Best Whole House Water Filter and Softener Combo Reviews 2020
Written by: Gene Fitzgerald // Last Updated:
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Water softeners or water conditioners are the best way to overcome hard water issues. However, they barely improve water quality in terms of potability. Water filters, on the other hand, are great for removing harmful contaminants as well as taste and odor, but most don’t do much when it comes to the removal of hardness minerals.
In other words, oftentimes you need both a water softener AND a water filter. What is the best whole house water filter and softener system? This buying guide features a collection of our favorite combos. Ready to find your ideal setup? Let’s go!
1. Best Whole House Water Filtration and Softener System for City Water: SpringWell CSS or CSF (Salt-Based vs. Salt-Free Softening)
SpringWell is our top pick for both whole house water filtration and water softening. Naturally, if you’re looking for a combination of the two we highly recommend you opt for SpringWell.
For city water, you can choose between the SpringWell CSS and the CSF filter-softener combo. Both use the same catalytic carbon filter to remove chemicals and organics among other water contaminants, turning even the nastiest tap waters into great-tasting drinking water.
The difference, however, is that the SpringWell CSS relies on a traditional salt-based water softener to remove hard water minerals, while the SpringWell CSF includes a salt-free water conditioner to reduce scaling. Both combos have proven to be highly effective at what they do. Thus, it really depends on your personal preferences which one to choose. We like either one. 5 stars!
SpringWell CSS4 Whole House City Water Filter + Salt-Based Water Softener
5-micron pre-filter is a physical barrier for sediment. Prevents clogging of the rest of the system.
Whole house water filter is filled with catalytic carbon and KDF. The carbon removes chlorine, chloramines, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, disinfection byproducts, and more. The KDF takes care of various heavy metals (e.g. lead) + it controls the growth of microorganisms.
You get clean & healthy, refreshing, odor-free water. Perfect for cooking, drinking, showering, and washing.
SpringWell guarantees chlorine/chloramine reduction below the minimum detection level for 1,000,000 gallons or 6 years.
SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener Only:
Ion exchange water softener replaces hard minerals (calcium, magnesium) in water with sodium. This makes it soft.
Most effective water treatment method to eliminate scale buildup in your home.
Entire plumbing system, fixtures, and appliances will work more efficiently and last longer. Less maintenance requirements, fewer repairs.
Your hair and skin will look and feel better. Laundry will be softer.
Upgraded 10% crosslink softening resin lasts up to two times longer than standard resin which is less chlorine resistant.
Digital head unit controls water softener system regeneration.
Bluetooth compatible: Can be connected to phone/tablet via app (available for iOS and Android). Allows for easy configuration of regen cycle frequency, length of backwashing, and salt dose.
Control valve measures water use and adjusts the amount of water and salt that will be used during next regeneration. Vortech plate improves backwashing efficiency.
Saves resources. (And money!)
Water softener is fully NSF-certified for structural integrity.
Choose from 3 different sizes:
CSS1 combo provides a water flow rate of 9 gallons per minute. For homes with 3 bathrooms maximum. Water softener: 32,000 grains.
CSS4 is rated at 12 gallons of water per minute service flow. Ideal for 4-6 bathrooms. Softener: 48,000 grains.
CSS+ is the largest and only makes sense for a house with 7 or more bathrooms. 20 gpm. 80,000-grain water softener.
SpringWell Water Conditioner Only:
FutureSoft water conditioner uses catalytic media to crystallize hard water minerals so they don’t stick to surfaces. Reduces scaling by as much as 99.6% (proven in scientific study).
Suited for extremely hard water (up to 81 gpg).
Protects entire plumbing system and appliances etc. + dissolves already existing limescale deposits.
Remaining scale wipes of easily when cleaning.
Conditioned water supports healthy hair and skin and doesn’t feel slippery compared to “properly” softened water.
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) doesn’t lower water pH.
No salt. No chemicals. Great for the environment and no heavy lifting of salt bags.
No regeneration involved. Saves water.
Media lasts indefinitely.
Choose from 3 different sizes:
CSF1 is suited for homes with 1-3 bathrooms. Setup provides a water flow of 9 gallons per minute.
CSF4 combo was designed for 4 to 6-bathroom homes. 12 gpm water flow.
CSF+ is for 7+ bathrooms. Service flow: 20 gpm.
All tanks are wrapped in neoprene jackets for protection.
DIY installation is possible but only if you’re handy with tools.
Whole house water filter and water softener/conditioner feature bypass valve.
