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Best Water Softener Systems: Top Picks For 2022

Scott Winfield
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by Scott Winfield

Water softeners are the most effective solution to hard water problems. Thanks to years of water-related experience under our belt, we’ve had the chance to review many of them. Now we’re ready to provide you with a thorough list of the best water softener systems for your money’s worth.

In summary, Springwell SS1 is our recommended salt-based water softener. With 32,000 grains and 11 – 20GPM flow rate, it’s easily the best whole house water softener for mid-sized households.

5 Best Water Softeners You Can Get Today:

  1. Best Overall: Springwell Water Softener – The most effective water softening system with up to 20 GPM flow rate. Great for medium-sized and large households. Jump to Review
  2. Best Salt-free: Springwell Salt Free – Another excellent Springwell product with a 15 GPM flow rate, perfect for homes that want to be eco-friendly. Jump to Review
  3. Runner Up Salt-Based: Fleck 5600SXT – The second-best salt based water softener with a wide range of capacity and flow rate options. Jump to Review
  4. Runner Up Salt-free: Aquasana Water Softener – The second-best salt free water softener system for people with moderately hard water and smaller households. Jump to Review
  5. Best Electronic Descaler: Yarna Capacitive – An electromagnetic water descaler that can be adjusted to any flow rate or grain capacity.. Jump to Review
Comparison Table for Water Softener Systems
1.    Springwell Salt Based The Best Salt Based Softener
The Best Salt Based Softener
  • Type: Ion Exchange
  • Grain Capacity: 32,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 11 – 20 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Springwell Salt-Free Best Salt Free Softener
Best Salt Free Softener
  • Type: Template Assisted Crystallization
  • Grain Capacity: 35,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 15 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Fleck 5600SXT
Second Choice Salt Based
  • Type: Ion Exchange
  • Grain Capacity: 24,000-64,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 7-15 GPM
  • Warranty: 5-10 years
Aquasana Salt-Free
Second Choice Salt-Free
  • Type: Template Assisted Crystallization
  • Grain Capacity: 42,000
  • Flow Rate: 7 GPM
  • Warranty: 6 years
SoftPro Elite Most Eco-Friendly Salt-based
Most Eco-Friendly Salt-based
  • Type: Ion Exchange
  • Grain Capacity: 24,000-110,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 10-32 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Pentair Fleck 9100
Best Dual Tank Water Softener
  • Type: Dual Tank (Ion Exchange)
  • Grain Capacity: 24,000-1,200,000
  • Flow Rate: 250 GPM
  • Warranty: 5 years
On The Go Softener
Best RV Water Softener
  • Type: Ion Exchange (Salt or potassium)
  • Grain Capacity: 16,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 5 GPM (varies based on water supply)
  • Warranty: 1 year
Yarna Capacitive
Best Electronic Descaler
  • Type: Electromagnetic
  • Grain Capacity: No limit
  • Flow Rate: No limit
  • Warranty: 10 years

Our Selection Criteria

We reviewed water softener systems based on four important aspects:

Flow Rate:

The flow rate of a water softener is calculated by gallons per minute (GPM). Various aspects play into the flow rate of a softener, including the bypass valve, control valve, mineral tank, and distribution system. The volume and type of ion exchange softening resin will also play a factor in determining the number.

If the flow rate of a softener isn’t enough to meet your water consumption needs, then you may experience reduced water pressure. The ions may slip through as well, making your water slightly harder than it should be.

The higher the flow rate, the better the water softener will work. However, for smaller homes with little running water, an oversized softener will be an unnecessary purchase. More often than not, a decent softener with a flow rate of 12 GPM will be enough to provide for a regular house that has 1-3 bathrooms.

