Defined: The Distinction Between Salt-Primarily based and Salt-Free Water Softeners

(Up to date September twenty third, 2021)

When you discover stains, watermarks or filmy residue in your sinks and bathtubs, you might need an issue with laborious water. Exhausting water comprises excessive ranges of minerals reminiscent of calcium and magnesium and may wreak havoc in any family. Fortunately, there’s a good way to sort out this challenge: putting in a high-quality water softener in your house.

A water softener helps enhance the lifespan of your plumbing and water-using home equipment, and even lowers your water invoice. Heck, it might even soften your pores and skin and hair.

Keep in mind that water softeners are available in two totally different variants: salt-based and salt-free softeners. Many individuals consider that the one distinction is that one doesn’t use salt, however that’s removed from the reality.

Every system has a number of distinctions that one should take into account earlier than buying. However which one is best? To reply this query, we should check out how every system works, the professionals and cons for every and what state of affairs every kind is finest suited to.

How Salt-Primarily based Water Softeners Work

Salt water softener programs flip “laborious” water into “gentle” water by a course of known as ion alternate. Utilizing the digital metered valve mounted atop the resin tank, the system measures water by the gallon earlier than working a cleansing cycle. As soon as the resin mattress reaches its saturation level, the cleansing cycle begins. In the course of the cycle, a sequence of again flushes purge the trapped minerals and washes them out of the system.  When water flows by the resin mattress contained in the tank, salts like sodium and potassium chloride are exchanged with hardness-causing minerals (primarily calcium and magnesium), leading to “gentle” water. The salts are additionally replenished within the resin mattress throughout the cycle and the system is able to go once more. 

Ought to You Purchase a Salt-Primarily based Water Softener?

Salt Water Softener Beginning at $1268.06

Salt-based softeners are designed to take away hardness-causing minerals out of your water. In consequence, you’ll most likely discover just a little to no limescale buildup on fixtures and home equipment in your house. You’ll additionally see your garments showing brighter and cleaner and your hair and pores and skin now not feeling dry and itchy. Different long-term advantages embrace extra environment friendly and longer-lasting home equipment in addition to fewer repairs and plumbing upkeep. However regardless of all these nice advantages, most salt-based softeners are dearer than their salt-free counterparts and sometimes require common upkeep.

Salt-based softeners are efficient in softening your water and ought to be used in case your laborious water ranges are significantly excessive.  

What Upkeep is Concerned In Salt Primarily based Water Softeners?

block salt for salt softener
Blocks of salt for the softener water.

The one upkeep concerned with a salt softener is establishing the preliminary timing parameters for regeneration and the month-to-month refilling of salt. Apart from that you just’ll wish to control ensuring the brine tank doesn’t create a salt bridge. A salt bridge happens when a tough crust within the brine tank types and creates an area between the water and the salt. To stop this, you’ll wish to take the top of a brush stick or deal with and break it up. Salt mush is one other extra severe challenge the place dissolved salt recrystallizes and creates a sludge on the underside of the brine tank. Humidity is among the main causes of programs not working, so control your salt to make sure the system doesn’t have any points.

Associated Article: The Greatest Kind of Salt to Use in Your Water Softener

How Salt-Free Water Softeners Work

Not like salt-based softeners which use ion alternate to take away laborious water minerals from water, salt free water softener system use a bodily course of generally known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). This course of converts the hardness minerals within the water to a hardness crystal that won’t persist with any floor in your house. Salt-free softeners are also called water conditioners as a result of they don’t truly “soften” the water; They situation (or neutralize) it. And since most of these programs don’t lure any supplies, there’s no want for a cleansing cycle to take away captured ions.

Ought to You Purchase a Salt-Free Water Softener?

Futuresoft Salt Free Water Softener
Salt Free Water Softener Beginning at $1384.33

On common, a salt-free softener is normally cheaper than a salt-based one and could be very straightforward to put in – after getting the precise gear. Additionally, this sort of system requires much less upkeep since no electrical energy is required to run the cleansing cycle and no water is wasted when purging the minerals from the resin mattress. And as straightforward as that, it can save you in your water and electrical energy payments. When you’re health-conscious (as you have to be), you’ll recognize the truth that no added salts are used within the softening course of.

