How To Choose Water Softener? [Buying Guide]

Why Learn How To Pick a Water Softener?

Systems for softening water at home have the potential to enhance people’s quality of life. A good system can get rid of any daily irritants that hard water could cause in your body and mind. These include low-lathering soaps, stains, scum, unpleasant odors, strange tastes, and the ongoing costs of replacing pricey hot-water-using gadgets when they break.

The majority of industry experts, professionals, and everyday people concur that hard water poses little real health risk. Although the impacts of hard water differ, they are constant in the daily and long-term silent mayhem they bring about.

Anyone in charge of their own water supply could profit from gaining a better understanding of water softeners and from comparing different water softeners.

In this buying guide for water softeners, I’ll explain what to look for in a water softener and how to locate the softening option that most closely matches your needs. By the end, you’ll be able to select a water softener with assurance based on the aspects that matter to you the most.

What Causes Hard Water?

Understanding water hardness, both generally and as it pertains to your household, is necessary in order to determine how to pick the best water softener. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3), a substance that naturally occurs in chalk, marble, and limestone all over the world, is the principal cause of hard water.

The three primary forms of it have different qualities including thickness, purity, and color, yet they all possess the same chemical properties. About 4% of the Earth’s crust is made up of calcium carbonate.

Numerous different non-carbonate minerals and metals, in addition to calcium, may be present underground. They are gathered by water as it flows through a watershed to wells and public water supplies:

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc

These, along with calcium carbonate, can cause water to become harder, especially when it is heated. The minerals in water crystallize and stick to surfaces as the temperature rises; this is frequently undetected until a problem arises, which is typically quite expensive.

The hardness is more of a daily annoyance that, over time, causes significant problems than it is a health concern.

How Do I Know How Hard My Water Is?

It only makes sense to know what you are treating before you buy a water softener to complete the job since testing your water is the most reliable way to find out what is in it. Water testing kits may be purchased at home improvement stores for about $25, or you can have a reputable plumber like Mr. Rooter handle the testing for you.

You can also inquire about the availability of water testing services with a city, county, institution, or specialist in soil and water conservation. There are frequently better options available that are less expensive, more complete, and merely only for a water sample to be sent in or brought in.

Although municipalities, for example, may measure water hardness in parts per million (ppm), milligrams per liter (mg), or liters, the standard unit of measurement for water hardness is grains per gallon (gpg) (L). A boulder weighing 1/7000th of a pound is equal to one grain of water hardness per gallon. 17.1 L, mg, or ppm are equivalent to one gpg.

Depending on what is in the soil, different regions have different ranges of water hardness. In addition to other water-related features, the U.S. Geological Survey investigates the hardness of well water and rates it in milligrams per liter:

  • 0-60
  • 61-120
  • 121-180
  • 180+

According to the study’s findings, carbonate aquifers and aquifers with comparatively high concentrations of dissolved solids are distributed throughout the east, central, and western United States, where hard water is more common.

According to the Onondaga County Water Authority, the calcium carbonate level in the area ranges from 100-190 ppm, or six to 11 grains per gallon, making the water in the area “moderately hard.” Hard water is generally and universally defined as having more than seven grains of hardness per gallon.

Depending on the test and the entity, a water test will also reveal the concentrations of minerals or metals in the water as well as detect contaminants like bacteria and other pathogens, chlorine, pH, and more.

Some people might merely test for hardness, whilst others might want to know the complete range or something special in addition to or instead of the usual elements a company might look at. The fact that there are water softeners for extremely hard water, as well as models and accessories that will address other problems, can also be soothing.

When considering buying a water softener or if you feel the quality of the water has altered for whatever reason, a study of the water can provide important information. You can perform a test at any moment, for example, if the water starts to have a taste or fragrance it didn’t have previously or if the environment in the watershed changes.

What Are The Effects of Hard Water?

A water softener is a popular choice among millions of people because it not only solves problems around the house but also saves money by extending the lifespan of your water-using appliances.

The worst and most expensive issue with calcium carbonate is the way it builds up over time and results in clogs, corrosion, and a reduced lifespan for appliances. The deposits will be worse and accumulate more quickly the more of it is in the water.

Imagine your water-using appliance’s water lines as tiny arteries where calcium carbonate, magnesium, iron, or other hardness builds over time, eventually obstructing or impeding the flow of soft water.

One such would be a washer-line hose that accumulates CaCO3 deposits within and becomes slower to fill or a component that is encrusted and ceases functioning completely. Any utility or surface in your home will not benefit from water hardness and the buildup that results from it.

Your appliances that use hot water will typically last twice as long if you use a water softener.

Another example is when a water heater has scaling or accumulation, it performs 22% to 30% less efficiently. The Water Quality Research Council commissioned New Mexico State University to investigate the effects of hard water.

Over time, rusty, scaly deposits can accumulate in the water supply lines and heating elements. When this essential item stops operating, no one likes the inconvenience of having cold water.

