Salt-based softeners. Salt-free softeners. Which type of water softener is the best?
There are pros and cons to both types of softeners. However, if you want to eliminate water hardness problems without the use of chemicals or minerals, salt-free is the way to go.
Salt-free softeners are not actually softeners in the sense of the word, but conditioners that remove scale. In addition, they preserve essential minerals that are healthy for human consumption. They are eco-friendly, long-lasting, and low-maintenance for homeowners.
Doing your homework is essential when buying salt-free softeners. We have done the research for you and recommend four of the finest salt-less softener systems on the market to get rid of your hard water. Make sure you check out our buying guide at the end for what to look for in a soft water system, as well as the benefits of owning one.
|Best Salt Free Water Softeners|
|SpringWell FutureSoft||CHECK PRICE|
|SoftPro Elite Water Softener||CHECK PRICE|
|Aquasana Whole House Filter System with Salt-Free Water Conditioner||CHECK PRICE|
|Pelican NaturSoft® Water Softener Alternative||CHECK PRICE|
Click To View Table Of Content
- 1 4 Best Salt-less Water Softening Systems that We Recommend
- 2 Is a Salt-less System better than a Salt-Based System?
- 3 Benefits of a Salt Free Softener
- 4 How to Choose the Right Softener System
4 Best Salt-less Water Softening Systems that We Recommend
1. SpringWell FutureSoft – Best Choice
The SpringWell FutureSoft Softener is a whole-house water system that helps hard water by removing scale from pipes and appliances while providing 99.6% scale prevention, all without chemicals or salt!
Benefits of this System:
- Prevents and cleans existing scale
- Gives appliances a longer life
- Never needs replacement
- No chemicals or salt used
- No water wasted
- No electricity needed
- Will not drop water pressure
- Six-month satisfaction guarantee
- Lifetime warranty against defects
Using proprietary media, SpringWell Water developed a unique tank design that gets rid of hardness better than other designs on the market. The FutureSoft media uses fluidization to converts the water’s hardness into calcite crystals that won’t stick to anything, even under extreme temperatures.
Installing this chemical-free, salt-free system will eliminate scale, extend the life of your pipes and appliances, all with no electricity or water waste. This system also comes in three different units depending on the number of bathrooms are in the house with 12 to 20 GPM, it won’t drop your water pressure.
SpringWell provides the installation guide online, so you can take a look and see if you can install it yourself or if you would rather hire a technician. The company also offers an installation kit that has all you need for a successful install, although you need to purchase it separately. The good news is, once your SpringWell FutureSoft Water Softener is installed, it never needs replacing, and all parts come with a lifetime guarantee.
SpringWell FutureSoft is top of the market in soft water systems, and it comes with a higher cost than some of its competitors. However, without using electricity or water waste and never needing replacing, it is still a cost-effective solution down the road.
2. SoftPro Elite Water Softener – Also Great
The SoftPro Elite soft water filtration system softens and conditions water without salt, electricity, or water waste—all at a competitive price.
Benefits of this System:
- Removes and prevents hard water scale
- No salt required
- No electricity needed
- No wastewater produced
- Can be installed indoors or outdoors
- High flow rate: 12 GPM
- Simple installation
- Free shipping
- Lifetime warranty
- Live customer support
The SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Softener neutralizes calcium and magnesium from the water and converts them to a crystallized form so they won’t touch to surfaces. This softener uses no electricity and produces no water waste, thus saving you money in the long run.
This system is for households with 1-5 bathrooms and holds five liters of water in the resin; it is also one of the few that can be installed inside or outside if you don’t have freezing temperatures. It also features a high flow rate of 12 GPM. In addition, this is the only salt-free water softener on our list that has earned a Water Quality Platinum Seal through IAMPO Research and Testing.
The SoftPro Elite comes pre-assembled and includes all the parts needed for a simple and easy installation. However, if you do need assistance, another great perk of Quality Water Systems is their superb customer service. They offer live customer support via phone, chat, email, or Facebook Messenger. Customers rave about the friendly and thorough help from this company.
Another perk is that this system comes at an affordable price. In addition, QWT offers an interest-free payment plan that helps even more. Add free shipping, a lifetime warranty, and amazing customer service, and you’ve got a great deal with this product.
3. Aquasana Whole House Filter System with Salt-Free Conditioner
If you’re looking for a water filtration system and softener combo, the Aquasana Whole House Filter with salt-less Conditioner is a compelling system to check out. Also called “1 Million Gallon Rhino,” this filter will purify your house’s water while adding softening benefits with no electricity and water waste.
