What You Will Get Here
- What Are Water Softeners & Why Do You Need One?
- How to Determine the Perfect Size For You?
- Things to Consider When Buying Water Softeners
- Our Top 10 Product List
- Top Salt-Based Choice: iSpring WSP-50
- Top Reverse Osmosis Water Softener: iSpring RCC7AK
- Top Choice for Iron: Fleck 5600sxt
- Top Magnetic Aqua Softener: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
- Top Salt-Free Water Softener: Triple Action Poly Salt Free
- Top All-Purpose Choice: ResCare RK41N
- Top Portable Salt-Based Choice: On the Go OTG4-DBLSOFT
- A List of 3 Other Products We Reviewed
- Water Softener Installation Tips
- Care & Maintenance
- Final Words
What Are Water Softeners & Why Do You Need One?
A water softening system is an appliance that removes (positively-charged ions) minerals and metals from water. Various types come with different water filtration systems. The softener's unit where you'll see its removal method might use ion exchange resins, reverse osmosis (RO), or magnetic fields. While the porous resin beads are coated with negative ions, the RO softeners have semi-permeable membranes. Generally, most resin beads or zeolite are charged with sodium and potassium (soft) ions to help you replace hard ions.
Usually, water flows from local municipal water pipes into your softener's water tank. This household water is hard when it contains concentrations of 'dissolved,' hard ions like iron, calcium, and magnesium. For the salt-based types, hard water must pass through their tank's surface resin. It's this first tank that traps (ion exchange) hard minerals and gives soft water. There are grains of salt and water in the brine chamber whereas this (brine) solution ensures the next phase of regeneration.
The soft water contains sodium (salt) ions, but the brine solution will flow to the resin chamber that contains trapped minerals and displace them. It's the displacement of these hard minerals with high concentrations of sodium ions that helps your resin tank to clear these hard water ions. Consequently, as the softener flushes these contaminants through its wastewater drain, soft water flows into your home's plumbing system.
Soft water from your salt-based softener may be used for washing, but not for drinking purposes because it might contain high concentrations of sodium salt. However, you should monitor the level of salt in the brine chamber for the softening system to work effectively.
You'll need a water softening system to clear hard water, and for the following reasons:
- Water softeners help to extend the lifespan of appliances like washing machines, faucets, water heaters, pipes, coffee makers, dishwashers, water heaters, sinks, and ice-makers.
- When you wash, soap and shampoos will lather with soft water easily. It saves the amount of soap you need to wash and bathe.
- Soft water reduces the buildup of limescale and rust inside your water pipes and shower heads.
- The use of water softeners ensures glowing nails, skin, and hair. Also, the difference between hard and soft water is noticeable because of the hygienic effect of the latter. So, the use of soft water for bathing helps to promote the health of households.
How to Determine the Perfect Size For You?
The outward appearance of any water softening system doesn't determine its efficiency. Usually, the two models of portable and regular water softeners come in different sizes and capacities. The former type fits buyers with on-the-go lifestyles, while the latter is for buyers that don't need outdoor softening systems. Also, both types of softening devices are designed to replace hard water into soft water. Here are some tips to determine the ideal size for you.
- Before you settle for any, it's important to know if the 1-piece or 2-piece softener meets your needs. You might save more money from the low maintenance of 2-piece water softeners than single-tank designs. Usually, the media chamber (for hard ion separation) in a 2-piece water softener is designed to hold the system's control buttons. This style of construction is to prevent the spread of corrosion from salt in the brine chamber to the media chamber.
- However, the water softener with 1-piece unit is ideal if you need it for personal or small household use. The design of this type of softener helps you to conserve filtration salts and workload of the machine.
- Apart from buying water softeners that are reliable and sturdy, their ease of maintenance and availability of spare parts are important factors of consideration.
- Instead of purchasing a foreign brand with low availability of spare parts, try to get a locally-made product.
- Additionally, you can determine the workload of a water softener by multiplying the number of hard ions (minerals) by your daily water usage. The capacity of water softening systems to serve every member of the family or household must be considered before choosing any model. Generally, the hardness of water is a measurement in grains per gallon, and the rating ranges between 3 to 20 grains
Things to Consider When Buying Water Softeners
You have to ensure that your preferred choice is certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), or Water Quality Association (WQA), or NSF. These regulatory bodies are standards for water filtration systems. Aside from that, you should also consider the following factors.
