Problem of hard water is very common for many places across the nation. Although you can drink hard water without problems, it causes serious issues for your home hardware. Because of that, more and more people choose to buy a water softener. It comes cheaper compared to the cost of maintenance or even replacement of your appliances. At the same time, you need to understand exactly what you are buying and why.
With so many water softeners available today it’s often hard to make choice between them. Which type to choose, which brand? Home Water Experts will be your guide in the world of these solutions and you will find out whether you will need one, water types of softeners are out there and what is difference. You will also learn how to take care of your water softener to make it last longer and cost you less in long-term.
To make things easier for you, we have hand-picked and reviewed top systems available on the market today, read hundreds of reviews from other customers, so that you can make a conscious decision and pick the perfect water softener for your needs.
1. Fleck 5600SXT
The Fleck 5600SXT is without a doubt one of the best water softeners on the market today. This unit is designed to soften the water throughout your home and it will also help to eliminate the mineral buildup that develops in your pipes over time. This buildup happens because of the concentration of calcium and magnesium in the water that’s entering your home and it’s also the reason that your water becomes hard. The system uses salt, which is recognized as the most effective way to remove minerals from water that cause hardness.
This Fleck model features a 48,000 grain capacity making it one of the larger salt-based water softeners on the market and so it won’t be constantly regenerating. This large capacity tank may cost you a little bit more up front, but in the long run it will save you money. The water softener cycles on this unit are fully programmable leaving things in your control and it comes with a 10 year warranty. To top it all off it features touchpad controls which are intuitive and easy to follow.
2. Fleck 7000
The Fleck 7000 is a water softener made by one of the most trusted names in the industry. This is a high flow unit designed for medium to large homes and yet it’s still small enough to comfortably fit in your basement out of the way. You won’t have to worry about crusty clothes from mineral buildup or all that gunk building up on your dishes in the dishwasher – this little machine will get rid of all of that.
It features a large 48,000 grain capacity tank which means it’s designed to filter a lot of water in a short period of time. If your area is known for a serious problem with hard water then this is the unit for you. It’s a salt-based system which is the undisputed best way to soften water and it features a fully metered digital control system that ensures precision control of the water softening process. In the event that something does go wrong with your system it features easy connect clips on the valve body that makes it easy to service the unit.
3. Fleck Iron Pro 2
The Fleck Iron Pro 2 is more than just your standard water softener it also features an iron filter which is great if you want to avoid unnecessary rust and those red-brown stains in your sinks. It really is the Cadillac of water softening units with a 64,000 grain capacity. If that’s not enough water softening capacity for you you’ve got one heck of a big house!
This water softener and iron filter unit will remove hardness up to 75 gpg, along with the iron as we’ve already mentioned as well as magnesium. Fleck fully stands by this flagship unit offering a five year warranty on the control head and a 10 year warranty on the tank. It’s a unit that’s built to last and one that’s very effective at softening your water. It is a salt-based system which makes it extremely effective at removing the minerals from your water and your pipes.
4. Watts RV PRO-1000
If you live in a smaller home and you want to purchase a water softener you don’t necessarily need to run out and find the largest capacity one on the market. An ideal choice may be one such as the Watts RV PRO-1000. This is a reasonably priced unit with a small 10,000 grain capacity, but as an added bonus you can actually use standard table salt in this water softener.
In case you aren’t familiar with why salt is ideal in a water softener it’s because it is positively charged in the similar way that calcium and magnesium are only not quite as strong. Resin is placed in the tank which attracts the strong calcium and magnesium ions allowing the water to pass through bonding to the salt creating much softer water. You do need to keep in mind though that this is a relatively small capacity tank so it really isn’t ideal if you live in a larger home.
5. Waterboss 220
The Waterboss to 220 is a highly efficient water softening unit. With a 22,000 grain capacity it’s meant to be used in a medium-sized home, but it’s highly efficient nature means it can work in just about any situation. If you’re looking for a versatile water softener that will get the job done then this unit ticks all of those boxes.