Except for refilling salt, water softener is completely maintenance-free. Same goes for whole house filter as well as salt-free softener. Only pre-filter needs changing every 6-9 months. Annual cost: ~$40. Cheap!
SpringWell offers full refund for 6 months after purchase if you’re not satisfied.
Everything is covered by lifetime warranty.
Helpful customer support by real experts.
Some fittings are plastic. We would have preferred metal.
2. Best Whole House Water Filter and Softener Combo for Well Water: SpringWell WSSS or WSSF (Salt-Based or Salt-Free Softener)
As mentioned before, SpringWell is our top recommendation for people looking for a whole house water filter and/or whole house water softener. So it only makes sense for us to recommend SpringWell if you want to combine the two.
If you’re on well water, your best option is probably the WSSS or the WSSF series. They’re perfect for water containing iron, manganese, or hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell), or a combination of the three.
Apart from filtration, your water will also go through a softening stage. Actually, only the WSSS combo uses a “real” salt-based water softener, whereas the WSSF setup applies a salt-free water conditioning system. Both effectively reduce scaling but the latter won’t remove any hardness minerals from the water doing so.
Which filter-softener combination should you choose? This is a matter of personal preference. Each has their own benefits (learn more below). Personally, we like them both. 5 stars!
Side note: In case there’re a lot of chemicals and organic contaminants in your well water you might want to consider adding the SpringWell catalytic carbon filter on top. It’ll not only greatly improve water aesthetics (odorless, clean taste), it’ll also make your water perfectly safe and healthy.
SpringWell WSSS4 Whole House Well Water Filter + Salt-Based Water Softener
SpringWell WS whole house well water filter system eliminates rust staining in toilets, sinks, showers, etc. and unpleasant sulfur smell. The filtered water will also taste much better.
Combines air injection oxidation with greensand media filtration to remove maximum combined of ferric & ferrous iron (7 ppm), manganese (1 ppm), and hydrogen sulfide (8 ppm). Also reduces arsenic and radium.
Safe for septic and sewer systems.
Digital head unit resets air pocket daily + backwashes greensand media periodically to flush out all accumulated contaminants. No need for you to worry!
Can be connected to your mobile device via Bluetooth for programming.
SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener Only:
Water softener removes hard water minerals and replaces them with salt. Little to no remaining water hardness.
No more scaling in your home’s plumbing, appliances, and fixtures. Water heater will work more efficiently. Overall less maintenance requirements and fewer repairs.
Soft water is gentler on your hair and skin (and clothes).
10% crosslink resin is more resistant to chlorine in case you shock your well.
Digital head manages system regeneration fully automatically.
Bluetooth functionality allows for easy programming of cycle frequency, backwashing length, salt dose, etc.
Metered regeneration + Vortech mineral tank plate save water + salt. Highly efficient!
Only NSF-certified parts are used.
Whole house water filter-softener combo comes in 2 sizes:
WSSS1 version is for homes with 1 to 3 bathrooms (11 gpm). Softener size: 32,000 grains.
WSSS4 version is designed for any 4 to 6-bathroom household. Softener size: 48,000 grains.
SpringWell Water Conditioner Only:
Sediment pre-filter protects conditioning tank from fouling.
Saltless water conditioning system crystallizes hardness minerals. In crystal form they can’t attach themselves to surfaces – think pipes. Scale formation reduces by up to 99+% (scientifically proven).
Protects your home’s entire water system from scaling. Existing deposits will vanish over time.
Any remaining scale is soft and easy to clean.
Conditioned water doesn’t feel slippery.
No salt. No chemicals. No regeneration. No change in water pH. Great for you, your home, and the environment.
Catalytic media has no expiration date.
Max hardness level that can be handled is 81 gpg which is considered extremely hard.
Choose WSSF-1 whole house well water filter and salt-free water softener combination if your home doesn’t have more than 4 bathrooms. Water flow rate: 12 gpm.
Choose WSSF-4 combination if you have more than 4 bathrooms. Water flow: 15 gallons per minute.
Tanks come in neoprene sleeve for protection.
Designed for DIY installation but you need to be handy with tools.
Both water filter and softener combos are maintenance-free. You just need to fill brine tank with new salt or replace the sediment pre-filter of water conditioner every 6 to 9 months. Cost: ~$40 per year.
Everything is backed by 6-month money-back guarantee + lifetime warranties.
SpringWell support is responsive, helpful, and knowledgeable.
