and 10 oz.
  2. The next step is to add in 10 drops of liquid soap (do not use a detergent). Shake forcefully for about 10 seconds.
  3. If the mixture lathers quickly, and the water beneath the lather is clear, then your water is fairly soft.
  4. If instead the mixture doesn’t lather quickly, and the water beneath it is cloudy, your water is likely hard.

This test isn’t foolproof. If you are still a little confused, check out our next method

DIY Test Kit

The in-house soapsuds test is a little crude. To achieve more accurate results, simply purchase a kit for water quality test.  Hard water kits typically include a number of test strips and a color chart. Once you get a strip, follow the instructions on the pack. Alternatively, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Fill a glass with water from a faucet in your house. (Do not place the strip under running water.)
  2. Stick your hard test strip in the water and hold for a few seconds.
  3. The strip’s color will change after a while. Compare your strip’s color to the color chart provided to determine the level of hardness. Results are usually measured in Grains per Gallon (GPG).

Make sure to get your test kit from a trusted manufacturer.

Check Your Numbers

If your house is connected to the city water supply, you can simply request for their water quality report. This report may not exactly show the quality of water flowing directly from your taps. However, they can give you a general idea of the level of water hardness in your area.

Once you have determined that your water is hard, your next concern is how to get rid of the hardness. For that, you need a water softener.

Home Water 101 Shared some simple water testing procedures. Please check it out here.

In the next section, we take an in-depth look at how exactly water softeners work.

How Water Softeners Work

Video Description:

In the previous section, we mentioned that calcium, magnesium and other minerals are what make water hard. We went on how to add that water softeners are the best options to get rid of hardness. Now, the next question is, how exactly does a water softener work?

A water softener is an appliance that is installed into the water supply system of your home. Although there are different types, all water softeners do basically one thing. What they do is that they take out hardness minerals in water, and replace them with other things. This process, of removing and replacing hardness minerals with other substances, is known as “ion exchange”.

At the core of every water softener is a mineral tank. This tank is filled with resin or zeolite beads, which carry negative charges. Calcium and magnesium, the minerals in hard water, both carry positive charges. So, when hard water flows through the mineral tank, the positively charged minerals will cling to the resin beads.

Sodium (or salt) ions are positively charged too, though as not as strongly as calcium and magnesium. Water softeners also come with a brine tank which creates a strong brine solution. When this brine solution goes through the mineral tank, sodium ions displace the magnesium and calcium ions on the resin.

A water softener uses this ion exchange process to soften water in three phases:

  • The backwash phase: As hard water passes through a mineral tank, the calcium and magnesium ions in it stick to resin beads. Once this happens, the backwash reverses the flow of water to remove dirt.
  • The recharge phase: The recharge phase is initiated when once the resin in the mineral tank become saturated with magnesium and calcium ions. This phase is where the brine tank releases the brine solution to the mineral tank. Thereafter, the sodium ions displace the calcium and magnesium ions on the resin beads.
  • The rinse/flush phase: Once the recharge phase is done, excess brine is flushed from the mineral tank. The brine tank is also refilled.

 

Factors to Consider Before Installing a Water Softener

A good number of homeowners like to get their hands dirty. They prefer to do things themselves instead of calling in, say, a plumber or an electrician. We understand this DIY spirit, which is why we have included this section on installation of water softeners. But before you go on to install the appliance; there are a few things you must consider first:

Where to place your water softener: Are you replacing an old softener with a new one? Then, you can simply place the new appliance in the spot the old one occupied. For first time installers, the important thing to note is that your softener should be sited out of the way. Find a spot that’s close to your plumbing system, so you can easily link in the softener. In most houses, areas that fit these criteria include the basement, garage, and utility room.

Avoid placing your softener in a location where freezing is likely. Also avoid placing the appliance outside, where it’s under direct sunlight.

Ensure to place your softener in a location with enough room for servicing and maintenance.