Nevertheless, a significant downside of utilizing a salt-free softener is that it could not work successfully when uncovered to different contaminants like lead and chlorine. That’s why we urge clients to have some form of filtration in entrance of the system so the media doesn’t foul up. But when you don’t want to cope with salts/chemical substances, then salt-free softeners are the way in which to go.

What Upkeep is Concerned in Salt Free Softeners?

When you’ve put in your salt free water softener, the one upkeep concerned is altering the  sediment filter annually.

What Dimension Water Softener Do I Want?

Dimension is among the most vital components to think about when deciding in your perfect water softening system. A salt based mostly unit that’s too small will seemingly result in a restricted provide of softened water in your family and low water strain. In the identical manner, one that’s too massive or cumbersome may cause some severe sanitary points.

Family water softeners are normally rated by the variety of hardness grains they will take away and their salt effectivity (the quantity of salt they require for regeneration). Many individuals suppose that it’s the bodily measurement of the water softener that issues, however it’s the softening capability of the system that actually determines its suitability to your dwelling.

So how have you learnt what measurement softener you want? Let’s have a look at a number of key components that will help you discover your finest match.

1.    How Exhausting is Your Water Provide?

Water hardness is solely a measure of how a lot calcium and magnesium is dissolved in your water provide. To find out the extent of hardness in your faucet water, you’ll be able to carry out a water check and acquire the ends in mg/L (milligrams per Liter) or GPG (grains per gallon). In case your water comes from a effectively, river or some other groundwater supply, you’ll be able to both buy a water high quality check equipment and verify for hardness at dwelling or ship a water pattern to a lab to be examined. The water hardness is usually displayed in mg/L as a substitute of GPG on some check kits, however you’ll be able to merely divide the mg/L consequence by 17.1 to get your GPG worth.

When you occur to be on a public line, you’ll be able to verify your annual water high quality report on-line to see if any hardness was reported by your native water authorities.

When you plan on buying a salt based mostly water softener, it’s essential to know your water hardness when earlier than buying a softener. Guessing at this quantity can lead to an improperly sized water softener – and a string of migraines. When it’s time to program your system, it’s going to ask for the hardness worth. You would possibly want to extend your grain hardness score to compensate for any iron in your water. On this case, add 3-5 GPG of hardness for each 1.0 mg/L of iron to raised decide your measurement water softener from there.  

When you’re on a salt free softener, don’t fear concerning the hardness degree as you’re good to go so long as it’s beneath 80 grains per gallon.

2.  What’s Your Common Each day Family Water Utilization, That is Essential To Know For Salt Methods?

How a lot water does your family use every day? Do you’re taking lengthy showers? How usually do you employ the dishwasher and washer?

A straightforward strategy to decide how a lot water is utilized in your family day-after-day is to take a look at your month-to-month water payments. To determine your common month-to-month utilization, add the whole consumption out of your final three payments and divide that quantity by 3. Subsequent, divide the typical month-to-month utilization by 4, then by 7 to get your common every day utilization.

Right here’s a state of affairs:

Say your complete consumption (in gallons) for every month had been 10,000 gallons, 15,000 gallons, and 20,000 gallons, respectively.

  • Complete utilization for final 3 months: 10,000 + 15,000 + 20,000 = 45,000 gallons
  • Common month-to-month utilization: 45,000/3 = 15,000 gallons
  • Common weekly utilization: 15,000/4 = 3,750 gallons
  • Common every day utilization: 3,750/7 = 535 gallons

If math is just not your finest buddy otherwise you don’t have your water payments useful, simply assume that every particular person in your house makes use of 75 gallons per day. So, if 4 relations live in your family, you should use 300 gallons per day as a good guesstimate.

Calculate Your Each day Softening Requirement

Now, it’s time to find out the quantity of softened water your house would require every day. To attain this, multiply your every day water use by your water hardness degree (corrected for iron).

