Water Softener Guide 2017: What’s the Best System?

March 20, 2017 
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Find the best water softener system for your home with our comprehensive buyer’s guide and top 10 water softener reviews. We’ve got everything you need to know right here.

best-water-softener-reviews-2017We’ve selected the best water softeners available so you don’t have to look any further.

Compare them in the table below where each value can be sorted so that you can focus on what matters.

Check out the reviews that follow for even more details.

Make sure you read our buyer’s guide too for everything there is to know about home water softeners.

PictureModelRatingPriceGrainsPostivesNegatives
fleck-5600sxtFleck 5600SXT4.6$$$16,000-64,000Huge capacity, excellent digital control valve, good warranty, works well in large homesOne of the higher priced softeners
eddy-electronic-descalerEddy Electronic Descaler3.9$Salt-freeReally attractive price, 12 month money back guarantee & lifetime warranty, doesn't remove healthy mineralsA descaler rather than traditional water softener
waterboss-700WaterBoss 7003.5$$22,000Built-in water filter, super fast regeneration, efficient water useNot for large homes
nuvo-h20-dphbNuvo H20 DPHB3.0$$$Salt-freeGood water pressure, lifetime warranty + 90 day money back guaranteeOnly removes limescale
morton-system-saver-30000Morton MC303.4$$30,000Large capacity, saves salt and water, NSF certified, high water flow rateExpensive replacement parts
waterboss-365-36400WaterBoss 3654.3$$$36,400Large capacity, in-built whole house water filter, on-demand regeneration, quiet operationLarge unit needs more space
iron-pro-2-64000Iron Pro 24.4$$$64,000Massive capacity, works well in the biggest of homes, amazing Fleck digital meter, really effective, 5 year warrantyBig unit
aquios-fs-220Aquios FS-2203.9$$Salt-freeNo pressure loss, long life filters, salt free means better for the environment, includes a water filterA descaler rather than a dedicated water softener
aqusana-rhinoAquasana Rhino3.6$$$$$Salt-freeWhole house water filter + salt free softener, reduces scale by up to 99.6%Expensive
watts-rv-pro-1000Watts RV Pro-10004.2$10,000Portable unit, great for travelers or small homes, great reviewsWouldn't be enough for a family sized home

Whole House Water Softener Reviews

fleck-5600sxt1. Fleck 5600SXT – OUR TOP PICK

The Fleck 5600SXT is really the marquee water softener in the mid to higher price range. The Fleck electronic valve is the best in the business, and can be found on many other models, even from other manufacturers.

The 5600SXT is now available in a range of different capacities to suit the water softening needs of every home. Grain capacities of 16,000, 24,000, 32,000, 40,000, 48,000, and 64,000 are now available. For the purpose of the rest of this review we will focus on the mid-large sized 48,000 grain model. This capacity will soften even the hardest water, and will work comfortably in homes of 3-6 people.

The 5600SXT has an amazing reputation. The digital electronics are the real selling point here, but a real bonus is that it’s able to maintain itself and can be left to run unaided (aside from adding salt every few months).

The Fleck electronic valve is able to regenerate (rinse and replenish the resin tank) automatically. There are 4 modes of regeneration:

  1. Immediate meter regenerationFleck-5600SXT-big-pic
  2. Delayed meter regeneration
  3. Delayed time clock regeneration
  4. Day of week regeneration

The second mode has a confusing name, but is the most useful of the four. In this mode, the meter will monitor the water usage and then automatically regenerate the system as soon as the system capacity reaches a pre-determined level. This way you will never run out of soft water. The day of the week regeneration mode is also a good option once you have had the unit running for a couple of weeks.  This will give you enough time to get a good idea of how long the softener takes to reach full capacity. Then you can set an appropriate time each week for it to regenerate automatically.

The electronic valve features a 48-hour backup in the event of a power loss. It has an LCD backlit display and an intuitive user interface. The LCD display shows the time of day, and also the amount of soft water remaining.

The resin tank has a capacity of 1.5 ft.³. The resin is the material that will actually soften the water. This kind of capacity suits medium to large households. There is also an alternative version with upgraded resin. This model will last up to 3 years longer, and is more resilient to chlorine in the water.

