So you’re considering stepping up your water game.
Perhaps you’ve been considering an improvement in your humble abode’s water supply with a water softener system, but aren’t sure where to start.
The fact that you’ve somehow stumbled across this website is a sign you’re on the right path to softer adn cleaner water.
Anyhow, we’ll break it down to the nitty-gritty here in no time to prepare you to take the next step to have your water supply as pure as pure can be.
First things first..
What’s a water softener system?
It’s a system that reduces the hardness of water by removing hard minerals like calcium and magnesium with an ion exchange process.
The system does this by filtering water through resin, or zeolite (a substance that’s covered with positively charged sodium ions). When water travels through this, the resin transfers its sodium ions with the calcium and magnesium ions, resulting in soft water.
In short, this magical machine transmutes hard water (or grain water) into soft water.
What’s the difference between hard water and soft water?
Most commonly, if your water contains a minimum of 60 mg of dissolved calcium and/or magnesium, it’s considered to be “hard.” These are the two most encountered minerals in water supplies that make water “hard.” This happens because groundwater dissolves rocks like limestone, or metals such as iron which travel with the water up the pipe and out of your faucet. Other than calcium and magnesium, other minerals may be found in the water that makes it hard, too.
What are the downsides of hard water?
-Damages water pipes and household appliances via limescale buildup (wreaks havoc by clogging/causing leaks)
-Causes irritation to the skin
-High pH and mineral content dryness, itchiness, clogged pores, and acne on the skin, potentially later leading to dermatitis and eczema
-Stains remain on tiles, vehicles, showerheads, bathtubs, and toilet bowl because hard minerals stick to these surfaces
How does a water softener make the water soft?
Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to remove calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese, replacing these minerals with sodium ions.
Signs you need a Water Softener System
-A thin layer of white on your skin post-shower
-Water flow decreases over time
-Clothes that quickly fade or that start to turn yellow after a few washes
-If you see a cakey mineral layer at the bottom of your water boiler
-If you see films of residue on your mirrors or glass appliances after cleaning
-A clogged showerhead
You can get a testing kit or a total dissolved solids meter to determine if your water is hard or soft. High mineral concentration in the water is a problem in over half of the United States, so the odds are 50/50 you’ll need one.
Or, you can check out stats online about the likelihood of hard water running through the pipes in your area.
Or, you could even mail a sample of your water to a professional laboratory for a complete report.
Benefits of a Water Softener System
-Your drinking water and whole house water supply will have less toxic minerals in it
-Prevents limescale buildup (which preserves your sewer systems life due to a reduction in water pressure post limescale-removal)
-Provides you with softer feeling clothes fresh out of the washer
-Results in healthier skin and hair
-Saves money on soap because it lathers quicker with a water softener system
-Ensures your appliances that use water will last a long time and remain residue-free
-Reduces energy usage by 25%, which also helps preserve the planet
– If you filter drinking water from your tap, your drinking water will have minerals in less toxic amounts
What are the different types of water softener systems?
1.Reverse Osmosis Systems:
This type of system uses pressure to push hard water through a special membrane that eliminates impurities in the water.
It works by filling a tank with soft water and then the machine shuts off until more liquid is required.
Unfortunately, this method also removes the beneficial minerals in the water, but it’s inexpensive and cheap to run – you can always add your own minerals
*A reverse osmosis system is considered to be more of a water filter rather than a water softener.
These types of systems are effective, but aren’t quite as effective as salt based systems.
This low-cost and environmentally friendly method is a complex process that involves two things –
1. Existing scale and matter build up in your pipe are removed.
2. The water atoms structure is changed in a way which significantly minimizes the hardness of the liquid.
*This is a great option if your tap drinking water is not super hard.
*The downfall with this one is that it doesn’t eliminate all hardness – it’s not suitable for water over 8GPGs in hardness.
3. Magnetic Systems
This inexpensive process functions by magnets being placed around your pipes, and magnetic fields, in turn, softening your water.
