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The Best Water Softeners

50% Off Select Filtration Systems

Kitchen faucet and pure waterA water softener system (or water conditioner) is the most effective type of whole house water filter to remove calcium and magnesium, the minerals that cause water to be “hard.”

The most obvious effect of hard water is the build-up of scale, or white limestone deposits on faucets, sinks, or in pipes and appliances.

There are even more problems caused by hard water that might surprise you listed below.

85% of people in the U.S. have hard water but only 30% of these people use a water softener system.

While hard water and the minerals that cause hardness are not unhealthy, they do cause problems for people who bathe in it, plumbing, and appliances.

There are considerable cost savings to softening your water and preventing the problems caused by hard water.

Our Recommendations

If you want to jump right into our recommended systems now, here are quick links to get more details, ask questions of the manufacturers, and purchase.

If not, keep reading to discover the secret world of water softeners, the powerful benefits you will get with your own system, and why you can trust our recommendations.

The Best Salt-free Water Conditioners

The Best Salt-Based Water Softeners

Why do you need a water softener?

If your water is moderately hard (3.5 GPG) or higher, then your home will benefit from a water softener.

Map of hard water in the US

High levels of calcium carbonate, magnesium, and iron are common in about 85% of all homes in the United States.

While not dangerous, hard water does cause the following issues:

Scale build-up

Scale is the crusty white build-up of hard minerals on faucets, in pipes, and in appliances.  Over time, this build-up can cause corrosion, decrease efficiency, and shorten the life of appliances.  It will also leave water spots on dishes and in showers.  If iron is also present in the water, scale can have a pink, orange, or red color.

Decreased appliance efficiency

Hard water requires more energy to heat and water-using appliances, like water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines are all less efficient when scale builds up on the heating elements.  Over time the additional wear decreases the lifespan of appliances by up to 50%.

Dry skin

Too many minerals in water can damage your skin leaving it dry and less healthy.  Hardness will strip skin of natural oils and can lead to clogged pores and a “squeaky” feeling on your skin after bathing.  People who suffer from psoriasis or eczema will often experience increased irritation.  Razor burn is more common.  Combine that with less effective soap and you have to work harder to clean, condition, and moisturize.

Dull/damaged hair

Hard water minerals build up on hair, making it feel dry, weighed down, and limp.  These minerals can combine with natural oils on your scalp and leave it feeling greasy, or possibly dry and flaky.  If you have an orange or green tint to your hair, it can be hard water combined with the chlorine in city water.  Hair color and highlights will fade more quickly.

Soap doesn’t lather

Soap is not able to properly lather in hard water, which means you use more soap and it doesn’t clean as effectively.  People say that soft water has more of a “slippery” feeling due to the lack of hard minerals.  Washing dishes and laundry requires considerably more soap.

Dull and stiff laundry

Hard water affects the ability of your washing machine to properly clean clothes.  Colors will be more dull and whites will be less white.  Towels feel hard and scratchy out of the laundry.  More detergent is needed to counter the effects of hard water.

Food and drink taste is affected

Hard water will change the taste of food cooked in water and drinks such as coffee.  Softer (treated) water will result in stronger, more pure flavors.

How does a water softener work?

There are two types of water softener systems:

  • Salt-based water softeners
  • Salt-free water conditioners

Although the two types work differently, they produce similar results and are often both referred to as “whole house water softeners.”

Salt-Based Water Softeners

Traditional salt-based water softeners use a process called ion exchange to turn hard water into soft water.  The minerals that cause hardness are trapped in a resin and then periodically flushed out during an automatic regeneration (cleaning) cycle.  The hard mineral ions are replaced with sodium ions from the salt you add to the system.

They are best for very hard water and require you to routinely replace the salt and to have an electrical connection to the system.  They also waste some water when running through the regeneration cycle.

Salt-Free Water Conditioners

Salt-Free or Saltless water softeners (also known as water conditioners) are a newer alternative that use a process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to convert the hard minerals in the water into crystals that cannot create scale build-up.  They don’t actually remove the hardness but change it into a different form.  Despite this difference, saltless systems are still often referred to as a type of water softener because they reduce or remove the effects of hard water.

These systems do not require any salt, maintenance, or electricity, which makes them much easier to manage than the traditional salt-based systems.