Water Softeners (Best to Worst)Flow Rate
Yarna Capacitive Water DescalerUnlimited
Pentair Fleck 9100 Double Tank250 GPM
SoftPro Elite10-32 GPM
Springwell Salt Based12-20 GPM
Springwell Salt-Free12-20 GPM
Fleck 5600SXT7-15 GPM
Aquasana Salt-Free Conditioner7 GPM
On the Go Portable5 GPM

Grain Capacity (Grains)

Grain capacity is a common term to describe the quality of a water softener. Grain capacity is the amount of hardness that it can remove from the water during filtration. There are two factors that play a role in determining the grain capacity: the resin inside the tank of the softener and the sodium coat over that resin.

As the number of calcium and magnesium ions it can trap in the resin gets higher, the grain capacity of a softening system will also increase. This process depends on the amount and the quality of the resin. Similarly, the amount and quality of the sodium or potassium coat over the resin determines whether it can trap a good number of harmful minerals.

When looking at grain capacity, it’s helpful to know how many grains will be removed per pound of salt. This piece of information gives an idea about the capacity and efficiency of the product.

Water Softeners (Best to Worst)Grain Capacity
Yarna Capacitive Water DescalerUnlimited
Pentair Fleck 9100 Double Tank24,000-1,200,000
SoftPro Elite24,000-110,000
Springwell Salt Based32,000-80,000
Springwell Salt-Free32,000-80,000
Fleck 5600SXT24,000-64,000
Aquasana Salt-Free Conditioner42,000
On the Go Portable16,000

Maintenance Requirements

Like most household appliances, a water softener has some maintenance requirements to ensure it functions properly over the years. An essential part of maintenance is the initial setup, where you choose the settings for the regeneration cycle frequency, length, time, and salt dosage for every cycle.

Some products on the market have more flexible settings, making it easy to control and regulate the water softener, and some might need you to keep the instruction manual close by.

Unsurprisingly, you also must clean the water softener system components ever so often. Most of them only need to be cleaned every few years, but others might require more attention, as will be specified in the manual. If you tend to forget or neglect your housekeeping, you’ll want to opt for a water softener with little and infrequent maintenance.

Price

You can pay anywhere between $500 and $6,000 for a decent one, depending on the capacity, quality, and purpose. Of course, a small product designed for RVs and a huge double-tank one designed for large industries cannot share the same price. However, the prices of the products on our list range from $300 to $2,000, which is reasonable.

Water Softeners (Best to Worst)Price
On the Go Portable$285
Yarna Capacitive Water Descaler$299
Aquasana Salt-Free Conditioner$799
Fleck 5600SXT$1,189
Pentair Fleck 9100 Double Tank$1,248
SoftPro Elite$1,369
Springwell Salt-Free$1,530
Springwell Salt Based$1,597

Best Home Water Softener System Reviews

1. Springwell SS1 – The Ideal Salt Based Whole House Water Softener

The Springwell SS1, with its large grain capacity, quality components, and high flow rate is our top pick for best overall salt-based water softener. This system works with both city and well water, and it also tops our list of best well water softener systems.

The Springwell CF1 decreased the use of detergent by a staggering 40% in washing machines!. Fruits and veggies washed with water coming out of this water softener were much cleaner and tasted better. The skin and hair health also improved thanks to the system removing calcium and magnesium minerals that makes the skin look dull. Simply put, it’s really well-rounded and probably the only softener you’ll need for the entire household.

Springwell Salt Based Water Softener
Springwell Salt Based Water Softener

Speaking of, it has a 32,000 grain capacity, which is ideal for houses with 1-3 bathrooms. However, there are mid-size and big-size options that can reach up to 80,000 grains capacity as well, which can easily provide for large homes with 7+ bathrooms.

One of our favourite features is the Salt System head, which connects to the Springwell app on your phone via Bluetooth. This feature ensures easy tracking and control by allowing the user to monitor the overall condition of the system and manage critical settings like salt usage and regeneration frequency.

Maintaining the Springwell salt-based water softener is easy. The only regular maintenance requirement is to add salt to the brine tank once or twice a year. The brine tank holds up to 200lbs of salt and consumes roughly 40lbs of salt every 1-2 months.