What your softener requires: Your water softener will require a utility sink or a floor drain. Some other needs include a close electrical receptacle unit which can conveniently handle the energy needs of the softener. Usually, a water softener is installed close to a water heater. We will go into details about this in the next point.

Where to connect to your supply system: Homeowners who want to soften their home’s entire water supply should simply install their softener just before the water heater. Doing this also helps to prevent the accumulation of dirt in your water heater. In houses where sodium counts as a health risk, it isn’t as simple as that. Here, homeowners may need to bypass the faucets that bring their drinking water, like the one in the kitchen sink. Alternatively, you can go for a salt-free water softener.

Now that you have selected a good spot based on these considerations, it’s time for the installation proper.

Installing a Water Softener

This is a step-by-step installation guide. Ensure to follow the steps as they are ordered.

Read the installation manual:

Before going ahead with installation, first read the product’s instruction manual. Different products come with slight variations in their installation processes. This step is important if you are to avoid any mistakes during installation.

Keep the site of installation clean:

Sweep and clean the installation site. You should also note here that positioning is important. Most water softeners have a dual-tank system. Ensure that the tanks are set in the proper places.

Turn off your house’s water supply:

You need exercise caution when installing your softener. One way of doing this is ensuring that your house’s water supply is shut off. You should particularly turn off the water flow and the electricity supply to your heater. Again, safety is paramount.

Drain leftover water:

Once your water supply is shut off, the next step is to drain all the water left in your pipes. Open a number of faucets around your house to achieve this.

Cut into your waterline with a pipe cutter and fix in elbow fittings.

This will allow you to run lines to the inlet and outlet openings of the softener’s bypass valve. Remember to position your tanks well. Hard water will flow into the softener’s tank for softening. Then, softened water will flow out through the outlet to the fixtures and faucets in your home.

Connect the pipes leading to the bypass valve:

We should mention at this point that softener installation requires soldering work. (If you don’t know how to solder, you should call in a professional). The bypass valve is plastic. So, it is advisable to solder the fittings separately before attaching them to the valve. Your softener comes with compression fittings. Use these to attach the pipes to the valve.

Attach the drain hose to your softener:

Securely clamp the drain hose to your softener, and run it to a draining sink. You need to be careful here or the drain hose won’t work properly. Ensure you read the instruction manual before doing anything.

Install the overflow tube:

Fit the overflow tube to the side of the brine tank. Again, be faithful to the manufacturer’s instruction. Don’t deviate.

Set the bypass valve to “bypass”:

Once that is done, turn on your water supply. Let the water flow through the softener to remove dirt and air trapped in the pipes. You can now turn your water heater back on.

Plug in your softener:

Plug in your softener and set the bypass valve to “backwash”. Press the “regenerate” button valve reaches backwash. Unplug the unit to prevent it from going beyond backwash.

Open the bypass valve’s inlet control about halfway:

Open the bypass valve’s inlet control about halfway. Let the water flow in slowly. It may sputter due to the air trapped in the pipes. Once the sputtering stops open the inlet and outlet controls fully. Add salt and water as directed in the instruction manual.

Plug your unit again:

Plug your unit again. Push “regenerate” and then wait for the unit to run to the next stage. Repeat this till the unit reaches “service” setting. Watch out for leaks. If you spot any, turn off the softener and re-solder the leaking point. If everything works fine go ahead and program your desired controls.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the product’s instruction manual. In addition, don’t hesitate to call in a professional if you experience any problems during installation.

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How to Maintain Your Water Softener

You had a water softening system installed a while back, and it’s been running well. Your whole family’s been enjoying all the benefits that come with good soft water. All these are good but, there’s a question you should answer. Beyond replenishing the salt (or other additives) once in a while, how else do you care for your softener?

It is true that softeners do not generally require as much care as other appliances. There are however certain steps you can take to keep your softener from breaking down.

Let’s take a look below at some DIY things you can do to maintain your softener.

