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Hard water is the main cause of scale buildup in your house’s plumbing fixtures. It’s the same thing that leaves water marks on your dishes, over time blocks water plumbing in your house, and sometimes causes irritations on your skin. By contrast, soft water is what you are recommended to use in your home. If you dislike the hard water effects in your home, it’s time you started looking for the best water softener system in the market. The following water softener reviews and buying guide will help you pick the right system for your needs.
Water softeners are designed to perform to particular extents. Not all water softeners will serve your situation right. Some are good for RV owners, some are best suited for small homes only, while others can be used for larger homes. Read keenly to find which among the following softeners could be perfect for your situation.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 6 Water Softeners in 2021
- 2 Water Softeners Reviewed
- 3 AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT Whole House Water Softener
- 4 Whirlpool WHESFC Pro Series Hybrid Water Softener
- 5 Whirlpool WHES30E Efficient Water Softener
- 6 On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Portable Water Softener
- 7 Aquasure AS-HS48D Harmony Series
- 8 iSpring ED2000 Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner
- 9 What is Hard Water?
- 10 What is a Hard Water Softener and How Does It Work?
- 11 Types of Water Softeners
- 12 Best Water Softener Buying Guide
- 13 Portable vs. Stationary
- 14 Water Softener Installation
- 15 Water Softener Maintenance
- 16 Common Problems and Troubleshooting
- 17 Bottom Line
Top 6 Water Softeners in 2021
Water Softeners Reviewed
AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT Whole House Water Softener
Fleck is one of the oldest and most popular brands in the industry. Its water softeners are known to offer the best quality and the most reliable performance. And Fleck’s top rated water softener is the 5600SXT model.
This water softener system consists of three main components: a corrosion resistant polyglass tank, a brine tank, and a control head. Additionally, it includes a bypass valve and a 1 inch threaded yoke connection. It comes ready for do-it-yourself installation. The provided instructions are not great, but there are helpful videos online, which makes it a very easy process.
The included control head is the most popular on the market and it’s used by many other brands in their water softeners. This SXT controller includes a backlit LCD display with user friendly interface. The display shows the time of day and how many gallons of soft water you have remaining.
Moreover, the digital controller offers four modes of operation, so you can choose either immediate or delayed regeneration. It also features a built-in capacitor. So if you experience a power outage, it will keep the memory up to 48 hours, with all the programming saved.
This is a metered water softener with an on-demand control valve. It means that the system is continuously measuring your water usage so that it can regenerate only when it’s needed. This provides more efficient performance with lower power consumption.
On top of that, the 5600SXT water softener uses a salt based system to eliminate the main causes of hard water, which are calcium and magnesium. It features high efficiency softening resin with a capacity of 48,000 grain or 1.5 cubic feet, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for the best whole house water softener for a family of up to six.
As for the brine tank, it measures 14 by 34 inches. It’s a big tank that can hold up to 250 pounds of salt. The tank also includes a safety float feature that turns off the water supply to the tank if there’s a system malfunction, which prevents overfilling.
Whirlpool WHESFC Pro Series Hybrid Water Softener
If you’re looking for a hybrid water softener that can do both softening and filtering the water in your home, we recommend checking out the Whirlpool WHESFC Pro Series model. The double functionality does come at a higher price. However, it’s still cheaper than buying two separate units. Moreover, it saves you time and space, since you need to install only one system.
This water softener is perfect for medium homes as it offers a 31,000 grain capacity. It can remove up to 120 grains per gallon, as well as 3 parts per million of iron. This helps to reduce potential scale buildup and reddish-brown stains that are left from excess iron in the water.
Similar to most other modern water softeners, this model also uses demand based regeneration. It regenerates soft water only when you need it. This provides more efficient performance, reducing the amount of used water and salt.
The water softener also has a good flow rate. It offers 8 gallons per minute, which is enough to supply water to multiple bathrooms in a medium sized house.
In addition to water softening, this system also offers efficient water filtration. It’s equipped with a carbon filter that removes potentially harmful contaminants, such as sediment and chlorine. So the water it produces is not only soft but also safe.