While saltless systems are better for people who are sensitive to extra salt in their diets and cost less to manage in the long run, they are not as effective if your water has a very high hardness level.  They are growing in popularity and are the only option available from some of the top vendors.

Regardless of whether you choose salt-based or salt-free systems, remember that these systems only filter out scale-producing minerals and some iron.  If there are any other contaminants in your water, you can combine a water softener with a whole house water filter, which is a more complete water purification system.  You could also install an undersink reverse osmosis system that will remove other contaminants and the sodium produced by your water softener before you drink or cook with it.

Salt-based vs Salt-Free Water Softeners

Salt-Based Softeners

Pros

  • Usually less expensive to purchase than salt-free conditioners
  • Best for heavy scale build-up and high hardness levels
  • Removes minerals and “softens” water, which leads to:
    • Soap lathering more and water feeling “slicker” when cleaning
    • Brighter colors in clothes after the laundry
    • Less dry skin and hair after bathing

Cons

  • Salt must be purchased and added at regular intervals with the system properly tuned to use salt efficiently
  • Weekly reconditioning or back-wash cleaning stage wastes some water
  • Small amounts of salt is added to the water, which may be a problem for people with high blood pressure or low-sodium dietary concerns
  • Uses electricity to operate
  • Lowers the pH of water and makes it more acidic (many consider higher pH/alkaline water to be healthier)
  • Even low salt levels in water may be bad for gardens and pets

Salt-free Conditioners

Pros

  • No salt means no ongoing salt purchases and no maintenance
  • More eco-friendly without flushing hardness down the drain with salt
  • Does not add salt to the water so there are no dietary concerns
  • Beneficial minerals in water are not removed
  • Salt-free water is better for gardens and pets
  • Does not require electricity
  • Does not lower the water pH and keeps it more alkaline, which is considered healthier

Cons

  • Costs a little more to purchase
  • Not as effective for very hard water
  • Does not actually remove hard minerals but changes the form so that they don’t bind or adhere to surfaces. Because of this:
    • There may not be a 100% reduction in scale
    • Soapy water may not feel as slick or create as much lather as salt-based systems
    • You may see an improvement in laundry colors but it depends on your water
    • Dry skin and hair can still occur from altered minerals in the water

Best Water Softener Reviews

Scale Before vs. After ComparisonsMany of our top recommendations for the best whole house filtration systems already come with a water softener or water conditioner as part of a complete water filtration package.  By combining the two types of systems, you multiply the benefits for cleaner, healthier water everywhere in your home.

If you are in a situation where you already have a water filter or only need a water softener to remove scale build-up and staining properties from hard water in your whole house, then read on for our recommendations for the best water softeners and salt-free water conditioners.

We only select those that are readily available, easy to research, and have reviews available from actual customers, so you know whether the system will work as you expect it to.

In the recommendations below, we have selected some of the most popular and best rated options.

When you visit the sites of these companies, you will find they often offer the systems in different sizes and with different options than the base options shown here.  Depending on the results of your water test, you may want or need to customize your filtration system for the best results.

All of these vendors offer free guidance on interpreting your water test results and selecting the best options for you and your family, so be sure to reach out to them if you are interested in their systems.

Salt-Free Water Softeners (Conditioners)

Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free Water Softeners

Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free Water Softener

Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free Water Softener

According to Pelican, the NaturSoft System is the only salt-free water softener certified 99.6% effective in preventing scale build-up using Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC).

Pelican Water is the market leader in salt-free water softening systems, and the NaturSoft Salt-Free Water Softener provides several benefits that include prolonging the lifespan and effectiveness of household appliances and providing your family and pets with better drinking water.

NaturSoft is virtually maintenance-free, eco-friendly, and easy to install.

The Pelican NaturSoft system comes ready to install with a sediment pre-filter, so you don’t need to hassle with an expensive installation process or costly long-term maintenance. Unlike a salt-based system, it requires no salt replacement and there is absolutely no operating cost, which saves you hundreds of dollars every year.

Finally, Pelican offers a 90-day money back guarantee and a limited lifetime warranty on tanks and parts.

Pelican NaturSoft Water Softener Info

SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener

SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener

SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener

The highly rated SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener provides 99.6% scale prevention without the use of chemicals or salt and ensures you have zero drop in water pressure throughout your home.

Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) converts the hardness-causing minerals in the water to hardness crystals that won’t stick to any surface in your home, keeping your appliances and hot water heaters free of hard water scale build up.

The FutureSoft water softener system was designed to use ActivFlo Technology.  It allows the system to operate at all flow rates and ensure you don’t have a major drop in water pressure.

SpringWell has also learned that pre-filtration is extremely important for salt free softening media, so it comes with a pre-filtration system that only needs annual filter replacement.

SpringWell FutureSoft Water Softener Info

Tier1 Eco Series Salt Free Water Softener

Tier1 Eco Series Salt Free Water Softener

Tier1 Eco Series Salt Free Water Softener

The Tier1 Eco series includes their high-quality saltless water softener/conditioner.

Instead of salt, the Tier1 Water Salt Free Softener utilizes Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), an innovative, environmentally friendly media technology. The system reduces sediment and scale without harsh chemicals or salt which reduces damage to your home’s piping and appliances.

In addition, the salt free system will not remove beneficial minerals from your water or release excess levels of salt into the water supply.

Most importantly, there is no expensive salt purchases and management!

Tier1 Eco Water Softener Info at Tier1 Tier1 Water Softener Info at Amazon

Aquasana Whole House Descaler System

Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner

Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner

The Aquasana Whole House Descaler System is a salt-free water conditioner that protects internal pipes and plumbing from scale build-up without the use of harsh chemicals or salt by reducing scale by up to 99.6%.

Scale Control Media (SCM) uses water flow to naturally alter the structure of hard mineral ions into a crystal structure that prevents the minerals from binding and forming scale build-up. SCM salt-free technology is proven to reduce scale on internal pipes and plumbing. Unlike salt-based softeners, Aquasana’s Salt-Free Water Conditioner will not demineralize your water, harm your pipes with harsh salt, or put excessive amounts of sodium waste into our communal water supply.

Click this ad for current promotions at Aquasana:

50% Off Select Filtration Systems

Aquasana Whole House Water Softener Info at Aquasana Aquasana Whole House Water Softener Info at Amazon

FilterWater Salt-Free Water Softener Anti-Scale System

FilterWater Salt-Free Water Softener Anti-Scale System

FilterWater Salt-Free Water Softener Anti-Scale System

This saltless system from FilterWater includes four stages of filtration made up of three 20” filter cartridges for pre and post filtration plus a large tank filled with anti-scale media.  In the four stages:

  • Stage 1: 20” sediment filter removes sediment, silt, sand, and dirt
  • Stage 2: Crystal Quest Eagle anti-scale media tank descales/conditions the water
  • Stage 3: 20” solid carbon cartridge removes VOCs, insecticides, pesticides, and industrial solvents
  • Stage 4: 20” Ultrafiltration (UF) membrane removes colloids, proteins, bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoa, and other organic molecules larger than 0.2 microns.

You effectively get whole house filtration in addition to the water conditioning in a single 2-in-1 package.

According to FilterWater, one of the benefits of their system is that it can remove existing scale deposits from pipes and heat exchange surfaces, in a process called descaling.  Once this process is complete, a protective layer forms inside of pipes that makes it harder for new scale to build up.

One of the great things about FilterWater is that they offer so many variations of water softener with additional filtration options.  You can get a combination of water softener with any of the following filters in a single system: whole house water filter, iron and manganese removal, acid neutralization, or arsenic removal.

FilterWater Water Softener Info

Salt-Based Water Softeners

Pelican Advantage Series Salt Water Softeners

Pelican Advantage Series Salt Water Softener

Pelican Advantage Series Salt Water Softener

Available in two capacities depending on the size of your house, the Pelican Advantage Series is a high-quality option.

Every Pelican system comes with:

  • Large tank size
  • High capacity resin (which traps the hardness)
  • High water flow rate
  • 7-Year limited lifetime warranty on the electronic head
  • Premium bypass valve included for easy maintenance
  • Easy-to-program premium 4-button pro series electronic head for quiet and efficient performance
  • Metered delayed backwash for minimal water waste so you only backwash when you need to!
  • Treated water regeneration – for optimum performance and cleaning

These systems get great reviews and will not disappoint.

