Installing a whole house water softener in your home can provide a multitude of benefits for your family, your home itself, and your wallet. Not only can a water softener improve the quality of water your family uses for drinking, cleaning, and bathing, but it can also extend the life of your plumbing and fixtures. Furthermore, hard water causes scale buildup that can shorten the life of your hot water tank and other water-using appliances. Installing a water softener is an easy solution for hard water issues.
Over the centuries, it has become more and more clear that clean, pure water is essential for human health. Humans began filtering drinking water at least 4,000 years ago, and the first water softening system was invented in the mid- 1800s. The first water softener systems were very large and operated without electricity. Water softeners have become more and more common in homes over the last 100 years. Today’s water softeners are designed to be more efficient and reliable; they use less salt (sometimes no salt at all) and waste less water, while also taking up less space in the home.
To help you make an informed decision about which water softener is ideal for your home, our experts have researched and compiled the seven water softener reviews below. Our hope is for this article to be a key factor in you finding the best water softener for your home in 2019.
Water Softener Comparison Chart
|Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener|
Our Top Pick for 2019
Click to read review
|Pelican Water Systems Salt-Free Water Softener|
Click to read review
|On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener|
Click to read review
|Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener and Iron Filter|
Click to read review
|Eddy Electronic Water Softener and Descaler|
Click to read review
|YARNA Electronic Water Softener and Descaler|
Click to read review
|Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener and Whole House Water Filter|
Click to read review
Best Water Softener Reviews
1. Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
Our top pick for 2019 is the Fleck 5600SXT! This unit is a digital metered whole house water softener system for medium to large households. The digital display makes this system very easy to operate, and regeneration is fully automated, so there’s very little maintenance required once the system is installed. This is a salt-based water softener with a 48,000-grain capacity, making it very effective for softening even the hardest water.
The Fleck 5600SXT has been designed with a high-efficiency valve to save so salt, making it more economical to operate in comparison to older systems. This system comes complete with a polyglass softener tank, brine tank, control head, and long-lasting 8% crosslink resin. An installation kit that includes complete instructions and a video also comes with the unit. Just plumb it in, add salt, and you’re good to go.
One of our favorite features of this system is the on-demand, metered flow system that keeps track of the water usage for you and regenerates as needed. The convenient LCD display also displays the status of the system, and all controls are on one easy to use touchpad.
Firsthand reports of this unit say it’s easy to install and does an excellent job of, well, softening their water. Users found the system to be easy to operate and say that it uses less salt than they expected. The only drawback to this system is its size; this is not a compact unit, so it will not work for tight spaces. Fleck provides a 10-year warranty on the tanks and a five-year warranty on the valve with the purchase of this water softener.
2. Pelican Water Systems Salt-Free Water Softener
The Pelican Water Systems Salt-Free Water Softener softens the water by neutralizing the minerals to prevent them from sticking to surfaces, rather than removing them from the water. This system works without the need for salt or brine discharge, and it doesn’t even require electricity. As water passes through the system, minerals that cause hard water are crystallized to stop them from adhering to your pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
This salt-free water softener is proven to prevent 99.6% of scale buildup, leading to your appliances lasting longer and the quality of your drinking water being vastly improved. Adding to this, your pipes will also be protected from corrosion and your clothes and dishes will be without unwanted residue. One of our favorite things about this system is that it’s quite easy to install and is virtually maintenance-free thereafter.
If you are concerned about the environment, you will be happy to know that this water softener is very eco-friendly, as no salt brine or other harmful chemicals will be discharged back into the environment. In addition, this system saves you money in the long run because as there’s no need to purchase salt and it doesn’t require electricity to operate.
The main drawback of installing this salt-free water softener is the upfront cost. This system costs almost twice as much as some of the other systems on our list. Some reviewers also felt that this system didn’t soften the water enough to prevent stains. That being said, Pelican Water Systems provides a pretty incredible lifetime warranty with the purchase of this product.
