November 25, 2018
We’ve checked out entirely too many water softeners and chosen the top for each category. Whether you need the right option for your home, RV, or shop, or one that specifically brightens your hair or uses magnetic or upflow technology, you’ll find the top recommendations here.
We’ve evaluated each product for efficiency, life expectancy, price, maintenance needs, and design features. Browse our top choices and learn what factors you should consider when choosing a the right one for your home.
Our buying guide section includes tools to help you estimate your home’s water usage and the condition of your incoming and processed water. We’ll also provide easy to understand information about the variety of water softening technologies available and how much they cost.
Top Choices By Purpose or Design:
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top choices by purpose and brand. If you need more information, scroll down the page for a brief assessment of each model.
Best Water Softeners (Updated 2018)
|1|| Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000||Home||Buy on Amazon|
|2||Fleck 9100 SXT||Commercial||Buy on Amazon|
|3|| On the Go Standard ||RV||Buy on Amazon|
|4|| Fleck 5600 SXT 64,000 ||for Well Water||Buy on Amazon|
|5|| Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000||for City Water||Buy on Amazon|
|6|| Aquasana Whole House ||for Hair||Buy on Amazon|
|7|| Fleck 5600 SXT 64,000 ||for Septic Systems||Buy on Amazon|
|8|| Hard Water Bullet ||Salt-Free||Buy on Amazon|
|9|| Fleck 9100 SXT 64,000 ||Twin Tank||Buy on Amazon|
|10|| Magnetic Water Technology||Magnetic||Buy on Amazon|
|11|| Eddy Water Descaler||Electronic||Buy on Amazon|
|12|| Magnetic Water Technology||Non-electric||Buy on Amazon|
|13|| Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000||Upflow||Buy on Amazon|
Water Softener Reviews [Updated 2018 List]
If you’re looking for a specific type of softener (or one that will serve a specific purpose, browse the list below. We’ll give you a brief description of the perfect option for each category along with a price range.
You’ll notice that Fleck 5600 or 9100 SXT models show up multiple times on the list. They’re definitely the top contenders for basic home use, but they vary in grain capacity, flow rate, and water treatment specializations. Make sure that you match the model with your specific needs.
This home water softener follows the conventional setup, but is state of the art and one of the best in its class. With a 48,000-grain filtration capacity and a 12 gallon per minute flow rate, this option can handle the needs of the busiest homes.
It will measure the flow rate of your home and regenerate as it needs to. This feature makes it a smart choice for conserving water and salt while taking the guesswork out of scheduling your regeneration cycle.
This high-tech product comes with a USB drive loaded with installation instructions, a user manual, and even videos to help you program it. It’s not a difficult installation, and you’ll easily be able to program it. Fleck simply wants you to have everything you need when you finish your purchase.
They even include a water test kit to help you see the purity of your water beyond calcium and magnesium deposits.
The LCD display shows you the model’s cycle status and any error messages. It comes with a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty on the control head and a 10-year warranty on the tank.
It's available for less than $600, and with a lifespan of up to 27 years, it’s worth every penny.
2. Commercial Use: Fleck 9100 SXT Twin Tank 80,000 Grain Water Softener
Like the suggested home version, this commercial option comes with the SXT meter system. It supplies 22 gallons per minute and automatically regenerates needed.
Each of the twin tanks provides processing power for 40,000 grains. Regeneration alternates between the two tanks to ensure that your property is ready to supply soft water any time of the day or night. It’s perfect for restaurants, retail stores, and small facilities.
If your company has a higher flow rate than 22 gallons per minute, consider installing two or three of these products. For less than $1200, they make a wise investment for any business installing or replacing their system.
The Fleck 9100 SXT comes with a 5-year warranty on the control valve and a 10-year warranty on the tanks. You’ll also enjoy easy programming and user-friendly controls to help you troubleshoot the system when needed.
What makes this a commercial system is the increased grain removal and the alternating regeneration processes. Otherwise, it’s just as easy to install and maintain as a home unit with a lifespan of 15-25 years. If you have a particularly busy household, you could even install this option in your basement for increased water flow and softening efficiency.
