How to Know What Water Softener to Buy

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Hard water is caused by high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals can cause problems around your home, like plumbing issues and dry skin. A water softener can be a great way to combat these problems. But how do you know which one to choose?

There are a few different types of water softeners available, including the size of your home, the hardness of your water, and your budget. Here are the factors to consider before purchasing the right water softener for your home:

Determine If You Need a Water Softener

Before you learn how to choose a water softener, you need to find out if the water softener is the right water treatment option for you. You can do this by conducting a water test to determine your water's grains of hardness per gallon. Your grains per gallon indicate the concentration of calcium and magnesium minerals in your water.

A more basic hardness test, before measuring your grains per gallon of hardness with a test kit, is to check for limescale stains on your dishes, laundry, and coffee pot. Make sure you're dealing with a hard water problem and not another contamination issue with your water.

There are hundreds of possible trace contaminants in drinking water, from chlorine and lead to bacteria and iron. Water softeners are only designed to tackle hard water, so if you're dealing with another contamination problem, you'll need a system that's intended to remove the contaminant.

Hard Water Problems

Hard water is less an issue of health than of potential expense. Many of the problems created by hard remain hidden until some type of malfunction occurs in your home's plumbing system or in water using appliance. When heated, dissolved hard water minerals recrystallize and form a scale that sticks to surfaces and clogs pipes. This scale build-up can reduce the efficiency of your water heater by as much as 30 percent, which costs you money in higher energy bills.

To worsen the situation, scale cakes onto the interior surfaces of water heaters, making them more likely to fail. According to the study commissioned by the Water Quality Research Council at New Mexico University, water heaters operate 22 percent to 30 percent less effective when plagued with hard water scales.

Calcium and magnesium also react with many soaps, shampoos, cleaners, and detergents, hence diminishing their lathering and cleaning capability, so you have to use more products to get the same results. This wastes money and is bad for the environment.

Consider Different Types of Water Softeners

The most popular and commonly used type of whole house water filter is an ion exchange unit. However, there are many different types of water softeners on the market, each with its own unique benefits. And choosing one depends on your individual circumstances as well as your personal preferences.

Salt Based Ion Exchange Water Softeners

The most popular type of water softener is a salt based ion exchange water softener. Salt based water softeners are the most traditional softening systems in this list. Salt based water softeners work by exchanging the hard minerals in your water for sodium ions.

Salt Based Ion Exchange Water Softeners
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Salt based ion exchange water softeners are very effective at removing hardness from your water. They are also relatively low maintenance and easy to use. The only downside is that they do require salt to be added to the unit on a regular basis.

Salt based water softeners must perform a regeneration cycle periodically to flush out the hardness minerals and wash them down a drain. During the regeneration cycle, the unit will also replenish the resin bed with sodium in an ion exchange process. Ion exchange water softener systems usually cost between $800 t0 $2000 depending on the brand and the quality of the build.

Salt Free Water Softeners

Salt free water softeners don't actually soften your water, but they effectively tackle the biggest hard water issue, which is limescale. A salt free water conditioner will typically use a crystalization method, such as template assisted crystalization, to crystalize hard water minerals and prevent them from being able to stick to surfaces.

Salt Free Water Softeners
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Though the hardness minerals remain in your water, they lose their ability to form scale. This means you can enjoy the taste and health benefits of magnesium and calcium without dealing with the problems associated with limescale. Water conditioners usually cost between $700 to $1500.

Magnetic Water Softeners

Another type of water softener is a magnetic water softener. These units work by using magnets to change the structure of the hard minerals in your water so that they can no longer stick to surfaces. This type of water softener typically costs between $250 and $500.

According to manufacturers, this plug-in device, which clips onto the incoming pipe, sets up a magnetic field that changes the electromagnetic properties of the calcium carbonate minerals, so pipes and each other repel them.

Dual Tank Water Softener

A dual tank water softener is a type of water softener that has two tanks. The first tank is used to remove the hard minerals from the water, while the second tank contains fresh, softened water.

Dual Tank Water Softener
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The advantage of this type of water softener is that it can provide a constant supply of softened water, even if one of the tanks needs to be regenerated. While single tank water softeners have a period of downtime when performing the regeneration cycle, dual tank water softeners simply switch from one tank to the other.

This allows for soft water constant supply because while one resin tank is regeneration, the other one is ready for use. However, dual tank water softeners are typically more expensive than single tank units. Depending on the size and capacity of the unit, you can pay between $1500 to $3000. When shopping for a dual tank water softener, keep in mind that it requires more space.

Other Considerations

After knowing the different types of water softeners, here are other considerations you should take into account before making your purchase:

Water Softener Certification

No matter what kind of water softener you buy, always look out for the NSF certification. NSF International is an independent testing organization that tests and certifies water treatment products. The water industry's trade organization, the water quality association, also certifies equipment, so look for WQA Gold Seal.

Although neither of these certifications guarantees performance, they signify that the equipment has successfully passed testing for industry standards and validated the manufacturer's claims.


The price of a water softener will vary depending on the type of system, the brand, and the size. A small, single-tank system starts at around $400, while a large, whole-house model can cost as much as $5,000. A standard water softener installation cost will also apply.


Another factor to consider is the maintenance required to keep your water softener running efficiently. Some systems need only a few drops of salt added every month, while others may require that you add salt on a weekly basis. In addition, you will need to regularly clean and service your system to ensure optimal performance.


When purchasing a water softener, be sure to check the warranty. Most systems come with a one-year warranty, but some brands offer extended warranties of up to 10 years. This will give you peace of mind in knowing that your investment is protected.

Capacity and Flow Rate

Knowing what size water softener you’ll need will help you get the right system for your home. Choose a water softener with the capacity and flow rate that meets your needs. If you have a small home with one or two people, a smaller unit will suffice. However, if you have a large home or family, you'll need a system with a higher capacity to meet your demand. In addition, check the flow rate of the system to ensure it can handle the amount of water your home uses.

How to Install a Water Softener

Here are the things you need to consider when installing a water softener:

You'll have two 1-inch National Pipe Thread Tapered female connectors and enough tubing from the water softener to your existing plumbing. You may have copper, polyvinyl chloride, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, steel, or cross linked polyethylene plumbing. Each of these types may require different materials and tools for installation.

A drain is needed for a regeneration process. About 10 feet of drain tubing is supplied, but if your drain is farther than 10 feet away, you'll need to purchase enough 1/2 inch tubing to reach your drain. The drain shouldn't be more than 30 feet away from the softener. The drain line shouldn't be elevated more than 8 feet above the floor.

The power cord needs to be plugged into a 110-volt continuous live outlet. The unit comes with a 10 foot power cord.

FAQs on How to Know a Water Softener to Buy

How to select a water softener?

There are many types of water softeners available on the market. To select the best water softener shower head for your home, you'll need to consider the hardness of your water, the amount of water your family uses, and the type of system that will work best with your home's plumbing.

What to look for in a water softener?

When you're shopping for a water softener, you should look for a unit that is durable, has a high capacity, and is easy to maintain. You'll also want to make sure that the unit you select is compatible with your home's plumbing.

Where to buy a water softener?

Water softeners are available at most home improvement stores, as well as online retailers.

Final Thought on How to Know a Water Softener to Buy

Knowing a water softener to buy is important because it will help you have softer water in your home. Once you know what type of system to buy, be sure to look for a unit that is durable and has a high capacity. You should also make sure that the unit you select is compatible with your home's plumbing. By following these tips, you can be sure to find the perfect water softener for your needs.



Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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