As a side note, Pelican’s water softeners pair perfectly with their whole house water filters, one of which we wrote about in our guide to whole house water filters.
3. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener
This On The Go Water Softener is the largest, compact (how’s that for an oxymoron) water softener on the market. This system is salt-based and is capable of producing as much as 40% more soft water than other similarly sized units. Although the OTG4 system was designed specifically for use in RVs, the reasonable price point and compact size make it an excellent option for use in tiny homes and apartments. This system effectively prevents both rust stains and scale buildup in pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
Some notable features of this system are the wide opening that allows salt to be added easily, the flexible carrying handle for portability, and the in and out head set and bypass for easy maintenance of the system. The On The Go Water Softener filters 500-1600 gallons of hard water before it needs to regenerate, and its maximum pressure is 120 psi. To start a new cycle, only two boxes of standard table salt are required.
The main benefit of this system is its compact size; the entire unit is only 10×22 inches, meaning it can be used in various applications, such as at the campground, RV park, or at home (albeit a small home) for soft, odorless, great-tasting water. The only con we can see to this system is that it’s not big enough to handle the water needs of a full-size home, but there are other systems for that. The OTG4 offers excellent value for the price.
4. Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener and Iron Filter
The Iron Pro 2 is a water softener and iron filter all in one. We love this system because it eliminates the red staining in your sinks, toilets, and bathtubs that is caused by high concentrations of iron in the water while also preventing scale build-up and, of course, softening the water; all in one easy to use system. If it wasn’t already implied, this means no more scrubbing white, flaky scale residue or stains off your fixtures and appliances!
The flow rate of this system is an impressive 15 gallons per minute, which should provide plenty of water pressure for your entire house. In addition to removing iron from your water, the Iron Pro 2 also removes magnesium, manganese, calcium, sediment, sand, and rust during the filtration process. Adding to this, this system will also filter out up to 2ppm of sulfur to eliminate unpleasant odors.
Other key features of this system include a bypass valve that allows for easier maintenance and a plastic cone that’s designed to keep resin from entering your pipes when the system is not in use. The Iron Pro 2 regenerates automatically to prolong the life of the resin, and the controls can be set to regenerate at a certain time, or after a certain number of gallons have been filtered. The life of the resin will vary by usage, but it should last the average family for five years or more.
Owners of this system report that the touchpad controls are very easy to use and overall maintenance is very simple. However, reviewers did point out that you will need to hire a professional to install the system if you don’t have prior plumbing experience. As far as warranty goes, Fleck includes five years with purchase.
5. Eddy Electronic Water Softener and Descaler
If after seeing some of the more expensive units we’ve reviewed above you’re looking for a more affordable, easy to install alternative to a traditional water softener, the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler might be for you. This system can easily be installed by the do-it-yourselfer and requires little to no maintenance once installation is complete. This system from Eddy does not alter the chemical hardness of your water, but it does prevent scale buildup in your pipes, fixtures, and appliances without the need for salt to soften the water.
The Eddy Electronic Water Softener and Descaler uses an electromagnetic wave to alter the adhesion properties of the minerals that cause hard water. The magnetic waves travel through magnetic coils that are wrapped around your existing water pipes. The unit itself is very small and compact, weighing less than two pounds. Similar to the Pelican Water Systems units above, this system is very eco-friendly because it uses very little electricity and does not release salt or other harmful chemicals into the environment.
If the hardness level of your water is average or low, and your pipes are PVC, this system is a good option for you. However, if your water is extremely hard, over 20 GPG, you may not see any improvement at all with this system. Adding to this, as it uses magnetism, it will not work if you have metal pipes. That being said, Eddy offers a 12-month 100% money back guarantee and a lifetime warranty on this product, so there’s no risk in giving it a try if you think it could be a good fit.
