Water Softener Reviews 2017 – How To Get Clean Water For Your Family Like the Big Bottled Water Companies
- What is hard water anyway?
- Why should you care about the hardness of your water?
- Do you need a water softener?
- What is a water softener and how does it work?
- Is a water softener same as a water filter?
- What are the different types of water softeners?
- Salt based water softeners
- Salt-free water softeners
- Magnetic systems
- Portable water softener
- Standard water softener
- What kind of water softener do you need?
- What are the best water softener systems on the market?
- Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener:
- Best salt-less Water Softener: Nuvo H2O Manor Salt-Free (Complete) Water Softener System
- Best Portable Water Softener: Watts RV PRO-1000 Portable Water Softener
- Tips for Maintaining a Water Softener
- Concluding Remarks
Have you observed how your silverware is no longer shiny and lustrous compared to when you bought them?
They look dull, don’t they?
It appears as if there is a film of some sort coating the metal. Or perhaps you have observed a similar phenomenon over the steel fixtures in your kitchen or bathroom sink?
I bet you have.
It is called lime scale. If you are living in the vast majority of this great nation of ours, these problems are quite common. Most of these problems are due to what is called ‘Hard Water.’
As a matter of fact, around 85% of all the water supply in the US homes consists of hard water. Not only does hard water damage your kitchenware, fixtures, and pipes, it can also cause some serious health problems.
Thanks to technology though, you don’t have to live with hard water. Appliances called water softeners can rid the water of its hardness in no time and protect your belongings and health from the damaging effects of hard water.
In this article, we will talk in depth about the hardness of water, water softeners and also review some of the best water softeners on the market.
So, let’s get going, we have a ton of information to cover.
What is hard water anyway?
I am sure you must have heard the term- hard water. But what exactly is hard water? First of all, hard water is still, well, water.
However, what makes hard water unique is not the water itself but the things that are dissolved in it.
Hard water contains a lot of dissolved minerals and salts of elements such as calcium, magnesium, and aluminum.
So, when you dissolve minerals and salts in water in high amounts, it is called hard water. And without these dissolved minerals and salts, it is called, you guessed it, soft water!
But the question is why does out water contain all these dissolved things in it in the first place.
Well, there is a natural explanation for that. You see, when water falls on the earth as rain, it is in its purest form and contains no dissolved solids, in other words, it is soft.
As it flows over and seeps under the surface of the earth, it dissolves minerals and other solids along the way.
These dissolved substances impart, what is called, hardness to the water.
Why should you care about the hardness of your water?
So, your water has some dissolved minerals in it, big deal. Why should you care about them anyway? There is a good reason to care about the hardness of water, and it is based on some scientific facts. Let me elaborate.
As we just saw, hard water contains a ton of dissolved minerals and salts in it, right?
Well, these salts can cause many problems to your belongings as well as to your health.
Let’s see some ways in which hardness of water can be a problem to you.
Damage to your pipes and appliances
The minerals present in hard water can precipitate (come out and deposit) on the surface of various metals such as iron, steel, and silver.
These deposited minerals can wreak havoc on the metals.
Firstly, they impart a nasty yellow layer on the surface of the metals that takes away the luster of the metals.
But the problem is not just superficial.
The salt deposits inside your plumbing pipes can damage and weaken them causing structural damage.
Even your appliances such as coffee makers, ice makers and dishwashers and washing machines are not spared from the damages of hard water.
All these appliances are damaged by the use of hard water over time.
Damage to your clothes
Hard water is not ideal to wash clothes with, especially white clothes.
The dissolved minerals and salts in hard water can react with the soap and form a pale-yellow color deposit on white clothes that can cause them to look yellow.
The deposited minerals can also weaken the fabric and cause your clothes to tear and damage easily.
Another problem with hard water is that it does not lather much with soap. As a result, you have to use large quantities of soap to get your clothes cleaned which are not good for your clothes either.
Damage to your hair and skin
The high salt content of the hard water can dry out your skin and hair. The skin can become excessively dry and flaky, and your hair can become frizzy and weak.
Also, if you are a fan of natural soap, you are out of luck with hard water. Natural and organic soaps don’t work very well with hard water.
So, you have to rely on soaps with artificial detergents, which are horrible for your skin.
Other health problems
Drinking hard water on a regular basis can cause some health issues as well.
The high concentration of calcium, magnesium, and aluminum in the hard water can have an impact on your overall health.
There are several scientific studies to back this fact up.
In a recent study, the high aluminum concentration in drinking water was linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
As a matter of fact, the study found that the people with high aluminum in their drinking water were 1.5 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s.
