Best Water Softener Reviews, Ratings & Buying Guide for 2016

best-water-softenerHard water is the result of excessive minerals in a water supply, and it can often cause more problems than many people realize. The buildup can cause damage to appliances and fixtures when mineral levels are too high, but water treatment can eliminate these minerals or reduce the effects they produce.

There are various water treatment systems available, and they use different methods to get the desired effect of more pure water to use for washing and drinking. Because there are so many systems available, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices for the water in your home. Rely on water softener reviews to learn more about the systems before settling on one for your particular needs.

The top rated water softeners are the most effective at ridding your water of unnecessary impurities and minerals. If you are looking to soften the water in your home, the water softener comparisons here should help you make a wise purchase.

Water SoftenerDimensions (inches)
Fleck 7000 SXT
Fleck 7000 SXTClick Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
10 x 54
Fleck 5600SXT
Fleck 5600SXTClick Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
10 x 54 tank, 14 x 17 x 33 brine tank
Watts RV PRO-1000
Watts RV PRO-1000Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
21 x 9.5 x 9
Aquios Full House
Aquios Full HouseClick Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
9 x 46 x 44
Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
Eddy Electronic Water DescalerClick Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
6.7 x 1.6 x 3.5
Aquasana EQ-1000
Aquasana EQ-1000Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
9 x 46 x 44
US Water Focus Premium Metered Water Softener
US Water Focus Premium Metered Water SoftenerClick Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
9 x 9 x 55.5
WaterBoss Water Softener Model#700
WaterBoss Water Softener Model#700Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
15.5 x 19.5 x 26.8
Aquios AQFS120
Aquios AQFS120Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on
13.3 X 5.5

What is a Water Softener and How Does It Work?

A water softener is an appliance or device used to transform hard water into “soft water” for bathing, cleaning and drinking. Hard water is tap or well water containing excessive amounts of minerals such as calcium and magnesium absorbed from the earth.

There are different methods to eliminating the mineral problem, and this results in different types of water softeners. Leaving minerals in your water supply results in buildup of mineral residue. Once the water has been treated, it will produce better results when cleaning dishes, washing clothes or cleansing skin.

Water softeners are made to operate in different ways depending on the type, but they work to achieve the same result. These devices help eliminate or destroy minerals such as calcium and magnesium in your water supply.

A salt-based water softener uses ion exchange that passes the water through a tank filled with charged resin beads, and these ions replace the minerals in the water. With reverse osmosis, hard water is passed through a membrane that allows water to pass through while blocking minerals.

Magnetic water softeners pass water through a magnetic field to reduce the effects of the minerals. Salt-free systems work similarly to those with salt, but hard water minerals are crystallized to prevent binding to surfaces.

How A Softener Works

Do I Need a Water Softener?

There are several signs to look for as indication that you may need a water softener. If you find mineral deposits on dishes and bathroom surfaces, there may be too much mineral content in your water supply. After washing, you may notice rough or dull hair.

You may also experience irritation on sensitive skin. You should first rule out other factors such as allergy and illness, but such signs may indicate that you have hard water. If you would like to treat your water to experience the benefits of decreased mineral presence, looking into water softeners would be a wise decision.

What is Hard Water and Why is It Bad?

In most households, the water supply for taps, hoses, sinks and fountains comes from the same source. Rainwater that falls to the ground is naturally “soft,” but when it travels through the ground through rocks and soil, it picks up minerals including lime, chalk, magnesium and calcium.

When this water reaches homes with excessive levels of these minerals, it becomes “hard” water. A home with hard water is a common occurrence, and more than 85 percent of American households receive water in this form. The level of mineral content can range from 3 to 20, and average homes receive water at a level of 10 on this scale.

Some people actually prefer to have untreated water to retain the mineral properties. This provides decent flavor as well as mineral consumption, and soft water loses this mineral content and can sometimes taste salty. Most people still prefer soft water beyond drinking.