3. RV Travel: On the Go Standard 8,000 Grain Water Softener
On the Go is the product line of portable models. The Standard is the smallest model, designed specifically for RV and Marine applications.
The OTG Standard only weighs about 30 pounds and fits nicely in small spaces. It’s approximately 22 inches tall with a 7-inch diameter.
You will need to regenerate it manually, but you don’t need special salt to do it. Simply pour a box of table salt in and slowly rinse it for 15 minutes. It will then supply you with soft water for up to 20 days!
Water test strips included with the product help you predict when you need to regenerate based on the condition of the water you’re using.
The OTG Standard is incredibly easy to install in your RV. It should take less than 5 minutes to hook it up for the first use and after each regeneration. It does not require any electricity, and you won’t need any tools to make the connections.
When you’re on the road or at a campsite, you can’t be sure of the hardness of the water you’re using. The On the Go helps protect your RV pipes and appliances from mineral deposits. It even comes with a direct drinking tube!
You can purchase it for less than $230.
A little larger than the 48,000-grain model, this Fleck is built to handle the hardest water.
With a larger capacity and automatic regeneration based on your home’s water flow rate, this is a trouble-free unit sure to solve your hard water problems. Though not necessary, it even provides a higher flow rate of 18 gallons per minute.
If you have hard water (well water is generally much harder than treated city water), you’ll appreciate the power loss memory feature. If the electricity goes out in your home, the LED display will store and recall your program settings and current water usage for up to 48 hours. That way, when the power comes back on, your product will continue operating as normal without missing a regeneration cycle.
The 64,000-grain rating helps it to keep up with well water that contains a high grain per gallon density. The options with a lower grain rating might need to regenerate once every other day. The Fleck will go at least twice that long, saving you money on salt re-fills and water consumption.
This is the largest single-tank model of this Fleck line. It’s available for less than $670 and should last for 20 years or longer.
Yes, this is the same model from the top of the list. With the capacity to treat 48,000 grains before it needs to regenerate, this mid-size Fleck is perfect for homes with 4-5 people.
Even with 5 people living in the household, it might regenerate less than once a week, making it an economical choice for most families. Like all models of this line, it measures your home’s water usage and initiates a regeneration cycle as needed to replenish its capacity to filter the incoming water.
City water is pre-treated, cutting grains per gallon by half. This efficient unit will take care of the rest. You might need to fill it with a bag of salt every 6 weeks if you do have a larger family.
For less than $600, its capacity to handle even the hardest of city waters, fast and easy installation, and sleek, backup memory, programmable LED display, this Fleck remains our top choice for homes with less than the hardest water.
If you have well water, see our brief assessment of the 5600 SXT 64,000 Grains Fleck model above in the well water section. A tell-tale sign of extremely hard water is dull, dry, brittle hair. If you have city water and have found that a conventional water softener still dries out your hair, we would recommend the Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener.
You’ll pay a little over $1400, but the benefit of the Aquasana is that it controls mineral buildup without adding salt to your water. If you have dry hair, the salt from a conventional option won’t help. Just as a salty food sucks the moisture out of your mouth, salty water can suck the moisture out of your skin and hair.
The chlorine in city water is not a friend to those with dry hair either. Chlorine removes your hair’s natural oils. Repeated exposure makes hair brittle and causes split ends. If you have dry hair, the chlorine in city water will make it worse.
The Aquasana Filter and Softener removes the vast majority of chlorine from incoming city water while crystalizing mineral grains so that they can’t cling to you, your pipes, or your clothes.
It is guaranteed for 10 years or the passage of 1 million gallons of water. The flow rate is 7 gallons per minute, perfect for families with 3-4 members.
7. Septic Systems: Fleck 5600SXT 64,000 Grain Water Softener
What’s the optimum option for septic systems? There isn’t one! The output of a water softener doesn’t harm your septic system, and is, in fact, beneficial for the breakdown of waste.