In addition, the regeneration process is seamless. It is automatic and usually occurs in the late evenings or early mornings without causing any disruption to its main function. The process takes roughly 30-60 minutes, faster than many other water softeners.

For a large salt-based tank, it is surprisingly easy to install for both professionals and DIYers with no plumbing experience. The average installation time is 1-3 hours for DIY installation, thanks to the precise installation manual that comes with the system. There’s also a step-by-step installation video on YouTube.

Springwell Salt Based The Best Salt Based Softener
  • Type: Ion Exchange
  • Grain Capacity: 32,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 11 – 20 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Pros
  • High flow rate
  • Low maintenance
  • Highest quality components
  • Experienced brand in the industry
  • Bluetooth capabilities
Cons
  • Large units for small spaces

2. Springwell FS1 – The Ideal Salt-Free Water Softener System

The FutureSoft FS1 Salt-Free model is our first choice in the salt-free department as it doesn’t release any salt brine to the environment and reduces water waste to a great extent. It also does a great job of prolonging the lifespan of clothes and kitchen appliances and improving hair and skin health. Despite its other many benefits, it’s easy to install and take care of, too!

Similar to the Springwell SS1 above, this salt-free model offers a minimum of 12 GPM flow rate capacity which is ideal for 1-3 bathroom households. With upgrades, it can also reach up to 20 GPM for large abodes with 7+ bathrooms.

Springwell Salt Free Water Softener
Springwell Salt Free Water Softener

This system is a bit pricier than other water softeners, but the high cost is justified by the fact that it doesn’t require salt. It’s also a completely electric-free system, proving more economical in the long run.

Additionally, the ActivFlo Technology won’t let the water pressure drop no matter the active water flow rate. Compared to similar products in the market, that surely comes across as a standout feature for the Springwell Salt-Free.

Installation and maintenance requirements are very minimal. Installation time takes roughly 2 hours and can be done with minimal plumbing experience. There’s almost no required maintenance except for the occasional micron pre-filter replacement every 6 to 9 months.

However, please note that salt-free water softeners work differently from salt-based systems in the way they soften water. They neutralize calcium and magnesium ions rather than completely remove them from hard water. In the end, they’re still there, but they won’t stick to other substances and won’t create any stains, corrosion, or damage.

Overall, this is a low-maintenance, eco-friendly water softener that improves water quality. If you want a softener that destroys all the hard water minerals rather than conditioning them, it might be better to stick to salt–based options.

Springwell Salt-Free Best Salt Free Softener
  • Type: Template Assisted Crystallization
  • Grain Capacity: 35,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 15 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Pros
  • Low-maintenance
  • Easy to install
  • Doesn’t need electricity
  • Doesn’t need a sink or drain
  • No salt needed
  • No slipper feeling
Cons
  • Hard elements in the water are not removed but only neutralized

3. Fleck 5600SXT

The Fleck 5600SXT isn’t as technologically innovative as other products on our list nor is it made of high-end materials like the Springwell SS1, but it still gets rid of hard water. 

More importantly, it gives fruits and veggies a new taste, appliances better longevity, and hair and skin a softer touch. The best part? It’s much more affordable compared to the high-end options on the market, and that’s why it’s a worthy runner-up to the Springwell SS1.

Similar to the Springwell entries, the Fleck 5600SXT can be installed in roughly 2 hours, thanks to the simplified installation manual and videos. Installation can be carried out by professionals and DIYers without experience, alike.

As with most water softeners, you have complete control of the regeneration process via its one-line LED valve display. You can set it to automatically regenerate at a preset time or have it regenerate on-demand whenever it suits you.

Although its parts aren’t made of high-end materials, its inner layer of resin is fortified by a cross-link system, which makes it more resistant to chlorine and more durable overall. However, it lacks premium qualities such as a vacation mode, automatic reserve, and proportional salt-brining.

Fleck offers a warranty on each component of the system. The tank has a warranty of ten years, the resin has no warranty, and all other parts have a five-year warranty. While this isn’t the best deal compared to the lifetime warranty on Springwell softeners, the customer service is top-notch in responding to user requests.