The salt water tank has a capacity of 48,000 grains. The salt water is used in the regeneration process to ‘clean’ the resin. This will hold around 250 lbs. or around about 4 bags of pelleted salt. A family of four will use about 1 bag of salt a month.

The unit can handle water flow rates of up to 12 gallons per minute. This should be adequate even for homes with more than one bathroom.

Fleck offer a really generous warranty of up to 10 years on the tanks, and 5 years on the digital valve. They also offer some amazing customer support to ease any anxious minds.

The Fleck 5600SXT may not have the more attractive, one tank housing of other models, but it is hard to beat on performance. Now, with more options than ever with size and color.

Bottom Line: This is a water softener that is hard to match. It’s effective, low maintenance, and well designed. This is our top pick and in our eyes one of the best water softener systems that money can buy.

Key Features:

  • 16,000, 24,000, 32,000, 40,000, 48,000, or 64,000 grain capacity
  • 1.5 ft.³ Resin tank
  • 12 GPM water flow rate
  • Amazing digital valve
  • Automatic meter based regeneration cycle
  • 10-year tank warranty, 5-year valve warranty
View on Amazon

Read Our Review

iron-pro-2-640002. Iron Pro 2                HUGE CAPACITY IRON SPECIALIST

The Iron Pro 2 is a water softener with a massive capacity, and also an effective filter of iron in water. It uses the Fleck amazing 5600SXT digital control valve which means it can regenerate automatically.

The Iron Pro 2 has a massive 64,000 grain capacity. This makes it suitable for the biggest of homes and the hardest of water. It actually specializes in the removal of iron from water, and doesn’t clog up like some more lightweight models. It is rated as being able to remove up to 75 grains per gallon of water hardness. Hard water is actually rated at being anything above 10.5 gpg in hardness, so you can see how effective this model is. It will also remove iron of up to 8 parts per million, manganese of up to 6 ppm, and also sediment and rust.

Being one of the largest water softeners available, it also gives a water flow rate of up to 16 gallons per minute.

It uses the Fleck 5600SXT valve which is the industry leading digital valve. This makes it able to monitor your water use and regenerate using only the smallest amount of salt and water. It will actually adjust its schedule to suit changes in water household water use.

The digital valve comes with a 5-year warranty, and the tank a 10-year warranty to ease anxious minds. This model comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee too.

Bottom Line: There isn’t much that will bother this water softener. It has a huge capacity, it’s robust, and it’s extremely effective. If you have a big family, or a particular problem with iron, this water softener is worth consideration. This water softener system reviews really well.

Key Features:

  • 64,00 Grain capacity
  • 16 GPM water flow rate
  • Amazing digital valve
  • Automatic meter based regeneration cycle
  • 10-year tank warranty, 5-year valve warranty
  • Great for iron and really hard water
View on Amazon

WaterBoss 3653. WaterBoss 365             2-in-1 SOFTENER & WATER FILTER

This model from WaterBoss comes with a large 36,400 grain capacity, which will do a good job in the average size home. It offers something that most water softeners don’t, and that is an in-built 20-micron water filter. This will protect your household appliances (and you) from larger water contaminants like heavy metals.

It uses a meter based regeneration system. This means that it will regenerate at the optimum time based on water use. It will do so only using just enough salt and water. Its patented design allows it to regenerate in as little as 38 minutes. Regenerating in less time allows it to use less water too. At its lowest setting it will use just 14 gallons of water and 3 pounds of salt in the process. These are really impressive figures that will save you money in the long run.

It is an all-in-one unit which won’t take up much space. It will sit nicely in the corner of a room. It also has a really quiet operation which means you won’t even notice it running.

It is capable of softening water of up to 90 grains per gallons of hardness. 90 gpg is extremely hard water, and makes this water softener very effective at its job.

WaterBoss offer a decent 10-year warranty on the tanks and cabinet, and 3 years on the electronic system.