You can, however, conserve water consumption and avoid salt waste by purchasing a more appropriately sized product for your home. If you purchase one with a grain removal rating too low for your weekly use, a smart one (such as a Fleck STX) will automatically regenerate when it can no longer soften the incoming water.
If you opted for an option that regenerates more than twice per week, consider replacing it with one rated for a larger grain count (such as Fleck's 5600 SXT line products) when it comes time to do so.
If your water softener does not have a water flow meter, it will not regenerate at the exact time needed. The regeneration schedule will be based on an estimate, possibly cycling too late to process your hard water or cycling too early and thus wasting water and requiring more frequent salt fill-ups. A Fleck SXT or an Aquasana (with no regeneration needs) will help you conserve water and more accurately meet your water softening needs.
Less expensive than the Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener and meant more for well water than city water, the Hard Water Bullet Poly is a durable, salt-free alternative to conventional models.
It’s one of the smallest home options (10 inches tall with a 9-inch diameter) and can be installed directly onto the wall, minimizing floor space. It even comes with wall mounts for easy installation. At only 4 pounds, you won’t need to worry about supporting it with anything more than the wall mount and connection pipes.
It does not use salt. Instead, as water passes through the Hard Water Bullet, calcium grains are converted into crystals and coated with polyphosphate, a harmless chemical used by water treatment facilities. In this coated, crystallized form, the calcium cannot stick to pipes, your clothes, or your skin and hair.
Before the water leaves the bullet, it also passes through a 50-micron filter, making this a water filter and softener in one. With a flow rate of 30 gallons per minute, you’ll never be without adequate water pressure.
Once a year, you will need to rinse the removable filter and the core with vinegar. It does not use electricity, salt, or excess water for a regeneration cycle, making the Hard Water Bullet an inexpensive choice for an initial investment of less than $460.
Similar to the 80,000 Grain model we recommended for commercial settings, this dual tank option ensures that large homes or small shops are never without soft water.
The SXT electronic meter keeps track of your property’s water usage and regenerates as necessary, first cycling one tank and then the other. Alternating tanks ensures that it can process hard water at any time throughout the day or night. Single-tank options enter a bypass mode when water consumption is typically low (2 am) to perform regeneration.
With a flow rate of 18 gallons per minute, alternating tank regeneration, monitored water use, and a backup memory for power outages, this high grain tool is a smart, convenient choice for larger homes. You can get it for less than $950 and expect it to last for 20 or more years with little maintenance.
10. Magnetic Type: Water Technology Combo Water Softener
Do you want an option that’s easy to install? This one takes less than three minutes! It also doesn’t use salt, and there are no filters to change. Strap a magnet to each of your pipes and leave them.
The 6 magnets in each unit magnetize the metallic minerals in your water as they pass through the pipes. Magnetizing the grains keeps them suspended in the water as they pass through your pipes. The mineral grains won’t build up in your pipes, cling to your clothes, or dry your skin.
The magnets will also help remove buildup in your pipes. Over time, the magnetized water will pull deposits away from the inner lining of your pipes, restoring flow capacity.
You can even install Magnetic Water Technology’s magnets on pipes that already use another tool to increase the overall effectiveness of your home’s water treatment system. Simply strap the lightweight magnets to your cold and hot water supply pipes and let them function trouble-free. They work on any type of pipe because they don’t affect the pipe itself but the water running through it.
The Two-Unit Combo comes with a 10-year warranty and is less than $110 for both magnet sets.
11. Electronic Type: Eddy Water Descaler Water Softener
An electronic option could refer to a conventional water softener with an electronic meter, in which case we recommend the 5600 SXT 48,000 Grain by Fleck. For options that specifically use electricity to soften water, we recommend the Eddy Descaler.
It’s similar to a magnetic one. The difference is that it continually changes the magnetic properties of the water by charging it with an electro-magnetic wave. Mineral grains are suspended in the water and pass through your pipes.