Moreover, another advantage of the filtration system is that the filter is maintenance free and it doesn’t need replacing. The water softener automatically cleans the filter every 2 weeks, so you won’t have to worry about its maintenance.
This water softening and filtration system is also easy to install if you have some basic plumbing skills. It comes with detailed instructions that are very easy to follow. However, keep in mind that you’ll additionally need to purchase the necessary connectors for your plumbing setup and tubing.
Whirlpool WHES30E Efficient Water Softener
The next product on our list also comes from the Whirlpool brand. However, this model offers only water softening, without filtration. So, if water filtration is not necessary for you, this water softener makes a good alternative to the above mentioned model.
This system offers a capacity of 30,000 grain, which makes it ideal for households with up to 4 people. Its hardness removal rate is 95 grains per gallon, which is a pretty high level. Moreover, the system can remove up to 8 ppm of iron, including ferrous iron.
The regeneration process is done based on demand. It monitors your water usage and regenerates soft water only when you need it. This provides more efficient use of salt and water, which is good for the environment, as well as your utility bill.
The system removes calcium, magnesium, and iron. It can be used for softening both city and well water. As a result, it eliminates different hard water problems. It saves you from itchy and dry skin, it saves your home’s fixtures and appliances from hard water stains, buildup, and scale.
For the water softening process, the unit will need salt. The tank can hold up to 175 pounds of salt. Keep in mind that the salt does not come included with the water softener and will need to be purchased separately.
So you wouldn’t have to guess the amount of salt left in the tank, the system comes with a low salt indicator light. It will let you know when the system is running low on salt, so you can refill it.
Different parts of this water softener have different warranties. The parts and labor have only a 1 year warranty, which is not very long. You can prolong it, however, by using Whirlpool’s water softener cleanser. Moreover, the electronic parts have a 3 years warranty and the tank has 10 years.
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Portable Water Softener
If you’re looking for the best RV water softener, the top product is the On the Go OTG4-DBLSOFT. It’s designed specifically for recreational vehicles, allowing camping lovers and travelers to enjoy softened water wherever they go.
This is a compact and lightweight water softener. Even though it offers a high capacity of 16,000 grain, it measures just 22 by 9.5 inches and weighs just 32 pounds. This compact design makes it easy to install it in an RV, even in the tightest of places.
The 16,000 grain capacity is 40% more compared to other units on the market of the same size. It also takes just 30 minutes to regenerate with the use of two boxes of common table salt. A single regeneration can provide up to 1,600 gallons of softened water. However, it will depend on the hardness level of your water.
To make it easier to add salt, the design of this water softener also features a large mouth opening. To make it even easier, you could also get a funnel, which would make the process a lot faster. And you can use just regular table salt, which makes this water softener inexpensive to operate.
The water softener comes with hardness test strips. So you can test the water in your RV before and after installing this portable water softener.
Other parts that are included in the package are inlet/outlet caps for preventing leakage when you’re on the road, a handle for carrying the unit, a backflush adapter for quick reverse connection, a high pressure drinking hose, and a cradle base for securing the water softener in place. However, keep in mind that the system does not include a shut off valve as it has been discontinued by the manufacturer. So this part you would need to purchase separately.
Aquasure AS-HS48D Harmony Series
The Aquasure AS-HS48D model is also one of the most efficient whole house water softeners. It can treat up to 48,000 grains of hardness and it’s ideal for households with up to 5 people.
This water softener is designed to provide soft, scale free water. It comes prefilled with 1.5 cubic feet of premium grade resin. And the resin is loaded into the included corrosion resistant fiberglass lined polyethylene resin tank.
Another advantage of this water softening system is that it’s fully customizable. It’s equipped with a highly efficient digital control head. It monitors the amount of water you use and backwashes when needed. This helps save water and salt replenishment.
However, you can also customize the regeneration to your specific needs. The system offers 3 types of regeneration. You can set it for meter immediate or delayed control. Or you can choose time clock delayed control. When you want extra softness, you can also use manual regeneration by simply pushing one button.
For reliable performance, the unit also comes with fiber reinforced polymer bypass valve. This feature, as well as the premium grade resin and corrosion resistant resin tank, all add to the durability of this system.