In another study, the high concentration of calcium and magnesium of hard water was attributed to the acceleration of kidney stones formation.
While the evidence is not strong, there is enough data to indicate a strong trend.
So, there you have it. Hard water can cause some significant problems both to your property as well as your health.
Do you need a water softener?
There are distinct advantages of getting a water softener. You can prevent the damage to your property and your appliance. Your plumbing will last longer and so will your appliances.
So, there is merit in investing in a good water softener.
However, before you decide to get a water softener, you need to make sure you need one.
If the water in your home is not hard, there is no point in investing money in solving a non-existent problem, is there?
So, how can you determine whether your water is hard or soft? There is an easy way to find out, right at your home.
Although the method described below is not very accurate, it can give you an estimate nonetheless.
Step 1: Find a clear 12-ounce bottle with a cap. Any water of soft drink bottle will be fine.
Step 2: Fill the water bottle with 12 ounces of water you want to test.
Step 3: Add ten drops of any dishwashing detergent to the water in the bottle.
Step 4: Close the cap and shake the bottle vigorously for a few seconds.
Step 5: look for suds on the top of the water in the bottle. If your water is soft, you will see plenty of suds on the surface of the water in the bottle.
If you do, your water is soft, and you don’t need to worry about this article at all! But if you don’t see enough suds, move on to the next step.
Step 6: Add more dishwashing detergent to the bottle, five drops at a time and keep observing the suds after each addition.
Also, note the color of water below the suds in the bottle. If your water is soft, the water will be clear, but if it is hard, the soap will reach with the salts and minerals in the hard water and will make the water murky.
Step 7: You can have a rough estimate of the hardness of your water based on the number of drops required to make suds.
- 20 drops: Slightly hard
- 30 drops: Moderately hard
- 40 drops: Hard
- 50+ drops: Very hard
Again, this little experiment will only give you a rough estimate of the hardness of your water. If you want a more detailed analysis, you can always purchase water testing kits from any hardware shop.
These kits cost somewhere between $25-$50 and take less than 10 minutes to conduct.
The hardness of water is measured regarding ‘grains per gallon’ or GPG. It is an indication of some solids dissolved in the water. Higher the GPG value, harder is the water.
You can interpret the results of your home water testing kit based on the GPG of your water.
- If GPG value is less than 1: your water is soft
- If GPG value is between 1-3.5: your water is slightly hard
- If GPG value is between 3.5-7: your water is moderately hard
- If GPG value is between 7-10: your water is hard
- I If GPG value is over 10: your water is extremely hard
If your water has a GPG value over 3.5, you need a water softener. The benefit of using a water softener in such cases far outweighs the investment.
On the other hand, if your GPG levels are below 1, you don’t need a water softener.
What is a water softener and how does it work?
Assuming that you have hard water in your home and need a water softener, let’s find out what it is and how does it work.
So, a water softener is a specialized appliance that removes the dissolved calcium, magnesium and aluminum salts from your water and makes it soft.
It resembles a water filter but is not to be confused with one. A water softener is not same as a water filter.
A water softener contains a unique mechanism that allows it only to remove the salts of calcium and other minerals. It is not able to filter the water for you.
The way a water softener works is pretty interesting. Without going into many scientific details, let me try to explain how the whole thing works.
First of all, it is important to understand that the salts in the hard water are in the dissolved form.
So, that hard water contains a ton of charged atoms of elements such as calcium, magnesium, and aluminum called ions that are positively charged.
A water softener works by removing these ions from the water.
A water softener contains small beads made from a material called polystyrene. These beads have a negative electric charge on their surface.
The first step is to pass a brine solution through the softener to make sodium ions attach to these negatively charged polystyrene beads.
Once that is done, the softener is ready to receive hard water.
In the next step, hard water is passed through the softener. But the calcium and magnesium ions have a much higher affinity to the beads than already attached sodium ions.
Hence, when hard water is passed through the softener, the calcium and magnesium ions from water replace the sodium ions that are thrown in the water.
The result is that the calcium and magnesium ions from the hard water are ‘exchanged’ for sodium ions making the water soft.
So, as more and more water is softened by the softener, the sodium ions exhaust, and the softener needs to be regenerated with sodium ions using brine solution.
Is a water softener same as a water filter?
Many people make the mistake of assuming that both water filter and softener are the same thing. However, in reality, they are two completely different appliances designed to do different things.
While all water filters can ‘filter’ water and remove particles and some impurities, not all of them can soften the water.
