Hard water is the main cause of scale buildup in your house’s plumbing fixtures. It’s the same thing that leaves watermarks on your dishes, blocks water plumbing in your house over time and causes irritations on your skin sometimes. By contrast, soft water is what you are recommended to use in your home. If you depend on hard water but you dislike the water’s effects in your home, it’s time you started looking for the best water softener system in the market. The following water softener reviews will help you learn how to pick the right water softener for your home’s needs.
Water softeners are designed to perform to particular extents. Not all water softeners will serve your situation right. Some are good for RV owners, while others are best suited for small homes only. Read keenly to find which among the following softeners could be perfect for your situation.
- On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT
- Grains: 16,000
- Metered: no
- Dimensions: 22" x 9.50”
- Controls: manual
- Other: regenerates in less than 30 min, 360 degree swivel, travel friendly cap & plug, garden hose connection
- Fleck 5600SXT
- Grains: 64,000
- Metered: yes
- Dimensions: 12" X 48" resin tank, 15" x 17" x 36" brine tank
- Controls: LED digital display
- Other: bypass valve and 1" threaded plumbing adapter, brine tank safety float system
- Fleck 5600SXT
- Grains: 48,000
- Metered: yes
- Dimensions: 10" x 54" tank, 15” x 34” brine tank
- Controls: LCD digital display and touchpad
- Other: bypass valve and 1" threaded plumbing adapter, brine tank safety float system
- Watts RV PRO-1000
- Grains: 10,000
- Metered: no
- Dimensions: 21" x 9.5" x 9"
- Controls: manual
- Other: portable
- Fleck 7000 SXT
- Grains: 80,000
- Metered: yes
- Dimensions: 13" x 54" resin tank, 18” x 40” brine tank
- Controls: LCD digital display
- Other: bypass valve and 1" threaded plumbing adapter, brine tank safety float system
- Fleck 9100SXT
- Grains: 64,000
- Metered: yes
- Dimensions: two 9"x48" mineral tanks, 11"x38" brine tank
- Controls: LCD digital display
- Other: twin tank, bypass with male threaded yoke
- 1 Top 6 Water Softeners Reviewed
- 2 Fleck 5600SXT Whole House Water Softener
- 3 On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Compact Portable Water Softener
- 4 Fleck 5600 SXT 64,000 Grain Water Softener for Home
- 5 Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 Efficient Water Softener
- 6 Fleck 7000 SXT Most Efficient Water Softener
- 7 Fleck 9100SXT Water Softener for Well and Home Water
- 8 What is Hard Water?
- 9 What is a Hard Water Softener and How Does It Work?
- 10 Types of Water Softeners
- 11 Best Water Softener Buying Guide
- 12 Portable vs. Stationary
- 13 Water Softener Installation
- 14 Water Softener Maintenance
- 15 Common Problems and Troubleshooting
- 16 Bottom Line
Top 6 Water Softeners Reviewed
Fleck 5600SXT Whole House Water Softener
Fleck 5600SXT water softener uses a salt based system to eliminate the main causes of hard water: calcium and magnesium. With a digital display for easy controls and multiple other features, the softener comes with the ability to turn a whole house’s hard water into safe and scale build up free soft water for your family. Fleck 5600SXT is rated as a 48,000 grain water softener, making it one of the best whole house water softeners on the market today.
- Meter Based Regeneration System. The system measures the amount of water you use at home and adjusts itself to soften the water efficiently. In addition to prolonging the water softener’s service life, the meter regeneration system also senses an increase or decrease in water usage and readjusts accordingly.
- Multiple Features. The SXT model has several convenience features like LCD display, touch pad controls and a power backup that runs 48 hours. And should any of the techy features malfunction, Fleck comes with a 5 year warranty.
- Efficient. It doesn’t matter whether you use well water or municipal water when you buy the Fleck 5600 SXT. It’s designed to soften the hardest of water with great efficiency, as it targets the main elements of hard water.
- Easy installation. The Fleck model comes with all accessories you’ll need to make the installation work a breeze. In size, the softener measures 14 x 17 x 33 inches and will need space worth 3 x 18 feet for installation.