This water softener by Waterboss does quite a few things very well. For one thing, in addition to creating softer water it also does a good job of removing the iron from your water. That means less rust around your metal sinks and pipes. It is also very efficient at regenerating with a turnaround time of less than 18 minutes. Quicker regeneration times means less water used and this will save you money. The tank comes with a 10 year warranty and the electronics are warrantied for three years.
What Is a Water Softener?
A water softener is a piece of equipment designed to remove calcium and magnesium from the water entering your home.
The reason you want to do this is because that calcium and magnesium can build up in your pipes over time reducing their effective life and it’s also very hard on your appliances such as dishwashers and coffee makers. By softening your water you can actually extend the life of these types of appliances.
If you’ve ever noticed that crusty feeling on your clothing after taking it out of the washing or experienced dry skin after taking a shower there’s a good chance it had a lot to do with the hard water running through your pipes.
A water softener actually removes the calcium and magnesium ions from your water using a special resin compound which attracts the minerals and removes them from your water replacing them with the softer salt ions – the result is softer water out the other end.
There are other options on the market besides salt based water softeners, but it’s generally agreed that the ones which do use salt are the most effective.
How Do Water Softeners Work?
There are two types of water softeners. Based on research, you will come across mechanical and chemical forms of softeners. The most common softeners are chemical because the mechanical (distillation, filters and magnetic) ones are expensive to maintain. You will find chemical softeners like ion exchange resin or polymer and Clark process (lime softening) being used in residential and industrial environments.
When using lime softening as a water softener, you will notice that the main chemical used is calcium hydroxide (lime). When lime is used, the water equilibrium is changed due to the change in pH. The dissolved carbon dioxide precipitates calcium in the form of calcium carbonate. The magnesium is precipitated in a reaction called double displacement; the lime and magnesium carbonate swap bond leaving magnesium as a precipitate of magnesium hydroxide.
The common ion exchanging resin water softeners work similar to the double displacement in lime softening. The resins have active sites of sodium or potassium ions in concentrations lower than the ions in the water. When hard water is passed through the resins beads, it releases hydroxide ions thus removing the carbonate, bi-carbonate and sulphate ions present in the water. This is facilitated by the exchange of sodium or potassium ions with the magnesium and calcium ions.
Recharging of the resins occurs when the equilibrium is reached. The regeneration of the resin ions is done by passing a high concentration of sodium or potassium salts; the use of the salts will depend on the type of resin used. This is the reason why many people will tend to call them salt water softeners. Other softeners might decide to use artificial or natural zeolites instead of resins beads.
Presence of sodium and potassium salts has no health effects unless they are beyond normal concentration. The best chemical water softeners should have a method or technology of determining the concentration of the salts. Maintaining and modulating these concentrations of salts is crucial so that future problems are prevented.
There are some water softeners, which are automated such that when the equilibrium is reached they recharge on their own or stop working. When purchasing water softeners, you should consider the water consumption, the efficiency ranking, the type of salt used, the running cost and the ease of installation.
Do I Need a Water Softener?
While it’s not a certainty that you do need a water softener in your home there’s a very good chance you do. In North America for example, more than 85% of all homes have hard water so there’s a good chance you’re one of them.
It’s really an individual decision, but if you’re not a fan of crusted over pipes, uncomfortable clothing, excessive soap scum build up, and appliances that don’t last as long as you would like them to then you should seriously consider a water softener.
A water softener eliminates all of these problems in a relatively short period of time.
A water softener is also advantageous because it has a lot of benefit for the environment. With the softer water you don’t have to use as much soap in the shower as the softer water naturally lathers the soap reducing the amount you have to use. That means a lot less soap down the drain and even if the soap used is biodegradable the water’s always better off if there’s less of it entering the system.
What Is Hard Water?
Hard water is water with excess mineral buildup in the form of calcium and magnesium. These types of minerals have a very hard nature which is why we refer to water with a high concentration of them as hard water. It’s collected from the ground as the water passes through it and ultimately into your home.
It’s very common in most areas of the world and there are relatively few places where hard water is not a problem. If you’re one of the lucky few who don’t have to put up with this type of problem then I would suggest you count your blessings.
How Can I Tell If I Have Hard Water?
There are some telltale signs that will give you a good idea if your water is hard. If for example, you have excessive calcium buildup around your shower heads and you commonly see soap scum around your drains after you shower there’s a good chance your water is hard.
