Water Softener Comparison
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• Home Water Softener Comparison and Reviews

Get the details on home water softeners before you buy

What must you consider with purchasing a water softener? Exploring various types and brands and comparing prices is a general rule of thumb. You also need to consider what type of environment the water softener will be set up in, installation requirement, the size, durability of the unit, convenience, as well as the softener rating. This site is provided to give you some understanding on the different types of softeners, how they work, the benefits, the disadvantages etc.

The primary purpose of a water softener

Although hard water is beneficial to humans, plants and animals it creates problems with build up of calcium and magnesium in plumbing pipes and appliances as well as hot water heaters which cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The negative effect of calcium sticking to our hair and skin has created a windfall for hair and skin products designed to counter act these effects. The Primary purpose of a water softener is to prevent the initial scale build-up from occuring.

Many people are unaware of the different methods for softening water and the advantages and disadvantages of each. On this site you will find information about the different methods for softening water that will aid you in your selection process to determine the right method for you. We have researched the top 4 methods used in whole house water softeners and have rated the top product for each method. There are many benefits to owning and using a water softener.

Manufacturer
Local Franchise Dealer
Rating
Model
Pelican NaturSoft
Salt-Free Softener
(House call necessary)
WH-RO-500
Diamond 4800
Softening Method
Salt-Free/
Nano Technology
Salt-Based/
Ion Exchange
Reverse Osmosis
Magnetics
Price
$1,345.00
$1,399 - $2,700
$11,975.00
$696.00
Certified Performance
Yes
N/A
No
No
Maintenance Required
No
Yes - Tech Required
Yes - Daily/Weekly
No
Backwashing
No
Yes
No
No
Monthly Cost
None
Electricity/Backwashing/Salt
(Water, if on city water)
Extensive -
Weekly/Monthly
None
Electricity Required
No
Yes
Yes
No
Warranty
Limited Lifetime
Tank & Parts
10 year Tank/
5 Year Electronic Head
10 Year Tanks (only)
Lifetime
Professional Installation
Required For Warranty
No
Yes
No
No
City / Well?
City/Well
City/Well
City/Well
City/Well
Flow Rate / GPM
10
10
12
N/A
Ease of Use
Easy
Not Easy
Very Complicated
Easy
Pressure Loss Detected
No
Yes
Yes
No
Scale Removal
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Hardness Capacity
75 Grains
(> 1,282 mG/L)
Sized up to
100 Grains
No Limit
55 Grains
(940 mG/L)
*Disclaimer

 

• Recommended Usages for the 'Top 4' Brands

1. SALT-FREE WATER SOFTENERS (CATALITIC MEDIA)

Recommended Usage
: Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free Softener
Salt-free water softeners are recommended for residential single-family homes, restaurants, and commercial applications where hardness levels in the water supply are at or below 75 grains per gallon.

2. SALT-BASED WATER SOFTENERS (ION EXCHANGE)

Recommended Usage:
Local Franchise Dealer
Salt-based water softeners are recommended where the hardness in the water supply is above 25 grains per gallon or higher.

3. REVERSE OSMOSIS (ULTRA FINE FILTRATION UNDER PRESSURE)

Recommended Usage: Raindance WH-RO-500

Reverse osmosis is recommended where salt is present in the water supply.

4. MAGNETIC WATER SOFTENERS (USES MAGNETS)

Recommended Usage: Clearwater GMX Diamond 4800

Magnetic water softening is recommended for apartments or single family homes where space does not allow for a whole house water softener to be installed.

 

• Top 4 Methods of Water Softening and How They Work

1. SALT-FREE WATER SOFTENERS (CATALITIC MEDIA)

About Salt-Free Water Softeners

The Pelican NaturSoft media has calcium carbonate crystal structures on its surface that will attract excess dissolved hardness and remove it from solution by integrating it into the crystal structures on the media. This results in the crystals on the media surface to grow larger. The movement of water and friction among the individual media granules rubbing against each other will cause fragments of these newly grown crystal structures to be fragmented off the media and released into the passing water. Those free flowing calcium carbonate crystals then continue to travel through a plumbing system as suspended particles where they perform the same role as the media in the Pelican NaturSoft system itself, i.e. acting as seed crystals further buffering the effects of any changes in the scale potential of the water downstream by absorbing excess mineral into their structure and themselves spawning the creation of additional micro crystals.

Advantages
The Pelican NaturSoft requires no monthly maintenance or additional monthly costs. It softens the water without the use of salt or potassium, therefore there is no need for an expensive reverse osmosis system for drinking water. The Pelican NaturSoft leaves in all the essential minerals for the drinking water requiring no chemicals, electricity, or back flushing to operate. There is no wasted water or drains to install. It allows for up to 50% less soaps or detergents to be used, saving money and completely removes and prevents 100% of the scale from forming in all pipes and heat exchangers (hot water heater). The Pelican NaturSoft does not fall under any softener ban because it does not discharge salt or potassium back into the ground water. It is 100% environmentally friendly. Longer life of appliances including washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters; less use of household cleaning products, such as detergents, as well as personal care products, like shampoo; reduction of water spotting; cleaner, softer feeling clothes.

Disadvantages
Not recommended for hardness levels above 75 grains per gallon.


