Water coming from our taps is usually rich in minerals like Magnesium, Manganese, Calcium, and Iron. The mineral-rich water is typically referred to as hard water, and the effects can be felt right from drinking to home usage. For instance, you may have noticed while showering that the conditioner or even the shampoo does not lather well, laundry having stains and looking very dingy, dishes having water spots, rings on the bathtub, and the toilet pan or scale deposits on the coffee maker and electric kettles well as. Drinking the water isn’t any fun either.
You don’t have to live with these problems, though. Water softeners are designed to eliminate these minerals or suppress the effects that come about by their presence in the water. You can call them whole-house filtration systems. They work by through ion exchange, a process through which magnesium and calcium are removed from the water. Hard water flows through resin beads made from polystyrene and charged with sodium ions. Having positive charge, the minerals are are captured by the bed of resin beads.
If you are looking to make the hard water coming out of your taps soft, you are right to buy a water softener. But because of the complexity of these systems, we won’t leave you browsing through dozens of options to select the right one. We have done the research, providing you with 10 best water softeners in the market.
|64000||12 GPM||4-6||Aquasure Harmony|
|N/A||15 GPM||3-6||APEC FUTURA-15 Premium|
$ $ $ $ $
|48000||12 GPM||2-4||Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener|
$ $ $ $
|48000||12 GPM||2-4||DuraWater 48k-56sxt-10-1 9100sxt|
$ $ $ $ $
|N/A||12 GPM||1-3||Filtersmart Salt-Free Water Softener|
|30000||7.6 GPM||1-2||Whirlpool WHES30E Softener|
|46000||N/A||3-4||WECO Whole House Filter/Softener|
|48000||11.2 GPM||1-2||Tier1 Everyday|
|64000||17 GPM||4-5||Discount Water Softeners Genesis|
Aquasure Harmony Review
- Rated at 64000 grains
- Quality construction using fiberglass lined with polyethylene
- Comes with aqua control advanced digital meter head
- Natural scale reduction and prevention
- Great brand reputation
- 75GDP and high RO water purity
- Can filter up to 48000 grains of hardness
- Bypass valve for bypassing system without shutting the main water supply
- High flow rate of 12gpm, peak at 28gpm
- Twin tanks for continuous water softening
- Rated at 48000 grains per tank
- High life span advanced new fleck 9100 valve
- Versatile installation application
- An eco-friendly model with a water-saving design
- High-efficiency water softener
- Features demand-initiated regeneration
- 30,000-grain rating with 95grains per gallon
- NSF certified water softener
- Combined water filter and softener
- Automatic backwashing for the screen and softener
- 46000 grains
- Dedicated support team
- 48000 grains of hardness
- Energy efficient with on-demand regeneration
- Rating of 64000 grains of hardness.
- Fleck 5810 SXT control valve
- Rated at 12GPM.
- High-efficiency up-flow water softener
- Save 60480 gallons of water
- On-Demand metered digital softener
Best Water Softeners Buying Guide
So, how do you solve this problem of hard water in your home? You can get yourself the best water softener for all your home water uses and forget about the harsh effects which cost you far more money than you would incur installing these systems. However, getting the right device for your home does not come easy, especially there being so many manufacturers. To make it more comfortable for you, we have decided to highlight some of the factors that you need to consider when purchasing these systems.
But before we even head there, let us look at a few basics that will help us understand these systems properly. We already know that hard water is that which is rich in minerals like Manganese, Magnesium carbonate, and calcium. So, water softeners are machines that are used to eliminate these minerals resulting in soft water.
How does a water softener work? Let’s look at the specifics
Standard whole-house softeners work by substituting the minerals that harden water with sodium chloride using the ion exchange principle, also termed as Cation exchange. Conventional water softener comprises a mineral/resin tank, brine tank as well as a control. The water supply inlet pipe is generally connected to the control valve and a timer attached at the top of the tank.
The water flows through the control valve into the resin tank. The resin (plastic-like beads), which are in most cases made from styrene and also divinylbenzene, are arranged into columns referred to as resin beds. They usually carry a negative electrical charge. These resins attract the mineral ions, which on the other hand take a positive charge. For this reason, as the water passes through the tank, the minerals adhere to the resin bed as the already softened water continues to flow towards the bottom of the tank where it is pumped back up through a manifold outlet and a riser tube. At this point, the water is distributed to other parts of the house.
After a while, the resin beads become saturated with these mineral ions and need to recharged/cleaned to become active. The timer does a convenient job of running the appliance through the recharge, backwash, and the rinsing process for these beads.
A backwash cycle is when the water is forced down the riser into the bottom of the resin tank. It flows up the resin tank through the resin beads. This activity flushes while expanding the beads, consequently washing off excess mineral ions. This solution is then drained through a drainpipe.