It should be noted that mineral grains are not harmful to humans. Calcium, iron, and magnesium are all beneficial to humans. By not removing these minerals, the Eddy Water Descaler and other non-salt alternatives allow us to add small amounts of necessary minerals to our diets through drinking and cooking water.
The Eddy Water Descaler will make a significant difference in the quality of your water within one month. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. It costs less than $200 and can be added to other systems for increased effectiveness.
The Eddy Water Descaler uses a small amount of energy, running off a regular 110-volt outlet.
12. Non-Electric Type: Magnetic Water Technology Combo Water Softener
When you want to get away from electrically powered options but still need a whole house system, magnetic models are the way to go. And as we mentioned above, the Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo is an inexpensive, effective method for controlling hard water grains.
It does not use electricity in any manner, and there is nothing more to buy or pay for after the initial purchase (less than $110). You simply strap the 3-pound magnets onto your hot and cold water supply pipes. The magnets will suspend the mineral grains in the water and carry them back out of your house through the septic system.
This is the best magnetic option in its class with 6 powerful magnets per piece. The magnets affect the water through any type of pipe. Like all non-salt water softeners, the Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo provides you the benefit of drinking necessary minerals without allowing them to stain your dishes or build up in your pipes.
And, of course, it’s a non-salt alternative, so it doesn’t add sodium to your diet or dry out your skin and hair.
No electricity. No filters. No chemicals. No salt. 10-year warranty.
13. Upflow Type: Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
Besides softening your water by removing mineral grains, the upflow system will also filter out chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and other harsh or harmful chemicals.
The upflow system also uses less water and less salt. There is no drain, and the system itself does not use electricity.
The Fleck Upflow can provide a water flow rate of up to 12 gallons per minute, sufficient for most families. It is a twin-tank system, necessary for upflow systems as regeneration takes longer but is more efficient.
As with all SXT metered valves, the Upflow option will only regenerate as needed, minimizing tank downtime and maximizing the life of the resin in the tanks. The filter also preserves resin in homes with city water as it removes chlorine from the water.
This model is available for less than $1100. It comes with a 5-year warranty on the control valve and a 10-year warranty on the tanks, though, like all Fleck SXT models, you can reasonably expect the entire system to last 20 years with minimal maintenance.
Top Brands & Manufacturers
Besides the models and brands mentioned above, there are many other high-quality options to choose from. Here are our top choices for a range of popular brands.
The Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener is a no-salt tool that removes chlorine, chloramines, herbicides, and pesticides while crystallizing hard water mineral grains for clean passage and removal. You can also add a powerful UV lamp that penetrates water to kill viruses and bacteria.
If you do not purchase the UV lamp package, this is also an electric-free water softener. It is lightweight (16 pounds) and easy to install as a pass-through filter in your water supply line.
It is guaranteed for 10 years or the passage of 1 million gallons of water. It is a low maintenance choice perfect for families of 3-4 people. The regular price is slightly above $1400.
Less expensive models are also available though not guaranteed for as many years. This 10-year model is designed for homes on city water. Well water options are also available but do not last as long.
15. Eddy: Water Descalers System Water Softener
The Eddy Water Descaler is an electronic tool that magnetizes water with a fluctuating electro-magnetic wave. It isn’t harmful, but it is effective in suspending mineral grains so that they don’t build up in your pipes, stain your sinks, or make spots on your dishes.
The Eddy Water Descaler runs off of 110 volts of electricity (the voltage supplied by a regular household outlet) and is very easy to install. It comes with a lifetime warranty and no maintenance needs.
The two coils wrap around your hot and cold water delivery pipes and the unit runs continuously at low power. Water traveling through the pipes magnetizes, suspending the grain particles in the water so that they continue traveling with the water instead of sticking the walls of your pipes.
You can drink the minerals without harm, or they’ll pass through your drainage system.
It’s important to note that when we talk about Fleck alternatives, we’re referring to the control valve system. Many manufacturers use the proprietary Fleck valves and so will all be of the same quality and in the same price range. They are our favorite conventional and upflow options.