The buildup of minerals in untreated water can have several detrimental effects. It can leave residue in the shower or bath and inside appliances such as the washing machine, dishwasher or coffee maker. This residue can cause spots and stains on dishes or make clothes rough and spotty. In the shower, it can cause irritation on the skin, rough and dry hair or prevent soap from lathering properly.

Hard water can also cause damage to certain parts of the home including pipes and appliances. In addition to leaving unsightly stains and residue, this water can cause a buildup of magnesium and calcium that may cause eroded or clogged pipes as well as reduced flow.

On appliances that use water, hard water may force them to work harder. This may cause them to use more energy and eventually increase your bill.

Hard and Soft Water | The Chemistry Journey | The Fuse School

How Can I Find Out the Hardness of My Water?

You should be aware of the hardness of your water to determine if a softener is needed and how to choose the right one for your home if it proves necessary. If your water is provided by a municipal water company, you can ask for the results of their own tests.

They may provide results of each mineral in parts per million, but you can convert this to grains per gallon by dividing the number by 17. Water containing less than 3.5 grains per gallon (GPG) of dissolved minerals is considered soft, and that above 10.5 grains per gallon is considered hard. When water is extremely hard, the water company makes efforts to bring the content to a level of 5 to 6 GPG.

Treating water to less than 3 GPG is not seen as necessary as the costs generally outweigh any benefits, so excessive treatment beyond average levels must be done in the home.

You will have to test your water yourself if it is supplied privately. You can do a test with just the tools in your home or buy a test that will provide results on levels of various contaminants that may be present in your water. For a basic test, you can fill a plastic bottle halfway with water.

Add about 5 drops of liquid soap, close the bottle and shake it. If the bottle is filled with suds, your water should not be excessively hard. If the soap doesn’t foam and only creates a film on the surface, you probably have hard water. You can also purchase a more detailed test kit online to provide specific measurements of substances in your supply.

Test for Hard Water

What Size Softener Do I Need?

large-water-softenerYou should choose a device that can remove minerals without frequent regeneration. An ideal unit can last at least three days between regeneration. There are various factors that determine what size softener you will need. Determine how hard your water is and your water usage by each day or week.

Realize how many hard water grains need to be removed in each cycle, and choose the right water softener capacity. The amount of hard water grains needed to be removed should not exceed the device’s capacity. If this occurs, the unit will regenerate more often and eventually cost you more down the line.

Are Water Softener Alternatives Available?

There are several methods used to treat water, and the devices used in these processes are thought of as water conditioners. They may not usually be as thorough as water softeners as they do not remove excess minerals, but they do work to improve the quality of water for drinking and washing.

Water softening is a complex process, and the closest method to this is descaling. Descaling involves using electromagnetic waves or crystallization to prevent minerals from forming residue or altering soap interaction.

These units are often referred to as “salt-free” softeners, and they reduce the impact hard water produces without adding the consequences of salt water. Water filters remove larger impurities from water, but they do not make water soft.

Water Softeners vs Water Filter Systems

water-filterMany people assume that water filtration is synonymous with water softening, but they are different processes. Water softening involves more treatment than simple filtration. Water softeners remove minerals and larger substances from the water supply.

They require more complex devices and processes to complete treatment. These tools either completely remove hard water minerals or neutralize them before the water is to be used.

They result in softer water with less or no residue and buildup. Softeners should be used when minerals may be excessive to the point of affecting plumbing and household appliances.

Filtered water involves a less complicated process for less urgent needs. Water filters are created to remove common contaminants that may enter a water source even when they are in small amounts. They are not meant to change hard water to soft, but they process water through a filtration technique that reduces iron, hydrogen sulfide, microorganisms and chlorine taste or smell present in the water.

Filtration works to separate water molecules from these other substances by passing it through a media bed that traps the contaminants and allows clean water to pass on. If you are interested in this method of water treatment, research water filter reviews to find the best water filter for your home needs.