There’s also a safety feature, which is the overflow regulator. It prevents the water from spilling out if there were to happen a malfunction. Moreover, for easy installation, the water softener features quick connections for the control head.
iSpring ED2000 Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner
iSpring ED2000 is a good alternative to traditional water softeners. It’s a good choice for those that don’t want to use any chemicals or salt. It’s also perfect for those that don’t want to deal with complicated installations. Another advantage of this system is that while it prevents limescale deposits from forming in the pipes, it still keeps the healthy minerals in the water.
Unlike traditional water softeners that replace hard water minerals with sodium, this water descaler changes the molecular makeup of scale particles. It uses a computer chip that emits an electromagnetic wave, which causes the clusters of water molecules to break down into active twin-molecules. These molecules have a better bonding capability with the high mineral ions. As a result, since the hard mineral ions are carried away with the water molecules, they have a lower chance to pipes and other surfaces.
One of the biggest advantages of this water descaler is the simple installation. It doesn’t require any plumbing modifications or complicated wiring. Moreover, you can install it on any pipe, including on PEX and PVC pipes.
Another advantage of this system is its cheap price. Compared to traditional water softeners, it costs a lot less. On top of that, since it doesn’t require any salt for water softening, there are no running costs.
However, this water descaler does have limitations. One of those limitations is that it’s not as effective in water that has high iron content. If your water source has an iron level over 0.3 ppm, you would need to install an iron removal filter. Moreover, the water descaling effect works only up to 50 feet. If you have a large home, you might need to install two or more of these descalers.
One more thing to keep in mind is that this water conditioner does not have the same effect as a water softener. So it will not eliminate some of the hard water problems. However, what it will do is prevent scale buildup in pipes and fixtures.
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is any water with a high intake of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Ground water in itself is not hard water. However, when water comes into contact with limestone in wells, dams, or rivers, it picks up minerals such as calcium, aluminum, fluorine, and magnesium.
Now you may think that minerals are good for your body, but it’s not always the case. Consumption of excess minerals such as fluorine corrodes your teeth. Again, hard water often contains more than simply minerals. Hard water carries with it bacteria and germs which are certainly not good for your body. At home, hard water passes through water lines and causes scale build up. Over time, the scale builds up to levels such that it prevents the effective flow of water. If the scale build up in your water heater, the water heater becomes inefficient.
There are a lot more problems with using hard water at home. The smell of hard water, for instance, is unpleasant. Hard water has a metallic taste. When you flush your toilet using hard water regularly, it starts to form ugly stains. Hard water can also cause ugly stains on your bathtub, and you probably know how embarrassing that can be. If you or anyone in your family has sensitive skin, hard water will often lead to irritations all the time. Fortunately, you don’t have to tolerate hard water in your home anymore. Hard water can be treated in a variety of ways. Some people use chlorine to treat drinking water. While it’s efficient, chlorination can be expensive and damaging to some people’s skins.
The next viable water softening method is using and water softener. Read on to learn about different types of water softeners and how they work.
What is a Hard Water Softener and How Does It Work?
A hard water softener is any tool or system that removes magnesium, calcium, and other metallic substances to make the water soft. Contrary to popular opinion, hard water softeners do not filter out dirt in the water.
How do water softeners work?
The most common types of water softeners are those that exchange ions or cations. Salt based ion exchanges conventionally substitute calcium and magnesium for sodium. This all works in a water softening system with a mineral tank, a control mechanism, and a resin tank. Water flows into the water softener into the resin tank where resin beads attract positively charged magnesium and calcium ions. When water gets out of the water softener, all hard water minerals are removed and the water in your shower is soft.
Meanwhile, resin beads get over coated by minerals until they can’t soften hard water anymore. In modern water softeners, the resin is basically made of common table salt which is easy to get. Quality water softeners actually sense when the resin beads are exhausted and regenerate for a continuous water softening process.
Earlier on we mentioned that water softeners have a brine compartment or tank. This is where you store the salt. In a hard water softener with an automatic salt regenerator, you don’t have to be there to assist in the salt recycling process. The water softener will often drain exhausted resin and regenerate salt from the brine compartment.
