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There are 2 ways to deal with hard water. One is installing a traditional salt-based water softener. It softens the water by simply removing all hardness minerals. The second way is using a water conditioner to reduce the scaling effects of hard water.
Both methods can be effective. However, the latter has many benefits over the former. Most importantly, a properly functioning water conditioner also dissolves already existing limescale deposits. What’s more, there are absolutely no maintenance requirements, you don’t have to hoard salt and worry about excess sodium, the conditioned water won’t feel slippery on your skin, etc.
How to find the best water conditioner? This buying guide lists a collection of our favorite systems as well as units that are popular right now. You’ll also learn what to consider when buying a water conditioner. So without further ado…
On This Page You Will…
|Model||Our Rating||Price||Type||Flow Rate||Water For||Warranty|
Our #1 Water Conditioner: SpringWell FutureSoft FS4
|$$$||TAC||15 gpm||Up to 6 People||Life|
The Runner-Up: FilterSmart FS500
|$$||TAC||15 gpm||Up to 6 People||Life|
Most Affordable: Tier1 Essential Series Water Conditioner
|$$||TAC||20 gpm||Up to 6+ People||?|
Best Electronic Water Conditioner: Eddy Electronic
Best Magnetic Water Conditioner: P3 P7920
In our opinion, the best water conditioner in 2020 is the SpringWell FutureSoft. It uses Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to reduce the scaling effects of hard water by as much as 99.6%! (Source)
In a nutshell, TAC crystallizes hard water minerals with the help of a catalytic media bed. Once crystallized those minerals will stay suspended in the water and have no chance of sticking to surfaces.
This not only protects your home’s plumbing system, the water heater, and all water-using appliances etc. from scaling, even already existing deposits will vanish over time – something no salt-based water softener can achieve. The result: Increased efficiency, lower maintenance requirements, fewer repairs, and overall longer lifespans will potentially save you a lot of money a few years down the road. Chances are that your hair and skin will benefit from the conditioned water, too – more details below!
All in all, a great alternative to traditional salt-based water softeners. 5 stars!
SpringWell FutureSoft FS4 Water Conditioner
|Flow Rate:||15 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 6 People|
Personally, we really like SpringWell, but if you’re looking for a water conditioner alternative check out the FilterSmart FS500 or FS500PRO which are a tad more affordable.
Just like the SpringWell FutureSoft, both FilterSmarts apply Template Assisted Crystallization which causes the minerals in hard water to form small crystals. This stops them from causing scaling which basically renders them harmless with all the associated benefits already mentioned in the first review (increased water heater efficiency, longer life expectancy for your home’s entire water system, easier manageable hair and more moisturized skin…). On top of that, old scale formations will gradually dissolve.
What’s the difference between the FS500 and FS500PRO? Only that the FS500PRO features a larger sediment pre-filter, which is only really necessary if your (well) water contains a lot of dirt, sand, and other large particulates that need to be taken care off to prevent them from clogging the large conditioning tank.
FilterSmart FS500 Water Conditioner
|Flow Rate:||15 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 6 People|
Affordability is the main selling point of Tier1 Essential Series water conditioners. Depending on which competitor system you use for comparison, the price difference is as high as several hundred dollars!
That said, you might need to lower your expectations in terms of product quality and things like satisfaction guarantee and warranty – which doesn’t mean that Tier1 water conditioners aren’t effective. They rely on the same process as SpringWell and FilterSmart systems to reduce hard water scaling. 4.5 stars!
Tier1 Essential Series Water Conditioner With Pre-Filtration – Large Version
|Flow Rate:||20 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 6+ People|
In our opinion, the best electronic water conditioner in 2020 is the Eddy Electronic descaler. How does it work? It applies electromagnetic waves to reduce scale caused by hard water by about 50% (according to the same study that also tested Template Assisted Crystallization used by the three water conditioners on top).
In addition, the remaining scale formation is much less persistent and can be easily cleaned. 4.5 stars!
Eddy Electronic Water Conditioner
The P3 is a magnetic water conditioner. Just like the Eddy Electronic it induces a magnetic field within a water pipe to prevent scale through the formation of microscopic calcium crystals. Opposed to dissolved calcium, the precipitated crystals don’t adhere to surfaces. Effectiveness? Between 34 and 50 percent scale reduction according to research.
Considering the extremely low price tag, it’s 4 stars from us!
By the way, the difference to the Eddy electronic water conditioner is that the P3 uses real permanent magnets, whereas the Eddy uses wired wrapped around pipe to create an electromagnetic field.
P3 Magnetic Water Conditioner
The Crystal Quest whole house water conditioner; at first we weren’t entirely sure if we wanted to include the system in our water conditioner reviews guide or not. But in the end we thought it would allow you to check out one more product before making your final buying decision, so why not.
Anyway, the Crystal Quest is another water conditioner based on Template Assisted Crystallization which we’ve mentioned a few times already so we’re not going to repeat how it works. Just know that it’s super effective at reducing scaling and dissolving existing buildup in a short time.
Furthermore, the Crystal Quest features pre- and post-filtration. In other words, you will not only see less to no scaling but also get access to better-tasting, healthier drinking water.
