Ultimate Guide: Best Water Softeners For The Money (2016)

By Alex | Water Softeners

May 10
fleck water softeners

When I moved into my new home in Las Vegas, I immediately knew that something was not quite right with the water. I care about the quality of my home’s water because I want to be sure that my family does not have to experience polluted water conditions in the house.

If you want to make sure that you and your family are drinking and using water that is free from any chemicals or organic pollutants that can cause serious health issues, then you should seriously consider installing a home water softener system in your house.

If you have ended up here because you are shopping for the best water softener system for well water or other hard water, either for your home or your office, then you are in the right place because I have compared all the top rated models so that you don’t have to.

Top 10 Water Softeners in 2016 - 2017

PhotoProductOur Rating
Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter Fleck 5600SXTIron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter Fleck 5600SXT5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
North Star NSC40UD1 Ultra Demand Water SoftenerNorth Star NSC40UD1 Ultra Demand Water Softener5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Fleck 5600SXT Digital SXT Metered Whole House SystemFleck 5600SXT Digital SXT Metered Whole House System4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)
Green Wave 15 GPM Saltless Water Conditioner With Pre-FilterGreen Wave 15 GPM Saltless Water Conditioner With Pre-Filter4.6 Stars (4.6 / 5)
WaterBoss 220 Grain Water SoftenerWaterBoss 220 Grain Water Softener4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 10000 Grains Portable Water SoftenerWatts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 10000 Grains Portable Water Softener4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)
Aquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft Salt-Free Water SoftenerAquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener4.2 Stars (4.2 / 5)
Eddy Electronic Water Descaler - Water Softener AlternativeEddy Electronic Water Descaler - Water Softener Alternative3.9 Stars (3.9 / 5)
Metered Water Softener with 1.25Fleck 7000 Metered Water Softener with 1.25" Fleck3.9 Stars (3.9 / 5)
Morton Salt Company 34M Wtr Softener Unit Msd34c Water ConditionerMorton Salt Company 34M Wtr Softener Unit Msd34c Water Conditioner3.3 Stars (3.3 / 5)
nuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening SystemnuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System3.2 Stars (3.2 / 5)

1. Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter Fleck 5600SXT

iron pro 2 water softener reviewThe Iron Pro 2 system is one of the top rated whole house water softeners for the money right now. It has the Fleck 5600SXT digital metered valve controller, which features a backlit LCD screen, touchpad controls and internal power backup.

You can buy this one in the capacity that is best for your home. Right now there is a 48,000 grain capacity option and a 32,000 grain capacity model. The 32,000 grain model is best for smaller homes that house 1 to 2 people and have 1 to 2 bathrooms, while the 48,000 grain model is better for larger homes that have more people living in them. Each model has a fine mesh resin that is top of the line when it comes to filtering better and lasting longer than the competition.

With the Iron Pro 2 water softener system, you can expect it to get rid of the hardness of your water, remove iron and manganese. It will also help get rid of rust, sand and sediment in the home’s water supply.  It’s also important to note that this is a meter based regeneration system, which means that used water is measured and only regenerated when necessary. It can keep up with both increase and decrease in water usage with no problem.

The system has a 5-year warranty and comes with the bypass valve and the brine tank – so it is a complete kit that can help you get rid of hard water in the home.

2. Fleck 5600SXT Digital SXT Metered Whole House System

fleck 5600sxt water softener reviewThis model looks a lot like the Iron Pro 2 model listed above, and it actually operates in a very similar fashion.  However, there are some differences that you need to know about.

First, this unit has a 10 year warranty, which is twice as long as the Iron Pro 2 system listed above.

Like the model listed above, the Fleck 5600SXT water softener system has the has the Fleck 5600SXT digital metered valve controller, which features a backlit LCD screen, touchpad controls and 48 hour internal power backup.