Salt Free Water Softeners
Instead of using common table salt as resin beads, these water softeners use an alternative substance. This is a better option for people concerned about the salty taste of water after using a salt based hard water softener. Although several salt free water softeners are advertised as effective, most of them only turn hard water into water that won’t corrode plumbing in your home. In that sense, they don’t really eliminate hard water minerals.
The best hard water softener is any system that goes the extra mile to eliminate salt after water has already been softened. That way, you can drink the water or use it for whatever reasons at home.
Types of Water Softeners
Now that technology keeps on changing, different hard water softening methods are invented and some old methods are done with. Below, we look at the main modern types of hard water softening systems.
Ion exchanges are very common for their ease of operation and generally efficiency rates. They use mechanisms that exchange the sodium in salt with calcium and magnesium. Most of them also eliminate other hard metals. However, ion exchangers are unable to eliminate dirt, pathogens, and gas from hard water. In the end, ion exchanges make hard water soft, but they also leave it unpurified and salty. If you are concerned about the salty taste of water after its softened, you might want to try the following water softening methods.
Reverse osmosis systems have always topped water softener ratings. It’s unarguably the best softening method if you want to use the water for drinking and cooking. Reverse osmosis systems use a pressure based system that only allows water molecules to pass through a specially built membrane chamber. The only downside to reverse osmosis is that it eliminates all minerals, including those you would consider healthy for your body.
Distillation is one of the most famous water softening methods. It’s expensive but efficient as well. With distillation, hard water is boiled and turned into steam. The steam is then condensed through a special compartment to become soft water. All minerals and metals which take longer to melt are left at the boiling stage. Unfortunately, organic compounds have boiling points lower than water, meaning they move along with water. There are several other disadvantages of hard water such as the fact that hard water is often very acidic.
Best Water Softener Buying Guide
It’s needless to talk about why everyone deserves clean water. If you have experienced the effects of hard water, you probably know why you want nothing but a good water softener system for your home. Below is the buying guide where we explore the complete process that will help you land a quality water softener for use at home, with your RV, or for commercial reasons.
Size matters when you are buying a hard water softener. An average person uses 80 gallons of water a day. If you have a family of four, you most probably use 320 gallons of water a day. According to statistics, a family of four requires a water softener with at least 33,000 in grain capacity. This amount is calculated based on water that is fairly hard water. If your home relies on completely hard water, buy a softener with a bigger grain capacity. A 48,000 grain capacity will certainly solve all your needs.
Controls and Features
Modern hard water softeners come with a variety of features that make it more convenient to use. A water softener timer, for example, regenerates salt recycling after specific periods of time, helping you economize on salt usage when you have a predictable water usage behavior at home. However, if you can’t predict when your family is using more water and when they are not, a timer will not be useful for you. Instead, another control that uses a sensor when the system needs to regenerate salt will be most useful in your situation.
Water softener Types
Earlier on we mentioned a few varieties of hard water softeners. You’ll need to settle on one method that is most ideal within your means. Both distillation and reverse osmosis are efficient in most situations, but they are vastly expensive. In that sense, the most acceptable water softener choice is an ion exchanger based water softener. If you choose to buy a salt based water softener, research the brands and their performances to determine which among them you can trust.
Installing a hard water system for home use is not easy. Some of them are super heavy and may have some complicated ways of installing. With that in mind, research more on what you’ll need to buy to facilitate the installation of a particular hard water softener at home. As a general rule, settle for a softener that won’t ask you to buy any accessories to help with installation. Instead, settle for that which comes with everything you’ll need for the installation.
Size of the Unit
One of the issues that affect the installation of a hard water softener is its size. Small water softeners take up less space in your basement and are also easier to install. Large hard water softeners, on the other hand, are often more difficult to install. When buying a softener, consider the installation space you have. If you are buying a softener for the RV, ensure that the unit is not too big to cause obstructions in the RV. If you are buying a whole house water softener, make a water softeners’ comparison to find out which one performs efficiently but is also suitable for the space you have.