You might also notice that the clothes that come out of your washer are kind of uncomfortable and itchy – this is a result of the hard water running through them. If you want to be a little more scientific about it there are kits you can buy which you can use to test your water, or if you prefer you can always bring a professional into your home to test for you.
Hard water contains the most typical minerals such as magnesium and calcium. The amount of mineral content contained in water is determined in terms of grains per gallon (GPG). Water measuring between 1.0 and 3.5 GPG is considered to be somewhat hard.
Likewise, a figure reading more than 10.5 in your water measurements is regarded as extremely hard. Essentially, there is no health risk posed to humans or animals because of coming into contact or consuming hard water.
Why Is Hard Water a Problem?
According to a Geological survey released in the U.S., 85% of homeowners use hard water. The magnesium and calcium that is common in hard water does a lot of damage to your pipes and appliances because of its hard nature and ultimately leads to the need to replace these items in a shorter time frame than is really necessary. Even more, it will be costly to operate them because of increased replacement rate and energy consumption.
Sediments could build up and clog the pipes thereby leading to plumbing issues. Your clothing will also not last for long or appear brand new. A water softener gets rids of all the minerals in hard water, which is more friendly to use.
It also can be very hard on your dishes and if you’ve ever noticed the spots all over your dishes after taking them out of the dishwasher you can be sure that can be blamed on hard water as well.
In addition, hard water can develop certain challenges when it comes to personal hygiene – in cases of showering and washing hair.
In a nutshell, hard water is extremely hard on just about everything it comes in contact with. The solution is a water softener.
Types of Water Softeners
Salt-based units are without a doubt the kings of the water softener world. Salt is a softer mineral than the magnesium and calcium that it replaces. In a nutshell, salt-based water softeners exchange magnesium and calcium ions for salt ions. This is done using a special resin that attracts the magnesium and calcium ions and pushes the salt ions into the water. In these types of systems there’s normally a water tank as well as a brine tank that is used for salt.
Water softened using salt is ideal for cleaning dishes, doing laundry, showers, and general washing up, but you should never really use it for drinking water. The systems can get quite expensive, but they do offer home whole solutions so the expense is usually more of an upfront cost that pays for itself in no time.
Salt-Free water softeners use a special new technology that softens water while leaving many of the beneficial minerals still in your water. There’s less of a tendency for the water to develop that slippery feel that’s so common with salt-based systems and they are very effective at removing scaling from your pipes. Unfortunately, they don’t make the water as soft as a salt-based water system does. You’ll find many manufacturers of these types of systems claim that their product is as good or better than salt-based systems, but it simply isn’t true. They are generally less expensive than salt-based systems, but if your area has extremely hard water these may not be the most effective systems.
A reverse osmosis system works by forcing water through a special membrane using high pressure and what comes out the other end is soft water. Essentially, the membrane is too small to allow the minerals such as calcium and magnesium to filter through leaving nothing but soft water on the other end. While in theory this is a much simpler process than salt-based water softeners it’s nowhere near as effective. Inevitably some of the minerals do filter through which means the water’s never quite as soft as it is with a salt-based system. These systems also tend to be much smaller and are used on single faucets rather than as a whole home solution.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to soften the water that’s piped in your home you may want to consider a magnetic system. These types of systems place magnets and/or wires around your pipes which attract the magnesium and calcium ions and in theory soften your water. The results from these systems are questionable though and they’re really not meant as a whole home solution. Normally, the water will revert back to its original state within 48 hours. The main benefits of these systems are that you don’t have to worry about costly tank systems specially installed by professionals and you don’t have to worry about constantly renewing your salt supply.
Salt-based vs. salt-free
Water is naturally soft when it falls as rain, when it falls and flows on the earth surface it collects allot of minerals depending on the soil contents. This water, which contains calcium and magnesium, is what people call hard water. If you are going to do surface cleaning and you expect the cleaning agents to lather, hard water is not recommended because it reacts with the cleaning agents hence form a gray layer or deposits called scum.