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Compact Portable Water Softener
On the Go compact water softener is designed to deliver completely soft water after every softening process. It comes packed with a myriad of features that enhance the 16,000 grain softener like no other product. To start with, on the Go utilizes an efficient salt-based system to make it economical to maintain. According to the manufacturer, On the Go’s system produces double the amount of soft water you would expect in a typical hard water softener. If you love traveling on your RV, On the Go will suit your needs effectively.
- Light and Stable. In spite of its ability to soften a huge amount of water, On the Go is built in a small 22 x 9.5 body and only weighs 32 pounds. This makes it absolutely effortless to install it in your RV or small house by the lakeside. Its design, however, makes it stable once installed anywhere.
- Efficient and Economical. Since it uses a salt based system to soften hard water; On the Go is much more economical than other softening systems. With only 2 boxes of table salt, the unit is designed to soften 16,000 gallons of water in about 40 minutes. In the end, the portable water softener softens more water at a faster rate.
- Easy to install. On the Go is a small and portable structure that you could install anywhere in a matter of minutes. It features a handle for easy transportation, a large opening where you add salt and a stable body. Additionally, the water softener has a 360 degrees swiveling ability for easy connection to the inlet hose.
Fleck 5600 SXT 64,000 Grain Water Softener for Home
Fleck 5600 64,000 grain water softener is a slightly bigger version of the 5600 SXT 48,000 grain softener. Besides the bigger capacity, the 64,000 grain softener has improved features than those found on the smaller Fleck versions. The valve that allows hard water to get in is large to facilitate a water softening rate of about 20 gallons per minute. Its digital control panel is intuitive, graced by an LCD display for nighttime controls and a 48 hour back up battery.
- Efficient water softener. With a 64,000 grain water softening system, Fleck’s 5600 SXT is certainly a good water softener for well water. You only need about 4 boxes of salt water, and the unit can generate 20 gallons of soft water on demand.
- Economical regeneration mechanism. Similar to water softening systems from Fleck, this model uses a system that senses the amount of water your family uses and works towards softening that same amount of water. This, in turn, economizes salt usage while limiting brine production which is an environmental unfriendly residue produced in the process.
- The LCD Display control. The system comes with a digital display control with 3 buttons to help you control the amount of soft water produced, check the cycle time or adjust the cycle times.
- Comes with an installation guide and several accessories to ease the process.
- Easy to Maintain. Although the initial costs may be high, maintaining the water softener is economical and easy. You will only need to buy a bag or two of common table salt a month and regularly check for any damages.
Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 Efficient Water Softener
If you would love to have a hard water softener specially built to cater for you during RV trips, Watts’ RV PRO-1000 is it. The small water softener features a compact body with a handle for easy transportation, an efficient water softening system and a cradle base for stability when used. Unfortunately, the softener lacks some convenience features found in top water softening equipment, but this is also reflected in its affordable price tag.
- Efficient and economical. Watts’ RV PRO-1000 is specially designed to enhance salt regeneration and improve the softening process. With its 10,000 grain capacity, the unit is able to deliver 4 gallons of water per minute. This should be enough for many RV needs.
- Compact and lightweight. Watts RV water softener weighs a meager 9 pounds, making it absolutely easy to carry around. It has a handle for better comfort, and its base is fully cradled for additional stability. Additionally, the unit takes up only a small area in your RV as it measures 21 x 9.5 x 9 inches.
- Durable. Although the water softener is mainly built from plastic, it’s hard plastic capable of lasting for several years with good maintenance.
- Manual Regeneration. Perhaps another downside to the structure is that the unit uses a manual regeneration method.
- Comes with a generous 10 year warranty.
Fleck 7000 SXT Most Efficient Water Softener
Fleck produces some of the top rated water softeners you will find. With the 7000 SXT, it’s no different. This softener is extra large but with similar features to Fleck’s 5600 SXT. It utilizes an economical salt based system to soften as much as 80,000 gallons of water with a few boxes of table salt. While large, Fleck 7000 features impressive convenience features such as an LCD display, a touch pad control, and a power back up option that is able to run it for 48 continuous hours.
- High Capacity water softener. The system’s characteristics indicate its capacity to allow a large amount of water to flow through it. With the 48,000 grain capacity, Fleck 7000 softens as much as 35 gallons of water per minute. In most families, the unit will be much bigger than you need. It’s best used as a commercial water softener.