This model has a 48,000 grain capacity, which makes it ideal for a home with between 3 to 6 people living in it. It will get rid of iron and manganese, which makes the water hard. It will also help get rid of rust, sand and sediment in the home’s water supply.  It’s also important to note that this is a meter based regeneration system, which means that used water is measured and only regenerated when necessary. It can keep up with both increase and decrease in water usage with no problem.

3. Green Wave 15 GPM Saltless Water Conditioner With Pre-Filter

green wave water conditioner reviewIf you’re looking for a good water softener alternative, then you should definitely consider the Green Wave water conditioner. It is a great saltless water softener option for your home. It doe snot use any chemicals, which means that you don’t need to worry about anything being added to your home’s water.

It also doesn’t use regeneration, which means that you don’t have a drain connection with it and you don’t have any water waste. That makes this is good eco-friendly choice. You also save on energy costs because this unit does not require electricity. It has no moving parts and no valve. That means that you have no maintenance required for the Green Wave water conditioner. All you have do to keep it working is replace the filter every 12 months.

You can buy the Green Wave water conditioner in three different capacities, depending on the size of your home and the number of people living there. Options are: 10 GPM, 15 GPM and 20 GPM.

This device leaves all the minerals in the water that are good for you but prevents them from scaling and leaving that chalky residue on everything. And in tests, the water flow with the Green Wave is better than the NuvoH2O, Aquasana Rhino and Pelican NatureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener.

The best thing about the Green Wave water conditioner is that it has a lifetime warranty!

4. WaterBoss 220 Grain Water Softener

waterboss 220 reviewIf efficiency is most important to you, then you’ll want to check out the WaterBoss 220 as it’s designed with that in mind and can process 70 grains per gallon. It is ideal for homes with up to 4 people using the water.

The sleek and compact design of the WaterBoss 220 makes it ideal for small or tight fitting spaces. It is also very easy to install. Regeneration with this model is very fast and efficient, which means that it uses less water than most of the whole house water softeners out there on the market. And, for people who prefer America-made products, the WaterBoss 220 is made in the USA.

It comes with a 10-year limited warranty, so you won’t have to worry too much about anything going wrong with it. And it also filters out sediment and dirt, as well as ferrous iron. Overall, this is a really good water softener for the money.

5. Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 10000 Grains Portable Water Softener

Watts RV PRO-1000 reviewThe Watts RV PRO-1000, which is also sometimes just called the M7002, is a great choice for a portable water softener. This type of device is good for travelers who have an RV or camper that they hook up to running water in campgrounds. Even people who live in a motorhome can use the Watts RV PRO-1000.

The bad thing about the Watts RV PRO-1000 is that it is not a small device, so it will definitely take up some space in your camper or luggage. But the good news is that it runs on regular table salt, so you don’t have to buy bags of salt pellets.

You will find that installation is quick and easy. In fact, the regeneration process is done in about 20 minutes time. Just keep in mind that about 2 pounds of salt is needed for a single regeneration process with this unit. So, buy enough salt on your run to the local grocery store.

A nice benefit of this unit is that it comes with hard water testing strips so that you can actually check the water to be sure that it is coming out soft and not hard. Plus, this thing is cheap! It’s hard to find a good water softener under $200 – $300, but this one is it.

6. Aquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener

Aquasana EQ-1000 Whole House Filter unit reviewWith the Aquasana brand, you know that you’re getting a lot of great value for the money. And their whole house water softeners are proof of that.

You can choose from a few different models from the 4-year Aquasana chloramines filter system to the 6-year Aquasana Rhino EQ-600 system to the 10-year Aquasana EQ-1000 Whole House Filter unit or the 10-year Aquasana Whole House Water Filter + SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener with Pro Install Kit. No matter which one you choose, you can rest easy knowing that it will take care of all your hard water problems.

The Aquasana EQ-1000 is the top of the line model that offers the best filtration and water softening for the home. It features a four-stage filtration process that removes 97% of the chlorine in your water, as well as sediment, rust, dirt and other components that you don’t want in your water. With this unit, you don’t need water, electricity or back-flushing. Expect this 10-year tank to last your family for 1,000,000 gallons or 10 years.

