Are you searching for the best water softener? Read our unbiased unit reviews and extensive guide to discover the right softener for your needs.
Top 5 Best Water Softeners – Water Softener Reviews
When in need of soft water while on the move, then a portable water softener is the way to go. The Watts RV pro-1000 is a portable unit that you can bring with you during camping trips, when traveling in an RV or to a car wash site. This compact system is a manual ion-exchange system, so it does not auto regenerate. Its resin capacity is 10,000 grains and the high flow rate of the Watts Pro RV-1000 allows users to enjoy up to 4 gallons of soft water per minute.
A full cradle base improves stability of the water softener while in transit. This unit comes with test strips as well, which you can use to check the level of hardness in water supply before and after softening. This Watts Water Technologies softener is designed to provide many years of efficient service and the manufacturer even offers a 10-year warranty.
- Portable and easy to transport
- Lightweight and compact design
- Attractive 10-year warranty
- Built in flow valve facilitates regeneration of salt without cutting off water supply
- Ideal only for small applications
- Non-rotating hose fitting can cause problems when working with a long hosec
When it comes to whole house water softeners, Fleck is one of the best brands on the market. Their 5600SXT series is a salt-based system, which comes with a brine tank that holds about 4 bags. The main unit has a digital screen and metered control panel for tracking water usage and automatically flushing the resin beads.
To use this system, you have to program it after installation. This involves entering details such as the softener grain capacity, total water usage for the entire household per day and water hardness. The machine’s digital meter does all the work when it comes to regeneration, so you only have to worry about replacing the salt mass.
The electronic control panel on this unit uses 24volts but it has a built-in power backup capacitor in case of electricity outages. Its flow rate is 12GPM, which allows a consumption of about 2.7GPM. Although the system reviewed here has a capacity of 48,000 grains, the Fleck 5600SXT has other size options starting from 16,000 grains to as high as 64,000 grains. The controller and brine tank are also backed by 5 and 10-year warranties respectively.
- Available in different grain sizes and color options
- Automated metered regeneration
- Easy to use digital display and control panel
- Brine tank is made of durable polyglass material
- Backed by long multi-year warranty
- Salt for the brine tank is not included
Model #3: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
For those who don’t want to use a salt-based water softener, the Eddy Magnetic descaler is a good option. As the name implies, this unit uses magnets to soften hard water. This system does not remove hard mineral ions from water. Instead, the magnetic field created by two coils clipped onto the main inlet pipe distorts adhesion properties of hard minerals. Therefore, you end up with hard water that won’t cause lime scale buildup along plumbing fixtures and appliances while retaining healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium.
This 110V electronic water softener only uses 5 Watts of power. The best part is that it works on plastic, iron, or copper pipes.
- Fast and easy installation
- Inexpensive to buy and maintain (no need to continuously buy salt as with ion-exchange systems)
- Drinking water ends up tasting better and retains healthy minerals
- Small and compact
- Effective at softening water
- Backed by lifetime replacement and repair warranty
- Environmentally friendly since no brine waste water is produced as with salt-based softeners
- The only catch with this magnetic descaler is that hard minerals regain adhesion properties after 48hours. Therefore, it is a good choice for households that use water continuously. When away from home for more than 2 days, it would be best to shut off the water supply and drain the water heater.
- Ineffective on lead pipes, which can be found in old homes
The 48,000 grains Iron Pro Fleck 5600SXT water softener is a whole house system designed for families of 2-5 people with 2 or 3 baths. It has most of the features we have come to expect from the Fleck 5600SXT series such as the metered digital control head, a bypass valve, and multi colored brine tank (measuring 10”x 54”). Buyers also get a 5-year warranty on the control valve and components along with a 10-year warranty for the tank.
However, this particular model has one unique advantage over its counterpart, the Fleck 5600SXT whole house softener. The Iron Pro is designed to remove more Ferrous Iron from hard water. Its fine mesh resin attracts more iron in the range of 6-8 p.p.m. The result is soft water that causes no red staining from high levels of dissolved Iron.
