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Best Water Softener System Reviewed I Salt vs Salt Free 2018

What do you get when you have itchy skin, ugly shirts, spotty glasses, and a broken coffee maker? Certainly not a date!

The answer is a water softener.

Hard water has been ruining pipes, appliances, and relationships for years. If hard water has entered your life, you can learn how to soften it and eliminate the problem for good.

Stick around to learn what hard water actually is, how to diagnose the problem, and most importantly, which is the best water softener for you. 

Water Softener Reviews

If you’re not sure where to start when looking at water softener brands, take a look at some of the top models in several Amazon water softener categories. You can also read this article for some inside water softener reviews.

best water softener system 
Aquasana 10-Year Salt-Free Softener

Aquasana 10-Year, 1,000,000

Best Water Softener

The Aquasana Rhino is the best water softener and exceeds NSF standards by removing 97% of the chlorine in your home. You’ll enjoy great tasting water and improved indoor air quality by reducing chemicals that vaporize in shower steam, helping with allergy control. 

By removing metals such as lead and mercury, not only is the taste significantly improved, but so is the overall health of you and your family. The many different chemicals that can float around in your drinking h20 suddenly disappears after using this filter.

​Such a versatile filter is rare to find on the market. Being able to filter your water and soften it is an impressive feat. After getting rid of all those harmful chemicals, you will even notice positive changes from showering with this clean water. The design is excellent with a dual tank design which helps get rid of even more chemicals.

Pros

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    Does not require electricity
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    Does not create waste-water
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    Dual tank design

Cons

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    Must be installed by licensed plumber
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    Weak gaskets
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    Frequent filter changes

Best Value - Fleck 5600SXT Softener Digital

Fleck 5600SXT 48,000

This is our 2nd best water softener and if budget is a concern when shopping for a unit, the Fleck is an excellent option. It includes a 10-year warranty on the tank, protecting your investment. There is no low-salt level indicator so make sure you check your salt levels on occasion. Most users report going through a bag a month in their Fleck water conditioner reviews.

The package comes with the tank, a control head, brine tank, and resin. Everything you need to get started and more! The LCD display is very easy to read and understand. Very simple error messages are displayed here in case something goes wrong. Troubleshooting couldn't be any easier!

A great feature of this softener is the flow meter system it utilizes. This works to measure the use of water in your home so that it can quickly regenerate it and prevent any unnecessary waste. 

Pros

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    Polyglass tank
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    Digital meter
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    Programmable cycles

Cons

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    No low-salt indicator
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    Plastic valves
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    Installation instructions not included

Best for RV/Small Places/Portable
 ABC Portable Unit

On the Go OTG4-DBLESOFT-Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener

For extended RV camping trips or tight spaces, the On the Go Portable unit the best option. It’s the largest compact RV unit on the market and supplies 40% more than other units. It provides up to 40 days of soft water before needing to be serviced. For soft water on the go, this is the best portable water softener option.

It does not require any electricity! Using only a standard garden hose, you can use this unit immediately, anywhere you are around water. No additional tools are necessary and the softener can be stored anywhere for safe keeping. The cap and plug is tightly sealed to avoid leakage. 

Pros

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    Portable
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    Requires no tools or electricity
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    Easy to store

Cons

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    Plastic hose fittings
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    A bit awkward to use
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    Frequent recharging needed
Eddy

Our top rated softening system. Interested in a magnetic unit? Eddy Water products are easy to install and can be used on metal and plastic pipes. You’ll soften your water without removing healthy minerals. The price is affordable and the unit includes a 12-month 100% Money-Back Guarantee.

Since it is a magnetic system, there is little need for electricity. The softener only operates on about 5W of energy. No other softener on the market can match Eddy's unit in size. This only leads to a simply installation which makes it portable as well.

Pros

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    Lifetime Repair Warranty
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    No plumber needed
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    Affordable no-salt option

Cons

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    Doesn’t work for all users
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    Not for galvanized pipes
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    Some installations require access to difficult-to-reach pipes
Aquios FS-220

One benefit of installing an unit is saving money on energy, soap, laundry detergent, and repairs. Unfortunately, the Aquios isn’t as cost effective as other units. We also found more than one Aquios water softener systems review that mentions the filters needing to be replaced frequently. 

Despite this, the filter uses a salt free technology. The package is a complete one including everything you need to get started using the softener.

Pros

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    Salt-free option
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    All-on-one system
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    20-year warranty

Cons

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    Unit struggles to keep up with larger homes
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    Can weaken flow
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    Expensive

Signs of Hard Water

 When water has high levels of magnesium carbonate, calcium, and manganese, it’s classified as hard water. Signs that you have hard water include:

  • Mineral build-up around faucets and fixtures
  • Shortened appliance lives
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Hard to remove soap scum
  • Uncomfortable and dull clothing
  • Spots on dishes and glassware
Signs

Types of Softening Systems

Below, you’ll find three of the most common types. If you’re part of the estimated 85% of American homes with hard water, one of these systems can alleviate the issue. 