Benefits of this System:
- Removes up to 97% chlorine
- Reduces heavy metals, organic chemicals, and industrial solvents
- Unique up-flow dual tank design
- SCM salt-free technology to soften water
- One million gallons (or ten-year) capacity
- Easy to install, replace, and maintain
- Ten-year warranty
- 90-day money-back guarantee
This filter/softener combo system utilizes a sediment pre-filter, a carbon-zinc and mineral stone filter, an activated carbon filter, a post-filter, and a salt-free conditioner to remove heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, and other harmful pollutants from your water. You can add an optional UV filter that protects against bacteria and viruses. In addition, it meets NSF certification for removing up to 97% of chlorine. The salt-free conditioner system uses Scale Control Media (SCM) to prevent minerals from binding to form scale build-up in your pipes and appliances. The result is clean, purified water throughout your home.
This system is installed in the front of your water heater near the main water inlet in your home. You could install yourself, but to get the 1 million gallons guaranteed, you will need a qualified plumber to install it for you. The only maintenance is the replacement of filters. The sediment filter needs replaced every three months, and the other two filters will last 12 months.
The 1 Million Rhino is more expensive than some others, but it also offers more effective filtration and softeners than most. It is possible that the Aquasana Rhino will drop your home’s water pressure, as its flow rate is 7.0 GPM; however, this is a common effect of filtration systems.
4. Pelican NaturSoft® Softener Alternative
Pentair Pelican’s NaturSoft® soft whole house water system is the only alternative that is certified as certified 99.6% effective at hard water scale prevention. This saltless system will soften your hard water with virtually no maintenance required.
Benefits of this System:
- Prevents and removes 99.6% hard water scale
- IAMBO Certified NSF/ANSI 61 and 42 for structural integrity
- Removes hardness up to 75 GPG
- Wrapped in premium stainless steel for durability
- Zero water waste
- No electricity required
- Lifetime media tank
- Pre-installed, so easy to install inside or outside
- 90-day money-back guarantee
Without the use of electricity, salt, or water waste, the Pelican NaturSoft® Softener Alternative is not only eco-friendly, but it is also the only third-party tested DW 9191 certified water softener alternative on the market today. In addition, the Pelican NaturSoft® meets NSF/ANSI 61 and 42 certifications for safe materials and structural integrity.
This system includes a 5-micron Sediment Filter to remove dust and debris, and the Natursoft® media’s calcium carbonate crystal structures, which neutralize the minerals that cause water hardness. In fact, the Pelican will remove hardness up to 75 GPG, which is two times more than the average softener! The sediment pre-filter needs replacing every 6-9 months, but the Tank Media is guaranteed for life.
The Pelican NaturSoft® Water Softening Alternative is available in two models for either 1-3 bathrooms or 4-6 bathrooms. This system comes pre-installed and ready to install. However, some customers said they needed to hire a professional. This system will be a cost investment, but with minimal maintenance and a limited lifetime warranty on the tank and parts, it will pay itself off quickly.
Is a Salt-less System better than a Salt-Based System?
While it may seem that the only difference between a salt-free water softening system and a salt-based water system is the use or omission of salt, there are actually more differences to explore.
What is a salt-based softener?
Salt-based water softeners use an electric metered valve on top of the tank to capture water. Through a process called ion exchange, these systems use flushing cycles to purge the calcium and magnesium from the water while replacing them with sodium (salt). The minerals are captured and flushed down the drain line. The salt is then replenished so the cycle can begin again.
Salt-based systems efficiently remove the minerals that cause hard water, so you will notice an improvement in the taste and quality of your water. Your appliances will not suffer from scale build-up, your dishes will feel cleaner, your clothes will be brighter, and you will be able to wash your hands with soap and see the soap bubbles.
A salt-based system will use electricity and produce water waste, thus raising your power and water bill. There is also more maintenance required with salt-based systems (the former are pretty maintenance free). However, if you want a true water softening system that completely eliminates the elements that cause hard water, a salt-based system could be your choice.
What are a salt-free water softeners?
On the other hand, a salt-free system uses Template Assisted Crystallization, a process that converts calcium and magnesium into crystals that don’t stick to the water’s surface. This process does not remove the minerals, but it causes them to change their form, so they don’t harden the water. Because nothing is flushed away, salt-less softeners do not require electricity or produce water waste.
A salt-less softener does not remove minerals that cause water hardness. Instead, they change their form so that they will not negatively affect your appliances and pipes. Minerals that cause water hardness, such as Calcium/Magnesium, are not harmful to your health. In fact, they are essential minerals that we all need. A salt-less softener does not remove anything from the water, which is why they are often called “conditioners” or “descalers.”