The brine tank is usually paired with the resin tank during the regeneration process. As the water is being forced down the riser, a brine solution (saltwater) is pumped into the riser. As the mixture flows through the resin beads, the mineral ions which are flushed from the surface of the resin beads are substituted with sodium. This process regenerates the electrical charge of the beads.
After the brine tank runs empty, a rinse process is initiated with the first rinse being speedy and the second one being comprehensive — the rinse process, which uses freshwater washes off excess salt from the resin beads.
After the excess brine has been washed off, the brine tank is again refilled, and the service cycle initiated. The softener salt has to be replenished regularly since it is dissolved in the brine tank when the regeneration process commences. For every gallon, about three pounds of salt are dissolved.
Types of water softeners
Water softeners work differently depending on the manufactures. There are various types of these devices in the market, and knowing how each one works will help you determine which is right for you. Let’s have a look.
The most commonly used type of water softener is the ion-exchange (cation exchange) system. However, there are others to consider.
- Salt-based: This type of water softener works by passing the household water through the resin tank where it is softened. The resin tank is filled with resin beadswhile the brine tank is filled with the brine solution (salty water). The brine solution is used during the regeneration process. This softener works by substituting the minerals found in water with sodium (salt)
- Salt-Free softeners: This type of softener usually uses potassium-chloride as a substitute for sodium during the regeneration process. Salt-free systems are much preferred by people who are overly cautious about salt intake. This unit does not reduce the minerals in water; rather, it prevents the scale from being deposited on the appliances that use water as well as plumbing.
- Double tank softener: Water softeners usually need some time to recharge to be able to work effectively, a process termed as regeneration. Often, when this process occurs, the machine disconnects from the main water supply hence no softened water will be available during this process.
Depending on the model and brand of the machine, this process takes between 30 minutes and two hours. Many of the softeners are usually set to regenerate at night when the softened water is not required. However, should the need for softened water arise, then basically, this becomes a problem.
During the regeneration process, the system switches to the secondary tank to keep the process going simultaneously. This means that while one of the containers is recharging, the other is basically at work to supplement the first one. There a few models available with this feature, including Fleck.
- Point-of-Entry (POE) vs. Portable systems: as you may have already realized from our review above, most water softeners come as whole house water softeners which serve the entire home. They are typically installed at the point of entry of the main water supply for the home hence the name POE. The water being distributed to different parts of the house has to first pass through the unit. This means that the POE unit has to be reliable in terms of capacity as well have a high flow rate compare to the Point-of-Use (POU) unit. The latter is design to be used primarily in outdoor activities like camping sites and also carwashes.
Portable units are usually smaller and mainly feature only one tank. Given their compact size, they can only handle a limited amount of water. These units typically feature manual regeneration. For this reason, you’d expect the POE softeners to be pricier.
What Makes the Right Water Softener?
When it comes to choosing the right water softener, there is no way to define which one is right and which is not, given that we all have different preferences and needs. However, you must pick the one that meets your needs. Here are some qualities of theright water softener.
- Maintenance Costs: A decent water softener is one that comes with low maintenance costs. You’ll be able to tell when reading about the features of each softener, whether it needs maintenance or not.
- Filtered Water Quality: it is good to note that different water softeners will result in varying levels of filtered water quality given the technology they use. For example, the salt-based softeners eliminate the minerals that cause water to be hard consequently leading to a better quality of soft water compared to salt-free softeners which most often do not remove these minerals
- Flowrate: As we have already seen, the POE water softeners need to be high capacity as well as have high flowrate to sustain the needs of the whole house water supply in comparison to POU water softeners. Different brands come with different flowrate, but at the end of the day, the higher the flowrate, the better for you.
- Dual Tank Softeners: We have already covered how these softeners work. If your soft water-needs stretch to the night when the softeners are scheduled to regenerate, then a double tank would be the best for you.
- Lifespan: The best water softener come with over ten years to a lifetime lifespan. The warranty will typically indicate this as the shorter the warranty period, then the lower the quality of the softener hence a shorter lifespan.
Just how much are you willing to part with?
There are very many factors that determine the cost of a water softener, including the type, brand, size and also features. These appliances will generally fall somewhere between $350 to $3500 and more for the complex ones. If you are looking for a standard ion exchanger, you can expect to spend anywhere between $350 to $1000. This is not a guarantee as the prices will also vary depending on the retailer. If you go for the descalers, you’ll probably be able to save a few dimes here and there.
When it comes to installation, expect to incur, an additional $200 to $500 should decide to hire an expert. Depending on the complexity of the softeners, you can opt to install it yourself. Extra costs you are like to incur are maintenance-based charges like stocking salts, water bills, and also servicing of the sewer.
What Capacity and Flowrate should you go for?