The Aquasana Rhino EQ-600 is your next best bet in the Aquasana line. It features a three-stage filtration process that removes 97% of chlorine and the sediment, rust, dirt and other components that you don’t want in your water. It also doesn’t need water, electricity or back-flushing. Expect this 6-year tank to last your family for 600,000 gallons or six years.

The Aquasana EQ-400 Chloramines Whole House Filtration System is the least advanced (and cheapest) model in the lineup. It features an advanced filters that reduces chloramines in the water, which is just chlorine and ammonia disinfectant in the water supply. You’re also looking at about a 97% reduction of these. It also doesn’t need water, electricity or back-flushing. Expect this 4-year tank to last your family for 400,000 gallons or four years.

7. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative

eddy water softener alternative reviewIf you’re shopping for a good cheap water softener under $200, then you already know that it is very difficult to find something like that. So, I suggest you consider this water softener alternative to fit that under $200 – $300 budget.

This is actually an electronic water descaler and not a water softener. What this device does is help you deal with that horrible limescale problem you’re experiencing from your hard water.

So, you end up with water that seems like soft water but it still retains all those healthy minerals that were previously causing you problems. It does this by sending out electromagnetic waves through the pipes thanks to the wires that you’ve wrapped around your incoming water pipe. The waves change the charges of those minerals, which is how it makes your water better.

The Eddy water descaler is very easy to install and a good saltless alternative for water softeners. Plus, it has a great low price that makes it a good affordable water softener alternative. It is also an eco-friendly water softener alternative. And the best thing about the Eddy unit is that it has a 12-month money back guarantee, as well as a lifetime warranty. With a price under two hundred bucks, you can’t go wrong with this one if you’re on a tight budget.

8. Fleck 7000 Metered Water Softener with 1.25″ Fleck

Fleck 7000 Metered Water Softener with 1.25Do you have a large home or a big family that goes through a lot of water? If so, this unit is one of the best ones on the market that can handle that sort of capacity.

At the high end, the Fleck 7000 metered unit can handle 28 GPM flow rate. It has a 64,000 grain capacity, which is what makes it ideal for a large home or homes with 5 or more people using the water.

It does require electricity to work and features a digital LCD panel on the meter. You can program it for maximum efficiency so that you minimize its salt consumption.

Keep in mind that this is a big unit, so you will need a decent amount of space to install it. And, you’ll probably need a friend to help you out since getting the salt in the tank can be a bit of a slow and tedious process.

9. Morton Salt Company 34M Wtr Softener Unit Msd34c Water Conditioner

morton Salt MSD34C System Saver Water Softener reviewThe Morton Salt MSD34C System Saver Water Softener is a good compact water softener for the whole house, which makes it a great choice for people who don’t have a lot of space for a unit. The reason why it is such a small water softener system is that it doesn’t have separate tanks for the mineral and brine. Instead, it is an all-in-one sort of system.

If you’re cost-conscious or eco-friendly, the you should know that this Morton unit uses about 50% less salt that other units with similar power, and it is much more efficient at what it does. The regeneration is also efficient as it notices water usage patterns for the house so that it doesn’t result in any waste.

The unit is a 34,000 grain capacity, which means it’s not ideal for larger families, but does work well for smaller families or smaller homes.

Installation is very easy and the unit works very efficiently.

10. nuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System

nuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System reviewAnother great salt-free option is the nuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System. This is probably the smallest water softening unit that I’ve seen on the market. It is ideal for apartments, condos and other small spaces.

This compact water softening system does not use salt, magnets, or electricity and there is no waste water when you use this thing. It works by removing the existing limescale that you are dealing with in your apartment, townhouse or condo. And for people who prefer that the minerals stay in the water for health reasons, you can rest easy because the soluble minerals do stay present in the water. But all that chalky limescale buildup is no longer a problem with the nuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System.

The nuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System is designed for homes that are up to around 2,100 square feet in size. You will get about 60,000 gallons of use out of it, which is normally about 6 months. The water flow is 15 – 18 GPM. And, the unit has a lifetime warranty.