Bottom Line: A 2-in-1 water softener and whole house water filter. It can handle really hard water, and it’s one of the most salt & water efficient systems around.

Key Features:

  • 36,400 Grain capacity
  • 10 GPM Water flow rate
  • Automatic meter based regeneration
  • Built in 20 micron water filter
  • 10-Year warranty on tanks & cabinet, 3-years on electronics
  • Really efficient water & salt use
View on Amazon

eddy-electronic-descaler4. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler                A WELL PRICED ALTERNATIVE

The Eddy Electronic Descaler is an excellent alternative to more expensive and less economical water softeners. It will protect appliances from limescale build up, and doesn’t require any knowledge of plumbing to install.

It should be noted that this is not your traditional water softener. The Eddy Electronic doesn’t actually reduce the hardness of the water, but it stops the minerals from sticking to appliances and pipework. The benefits of this are that it is much cheaper than a regular water softener, it doesn’t use any salt or water, and it doesn’t remove an healthy minerals from the water. Not using salt has the benefits of being much better for the environment and also being much cheaper to run.

It does its job by passing an electrical current through the water. This changes the ability of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese to bond to surfaces. Since these minerals can’t stick to surfaces, they can’t build up and for limescale deposits. It does this using very little electricity. It draws less power than a light bulb.

It is installed very simply by coiling the two sets of wires around the water pipe. It obviously must be installed near a power supply, and should be mounted on the wall. Installation requires absolutely no special skills though. It doesn’t require any maintenance either, and can be left to function independently.

This water descaler comes with an amazing lifetime repair or replace warranty, and a 12 month money back guarantee. There really isn’t anything to lose in giving this alternative form of water conditioning a try.

Bottom Line: This is a great value alternative to expensive salt based systems. It’s much cheaper to run, and is better for the environment too. The outstanding warranty and money back guarantee make it a very tempting proposition.

Key Features:

  • Salt free
  • No maintenance
  • Easy installation
  • Better for the environment
  • Keeps healthy minerals in the water
  • Eliminates scale
  • Lifetime repair or replace warranty
  • 12 month money back guarantee
View on Amazon

Read Our Review

aquios-fs-2205. Aquios FS-220                  SALT-FREE + WATER FILTER

The Aquios FS-220 is a salt-free water softener/water filter combination. It is designed to condition and filter the water, and eliminate scale all without any pressure loss. Being salt-free, it’s kinder to the environment and a little cheaper to run too.

Being a salt free system, it doesn’t reduce water hardness like a traditional water softener. It just makes the hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium unable to bond to pipes and appliances. This model will actually target and remove existing limescale deposits, as well as prevent new ones from appearing. Aquios say that you will notice a difference in the feel of the water too, and it will not feel “slippery”.

The softener works with the aid of special cartridges. They contain an additive that inhibits the build up of limescale. These cartridges last for 40,00 gallons of water use, or around 6 months in time. These figures are for the average family size of four people.

A real bonus of this system is the inclusion of a 5 micron whole house water filter. This rating of filter is around about standard for whole house filters, and should protect your family and household appliances from larger water contaminants. The filter is a carbon block that will improve the taste of the water too.

It comes with an enormous 20 year warranty, so even the most paranoid of us can rest at ease.

Bottom Line: This water softener/filter combo comes in at a great price when you consider how much they would cost separately. It also solves you the problems of installing them individually.

Key Features:

  • Salt free
  • 5 Micron whole house water filter
  • Long lasting cartridges
  • Eliminates scale
  • 20 Year warranty
View on Amazon

Best Budget Choice

Eddy Electronic Water Descaler

- Amazing Value

- 12 Month Money Back Guarantee

- Lifetime Warranty

- Keeps Healthy Minerals

Our Top Pick

Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain

- High Capacity

- Digital Control Valve

- Great Warranty

- Reliable & Trusted Performance

Next Best Thing

Iron Pro-2 64,000 Grain

- Massive Capacity

- High Iron Removal

- 5 Year Warranty

- Intelligent Digital Valve

waterboss-700WaterBoss 700                QUIET & EFFICIENT

The WaterBoss 700 has an extra feature that most water softeners don’t have: a sediment filter. This serves to protect the unit, and also your home from harmful  water contaminants. Other key features of the WaterBoss include a really compact design, quiet operation, and a really fast regeneration time. Regeneration can take as little as 18 minutes, which is lightning quick. It is also able regenerate efficiently and only use just enough water and salt. This feature is great for the environment and also your wallet.

