The water flowing through the pipes in the home isn’t all the same. The harder the water consistency, the more damaging it is to the internal plumbing systems. Pipes can erode and need replacing sooner than they would otherwise when the local water supply is too heavy. Home appliances also suffer when internal piping in the washing machine, dishwasher and other types of units’ experience erosion due to the water consistency.

A water softener aims to put an end to this expensive problem by using different types of filtering systems, like one using ion exchange, to remove magnesium, calcium, and iron present in hard water. Scale can build up inside water tanks and cause gradual degradation of the interior of the storage, something that the water softening process also resolves.

The water regeneration process is strictly controlled and monitored with most modern water softener equipment using built-in LED displays. A control valve acts to restrict the flow of water during the treatment process. The regeneration process gets turned on when someone in the home is using a system, like dishwater, washing machine or sink, where water is free flowing. As the needs increase, the regeneration process is repeated more often to ensure sufficient treated water supply of softer water on tap.

A water softener unit typically comes as a single tank fitted with an on-demand digital valve and an LED display for easy review. A threaded adapter commonly used in plumbing is present to help connect the system to the existing pipes system around the home. A separate brine or another filtering tank comes supplied which holds the materials used in the softening process ready for when they are required.

Most water softening systems are designed for home users and support occupants of up to 6 people in a house. The system gets fitted to the main water supply to treat water hardness levels before residents of the home can access the water directly from the source. An efficient softener system manages hardness levels from medium to heavy. Many systems offer 12 gallons per minute (GPM) flow rate which is more than adequate for most homeowners even when several home appliances are running simultaneously, and a shower gets used at the same time.

The digital valves used in many water softener systems are usually tested to function properly for decades and with top brands come with a multi-year (often five year) guarantee. The readouts use modern backlit LED displays for easy reading in any light conditions. Settings are modified using touchpads for the better systems. Power gets delivered through the standard electrical system. However, the better water softener units have an internal energy storage system to prevent a loss of usage during a power cut.

The tanks are also robust and built using durable materials that don’t break down. Because of this, many manufacturers offer a decade long warranty on their tanks which is reassuring too.

The brine tank included with many water softeners take up different amounts of space in the home. The larger home systems hold up to 250 pounds of pelleted salt used in the softening process. Most tanks have internal float systems to prevent overfilling and overflow.

The installation of a complete water softening system is something that takes at least a couple of hours to complete if having never fitted one before. The skills necessary are regular plumbing skills, but for anyone unfamiliar with what’s involved, they may wish to hire the services of a local plumber to complete the task for them.

What’s Included with The Best Water Softener

The primary water system includes a bypass flow valve with the system to control digitally how much treated water is flowing through. An LED readout and control pad lets the homeowner adjust settings as needed.

A separate tank is where the pelleted salt is stored that helps treat the water as it flows in the system. A 1-inch threaded plumbing yoke is provided to make it easier for a plumber to hook up the water softener apparatus up to the existing water plumbing system.

What to Know Before Making a Purchase

Each water treatment system can handle a different amount of GPM of water flow. Some models offer 16 GPM; others are only 12 GPM. Homeowners need to decide for themselves how much water they use collectively in their home and to choose a system that is capable of delivering sufficient softened water supply for their needs.

A plumber is a good idea when fitting the water system. It is possible for someone familiar with DIY to try to install the system themselves. However, given the cost of the water softening equipment to purchase, it is probably best to call in a professional for the task to know the fitting has completed correctly.

Other Considerations

Due to the way that a water softener system works, a pressure drop of up to 15 PSI is commonly experienced by homeowners. The pressure reduction is not a problem though because home appliances still operate without any difficulty and power shower systems are more than capable of delivering water pressure within their self-contained water flow systems.

Best Brands

Fleck make some of the most advanced water treatment systems with sophisticated digital valves and durability.

Waterboss has high capacity water treatment systems with strong water flow and sediment removal systems built-in.

Watts is a specialist in portable water treatment system suitable for smaller homes, RVs, and other uses.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

Iron: The typical water softener is capable of reducing iron in the water supply by up to 10 parts per million.

Well water: Water softener systems are ideal for well water supplies that often have a heavier iron composition than regular piped in water does.

Supplier contact: The supplier will often email the buyer to provide additional encouragement and installation information separate to what is provided by the manufacturer alone. The email contact is particularly useful for DIY installers who aren’t planning to use a plumber for the installation task.