Many water sources in the US deliver hard water supply, leading to all sorts of plumbing system issues and damage to its components. Many people have started to turn to water softeners to help them solve this problem. The market has two main categories of water softeners: salt-based and salt-free water softeners.
Salt-based water softener is the traditional water softening system. Unfortunately, this type of softening system utilizes large amounts of salt to remove hard minerals via an ion-exchange process.
Using large amounts of salt also means that you may need to fork out quite a bit of money for monthly maintenance for the upkeep of regeneration and large purchases of salt. Aside from that, salt-based water softeners will also increase the sodium content in your water, which could be an added problem for those with hypertension or other medical issues.
This is where salt-free water softeners step in to deliver soft water without adding sodium into your drinking water. Salt-free water softeners also provide you with all the benefits of soft water without the monthly maintenance or the additional cost of buying salt. Salt-free water softener systems also tend to be much more efficient and environmentally friendly.
With so many different models of salt-free water softener available, you may find it quite confusing to pick the best salt-free water softener for your house. To help you with this, we’ve done all the legwork and reviewed some of the best salt-free water softener systems available on the market that are worth investing in.
Buyer’s Guide for the Best Saltless Water Softening System
What is a Salt-Free Water Softener?
Salt-free water softeners work to soften water without the use of salt. How they work is by crystallizing hard water minerals instead of removing them entirely. You may also hear salt-free water softeners as water conditioners since they condition the water and not actually soften it.
How do Salt-Free Water Softeners Work?
A salt-based water softener will use ion exchange to replace magnesium and calcium ions with sodium. But salt-free water softeners will use a different softening reaction process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC).
The TAC process will treat hard water minerals by changing their composition to ultimately prevent them from sticking to surfaces and cause scale. While the reaction process is the same, there are a number of different methods that TAC can be achieved such as using a special resin bed or an electric or magnetic current.
A resin bed will attract the hard water minerals to the softening media and will remain there until they’ve grown and had their structure altered before breaking off into the water stream.
Factors to Consider when Shopping for the Best Salt Free Water Softener
There are plenty of water softeners to treat hard water out on the market and it can get confusing for most. But you need to remember that it is best not to jump into purchasing the best no-salt water softener until you’ve considered what you really need. Here are a few pointers that you can keep in mind while shopping for salt-free water softeners:
Salt-less water softener systems usually come in two sizes: one that fits homes with 1-3 bathrooms and a larger one that is able to meet the water demands of 3-5 bathrooms. The general rule is that the more water-based appliances there are in your home, the more water you will need to access at one time and hence greater capacity.
Another thing that will play a role in the capacity is the hardness level of the hard water. A greater-capacity softener can do more work for water with high hardness levels in less time.
Water Flow Rate
Another thing to keep in mind is the water flow rate in your home. There’s no point in purchasing a water conditioning system that limits or cannot keep up with your water flow rate requirement.
A low flow rate not only affects the efficiency of your appliances but will also reduce the water pressure of your showers, especially if you have more than one water-based appliance running at the same time.
Some might consider getting whole house water filtration and water softening systems to treat contaminants and soften drinking water at the same time. This is a great way to help improve the overall water quality while ensuring the water is better tasting, cleaner, safer, and healthier too.
Some manufacturers water softeners and whole house water filter systems together as a package for those who want a 2-in-1 whole house water filtration system.
Purchasing a water conditioning unit that is not only easy to set up but also easy to control is a very important plus point. New water conditioners come with a digital control panel for easy monitoring and can even notify you when it’s time to replace the media. Other features like a backlit screen and touch display also make it easier for users to navigate through system information.
A salt-free water descaler doesn’t take up as much space as a salt water softener, but you’ll still need to measure and plan an adequate amount of space for installation and maintenance. Remember to measure your planned area for installation and compare that to the dimensions of the water softeners of your choice.