Still, you are getting the same effects of softer water. Many people don’t want to use chemicals in their homes, and a salt-less system does not use any. Generally, salt-less systems are easier to install, easier to maintain, and always more eco-friendly than their counterparts. If these benefits are important to you, then a salt-less system is what you want. It is important to note that if you have high levels of hard water, a salt-free softener may not be able to produce the desired effects.
As far as which one is better, there is no right answer. The answer depends on what you are looking for in a softener.
Benefits of a Salt Free Softener
There are several advantages to salt-free water conditioners that set them apart from traditional water softeners.
- Simple installation
A softener that does not use salt is simple to install since the system consists of a single tank or cartridge. Most homeowners have no problems installing a salt-less softener on their own.
- Low maintenance
Since water conditioners don’t go through backwash or regeneration cycles, they do not use drain connectors or require storage tanks that control valves to monitor flow and initiate back-washing cycles. They don’t require salt or chemicals, so the system itself is pretty maintenance free —a huge perk!
- Environmentally friendly
As mentioned, since salt-free softeners do not go through regeneration cycles, they produce no water waste. They also don’t require electricity or salt, meaning they are safer on the environment, and your wallet, too.
A salt-less softener saves you money down the road. You will not need to prematurely replace your appliances and pipes, your clothes and dishes will appear brighter and cleaner, and you will spend less time cleaning, overall.
How to Choose the Right Softener System
First, understand the differences between salt-based and salt-free water softening system, and decide which is best for you and your household.
Research widely and understand each product before purchasing it. Reading reviews is also a great way to understand if the water softening system will work for you. If you decide that a salt-less softener is for you, then check out these considerations.
Start by doing some math. Calculate your household size and how much water you use daily. To put it into perspective, the average person uses 80 to 100 gallons a day, but of course, that number varies depending on your lifestyle.
To decide on the size of your softener, you will need to figure out the grain rating of your current water. If you have city water, you can call the municipal and ask how many grains per gallon they allow to pass through the water treatment system. You can also test your water yourself with a water testing kit. On average, most cities allow 15 grains per gallon, while well water may contain up to 40 grains per gallon.
Even though salt-free softeners do not flush water like salt-based ones, they usually use the grain rating to indicate how long their product will last and how effective it is at softening hard water. A higher grain capacity means your softener will be more energy efficient.
Some water filters and softeners will drop your water’s flow rate, while others will not. A low flow rate simply means less water pressure, and this could be troublesome if you have several people in your household using water at the same time.
To put this into perspective, a person living alone typically needs a four-gallon per minute (GPM) flow rate. For anyone else living in the household, add 1-2 gallons, and then estimate your flow rate. For example, a family of four would need a flow rate of 7-10 GPM.
Obviously, you won’t want to buy a new softener every year, so look for one that lasts. Look for ones that are built well and provide warranties. For example, our third selection, the Aquasana Whole House Filter with Salt-Free Conditioner, boasts a ten-year warranty!
Also, if you want to install your softener outside, look for ones that can be safely installed in the outdoors. No softener can work well in freezing temperatures, but there are some, like the SoftPro Elite, that can be installed outdoors.
Most salt-less softeners offer optional upgrades such as UV filtration media. Think about whether you would like additional services through pairing these products with your water softener. Some products, like the Aquasana Whole House Filter with Salt-Free Conditioner, are water filters with softener properties. If you need a filter in addition to a softener, consider looking for combos like this one.
Installation and Maintenance
Generally, salt free water softeners entail straightforward installation. They are compact and simple and ready to attach to your water lines. However, you could consider optional kits to make the process simpler or hire a technician if you don’t want to install it yourself. Since no salts are needed, the only maintenance required is replacing the filter.
Cost will more than likely factor into your decision. You don’t have to pay a fortune for a quality salt-less softener. For example, Quality Water Treatment’s SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Softener is available at a great price, and you can make interest-free payments. Most companies allow you to make payments, as well. Just note that you will be saving money in the long run. For one, your appliances and pipes will last longer. Secondly, you will save on your energy and water bill by using a salt-less softener versus a salt-based softener. Also, most salt-free softeners require little maintenance, so you won’t be buying filters every month.
The Bottom Line?
Looking for a salt-less softener can be an overwhelming venture, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep in mind the main benefits that these systems provide and base your research experience on what, specifically, you need in a softener for your household.
With a salt-less free softener, you will reap the benefits of softening without the maintenance, chemicals, and cost that comes with a traditional softener. Our four recommendations are excellent choices!