There are four basic types of water softening systems that are ideal for home and office use. Each type of water softener model comes with some pros and cons. However, it's not all of them that are classified as water softeners because water conditioners (descalers) might produce soft water.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO) Type
- Salt Based Type
- Salt-Free Type
- Magnetic Type
Reverse Osmosis Systems
Water softening machines that use reverse osmosis technology have built-in, semi-permeable membranes. The treatment process of hard water begins as high-pressure pushes unfiltered water through this porous membrane and traps every mineral that's positively charged. With Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems, you don't need additives like salt to ensure the desired output. Instead, the space-efficient RO system clears water from every (bad or essential) mineral, and it’s easy to maintain.
Salt Based Systems
The salt-based softener uses an ion exchange system (resin beads) to swap hard-water ions for soft-water ions like sodium and potassium. Usually, this process (ion exchange) occurs in two tanks- resin and brine chambers. The quality of water might improve in the first chamber, but a later stage of regeneration occurs from the brine chamber that provides soft water. However, the concentration of salts (sodium or potassium chlorides) can leave your soft water with a salty taste. So, these Sodium or Potassium ions might render your soft water unfit for cooking and drinking purposes.
Instead of being called water softeners, salt-free systems are conditioners because they use complex nano-technology to descale water channels. These water conditioners (descalers) are not designed to remove minerals from hard water, but they prevent the formation of scales on water pipes, and appliances. So, descaling is a process of altering the chemical composition of hard-ion minerals in the water. This technique ensures that atomic structures of these contaminants can't bind together, or accumulate inside your water pipes.
Magnetic descalers don't need additives to soften water. Instead, magnetic systems use magnetic fields to change the atomic structure of hard water temporarily. However, the hardness is reversed if you don't use the soft water after 48 hours. Water softeners that use magnetic systems can handle hardness ratings that are below 8 GPG.
The capacity of water softening systems varies according to requirements. Usually, water usage for families and single occupants are different. A single user might see more reasons to buy a small-sized softener with one tank. You can get the 1-tank system at a cheap rate, but the system will require frequent regeneration. Also, a dual-tank softener can handle medium to large-sized households. However, 2-tank water softening systems are more expensive, and they regenerate less frequently.
The range of measurement for water's hardness is between 3-20 grains. While the value of 3 indicates very soft water, 20 is the highest quality of hard water. So, check your water source for its grains per week value, and choose the ideal water softener capacity for this purpose. Also, water softener systems with the following capacities; 16,000, 24,000, 32,000, 40,000, 48,000, 64,000, 80,000, and 100,000.
With a water test kit, you can measure the hardness in GPG (grains per gallon), MPL (milligrams per liter), or (PPM) parts per million. Also, 17.1mg/L is equal to 17.1PPM or 1 GPG. However, the durability of any water softener model not guaranteed when the weekly grains of your tap water exceeds the softener model's capacity.
The performance of water softening machines varies according to their maintenance and design. The salt-based softener's brine chamber needs to be assessed and refilled regularly. Without ensuring adequate levels of salt, you might not have a smooth filtration process with the water softener. Additionally, the brine's unit performance may develop salt bridges when you use low-quality salts. It's required to clear impurities from the tanks that, filter mesh (semi-permeable membranes), and resin beads. This practice will enhance your unit's performance to a great extent. After softening the water, you can use a water filter pitcher to ensure the purity of drinking water.
4. Bypass Valve
A valve is a flow system that serves as plumbing accessories for homes and offices. Bypass valves that come with water softeners are designed to divert the flow of water when you don't need soft water. Gardens and swimming pools might not need softened water. However, any great bypass valve should be user-friendly like the types in Fleck softening devices.
5. Regeneration Setting
Usually, softener systems regenerate according to their settings, or your water usage. Regeneration is regulated by a meter or timer, but you can run out of softened water when you rely on timed softening systems. Unlike a metered softener that regenerates when there's the need to, the timed system will utilize more salt and water after an extended period of non-usage.
You can get water softening systems for less than $50, but the high-end types of softeners cost hundreds of Dollars. Aligning your budget with the type of softener that you can afford is a good decision. Sometimes, conservative homeowners might need cheap, middle-of-the-pack softeners enjoy good water quality. However, you shouldn't expect energy-efficient softeners with high-quality to come cheaply.
Our Top 10 Product List
You might not need water softening machines to provide potable water, but they can keep your clothes free from stains when you wash with soft water. Alternatively, your bathroom's floor and shower will appear pleasing with the use of top-rated water softeners. There are health benefits when you choose the great units too. Make sure your preferred model has the availability of its spare parts. Your budget and the level of your tap water's contamination will help you get an ideal product from these top-rated machines.