The SXT 48,000 Grain is a mid-sized, mid-priced model that provides 12 gallons per minute. If you have city water or a family of 2-3, it might only need to regenerate once per week.
The metered valve measures exactly how many gallons of water your home is using and enters an automatic regeneration cycle (rinsing the resin filter) when it is close to capacity. A built-in backup capacitor preserves water usage and cycle information in case of power outages.
You can purchase Fleck products in twin-tank and upflow systems for more efficiency. The 48,000 Grain model costs less than $600 and comes with a 5-year warranty on the SXT control valve and a 10-year warranty on the brine and resin tanks. Realistically, these models last much longer than the warranty – 20 years or more.
The GE 40,000 Grain is an ideal choice for families of 2-4 people. It is a salt and resin tank in one with an on-demand salt-feed for regeneration. The control head monitors your water usage and automatically feeds salt into the unit to flush it when needed.
It has a built-in sediment filter for homes with well water and a low but adequate 40,000-grain filtering capacity between regeneration cycles. A low-salt beeper indicates when it’s time to refill the brine compartment.
The GE 40,000 Grain supplies 9.5 gallons of soft water per minute, easily meeting the needs of even 5-person homes.
It comes with a 3-year warranty on the electronic controls and a 10-year warranty on the tank. GE offers 30,000 Grain and 45,000 Grain models for lower or slightly higher filtering capacities. The 40,000 Grain version is available for less than $660.
The Genesis Premier 48,000 Grains is an on-demand, upflow model comparable to Fleck SXT upflow units. The meter records how much water your home uses and then automatically initiates the regeneration process as needed. Because it is an upflow system, the regeneration uses much less salt and water and preserves the resin for longer durability.
It’s easy to install and easy to program. The control head stores your settings and will never reset, even in a power outage. The LED display rotates information, including your home’s flow rate, the date of the last regeneration cycle, and how many gallons it can process before performing the next regeneration. This information helps you better adjust the cycle for the condition of your home’s water supply.
A 10-year warranty on the control head and a lifetime warranty on the tanks make it an easy choice for small to mid-size homes. You can purchase the Genesis Premier 48,000 Grains for less than $790. Larger and smaller models are also available, ranging from 24,000 Grains to 96,000 Grains.
19. Hard Water Bullet: Premier 48,000 Grains
The Hard Water Bullet Triple Action Poly Salt-Free is a mini water treatment plant in your own home. Weighing only 4 pounds and mounting on your wall, it crystallizes mineral grains and coats them in polyphosphate.
It does not use salt or electricity. It preserves a flow rate of 30 gallons per minute, enough for even small manufacturing facilities, and includes a 50-micron filter to catch other contaminants.
The crystallization and coating of the grain prevent it from sticking to your pipes, dishes, or skin. It dries cleanly and rinses down the drain without leaving a residue.
Maintenance is easy. You’ll only need to clean the filter and rinse the Poly core once per year. It’s durable and powerful enough to handle well water on its own.
You can purchase the Poly model for less than $460. Hard Water Bullet also makes models for smaller homes and humidifiers.
20. Magnetic Water Technology: Two-Unit Combo
The Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo is one of the lowest priced softening solutions available. Six powerful neodymium magnets strap to your pipes to keep mineral grains suspended in water.
This is a no-salt, no-electricity, no-filters or maintenance water softening option that provides effective results.
The magnets strap to your pipes post-heating to ensure that both hot and cold supply lines are cared for. You could also strap one to your main supply line before heating or around the pipes of various appliances and faucets for added protection.
The Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo is extremely easy to install. It comes with a 10-year warranty for less than $110. Smaller sizes are available for additional pipes.
The Morton System Saver 30,000 Grain is a small, inexpensive, single unit designed for small homes or offices.
It will measure your water usage and regenerate automatically as it approaches its 30,000-grain filtering capacity. You can also manually initiate a regeneration cycle and set it not to regenerate automatically.