The hardness of the water becomes paralyzed for up to 48 hours, however, after this, it reverts back to hard water after this amount of time.
Magnetic systems are recommended for medium to low water hardness.
4. Salt Based Systems
This is the most effective of the water softener systems.
The salt based system works by exchanging hard water ions for soft water ions.
The salt water ions are sodium, or salt ions, so you need to have a salt chamber, or a brine tank (which should be top facing up for the system to work). This choice isn’t the most recommended for drinking water due to the high amounts of sodium, though you could still use this system and then tape off one or two faucets to reserve for drinking and cooking.
Know that the best performing systems of this sort are designed by Fleck.
-These types of systems do require a certain amount of regeneration after the hard water ions build up after time in the chamber and need to be cleaned out
-These machines are normally larger in size, and will reduce water hardness by 200%.
How to determine what size water softener system you need
First, determine the hardness of your water by purchasing a water softener testing kit, or you can call a plumbing company to assess this number.
The hardness of water is measured in grains per gallon, or GPG. On average this ranges between 3 and 20 grains within the States, with 3 being very soft and 20 being very hard.
The general GPG in the U.S. is 10.
Next, you’ll want to decipher the average water usage of your family in gallons, and then determine the number of water grains you’d need to remove each week.
Lastly, its time to find the water softener capacity according to these numbers. Typical capacity sizes of water softener systems range from 15,000 to 100,000.
Remember to make sure that your hard liquid grains to be removed doesn’t exceed your water softener capacity – this is to ensure regeneration doesn’t happen more than once a week.
As an example, a 24,000 capacity water softener would work well for 22,240 grains per week, but it’d still be acceptable to go up to a 32,000 capacity one. You never know when you’ll have company over for an extended stay that will be using more water than usual, so going with a capacity a little bit larger than what you think you need may serve you well in the long run.
Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the best water softeners on the market today:
6. Aquasana 1,000,000 Gallon Rhino Water Softening System
Aquasana 1 million gallon Rhino Water Softening System is a salt-free water softener that has a special combination of a mechanical prefilter and two chemical filters, which together form a best water conditioning solution for your residence.
This system uses many filters to take out algae, bacteria, and superfluous minerals from the water. The prefilter cartridge, in particular, helps extract rust and silt particles from the water.
When it comes to the amount of hard water this system can treat, you’ll have to do the old “trial and error,” as this company hasn’t designated any specific guidelines, but it’s safe to say that this machine will filter 1,000,000 gallons of water.
Once the hard water has been treated, the water passes through a chemical filter that’s a copper-zinc media bed, which will remove anything that hinders the growth of algae and bacteria. It then passes through an activated carbon media filter that removes organic chemical compounds.
With the Aquasan, you have the option of buying a post filter, which gets those .35 microns that other filters don’t get, or a UV filter, which helps reduce bacteria and viruses. Know that the UV filter does run on electricity, so if you’re pinching pennies, this filter might not be necessary.
This grain water softener is easy to install, and neither drains nor electrical connections are required.
If your house is less than 3,500 square feet, this system will do the trick as far as capacity size goes.
The prefilter should be changed four times a year, so consider making a mental note to change it at the beginning of each season. Filtering up to a million gallons of water, the Aquasan Rhino should last about a decade.
This water softener system removes 97% of chlorine, and also lead and mercury, resulting in yummy tasting water, too.
Also, note the water output is seven gallons per minute.
You’ll be happy to know that no maintenance beyond filter changes is needed for this one.
*Why we love it:
-Its enormous 1,000,000 gallon capacity
5. Aquios FS-220 Salt-Free Water Softener
The Aquios FS-220 Salt-Free Water Softener does an exceptional performance in getting rid of that icky hard water that may be lurking in your home’s pipes.
One of the water softeners out there that’s smallest in size, this masterpiece would be ideal if you have a small house with not much storage space.
This economical softener system features salt-free water and also has a carbon filter to eliminate extra contaminants such as chloramine and other particles.
With this option, you’re able to notice the water will be softer and actually taste cleaner. It’s fulfilling to actually taste the difference and know that the water you’re drinking is clean.