Pelican Water Softener Info

SpringWell Salt Based Water Softener System

SpringWell Salt Based Water Softener System

SpringWell Salt Based Water Softener System

Advertised as one of the most reliable ion exchange softeners on the market, the SpringWell Salt Based Water Softener System helps you to use 40% less detergent, extend the life of your appliances, and see less spotting on hard surfaces.

SpringWell uses a state-of-the-art Fleck 5600 valve to manage the monitoring and control of the regeneration cycle. Fleck has set the standard when it comes to ion exchange technology. The 5600 is a workhorse in the industry for its quality and efficiency.

SpringWell has designed and packaged this efficient compact salt-based water softener at a great price!

SpringWell Water Softener Info

Tier1 Advanced Series 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener

Tier1 Advanced Series Water Softener

Tier1 Advanced Series Water Softener

With the Tier1 Advanced Series, the filter resin removes calcium, manganese, and hardness minerals from your water to reduce the effects of scale build up that can cause damage to your pipes and clothes as well as the early failure of your water using appliances.

This system features an easy to use LCD display control valve head which allows maneuverable setting and monitoring of important operational information.

Install it on its own or in combination with one of Tier1’s advance water filters.

Tier1 Water Softener Info at Tier1 Tier1 Water Softener Info at Amazon

FilterWater Whole House Water Softener System

FilterWater Whole House Water Softener System

FilterWater Whole House Water Softener System

Available in three sizes, the FilterWater salt-based whole house water softener system provides three stages of water filtration for purer water than you’d get with just a water softener.

In the three stages:

  • Stage 1: 20” sediment cartridge removes sediment, silt, sand, and dirt. This also prevents damage to control valves and extends the life of the water softening stage.
  • Stage 2: Ion exchange mineral tank containing Cation Resin Media and brine water tank
  • Stage 3: 20” solid carbon cartridge that removes VOCs, insecticides, pesticides, and industrial solvents

This system uses a Fleck 5600 automatic backwash controller with LED display.

FilterWater Water Softener Info

Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener

Fleck 5600sxt Metered On-demand 48,000 Grain Water Softener with brine tank, bypass and 1" adapters

This Fleck water softener is a very popular and well rated system on Amazon.com.

This Fleck digital on-demand system uses your choice of salts in a brine tank to soften water and remove the effects of hard water in your home.  It also comes with the same intelligent Fleck 5600SXT digital metered control box found in other systems in our recommendations.

The seller will provide support on installation and setup that people claim can be done without the help of a plumber.

The main tank comes pre-charged with resin, which also helps with setup.

When purchased through Aplus Water or AFWFilters, the reviews of the seller and support are very good.

Fleck 48,000 Grain Water Softener Info Fleck 64,000 Grain Water Softener Info

Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Softener

Whirlpool WHES30E 30,000 Grain Softener | Salt & Water Saving Technology | NSF Certified | Automatic Whole House Soft Water Regeneration, Off-White

While many of the most popular water softeners are larger grain (48,000 or 64,000), this model from Whirlpool is just 30,000 grain.

In our water softener sizing guide below, we suggest you over-size your water softener so that it doesn’t waste salt.  However, if you are in a smaller home, have a smaller family, or don’t use a lot of water, you may only need 30,000 grain capacity.

Good for well or city water, this Whirlpool model is automatic and uses demand-initiated regeneration to only self-clean as needed.  This saves you water and salt.

It is also rated to remove up to 8 ppm of iron, if present in your water.

Whirlpool has a helpline you can call with questions and the system comes with a self-installation kit that helps with DIY installs.

Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Softener Info

How to test for hard water

The best way to know exactly what is in your water is to get a professional water test.

By having your water professionally tested, you will get the exact list of what contaminants are in your water, the contamination levels, and where you should be concerned.  With this information, you can select the options that will provide the best water treatment.

You can either find a local company that does professional water testing or order a kit online that instructs you on how to take a sample and then send to a lab.  These DIY kits are quick, easy, and less effort than finding and hiring someone else to take the samples.

If you recently purchased your house, you may already have the results of a water test that was completed with your inspection.

If your water comes from a local city or municipal source, they should be able to provide necessary reports.

Here is a list of options where you can order a kit online, collect the necessary water samples yourself, and then send them back to a lab.