6. YARNA Electronic Water Softener and Descaler
The YARNA Electronic Water Softener and Descaler removes excess calcium and magnesium from your water, without the need to add salt or other chemicals. Instead, the YARNA Water Softener works by crystallizing the hard water minerals in your water so they can’t build up and cause scale. Included with purchase is everything you’ll need to get this unit up and running and it’s incredibly easy to install.
YARNA has designed this unit to function with impulse bands that can be wrapped around any type of pipe, including metal, unlike the Eddy unit above. This water softener and descaler can effectively remove up to 99% of limescale, which assists in prolonging the lifespan of your appliances, plumbing, and fixtures. Not to mention, hard water can also create issues with dry skin and hair and prevent soap and detergent from working correctly; as with the other softeners on this list, this unit can help to eliminate those problems, albeit at a cheaper price point and with easier installation.
Once this system is installed, it is virtually maintenance free and has no negative impact on the environment since no salt or chemicals are used. This particular unit is also quite economical in its operation as it uses very little electricity and doesn’t require the purchasing of any additives. YARNA claims that operating costs for this system are only about $10 per year.
While there’s a lot of good to be said about this small but mighty softener and descaler, it doesn’t remove iron from water and may not be enough for water that’s extremely hard. However, this unit is very affordable and a good option for those looking for a low maintenance solution to limescale issues. YARNA provides a 10-year warranty at the time of purchase.
7. Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener and Whole House Water Filter
The Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener and Whole House Water Filter is a salt-free system that not only softens your water, but also filters it to provide delicious, odor-free water throughout your entire home. Unlike the other water softeners in this article, this particular unit combines its softening powers with a whole house water filter. This results in the removal of pesticides, heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, and more from your water at the point of entry. Adding to this, there’s even an optional UV filter for this system that will remove bacteria and viruses.
Aquasana has designed this unit with a unique upflow, dual tank functionality that allows water to stay in contact with the filter media longer, providing more time for the filter to do its job. Furthermore, as this unit is salt-free, it will protect your pipes, appliances, and fixtures from scale buildup and corrosion without increasing the sodium content of your water or removing essential minerals.
Aquasana offers a pro-grade installation kit for this system that includes a pre-filter, post-filter, brass fittings, as well as shut off valves for easier maintenance and installation. Speaking of maintenance, the only time spent maintaining this unit will be when changing out the filters every 10,000 gallons. This unit is relatively easy to install, but if you don’t have any prior plumbing experience, you may wish to hire a professional plumber who’s more up to the task. Aquasana stands behind this product with a 10-year warranty and is a brand with a fantastic product lineup; our Aquasana reviews article delves into a number of their water-focused filtration and purification products.
How Water Softeners Work
Plain and simple, water softeners soften hard water by removing the minerals that cause water to be deemed hard. Water is determined to be hard when it contains higher than average amounts of minerals like magnesium and calcium. When your water is hard, you may notice a white film on your bathroom fixtures and shower doors as well as white spots on your glassware. Hard water can even make clothes may look yellow or dingy. Even worse, hard water can cause skin to become dry and itchy and make hair look dull. You may also notice that appliances like coffee makers, dishwashers, and washing machines aren’t lasting as long as they were advertised.
Many people with a general knowledge of water softeners believe that it’s the salt that softens the water, while in actuality it’s the resin that does the real work, which is why the salt-free units we have listed above can accomplish the same end result of providing soft water. While the tiny resin beads inside your water softener tank filter out hard water minerals, salt-based systems use salt to clean the resin beads when your system regenerates.
Here’s a basic overview of how a salt-based water softener system works:
- These systems are installed at the main water line where the water comes into your home. As hard water enters your home from your main water line or well, its first stop is the water softener tank.
- The main water softener tank is full of tiny resin beads. These beads are intended to attract the hard water minerals and hold them in the tank, effectively removing them from the water. During this process, the hard water minerals are actually exchanged for sodium on the resin beads.
- Softened water leaves the tank and continues through your pipes to be used in your hot water heater, kitchen, bathrooms and other water-using appliances.