- On Demand Regeneration. Fleck 7000 utilizes a modern water softening system that senses the amount of water you use at home and softens the exact amount of water. When your family increases water consumption, the system adjusts itself to meet your needs. This system leads to a more economical usage of salt.
- Suitable for extremely hard water. If your water is beyond tolerable to excess minerals, Fleck’s 48,000 grains per gallons will efficiently help turn your water soft whenever you need it.
- Features an LCD touchpad controller and a 48 hour power back up option.
- Comes with installation guidelines.
- Backed by a 5 year warranty.
Fleck 9100SXT Water Softener for Well and Home Water
Fleck 9100SXT is a heavy duty 88,000 grain water softener best designed for homes and commercial purposes. The unit features a twin tank system that helps delivers soft water at a rate of 25 gallons per minute. The twin tank system also helps save on salt usage. If you have a small house but you are after the most efficient water softener, this unit can still work with 48,000 grains. The Fleck model does also feature convenience features such as an LCD display control panel and power back up.
- Twin Tank for Continuous water. The 9100SXT label means that the model has one of the biggest inflow valves among Fleck models. With the inflow, the unit works with two tanks to ensure that you home gets soft water 24 hours a day. The two tanks work in synergy to ensure that immediately one tank gets depleted the second begins to deliver water.
- Quality Design. The Fleck model features a digital control panel for great convenience, an up flow backwash to help you clean up the softener’s resin bed and a strong poly glass made body. With the unit’s engineering, you are bound to enjoy the unit’s services for many years.
- Automatic salt regeneration. The twin tank water softener regenerates salt for water softening continuously. And thanks to the two tanks, you will always be assured of soft water in your home.
- Features a safety float to prevent overflowing the system and potentially messing you home.
- Comes with an installation guide for smooth installation. The unit also features a male threaded yoke and several other accessories for easy installation.
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is any water with a high intake of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Ground water in itself is not hard water. However, when water comes into contact with limestone in wells, dams or rivers, it picks up minerals such as calcium, aluminum, fluorine and magnesium.
Now you may think that minerals are good for your body, but it’s not always the case. Consumption of excess minerals such as fluorine corrodes your teeth. Again, hard water often contains more than simply minerals. Hard water carries with it bacteria and germs which are certainly not good for your body. At home, hard water passes through water lines and causes scale build up. Over time, the scale builds up to levels such that it prevents effective flow of water. If the scale build up in your water heater, the water heater becomes inefficient.
There are a lot more problems with using hard water at home. The smell of hard water, for instance, is unpleasant. Hard water has a metallic taste. When you flush your toilet using hard water regularly, it starts to form ugly stains. Hard water can also cause the ugly stains on your bath tub, and you probably know how embarrassing that can be. If you or anyone in your family has sensitive skin, hard water will often lead to irritations all the time. Fortunately, you don’t have to tolerate hard water in your home anymore. Hard water can be treated in a variety of ways. Some people use chlorine to treat drinking water. While it’s efficient, chlorination can be expensive and damaging to some people’s skins.
The next viable water softening method is using and water softener. Read on to learn about different types of water softeners and how they work.
What is a Hard Water Softener and How Does It Work?
A hard water softener is any tool or system that removes magnesium, calcium and other metallic substances to make the water soft. Contrary to popular opinion, hard water softeners do not filter out dirt in the water.
How do water softeners work?
The most common types of water softeners are those that exchange ions or cations. Salt based ion exchanges conventionally substitute calcium and magnesium for sodium. This all works in a water softening system with a mineral tank, a control mechanism, and a resin tank. Water flows into the water softener into the resin tank where resin beads attract positively charged magnesium and calcium ions. When water gets out of the water softener, all hard water minerals are removed and the water in your shower is soft.
Meanwhile, resin beads get over coated by minerals until they can’t soften hard water anymore. In modern water softener, the resin is basically made of common table salt which is easy to get. Quality water softeners actually sense when the resin beads are exhausted and regenerate for a continuous water softening process.
Earlier on we mentioned that water softeners have a brine compartment or tank. This is where you store the salt. In a hard water softener with an automatic salt regenerator, you don’t have to be there to assist in the salt recycling process. The water softener will often drain exhausted resin and regenerate salt from the brine compartment.