Right here’s an instance:

  • Hardness: 10 GPG
  • Each day Water Consumption: 4 folks x 75 gallons per day = 300 gallons per day
  • Each day Softening Requirement: 10 GPG x 300 gallons per day = 3,000 grains per day.

Primarily based on the instance above, the water softener can be eradicating 3000 grains per day.

Salt Primarily based Water Softener Regeneration Frequency

At this level, you’ve already used your every day water utilization to determine how a lot softening is required per day. Nice! However there’s another vital issue to think about.

Water softeners are normally sized in order that they generate about as soon as per week. One regeneration cycle per week helps to maintain your water consumption low and cleans out the resin mattress so it might proceed to supply high quality water. Due to this fact, you have to buy a good-sized water softener to keep away from regenerating too usually and growing water consumption, or not regenerating sufficient and the system begins to put on down.

If we take the every day softening requirement of 3000 grains per day and multiply it by 7, you would want a system that may soften 21,000 grains of complete hardness to regenerate as soon as each week.

When taking a look at totally different softeners, you’ll see itemizing for the scale (in cubic toes) of the resin block and/or most grain depend per regeneration cycle. Some water softeners have 24,000, 32,000, 48,000 and 64,000 grain capacities. However please remember that whereas a 24,000-grain system (just like the one within the instance above) would appear perfect at first, we’re on the lookout for 24,000 grains of complete softening capability.

What many resellers received’t inform you is that the 24,000-grain system will take about 27 kilos of salt to completely regenerate the system to the 24,000-grain degree. A extra correct description of the “24,000” system can be “0.75 cubic toes”. “24,000” is the variety of resins within the system. Whereas you will get 24,000 grains of capability from that quantity of resins, it’s going to use an extreme quantity of salt to realize this.

Let’s say your house’s weekly softening requirement is 30,000 grains. A system with one cubic foot of resin has a most grain setting of 32,000, which might most likely burn by the softener salt to maintain the system going. As a substitute, you need to go for a softener with 1.5 cubic toes of resin and a most grain setting of 48,000. By utilizing a decrease grain setting than the system can produce, it’s going to use much less salt in the long term.

Tips on how to Set up a Water Softener

Now that you just’ve found out the right measurement of your required system and made the acquisition, it’s time to start out setting issues up. For the perfect set up possibility, you’ll be able to take into account doing it your self or hiring an expert plumber for a totally hands-off expertise (and all the pieces in between).

Putting in the system by your self is fairly easy – so long as you’ve the precise data and the proper instruments for the job

When you’re prepared to tackle the duty, listed here are some fundamental steps to observe:

1.    Choose an appropriate location to put in the water softener

At first, you should determine the place you wish to set up your water softener. Typically, the perfect locations are the basement or the storage, or an indoor location that’s closest to the place the water enters your own home. Ideally, the system must be positioned in order that the softened water enters your house and never by exterior hose connections or pipes. The unit also needs to be positioned close to an influence supply, a provide inlet and a drain for water discharge. And don’t overlook to clear and sweep the world to eliminate any mud and particles current.

When you select to put in the system in an out of doors location, you have to take the required steps to make sure that the softener, plumbing, and wiring are shielded from the weather, direct daylight, contamination, vandalism, publicity to moisture, bugs, and so forth. Additionally, you would possibly have to safe the system with an earthquake strap, particularly in the event you dwell in an space that’s vulnerable to earthquakes and tremors.

2.  Flip off the primary water provide and electrical water heater

Shutting off the primary water provide prevents any doable leaks or damages to your pipes and plumbing fixtures. And when you’ve got an electrical water heater, flip it off to keep away from potential damages.

3.  Drain water from all concerned strains

Subsequent, activate close by taps and different shops to empty away all of the remaining water. So simple as it sounds, this precaution can forestall harm to the system, ought to something go incorrect throughout the set up.