The Aquios comes with a mounting bracket and the inlets are 3/4 of an inch, so you may need to purchase more, depending on the size of your pipes.
Note the filters should be replaced from time to time – Just keep an eye on them and look for the hard water warning signs we’ve already listed above. That’s how you’ll know when to change them.
Also, if you have a heavier than normal water flow throughout your residence, this system may not be the best choice, per what reviewers have to say.
This grain water softener is also waterproof, so you can install it outside if you so desire.
Overall, this one is simple to install and upkeep, and is hassle-free.
*Why we love it:
-Great value for the money
4. Bullet Poly Triple Action Water Softener
One of the grain water softener systems that’s renowned for its compact size, practicality, and for being a high-quality product that you can trust, the Bullet Poly Triple Action Water Softener is an excellent choice if you want the best quality water.
This filtration system is salt-free, which means it has neither resin nor cubic feet calculation.
Moreover, the Bullet Poly is waterproof and can be installed in nearly any place you can imagine.
If you’re eliminating chemicals from your life, this option comes with a BPA-free plastic body, so your mind can rest in peace knowing it’s getting nourished with the best water. It also comes with replaceable media, in addition to a mounting bracket.
This whole house water softener totally removes calcium carbonate and minimizes limescale, though it doesn’t take out iron or chloramine. Consider which chemicals and minerals might be more of a concern in the area of the world in which you live.
Note you may need to purchase an extra as the inlet has a 1-inch diameter.
This company assures you this product will last at least five years, so it’s an investment in yourself for the next half decade, seeing as how a key factor of supreme health is intaking pure water.
*Why we love it:
-Simple and compact design, and delivers all it promises
3. Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener
One of the water softeners that’s highly effective, the Pelican Salt-Free water softener offers a 99.6% scale reduced will give you unbeatable drinking water quality.
This water filtration system is NSF and DVGW certified to prevent 99.6% of scale buildup. Plus, it’s been awarded a gold seal from WQA for structural integrity and material safety.
The Pelican includes a fine pre-filter that can remove sand, dust, rust sediment down to the size of 5 microns..that’s teeny tiny! And what’s more – it can filter unlimited gallons of water!
This whole house water system comes with a mounting kit and wrench with a male npt, rings, and connect nuts, which is practically everything you need to get it up and working. Oh, and installation is a one-man job that’s easy to do yourself.
This water filter can seem a little expensive at first, but it comes with a lifetime warranty. So, just think of it as a lifelong present to yourself.
Note that this is easy to maintain if you don’t have much spare time to devote to upkeeping your appliances.
This runs between $1400 and $1600 on the Pelican site.
*Why we love it:
-This has a powerful fine pre-filter that removes that microscopic gunk
2. Pentair 5600SXT-48k-10 Water Softener
This grain water softener by Pentair 5600SXT-48k-10 is a complete system with a brine tank, mineral tank, and a valve with bypass and yoke that will make the water running through your house’s pipes next to crystal clear.
With a grain capacity of 48,000 grains, an average sized brine tank, a 1.5 cubic foot commercial standard 10% resin, and a control system that’s easy to figure out.
This model is touted for its sheer effectiveness, is easy to use and install, and is a water filter that you can count on to last.
A feature of this filtration system is that it has a 10% crosslink resin. For perspective, this will last up to three years longer than a resin made from 8% resin.
Also, this softener system is more resistant to chlorine in city sink water, so if that’s an issue where you live, consider this option.
The Pentair 5600SXT has been certified to NSF standards, and is proven to eliminate hard water minerals from your water.
This choice has a small LCD digital screen that shows your systems current status for quick viewing. Not to fret- it’s not rocket science to figure it out! If you know how to turn on a light switch, odds are you can manage this.
A feature of this softener system choice is its on-demand metered system that can regenerate following a pre-set time cycle. This metered system measures the amount of water used in your household with a meter and restores itself when it reaches maximum capacity…In the long run, this can save you lots on water, salt, and electricity
This one goes for $608.00 on Amazon.
