7 Best Water Softeners
Do you have trouble with hard, mineral-rich water? You can improve your water with one of these seven top-rated water softeners.
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Water Softener Basics
Mineral-rich water, also called hard water, might sound like a good thing, but there are many reasons to remove naturally occurring minerals from household water. These minerals cause staining and can build up on faucets, sinks and showers, making them difficult to clean. High mineral concentration can also make water smell and taste “off.”
With many homes tapping into naturally hard water sources, removing these minerals is worth considering. That’s where water softeners come in. They remove minerals from incoming water before it reaches your tap. Most water softeners are rated in grains per gallon, which refers to the weight of minerals removed from one gallon of water. A grain is about two-thousands of an ounce.
Here’s a list of seven of the best water softeners for different situations.
Best for Well Water
Many wells are bored into rock, which means lots of minerals in the water. The Whirlpool Pro Water Softener is great for well water because its hardness removal rating is a robust 120 grains per gallon. Designed to purify water for one to five people, this Whirlpool water softener removes minerals and contaminants, and self-cleans its filter every two weeks.
Most water softeners use salt and ionized resin beads to collect minerals from incoming water, but not everyone wants to purify their water this way. Fortunately, there are alternatives — salt-free water softeners. Although there’s ongoing controversy over whether these work, the Eddy Electonic Water Descaler has excellent reviews and costs only $200. Like all non-salt softeners it doesn’t actually remove the minerals from water. It claims to change the minerals’ form instead, allowing them to exist in the water without staining or scaling.
At $1,600, this unit from Fleck is pricey, but it comes with impressive statistics. Its dual-tank system means softened water won’t run out even at high-demand times. Its 96,000-grain mineral removal capacity is big enough for a family of eight, assuming water of average hardness. Its digital control panel also allows minute adjustments to minimize salt usage while maximizing mineral removal.
Even the cheapest salt-based water softeners are serious pieces of equipment, so expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars. This unit from Tier1 offers great value. For $500, it boasts 48,000-grain mineral removal capacity, a space-saving design and impressive energy efficiency. And its LED display makes it easy to monitor and adjust.
Another Fleck product, the 5600SXT, has a respectable 64,000-grain mineral removal capacity. Its tank comes pre-loaded from the factory with two cubic feet of ionized resin beads, ready to start collecting minerals. It’s also got a built-in capacitor to save programmed settings for up to 48 hours in the event of a power outage, so your specifications won’t be lost. It’s a smart system, designed to save salt and energy by only supplying purified water as needed.
Although almost no high-quality water softeners are cheap, if minerals in your water are a serious problem, it’s worth the investment. That said, it’s important to gauge your water needs and buy accordingly. The best balance of cost and features I’ve seen is this unit from Aquasure. It comes in three sizes, with the 64,000-grain model the largest and most costly at $650. For the price, it’s well-equipped with features like digital on-demand meter control, two cubic feet of pre-filled resin a five-foot brine line and 14-foot drain.
Water softening isn’t just for your home. Many folks traveling by boat or RV on long vacations like to soften their water, too. That’s when portable softeners, such as this one from On The Go, come in handy. With a 16,000-grain softening capacity, it doesn’t have the juice of permanently installed units, but it’s considerably less expensive. At 22 in. tall and 10 in. wide, it can travel almost anywhere you do. It supplies enough softened water for one or two people if they’re careful about their water use.