A salt-free water softener is by no means a cheap purchase. Some models can even command prices of several thousands of dollars and most homeowners want to feel confident with their purchase before forking out such large sums of money.
This is where third-party certifications can play an important role in the water softener model of your choice. When a water softener product has been certified, it means that the product has been tested and deemed effective in doing its intended job.
The most popular certifying third-party organization for a water filtration system is NSF International. You’ll also notice that the best water softener systems come with NSF/ANSI 42 and NSF/ANSI Standard 61 for structural integrity.
However, there are no certifications currently to prove a water softener can reduce hardness levels or scale buildup, so you can only trust a manufacturer’s word on this one.
As mentioned earlier, a salt-free technology water softener is a big investment that could potentially set you back thousands of dollars. Not only is the initial cost something to worry about, but you should also factor in the cost of maintenance. Some systems also use electricity to operate, which means it’ll contribute to your electricity bill.
A resin-based TAC softener will require regular replacement of softening media. Nonetheless, you’ll still be spending way less per gallon of water softened compared to salt-based softeners. This is especially true for those with a magnetic water softener that doesn’t have a media bed and requires virtually no maintenance.
Best Salt Free Water Softener Reviews in 2021
1. SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener
If you have a major scaling problem in your house, then the Springwell Futuresoft Water Softener may just be the right salt-free water softener system to help you prevent scale as thoroughly as possible. This is high-tech salt-free water softening appliance that can eliminate up to 99.6% scale without cutting back on your home’s water pressure.
Some features that the system has includes:
Durable Softening and Water Filtration Unit – Futuresoft salt-free water softeners are designed with a large, stainless steel tank to protect its softening media. The water softener also has a pre-sediment filter to remove dirt, dust, and other large particles that could potentially damage the softening media inside and to reduce the system’s lifespan.
Installation Kit – The Springwell salt-free water softener comes with an installation kit that includes everything you need including a bypass valve, a spanner wrench for tightening, fittings, and a mounting bracket.
Durable Stainless Steel Tank – The salt-free water softener is equipped with a durable softening tank made from stainless steel with multiple tank capacities depending on the number of bathrooms there are in your home.
The SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free water softener uses a typical salt-free water treatment technique which is TAC. Within the Springwell softening tank, you’ll find a bed of media that will crystallize hard water ions so that they’re unable to stick to surfaces.
As a result, you get to enjoy scale-free water for the entire house without sacrificing the healthful properties of consuming magnesium and calcium in your drinking water.
Another few major benefits of the SpringWell are that it doesn’t need to undergo the regeneration process and it doesn’t produce wastewater. The salt-free system also does not have any impact on the flow rate and pressure of your water supply, provided you get the right capacity for your household’s water demand.
Springwell is a popular soft water systems manufacturer that only uses completely certified materials in its designs. Their salt-free water softener system even comes with a lifetime warranty and a 6-month money-back guarantee for peace of mind.
- Does not require salt to operate.
- Only require pre-filter replacement once a year.
- Lifetime warranty with a 6-month money-back guarantee.
- Might be a little out of budget for some.
- Not easy to test if it really generates soft water.
2. US Water Systems GreenWave Salt-Free Water Conditioner
US Water Systems GreenWave Salt-Free Water Conditioner uses a newer technology which is the Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) method of softening water without salt. This method boasts a 97% conditioning capability in producing soft water.
Some features that the system has includes:
Multiple Capacities – The GreenWave water softener has four different tanks: 10 GPM flow rate system uses a 9 x 52.5-inch tank, 15 GPM flow rate uses 10 x 58.85 inch tank, 20 GPM flow rate uses 12 x 56.6 inch tank, and finally the 25 GPM flow rate uses 13 x 58.5 inch tank. All these tanks are filled with filtering media inside that is required for the saltless water softening process.
Vortech Distribution Technology – The advanced technology can ensure an even flow of water through the tank to increase the total number of NAC sites. This means that the salt-free softener system is more efficient since the water has more contact time with the media and reduced the possibility of channeling through without being softened.