That said, some water filters such as reverse osmosis filters and distillers can render the water soft.
But most whole house water purifiers will not work as a water softener.
On the other hand, a water softener can’t double up as a water filter. It can’t get rid of the particulate matter in water and neither can it remove contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides.
What are the different types of water softeners?
Water softeners are classified into different types based on some factors.
Some people classify them based on size while others classify them based on how they work.
For easier understanding, we prefer to sort them based on the last factor.
Salt based water softeners
As the name suggest, these softeners use salt as a regenerating substance.
As we saw in the section detailing how a water softener works, a source of recharging the beads is essential.
These softeners use brine (common salt solution) as a source of sodium ions that can be used to regenerate the softener.
Although operating such softeners is cheaper as they use cheap common salt for regeneration, they have some disadvantages too.
One of the biggest drawbacks is the fact that the resultant water after softening is high in sodium content. If you have kidney or cardiac issues, this can be a problem for you.
As the amount of sodium in your water increased, you tend to accumulate it more after drinking such water.
Pros of a salt based system:
- Very efficient; works 100% of the time
- As operational costs are low, you will save money in the long run
- Most models don’t require frequent maintenance
- You will see best results of water softening on your health
Cons of a salt based system:
- They are usually not portable. They occupy a lot of space
- They can increase the amount of sodium in your drinking water
- They need a drain nearby so that brine can be thrown out after regeneration
If you are hypertensive, you should adjust your sodium intake accordingly if you are going with this type of softeners.
Salt-free water softeners
These softeners don’t use any salt at all. They are based on different scientific principles for removing ions from hard water.
While some use strong electromagnets, some others use substances called chelating agents to get the job done.
Here are a few examples of salt-free water softeners.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) based system
These systems use a semi-permeable membrane to purify water.
As the membrane has a pore size that is too small, only a water molecule can pass through.
Ions of calcium, potassium, and aluminum can’t pass through the filter and are separated.
This system acts as a two-in-one system that filters and softens water in one go.
Advantages of RO based systems:
- No additional salt is needed to work
- Can purify and soften water simultaneously
- Compact size
- Low operational costs
Disadvantages of RO based systems:
- Can also remove minerals that are beneficial
- These systems are not very efficient compared to the salt-based systems
These systems are popular as they are very portable. They are small and can be carried with you on camping trips as well.
However, they are not very effective in softening water. They can be finicky, and the effectiveness is far less than, say, salt based systems.
As a matter of fact, if your water has a hardness of over 8GPG, these systems don’t work at all.
Also, these systems are not for your entire home as they have a very low capacity.
The bottom line is that these softeners don’t use salt and hence there is no increase in sodium ions in the softened water. On the flipside, these softeners are more expensive as they use advanced technology compared to the salt based water softeners.
Another way of classifying water softeners is based on their size and portability.
Portable water softener
A portable water softener, as the name suggests is a small unit that can soften small quantities of water.
As you can imagine, this is not an ideal unit for your home where you need a lot of water to be softened.
However, these units can be perfect for your camper, or an RV where you need softening of small volumes of water and space is a crucial factor.
Standard water softener
A standard water softener is a larger unit that is ideal for your entire house. These appliances are big and bulky, and they also need a permanent place in your home, just like whole house filters.
Some of the standard water softeners also come with an auto-regeneration feature wherein they can regenerate automatically after a certain time.
What kind of water softener do you need?
So, now, the most important question is what type of water softener do you need? To help you decide the type of water softener that will be best for your family and needs, you must answer the following simple questions.
What is the level of hardness of your water?
As we discussed in the earlier sections, you can quickly test the standard of the hardness of your water using commercial kits.
The average hardness of water around the US is between 3 and 20 GPM. Some softeners work best if the water is slight to moderately hard. If your water is too hard, you may need a more efficient softener.
What is your family’s water consumption?
It is also an important factor to consider. Smaller softeners have small capacities while larger ones have a significant capacity.
You can calculate the water requirement of your family quite easily. Just as a reference point, remember that an average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day.
So, if you have four members in your family, you can easily calculate the number by simply multiplying.
How many grains of hard water do you need to remove weekly?
The capacity of a water softener is measured regarding the number of grains of hardness it can eliminate.
You can easily calculate the required capacity of your water softener by multiplying the GPG value with your family’s water consumption in gallons.
Find the right capacity softener
Once you crunch the numbers, you can determine the capacity of softener that you need. Most commercially available water softeners come in the capacities of 15,000 to 100,000 grains.
