3 Types of Water Softeners and Their Pros and Cons

Does your home have a water softener that’s in dire need of an upgrade? Are you looking to buy a water softener for a new house? 

You might have come across some of the types of water softeners.

To help you pick out the best kind of water softener for you, we’ve detailed the different kinds of water softeners that you can get and their pros and cons. We’ve also included exactly how each water softener works and a few other signs that you need one of these systems that you might not have noticed yet. 

Once you’ve chosen which of the types of water softener systems you want, you can call Diamondback Plumbing for help with installing it into your home.

What is Hard Water?

One of the things you might remember from your elementary or middle school science class is learning about the difference between hard and soft water. The main factor that makes hard water different is its higher mineral content. Though both types are usually clear, hard water often has a much higher calcium and magnesium content and in some cases, can also contain iron.

Because these minerals are often well dissolved into the water, drinking them is entirely safe in moderation. However, the hardness can affect items around the house in different ways, many of which you might have already noticed. If your home’s water supply exceeds a specific hardness level, drinking and using the water can lead to health issues and damage to your home.

Signs You Have Hard Water

In addition to skin problems and odd residue on your appliances, the mineral content of hard water can show up in a few other ways as well, making it quite clear that you need to look into your water softener options. Depending on the exact minerals in your water and their quantities, there are likely going to be a few differences in what you might have already seen. These are the most common, however:

  • Using much more soap or detergent to get the same amount of lather you’d get in other places, like hotels or a friend’s house.
  • Your clothes and other laundry often come out looking partially washed or faded. 
  • There are limescale or chalky deposits on everything that the water touches.
  • Red, green, or blue stains around your drains and on tiles
  • You notice spots on otherwise clean dishes and glass cups. 
  • You often come out of the shower with drier and more irritated skin.

Regular clogging can also be a sign, though this can vary depending on what you wash down the drains. However, if you also notice that your washing machines, water heaters, or dishwashers don’t last as long, you more than likely have limescale buildup in the pipes and appliances. The deposits can build up inside your home’s pipes, restricting the flow of water almost entirely.

The Different Types of Water Softeners Available on the Market

When you go searching for the different kinds of water softeners to get for your home, there are three basic kinds that you can buy. Each system uses different methods to soften the water which can actually be illegal in some states so it’s important to do a little research into what your ideal model is. Carefully consider what restrictions there are concerning water softeners and what you might need to keep the system running.

Salt-Based Water Softeners

These are the most common types of water softeners that can be bought commercially. Salt-based water softeners are available in different sizes and can be used for various situations, making them one of the best options for use at home. 

The main way these systems work is by pulling the hard water minerals through a resin bed before releasing sodium ions into the water instead. The resin beads themselves are also salt-charged, allowing them to capture any calcium and magnesium. The end result, like with other types of softeners, is sodium-based soft water that you can properly clean with.

Salt-Free Softeners

As the name suggests, these softeners replace the salt-charged resin with potassium chloride. Potassium chloride is used along with a template-assisted crystallization system – referred to as a TAC system – to take mineralized crystals and prevent them from forming a bond with your home’s water delivery lines. This, however, makes them more of a descaler than a true water softener. 

Dual-Tank Water Softeners

Just like salt-based softener systems, dual-tank systems use salt-based resin to pull the minerals out. However, one of the two tanks is considered a brine tank and is vital to how these softeners work. When the resin beads eventually capture too many minerals, some of the brine from the second tank essentially recharges the beads with more sodium. 

The Pros and Cons of the Water Softener Types

As with any plumbing system, each of these types of water softeners has its own advantages and disadvantages. Carefully consider these pros and cons before buying one, since some of these factors can affect long-term costs as well as how often it needs maintenance.

Salt-Based Water Softeners 

Here are some of the pros and cons of salt-based water softeners:

Pros:

  • These softeners can effectively remove all the minerals from hard water to make it soft and ready to use.
  • The resin beads can last for 10 years. With proper care and maintenance, that lifespan can be doubled to 20 years or more!

Cons:

  • The initial cost for installation and purchase can be higher depending on your location
  • These softeners require both an electrical source and a supply of salt to keep working as effectively.

Salt-Free Water Softeners

Here are some of the pros and cons of salt-free water softeners:

Pros:

  • These softeners don’t release any salt since they don’t use any. 
  • They don’t require any extra installations.

Cons:

  • The minerals can still create a dusting on dishes, cutlery, and glassware.
  • Depending on the hardness level of your water, the system may last from 2-6 years

Dual-Tank Softeners

Here are some of the pros and cons of dual-tank water softeners:

Pros:

  • Maximum efficiency means minimal water and salt waste.
  • Improved water quality

Cons:

  • An extra tank costs more.
  • More space is required.

Takeaway

Dealing with hard water in your home can be rather troubling to most homeowners. Though it is safe to drink in moderation, the residue it leaves behind on skin, clothes, and appliances can be quite irritating. In the worst-case scenario, clogs are far more frequent as well. The best solution is to choose and install one of the listed water softeners for better and softer water.

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