Its compact size does not diminish flow rate. This 43-inch tall water softener supplies a water flow rate of 11 gallons per minute, perfectly adequate to meet the needs of most homes during peak periods.
If you have city water or a smaller family, this 30,000-grain model could be all you need.
You can purchase the Morton System Saver 30,000 Grain for approximately $450. It comes with a 10-year warranty on the tank and a 1-year warranty on the control valve. Morton also sells 27,000 Grain and 34,000 Grain models for slight adjustments in capacity and price.
The North Star Ultra Demand Water Softener is a premium water softener for busy homes. It has a 70,000-grain filtering capacity and can supply up to 100 gallons of soft water per minute.
The control head monitors the water usage in your home and automatically performs a regeneration cycle in time to ensure a continuous supply of soft water.
It is easy to program. Simply input the time of day at installation and your known or estimated hardness.
The backlit LED display shows you everything you need to know, including the time, the grains per gallon that you input and that the unit is operating for, the currently flow rate of your home, your average and daily water usage, how long regeneration will take if it is performing a regeneration cycle, and the percentage of remaining capacity before it initiates the next regeneration.
The North Star Ultra Demand comes with a 3-year warranty on the control head and 10-year warranty on the brine and resin tanks. It is available for less than $2100. North Star also offers many specialized home water softening solutions.
The Nuvo H20 Home System is a water softening alternative that uses citric acid to stop calcium buildup and mineral stains. As water passes through the filter, CitraCharge (largely citric acid) bonds to the calcium, eliminating its ability to film on the surfaces of pipes, dishes, clothes, or people.
The Nuvo comes in different sizes, all of which are easy to install. The most popular model is only 24 inches tall by 5 inches wide. You will need to change the filter cartridge every 3-6 months depending on your water usage rate, but the refills are less expensive than salt.
You will enjoy a strong, steady flow rate of 12 gallons per minute, adequate for even a 6-person family.
The Nuvo H20 system is available for less than $650 and comes with a 5-year warranty. It’s a safe, non-electric, non-salt solution for naturally soft water.
24. On the Go: Standard 8,000 Grain
Made by Portable Water Softeners, the On the Go Standard 8,000 Grain is a smart choice for campers and boaters. It uses regular table salt and can function up to 20 days without needing to be regenerated.
If you’re “on the go” and need to regenerate, simply stop in at any grocery store or convenience station for a box of salt. Disconnect it. Pour the salt in and open the spout to let it drain out slowly.
Test strips included with the OTG Standard help you know when it’s time to regenerate. Water conditions vary on the road and from campsite to campsite, but the condition of the water you use doesn’t have to.
The On the Go Standard softens your water to protect the investment of your RV or boat and ensure your convenience while away from home. It does not consume electricity and is extremely durable for its small size.
You can purchase the OTG Standard for less than $230. Smaller options are available for weekend campers; Double Standards for longer road trips.
The Pelican PSE 1800 Whole House Water Filter & Softener is a great addition for homes on city water. It is a salt-free, electricity-free, 3-component system.
City water normally contains less than 20 grains per gallon. The Pelican PSE 1800 can reduce that number again by half. It also filters out chlorine, chloramines, herbicides, and pesticides for completely sanitary, clean water.
The Pelican PSE 1800 provides 10 gallons of softened, filtered water per minute. It’s easy to install, only requires cleaning every 5 years, and comes with a lifetime warranty. It does not add any chemicals to the water and uses an upflow design to maximize its effectiveness.
Larger and smaller Pelican water-treatment systems are also available both as packages and individual units. The PSE 1800 is currently priced at slightly more than $2300.
The WaterBoss 36,400 Grain is an incredibly small full-service model. It stands only 31 inches tall and can handle the needs of any small home or office.
The control valve monitors your water usage and automatically regenerates the resin bed as needed. In a home of 2-3 people, the WaterBoss might only regenerate once per week. It can certainly filter hard water for a week or more in a small office.
Its grain capacity makes this WaterBoss a contender for well water as well as city water homes. If you have well water, test your hardness to determine if this model would be an economical choice for you.