Fleck 5600SXT
  • Type: Ion Exchange
  • Grain Capacity: 24,000-64,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 7-15 GPM
  • Warranty: 5-10 years
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Plenty of size and capacity options
  • No change in water pressure
  • Easy DIY install
  • Extends appliance lifespans
  • Very effective in lowering hardness
  • Cycle control
Cons
  • Limited warranty
  • Lesser in material quality compared to other high-end softeners

4. Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner

The Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner is also a salt-free softener that conditions the water rather than softening it. The minerals and ions present in the hard water are crystallized and neutralized after the water is processed.

Considering all its valuable features, the fact that it only costs about $800 is surely a bargain and it makes a good, budget-friendly runner-up to Springwell’s salt-free model. Moreover, it’s one of the most eco-friendly options on the market. It eliminates water waste and prevents salt and chemicals from being released into the environment.

While the flow rate isn’t incredibly high, it’s enough to serve most residential homes with several bathrooms. The 42,000 grain capacity is impressive considering the size of the tank and system.

Aquasana Water Softener
Aquasana Water Softener

Note that the pre-filters need to be changed on a bi-monthly basis. They distribute potassium and prevent many minerals and small particles from entering the water without the use of salt or resin. So, magnesium and calcium ions might slip through if the pre-filters aren’t changed timely. Furthermore, not replacing the pre-filter could also impact the flow rate, forcing the water softener water pressure to drop.

Replacing the filters is simple, but it is something you have to remember to do about every two months, which can be a hassle for busy homeowners.

Aquasana Salt-Free
  • Type: Template Assisted Crystallization
  • Grain Capacity: 42,000
  • Flow Rate: 7 GPM
  • Warranty: 6 years
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Eco-friendly
  • Lightweight
  • No water waste
  • No salt needed
  • No electricity needed
  • Pre-filter and neutralization system
Cons
  • Must replace pre-filters bi-monthly
  • Less than perfect installation instructions

5. SoftPro Elite

This salt-based water softener by SoftPro Elite is another great option with high-quality components. It’s also an eco-friendly product even though it’s not salt-free. 

Unlike most of its counterparts, it has an up-flowing regeneration process rather than down-flow. The system works to push the hard minerals upward through the depleted resin and out to drain. As a result, it saves more water (64%), salt (75%), and energy (68%) than its alternatives.

One of the best aspects of this model is the many size and capacity options available. The options range from 24,000-grain to 110,000-grain capacities. While 24,000 is often plenty for smaller households, the larger ones find their use in bigger homes or workplaces.

Softpro Elite Water Softener
Softpro Elite Water Softener

The SoftPro Elite is reasonably priced, especially considering how much savings it enables. Despite the low price, it does have a high-flow programmable control valve and bypass valve, giving you complete power over the flow rate. It also helps you monitor how well the system is functioning. In addition, it automatically cleans itself if it goes unused for seven days to prevent bacteria growth and ensure smooth performance.

While the installation isn’t necessarily difficult, it’s more intensive compared to other softeners on this list. It takes a minimum of four hours for professional installation. For DIYers, you’ll need much more time than that. The drastic difference between the installation guide and the complete instruction manual doesn’t help the matter either, so asking a professional would be the safest course of action.

SoftPro Elite Most Eco-Friendly Salt-based
  • Type: Ion Exchange
  • Grain Capacity: 24,000-110,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 10-32 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Pros
  • Relatively eco-friendly
  • Saves water and salt
  • Plenty of size and capacity options
  • Programmable valve meter
  • High flow rate
  • High-quality components
Cons
  • Unreliable quick installation guide
  • Long installation process

6. Pentair Fleck 9100 Dual Tank Softener

Pentair Fleck 9100 is the best option to soften water in large residences, restaurants, schools, and other commercial spaces. Its massive dual tank is a beast and can function at an incredible 250 GPM flow rate. Pentair’s largest model has a staggering grain capacity of over a million.