- Better Iron removal from hard water
- Digital meter facilitates self-regulating resin regeneration
- Easy to operate
- Comes with warranty for the tank and control head
- Weighing about 150 pounds in weight, this water softener requires more than one person to help install it
Aptly named, On the Go (OTG-4) water softener is a portable unit designed to use in an RV or while traveling. It is similar to the previously reviewed Watts Pro-RV-1000. In contrast, this particular ion-exchange water softener has a lower grain capacity of 8,000 and features the integrated carry handled attached at the top. It also comes with hardness test strips.
This manual ion-exchange water softener features a 15-minute regeneration time. The unit can soften 320 to 800 gallons of water in between re-generations. You can use regular salt or potassium chloride to remove hard minerals with the OTG-4 StdSoft water softener. Its large wide-mouth design makes pouring salt into the tank easier and mess free. Only one box of common table salt is required to fill the brine tank.
- Large top opening for easy salt refilling
- Carry handle facilitates easy lifting and transportation
- Swiveling hose fitting makes it easy to use long pipes
- Slightly heavier than other portable water softeners
- OTG could have done better on the warranty. They only offer 1 and 5-year warranties for the head and tank respectively.
What to Look for in Water Softeners?
Hard water can cause problems in many ways since it has an excess of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. When heated, these minerals re-crystallize and form lime scale that builds up on interior surfaces of water appliances. This in turn makes water heaters, coffee makers and even dishwashers less efficient and more prone to malfunctioning. What’s more, it becomes difficult to create lather from soaps and detergents when using hard water. Mineral buildup from hard water may cause staining problems as well. For instance, it forms scum on tiles and bathtub rings that prove difficult to rinse away. In addition, cookware can get stained due to scale and soap curd when cleaned with hard water.
The good news is that water softeners prevent lime scale from building up. They can increase the lifespan of hot water-heating appliances, prevent staining problems, and help soaps to clean or lather more efficiently. In some cases, people with eczema or those who are more prone to rashes experience improved conditions since soft water does not change the skin’s pH and cause soap to clog pores. All of these benefits combined end up saving money, which makes water-softening fixtures worth buying.
The process of solving hard water problems begins with choosing a reliable water softener. There are plenty of systems on the market and buying the best water softener requires a little due diligence. With that in mind, take a few minutes to read the following buying guide before comparing different models. For those who already know what to look for in a water softener, simply jump to the top 5 models reviewed in this post and compare features along with other important factors. First though, here is a detailed buying guide on what to consider when shopping for water softeners.
Determine the Level of Water Hardness
Level of hardness is one of the factors taken into account when sizing up a water softener. Therefore, it is important to test water hardness even before going out to shop for a unit. There are different ways to go about finding out the hardness rating in your water supply. In some states, local utility companies publish water hardness ratings on their websites where such information can be obtained. Alternatively, consider hiring a professional to test your water for hardness. There are also water-hardness test kits for those who want to take on a DIY approach instead.
Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that water hardness is usually measured in grains per gallon (GPG). One grain per gallon is equivalent to 17.1 parts per million (P.P.M). If hardness ratings are provided in milligrams per liter, simply divide those values with 17.1 to convert them to grains per gallon.
Determine the Capacity of Your Water Softener
Water softeners come in different sizes. And, we are not talking about physical size in this case but rather the capacity for removing hardness without frequent regeneration. Capacity ratings for water softeners are usually measured by the number of grains of hardness that these units can remove before requiring a recharge. Once you know how many grains a specific water softener can remove between re-generations, it becomes easy to establish whether it will meet the demands of your household.
For instance, let’s assume you are considering a water softener with a rating of 32, 000 grains to serve a family of four. While trying to determine whether this capacity will be sufficient, the first step is multiplying the number of people in your household with the average number of water that each person uses per day (which is usually estimated to be 80-gallons, so 80-gallons x 4-people = 320-gallons). Next, multiply that number with the grains per gallon hardness rating for your water supply. If for example your water supply has a hardness of 10GPG, this would mean that 320 gallons used daily multiplied by 10 = 3200-grains removed each day by the appliance. This would mean that a 32,000 grain water softener could last 10 days (or at least a week) before requiring regeneration.