No matter how many hard water softeners you find on the market, you’ll only need one. That one you will buy will mostly be a unit you can afford. Put your money to good use by buying the best unit within your budget lines. Typically, water softeners cost variedly. Some cost as low as $200 while others cost in the upwards of $1000. A quality salt based hard water softener will often cost slightly higher than $500. If your budget falls within that category, concentrate more on researching the best water softeners priced within what you can afford. Do an analysis of several water softeners and ensure that they can continuously soften water in your home.
A warranty acts as your assurance for a certain period of time. When your water softener malfunctions when the warranty is still valid, the manufacturer is obliged to repair it for you. In that sense, buy a hard water softener with a long warranty.
Portable vs. Stationary
When it comes to buying a water softener there are two types to keep in mind: Portable vs. stationary water softener. Either you buy one that you can carry with you wherever you go, or you invest in a water softener that stays put in the basement or garage. Which one do you choose? Before you answer that question, read below to view the benefits and cons of each method.
Portable Hard Water Softeners
Portable hard water softeners are mostly useful to people who like to travel to places with no reliable source of soft water. If you like traveling with your RV, for instance, this will be your ideal water softener. Usually, a portable water softener weighs 50 pounds or less, with the lightest weighing a mere 8 pounds. So why should you buy a portable water softener?
- Light. The most obvious benefit of a portable water softener is its lightweight. A quality softener with a handle will ensure you carry it around with great convenience.
- Easy to Install. Since they are mostly small, portable water softeners are the easiest to install. Most of them rotate around to help you connect them to RV’s water lines easily.
- Cheap. They don’t handle a lot of water, but they are also cheap. A typical portable water softener will cost half the price or even a third of what a stationary hard water softener costs.
- Efficient. The fact that they are small doesn’t make portable water softeners inefficient. By contrast, many portable water softeners from renowned brands are very efficient.
- Ineffective for homes. Most portable water softeners deliver less than five gallons of water per minute. That would be too little for a family of four that needs water regularly.
- Often lack convenience features such as controls.
Stationary Water Softeners
Stationary hard water softeners are often the only choice for home owners. They are big and bulky, but also got the systems to soften water in huge capacities. They are also more expensive and harder to install.
- Efficient for all needs. For home and commercial places, a quality stationary water softener can soften water continuously and with great efficacy.
- Feature modern controls. Most modern stationary water softeners feature LCD display digital controls that help you keep up with their performances
- They come with automatic salt regeneration systems that economize on salt usage and improve efficiency.
- Durable. Most of the big and bulky units are designed to last for ages. They also often feature generous warranties.
- They can be difficult to install. Although they often come with installation manuals, you’ll often need a professional to help you out.
Water Softener Installation
You ought to install a hard water softener where you can easily connect to the plumbing lines. For most homes, the basement or garage rooms are ideal places as long as you have enough space to fit the new hard water heater softener. Note though that water softeners don’t perform efficiently in extremely cold temperatures. With that in mind, here is how to install a water softener.
Step one: Turn off home water Supply
Clear the place you plan to install your water softener. Turn off the home water supply lines and position the softener accordingly. Usually, the water softener’s inlet should face the home’s water supply lines while its outlets should face the water heater (gas tank-type or tankless). Shut off the power supply for the water heater and then turn on all faucets to drain water in the plumb lines.
Step Two: Install Elbow Fittings to the water supply line
Since you’ll most probably want to drink the salty water that comes out of salt based water softeners, install elbow fittings with the help of a pipe cutter. The aim is to produce two valves out of the home supply line. One valve will bypass the water softener and deliver water for cooking and drinking while the other will deliver water to the water softener.
Step Three: Install Necessary Pipes
Your water softener will most probably come with an installation guide. Follow it to help you cut your pipes accordingly, add fittings and connect the plumbing. In most cases, you will need to heat the pipes to make them fit one another. Don’t apply too much heat and risk damaging them.
Step Four: Install the Drainage
Install the drainage hose and connect it to the drainage area. A good drainage hose can run up to 15 feet long. Clamp the end of the hose 2 inches above the discharge sink to prevent back siphoning of water. Also, don’t clamp it too high to cause messes around the drainage area. Follow the manufacturer’s guide wherever possible.
Step Five: Install Additional Assembly
Some water softeners have an overflow tube that ensures they do not overfill and spill water around. Install this overflow tube according to the manufacturer’s guide. After that, get back to the valve that bypassed the water softener and install it on the right plumb line. Connect the softener to a power receptacle and hold the regenerate button until the valves fall into a backwash position.