Making an effort to maintain them makes more sense once you consider how many objects in the house require hot water:

  • Coffee maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Plumbing pipes
  • Washing machine
  • Water heater

Most household items that use or manage water are expensive, so most people want to do everything within their power to extend their useful lives and obtain the most value for their money. If someone asks you if water softeners are good, even one experience with a pricey appliance replacement can prompt you to respond with a resounding “yes.”

Since soft water is preferable to hard water for human skin and hair, and since there is little that can be done to prevent other drying factors like winter and its biting winds, many people opt to install a water softener to soothe their skin.

Your shower doors, glassware, and other items that come into contact with the hot water will all develop a film due to the deposits from hard water. When dishes don’t appear clean, these issues may be described as spotting or scaling, respectively. Scaling occurs when harness builds up inside pipes, lines, and pumps.

Body soaps, shampoos, and laundry or dish detergents all produce less lather when used with hard water because of the reaction between the calcium and magnesium in the water and the chemicals in different soaps.

Typically, this leads to us using more and more of the product, wasting money and increasing the amount of inorganic material in the environment wherever the soap-heavy water drains. In addition, it can be really annoying when you just want to complete cleaning and move on with your life.

Hard water is known to make laundry appear dull. It builds in them as well and is hard on fabrics, resulting in dull hues and a lack of brightness in whites. Before a consumer can get their money’s worth out of the shirt, pair of jeans, or other item, clothes frequently appear worn.

As they change clothing more frequently for job, school, church, athletics, and other reasons, many launderers find such features unsatisfactory and even expensive.

Although normally not hazardous, iron, manganese, and sulfur can give water a foul smell or flavor that some people cannot or would rather not accept. The scent or odor is typically not as noticeable as it would be at a residence with a well supply because the water from a municipal system has typically been chlorinated.

Any unpleasant tastes or odors in the water can be reduced or eliminated with a water softener and appropriate treatment or filtration.

Everywhere hard water is utilized, including sinks, tubs, tile, fixtures, appliances, and other places you don’t want to see it, a white-chalky calcium carbonate residue or an obvious red-rusty iron deposit forms.

Many people bemoan how unsightly it is and how, after replacing things like spigots or faucets, the residue always reappears. The buildup, filmy residue, and stains that hard water causes are avoided using a water softener.

Water Softener Buying Guide: How To Pick a Water Softener Well?

Determine If You Need a Water Softener

You must determine whether a water softener is the best water treatment choice for you before learning how to choose one.

To do this, you can run a water test to find out how many grains of hardness are present in each gallon of water (called grains per gallon, GPG for short). Your water’s calcium and magnesium concentration can be determined by the number of grains per gallon.

Before using a test kit to measure your grains per gallon of hardness, a more simple hardness test is to look for limescale stains on your dishes, clothes, and coffee maker.

Additionally, make sure your water pollution problem isn’t a result of any condition other than hard water.

There are countless potential trace pollutants in drinking water, ranging from bacteria and iron to chlorine and lead.

You’ll need a device that’s geared to eliminate this contaminant if you’re dealing with another specific pollution issue because water softener systems are only made to deal with hard water.

Consider Different Types of Water Softeners

You likely know that there are various types of water softeners available nowadays if you’ve done some research on water softeners.

The various varieties of water softeners include:

  • Salt-based ion exchange water softeners
  • Salt-free water softeners
  • Dual tank water softeners
  • Electronic or magnetic descalers

Salt-Based Ion Exchange Water Softener

The oldest softening technologies on this list are salt-based water softeners. To perform ion exchange, which efficiently removes water hardness by exchanging calcium and magnesium hardness ions with sodium ions, these machines need water softener salt.

To remove the hardness minerals and discharge them down the drain, salt-based water softeners must periodically run a regeneration cycle, usually twice per week. The device will also replenish the resin bed with sodium during the regeneration cycle using a technique called reverse ion exchange.

System prices for ion exchange water softener systems typically range from $800 to $2,000, depending on the manufacturer and construction quality.

Salt-Free Water Softener

Although salt-free water softener systems don’t technically “soften” your water, they nonetheless efficiently combat limescale, which is the main problem with hard water.

Hard water minerals are often crystallized by a salt-free water softener using a technique called template-assisted crystallization (TAC), which prevents the minerals from adhering to surfaces.

The hardness minerals will still be present in your water, but they won’t be able to produce scale. This means that you can still benefit from the flavor and health advantages of calcium and magnesium without having to deal with the issues caused by limescale.

Typically, water conditioners cost between $700 and $1,500.

Dual Tank Water Softener

Water softeners with dual tanks employ two resin tanks as opposed to one. The advantage of having a dual-tank softener is that soft water production is never interrupted.

Twin-tank softeners easily move from one tank to the other, but single-tank units require downtime when completing a regeneration cycle. Because the other water softener resin tank is available for use while the first water softener resin tank is regenerating, this enables a continuous supply of soft water from the water softening system.