The system features an adjustable 3- or 5-cycle control that allows the owner to regulate the water flow for efficiency. The reliable water treatment system works continuously to maintain a higher water supply in commercial facilities than on residential properties that have lower water consumption.

The system uses 8% cross-linked resin, making it more durable. However, this design necessitates that you clean the resin more often. Overall, the maintenance of a dual-tank softener for commercial use will require more care than a residential one.

The system is also very user-friendly and safe to operate. The safety brine bypass valve with an air check offers some peace of mind in that regard, making it absolutely foolproof.

The installation process is difficult simply because there are two tanks to incorporate. So, it’s wise to call a professional and eliminate potential frustration.

One thing to note is that since the tank is designed to handle a high flow rate and soften larger amounts of water, the timing of the softening process is inevitably a bit on the lower side. The water processed through the Pentair Fleck 9100 also tends be a bit slippery and may not be ideal for showers.

Pentair Fleck 9100
  • Type: Dual Tank (Ion Exchange)
  • Grain Capacity: 24,000-1,200,000
  • Flow Rate: 250 GPM
  • Warranty: 5 years
Pros
  • Reduces hardness thoroughly
  • Inexpensive for the size and capacity
  • Long-lasting design
  • Impressive GPM
  • Plenty of options for size and capacity
Cons
  • Very slippery soft water
  • Intensive installation
  • Limited warranty

7. On The Go Portable RV System

Sometimes, one of the biggest problems when driving around the countryside in your RV can be the quality of the water. The On The Go water softener is the solution to that problem. Once it’s hooked to the plumbing system of an RV, it’ll improve the water quality while also prolonging the lifespan of the plumbing system itself. 

Its weight of 32 pounds might be a problem for some, but its easy-carry handle further fortifies its status as the best portable option. The flow rate depends on the water source of the RV, but it’s always at least 5 GPM. The grain capacity of 16,000 is more than enough to handle an RV’s water demands. 

With just two boxes of table salt, it’s able to provide softened and tasty drinking water for more than 40 days and at a capacity of up to 1,600 gallons. The regeneration cycle is quick and effective, wasting very little water. 

The entire water softening process should never take more than an hour, and once you know how to do it, it usually takes about only 30-40 minutes to complete.

The unit costs less than $300. While there are cheaper alternatives on the market, they are usually less effective and won’t last as long. The On The Go Double Standard model has a high-grade, premium resin bed, and its tank is made of durable metals, so it’s more than capable of handling long-term wear and tear.

The installation process is quite simple, so you’ll likely be able to install it yourself with the help of a manual. The water softener actually doesn’t require any tools or electricity to set up and get running. It’s also low-maintenance and only requires sanitization after about two years of use. All that considered, it’s a valuable investment for any RV.

On The Go Softener
  • Type: Ion Exchange (Salt or potassium)
  • Grain Capacity: 16,000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 5 GPM (varies based on water supply)
  • Warranty: 1 year
Pros
  • Larger than other on-the-go models
  • Compact design
  • Affordable
  • Excellent grain capacity for the size
  • Lightweight
  • Little salt needed
  • Can substitute salt with potassium
Cons
  • Lack of control over the flow rate
  • Hands-on regeneration cycle

8. Yarna Capacitive Water Descaler

Yarna Capacitive electric water descaler is an impressive piece of technology. It has no limit on the flow rate or grain capacity, and can be adjusted to any flow speed to descale any amount of hardness in the water.

Similar to the salt-free entries in our list, the Yarna Capacitive doesn’t remove hard water minerals from the water. Instead, it just changes the physical structure on a molecular level. In turn, these minerals won’t cause any scaling or corrosion on your appliances and dishes. 

The electric pulses generated within the electronic unit are controlled by a microchip. The microchip allows the user to control both the flow rate and grain capacity, so the softener can work perfectly regardless of how hard or soft the water is.