Step Six: Turn on the Water Lines
Turn on the water lines and the water heater to test for performance. Make sure that you turn on power where necessary. If there are no leakages that demand attention, program your water softener to regenerate according to your home’s needs.
Water Softener Maintenance
If you just bought a hard water softener and are wondering how you can make it last for decades, we’ll show you what to do below. Learn how to clean the different compartments in the water softener, what makes the softener malfunctions and what you can do about it.
Use Recommended Salt
There are the main types of salts most often used in water softening systems: Granular, block, and tablet. Common table salt is the most popular as it dissolves faster and it’s economical. However, the softener’s manufacturer can at times make the system to work best with other types of salt. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended salt to make the system efficient.
Inspect and Clean the Brine Tank
Inspect the softener’s brine tank every once in a while. Look out for salt build up on the brine and clean it out. Cleaning out the solid blocks is important as they prevent salt from getting into contact with water. In the process, this will reduce the softener’s efficiency and lead to salt wastage.
Add Salt Regularly
Salt is ideally the main ingredient in a water softener’s system. Without enough salt, the softener will simply act as a reservoir through which hard water passes through before moving on to other channels in your home. Salt contains the negative ions that combine with positively charged magnesium and calcium cations to make hard water soft.
When salt gets depleted in the resin bed, you’ll need to add more to the brine tank. Depending on your family size, add enough salt to take you through another month. But if the softener is placed in a place with high humidity, add a little amount of salts regularly. Excess humidity tends of turn salt tablets into large blocks that fail to move on to the resin bed during the regeneration stage.
Inspect the Drainage Hose
Sometimes the drainage hose can get into contact with sewage and siphon back dirty water into the system. Stay on the look out to ensure that the drainage is at least 2 inches above the ground.
Clean the Resin Bed
Clean the resin bed every once a year. With salt having contaminants and minerals forming minor scales, in the long run, it’s only right to handle this type of water softener maintenance. Also, clean the parts in the control valve or replace them to enhance efficiency.
Common Problems and Troubleshooting
For most appliances and devices at home, it’s best to call a professional to handle the repairs. But before you call a technician to solve water softener problems and troubleshooting, here are issues you can solve alone on a weekend afternoon.
You are not getting Soft Water
When you notice that your white shirts still get ugly dirt marks after you clean them, check the softener’s control settings or power options. Water softeners often have a timer that automatically triggers the salt regeneration process and facilitates a new cycle of softening hard water. Set your timer to trigger salt regeneration early in the morning or whatever time when your family uses soft water the most. Alternatively, check the softener’s power connection to ensure it’s on and operational.
Salt Forms Bridges in the Brine
When salt gets into contact with humidity, it forms soft blocks and attaches itself to the walls of the brine tank. The problem here is that salt fails to dissolve properly once in the resin beads and hard water consequently is not softened. Fortunately, troubleshooting the problem is easy. Use clean hands or something else to push the salt around until the bridges are dissolved. However, also take the extra effort to clean the valve that transports salt into the resin beads. If the valve is filled with mushy salt, it won’t function as well. Remove the caps around the softener’s head and clean this valve on both sides
Clean the Resin Bed for efficiency
With time the resin bed can get clogged with dirt and grime from the minerals and dirt in your water. Purchase a resin cleaner that can eliminate iron traces and follow the manufacturer’s guide to clean the resin bed. You don’t need to clean the resin bed regularly, but once in a year could serve you just fine.
Electrical Wiring Malfunction
If you clean the brine tank and the resin tank and still experience no soft water, consider calling a professional to handle the electrical aspect of the softener. Sometimes the internal workings of the softener unit can wear out, especially in the cheap softeners. When this happens, call a professional immediately.
The process of finding the best hard water softener system is certainly not easy. If it were easy, everyone would happily have a quality softener. However, that’s not the case. You have a role to compare multiple softeners in the market, weigh their features and performances before you can pay for any of them. If you already know the features you want in your next softener, our hard water softener system reviews above should guide find the ideal softener for your family.