- After a certain amount of water has been softened, the resin beads must be rinsed clean of the hard water minerals and recharged with more sodium, so they can collect and attract more hard water minerals from your water.
- During the regeneration process, a strong brine is created in your system’s brine tank from the salt you added to the system. As this brine flows through your resin tank, the beads are rinsed and sodium is exchanged for the minerals that have been collected. This process can take as long as two hours and most systems allow you to program the regeneration for a time when you aren’t likely to be using the water.
There are some salt-free systems that use different methods to remove the hard water minerals from your water. For example, the Aquasana system discussed above uses a filter to remove the hard water minerals. This filter must be replaced periodically to allow more minerals to be filtered out.
As a side note, Eddy and YARNA systems mentioned above don’t actually remove the minerals from your water. Instead, they crystallize the minerals to prevent them from adhering to surfaces, which prevents scale from forming. These systems don’t require salt, chemicals, or a filter, so they’re virtually maintenance free.
Advantages of a Water Softener
Installing a water softener can provide a multitude of advantages for your health, the cleanliness of your home, and the longevity of your pipes, water heater, and appliances. Adding to this, after the upfront cost, a water softener will actually save you money in several ways, too.
One of the most significant advantages of a water softener is the improved quality of the drinking water throughout your home. Softened water tastes better, which could lead to your family drinking more water and fewer sugary soft drinks. Some experts also believe that drinking very hard water can cause cardiovascular and reproductive issues because of the excess minerals.
Softened water is much better for your skin and hair, too. After using softened water for a short time, you’ll most likely begin to notice that your skin and hair are softer and you won’t have as many issues with dry, itchy skin. Without the harmful minerals in your water, your hair might also become shinier and less brittle; even your shampoo and body wash might lather better and be more effective.
When it comes to cleaning your home, you will quickly discover that household cleaning products are much more effective when you have soft water. In fact, using soft water when you clean reduces the amount of cleaner you need by up to 70%. Your dishes and glassware will be spot free when they come out of the dishwasher, too. Adding to this, your clothes, towels and linens will be cleaner, softer, brighter and whiter than before. Hard water is also responsible for unsightly stains on bathroom fixtures, toilets, tubs, and showers. A water softener actually makes cleaning your bathroom much easier because you won’t have to scrub away the scum, stains, and grimy film that are left behind by hard water.
As we alluded to in the beginning of this section, a water softener is indispensable when it comes to longevity of your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, and other water-using appliances. Mineral buildup from hard water is a leading cause of appliance failure. Not only that, but hard water can affect the efficiency of your water heater, making it work harder and use more electricity, resulting in higher electricity bills.
If all that isn’t enough, installing a water softener can extend the life of your pipes, faucets and shower heads by reducing clogging, too. Hard water causes scale to form inside your plumbing and fixtures, which restricts water flow. Over time, scale buildup can lead to a reduction in water pressure and your pipes and fixtures will become clogged much more easily. A water softener not only prevents new scale buildup from forming, but it can actually reduce the amount of existing scale after installation.
Water Softener Installation and Maintenance
Although most water softeners are reasonably easy to install, especially with the number of DIY videos out there, you may wish to call in a professional plumber if you don’t have any plumbing experience, especially if your home has never had a water softener before. Be sure to place your system before your hot water heater to protect it from corrosion and buildup. Salt-based systems must be placed near a drain because they will need to empty out each time the system regenerates.
To begin installation, turn off the water at your main water line and drain all the water out of your pipes. Turn off the power to your water heater, as well. Next, cut into the main line at the desired location and install an elbow fitting with a bypass valve to allow you to bypass the water softener system if necessary.
Now, use the compression fittings that came with your system to attach the pipes that will feed the water into and out of the system. Attach the drain hose and run it to a floor drain, sump pump, or utility drain and clamp it into place. Following the manufacturer’s specifications, connect the overflow tube to your system’s brine tank.