If you buy a softener that is too small, it will not serve your purpose, and you might end up regretting your purchase.
On the contrary, if you buy a softener that is bigger than what you need, you will save money in the long run.
Also, if you are buying a salt-based system, a larger system will regenerate less often, and you will have longer service time.
Now that we understand all the basics of a water softener, it the time to take a look at some of the best systems on the market that you can buy.
What are the best water softener systems on the market?
As you can expect, there are hundreds of water softeners on the market. Although there are some that are worth your time and money, there are many that are not worth it.
Here are some of the best water softeners that you can buy right now.
Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener:
- The Fleck 5600sxt digital metered, on demand valve. The newest 5600 model with fully programmable cycles
- Fleck 5600SXT Digital Control Head with bypass valve and 1" threaded plumbing adapter (yoke)
- 10" x 54" tank, 15" x 34" brine tank with salt grid and safety float system, (color may vary)
Fleck is one of the most reputed names in the water purification and water softening industry.
The Fleck 5600SXT is their flagship water softener and one of the best on the market that is ideal for a medium sized family.
One of the best features of this water softener is the fact that it comes with a digital display for easy readouts of the water quality. It is also quite easy to assemble and set up.
It is a salt-based water softener and hence requires time to regenerate after continuous usage.
However, in contrast to some other salt-based softeners on the market, the regeneration process in the Fleck is completely automated.
You don’t have to regenerate the column manually, and the process takes place at a pre-determined interval automatically.
The Fleck also has an impressive capacity of 48,000 grain which is ideal for a medium sized family. The unit comes with a high capacity resin that is claimed to last for 3-4 years without any issues.
The company is so confident in the quality of its product that it offers an impressive 5-year warranty.
Contrary to many other water softeners on the market, the Fleck has an impressive flow rate as well. With a flow rate of almost 13 gallons per minute, this system will never leave you high and dry for soft water!
Pros of the softener:
Meter regeneration system: Easy installation: Great warranty:
- Meter regeneration system: The regeneration of the beads is completely automated in this softener. What’s more, the system regenerates based on your usage. So, if you use less water, it will regenerate less frequently; this saves time as well as money in the long run.
- Easy installation: The softener is quite easy to install. Although it is not as slim or compact as some others on the market, it is not too bulky either.
- Great warranty: One of the best things about this softener is the impressive 5-year warranty on the whole system. When it comes to the tank, however, Fleck throws in an additional 5-year warranty to make a total of 10-year warranty on the tank!
Cons of the softener:
Bulky: Salt levels:
- Bulky: As mentioned before, the system is not as compact as some others on the market. If you have space constraints, this may not be a right system for your household.
- Salt levels: As it is a salt-based system, the salt levels need to be topped off on a regular basis. The salt pellets are quite inexpensive, and you can get them at any supermarket or hardware store.
Who is the Fleck ideal for?
- Small to moderate families with up to 6 people. If you have three bathrooms or less, it is less likely that you will run into any problems with this softener.
- People are living in areas where water is moderately hard to very hard. As the Fleck is a salt-based system, it gives an excellent performance even if the hardness of your water is up to 20 grains per gallon.
The Fleck water softening system is great if you have moderate to hard water and if you have fewer than six members of your family.
It is a great system with an impressive warranty. As it is a salt based system, it is very effective as well.
However, it is a bit bulky and can take some space to install.
You can treat this system like an ‘install and forget’ system which makes it ideal for most homeowners.
We have no reservations in recommending this product whatsoever!
Best salt-less Water Softener: Nuvo H2O Manor Salt-Free (Complete) Water Softener System
- The NuvoH2O Manor system uses revolutionary technology to lower the PH level of water
- Resulting in water that is soft and healthy for all of your household uses, including drinking, bathing, washing, and lawn and plant watering.
- Manor System is designed for Homes over 2,000 square feet.
- Water flow: 15-18 gpm with 1.5" ports (no change to existing water flow)
- Capacity: Approximately 35,000 gallons per cartridge
If you are concerned with the high amount of sodium in your softened water, you need a salt-free option that is equally effective.
The Nuvo H2O Manor is as good as it gets when it comes to a salt-free water softener.
You must remember that a salt-free water softener is not as efficient as a salt based one, but in case you must use it, the Nuvo is your best option.
The system is based on nanotechnology and requires a filter to operate. As there is a filter involved, you need to replace it from time to time as well.
Although the life span of the filter is 60,000 gallons, if you have a large family, the gallons can add up quickly.
One of the best features of this softener is the size. It is one of the most compact water softeners on the market, especially if you compare it with a salt-based softener.