Tier1 Water Testing and Analysis Service

Tier1 City Water Testing Service

Tier1 City Water Testing Service

Tier1 will provide a prepaid return envelope with a test sample tube.  Once the sample is collected and sent back, they will diagnose the sample and return the test results to you in approximately 7 days.

The 7 tests in the City Water Service include: chlorine, hardness, copper, lead, nitrates, nitrites, and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)

The 11 tests in the Well Water Service include: hardness, copper, lead, nitrates, nitrites, and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), pH, iron, sulfides, bacteria, pesticides

With the results, Tier1 will include your suggested personalized water treatment product solution and their team of water experts is available every step of the process to assist and answer any questions you have.

Tier1 Water Testing Services
Tier1 City Water Testing Service

Tier1 City Water Testing Service

Tier1 Well Water Testing Service

Tier1 Well Water Testing Service

SpringWell WaterCheck with Optional Pesticides

WaterCheck Test Kit

SpringWell WaterCheck Test Kit

SpringWell has partnered with National Testing Laboratories to offer this 75 item water test with the option of adding an additional check for 20 common pesticides, herbicides, and PCBs.

The 75 tests include:

  • Bacteria (presence/absence of coliform and E. coli)
  • (15) Heavy metals and minerals (including lead, arsenic, uranium, and mercury)
  • (5) Other inorganic chemicals
  • (5) Physical characteristics (including pH, Total Dissolved Solids and Hardness)
  • (4) Trihalomethanes (THMs)
  • (44) Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)
  • Optional: (20) Pesticides, herbicides, and PCBs
SpringWell WaterCheck Test Info

FilterWater WaterCheck with Optional Pesticides

FilterWater has partnered with National Testing Laboratories to offer this 83 item water test with the option of adding an additional check for 20 common pesticides, herbicides, and PCBs.

The 83 tests include:

  • Bacteria (presence/absence of coliform and E. coli)
  • (19) Heavy metals and minerals (including lead, arsenic, uranium, and mercury)
  • (6) Other inorganic chemicals
  • (5) Physical characteristics (including pH, Total Dissolved Solids and Hardness)
  • (4) Trihalomethanes (THMs)
  • (47) Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)

You can add an additional 20 tests for pesticides, herbicides, and PCBs if you want an even more complete result.

FilterWater Water Testing Services
WaterCheck Test Kit

FilterWater WaterCheck Test Kit

WaterCheck Test Kit

FilterWater WaterCheck with Pesticides Test Kit

DIY Water Hardness Tests

Total Water Hardness Test for Pool, Aquarium, and Drinking Water, and Improving Water Softener Efficiency

If you just want to test for hardness and nothing else, you can do it yourself with any of these simple tests:

How to size a water softener

You will need the measure of your water hardness in either GPG (grains per gallon) or mg/L (milligrams per liter) to properly size and select a water softener.  If there is also lead in the water, you must adjust the hardness value by adding 3 GPG of hardness for every 1 mg/L of iron.

The hardness and iron levels can be found by performing a water test, which is highly recommended.  Only by having your water tested, will you know exactly what is in your water, what is a concern, and what types of filters will solve the problem.

The other information you will need is your daily household water consumption.  If you are on city water, your bill should show your monthly usage that you can divide by 30 to find your average daily consumption.  If you don’t have a water bill, you can get a good estimate by multiplying the number of people living in your home by 75.

To calculate your daily softening requirement, multiply your average daily water use by your water hardness (corrected for iron, if necessary).  This will show you how many grains per day your softener will have to remove.

For example:

15 grains per gallon hardness x 4 people x 75 gallons per day = 4,500 grains per day

To select a suitable water softener, you also need to figure out how many grains will be removed between regeneration cycles.  Water softeners are generally sized so that they regenerate (or self-clean) about once a week.

In our example above, 4,500 grains per day x 7 days = 31,500 grains of total softening capacity needed.

Water softeners are often sized based on this average weekly grain softening capacity and you will see 32,000, 48,000, and 64,000 grain options to cover different home/family sizes.

The other way that water softeners are sized is by cubic feet (cu. ft.) of resin.  You can see how grains compares to cu. ft. in the following table:

Grains Cubic Feet (cu. ft.)
32,000 1 cu. ft.
48,000 1.5 cu. ft.
64,000 2 cu. ft.