Next, flush the system with water to remove any debris. Turn the unit on and set it to the backwash position. Slowly open the valve to release any air from the pipes. Finally, add salt to the brine tank and set up the regeneration schedule according to the instruction book that came with your unit.
Maintaining your salt-based water softener is pretty straightforward. Simply add salt according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to use the proper type of salt recommended by your system’s manufacturer; some systems use standard table salt while others use water softener salt or even rock salt. Don’t add salt until the brine tank is empty, and then only fill the tank about two-thirds of the way. The brine tank should be drained and cleaned with fresh water about once a year for sanitary reasons.
For those who want a maintenance-free option and super simple installation, the Eddy and YARNA systems discussed above might be good choices. There’s no need to make any modifications to your plumbing when installing these systems and they don’t even need a drain. Furthermore, since they don’t require salt, no maintenance is required once the unit is in place.
Best Water Softener Buyer’s Guide
There are several things to consider when choosing a water softener for your home; depending on your situation, the most expensive one isn’t always the best option. The first thing you need to know is how hard your water is, so start by sending a water sample in for testing or purchasing a test kit to do it yourself. Knowing just how hard your water is will help you determine what type of system you need.
The hardness level of water is measured in grains per gallon, and anything over seven grains per gallon indicates the need for a water softener. To figure out what size system you need, take the number of grains per gallon of water, determine how many gallons of water your household uses per day, and compare it to the number of grains of hardness the unit is rated to remove in a day.
For traditional homes with very hard water, a salt-based system will be most effective for softening water. The maintenance required for these systems is minimal, and most newer systems operate on a set it and forget it methodology; merely add salt when needed and clean the brine tank once per year. Salt-based systems usually have two tanks, one for the resin and one for the salt/brine solution.
However, these systems do take up a lot of space, and some plumbing knowledge will be required for installation. They will also need to be placed near a drain. For tiny homes, apartments, and RV dwellers, the On The Go Water Softener is a great option. It does the same job as a larger system but in a small compact form factor. Adding to this, because the unit is meant to be portable, it’s easy to hook up and run the hose for draining purposes.
Some whole house water softener systems can do more than just soften water, such as remove other undesirable elements from your water. For example, the Iron Pro 2 removes iron, sulfur, manganese, calcium, sediment, sand, and rust during the filtration process. Furthermore, the Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener and Whole House Water Filter offers a full range of options, including a UV filter to remove bacteria and viruses. Use your water test results to help you determine if you need these features.
In the event that you don’t want to be bothered with adding salt to your system, salt-free options abound. The Pelican Water, YARNA and Eddy systems discussed above are all salt-free and require virtually no maintenance once installed. These systems work by neutralizing the minerals in the water through crystallization, which prevents the minerals from sticking to surfaces. Unfortunately, these systems may not be effective enough if you have very hard water.
On the condition that budget and space are your primary concerns when choosing your system, take a look at the Eddy system and the YARNA system. They are both very affordable and don’t take up much space for installation. In fact, even the novice do-it-yourselfer can install one of these two systems in minutes without the need for special tools. These systems are simply clipped onto your main water line where it enters the home. Since they use electromagnetic properties to neutralize the hard water minerals, there’s no salt to buy. They are also very energy efficient and require only small amounts of electricity to run. Keep in mind, as we stated in the prior paragraph, that these systems will work best where the level of hardness isn’t extremely high.
If you’re looking to further outfit your home with the latest in water-augmenting technology, this Best Instant Hot Water Dispenser article we put together is a must-read.
When deciding on the best water softener system for your home, always start with a water test to determine precisely what you need. The type of system you need will vary based on the hardness of your water, and sometimes the most expensive system isn’t necessary. Also, consider the size of the system and where it will be positioned, as well as cost and ease of installation. All of these factors coupled with the above water softener reviews should help you determine which system will most ideally fit your individual needs.