Bottom Line: It has not got quite the huge capacity of the Iron Pro 2, but it can do a solid job in medium size households, or households with water that isn’t extremely hard.

View on Amazon

Read Our Review

nuvo-h20-dphbNuvoH2O DPHB                           REMOVES LIMESCALE

The Nuvo H2o DPHB is a salt-free water conditioner, designed to eliminate limescale build up in the home. A really nice feature of this model, and one that sets it apart from some of the others is its ability to target and remove existing limescale deposits. If you’ve been using really hard water for years then there’s a good chance that your pipes and appliances are not working efficiently because of the scale build-up. This water conditioner can help reduce the problem and prevent it from happening again. Being a salt-free conditioner, it doesn’t remove healthy minerals from the water either. Being salt-free means that it is great for the environment and kinder to your bank balance, but it isn’t as effective as a salt-based system when it comes to softening.

Bottom Line: This ones great for treating limescale build up and preventing it from happening again.

View on Amazon

Read Our Review

morton-system-saver-30000Morton MC30                       NSF CERTIFIED

The Morton MC30 is capable of handling the water softening needs of a large family home, and comes with a huge tank to tackle the hardest water problems. It boasts some clever electronics that predict your water usage based on past trends. This means it will only regenerate when it needs to, using just the right amount of salt and water. This means it can save you money in the long run and is kinder to the environment. The MC30 also comes NSF certified for water efficiency and effectiveness in softening water. This shows that it can deliver on what it promises. This model has a good size capacity and is able to tackle very hard water. It is a self contained all-in-one unit which means it won’t take up too much space and isn’t an eyesore either. It also comes with a huge 10 year warranty on the tank.

Bottom Line: NSF certification makes this a unit that can be trusted to do exactly what is says it can. It’s also one of the most efficient when it comes to salt and water use.

View on Amazon

Read Our Review

watts-rv-pro-1000Watts RV PRO-1000                      GREAT FOR SMALL HOMES & RVs

This water softener from Watts is portable, and will run on just regular table salt. It’s perfect for an RV, small home, or people always on the move. It can keep up with high water flow rates of 4 gallons per minute with very little drop in pressure. It has a huge capacity for something that weighs just 24 pounds and is just 21 inches tall.  Its 10,000 grain capacity and 1/3 cubic feet of resin means that it is an extremely effective water softener for its size. It comes with an attractive price tag too. As smaller units go, this is one of the best water softeners.

Bottom Line: This is the top small or portable water softener around.

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aqusana-rhino-weeAquasana EQ-1000-AST                    JACK OF ALL TRADES

Now, this is not strictly just a water softener but more of a jack of all trades. It combines a whole house water filter, ultra violet filter and salt free water softener into one impressive package. The water filter specializes in the removal of chlorine, but will also remove pesticides, heavy metals and many other contaminants. It has the huge lifespan of 10 years or 1,000,000 gallons of use. The UV filter is there to kill off any viruses or bacteria that are too small for the water filter to pick up. It’s a great final line of defense. Finally, there’s the water softener which is salt free and able to reduce scale by up to 99.6%. It doesn’t demineralize the water like salt based systems will. It is one of the more expensive of our water softeners reviews, but you get an awful lot for your money. Read our detailed review of the water filter component here.

Bottom Line: This does it all but it is more expensive than the others too. This is a lot more than just a softener so it really depends on what you are looking for.

View on Amazon

Water Softener Buyer’s Guide

Water softener can be expensive, so before you buy make sure you know all the details. In our buyer’s guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know before making a purchase. Let’s start by seeing just how they work and why you might need one.

Why Get a Water Softener?

