Which Water Softeners Are Best For Your Home?

which water softeners are best for your home in basement salt being added

Hard Choices for the Best Water Softener

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 85% of US homes have hard water. If you have hard water, a water softener is a must. But which water softeners are best to get for your family?

To help you make hard choices about which water softeners are best, let’s look at:

  • How to know if you need a water softener
  • Water softener benefits
  • How water softeners work
  • Types of water softeners
  • How to determine which water softeners are best

How To Know You Need a Water Softener

A water softener removes two minerals that makes your water hard—calcium and magnesium. But how do you know you have hard water? Here are the signs that you likely have hard water and need a water softener:

  • White, chalky mineral residue on washed dishes
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Soap scum buildup on shower doors, bathtubs, faucets, and fixtures

Unsure of whether you have hard water or some other problem? Call the water treatment experts at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing to test your water and get a clear picture, and get recommendations on which softeners are best for your particular situation.

Water Softener Benefits

While hard water by itself isn’t unhealthy, it isn’t something you really want to put up with. The benefits of water softening include:

  • Softer skin and hair
  • Longer lasting and more efficient washing machine, dishwasher, and water heater appliances
  • Softer and cleaner-looking clothes
  • Less soap needed to clean clothes and dishes
  • Cleaner, spot-free dishes
  • Decrease in sink and shower scum buildup
  • Better tasting water
  • Energy savings; lower energy consumption results in lower utility bills

How Water Softeners Work

A water softener removes the minerals that cause water hardness, primarily calcium and magnesium ions, through a process called ion exchange. Here’s how it works:

  • Resin Tank. The main component of a water softener is the resin tank, filled with tiny resin beads that contain sodium ions.
  • Ion Exchange. When hard water flows through the resin tank, the calcium and magnesium ions contained in the water adhere to the resin beads due to their opposite charge. The result is that the water is now free from the minerals that cause water hardness and is circulated back through your household plumbing.
  • Regeneration. Over time, the resin beads become saturated with calcium and magnesium ions and need to be regenerated. This is typically done by flushing the resin tank with a concentrated salt solution (brine).
  • Rinse Cycle. After regeneration, the resin tank is rinsed to remove any remaining salt and excess minerals. Once the rinse cycle is complete, the water softener is ready to continue softening water.

This cycle of ion exchange, regeneration, and rinsing repeats as needed to maintain the effectiveness of the water softener.

Types of Water Softeners

There are different types of water softeners. Determining which water softeners are best depends in part on the severity of your hard water problem and your budget.

Perhaps the most economical water softeners are additives to put in your washing machine and dishwasher that soften the water. However, this gets expensive over time and doesn’t eliminate other issues, such as the decreased quality of drinking water and scale buildup in your pipes and faucets.

While most water softeners rely on the use of salt to rinse out the resin tank, requiring you to periodically buy a concentrated salt solution for your water softener, there are also salt-free water conditioners. These are almost totally maintenance-free because they have no moving parts. However, salt-free water conditioners technically don’t remove the minerals in hard water, but rather neutralize them. They still reduce scale buildup and water spots on your dishes, but they typically work best when hard water has low iron levels.

In most cases, which water softeners are best? Salt-water softeners.

How To Determine Which Water Softeners Are Best

Choosing which water softeners are best for your needs involves considering several factors:

  • Water Hardness. Test your water to determine its hardness level. Select a water softener with the appropriate capacity to handle the hardness of your water.
  • Capacity. Consider the size of your household and your daily water usage to determine the capacity of the water softener you need. A larger household with high water usage requires a higher capacity water softener. You may also want to consider a dual-tank water softener if for some reason you need an uninterrupted water supply 24 hours a day.
  • Regeneration Cycle. Salt-based water softeners require periodic regeneration to flush out the accumulated minerals. Consider the regeneration cycle frequency and whether it fits your household’s water usage pattern.
  • Salt Efficiency. Look for water softeners designed to minimize salt usage, as this can help reduce ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Water Efficiency. Some water softeners are more water-efficient than others, especially during the regeneration process. Look for models designed to minimize water wastage.
  • Certifications. Check if the water softener you’re considering is certified by reputable organizations like NSF International or the Water Quality Association (WQA). Certification ensures that the product meets certain quality and performance standards.
  • Installation and Maintenance. Consider the ease of installation and ongoing maintenance requirements of the water softener. Some models may require professional installation, while others are designed for DIY installation.
  • Warranty and Support. Look for water softeners that come with a warranty and reliable customer support for peace of mind and knowing that you’re covered in case of any issues.
  • Budget. While it’s important to invest in a quality product, make sure it fits within your budget constraints.

Call the Water Softener and Water Treatment Experts

It’s important to point out that water softening is not the same as water treatment or whole home water filtration. A water softener only removes certain minerals; it does not remove bacteria or certain noxious chemicals.

To know for sure whether you need just a water softener or you need a complete water treatment system that might include water softening, let the experts at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing assess your home’s hard water needs and provide the best possible solution. Call us or book an appointment online. Don’t let hard water diminish the efficiency of your plumbing system and appliances, or your quality of daily living.