Should You Buy or Lease a Water Softener?

One of the primary financial concerns with implementing a water softener system is deciding between leasing and buying a unit. Leasing is a popular option because there are no significant immediate costs.

Some may see monthly costs as a hassle, but there is still the concern of paying for the materials needed each year even after the costs incurred from buying.

Before choosing either option, you should get price estimates based on the user controls, regeneration cycle and the warranties on the control valve and resin tank. You should also determine if a plumber can install the unit of if a specialist is needed.

Top 10 Water Softener Brands and Companies

There are multiple companies that produce water softeners, but a few create the best water softeners available. This top ten list is based off of consistent performance and water softener ratings for various models.

Culligan Water Softeners

Culligan is a popular brand that has been a leader in water treatment for nearly 80 years. They are a reputable company with a wide range of water softeners. The company has received the Seal of Approval & Guarantee from Good Housekeeping as well as being named a “Best Buy” by Consumer Digest.

Some of the brand’s trademark product features include the Accu-Soft Micro Processor, Aqua-Sensor Demand Regeneration and Quadra-Hull Lifetime Tanks.

Fleck Water Softeners

Fleck is also one of the oldest brands in water treatment with over 50 years in the industry. The company has been an innovator in creating technology for control valves, water softeners and filtration.

Fleck is one of the top recommended brands for water treatment, and it receives some of the highest ratings and feedback in online water softeners reviews. Their products are known to provide years of trouble-free operation, and many come with a 5-year warranty for reassurance.

Pelican Water Softeners

Pelican Water Systems has provided over 40 years of knowledge and technology in water conditioning. The brand is known for developments in salt-free water softening and filtration as well as environmentally responsible product creation.

They also refrain from using chemicals and magnets, and they are members of the Water Quality Association and U.S. Green Building Council. In addition to traditional systems, Pelican provides filters for iron and manganese removal as well.

Kenmore Water Softeners

Kenmore is a trusted name in home appliances, and they live up to their reputation with water treatment products. They feature a variety of high-efficiency water filters with an additional layer of carbon to filter out more impurities.

Kenmore units are easy to install and maintain, and they reduce taste and odor in water sources. Units feature ergonomic designs with LCD displays, and they produce higher flow by keeping larger particles out of the plumbing system.

Whirlpool Water Softeners

Like Kenmore, Whirlpool has a rich history in the world of home plumbing appliances. Most softeners have a determined salt dose for high capacity or high efficiency use. High capacity use will regenerate less often, but it uses more salt. High efficiency use requires less salt, but it regenerates more frequently.

Whirlpool softeners use a variable salt dose that changes the amount of salt needed based on the hardness of water collected. This results in less water and salt used, and the brand’s units are able to learn the water usage patterns in a household to predict the amount of water that it will have to process as well as its hardness.

Waterboss Water Softeners

Waterboss is another brand with a long history of water treatment solutions. The company has a range of models with highly favorable water softeners consumer reports, and this may be due to the fact that their units are created with the goal of reducing water usage.

Their most popular water conditioners are divided into three grain capacities for different household needs. All units are programmable, and they each feature LCD displays.

Morton Water Softeners

Morton is a brand more popular for its table salt that its water treatment products. The brand has produced salt for over 100 years and is a leader in that industry.

There is little doubt the experience gathered in the salt world helped Morton in developing their own water softeners. They have various models available, and many of their water softeners have received positive reviews from consumers.

Aquasana Water Softeners

Aquasana is a brand popular in general water filtration for showers and faucets, but they also have a range of products available for household water softening.

Their specialization in both small and large scale water treatment means consumers have many options from which to choose.

The company also focuses on environmental benefits, so many of their products are made with little waste or reusable components.

Safeway Water Softeners

Safeway water conditioning systems are affordable units that require less salt and water to operate. They provide salt-free systems, iron and sulfur removal and whole-house filtration in addition to softeners.