*Why we love it:
-It’s very effective and offered at an affordable price
1. Fleck 5600SXT Iron Pro 2 Water Softener
The Fleck 5600SXT Iron Pro is a best water softener system that’s ideal for someone that has a home inundated by iron.
This water filtration system boasts a digital water softener with touchpad controls, with the SXT being the latest controller from Fleck.
The Fleck 5600SXT has a strong grain capacity – it works for a single person or a large group of seven to eight. This choice comes with 5 different capacity options, ranging from 32,000 grains to 80,000 grains.
This monster of a machine can manage hardness up to the level of 85 gpg. Note: For water to be considered hard, it has to be at least 7 gpg. So, it puts in some work, to say the least.
If you have iron in your home, this is the ultimate in getting rid of it, especially if you have well water that’s been overrun with iron.
The Iron Pro removes manganese (black, slimy buildup) up to twenty parts per million, sediment, silt, and rust, while also removing both ferrous iron and ferric iron from water through ion exchange.
This option comes with a fine mesh resin, unlike other options, which lengthens the life of the softener system and supports maximum iron removal.
You can set the Fleck to regenerate itself automatically by either the amount of water used or by the amount of time.
The Iron Pro runs for $601.oo on Amazon.
If you have any concerns that arise, this one comes with a five-year warranty.
*Why we love it:
-Fights the most extreme of water hardness
How long will my water softener last?
On average, water softeners have a ten to fifteen-year lifespan, provided they are well taken care of during that time. Of course, this also depends on how often you use it.
When should you replace your water softener?
Now, if you’re softening water that is very hard, the machine is going to have to work harder to filter things out, thus will have to be replaced sooner. If you see that the water starts tasting a little out of the ordinary or notice that crusty buildup starts forming around the pipes, odds are you need a replacement. Also, one of the surefire ways to tell if you need to replace your softener is if your soap starts to not lather as well in the shower. No suds about it!
How do I go about choosing my water softener system?
Consider how many people live in your household and the grain size you’ll need. Go from there.
Where is a water softener system installed in the home?
Typically, a water system will be connected at the point of entry where water first enters your home.
What size water softener should I buy?
The capacity of a water softening system is expressed in grains, which highlight the number of grains in hard water that it can handle between recoveries
The higher the grain number, the higher the capacity of the system.
You should consider your household’s daily water usage, and also consider the hardness level of your water before you invest in one of the best hard water softener systems.
How am I able to decipher my water system’s capacity?
Step 1: Calculate the number of people that live in your residence.
Step 2: Multiply this number by the hardness (grains per gallon).
Step 3: Multiply the resulting number from Step 2 by the number of days between regeneration (shouldn’t be >3 days due to the smell of iron that will start to emerge).
And there you have it, your water system’s capacity number.
How much does a water softener system cost?
Typically, they range from $500 – $1500, though this number may vary depending on maintenance fees, capacity size, extra features, and installation costs.
How we Ranked
We considered the overall effectiveness in these water softeners abilities to transform hard water into soft water, the value for the price, the types of chemicals eliminated, ease of use, and what each choice comes with, accessory-wise.
Alternatives to Consider
-Reverse Osmosis System: minimizes toxic contaminants and improves the water taste
-Water Distiller: removes inorganic minerals, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants
-The normal water usage of one person per day is about eighty gallons.
-For your convenience, it’s ideal to invest in a water softener system that automatically switches to the regeneration cycle (If this isn’t consistently done, the resin won’t be able to soften the water.)
-If you’re on a low sodium diet, consider swapping sodium for potassium in your water softener.
-Determine if it’s worth your while to soften both your cold and hot water. If you’re on a budget, you might consider only softening the hot water, since it might cost less to just soften this.
In conclusion, whether you decide to go with the Iron Pro or the Fleck5600SXT, or decide to go with something different altogether and buy a reverse osmosis filter, you can’t go wrong with any of these options that eliminate hard water from your house water system.