What Is A Water Softener?

A water softener is actually considered an appliance, or sometimes a plumbing component, that removes hard minerals and metals from the water that comes into your home. It accomplishes this feat via an ion exchange process that leaves your hard water without those minerals, which is soft water.

You might be wondering how those minerals got there in the first place, right? Well, they come from the soil where the water comes from, which is why people who have well water often need a good water softener. But, you can have hard water from your regular city water source, just like I do in Las Vegas.

If you have never seen one of these units, most of the time they are made up of two different tanks. One is a brine tank and the other is a water tank. So, water flows into the first tank, which has resin beads in it. These beads have an electrical charge that is directly opposite that of the hard minerals in the water. So, when those minerals meet those beads, what happens is something called an ion exchange. Basically, that just means that the minerals are depleted from the water and you end up with soft water that is better for you and your home. The soft water has soft minerals in it, which are usually either salt or potassium chloride.

As a result, those soft minerals are the ones that you have to add to the water softener in order for it to function properly and get rid of your hard water. It might seem like some confusing science at first, but it is really kind of a simple process in the end.

Water Softeners 101: How They Work

If this is your first time experiencing hard water, then you might not really know how a water softener actually works.  The basic way that it functions is that it takes your hard water and strips all the hard minerals out of it. This includes things like magnesium and calcium. How much they remove is typically measured on the unit by grain removal level. Most of the time, salt is required in order for a water softener to do its job. However, there are a few good options out that that either work without salt or with potassium chloride instead of salt. Below, you’ll find a quick video that explains the process.

What Is Hard Water And How To Test For It

For some people, knowing if you have hard water is difficult to determine. If you are like me, then you probably grew up and spent most of your life with soft water in the house and never really knew the difference. For me, I learned that something was different about the water in my new home when I began to notice that all the dishes were drying with white, chalky residue on them and that in the shower it was difficult to lather the soap. It took some online research for me to learn that the problem is hard water.

According to an article from the Chicago Tribune in 2012, about 85% of water in the United States is hard water. So, there is a pretty good chance that you live in a home with hard water right now. This type of water is characterized by high amounts of magnesium and calcium. How does it get in the water? Well, as the water was making it way from the ground to your home, it comes into contact with rocks and soil with those minerals and they end up in the water.

Don’t be alarmed because of the presence of these minerals. Your water is still clean, it just has some extra minerals in it that can cause harm to your appliances and your body.

Soft water is basically just water that does not have those minerals in it. Some soft water occurs naturally, about 15% of it in the U.S. according to the article referenced above. And other soft water comes from the hardness elements being removed with water treatment equipment and devices, like water softeners.

Here’s how hard water is bad for you and your home, and why you should treat it with a water softener:

  • Cleaning – minerals in hard water interact with soap and detergent, which makes it more difficult to get laundry, dishes and your both clean.
  • Bathing – not only do the hard water minerals make it harder for you to get clean with soap, but they also cause limescale build-up on your shower walls and bathtub.
  • Energy use – minerals from hard water cause build-up in hot water heaters, which results in about an 8% loss in efficiency for every 100 gallons of water. This increases your energy costs.
  • Plumbing – the minerals in hard water can cause scaling in your hot water heater, pipes and even your coffee maker! This restricts water flow and eventually results in clogging.

Now that you know why having hard water is bad, don’t you think it is a good idea to do something about it? Still not sure if you have hard water? Keep reading to learn how to test for it.

Testing for Hard Water

hard water test kitThere are two ways to test for hard water – the quick, unofficial test or the store-bought test. To find out right now if you have hard water, just take a clear bottle and fill it about half full with some tap water. Then, put in about 5 drops of liquid dish soap. Secure the the cap on the bottle and give it a few shakes. When you remove the cap, if you see a lot of suds, then you probably don’t have hard water. But if you only see light suds or a soap film, then it looks like you’ve got hard water.