Easy Installation – The US Water System comes included with an installation manual to provide step-by-step guide on how to install it. The salt-free system has been designed for easy DIY installation with basic plumbing knowledge.
NAC is essentially the same as TAC, but just with another name. Instead of relying on ion exchange to swap magnesium and calcium from water with sodium, the GreenWave will neutralize the hardness minerals to stop them from sticking to surfaces and form scale. This type of system produces zero water waste and does not need to be plugged into an electrical source.
As mentioned earlier, the installation process for the GreenWave salt-free softener is simple with step-by-step instructions. The user manual provided is even accompanied by images for easier understanding. The entire process involves 10 stages that aren’t too complex that you need to hire a plumber to do it for you.
Though the GreenWave salt-free water conditioner promises an improvement in your water properties, some have said they do still notice spotting on their sinks, fixtures, shower doors, and tiles. However, they’ve also noted that the spots are much easier to wipe away since the ions have already been neutralized.
Additionally, you need to be prepared for your faucet aerators and drains to be plugged occasionally as the scale is being removed from the pipes, and your water may look milky for a few days during this time. While this may appear unappealing, it actually proves that the salt-free system is working as it should.
- Adopts a proven water conditioning technique – NAC.
- Available in 4 different sizes to meet different demands.
- Removes existing scale from pipes.
- Does not require electricity.
- Does not produce wastewater.
- The system does not include a sediment pre-filter. So you’ll need to purchase one yourself to protect the media from large particles.
- Technology is still relatively new to the market and hence has yet to be tested for durability.
- Does not eliminate scale entirely.
3. SoftPro Elite
SoftPro Elite is a salt-free water softener system designed as an “install and forget it” water treatment solution for busy individuals who do not have the time to fuss with their water softener. This whole house salt-free water softener requires no maintenance or monitoring after you’ve programmed all your desired settings.
The water softening system is perfect for 1 to 5 bedroom homes with water hardness levels of up to 17 grains per gallon (GPG).
Some features that the system has includes:
Pre-filter Included – The SoftPro saltless water softener comes with 5-micron sediment and chlorine pre-filter that’s designed to help get rid of large particles such as dust and dirt that could potentially damage the softening resin within the salt-free system.
Neoprene Jacket – This best salt-free water softening system has a removable, washable neoprene jacket on the outside to help reduce condensation and protect it from humidity and cold temperatures. This means you won’t have to worry about its operation during the winter seasons.
Free Installation Kit – SoftPro offers customers a free optional upgrade for its salt-free water softeners that include a quick-connect hose kit at no extra cost. This is great for those who don’t already have quick-connect hoses required for the job already. Plus, it’s free anyway!
Unlike the salt-free water softener model discussed above, SoftPro uses a different saltless technology called SCT, or Scale Control Technology that provides 99.6% scale prevention. This water softening method targets hard water ions present and dissolves them to make them inactive. However, the crystals are not removed entirely so the SCT process does not affect water quality. Instead, the calcium and magnesium ions are transformed into minerals that can pass through your plumbing system and down the drains without sticking to surfaces.
Not only does this type of water softening system offer scale prevention, but it can also reduce the existing scale on your plumbing and pipes. And since it is salt-free, the system does not require salt to run which ensures better convenience and health compared to using salt-based water softeners.
Another great advantage of investing in this best salt-free water softener is that it can last up to 6 years and does not need electricity to operate. The SCT process also doesn’t produce wastewater, making it one of the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective waters softening systems on the market today.
The SoftPro Saltless Water Conditioner is even backed by a lifetime warranty and live customer support to help you out when you encounter any issue with their product.
- Comes included with a free installation kit.
- Does not produce wastewater.
- Includes a pre-filter cartridge to remove large particles.
- Some may find installation to be a bit more complicated.
- Only available in one size.
4. Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner
Looking for a more affordable alternative that’s also easy to install? Then you’ll love the Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner that’s the perfect add-on to any of the other Aquasana filtration products for a more thorough water treatment against hard water and contamination issues.
Some features that the system has includes:
Pre-filter – The Aquasana saltless water softening system has a pre-filter included for getting rid of sediments like dust and rust that could potentially harm the system.
Durable Softening Tank – Hard water is conditioned to soft water in the softening tank that is 9 inches in diameter, 27 inches across, and 46 inches in height.
Basic Installation Equipment Included – The Aquasana water softener comes with a few installation essentials such as the conditioner, pre-filter, a shutoff valve, wrench, and a pre-filter support bracket. However, the kit does not include brass fittings and pex support brackets and you have the choice to pay slightly more for the “professional-grade installation kit” if you want those included.
This is yet another salt-free water softener that uses the Scale Control Media (SCM) technology to alter the makeup of hard water ions. The salt-free systems transform the calcium and magnesium minerals into a crystallized structure to stop them from binding to surfaces and form scale.
This technology is not only popular for preventing new scales from forming, but it can also treat and remove existing scales within the pipes. All that without relying on salt for the entire process. Another advantage to this salt-less water softener is that it does not remove the healthy minerals from your drinking water. It basically produces healthy “hard water” that won’t form scales.
One thing to note is that you will need to remember to replace the water softening media inside the Aquasana salt-free softening solution once every 6 months.
While it is not maintenance-free, this system’s media only needs to be replaced twice a year, making it a great low-fuss salt-free water softening system that doesn’t produce wastewater, does not require electricity, and no worries about salt top-ups. The manufacturer even backs their product with a 6-year warranty and 90-day guarantee.
- One of the most affordable salt-free water softeners.
- Best salt-free water softener that’s so versatile and can be installed alongside other well water treatment systems.
- Low maintenance.
- Only available in one size.
5. Pelican NaturSoft Water Softener Alternative
Want a saltless water softener system that is maintenance-free and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 61 to remove up to 99.6% of hard water scale? Then you might just want to give the Pelican NaturSoft whole house salt-free water softener a closer look.
Some features that the system has includes:
Mounting Hardware – Pelican salt-free water softeners come with a pre-filter and mounting hardware to ensure easy installation of it alongside the water conditioner unit.
Preloaded Pelican NaturSoft System – The salt-free softening chamber by Pelican comes pre-loaded with media and is ready to be installed immediately. This helps many homeowners save plenty of time during installation.
Installation Fittings – Pelican salt-free softeners come with bypass valves and 1-inch fittings for you to install the water softener at your main water line before the pre-filter.
Installation Guide – A detailed installation guide is also included in the Pelican NaturSoft water softener package. The manual guide details out everything you would need to know about installing the salt-free water softener.
Pelican NaturSoft reduces hard water scale without using chemicals, salt, or producing wastewater. The technology uses a media with a calcium carbonate structure on its surface that can attract dissolved hardness minerals and turn them into crystals on the media.
The friction caused by the movement of water will cause the crystallized hard water to break off into the water source. However, thanks to their outer crystallized form, the calcium and magnesium ions are no longer able to stick to surfaces and form scales.
Other than that, the suspended particles can also eliminate pre-existing scale by using the same process taking place within the media to attract minerals from scale, crystallize them, and pull them into the water through the plumbing.
Since this whole house saltless water softener is certified by third-party organizations for their scale prevention, you can count on them to protect and increase the lifespan of your water-based appliances at home. Having soft water also means you get to reduce detergent and soap use as well as better skin and hair health.
The Pelican best salt-free water softener also features one of the most impressive lifespans of all salt-free softeners with a media that lasts up to 12 years. As for the pre-filter, you only need to worry about it once every 6 – 9 months. Additionally, the salt-free softener has a limited lifetime warranty for 12 years of defect-free operation.