Their units utilize their own high efficiency electronic control valve that uses 60 percent less salt and 50 percent less water with each regeneration.

The valve allows for adjustable cycles that consumers can set to their own needs, and it features a large LED display.

Nuvo Water Softeners

Nuvo products condition effectively even for very hard water. Their systems tend to be more compact, and they require no salt or electricity.

They have earned this brand a reputation as one of the most high-quality salt-free water systems available.

Very little maintenance is needed aside from filter replacements twice a year. These benefits save time and money and allow the systems to be used even in small homes.

How to Install a Water Softener and What are Water Softener Installation Costs?

water-softener-installationInstalling a water softener involves following several steps carefully for proper functioning of the unit.

  • Turn off the water connection and the power to the water heater. Drain the system.
  • Choose the location for the unit, mark the pipe and use a pipe cutter to remove the marked section. Remove burrs from inside the pipe.
  • Attach fittings according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Install the discharge tube on the head of the unit.
  • Run the overflow tube and the discharge tube to a drain.
  • Put the bypass valve on the unit’s valve head.
  • Connect the tubing to align the water delivery to the bypass valve. Attach the tubing to the water line.
  • Turn the water heater and water line back on. Plug in the control valve and add four gallons of water to the brine tank.
  • Put the unit into backwash and turn the water supply valve on when enough water collects at the drain. Let the unit run through a full backwash cycle, and check for leaks.

The cost of a water softener may depend upon the efficiency of the unit and the type. Some units are time-controlled, water meter-controlled, electric or water-powered. Individual service costs will influence the installation based on the expertise of service personnel or the complexity of services required.

The total cost of installation includes the cost of the unit as well as the installation services rendered. Individual units may range in price from $400 to over $2,500.

If you or someone you know has experience in water softener installation, you may be able to avoid service costs. In this situation, the materials needed to install will also affect the total cost.

Water Softener FAQ

Water Softener FAQ

What is regeneration?

This is the process that recharges the resin beads in the unit after they have been used to remove minerals. After regenerating, the beads become effective for creating soft water again.

Which brand makes the best whole house water softener?:

Different households will have unique needs, so certain brands may cater better to one home’s situation over another. The best water softener for your needs is one that can handle your water usage as well as the hard water level.

Can brine from a water softener damage a septic tank?

Studies by the Water Quality Association have shown that an efficient tank placed in the proper area should not be damaged by the brine discharged by a water softener. Soft water may actually be helpful for the septic tank as it decreases the amount of detergents passing through.

What is the best salt-free water softener?

While they are all designed with the main benefit of operating without requiring salt, these water softeners are made differently. Just like with any standard device, the best water softener for each home will vary. Efficiency depends upon the load and specific hardness of water, but the Pelican PSE 1800 is one of the best water softener systems in this category.

Why does soft water feel more slippery?

When used with detergents or soap, the minerals in standard water combine with the soap and do not dissolve. When these minerals are removed, they cannot react with the soap, so less soap is needed to get the same effects.

Making the Decision

Making the right decisionInstalling a water softener can make a significant difference in the quality of water in your home. It can make your dishes shinier, your skin softer and your plumbing system safer.

There are various types of water softeners to choose from including standard salt-based models, electromagnetic units or those that rely on crystallization. You make a careful research before making a purchase.

Familiarize yourself with the operational processes to soften water, the various models available of the type you prefer and the costs associated with purchase and maintenance.

Reading water softener system reviews is one of the simplest and most helpful ways to become familiar with specific models. These reviews provide details based on users’ experiences related to the functioning and efficiency of their own units.

After checking reviews, match the softeners’ qualifications with the hard water needs of your household to find the model that will provide the most significant improvement for your home.

If you have completed research and narrowed down your results, purchase a water softener unit and reap the benefits of softer water today.