Salt Based Softening Systems

A salt based water softeners units are usually a dual-tank unit. Hard water enters the first tank which is full of tiny resin beads. These beads hold onto sodium and as the hard water flows through, the sodium is exchanged for the minerals.

Once the resin beads are full of hard minerals, a regeneration technique takes place in the second tank. Brine is pumped through the resin tank which flushes out the minerals. The minerals exit through a drain. The unit is then ready to remove more minerals from hard water.

These machines need to be stocked with salt but most designs use less than 10 bags a year.

Salt-Free Softening Systems

If you prefer to soften your water without using salt, whether for personal or dietary reasons, a salt-free water softeners system is ideal. Instead of salt, a substitute called potassium-chloride salt is used. Think of this system as more of a descaler than a full softener.
Instead of removing the minerals, the potassium-chloride salt prevents minerals from being deposited as scale in pipes and on surfaces.

Though not as effective as a salt based system, the best salt-free water softener can improve the quality of your home’s water and protect pipes, appliances, and clothing.

If you’re having doubts about a salt-free system, this video will address your questions and concerns.

Magnetic Systems

Magnetic water softeners systems are considered a bit controversial. There are conflicting studies surrounding their effectiveness. But for those who do use a magnetic or electric descaler, they’re more than happy with the results.

The systems are clipped onto incoming pipes where they set up a magnetic field which changes the electromagnetic properties of the mineral build-up, preventing it from collecting in pipes and causing damage.

Based on comparisons, salt based units are by far the most popular. But knowing that there are other options will help you make an informed decision about what’s best for your home.

Scale

Scale, or limescale, is a hard, off-white chalky deposit that collects on surfaces due to hard water. It’s not only an eyesore in bathrooms or on kitchen faucets but can cause serious damage to your pipes and appliances.

As already mentioned, hard water has high levels of calcium and other minerals. When water is heated, these minerals will precipitate out, leaving build-up in pipes and appliances.

Scale can cause clogs or damage in pipes and drastically shorten the lifespan of your appliances, like coffee makers and dishwashers.

Signs of scale issues in a home include:

  • Decreased flow throughout the entire house
  • Clogs and backflow in plumbing
  • Weak soap lather

If you notice scale in your bathtub or find yourself calling a plumber on a somewhat regular basis, installing a unit can prevent further damage to your home’s infrastructure.

Having hard water doesn’t need to hinder your day to day life. A simple water softeners installation can keep your clothes looking great, your skin feeling great, and your home operating great. 

How It Works?

When talking about how water softeners work, it is important to understand that they focus on removing calcium and magnesium. Both of these can end up causing clogs and issues inside your pipes. There is also something known as 'soap scum' that can be left behind after cleaning using hard h20. The issue with soap scum is if you leave it unattended for too long, it can be very difficult to remove. 

​Soap Scum

As discussed above, soap scum is produced when you try and clean with hard water. More specifically, the minerals in your hard water mix with both soap and dirt to produce this 'soap scum'. It manifests into a white layer that can show up in your bathroom and sometimes in your laundry. Hard h2o is the main culprit here as the minerals in it do not like each other very well. This becomes extremely dangerous once left unattended because the soap scum will continue to build up and eventually combine with mold to become extremely hard(sometimes as hard as concrete).

​​Removal

Getting rid of soap scum depends on the level that it has reached. One of the best methods is using a water softener so that you do not have hard h2o to produce this in the first place. Frequent cleaning is also a great solution to prevent the buildup of soap scum. You typically do not have to worry too much about soap scum until it has had enough time to buildup. 

​Deciding Guide

To summarize, we will discuss some of the things that you should be looking for when deciding on a h2o softener. Each of these things should help you with picking the right unit that best suits your needs and will save your some money in the long run.

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    Salt Costs: Salts costs tend to creep up on people. Making sure your salt tank is full is important. Several factors will influence how much salt you need including the hardness of your water and the regeneration process you have. Make sure to try and take the salt costs into account before choosing the right one.
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    Hardness : It is probably the most important aspect of choosing a the right unit. Knowing the hardness of your water is vital. So, you can always use a test kit to determine this. The harder your water, the more money you should expect to spend. You will need a strong unit to get the job done. 
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    Additional Features: You should always take into account things like a warranty. The main goal here is to get as much as you can for what you pay for. They are not cheap and having this added insurance can make a huge difference. If the unit you are ordering offers a nice warranty, it should take priority over other softeners you may be looking at. 
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    Salt Based vs Salt Free softener: Now that you know more about salt based and salt free systems, you should be able to make a more informed decision between the two. Both have their ups and downs. When it comes down to it, however, you should use a salt based system if your h20 is extremely hard. Salt free systems are more of a defensive and prevention route.
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    Flow Rate of water softener: They are designed to take into account how much water your home needs. So, knowing what your flow rate is and how much water your house needs will help you in buying the right unit. The more h2o, the more you should expect to pay.