Types of Water Softeners
It is important to point out that there are different types of water softeners. The first kind, ion-exchangers, should be sized as described above. These types of water softeners are usually stocked with salt (sodium chloride) or potassium chloride pellets. The latter units are ideal for people concerned about salt intake or the taste of softened drinking water. In both models; however, water is channeled through the appliance over a resin bed. Beads in the resin bed chemically attract the hard mineral ions and exchange them with sodium or potassium ions. After saturation, the water softener flushes out resin beads with a solution called brine. This regeneration process can take place in different ways depending on the type of ion-exchange water softener you have. There are basically three types of ion-exchange water softeners, which include:
• Metered water softeners: As the name implies, these types of softeners feature meters that tracks water usage. Metered water softeners offer options to enter their gains capacity, water hardness, and number of gallons used by all people in a home every day. Using this data, these systems regenerate automatically based on water usage. As such, metered water softeners tend to be very efficient at minimizing salt wastage.
• Timer operated systems: For these types of water softeners, a time clock triggers the flushing cycle. For example, regeneration may be set for once every week. However, timer operated water softeners tend to waste salt since these units regenerate after the preset timer elapses regardless of the amount of water used.
• Manual water softeners: Manually regenerated water softeners will only regenerate when you decide to flush them. Most systems come with manufacturer recommendations for how long to continue using them before regenerating the resin bed. To limit instances between regeneration sessions, it would be ideal to get a manual ion-exchange water softener with a large capacity but keep in mind that this means sacrificing on portability.
Other than ion exchange water softeners, there are units that that don’t use salt or potassium pellets to remove hard minerals. Such salt-free units are called magnetic field descalers. These electronic units clip onto inlet water pipes and create a magnetic field that changes hard minerals on an atomic level so that they repel each other or surfaces on plumbing pipes and hot water appliances.
Resin Type and Iron Removal Capability
Iron can be hard to remove from hard water because this mineral tends to stick onto the resin surface of ion-exchange water softeners. A standard ion-exchange water softener typically removes less than 4 parts per million (p.p.m) of Iron. However, some ion-exchange water softeners have fine mesh resins with smaller beads that increase the surface area over which iron can stick. Such systems on average remove up to 10 p.p.m of Iron, which goes down the drain after flushing the resin.
Single or Dual Tank Configuration
During regeneration, water softeners are usually disconnected from the water supply. This means that it can be a problem to get soft water as the flushing cycle goes on. Most people overcome this challenge by regenerating the system at night when water is not in use. However, another option would be to opt for a dual-tank water softener. In this type of configuration, one tank will continue to operate as the other one regenerates, thus ensuring a continuous supply of softened water.
When shopping for a water softener, find out what installation requirements you will need to address for the chosen system. For instance, is your unit of preference easy to install without the help of a professional or does the manufacturer stipulate that their systems must be installed by a certified plumber or specialized factory technician to prevent voiding the warranty?
In addition, take note of the unit’s dimensions. Will it fit into the space that is available at the installation site?
Cost and Maintenance Considerations
As with any purchase, prices are important when it comes to buying a water softener. This kind of appliance can set you back about $200-$2,500 depending on the chosen capacity and model. Installation costs may be incurred if you hire a professional to help you set up the unit. For ion-exchange water softeners that require regeneration of salt, there will be maintenance costs to cater for as well. When planning to make a purchase, it is important to factor in all of these expenses in your budget.
Lastly, ensure to buy certified water softeners. While certifications are not a guarantee of good performance, they are proof that the chosen equipment has been tested according to industry standards and the manufacture’s claims have been validated. The Water Quality Association is one of the organizations responsible for certifying U.S made water softeners. Therefore, look for the WQA gold seal on the equipment you will be considering for purchase. In addition, some manufacturers have their equipment certified by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), which should be stated in product descriptions.
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