- Long lifespan.
- Low maintenance and no salt needed.
- Available in two different sizes.
- More expensive salt-free softeners.
- Need to pay more for brass fittings to be included.
6. Tier1 Eco Series Whole House Water Softener Alternative
The Tier1 Eco Series Salt-Free Softener is a high-performance, low-maintenance system that adopts the Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) process to inhibit scale formation within your pipes.
Some features that the system has includes:
Sediment Pre-Filter – The Eco Series Tier 1 comes with a free sediment pre-filter with its own filter housing meant to be installed right before the salt-free softener unit. However, you’ll need to go to the store to buy your own replacement filters in the future.
High Capacity Softening Tank – The Tier 1’s softening tank has a large capacity to accommodate the needs of a home with up to 3 bathrooms.
Easy Installation – Most people would also find that this water softener is relatively easy to install, but those who are not confident with their plumbing skills can always leave it to a professional instead. For those who are interested in turning this into a DIY project, you’ll be happy to find that the water softener comes with all the installation components you’ll need, including a mounting bracket, shut-off valve, and flexi connectors.
Unlike salt-based softeners, the Eco Series Tier 1 does not need a brine tank or a constant supply of salt just to soften hard water. Salt-free water conditioners also do not need to operate with a control valve and they do not produce wastewater from backwashing.
Saltless water softeners also do not remove healthy magnesium and calcium from water, instead, it just alters their form into crystalline suspended particles that won’t be attached to the plumbing and appliances.
Conveniently, the Eco Series’ media comes preloaded so you don’t have to spend extra time doing it before installation of the no-salt water softener. You also need not worry about electrical programming during setup either and it’s virtually maintenance-free since you don’t need to top up the system with salt or replace the resin regularly.
Tier1 salt free softeners’ pre-filter is probably the only thing you will need to remember to replace every few months. This is an important step to remove and stop large particles from entering and potentially clogging or damaging your salt free systems.
Other than that, this saltless water softener alternative is NSF/ANSI certified to Standard 61 for better health effects. This means that users can trust that the saltless water softeners by Tier1 Eco Series are working as they should.
- Lower cost compared to salt-based water softener systems.
- Virtually maintenance-free excerpt for the pre-filter.
- Easy installation.
- Comes in one size only.
- Pre-filter needs to be replaced every 2 months.
Benefits of using a Saltless Water Softener
Salt-free water conditioners are gaining popularity among many homeowners for many reasons. These include:
Salt-less water softeners don’t need two large brine and resin tanks, so they have a much smaller footprint compared to a salt-based water treatment system. A salt-free water descaler generally only has a single tank with resin for TAC. And you won’t even have a tank to worry about if you opt for a magnetic water softener since it involves putting magnets on either side of your water line.
Does not need electricity
Most salt-free water conditioners do not need electricity to operate. Magnetic water softeners may need electricity but they will not contribute significantly to your monthly energy bills.
Does not produce waste water
Another advantage of using salt-less softeners is that they do not produce waste water during the softening process. Salt-based systems need to be flushed once their resin tank is full of calcium and magnesium ions, hence generating and wasting water.
Salt-less hard water softeners require very little maintenance and only need to have the TAC media replaced once every 6 years or so. Magnetic softeners don’t even need any maintenance at all.
Keeps Healthy Minerals in Drinking Water
Calcium and magnesium minerals can lead to frustrating water hardness issues but they’re actually food for our health. These minerals also give water an alkaline taste that most people enjoy. The thing about salt-less softeners is that they do not remove these water hardness minerals so that you can still enjoy the health benefits of consuming calcium and magnesium without hard water issues.
No Salt Added to Water
Salt-based systems treat hard water by swapping the hard mineral ions with sodium. While it is only a small amount of salt to the water, it can contribute to your sodium intake, meaning this isn’t a very good choice for those who are on a low-sodium diet. Salt-free softeners, on the other hand, do not add salt into the water, they simply alter the hard water minerals so that they do not stick onto surfaces.