2. SALT-BASED WATER SOFTENERS (ION EXCHANGE)

Calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions that cause water hardness can be removed by using an ion exchange procedure. Water softeners are cation exchange devices. Cations refer to positively charged ions. Cation exchange involves the replacement of the hardness ion with a non-hardness ion. Salt-based water softeners use sodium (Na+) as the exchange ion. Sodium ions are supplied from dissolved sodium chloride salt, also called brine. In the ion exchange process, sodium ions are used to coat an exchange medium in the softener. The exchange medium can be natural “zeolites” or synthetic resin beads that resemble wet sand. As hard water passes through a softener, the calcium and magnesium trade places with sodium ions. Sodium ions are held loosely and are easily replaced by calcium and magnesium ions. During this process free sodium ions are released to the water. After softening a large quantity of hard water the exchange medium becomes coated with calcium and magnesium ions. When this occurs, the exchange medium must be recharged or regenerated. To recharge the softener with sodium ions, a softener is back flushed with a salt brine solution. During a back flush the brine solution replaces the calcium and magnesium ions on the exchange medium with sodium ions from the salt solution. The time between recharging cycles depends on the hardness of the water, the amount of water used, the size of the unit, and the capacity of the exchange media to remove hardness.

Advantages
Longer life of appliances including washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters; less use of household cleaning products, such as detergents, as well as personal care products, like shampoo; reduction of water spotting; cleaner, softer feeling clothes.

Disadvantages
Softened water from a salt-based water softener is not recommended for drinking, watering houseplants, lawns and gardens due to its sodium content. There are many health risks associated with sodium intake. During the softening process sodium is released from the exchange media into the output water. For every grain of hardness removed from water, 8mg/1 (ppm) of sodium is added. People on restricted sodium intake diets should account for increased levels of sodium in softened water. Your family physician should be consulted. Sodium intake from softened water can be avoided by leaving one kitchen tap un-softened from drinking and cooking. Water used in recharging a water softener may over load or reduce the effectiveness of small septic or sewer systems. Softened water is not recommended for small appliances such as steam irons or evaporative coolers. There is additional cost and maintenance required. Salt-based softeners require that salt be added to the system on a regular basis based upon the hardness of the water. Cost of salt is approximately $5 to $7 per 40-pound bag depending on the form


3. REVERSE OSMOSIS (ULTRA FINE FILTRATION UNDER PRESSURE)


About Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is used to remove dissolved impurities from water through the use of a semi permeable membrane. Reverse osmosis involves the reversal of flow through a membrane from a high salinity, or concentrated, solution to the high purity, or permeate, stream on the opposite side of the membrane. Pressure is used as the driving force for the separation. The applied pressure must be in excess of the osmotic pressure of the dissolved contaminants to allow flow across the membrane. For example, the membrane may allow passage of water molecules, but blocks molecules of dissolved salt. The membrane retains unwanted molecules while the ultra-pure water continues on for use or further treatment. This process takes any unwanted molecules retained by the membrane and sweeps them away to the drain.

Advantages
Ultra fine filtration at the molecular level filters out 98% of all unwanted molecules. Reverse osmosis removes salt, heavy metals, and most solids.

Disadvantages
Reverse osmosis strips the essential minerals from the water therefore it is not suitable for plants, animals, humans or cooking (according to the World Health Organization). Reverse osmosis water is hard on plumbing and fixtures, due to the non-mineral content in the water. Reverse osmosis only recovers between 5% and 15% of the water entering the system; the rest of the water is wasted. The system requires a connection to a drain for wastewater. The process is relatively slow and requires a storage tank. Low water pressure and high temperatures adversely affect the production of water. A booster pump may need to be installed for low-pressure situations. The storage unit for treated water will support bacteria growth unless regularly disinfected. Costly membranes will need to be replaced periodically.


4. MAGNETIC WATER SOFTENER / MAGNETIC WATER CONDITIONER (USES MAGNETS)


About Magnetic Water Softeners

The majority of these devices claim to work by causing the carbonate salts that would ordinarily form adherent scale deposits to precipitate as small particles within the water instead. This would also presumably reduce the concentration of the calcium and magnesium ions that react with soaps to form insoluble scum.

Advantages
Magnetic water softening claims to reduce the scale build up and the affects of hard water. The magnetic devises are very inexpensive compared to other methods of softening water.

Disadvantages
The degree of efficiency is constantly changing. The magnetic field exists only in the immediate vicinity of the device and therefore only affects behavior of water that has passed through the immediate vicinity of the device. The state of the water after it has been introduced to the magnetic field will only stay in that state for a period of 48 hours, which means if the water is not used for more than 48 hour it will revert back to hard water with the negative effects. The Tests conducted at Purdue University found "…no significant, beneficial variation in the physical or chemical water quality parameters measured." Another disadvantage is that there is the possibility of experiencing interference from other high voltage cables in the surrounding area.Note: GMX magnetic systems were not tested by Purdue


• Conclusion

The above methods of dealing with hard water are proven technologies if used in the right application. We recommend you consider on going maintenance cost as well as initial cost of each system. Please refer to the recommended usage section for a good starting point in your decision-making.

Note: Water softeners do not remove contaminants, such as chlorine, chloramines, THM's, VOC's, SOC's, they are designed to address hard water issues. It is recommended that a whole house water filter be coupled with any water softener.

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