Hard water has a high mineral content, and is common in many places. It can be uncomfortable, making it difficult to use soap for washing or bathing. It also creates soap scum, leading to dirty looking bathrooms and kitchens. Most importantly, though, hard water can damage your plumbing and shorten the life of your appliances. A water softener can solve all these problems by removing minerals from your water.
The Top Ten
These are our top ten water softeners available online. Choosing from among these means you will get the best value for your money, and have a better chance of meeting your needs.
|Clearwave CW-125 Salt Free Electronic Water Conditioner||4.0||$|
|Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener||4.7||$$$|
|Eddy Electronic Water Descaler||3.8||$|
|Watts RV PRO-1000 10000 Grains Portable Water Softener||4.6||$$|
|WaterBoss 365 36400 Grain Water Softener||4.1||$$$|
|Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener & Iron Filter||4.8||$$$$$|
|Nuvo DPMB Manor Salt Water Softener System||2.4||$$$$$|
|OmniFilter OM40K Twin Tank Water Softener||5.0||$$|
|Rhino Whole House Filter + SimplySoft Whole House Descaler||4.0||$$$$$+|
|Aquios Full House Water Softener and Filter System||3.4||$$$|
What Is A Water Softener And Why Do You Need One?
When water has a high concentration of minerals such limestone and chalk, it is called hard water. These minerals contain calcium and magnesium, which are left behind when water dries. This dried coating of minerals is commonly referred to as ‘soap scum,’ and is both unsightly and difficult to remove. As mentioned above, hard water also inhibits the lathering of soap, making it less effective when used it to clean or bathe.
Those both might be considered somewhat superficial problems. Soap scum can be cleaned with most cleaning agents, or a simple vinegar mixture, Problems with lathering can be solved by adding more soap. More importantly, hard water can cause other, less obvious problems as well. Scale forms when the minerals in the water collect over a period of time. These minerals coat the inside of faucets and shower heads, blocking them and making them less efficient. They can also coat the inside of pipes, leading to blockages. The presence of minerals can result in something called galvanic corrosion, which can lead to weakened pipes and cause leaks.
Water softeners remove the minerals from the water, in other words ‘softening’ it. Softened water is easier to lather, and generally increases the lifespan of plumbing fixtures and fittings. Some types of softeners specifically address lime scale, and are designed to prevent the build up minerals in plumbing that causes blockages and leaks. Lime scale can also accumulate in appliances, such as water heaters, and collect on heating elements. This will reduce their efficiency and can even lead to fires. Softening water prevents all these issues.
The Different Types Of Water Softener
There are several different types of water softeners. These all remove the calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that lead to hard water.
The most common water softeners for home use are ion exchange resin devices. These water softeners remove minerals by replacing them with other substances that do not cause the same issues. The minerals that cause the hardness are in ionic form. In other words, they carry an electric charge. The water softener uses an oppositely charged resin to attract these ions, separating them from the water and replacing them with an oppositely charged substance. These substances can include potassium or hydrogen. Most often, these types of softeners use salt and replace the calcium and magnesium with sodium.
One down side of ion exchange devices is that the minerals that are removed have to be cleaned out on occasion. These are stored in the form of brine, and when disposed of improperly can have negative environmental impacts. The salt also needs to be refilled on a regular basis, which is an additional expense and inconvenience.
As the technology for water softeners has advanced, a number of other options have entered the market. One innovative water softener uses shifting magnetic fields to prevent the hard water minerals from adhering to the interior of pipes. These are not truly water softeners, and do not address issues such as the difficulty lathering, and do not change the mineral content of the water. However, they do not create brine that must be disposed of, nor do they need to be refilled with salt.
Other types use chemical additives to keep the minerals suspended in the water, or to filter them out.
How To Find The Best Water Softener For Me
Some people are used to hard water and find it difficult to rinse soap in soft water, or find the water itself has a slick feel to it. Others don’t mind whether their soap lathers easily or not, and just want to reduce the work of cleaning soap scum and increase the life of their plumbing and appliances. When choosing a water softener, it is important to first understand what your goal is, and the best way to achieve it.
Ion exchange resin softeners can work in several ways. There are some that are activated response to need, softening water when the supply runs low. These are the most efficient, as they only activate when needed. Others might run on a timer, or are activated manually. Water softeners that operate in this way are often meant for specific uses.
A water softener large enough to accommodate a whole house’s plumbing supply can be expensive. Add to that the continuing cost of salt and brine disposal, and it can add up to quite a bill. If your goal is not to soften the water, but instead to reduce lime scale and soap scum, there are a number of less expensive options. ‘Softeners’ that use shifting magnetic fields are usually much less expensive, and easier to install.
Other water softeners can include whole house water filtering systems that remove chlorine and other chemicals in addition to softening the water. These can be on the expensive side, but might be worth considering if you’re interested in filtering your water.
Water Softener Prices
Systems that use shifting magnetic fields are usually the least expensive, being commonly priced under $200. Ion exchange resin systems have a price range of $400 to $600 depending on the features included and size. Systems that include water filtering start around $800 and go up from there.
This is not a traditional water softener. Soap will not lather more easily, as the minerals that cause the problem, primarily calcium and magnesium, are not removed as they are with salt based water softening systems. The claim the manufacturer makes is that it will use electro-magnetic waves to treat the hard water causing minerals. The effect is to prevent them from collecting, so that lime scale does not accumulate. Installation is straightforward. The Clearwave is attached to a pipe, with the wires wrapped around it. It has to be plugged in, with the cord about 6 ft. long. Not all results are the same though. Water with a high iron content, or extremely hard water may not be affected.
The Eddy Descaler uses electro-magnetic waves to condition the water. The Eddy Descaler has two wires, which are wrapped around the pipes. These apply shifting magnetic fields to the water, and prevent the hard water minerals from adhering to surface. It does not soften the water. Installation is straightforward and does not require any tools or know-how. The Eddy Descaler will not work on water with a high iron content, which can be found in many well water supplies. It also will not work on galvanized piping, as this will ground the electrical effect. It will work best with PVC pipes.
Water supplies with high iron content can pose special problems when it comes to water softening. Lots of iron can foul the water softener, or reduce its effectiveness. An iron filter is required to keep the water softener in working order. Installation of this unit can be difficult, and if you’re not familiar with plumbing and water softeners it might be best to get a plumber of knowledgeable friend to help. Water with an extremely high iron content may require an additional iron filter.
This is a filter, salt-less water softening system. It works by filtering out the minerals that cause hard water. However, filters tend not to remove as much of these minerals as salt based water softeners. It will reduce the hardness of the water, but it is going to have a bigger impact on water that already has a low concentration of these minerals. On the upside, it is easy to install. There is also no drop off in water pressure with this unit.
This is a filter as well as water softener. It removes pesticides, chlorine, and sediment. It also softens the water without the use of salt. Salt-based softeners can add sodium to the water. With this system, there is no added sodium, which is better for you and better for the environment. This unit uses brass fitting and connectors, which last longer and are generally easier to use and install. Cheaper plastic fittings often lead to leaks and a drop off of water pressure. This can be a complex install, and it is a good idea to get a professional if you’re not a confident plumber.
The hardness of water varies from place to place, and depends on the water supply. If you live in an area with hard water, adding a water softener to your home can result in longer lasting, more efficient plumbing and appliances.