Water Quality Guides

Are Saltless Water Softeners Effective?

Man and woman consult expert on a Saltless Water Softener system

Salt-based water softeners have a bit of a bad reputation in the water quality industry. Consistent maintenance, increased use of electricity and water, and the constant purchase of salt and chemicals has caused some homeowners to turn their back on salt-based water softeners.

So what’s the alternative?

Saltless water softeners are available for purchase from a variety of vendors and tend to be cheaper than their salt-based counterparts. No maintenance, no electricity and water waste, and, best of all, no salt. But are they really as effective?

The short answer: no. Read on to learn why we think saltless water conditioners are not a comparable alternative to salt-based water softeners.

How Salt-Based Water Softeners Work

Water softening literally means you are removing the hardness causing minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium) from the water through a process called ion exchange. Salt-based water softeners contain a resin bed which filters the water through, exchanging those hardness minerals for sodium particles. When the resin bed has reached a saturation point, the cleaning cycle (or regeneration) begins wherein a series of back flushes purge the trapped minerals and flushes them out of the system. The sodium particles are replenished as well and the system continues to soften.

How Saltless Water Conditioners Work

Saltless water conditioners do not use ion exchange to remove the hardness minerals. Instead, the water is processed through a catalytic media using a physical process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). The minerals’ form is changed to a hardness crystal that does not adhere to surfaces. These systems do not actually “soften” the water, they simply condition it. And because these types of systems do not capture any materials, there is no need for a cleaning cycle to remove trapped components.

Water Filtration How to Get Clean Soft Water

Are Saltless Water Conditioners Effective?

The main advantage of buying a saltless water conditioner is that there is less maintenance. You also won’t need to use electricity to run the cleaning cycle and won’t create waste-water when purging the minerals from the resin bed. On average, the cost of a saltless system is cheaper than a salt-based one and installation can be done yourself with the proper equipment. And because you are using electricity and magnets to “soften” the water, there is no added sodium to your diet.

At the end of the day saltless water conditioners do not remove the dissolved rock and minerals from your water, they alter the chemical structure of water minerals through the descaling process to prevent solids from building up around your home. But in places where you water sits, like the water heater, you will still get a buildup of limescale. These types of systems are also slower to operate because they rely on electro-magnets to change the chemical composition of the water, versus simple filtering the water through a resin bed.

The sophistication of salt-based water softeners on the market today make them the best performing choice. Most systems are highly efficient and allow you to reuse and recycle up to 30% of your salt, while using 50% less salt than their older counterparts. But if you are still concerned with the “disadvantages,” you should consider a complete home water refiner. These systems include the deionization process while also removing sediments, bacteria and other contaminants in your home’s water. Talk with a Guardian water expert by scheduling a free in-home water analysis and see which system is best for your unique needs.

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