These items are excellent selections for small companies like cafes and restaurants, while they can also be utilized in private residences.

Systems for water softeners with two tanks are often more expensive than those with one tank. You can anticipate to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 depending on the size and capacity of the unit.

Electronic/Magnetic Descaler

The final choice for water conditioning is electronic descalers. Once more, technically speaking, these devices don’t “soften” your water because they don’t require salt, resin, or even a tank.

Your main water line is intended to directly attach to an electronic or magnetic descaler. Once the device is installed, it will emit an electromagnetic wave that modifies the makeup of the minerals in hard water and stops them from creating scale.

Descalers that are magnetic or electrical treat water by using a coil of wire or magnets. They don’t require regeneration because they don’t require salt or water to function.

Although descalers are the most low-maintenance appliances, there is now scant scientific proof that they are effective.

A descaler can be purchased for as little as $250, and the typical cost is $500. Descalers are therefore the most affordable scale removal method on this list.

Understand Water Softener Size & Grain Capacity Needed

How do you pick the proper size water softener for your water usage?

Grains per gallon are used to measure water softeners (GPG). The smallest systems typically start at 24,000 GPG, while the maximum grain capacity for use across the home is often 64,000.

It’s crucial to correctly size your water softener. If your water softener is too large, it might not renew frequently enough, which could cause impurities to accumulate in your resin tank. On the other hand, a water softener that is too small will work too hard and can run out of salt before its scheduled regen cycle.

Collect two numbers: the hardness of your water and your daily water use, then use those numbers to determine the grain capacity of a water softener that you need.

To determine your daily water softening requirement, multiply your water hardness by your average daily water consumption. Find a water softener that can handle the number of grains per gallon you need by multiplying this by 7, and then use that figure to determine your weekly water softening requirement.

Water Softener Features & Controls

Learn about the features and controls of a water softener before renting or purchasing one. For instance, look at what initiates the regeneration cycles, how long each cycle lasts, and how much salt and water are required to recharge.

Be mindful that even completely automatic types occasionally need to be refilled with salt. The two primary types of cycle control are numerous and include the following:

Controls for a water softener timer. Depending on your typical usage, clocks or electronic timers will automatically recharge the device at a specified time and day. If you use an abnormally big amount of soft water on a specific day, this type may not be adequate.

Because they renew whether or not recharging is required, they also squander sodium and water. Early in the morning is typically when they do this.

DIR controllers for softeners. Demand-initiated regeneration (DIR), a more advanced technique, detects when the resin needs recharging either electronically or through a meter that measures and computes usage.

Because it only recharges when necessary, a demand-initiated regeneration system uses less salt and regeneration water. Additionally, it allows for unusually high water utilization.

Additional Considerations

What else should you take into account now that you understand how to buy a water softener based on grain capacity and softening technology?


Your purchasing options for a water softener may be influenced by your budget. Your search will be more focused as your budget decreases, but that’s not always a bad thing.

I would advise creating a budget before beginning your search for a water softener. Three items should be included in your budget:

  • The cost of the original purchase
  • The cost of hiring a professional installer (optional)
  • The cost of maintaining the unit over the long term

The water filtering systems without a salt requirement are the most economical. Descalers and conditioners don’t need to regenerate at all, thus they don’t need any salt or water. They are also less expensive up front; a decent machine costs less than $1,000.

The long-term cost of ion exchange water softeners is slightly higher because you must purchase salt to replenish your brine tank on a regular basis. Additionally, during regeneration, these softeners waste liters of water, which will be reflected in your water bill. They are often slightly more expensive to buy, costing roughly $1,300 on average.

If you are unable to install your water softener yourself, you may choose to invest in professional installation. All units, with the exception of electronic descalers, need to be plumbed into your water line, so if you’re not very handy, you might need a professional to complete the task for you.

Water Softener Manufacturer

Obtain at least two quotations for water softener units from various businesses. The regeneration cycle, the type of controls, the quality of service, and, of course, the guarantee on both the control valve and the resin tank should all be taken into account when comparing quotations.

It is typically advisable to engage with a reputable business. In this manner, you’ll get a high-quality product backed by a corporation that will probably be there for a while.

Find out if you need a plumber for the installation or if a specific manufacturer service person is required. And pay close attention to the softener maintenance charge.

Some softener companies offer a service where they routinely swap depleted for charged units. If you reside in a region where recycled sewage water is used for municipal irrigation because sodium may be regarded as a pollutant, this type of service is a smart bet.

Water Softener Certification

Look for certification as well. The independent testing group NSF International evaluates and accredits water treatment products. Look for the WQA Gold Seal because it certifies equipment on behalf of the trade association for the water sector.

Both of these certifications imply that the equipment has successfully passed testing for industry standards and that the manufacturer’s claims have been validated, though neither of them provides a performance guarantee. This is an important step in ensuring that the device you buy or lease will provide years of trouble-free service.

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