You can purchase it for approximately $560. It comes with a 10-year warranty on all components. WaterBoss also offers a 22,000 Grain model and a separate 22,000 Grain model with a charcoal filter to eliminate chlorine from city water.
This brine and resin tank combination unit is a great fit for homes with 2-3 people or light duty offices and shops. The control valve tracks your water usage and regenerates the resin tank as necessary to conserve salt while always being able to provide soft water.
A low-salt indicator light helps you know when it’s time to refill the brine (salt) compartment. As a low-grain capacity unit, we would recommend it for homes or businesses using city water.
Its normal price is slightly over $500. It comes with a 3-year warranty on the controls and a 10-year warranty on the tank. Whirlpool also offers 33,000 Grain and 44,000 Grain models for increased capacity.
Final Verdict: Our Choice for The Money
Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000
Overall, our top choice remains Fleck's 5600 SXT 48,000 Grain model. It’s large enough to handle both city and well water economically. The metered control valve ensures that it only regenerates as needed, saving salt and water consumption. And it supplies 12 gallons per minute, perfect for mid to large-size families.
The salt exchange technology is a proven method for softening water and is still the most effective method for eliminating medium to extremely hard water.
It will run you less than $600 and will easily last 20 years. If you need an option that is sure to work, get this one.
For the best shower head to use with these products, click on the link.
How to Choose the Right One for Your Needs?
When purchasing any appliance, you’ll want to find the balance between performance, efficiency, personal needs, technology, and cost. In this case, the biggest question is, what does your home require to soften the water adequately? Once you have the answer to that question, you can consider which water softening options will meet your needs and technology preferences.
First, we’ll show you how to estimate how much water you use and how hard it is. Then, we’ll discuss the different technologies and their ability to soften your water. We’ll end by providing a price range for how much a new unit might cost you, based on your estimated softening and technology needs.
You’ll see that most products are rated by grains. The question is: what does that mean and how many “grains” do you need?
The water coming into your house contains magnesium and calcium. City water will contain less, and well water more. The particles of those minerals in your water are called grains.
When a product is rated for a grain count, it means that it can remove that number of grains of mineral before it needs to regenerate. It is the filter for the minerals in your water. Of course, the next question is: what is regeneration?
A water softener regenerates when the salt or potassium tank fills with water. The water mixes with your softening agent and flushes the grains that it removed from your water. You can think of regeneration as rinsing the filter.
So, how high of a grain capacity do you need? That depends on how many people are living in your home and on the hardness of your water.
If you have city water, you can call and ask for the GPG (grains per gallon) estimate. If you have well water, you can test your water for GPG.
City water contains 15 grains per gallon, on average. Well water in the US can contain as high as 40 GPG. We’ll use both city and well water as examples for our figures.
Now that we have an estimate of hardness, we need to find our daily use. The average person uses 80 gallons of water per day. That includes showering, laundry, doing the dishes, cooking, drinking, and watering the lawn.
If you multiply 80 by the number of people living in your house, you’ll find your average daily water consumption needs. Let’s take, for example, a four-person family that uses 320 gallons of water per day.
If that family uses city water with a content of 15 GPG, they will need a product that can remove 4,800 grains per day. The same family might need to remove 12,800 grains per day if they use well water.
So, that means that you only need a product rated for 4,800-12,800 grains, right?
Wrong. Most options regenerate or rinse the filter once per week. You could set yours to regenerate more often, but that would not be an economical choice for water or salt consumption. Instead, multiply the daily need by 7.
If our family of four has a product that regenerates once per week, they will need one rated between 33,600 grains (city water) and 89,600 grains (well water). Purchasing an option rated lower than your grain removal needs will require regenerating the system more often.
Note: Some options do not list a grain capacity. Magnetic, electronic, and filter softeners do not remove the mineral grains from your water but alter their properties so that they no longer stain or cause buildups.
Hard Water Effects
You can estimate how often you need to regenerate or determine if you need a larger softener by the condition of your water. Hard water provides tell-tale signs on dishes, clothes, and our bodies.