Replenish the salt once every month:

Most homeowners do this already, but you can do one better. Do not wait for the salt level to deplete before adding more salt. Form a habit out of regularly checking your brine tank. Do this every 4-6 weeks. Set a reminder if necessary. You can avoid a lot of problems by taking this little precaution. We recommend that you keep your salt level at half full, so you easily tell when the level is dropping.

Inspect your softener every few months:

Doing a monthly check of your softener’s salt level isn’t enough. Schedule a thorough check for a day every two months to also look at the salt level. This is important if you’re going to prevent bridging. Bridging happens when salt builds up in the brine tank. When this happens, the flow of salt to the mineral tank is restricted. Thus, the resin beads aren’t cleaned and your water remains hard.

Get the right salt type:

Water softeners do not use any type of salt, definitely not the one you use in the kitchen. Water softeners have their own kind of salt, which can be of two types – crystal or cube. Read through your equipment’s manual to see which one is appropriate for it. If you can’t access the manual, do an online search or speak to a professional.

Use a pre-filter:

Water flowing from the city supply to your home may accumulate sediments and particles along the way. These particles may get into ports or seals of your softener, thereby causing harm. You can extend the life of your equipment by simply adding a pre-filtration system. Doing this benefits you as well. You can be sure that the water in your home is purified and softened.

Remove bridges:

Bridges are the results of the buildup of salt in your softener’s brine tank. If you notice a bridge, simply use a stick to break it up. However, you should know once a bridge forms, there’s a high likelihood that it will keep showing up again.

Clean out your equipment’s brine tank:

Consult the product’s manual to find the safest way to clean your softener’s brine tank. You can do this once or twice a year.

Even though these maintenance steps work perfectly, they might not be enough. You still require expert help. It is advisable to call in a professional to do a regular check of your softener every few months.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Water Softeners

Where do I install a water softener?

Water softeners should be installed near your home’s water supply line. If you have the right knowledge and tools, you can simply install the softener yourself. Otherwise, call in a professional. You can set up different lines for cooking and drinking. This is especially useful if you have family members who can’t tolerate sodium.

Will my water bill increase if I use a water softener?

Yes. A softener requires about 55 to 400 liters of water every time it regenerates. However, these costs will likely be offset by the benefits that soft water provides. To cut down on your water bills, make sure to go for a unit that’s exactly right for your water needs. There are also water softeners which are relatively more water-efficient.

How much sodium is added to the water by a salt-based water softener?

The quantity of sodium your softener requires is determined by the hardness level of your water. The harder your water, the more salt you need for the softening process. If sodium is a health concern for you, you can go for a salt-free water softener. If your water is really hard, salt-free systems may not work as well salt-based systems.

When should I not use softened water?

Do not use softened water for outdoor activities, including watering plants and grasses. The high sodium content in the water may be unhealthy for plants. Furthermore, increased use of softened water will lead to frequent regeneration. Frequent regeneration will, in turn, lead to more water consumption and higher water bills.

Will a Water Softener make my water safe for drinking?

No, it won’t. Your water must be clean and safe for drinking before it is softened. If you are concerned that your water has impurities in it, buy a filtration system. Alternatively, you can buy a product that combines both filtration and softening. If you are still concerned about the state of your water after filtration, contact your area’s local health department. You can also have a test conducted on your water in a laboratory.

Can softeners also use potassium chloride in place of salt?

Yes, any softener can use a potassium chloride as a substitute. You should note that potassium chloride costs way more than salt. Also, it tends to melt when wet, resulting in a bridge in the brine tank. It is therefore advised that you only fill your salt tank halfway with potassium chloride. This way, you can keep an eye on its level in the tank.

 

Final Words

As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, hard water is considered safe for general use. However, it still has some not-so-positive effects on humans and appliances alike. To avoid these effects, it is necessary to soften your water.

In this guide, we covered everything to do with water softening systems. Furthermore, we explored everything from types of water softeners, to the best water softeners available. We also provided you with some DIY steps for installing your softener, and some FAQs about water softeners.

Homeowners that read this best water softeners buying guide will be able to make the right decisions with regards to their water softening needs.

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