Water softeners are a modern and inventive solution to hard water problems. Hard water is water that is high in levels of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium, and also metals like iron, copper, and manganese. Hard water is a pain at home because it affects the performance of appliances. This becomes a frustration, but it also costs you money.

Problems caused by hard water:

  • Limescale build up on appliances and pipework affects their efficiency and decreases their lifespan.
  • High levels of minerals cause poor detergent and soap performance.
    • Wastes detergent and soap
    • Leaves marks and streaks on dishes and glassware
    • Makes showering an bathing difficult

A water softener will remove the “slimy” feel from the water, and ensure that your pipework and appliances are safeguarded from damaging scale.

How Do They Work?

There are two types of water softener available. Those that use salt, and those that don’t. Let’s discuss the salt-based systems first.

Salt-based water softeners

Though they use salt to soften water, they don’t make the water in any way salty. They operate using a principle known as ion exchange. This forces the undesirable ions in water (calcium, magnesium, ion, copper, manganese etc.) to be traded with harmless replacements.

The exchange of ions happens in the resin tank of the water softener. As the hard water passes over the resin media, bad ions are traded for good and the water changes from hard to soft.

The resin tank is rated according to its number of grains in size. The bigger systems offer 64,000 +grains of capacity. The bigger the capacity then the more effective the system is at treating the water. Areas with extremely hard water will need a system offering a large capacity. A bigger capacity means that it will probably have a faster water flow rate too.

Over time, the resin media will eventually become “full” of the unwanted hard water ions. When this happens the system will need to regenerate. The regeneration process is usually fast, and it will reset the filter media again. This is what the salt is need for. The resin media is rinsed with salt water which cleans the system.

Salt-free water softeners

As they don’t use any salt, the don’t actually soften the water like traditional systems. They are better described as water conditioners or descalers. Rather than remove troublesome sodium and magnesium particles, they inhibit them from attaching themselves to household appliances. The hard water ions remain in the water, but are simply unable to bind to pipes or appliances. This can be done using electromagnetism or by replacing salt (sodium chloride) with potassium chloride.

Salt-based systems vs Salt-free systems

Salt-based

Pros:

  • Large capacities
  • Actually softens water
  • Extremely effective

Cons

  • Removes healthy minerals
  • Using salt isn’t as environmentally friendly
  • Can be expensive

Salt-free

Pros

  • Cheaper
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Doesn’t remove healthy minerals

Cons

  • Doesn’t soften the water, only conditions it
  • Not as effective

Why Might I Need a Water Softener?

If you have problems using detergents and soaps, you notice streaks and marks on kitchenware, or you care about the efficiency and lifespan of household appliances that use water then you should think about getting a water softener.

If you are unsure about how hard your water is,  you can test it with kits available from Amazon. They are pretty cheap to buy and give you an answer straight away. The table below gives a good idea of what is considered hard water, and what kind of numbers to look for. Some areas have naturally soft water and don’t need to treat their water in this way.

Classificationmg/l or ppmgrains/gal
Soft0 - 17.10 - 1
Slightly Hard17.1 - 601 - 3.5
Moderately Hard60 - 1203.5 - 7.0
Hard120 - 1807.0 - 10.5
Very Hard180+10.5+

Before You Buy: Checklist

Find out the hardness of your water –  by using a water test kit like we mentioned above, you can assess how hard your water is. This is important because it will indicate how powerful a water softener you will need to buy. To treat really hard water you will need something with a large grain capacity. Larger homes will also need a system with a large capacity.

Find out your water flow rate – water softeners are sized according to the hardness of your water and the amount of water a home needs. If you have a home with a couple of bathrooms then you’ll need a system with a big tank that is capable of handling a fast water flow rate.

Salt based or salt free? – there are benefits to each design, but if you have really hard water then I would recommend the salt-based method. It is more effective and will improve the performance of detergents and soaps. The salt-free method is great if you only wish to protect appliances and pipes from limescale damage. It is also kinder to the environment.

Check out the regeneration process – As we mentioned earlier, the salt-based systems need to regenerate after a time and reset themselves. Different models do this in different ways which can save you time and money. The best systems are able to monitor your water use and will regenerate only when necessary. They will also only use the minimum amount of salt and water to do so.