Some fittings are plastic. We would have preferred metal.
All in all, great-tasting, healthier water for drinking, cooking, and household use.
5-micron pleated sediment filter removes large particles (sediment, silt, sand…).
Extends life of subsequent filter elements.
SMART multimedia filter tank uses:
Granular activated + catalytic carbon to adsorb chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial solvents, disinfection byproducts, benzene, and other related contaminants.
Two different Eagle Redox Alloys to remove heavy metals like lead and chromium, more water disinfectants, and hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell). The copper-zinc blends also control growth of bacteria + algae.
Ion exchange resin to reduce even more heavy metals and inorganics.
Ceramic and tourmaline balls to adsorb any remaining impurities, especially metals. The balls also help balance water pH and are supposed to aid human metabolism.
Coconut shell carbon block post-filter (5-micron nominal) removes VOCs, pesticides, etc. and cleanses any residual tastes and odor.
Crystal Quest Water Softener Only:
Proprietary cation exchange resin bed softens water by replacing hard ions with sodium or potassium. This prevents limescale deposits in your home’s entire water system. Benefits:
Pipes, fixtures, and water-using appliances will last longer.
Efficiency of water heaters increases by up to 30%
Detergents, soaps, and shampoo lather better. Save up to 70% and results in healthier skin and hair.
Fabrics will be brighter.
Overall reduced spotting on surfaces.
System regeneration to replenish softening capacity is demand-initiated to save water and salt.
All components are NSF Standard 61 certified to comply with health and safety standards.
Crystal Quest Water Conditioner Only:
Crystal Quest Anti-Scale media acts as a catalyst to transform calcium and magnesium ions into stable nano crystals that are rinsed away by water flow without attaching to surfaces.
Calcium and magnesium already built up also dissolve in a short time.
Nothing will be added nor removed from water. Healthy minerals add to your daily nutritional intake.
No regeneration means you save salt and water.
All other benefits are as mentioned above.
1,000,000-gallon filter version + 48,000-grain water softener is for homes with 1-3 bathrooms. Water flow: 9-11 gallons per minute.
Choose 1,500,000 gallons filter + 64,000-grain water softener if you have 4 bathrooms or more. Water: 10-13 gpm.
Optional: Upgrade fiberglass to stainless steel tanks for looks and longevity.
Self-installation is doable but certainly a bit more demanding.
Maintenance requirements are low.
Filtration and softening media last up to 10 years, depending on your daily water usage and feed water condition.
Additional filter cartridges are good for 12-18 months, maybe a bit longer. Average annual cost: ~$40-65 which really isn’t much.
Refill brine tank with salt if you opt for traditional softener.
Crystal Quest warranty all its systems for 1 year.
Not the most affordable option out there.
Water conditioner might require pre-treatment of water if iron, manganese, copper, phosphate, or hydrogen sulfide content, or hardness level is too high.
Best to contact Crystal Quest support team about this (they have a live chat!).
4. For Small Budgets: FilterSmart FS1500 – Activated Carbon Filtration + Salt-Free Softener
The main selling point of the FilterSmart FS1500 is certainly the low price. For well under $2,000, you get an activated carbon whole house water filter paired with a salt-free water softener a.k.a. conditioner.
The combo will give you access to considerably cleaner drinking water throughout your entire home. And it’ll solve your hard water problem – definitely worth checking out! 4 stars.
FilterSmart FS1500 Whole House Filter & Salt-Free Softener
Sediment pre-filter removes fine particulates so they won’t plug carbon tank or foul TAC media.
Whole house filter contains coconut shell granular carbon. Greatly improves the taste of tap water by reducing the usual: Chlorine, chloramine, volatile organic compounds, THMs, pesticides – you name it.
Capacity of 5 years or 1,000,000 gallons guaranteed. If media fails prematurely FilterSmart will replace it free of charge.
Also works for well water but doesn’t remove any of the typical contaminants like iron or sulfur.
Salt-free water softener applies Template Assisted Crystallization. It renders scale in water harmless without actually removing it. Plus, already existing buildup gradually dissolves.
Healthy minerals are retained in water.
No regeneration involved which saves resources.
Catalytic media lasts a lifetime.
FilterSmart works with components certified according to safety standards.
Choose large combo (15 gallons of water per minute) if you’re living in a large household with 4 or more bathrooms.
Choose small combo (12 gpm) if your house has 3 or less bathrooms.
Anyone with basic pluming skills can do the installation, says the manufacturer.
Verified by reviewers.