There are several methods of making hard water soft (removing calcium and magnesium); these can either be salt or non-salt softeners. Salt water softeners are ones that replace the magnesium or calcium ions with sodium or potassium ions. In the other hand, non-salt water softeners have no salt ions in the water solution after the softening process.
The common salt water softeners are lime softening and ion exchanging resin; where else the salt softeners include reverse osmosis system, electric system, magnetic system, electro-magnetic system and distillation system.
Non-salt water softeners work best with people on sodium-restricted diets. These amounts of sodium salts deposited by salt water softeners will have to be determined by people with such disorders. This will require the doctor’s prescription of the amount of for instance sodium in the water for consumption.
Healthy wise the disposal content in salt water softeners is harmful to the surrounding environment. This kills all plant material due to dehydration and the chemical nature of the solution. Presence of sodium in septic tanks increases the population of bacteria since they enjoy a saline environment.
The process of regeneration is removed when non-salt softeners are used thus minimizing the cost and tiresome process of refilling the systems with salts. The processes fill up the septic tanks quickly due to the processes of regeneration. This leads to failure of many septic tank systems. The saline water is not good for watering kitchen gardens, houseplants and the lawn.
A non-salt water softener does not worry a lot on the amount and concentration of the ions in the hard water. This reduces the calculation and analysis for the balancing of concentrations in the water solution.
What is recommended is that the replacement of these salt-based softeners with citrus-based softeners will make it healthy for consumption. Replacing sodium chloride with potassium chloride will work best to preserve the environment but the cost of obtaining this salt is high.
However, not all non-salt water softeners live up to their terms. Most non-salt softeners are aimed to reduce scaling in pipes that is why they are not applicable when the water is stagnant.
Benefits of Water Softeners
Soft water contains a minimum concentration of sodium or potassium ions. When hard water is used with cleaning agents and some synthetic detergents, the mixture does not lather; what forms is a scum. The gray colored layer reduces the efficiency of elimination dirt, stains and bacteria.
When you invest in a water softening system for your household use, you should know of the different types of softeners. The water softeners systems include ion exchanging resin, magnetic, electric, filtration, distillation, lime softening and reverse osmosis.
Chemical softeners like ion exchanging resin are known to add sodium and potassium salts in the water. It is better to do an analysis and research on the concentration of the minerals in the hard water so that you may consult on the best system unit.
The positive effects of water softeners are appreciated when performing laundry and dish washing. The reduction of minerals from the water allows lather (indicated by foam) to form when cleaning agents and detergents are used. This makes the clothes colorful, softens the fibers and makes laundry enjoyable.
When the water is soft, traces of curd-like deposits on water fixtures, bathtubs, showers, film on glass shower doors, shower walls, sinks, faucets, pots, pans and all types of dishes are nowhere to be seen. In addition when taking a shower with soft water, you are assured of bacteria and stain free body and soft but manageable hair. Soft water is easy on the skin and does not create feeling irritation when in use.
Another cost saved by water softeners if that of heating appliances. When using appliances like coffee makers, kettle, water heaters and any other device that uses water to function, you will notice developments of scaling when hard water is used; carbonate precipitates of calcium and magnesium when hard water experiences evaporation. These scales reduce the efficiency of the heating appliances by reducing their heat conductivity. That is why using soft water increases the lifespan of any heating appliances and the energy efficiency.
Scaling also occurs in piped systems. These pipes are clogged with the deposits to the extent that the water flow is reduced hence contributing to their low life span.
The benefits of the water softeners will be determined by factors like the type of softener, the brand name, the grain capacity, the price and the reviews and ratings (this will determine the durability, efficiency and performance guarantee of the water softeners).
What Size Water Softener Do I Need?
The size of the water softener that’s right for you really depends a lot on the size of your home. If you have a smaller home a 10,000 grain capacity tank may be sufficient, but in most cases you’ll need at least at 22,000 grain tank and if you really want to be safe I’d go with one that has at least a 48,000 grain capacity.
The right choice will also depend on the nature of the water in the area where you live. If it’s not known for a lot of hard water a smaller capacity tank may be all you need and for that reason it’s best to test the water coming into your home before you buy any type of water softener. You can buy kits to test this yourself, or you can have a professional do it for you.