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Which one is better: Using salt-based water softeners or salt-free water conditioners?

Tania Jalil | Posted in General Questions on

I am building a new house and don’t know which one to buy.

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Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Tania,
    Here's some information from a Consumer Reports website:

    "Even if your water is very hard, the amount of sodium left behind in softened water should be low. But if you’re concerned, consider choosing a system that uses potassium chloride. They’re usually just as effective at softening water, though potassium chloride costs several times more than sodium chloride to replenish.

    "Other “no salt” water softeners are claimed to use magnetic force to change minerals’ molecular structure so that they don’t turn into scale buildup. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), with help from National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International and other stakeholders, is developing a standard to measure the efficacy of magnetic softeners. Culligan and Kinetico, two softener manufacturers, have experimented with no-salt softeners but told us that they haven’t yet found one that softens water as well as an ion exchanger."

  2. JW Blackstock | | #2

    Check out watersoftenerfacts.ca/softener-comparisions.
    I did & have just acquired the GE model from Home Depot for our new cottage because the cost to buy was much less than the top 3 brands (which made up for the smaller amount of higher annual op costs) and it uses lower water waste than the 4th place unit.
    It rated better the Novatek I purchased 3 years ago for my condo with which I have had problems with salt bridging & need to loosen/breakup the salt every 6 weeks.

  3. Michael Chandler | | #3

    Ion exchangers (salt type) are the way to go. The non-salt type seem to be much less effective, to the point of being snake-oil like the miracle insulating paint and bubble wrap.

    I recommend that you increase the size of the rinse cycle drain by running the 1/2" soft hose usually used for this into a floor drain or a larger diameter pipe (with an air gap) connecting to the gutter drains on your home. You want it to drain freely and fall through air into the larger pipe so the drain pipe empties fully when the rinse cycle is complete. This keeps things running more smoothly and may help with the salt bridging JW mentioned.

    You do not want to mix this salty discharge with your sewage as it will cause the solids to float to the top of the septic tank and create a hard surface scum which will interfere with the natural process of the tank. Running it in with the gutter drains allows for plenty of dilution when it rains and also keeps it out of your foundation drain (assuming the gutter and foundation drains aren't interconnected.)

  4. Nelson Labbe | | #4

    Tania,
    The type of water treatment system you should install depends on what it is that you want to remove from the water going to your house. If you simply want to soften the water (remove hardness salts calcium and magnesium) then you already have plenty of advice above. If you want to remove other possible contaminants (such as nitrate or dissolved lead or other metals) then the answer could be different. In that case the solution might be a softener followed by a reverse osmosis (RO) system. For some basic info on reverse osmosis systems (which do not require salt) you can check out the info at http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/WQ/WQ-14.html

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