Built-in bypass valves.
Almost maintenance-free. Only sediment filter needs to be changed every 8-10 months – easy. Cost: About $20-35 in 1 year.
You can try the system for 90 days. If you’re not satisfied return it for a full refund.
Lifetime warranty on valves, tanks, and all other parts.
Water must not contain iron, hydrogen sulfide, or manganese.
5. For Even Smaller Budgets: Tier1 Whole House Water Softener + Point-of-Use Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System #Cheap
Tier 1 whole house water softener + point-of-use reverse osmosis drinking water filtration system. This is by far the most affordable solution when you want to combine water filtration with softening.
Both systems are designed for the mass market, mind you, so don’t expect outstanding quality. And there’re other trade-offs that you must expect in this price segment (more on this in a bit). That said, both units still get the job done – soft water throughout the entire house and filtered water ready for drinking straight from the kitchen faucet – guaranteed! 4 stars.
Tier1 Whole House Water Softener + Point-of-Use Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System #Cheap
Tier1 Everyday is a genuine salt-based water softener. Removes hard water minerals (calcium and magnesium) from water for little to no scaling.
Capacity is 48,000 grains. 11.2 gpm water flow. Suited for small to mid-sized homes with up to 4, maybe 5 bathrooms.
Protective neoprene tack jacket is part of the package.
Tier1 RO5 under sink reverse osmosis system filters water at the point of use.
Produces clean, pure water.
Uses sediment and carbon block pre-filters, RO membrane, and GAC post-filter.
5-stage filtration process removes or reduces sediment and other particular contaminants, chlorine, taste and odor, chemicals, and the vast majority of dissolved solids (i.e. arsenic, chromium 6, fluoride, lead, cysts, nitrates, radium).
Water is stored in 3.2-gallon storage tank and can be dispensed using dedicated chrome faucet. Enough water for family use.
4 reusable glass water bottles are included.
Both water softener and RO should be easy to install. There are printed installation instructions and video guides.
Dedicated water dispenser of RO system requires hole in countertop or sink, so you need to drill one if there isn’t a spare one. You’ll definitely have to drill into the drain line of your kitchen sink.
Maintenance is simple: Refill water softener brine tank with salt and change RO filter stages every 3 to 6 months. RO membrane itself lasts up to 2 years.
Manufacturer provides satisfaction guarantee on water softener for the first 90 days after purchase (only valid if water is within stated specifications).
One-year warranty on water softener control valve + tank. Lifetime warranty on RO unit.
8% crosslink softening resin is less chlorine-resistant and wears out quicker when used on chlorinated city water supply.
Water softener installation instructions could be better.
Programming the digital head unit requires some getting used to.
Bypass valve is manual so water service disrupts during regeneration. 1 cycle takes about 2 hours.
Not an issue when you set frequency to weekly and at night time.
Some parts of the reverse osmosis system feel a little cheap.
Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Whole House Water Filtration and Softener System
Test Your Water Quality
The best approach to finding the ideal water filter and/or water softener always starts with finding out more about your water quality. If there’s no recent quality report (check here or here) for your water supply you need to have a direct sample tested by an independent lab. Or you can purchase a test kit and do the testing yourself to get a rough idea of which water contaminants and hardness level you’re facing.
Choosing the Ideal Water Filter Type
Primary Filter Media
If your water is high in sediment get yourself a sediment (pre-)filter.
For chlorine, chloramines, and all sorts of chemicals and organics commonly found in tap water you want to install a carbon water filtration system. Carbon is also great for neutralizing off-taste.
Iron water filters are designed for the removal of iron, manganese, and sulfur.
KDF is not only bacteriostatic, it also reduces disinfectants and a bunch of heavy metals.
Choosing the Ideal Type of Water Softening System
Water Softener or Water Conditioner
There’re salt-based water softeners that use ion exchange to replace hardness minerals in water with sodium or potassium. And there’re salt-free water conditioners that apply different technologies to reduce the scaling effects of hard water without adding or removing anything from it.
The former are still the industry standard and preferred choice of most home owners due to their effectiveness. But, water conditioners are getting more popular as they’re becoming more sophisticated delivering better and better results.
Personally, we like both. If we were to go with a water conditioner, though, we would make sure it uses Template Assisted Crystallization.
Water Softening Capacity
Salt water softeners need to regenerate in order to replenishing their softening resin. The amount of grains that a system can remove between two regeneration cycles is its capacity. Depending on its size, capacities start at 8,000 hardness grains (portable water softeners) and can reach 80,000 grains (whole house systems) and higher if need be.
