Different types of water softener systems for hard water (which one is best)

The only solution for treating hard water is to install a water softener in your house. There are different types of water softener systems out there and choosing the best one for your hard water is not easy.

types of water softener systems

Read this article from beginning to end, you will be able to know different types of water softener systems and know how to find the right system for your home.

Different types of water softener systems are:

  1. Water conditioner
  2. Ion exchange water softener

Ion exchange water softener

The ion exchange water softener is well known conventional water softener / salt-based water softener that has been there for a quite while.

It uses salt to remove all minerals in the hard water.

This type of water softener has two tanks brine tank and resin tank.

The resin tank has resin beads that are negatively charged and the brine tank stores a brine solution that is a mixture of salt and water.

The hard water first passes through the resin tank, the hardness ions present in water that are positively charged are attracted to the negatively charged resin beads giving sodium ions through a process called ion exchange or cation exchange.

Minerals that were present in the hard water will remain on the resin bead and treated water goes through your faucet for human consumption.

After some time the resin beads become coated with minerals present in your hard water.

The mineral coat causes the resin beads not to operate effectively which needs to be cleaned.

The brine tank filled with sodium solution runs automatically or manually to the resin.

It picks ions in resin beads cleaning the beads to operate effectively.

The hard minerals are washed off from resin beads and flushed out of the resin tank through the drain pipe.

This process of cleaning resin beads is known as regeneration.

Ion exchange water softeners are available in a different style

Common brands that are ion exchange water softener includes

Water conditioners

The water conditioners use medium, magnets, and electrical devices to send waves and pulses. The device is placed around water supply pipes to alter the molecular structure of the water’s hardness.

The conditioner does not remove minerals that cause your hard water to become hard but paralyzes it for 48 hours, so it will not cause build-up in your house appliance.

There are different types of water conditioners. These includes:

Salt-free water conditioner

As the name suggests, a salt-free water conditioner does not require salt well known as sodium to soften your hard water.

What this system does they do not remove hardness in your hard water but condition it, so that does not form build-up around your house appliance.

The salt-free water conditioner retains all hard minerals in the water but alters the chemical structure making them harmless through a technology called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC).

The Template Assisted Crystallization system needs no electricity, brine tank, salt, backwash waste, wastewater (since no regeneration cycle), control valve, or electronic control system.

Salt-free water softeners are also called citric acid water softeners. Some brand like Nuvo water softener has a cartridge that adds citric acid to the water.

Citric acid forms a ring structure that binds hard water ions, therefore, preventing scale and hard water deposits from forming.

The system requires no maintenance because you don’t require buying and adding salt regularly you only need to replace the medium and some brands like Pelican Water Salt-Free Water Softener NS3 Natursoft have lifetime media.

The life expectancy of the salt-free medium can be a lifetime while other brands have specific life expectancy depending on the product. When buying check the life expectancy of the medium.

The salt-free water conditioner uses a specialized treatment medium consisting of polymeric beads that are contained in a mineral tank when hard water is passed through the medium rearranges the water hardness structure such that do not form build upon the house appliances.

The TAC technology is an excellent alternative to conventional water softeners which was first introduced 15 years ago in Germany, seven years ago in the USA and Canada, and is gaining popularity worldwide.

Common brands that are salt-free water softener includes Aquios FS 220, AQUASANA, Nuvo, Pelican NS3 Natursoft and Tier1 

The best brands that use either magnetic or electronic waves or pulses to condition your hard water are Eddy electronic descaler or ClearWave.

Water softener types comparison

Salt based ion exchangeSalt free water conditionerElectronic and magnetic descaler
1salt based ion exchangesalt free water conditionerelectronic and magnetic water descaler
2uses salt to remove minerals that make water harduse media to condition your water such that do not form scale on the surfaceuse magnets and electrical devices to send waves and pulses to alter the molecular structure of the water's hardness.
3Ideal for extreme hard waterIdeal for less hard waterIdeal for less hard water

How do you know which type to use

Test your water hardness you can use a test kit at home, call or email your municipal if you use piped water.

If your water hardness is between 12-15 grains per gallon purchase a salt-based water softener less than that you can use a water conditioner.

If you only want to protect your appliances from scale and matters build-up you can consider buying a water conditioner.

Back to you which types of water softener systems do you use to treat hard water at your home? Inform us in the comment section below.