For a more official result, you can pick up a DIY hard water test kit at a local hardware store or online from Amazon. I recommend AquaChek Total Hardness 25 Test Kit Strip from Amazon. I find it easy to use and that it works well.

With a kit like the one above, you just take the test strip and put it either in a glass of water or under some running water. I suggest you use running water though since a glass in your home might skew the results of the test since they can have some limescale build up on them or soap residue from the dishwasher.

After you use the test strip, you just match it up to the guide on the bottle and it will tell you if the water is  hard or soft. What’s great about a kit like this is that you can use it once you get the water softener installed to determine if it’s working properly or if you’re using a filter on your faucet then you can check for when it needs changed with the kit.

Another thing about these water test kits is that you might find out that your water isn’t really super hard after all. So, you may end up learning that you need a water purifier instead of a water softener. That’s why these kits are so great, and since they are cheap it is really a no brainer when it comes to buying a kit to test your home water for hardness.

Why You Need A Water Softener

limescale dishesIf you have hard water, you might be wondering if you really need to spend the money on a water softener. You may even be drinking the water and using it for showers and other normal household activities and not noticing any real difference.

Well, here’s the thing – hard water is not good for you, your appliances, your clothes or your dishes. Dry hair and skin are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the negative side effects of using and drinking hard water.

When you do laundry in hard water, your clothes do not get as clean since the soap has a harder time creating suds in the hard water. You end up with dingy looking clothes that don’t last as long as they should.

The same goes for your dishes. Getting suds from your dish liquid can be a real challenge. And when the dishes dry, they are covered in white water spots from the limescale buildup.

This build up doesn’t just show up on your clean dishes. You will find it in your sinks, your showers, your bathtubs and more. It will even cause build-up around the shower heads and hot water heater pipes. Basically, it can cause a lot of damage to both the home and the body if left untreated.

Types of Water Softeners

For the most part, there is one basic type of water softener. The standard type of water softener strips the hard minerals from your water with potassium chloride or salt. This is the type that is most commonly used and sold for hard water problems.

Salt-free water softeners also exist and these units condition the water and descale it. It is important to know that these types of devices don’t actually strip the minerals from the water, so technically they do not give you soft water. What they do is use template assisted crystallization (TAC) to make the minerals not stick to either other or to your pipes.

Electronic water softeners are another option you might be considering to fix your hard water. These units have wires that you have to wrap around the outside of your water pipes. The wires then reverse the charge of the minerals in the water. So, again, you are not left with soft water but now the minerals won’t stick to your pipes.

Magnetic water softeners have a similar design to the electronic ones, but instead of wires you have to use magnets on the pipes. Other than that difference, these units work exactly like the electronic units.

Now that you know about the different types of water softener units, you can decide which is the best choice for your home. For the best results, I suggest the standard units that use salt or potassium chloride.

Top Water Softener Brands

If you prefer to shop by brand first instead of top rated water softener models, then our list of the top brands on the market right now can help you head in the right direction. Take a look at our list below to check out all the best brands in the industry.

  • Fleck – this is hands-down the most well known brand out there, and for good reason – they make the most high quality water softeners on the market. It is hard to get a better value for the money when it comes to the Fleck brand. The models that they make are consistently on the lists of best selling and best rated consumer water softeners.
  • Morton – there is a good chance that you already know this brand because they make table salt! So, it is only natural that they make good water softeners using their salt. They do not have a lot of models for sale, but those that they do offer are high quality and well-rated by consumers like you and me.
  • Aquasana – this is another brand that has a long built reputation in the industry. In addition to water softeners, they make a variety of other healthy and clean water products, like filters for the faucets and shower heads. Overall, they are a great brand to support.
  • WaterBoss – this company also has built a good reputation over time by creating quality water softener products. They specialize by making units that use less water, which is great for people who are trying to reduce their usage.  Their units are always highly rated by consumers.

While there are other brands out there, these four are the industry leaders right now. Basically, if you buy one of these brands, then you know that you are getting quality equipment that will perform well and last you for many years to come.