4.  Set up the bypass valve onto the water softener

Most water softeners include a bypass valve that lets you flip off the water consumption in case you should service the system or redirect the water circulation with out reducing off the provision to your whole home within the course of. To put in it, push the bypass valve within the softener valve so far as doable and use the holding clips offered to snap it into place. In case your mannequin doesn’t include a bypass valve, we propose that you just add one to your setup.

5.  Join inlet/outlet ports

Join the incoming and outgoing pipe connections to the system’s inlet and outlet ports, respectively. The ports are normally labeled. You could get the circulation path proper or else your softener received’t be capable of present any softened water to your house. So, be certain to double-check your pipe connections.

6.  Arrange drainage connection if utilizing a salt based mostly softener

Each water softener wants a spot to empty water throughout the regeneration cycle. The drain choices embrace a ground drain, a standpipe, or a utility sink. Join the small drain tubing to the water softener’s drain becoming, then join the overflow drain hose to the drain elbow on the salt tank. Guarantee that each of those hoses are positioned to direct the water to the drain. Additionally they require an air hole and can’t simply be pushed into any drain pipe. Subsequent, anchor the drain hoses so they’re above the drain standpipe. 

7.   Add salt to the brine tank

Fill the brine tank with salt. Test your producer’s handbook to find out what kind of salt to make use of and the prompt quantity.

8.  Activate the water provide again on and partially open the bypass valve

As quickly as you activate the primary water provide, slowly open the bypass valve to let water circulation into the resin tank. Sudden strain can harm fittings, so watch out to not open it too shortly. Air will cross by the drain line for a couple of seconds, so as soon as it stops, you’ll be able to totally open the valve. Afterward, flip your electrical water heater again on.

9.  Plug in and regenerate

Plug in your new water softener. As soon as it boots up, press the “Regenerate” button and permit the unit to start out a full regeneration cycle.

10. Configure the system

When the service display screen re-appears, observe the start-up steps offered by your producer to configure the system. The configuration settings could embrace your water hardness degree, the time of day, how usually you need the system to regenerate, and others.

Tips on how to Clear a Salt-Primarily based Water Softener

Sustaining your water softener goes manner past including salt to the brine tank. Customary water softeners must be cleaned as soon as per 12 months to each 5 years, relying on a number of issues. Nevertheless, in the event you discover that your water has turned laborious abruptly or the water is discolored or smells humorous, you shouldn’t look forward to various days to scrub all the system.

Right here’s the best way to clear the brine tank in a salt-based water softener:

1.    Empty the brine tank

One of the best time to scrub the brine tank is when it’s extraordinarily low on salt. This manner, you received’t should scoop all of it out by hand, and the tank is light-weight sufficient so that you can transfer it round fairly simply. If the tank is just not already empty, use the bypass valve to close off the water consumption, then dump all the water and the salt out of the tank. Watch out to not dump the waste in your backyard because the salt can destroy crops. If there are any blocks or bridges of salt left within the tank, pour some scorching water inside it to dissolve them.

2.  Take away the brine/salt grid on the backside of the brine tank

Some salt-based water softeners have a mesh platform on the backside of the brine tank. Take away it and set it as earlier than cleansing.

3.  Clear inside with clear, soapy water

For the precise cleansing, combine about two gallons of water with a beneficiant quantity of dish washing cleaning soap. Pour all the combination into the tank and scrub all the inside completely with a long-handled brush.

4.  Dump the soapy water and rinse the tank

Subsequent, dump the soapy water and rinse the tank with clear, pure water.

5.  Rinse the tank once more with bleach

Pour a few ¼ cup of unscented family bleach and two or three gallons of water into the tank. Stir the bleach answer and let it sit for about quarter-hour to sanitize the tank. The bleach is efficient for killing micro organism and different dangerous microorganisms.

6.  Rinse the tank once more and refill it

As soon as extra, rinse the tank completely with clear water to scrub away the bleach answer. Put again the salt grid within the tank (if there was one), and replenish the tank with water and salt. Look forward to at the very least a couple of hours earlier than regenerating the tank to let the salt dissolve fully.