It is ideal for small houses, apartments as well as condos.
Pros of the softener:
- Does not require salt to operate. If you are on a restricted sodium diet, this system is the best way to soften your water.
- The softened water tastes great as there are no salts present whatsoever.
- It is one of the most compact systems on the market. If you have space restrictions in your house, you will love this softener.
- The system comes with a 90-day money back guarantee and a lifetime warranty.
Cons of the softener:
- The operating cost of Nuvo H2O is high due to the need for replacing the filter. One filter lasts for about six months and can cost up to a $100 to replace.
- The other issue with this softener is not a problem with Nuvo H2O, but with all saltless softeners in general. These systems are not useful if you have hard to very hard water. They work great if the hardness is around 3-4 but not if it exceeds 7 GPG.
Not many people are fans of salt-free water softeners, and neither are we. But if you must get a salt-free water softener, then the Nuvo H2O is your best bet.
It is a good system for moderate to low hardness water.
The money back guarantee and lifetime warranty is a great feature to have as well. If you need a salt-free softener, the Nuvo H2O is as close to salt-based systems as you can get.
Best Portable Water Softener: Watts RV PRO-1000 Portable Water Softener
- Fresh Water Supplies Rv-10,000 Water Softener M7002 Watts Water Quality & Conditio
The Watts RV PRO-1000 is arguably one of the best portable water softeners available on the market. It is compact, efficient and straightforward to install for your long trips.
With this portable water softener by your side, you don’t have to worry about having to drink hard water even in the middle of nowhere.
As the system is compact, it is not as efficient as a whole house water softening system. But it does get the job done when you are on the road.
One of the problems with portable water softening systems is that most of them need to be disconnected before you can regenerate it.
The Unique valve design on the Watts RV PRO-1000 eliminates the need to do this.
You can regenerate the system while it is still connected by just turning the valve, it is that simple!
Another impressive feature of this portable softener is the flow rate. When it is at its full potential, the system can pump out 4 gallons of softened water per minute.
With this high output, you can maintain water pressure till the very last drop!
The capacity of the softener is also quite impressive considering the size of the system itself. Thanks to the 0.33 cubic foot of high-quality resin, the RV PRO-1000 works like a real pro. It has a 10,000-grain capacity and a ten-year warranty just in case something goes wrong.
Pros of the softener:
- The unit is very compact in size. Weighing only 24 pounds, it is one of the most portable units on the market.
- Although the form factor of this Watts machine is small, it can handle water with hardness values near 20GPG with no problems.
- Regeneration is quick and easy with this system. You don’t have to dismantle and disconnect it to regenerate the resin.
- The operating cost of this system is quite small as well which is a huge plus.
Cons of the softener:
- As it is a portable system, you need to regenerate the system manually. There is no automation in the unit.
- The hose fittings on this system don’t rotate. As a result, you may have issues with, especially long hoses. However, you can change the fitting with ease.
Who is the Watts RV PRO-1000 ideal for?
- An RV, mobile home or a small household. It is a mobile unit and designed with a traveler in mind.
The Watts RV PRO-1000 is one of the best portable water softeners on the market. It is fast, efficient and most importantly, light and compact.
If you are planning on a long road trip, this is one of the best water treatment systems that you can carry with you.
Tips for Maintaining a Water Softener
Water softeners don’t require much maintenance.
However, if you are not careful, they can run into some significant problems.
If you follow the tips outlined below, you should have no difficulties in keeping your water softener in good health.
- Add salt at the right time
- Make sure that the brine tank does not dry out
- Add salt at the right time: Adding salt is a critical operation to keep your softener working properly. Not only the amount is significant, but the schedule of addition is also crucial. The information about salt replacement is very easy to find online or in the product manual. Make sure that you have the information handy and stick to the recommended schedule.
- Make sure that the brine tank does not dry out: Most home water softeners need some water in the brine tank at all times. Although the amount depends on the make and model, it should be no more than 11.5 inches.
- Additional tips:
Never use common salt in your softener. Although common salt is less expensive compared to the pellets, it can cause damage in the long run. So, avoid it at any cost.
Make sure that you clean the tank at least once a year to ensure smooth operation.
Water softeners can protect your utensils, appliances and your health from the harmful effects of hard water.
Most people don’t realize all these effects of hard water. We hope that this article helped you to learn something new about hard water and water softeners.
There are a ton of water softeners to choose from in the market, and the choice can quickly get confusing. We hope that after going through this article, you can make an educated and an informed choice.
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Until the next time!