Salt Free Water Softeners
Instead of using common table salt as resin beads, these water softeners use an alternative substance. This is a better option to people concerned about the salty taste of water after using a salt based hard water softener. Although several salt free water softeners are advertised as effective, most of them only turn hard water into water that won’t corrode plumbing in your home. In that sense, they don’t really eliminate hard water minerals.
The best hard water softener is any system that goes the extra mile to eliminate salt after water has already been softened. That way, you can drink the water or use it for whatever reasons at home.
Types of Water Softeners
Now that technology keeps on changing, different hard water softening methods are invented and some old methods are done with. Below we look at the main modern types of hard water softening systems.
Ion exchanges are very common for their ease of operation and generally efficiency rates. They use mechanisms that exchange the sodium in salt with calcium and magnesium. Most of them also eliminate other hard metals. However, ion exchangers are unable to eliminate dirt, pathogens and gas from hard water. In the end, ion exchanges make hard water soft, but they also leave it unpurified and salty. If you are concerned about the salty taste of water after its softened; you might want to try the following water softening methods.
Reverse osmosis systems have always topped water softener ratings. It’s unarguably the best softening methods if you want to use the water for drinking and cooking. Reverse osmosis systems use a pressure based system that only allows water molecules to pass through a specially built membrane chamber. The only downside to reverse osmosis is that it eliminates all minerals, including those you would consider healthy for your body.
Distillation is one of the most famous water softening methods. It’s expensive but efficient as well. With distillation, hard water is boiled and turned into steam. The steam is then condensed through a special compartment to become soft water. All minerals and metals which take longer to melt are left at the boiling stage. Unfortunately, organic compounds have boiling points lower than water, meaning they move along with water. There are several other disadvantages of hard water such as the fact that hard water is often very acidic.
Best Water Softener Buying Guide
It’s needless to talk about why everyone deserves clean water. If you have experienced the effects of hard water, you probably know why you want nothing but a good water softener system for home. Below is the buying guide where we explore the complete process that will help you land a quality water softener for use at home, with your RV or for commercial reasons.
Size matters when you are buying a hard water softener. An average person uses 80 gallons of water a day. If you have a family of four, you most probably use 320 gallons of water a day. According to statistics, a family of four requires a water softener with at least 33,000 in grain capacity. This amount is calculated based on water that is fairly hard water. If your home relies on completely hard water, buy a softener with a bigger grain capacity. A 48,000 grain capacity will certainly solve all your needs
Controls and Features
Modern hard water softeners come with a variety of features that make it more convenient to use. A water softener timer, for example, regenerates salt recycling after specific periods of time, helping you economize on salt usage when you have a predictable water usage behavior at home. However, if you can’t predict when your family is using more water and when they are not, a timer will not be useful for you. Instead, another control that uses a sensor when the system needs to regenerate salt will be most useful in your situation.
Water softener Types
Earlier on we mentioned a few varieties of hard water softeners. You’ll need to settle on one method that is most ideal within your means. Both distillation and reverse osmosis are efficient in most situations, but they are vastly expensive. In that sense, the most acceptable water softener choice is an ion exchanger based water softener. If you choose to buy a salt based water softener, research about the brands and their performances to determine which among them you can trust.
Installing a hard water system for home use is not easy. Some of them are super heavy and may have some complicated ways of installing. With that in mind, research more on what you’ll need to buy to facilitate the installation of a particular hard water softener at home. As a general rule, settle for a softener that won’t ask you to buy any accessories to help with installation. Instead, settle for that which comes with everything you’ll need for the installation.
Size of the Unit
One of the issues that affect the installation of a hard water softener is its size. Small water softeners take up less space in your basement and are also easier to install. Large hard water softeners, on the other hand, are often more difficult to install. When buying a softener, consider the installation space you have. If you are buying a softener for the RV, ensure that the unit is not too big to cause obstructions in the RV. If you are buying a whole house water softener, make a water softeners’ comparison to find out which one performs efficiently but is also suitable for the space you have.