For the best efficiency, you should always get a water softener larger than your requirements because it will take less salt to regenerate.  This will save you money on salt over the long run.

Water Softener Installation

When you decide it’s time to improve the quality of your water and protect your home from the problems of hard water, you have several choices:

  1. You can call a plumber and have them provide the system and install it. This requires the least effort but does not provide you with any choice about what hardware is installed, if it is well-rated, or if you would have chosen it yourself.
  2. You could also go and pick out a system at Home Depot, Lowes, or Costco and either have it installed or install it yourself. Again, you are very limited to the brands and features the store will offer and may not get the best options or a system that is well-rated.
  3. The best option is to use the information on this page and the knowledge you gain to pick the best system from those we have already researched and recommend here.

By picking something that is popular, well-rated, and already researched and recommended, you can be sure you are picking an option you are comfortable with.

As a bonus, you are often getting a better system at a better price since there is much more competition online.

Once you have selected the best system from the options here and placed an order, you still have to install it.

You can either hire a plumber and have them set it up or if you are comfortable with some simple plumbing, most of these systems can be installed by someone with DIY skills.  Many of the systems recommended here even come with DIY installation instructions!

Water Softener Terms and FAQ

What is hard water?

Hard water refers to water that has a high concentration of the minerals calcium and magnesium.  These minerals are not dangerous to drink but they will build up over time in faucets, pipes, and appliances in the form of white “scale” deposits.  Hard water will also prevent soap from foaming properly and dry out skin and hair.

Hard water scale

  • Soft water: Less than 1 Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
  • Slightly hard water: 1-3.5 Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
  • Moderately hard water: 3.5 – 7 Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
    • May cause spotty dishes and dry skin
  • Hard water: 7 – 10.5 Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
    • Some crusty limestone build-up on faucets and pipes, with possible reddish iron staining
  • Very hard water: 10.5 – 15 Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
    • All of the signs of hard water are present
  • Extremely hard water: 15+ Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
    • All of the signs and some may be severe

What is soft water?

Soft water is water that has low concentrations of minerals such as calcium and magnesium.  While most water in the U.S. is hard, soft water is most often achieved by installing a water softener or water conditioner that changes or removes these minerals.

Grains

Water test results will be reported in either GPG (grains per gallon) or mg/L (milligrams per liter).  Grains per gallon is the industry-standard method to report water hardness.  A “grain” of water hardness is equal to 1/7000th of a pound.  You can divide mg/L by 17.1 to convert it to GPG.

How does a water softener work?

A salt-based water softener uses ion-exchange resins to remove hard calcium and magnesium from the water and replaces it with sodium ions from salt.

Salt-free (or saltless) water conditioners use a ceramic media to attract and neutralize the hard minerals in the water so that they can’t bind together to form scale or to other surfaces.

Water softener capacity

Water softeners are measured by grain capacity, gallons, or cubic feet.  See our section on how to size a water softener for more info.

Water softener resin

Water softeners have a tank of resin beads that filter the water.  Hard minerals break down and are attracted to the resin where they stick until they are later removed by the salt regeneration process.  Resin does not need to be replenished often like the salt, but if your system is not working as it should over time, it may need to be replaced or serviced.

Water softener salt

Salt-based water softeners use a tank of salt pellets (sodium chloride or potassium chloride) to clean the system and flush out hard minerals.  Since a small amount of salt ends up in the filtered water and some people are sensitive to high sodium levels, they may prefer to use potassium chloride in their system instead.  Potassium chloride is more expensive than sodium chloride but does not contain sodium.

Water softener brine

Water softeners have a brine tank that holds the sodium or potassium chloride salt pellets.  When it’s time for the water softener to regenerate (or self-clean), salty water from the brine tank fills the system and cleans the mineral deposits from the resin beads.

Regeneration

Regeneration is the self-cleaning or recharging process of a salt-based water softener.  Usually scheduled for once a week, the system will wash the resin chamber with salty water from the brine tank.  The process takes 1-2 hours and then cleaning water will be flushed down the drain and the system will return to normal processing.  During regeneration, the system can’t process water and a bypass valve allows unfiltered water to flow to the house.  Regeneration can be a manual process or automated, with the help of an electronic head.