7.   Flush with water softener cleaner (further cleansing)

There are a number of manufacturers of water softener cleaners that may assist hold your system in tip-top form for longer. Pour a great high quality water softener cleaner into the brine tank as soon as each few months. Be sure to observe the directions on the label. Manually begin a regeneration course of or pour the cleaner moments earlier than a scheduled regeneration. This step helps hold the resin environment friendly and purposeful. In case your water comprises a excessive quantity of iron or some other chemical substances or brokers that may hinder the effectivity of your softener, use a strong cleansing product or purchase an attachment that routinely provides a small quantity of the cleaner every time the system regenerates.

8.  Clear the valve between the brine tank and the resin tank

Water softeners usually include a nozzle and venturi valve. Each are answerable for drawing brine into the resin mattress throughout the regeneration cycle. In the event that they turn into clogged with silt or filth, the water softener ultimately stops working. To stop that from ever occurring, disassemble and clear these elements about twice a 12 months, or each time the brine tank will get clogged. Observe the directions in your handbook to keep away from doable damages to the system or harm to your self.

What Sort of Salt Does My Salt-Primarily based Water Softener Use?

Including the precise kind of salt (and the right amount) to your brink tank is essential for maintaining your water softener working at its peak efficiency. The problem is, there are various various kinds of water softener salts in the marketplace, which may make it tough to seek out the precise kind to your system. Thankfully, there’s a consensus as to what kind of salts ought to be utilized in a salt-based water softener.

Salt-based softeners are designed to make use of one of many two principal courses of softener salt, relying on whether or not sodium ions or potassium ions are used within the ion alternate course of. These embrace:

1.    Sodium Chloride (Salt)

Sodium chloride is a naturally occurring mineral discovered within the earth. It’s the mostly used salt in water softener brine tanks. There are three totally different types of sodium chloride, specifically: salt pellets, salt crystals, and block salt.

Let’s have a look at every kind in additional element.

Salt Crystals:

Salt crystals embrace rock salt and photo voltaic salt. Rock salt seems much like tiny rocks or pebbles, and are mined underground. It types when salt deposits construct up. As a result of rock salt comprises an extreme quantity of calcium sulfate, it won’t dissolve effectively in water and should trigger some upkeep points.

Photo voltaic salt, in any other case generally known as ‘sea salt’, is produced when the solar dries up saline water (water that comprises a excessive focus of dissolved salts). It’s stated to be 99.6% pure and extremely soluble. That merely implies that photo voltaic salt dissolves in water in a short time, and thus, can assist prolong the lifetime of your water softener and cut back the necessity for frequent upkeep.

Evaporated Salt Pellets:

Evaporated salt pellets are stated to be the purest type of sodium-based salts for softening water. However there’s a catch. Whereas evaporated salt pellets are extremely efficient at treating laborious water, they’re usually costly.

Block Salt:

We don’t suggest this sort of salt to be used in water softeners. In lots of instances, some sellers will add sure bonding brokers to carry the blocks of salt collectively, which simply provides extra impurities to the salt – and your water.

2.  Potassium Chloride

If you don’t want to use sodium chloride in your water softener, you should use potassium chloride as a substitute. For one, it’s 99.9% sodium-free and is nice for individuals who wish to in the reduction of on salt. Nevertheless, it’s not good for folks with hypertension and another medical issues. Moreover, potassium chloride pellets might be tough to seek out and might be very costly.

Total, evaporated salt pellets are our greatest decide for a salt-based water softener.

Learn extra on the perfect kind of salt to your system right here


When it comes to general water “softening”, you’ll most likely be happier with a salt-based system in the event you favor a slippery really feel to the water. Or in case you are involved about losing water and including salt again into your atmosphere than a salt free system is the selection. Each forms of programs are designed to fight the detrimental results of laborious water.  If you’re extra involved with worth, a salt-free system could give you the results you want, in the event you discover you’ll be able to’t dwell with out that slippery really feel to the water then perhaps a salt based mostly system is the reply. On the finish of the day both system will remove the detrimental results of laborious water it’s simply desire on which know-how you determine to go along with.


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