No matter how many hard water softeners you find on the market, you’ll only need one. That one you will buy will mostly be a unit you can afford. Put your money into good use by buying the best unit within your budget lines. Typically, water softeners costs variedly. Some cost as low as $200 while others cost in the upwards of $1000. A quality salt based hard water softener will often cost slightly higher than $500. If your budget falls within that category, concentrate more on researching the best water softeners priced within what you can afford. Do an analysis of several water softeners and ensure that they can continuously soften water in your home.
A warranty acts as your assurance for a certain period of time. When your water softener malfunctions when the warranty is still valid, the manufacturer is obliged to repair it for you. In that sense, buy a hard water softener with a long warranty.
Portable vs. Stationary
When it comes to buying a water softener there are two types to keep in mind: Portable vs. stationary water softener. Either you buy one that you can carry with you wherever you go, or you invest in a water softener that stays put in the basement or garage. Which one do you choose? Before you answer that question, read below to view the benefits and cons of each method.
Portable Hard Water Softeners
Portable hard water softeners are mostly useful to people who like to travel to places with no reliable source of soft water. If you like travelling with your RV, for instance, this will be your ideal water softener. Usually, a portable water softener weighs 50 pounds or less, with the lightest weighing a mere 8 pounds. So why should you buy a portable water softener?
- Light. The most obvious benefit of a portable water softener is its lightweight. A quality softener with a handle will ensure you carry it around with great convenience.
- Easy to Install. Since they are mostly small, portable water softeners are the easiest to install. Most of them rotate around to help you connect them to RV’s water lines easily.
- Cheap. They don’t handle a lot of water, but they are also cheap. A typical portable water softener will cost a half the price or even a third of what a stationary hard water softener costs.
- Efficient. The fact that they are small don’t make portable water softeners inefficient. By contrast, many portable water softeners from renowned brands are very efficient.
- Ineffective for homes-Most portable water softeners deliver less than five gallons of water per minute. That would be too little for a family of four that needs water regularly.
- Often lack convenience features such as controls.
Stationary Water Softeners
Stationary hard water softeners are often the only choice for home owners. They are big and bulky, but also got the systems to soften water in huge capacities. They are also more expensive and harder to install.
- Efficient for all needs. For home and commercial places, a quality stationary water softener can soften water continuously and with great efficacy.
- Feature modern controls. Most modern stationary water softeners feature LCD display digital controls that help you keep up with their performances
- They come with automatic salt regeneration systems that economize on salt usage and improve efficiency.
- Durable. Most of the big and bulky units are designed to last for ages. They also often feature generous warranties.
- They can be difficult to install. Although they often come with installation manuals, you’ll often need a professional to help you out.
Water Softener Installation
You ought to install a hard water softener where you can easily connect to the plumbing lines. For most homes, the basement or garage rooms are ideal places as long as you have enough space to fit the new hard water heater softener. Note though that water softeners don’t perform efficiently in extreme cold temperatures. With that in mind, here is how to install a water softener.
Step one: Turn off home water Supply
Clear the place you plan to install your water softener. Turn off the home water supply lines and position the softener accordingly. Usually, the water softener’s inlet should face the home’s water supply lines while its outlets should face the water heater (gas tank type or tankless). Shut off the power supply for the water heater and then turn on all faucets to drain water in the plumb lines.
Step Two: Install Elbow Fittings to the water supply line
Since you’ll most probably want to drink the salty water that comes out of salt based water softeners, install elbow fittings with the help of a pipe cutter. The aim is to produce two valves out of the home supply line. One valve will bypass the water softener and deliver water for cooking and drinking while the other will deliver water to the water softener.
Step Three: Install Necessary Pipes
Your water softener will most probably come with an installation guide. Follow it to help you cut your pipes accordingly, add fittings and connect the plumbing. In most cases, you will need to heat the pipes to make them fit to one another. Don’t apply too much heat and risk damaging them.
Step Four: Install the Drainage
Install the drainage hose and connect it to the drainage area. A good drainage hose can run up to 15 feet long. Clamp the end of the hose 2 inches above the discharge sink to prevent back siphoning of water. Also, don’t clamp it too high to cause messes around the drainage area. Follow the manufacturer’s guide wherever possible.