Crystal Quest Whole House Water Conditioner with Pre & Post-Filtration
|Water:||For Up to 6 People|
This is another water conditioner using scale control media to “naturally” lower the scaling effects of hard water. We can only assume that the process is very similar, possibly identical, to what SpringWell, FilterSmart, Tier1, and Crystal Quest water conditioners use. The result is that hard minerals which initially were in ionic form restructure into crystals which prevents them from binding and forming scale buildup. All other benefits are as listed in one of the above reviews.
Unfortunately, there have been numerous complaints about the effectiveness of the Aquasana SimplySoft. Bottom line: 3 stars.
Aquasana SimplySoft Water Conditioning System
|Flow Rate:||7 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 3 People|
Last but not least, Pelican NaturSoft water conditioners. They’re pretty much identical to what SpringWell and FilterSmart provide, using a special type of catalytic media to convert excess calcium in hard water into calcium carbonate crystals. These crystals have different characteristics than the dissolved calcium. Most importantly, they won’t attach to surfaces and thus scaling is reduced significantly. 4 stars!
Pelican NaturSoft NS6 Water Conditioner
|Flow Rate:||15 gpm (Peak)|
|Water:||For Up to 6 People|
Water conditioners can be categorized into 3 types:
Type one is the most effective. A study has shown that up to 99.6% scale reduction can be achieved. Furthermore, even extremely hard water can be handled most water conditioners of this type.
As far as chemical water conditioners are concerned, it depends on the exact process. Some use a chelating agent like citric acid to bind calcium and magnesium ions which prevents the formation of scale deposits. Others rely on polyphosphate. Customer feedback for both is rather mixed. Personally, we’re no big fans.
According to research, electronic and magnetic water conditioners reduce scaling by about one-third to one-half.
The only of drawback of TAC water conditioners is that they require pre-filtration if water contains too much iron, sulfur, manganese, copper, or other contaminants that could foul the media. These contaminants are often found in well water. Most tap waters should be just fine.
As with all whole house water treatment systems, you want to make sure that your potential new water conditioner can provide enough conditioned water to meet your demand even at times of peak consumption.
As a rule of thumb, 12 gallons per minute water flow should be enough for homes with 1-3 bathrooms, 15 gpm can supply 4-6 bathrooms.
Except for electric/magnetic units, water conditioners aren’t exactly small so make sure that you have the space to accommodate one.
You don’t need any prior experience to install the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler for example. However, if you want to install the SpringWell FutureSoft you should be at least somewhat experienced with tools. Pro tip: Make sure a bypass valve is part of the package which saves you from the extra hassle of installing one. A bypass comes in handy if you need to maintain or repair your system requiring temporary shutoff.
Of course, you also have the option to hire a professional plumber which will cost you a few hundred extra bucks.
In terms of maintenance, all water conditioners that are part of this buying guide can be taken care of by the homeowner. Usually, all there is to do is replace the sediment pre-filter cartridge once or twice a year – easy!
We see absolutely no problem in buying a water conditioner online. Quite the opposite: We recommend it as you can compare a wide range of models from various brands/manufacturers using different technologies. And chances are that you’ll find the best prices.
That said, we prefer sellers that
Of course, buying from a local dealer can have the benefit that he knows the water parameters in your area so that he can offer more in-depth advice.
Personally, when it comes to whole house water treatment we really like SpringWell. But there’re more legit water conditioner brands respectively manufacturers out there.
More on Water Conditioners
A water conditioner is any water treatment system that reduces the scaling effects of hard water without using salt as traditional salt-based water softener do.
As mentioned earlier, water conditioners can be categorized into 3 types: Template assisted crystallization (TAC) and other systems using a catalytic media bed, chemicals systems, and magnetic/electronic units.
TAC is based on a catalytic media bed. As the feed water flows through the bed, the majority of dissolved hard water ions are converted into relatively large crystals. This alters their adhesion properties. The crystals cannot stick to surfaces and remain suspended in the water along the way through your home’s plumbing system. The result: Up to 99.6% scale reduction.
In order to achieve high flow rates, a large media tank is required. And, depending on the condition of the feed water, pre-treatment might be mandatory – think high iron content.
As for water conditioners releasing a chemical into the water, they usually make use of chelation. Common chelation agents are citric acid or polyphosphate which bind the hardness minerals together to stop them from forming deposits. Results are mixed and we don’t like the idea of adding chemicals into our water so we wouldn’t recommend this water conditioner type if you can avoid it.
Lastly, electric and magnetic water conditioners which induce a magnetic field into the main water line. The field can be created using wrapped wire or simple magnets. It causes calcium and magnesium to form microscopic crystals which precipitate out. As a result, scale formation is reduced by up to 50%.
Most importantly, a proper water conditioner reduces or completely eliminates the scaling effects of hard water. This means all plumbing elements in your home like pipes, fixtures, and fittings will last much longer and require fewer maintenance and repairs. The same goes for your water-using appliances (up to 30% longer lifespans). More benefits include:
Questions? Ask away!
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