Slightly hard water?
- Spots on dishes
- Mineral deposits on faucets
- Soap scum on shower walls
- Dingy “white” clothes
Extremely hard water?
- Dry skin
- Dull hair
- Sink and bathtub stains
- Frequent clogs in pipes or appliance water supply tubes
If you notice any of the above signs, your current system is not keeping up with your daily household needs. You will want to set your unit to regenerate more often or purchase a more efficient one with a higher grain rating.
Purchasing one with a higher grain rating will be more expensive as an initial investment, but it will last for 15 years or more. The comfort and efficiency of a better option will be worth the initial cost in the long run.
Regenerating more often just uses more water and requires more frequent salt fill-ups.
Another thing these product are rated by is the flow rate, or the number of gallons they can supply per minute. Larger, busier households will need a larger flow rate than smaller ones. Estimate the usage for your peak periods of use to determine your required flow rate.
If our family of four from above has a peak period of water usage in the morning as everyone is getting ready for work and school, they might need a flow rate of 6-8 gallons per minute. That supply rate would allow two people to take a shower while someone else was using the kitchen sink to make breakfast and coffee.
A flow rate of 4 gallons per minute would allow one person to run the dishwasher, a washing machine, and a sink at the same time.
To ensure that you always have enough softened water, choose a product that can supply a minimum of 4 gallons per minute. Add 1-2 gallons for every additional person after the first.
- 4 gallons per minute for 1 person
- 5 GPM for 2 people
- 6 GPM for 3 people
- 7 GPM for 4 people
Note: Some softeners, such as electronic, magnetic, or filter systems do not affect the flow rate of your home’s water supply.
Water Softening Technology Options and Pricing
There are many types of options our there. Here is a brief description of how each one works and the reasons why you might want them, along with the price of our favorite models in each category. See our more complete evaluation of each model in the next section.
These appliances use resin beads to filter incoming water and then regenerate the resin with salt or potassium. They are still the most effective at removing mineral grains and come in a variety of grain filtering capacities. The following options are all resin and salt-based.
- Single-tank downflow: The standard. The Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000 Grain costs less than $600.
- Single-tank upflow: More efficient. The Fleck 5600 SXT 48,000 Grain with Upflow Carbon Filtration is available for less than $1100.
- Alternating twin tanks: Ensure 24/7 soft water for busier homes. The Fleck 9100 SXT 64,000 Grain is priced less than $950.
- Compact combinations: The resin and salt tanks are combined into one unit for smaller homes. GE, Morton, WaterBoss, and Whirlpool all have high-quality options ranging from approximately $450-660.
Electronic and Magnetic
Both of these solutions function by magnetizing the water passing through your water supply types. Electronic systems send an electromagnetic wave through the water. Magnetic systems rely on magnets changing the physical properties of the passing water.
Neither removes the mineral grains from your water. Instead, they keep the grains suspended in water so that they pass back out through your drainage system without clinging to pipes or other materials. Electronic and magnetic softening systems are suitable for homes with pre-treated city water or as additions to conventional softeners.
These salt-free solutions are small and easy to install on the outside of your pipes. They include the following types.
- Electronic: Plugs into a standard 110-volt The Eddy Water Descaler is available for less than $200.
- Magnetic: Does not use electricity. The Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo costs less than $110.
These options alter the physical properties of the minerals in your water, transforming them into crystals, or coat them in a poly-phosphate so that they pass cleanly through your pipes, appliances, and drains. Full filters will also remove chlorine and chloramines from city water as well as herbicides, pesticides, bacteria, and viruses from well water.
We recommend most filter systems for homes on city water. By removing chlorine, they will help you get softer skin and hair, while also conditioning your water for any remaining mineral grains.
Filter systems include the following.
- Crystalizing: The Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener costs less than $1400 and is a full-system filter.
- Coating: The Hard Water Bullet Triple Action Poly Salt-Free is available for less than $460 as hard water filter only.