Disadvantages of Non Salt Water Softeners
Everything has its own set of pros and cons. While salt-free softeners are great alternatives for treating hard water, they do have some disadvantages that you’ll need to take into consideration:
No Soft-Feeling Water
Salt-free water conditioner will not give you a soft, silky smooth water feel since there are still water hardness ions present in your water.
Not as Effective
Salt-free water softeners do not remove hard water minerals, so you might still experience some scale buildup. However, the limescale buildup is not as serious and they can be removed easily.
Results Take Longer
Another disadvantage of salt-less softeners is that the results can take a while to be observed. Salt-based softeners have quicker results because of the higher effectiveness of their softening process.
Efficiency Difficult to Prove
It is clear when a salt-base water softener is working since there will no longer be any hard water minerals present. You can easily test your water’s hardness levels to check if the water is soft. However, testing conditioned water will still give you the same level of hardness since the hard water minerals are still present. This makes it difficult to prove whether your water descaler is actually working. You can only rely on a “wait and see” approach.
Salt Free Water Softener Installation
Just like whole house water filter systems, a water softener should be installed at the point of entry to your home. This will ensure that you and your water-based appliances get access to high-quality water. Do remember that home appliances can lose efficiency as a result of scale buildup, so you’d want to prevent scale as early as possible.
Fortunately, installing a water softener is a relatively easy task and can be done on your own, provided you have some basic plumbing knowledge. Different systems have different installation steps. Nonetheless, we have listed the general steps involved in installing a water softener/water filtration system below:
- Choose where you want to install your softener. Remember to pick a place that’s closer to your water’s point of entry into your home.
- Switch off the water supply and turn on the bypass valve at the lowest point in your home to drain out all the water in your pipes
- Measure and mark where you want to cut into your water line to install the softening system.
- Use a pipe cutter to carefully cut the pipe and catch any excess water leaks with a bucket.
- Install the bypass valve before the softening system.
- Attach the system in place according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Slowly switch on the water supply to allow any trapped air to be released. Make sure everything is tightly screwed in place and there are no leaks.
Magnetic water softeners are even simpler to install, even for those with limited plumbing knowledge. Here are the common steps to set it up:
- Choose where you plan to install the magnetic softeners on your waterline. Make sure it is as close to the water’s POE into your home as possible.
- Split the magnets and separate them by keeping them a safe distance apart.
- Place the magnets on each side of the waterline by sticking them to the surface.
- Screw the magnets in place and you’re done.
Salt-Free Softener Maintenance
Fortunately, with salt-free systems, there isn’t a lot of maintenance that you need to conduct. Most systems use a TAC media bed that will only need to be replaced once every 6 years or so. You also don’t need to worry about backwashing or regenerating the media, so you can enjoy a softener that’s very low in maintenance.
A completely maintenance-free system would be the magnetic softening as they can be operated without any need for maintenance at all.
Conclusion: What’s The Best No Salt Water Softener?
Choosing the best salt-free water softener can be a daunting task. We hope our guide and salt-free water softener reviews today, at the very minimum, serves as a great place to start your search, and hopefully, you will find the right water softener for your home from our list.
Technology is constantly evolving and it can be difficult to identify the newest and ‘best’ water softening units available on the market. If you’re still undecided on which is the best water softener for your home, then we suggest you pick one from our list above and you can rest assured knowing you have a quality water system that is easy to install and can be relied on for years.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if the salt-free softener is working?
It is difficult to prove that the salt-free system is working but you should be able to begin noticing a reduced scale build-up after about a week.
Do salt-free systems remove iron?
No, a salt-free system does not actually remove anything from the water on its own. But when paired with a solid water filter system, it can remove iron and other contaminants.
Are salt-free water systems healthy?
Yes, a salt-free water system can provide healthy water that is good for hair, skin, and nails.