Step Five: Install Additional Assembly
Some water softeners have an overflow tube that ensures they do not overfill and spill water around. Install this overflow tube according to the manufacturer’s guide. After that, get back to the valve that bypassed the water softener and install it to the right plumb line. Connect the softener to a power receptacle and hold the ‘regenerate’ button until the valves fall into backwash position.
Step Six: Turn on the Water Lines
Turn on the water lines and the water heater to test for performance. Make sure that you turn on power where necessary. If there are no leakages that demand attention, program your water softener to regenerate according to your home’s needs.
Water Softener Maintenance
If you just bought a hard water softener and are wondering how you can make it last for decades, we’ll show you what to do below. Learn how to clean the different compartments in the water softener, what makes the softener malfunctions and what you can do about it.
Use Recommended Salt
There are main types of salts most often used in water softening systems: Granular, block and tablet. Common tablet salt is the most popular as it dissolves faster and it’s economical. However, the softener’s manufacturer can at times make the system to work best with other types of salt. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended salt to make the system efficient.
Inspect and Clean the Brine Tank
Inspect the softener’s brine tank every once in a while. Look out for salt build up on the brine and clean it out. Cleaning out the solid blocks is important as they prevent salt from getting into contact with water. In the process, this will reduce the softener’s efficiency and lead to salt wastage.
Add Salt Regularly
Salt is ideally the main ingredient in a water softener’s system. Without enough salt, the softener will simply act as a reservoir through which hard water passes through before moving on to other channels in your home. Salt contains the negative ions that combine with positively charged magnesium and calcium cations to make hard water soft.
When salt gets depleted in the resin bed, you’ll need to add more in the brine tank. Depending on your family size, add enough salt to take you through another month. But if the softener is placed in a placed with high humidity, add little amount of salts regularly. Excess humidity tends of turn salt tablets into large blocks that fail to move on to the resin bed during the regeneration stage.
Inspect the Drainage Hose
Sometimes the drainage hose can get into contact with sewage and siphon back dirty water into the system. Stay on the look out to ensure that the drainage is at least 2 inches above the ground.
Clean the Resin Bed
Clean the resin bed every once in a year. With salt having contaminants and minerals forming minor scales, in the long run, it’s only right to handle this type of water softener maintenance. Also, clean the parts in the control valve or replace them to enhance efficiency.
Common Problems and Troubleshooting
For most appliances and devices at home, it’s best to call a professional to handle the repairs. But before you call a technician to solve water softener problems and trouble shooting, here are issues you can solve alone on a weekend afternoon.
You are not getting Soft Water
When you notice that your white shirts still get ugly dirt marks after you clean them, check the softener’s control settings or power options. Water softeners often have a timer that automatically triggers the salt regeneration process and facilitates a new cycle of softening hard water. Set your timer to trigger salt regeneration early in the morning or whatever time when your family uses soft water the most. Alternatively, check the softener’s power connection to ensure it’s on and operational.
Salt Forms Bridges in the Brine
When salt gets into contact with humidity, it forms soft blocks and attaches itself to the walls of the brine tank. The problem here is that salt fails to dissolve properly once in the resin beads and hard water consequently is not softened. Fortunately, troubleshooting the problem is easy. Use clean hands or something else to push the salt around until the bridges are dissolved. However, also take the extra effort to clean the valve that transports salt into the resin beads. If the valve is filled with mushy salt, it won’t function as well. Remove the caps around the softener’s head and clean this valve on both sides
Clean the Resin Bed for efficiency
With time the resin bed can get clogged with dirt and grime from the minerals and dirt in your water. Purchase a resin cleaner that can eliminate iron traces and follow the manufacturer’s guide to clean the resin bed. You don’t need to clean the resin bed regularly, but once in a year could serve you just fine.
Electrical Wiring Malfunction
If you clean the brine tank and the resin tank and still experience no soft water, consider calling a professional to handle the electrical aspect of the softener. Sometimes the internal workings of the softener unit can wear out, especially in the cheap softeners. When this happens, call a professional immediately.
The process of finding the best hard water softener system is certainly not easy. If it were easy, everyone would happily have a quality softener. However, that’s not the case. You have a role to compare multiple softeners in the market, weigh their features and performances before you can pay for any of them. If you already know the features you want in your next softener, our hard water softener system reviews above should guide find the ideal softener for your family.