Warranty – These systems can be expensive so make sure you get a good deal with the warranty. Replacement parts for the electronic devices can be expensive so make sure you get covered. The top rated water softeners come with good warranties and are reliable.

Cost of the salt– you’ll need to top up the salt tank depending on how often you use the system. This can depend on how hard your water is, the regeneration settings of your unit, and the amount of water you use. Different systems use different kinds of salt so make sure you estimate your likely salt use and costs.

Pros and Cons of Water Softeners

The Good

  • No more hard water in the home.
  • Household appliances last longer and are more efficient.
  • No more limescale, marks or streaks.
  • Soaps and detergents can lather.
  • Relatively maintenance free.
    • Some are automated. Just add salt every couple of months.

The Bad

  • Salt-based systems remove troublesome BUT healthy minerals.
  • Disposing of salt water waste is not environmentally friendly.

Installation and Maintenance

Installing a unit

Installing a water softener by yourself is definitely possible and will save a lot of money. If you are simply relacing an old system then you can do this very quickly. A completely new installation will take a bit longer and will require some plumbing knowledge, but it can be finished in an afternoon. We’ve put together a basic guide to your average install. Obviously each model will be slightly different, but they all contain the same basic components.

water-softener-installation

Aside the gear that comes in the box, you will probably need some extra tubing. You can choose from PVC, copper, steel, PEX, or CPVC. This will be used to connect the unit to your existing plumbing. You may also need 2 one inch NPT female connectors to make the join. Be aware that your unit will probably need to be installed near to a drain and a power outlet. If the unit will be installed a significant distance from the drain (more than 30 feet) then you may need extra tubing.

A brief run through of the installation stages:

  • First, turn off the the main water supply.
  • Next, you should drain the water pipes. Make sure there is nothing left.
  • Then, you should make the connections as illustrated in the image above. Installing a bypass valve will make life easier.
  • Next, you need to prepare the brine tank. It needs to be half filled with salt.
  • Wit the bypass shut, switch on the water supply again.
  • Check for any water leaks anywhere.
  • Follow the start up instructions in the manual.
  • Closely monitor the system over the first few weeks.

Maintaining a unit

Most systems can be left to pretty much maintain themselves automatically. Your job is to manage the frequency of these regeneration cycles. This can be based on time or the amount of water used. Basing it on the amount of water used is definitely the most efficient method.

Though the water softeners use salt water to clean themselves it is also good practice to flush the resin bead media every 6 months or so (depends on the water hardness and amount of use). Water softeners can become less efficient if they get plugged up with metals like iron and other large particles. To flush the resin you should use a water softener cleaner to rinse out these particles. This process is very easy to do, and the water softener cleaner is pretty cheap to buy.

Also, make sure the valve doesn’t get plugged with any particles. It’s easy to screw the valve off, and it can be cleaned easily with some soapy water.

FAQs

Will a water softener filter lead and things from my water too?

No, most models will only remove the particles that make the water hard. There are models available that have in-built filters, but the filters are usually just for large particles like sediment and rust. The Aquasana Rhino contains a very good whole house filter though.

How long will the resin media last?

If taken good care of then a unit can last over 20 years. A unit should be well maintained (see above), and a pre-filter would act to protect the softener from large particles too.

How often will I need to add salt to the tank?

This answer depends on a number of things. The amount of salt used depends on the hardness of water, the amount of water used, and the frequency of regeneration (is it time or meter based?). Generally speaking the salt will need to be topped up every 2 months.

How much salt do they use?

An average size 30,000 grain water softener will need about 6-8 pounds of salt for every regeneration cycle. This would be a complete regeneration. Some models only use the exact amount of salt required according to the amount of water that has been used. These models are really efficient with their salt and water use.


If you have any questions about our water softeners reviews, or anything else we have discussed then please get in contact. We can also help with any problems regarding water filters. We’ll get back to you promptly, and do our very best to be of service.

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Check back soon as we will review more top rated water softeners in the near future.

Sources

Canadian Government






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