Yarna Capacitive Water Descaler
Yarna Capacitive Water Descaler

The installation process is the simplest of all the products mentioned in this article, taking only 15 minutes to set up with no help from a professional. The manufacturer boasts that the unit is completely maintenance-free, making it the most practical model for long-term use as well.

Yarna is so confident in its product that it offers a ten-year warranty and a one-year money-back guarantee. While other electromagnetic water softeners can cost thousands, this unit only costs about $300.

Note that the system is excellent for the most part but can take as much as three months to start working effectively since the electromagnetic pulses need to adjust to the water hardness and function perfectly. However, once you find the right settings, the system can be very effective.

Yarna Capacitive
  • Type: Electromagnetic
  • Grain Capacity: No limit
  • Flow Rate: No limit
  • Warranty: 10 years
Pros
  • Extremely small and compact
  • Easiest installation of all
  • Less expensive than traditional whole-house softeners
  • No salt needed
  • No water waste
  • Eliminates mineral buildup excellently
Cons
  • It may take a while to work

Honorable Mentions

Below are some honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut but are still worth bringing to your attention:

US Water Systems Matrixx:

The Matrixx uses traditional ion exchange and is a bargain given the size of the unit. It has options for flow rate and grain capacity, so you can choose the best one for your needs. It wastes less water and salt than many of its counterparts to complete the regeneration cycle, so it’s also eco-friendly. However, the eco-friendly aspects slightly compromise its effectiveness.

AquaOX WS:

The ion exchange model by AquaOX is a decent option with features you might need. It has a high grain capacity and an good adjustable flow rate. However, it’s much more expensive than the options on our list.

Crystal Quest Commercial Softener:

The Crystal Quest Commercial Softener is an excellent choice for commercial properties, but it costs even more than the AquaOX WS. It has many capacity and flow rate options and can also function as a dual-tank system when combined with another brine tank. It’s hard to find anything wrong with this product other than the high price that discourages many.

Common Water Softener Questions

Below are common questions concerning water softening systems in homes:

What is the average price of a water softener system?

The average cost of systems for residential houses is about $1,500. Size and capacity are the main factors that influence the price of a water softener.

Where should a water softening system be installed?

The best place to install it is at the earliest possible point in your plumbing. It is recommended that you place it right before your water heater. Placing it after the water heater may allow some of the hard water to flow to certain taps and faucets around the building, which may reduce its efficiency.

What does water softener installation require?

There are three main requirements. You need access to an electric outlet with at least 120-volt capacity, a sink or drain that can flush away the wastewater, and a plumbing loop (water softener loop) or some space between the water inlet and the softener.

If you do not have all three of these things, you will need to put in more work and money to set up the system.

Those who have some plumbing experience can easily install one on their own, especially if the instruction manual is simple. However, professional installation isn’t too expensive either, and it might be worth it to ensure that there’ll be no problems later on.

What is the average lifespan of a water softening system?

The average lifespan of a water softening system is about 12 years. However, it depends on the quality of the materials, how well it’s maintained, and how frequently it is used.

What are the most popular water softener brands?

Springwell, Fleck, and SoftPro are the most popular brands on the market.

Other water softener brands:

Rheem water softener
AO Smith water softener
Kinetico water softener

Conclusion

In conclusion, SpringWell SS1 is the best choice home water softener for mid to large households. Get it if you’re looking for a salt-based ion exchange system to get rid of hard water. The Fleck 5600SXT, on the other hand, is a worthy salt-based runner-up and a more affordable one at that.

If you want a salt-free solution, we recommend the SpringWell FS1 model, which has similar capacity to the SpringWell SS1 but doesn’t require salt. The Aquasana is another decent salt-free option, and it’s much more budget-friendly than the SpringWell SS1.

For large-scale use, we recommend the Pentair Fleck 9100 dual tank softener with up to 1.2m grain capacity. This water softener is the best choice for commercial businesses or homes with extremely hard water. 

Lastly, we definitely recommend the Yarna Capacitive descaler as it’s cheap, experimental in the way it softens the water, and has an unlimited water capacity as well as flow rate.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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