Timer-based regeneration

These water softeners regenerate on a schedule that you will set but these aren’t the most efficient. If you underestimate your water usage, the softener will regenerate too infrequently, leaving you with hard water at certain times. Overestimating your water use will result in unnecessary regeneration that wastes energy and water.

Demand-initiated regeneration

This is the best if you want an efficient system. Sensors monitor water usage and when the resin is full of hardness minerals, the system regenerates on its own. This type of softener works on an as-needed basis, and some advanced models can learn your water use patterns to further optimize regeneration frequency.

Electronic head

The “head” is the control box mounted on top of a salt-based water softener.  Its job is to monitor the state of system and manage the regeneration process that must occur to backwash the system and flush out the accumulated minerals.  In better systems, it also manages the bypass valve, which allows the system to continue working even during the regeneration process.

Bypass valve

In a salt-based water softener, a bypass valve controls the flow of water and allows the system to still supply water to your house even if the system is working through a regeneration cycle.  The bypass value can be manual or ideally, electronic and automatic so you don’t have to be involved.

What is GPD?

GPD stands for “gallons per day.”  Water filters are often rated based on how many gallons they can filter per day in ideal conditions.  While not perfect, it is a good way to compare the throughput of competing systems.

Filtration stages

The “stages” of a water filtration system refer to the number of different filters water passes through before it is considered clean.  No one filter type removes everything well, so separate stages work together to remove multiple contaminants.

KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion)

Filtration media made of a copper-zinc formulation blend that is highly effective at reducing chlorine, lead, mercury, iron, and hydrogen sulfide from water.  KDF is inorganic and 100% recyclable.

Trusted Brands of Water Softeners

We have done the research, written these water filter reviews, and provided recommendations of the best whole-house water filter options.

The following brands are the best available and provide great products that are popular, proven, and well-rated.

In addition to the information here, check out these manufacturers for even more information and specific help with selecting the best filtration system for your home.

Most of them have free pre-purchase support agents to help guide you through the process of finding the best water filter options that will protect your family from the contaminants in your water.

Pelican Water Systems

Pelican Water is a well-known brand and reliable source for water filtration systems.  Their goal is to provide products that are high quality, cost-effective, eco-friendly, healthy, and easy to use.  Systems can be ordered with a DIY install kit and are they provide a no-hassle return policy, lifetime warranties, free shipping, 100% satisfaction guarantee, and water specialists available to provide expert support throughout the research and buying process.

Pelican offers products across the whole range of water filter possibilities, including:

SpringWell Water

SpringWell Water has been designing, building, and packaging their products in their Central Florida facility for more than 20 years.  They strive to ensure the best possible product for all customers and back it with an industry-leading 6-month money back guarantee.

SpringWell focuses on:

Aquasana

Aquasana believes that water is essential for life.  They are committed to staying at the forefront of water filtration engineering and innovation at their headquarters and operations facility in Texas, USA.

Their products span many types of filters including:

Tier1 Water

Tier1 Water is a U.S. based manufacturer of water and air filtration products and services.  They pride themselves on the support they offer before, during, and after you purchase a system, make it easy to order online, and can even help with installation, if needed.

Check out the Tier1 water resources pages for information, guides, and common water issues.

Tier1 offers products for:

FilterWater

FilterWater has the goal to provide clean drinking water, the best overall customer experience, and promote healthy lifestyle and clean water supply.  Their commercial systems are very popular and installed in an impressive list of government offices, schools, and businesses.

FilterWater offers both residential and commercial water filtration systems, many of which are made by Crystal Quest:

Conclusion

85% of American households have hard water, which means you are likely to be affected by these problems:

  • Scale build-up
  • Decreased efficiency and life of appliances
  • Dry skin
  • Dull/damaged hair
  • Soap that doesn’t lather or clean as well
  • Dull and stiff laundry
  • Less flavor in food and drinks
  • Money wasted on replacing appliances too often, buying extra detergent, or more skin and hair care products

When you add it all up, lots of money is spent every year to deal with these problems that are hiding in your water!

When you invest in a water softener for your home, you not only reverse the effects of these frustrating problems, but quickly pay for the new water softener with the savings you get by not dealing with these problems going forward.

Please share if this is helpful!