The size or capacity of a water softener refers to the number of grains of hardness it can remove before regeneration is required. These capacities will range anywhere between 8000 to 80000 grains. Some standard water uses include;
- Faucets: 1.0 Gpm
- Toilet: 3.0 GPF (gallons per flush)
- Shower: 2.0 – 2.5 Gpm
- Dishwasher: 6.0 – 16.0 GPL (gallons per load)
- Washing Machine: 25.0 GPL (gallons per load)
The size of the unit will also determine the flowrate. The flowrate will consequently define the number of outlets that you can have. You must choose the right size for you. Most of the units will also come indicated how many users it can sustain in regards to number of bathrooms as well as number of people it can serve.
The downside of choosing an underrated unit is in exhausting before time, bleeding of hard water as well as reduced flowrate and pressure. Maintenance costs will eventually skyrocket as well as reduced lifespan.
Again, an overrated unit will not bring any advantage as it will leave you leached out financial wise due to the high cost as well as the low number of regeneration processes, which will eventually lead to damaged resin bed. So, choose wisely, depending on your needs.
Check the Level of Hard for Your Home Water
Before you go purchasing a water softener, you need to know the level of hardness for your source of water. Hard water is everywhere, but what differs is in the level of hardness. This is important as it will guide you in determining which device will work for you. Testing water is not complicated science; all you need is a test kit that you can get at the local supply store.
Typical test kits come either in tablets or color strips and a color chart indicator. All you need to do is collect a sample of water in a container, drop the tablet or dip the color strip in the vessel, wait several minutes for the water to turn color, and then compare the results with the color chart indicator.
Timer Regeneration vs. metered Regeneration; Which One is Better?
New water softeners feature a demand -initiated regeneration (DIR) otherwise termed as a metered regeneration, which is the most recommended feature in your preferred unit.
Advanced technology allows for the softeners to measure the amount of consumed water thanks to the electronic sensor and also the mechanical meter. Consequently, this allows the softener to start the regeneration process when necessary (when the resin is almost getting depleted or even better after a predetermined amount of water has been used). As a result, you experience high efficiency in water and salt use, which translates to significant savings.
When it comes to timer-based softeners, the regeneration process starts at a given time, which can be set on the control panel. For such machines, the regeneration process takes place at the arranged time every day regardless of prior water usage or even the nature of the salt. For this reason, the same amount of salt and water is used.
Careful thought should be given when selecting time settings like the intervals to prevent wastage of resources while keeping in mind a sufficient supply of soft water. There are, however, a few units which come with automatic fine-tuning feature which can be used to increase the device’s efficiency in salt use.
There’s also a manually initiated regeneration water softener, which neither features a timer nor a meter. These types of units feature a lever with which you can use to commence the regeneration process whenever needed.
The Brand is also a Key Factor to Consider in the Selection Process
Can we stress enough the importance of the water softener brand in the selection process? Not really. This is because some brands dominate over others in the market with quality products model after model.
When selecting the best water softener for hard water, you will find that some brands will keep featuring in every category. One of the best brands which has had great performance in terms of quality systems is Fleck. It is known to have introduced the control valves in these devices. Other common top brands include Morton, Kinetico, Aqua Harmony, Apex, and the list goes on and on. The best brands have quality experience in these systems and have come along way compared to some new brands in the market. It is perhaps something to keep in mind when searching for the best device.
Is it User Friendly?
Is the water softener you’ve chosen user-friendly? Will you have a tough time getting your way around the settings and controls? Does it feature a control panel for displaying relevant information? Does it come maintenance-free? You should ask yourself these kinds of questions before you check out your new unit to avoid getting low-quality units.
Of course, a system that allows you to operate easily should be your priority. But don’t be too scared because all water softerners will always come with an instructional manual to help you set it up and troubleshoot any problems in the course of your usage.
Will it Fit in the Designated Area?
Before you buy the system, you need to think about the physical size, and whether it is ideal for space you have reserved. Remember, these water systems come in different sizes and capacity as we have already seen above, like the POE and the POU. Installation space is essential because it helps you determine whether you need a large or a smaller type of softener and whether you need to increase the installation area or work with what you have.
We cannot stress enough on the importance of soft water in our daily lives. The benefits outweigh the cost incurred while purchasing and installing these vital appliances in our homes, for example, improving the performance of water-using devices back at home as well as keeping the plumbing intact without clogging with scale. We can also see these benefits even in other areas in our homes like keeping our laundry, bathtubs, and also sinks in perfect condition.
In our review, we have covered some of the best brands and models of water softeners that are worth your attention — models like the Aquasure Harmony, Apec Futura-15, Fleck 5600SXT stand out, with impressive features and great flow rate, water filtration levels and low maintanance. Other systems are also good and they stand out in their own ways
To help you be able to pick out the best water softener, we have also covered an in-depth guide on some of the essential details like how the device works, some of the features that make the best devices and even what to keep in mind when choosing the right one for you.