Simply put, your new water softeners needs to be large enough to handle your water hardness level and demand.
Water Pressure and Flow Rate
Both whole home water filter and softener need to be able to process enough water to supply your entire household – kitchen, bathroom(s), appliances…
If that’s not the case your water pressure might drop when you use too many water outlets simultaneously, or raw feed water could bleed through.
10-15 gallons per minute water flow is pretty standard for whole house applications.
Look out for NSF Standard 42 in whole house water filters. It guarantees effective chlorine reduction.
NSF Standard 44 was established for cation exchange water softeners and covers things like salt and water efficiency, and most importantly the effective reduction of hard minerals.
It might seem obvious, but don’t underestimate the size of a whole house water filter and softener next to each other.
Installation & Maintenance
Installing a whole house filter-softener combo really isn’t any more difficult than installing just a whole house water filter or just a water softener. So as long as you have the right tools and enough time and patience, and maybe some prior experience, you should be fine doing the installation yourself.
In case you don’t feel comfortable taking on the project on your own, expect to pay at least several hundred dollars when hiring a plumber to do the setup for you.
As far as maintenance is concerned, a water softener brine tank requires annual cleaning. You also need to make sure that the salt level is always above the water level. And there are several other maintenance tasks to perform. The same goes for looking after a whole house water filter. For example: Depending on the model, you need to clean and/or replace (pre-)filters on a regular basis. All this isn’t overly difficult and you certainly don’t need a professional to take care of your whole house filter and softener, but you should be aware that this isn’t a set and forget type of thing.
When it comes to cost, the initial price tags of a whole house water filtration system and softener are important, but so are operating/maintenance cost. Not all filter cartridges/media last equally long. And some are cheaper to replace than others.
As for water softeners, remember to take into account the expenses for salt and water required for regeneration (salt-based systems only). Compared to something super cheap, a more expensive but more resource-efficient unit likely turns out more cost-effective in the long run.
Warranty + Where to Buy
We like to buy online because you get the best prices and have the largest product selection possible. And we like to buy from sellers that
Offer a lifetime warranty on their systems and
Allow you to test their products in a trial period and return them for a full refund in case you’re not satisfied.
All-in-One Water Softener and Filter
We’re not fans of all-in-one water softeners and filters. First of all, they’re really rare. And second of all, they’re usually much less effective and efficient than separate filters and softeners set up in sequence.
One of the reasons is that proper water treatment takes time – contact time between the water and the filter media and the softening resin. Providing less of both, an all-in-one water softener and filter simply cannot keep up with two large separated systems.
More on Water Softener and Filter Combos
How Does a Whole House Water Softener and Filter Work?
Now, this is not an easy question to answer because it depends on the exact setup.
Generally speaking, a whole house water filter uses one or more filter stages to remove certain water contaminants. For example:
There are pre-filters that trap sediments based on size exclusion,
large tanks containing carbon filter media for the adsorption of bad taste and odor, chlorine and chloramine, disinfection byproducts, and all kinds of chemicals and organics,
and more specialized filter (media) types that may remove heavy metals like lead or iron, or hydrogen sulfide.
Traditional water softeners on the other hand all apply ion exchange to remove hard minerals from water. The process takes place in a large tank filled with softening resin, a media bed which consists of thousands and thousands of tiny microbeads. The beads are supersaturated with sodium ions. As hard water gets in contact with the resin bed, calcium and other hardness minerals are pulled out of the water. They attach to the beads which act like magnets and substitute the sodium ions which go into solution. Before the water reaches the bottom of the resin tank, it’s softened and ready for distribution.
After a while, the resin beads cannot bind any more hard water ions, which is when a water softener needs to regenerate. A regeneration cycle includes backwashing of the resin tank in order to expand the softening resin and remove any potential dirt, followed by a brining phase where highly concentrated salt brine is sucked from the brine into the resin tank. The brine washes over the resin beads releasing all accumulated hard water ions and replacing them with a fresh layer of sodium.
How Salt-Free Water Softeners Work
There are different types of salt-free water softeners also known as water conditioners. What they all have in common is that they eliminate or reduce the scaling effects of hard water without removing anything from the water. How? They simply prevent calcium and the other minerals from sticking to surfaces. There are a few different methods that can achieve this:
Our preferred method is Template Assisted Crystallization. It makes use of catalytic media to convert hard water ions into large crystals. Scale prevention: Up to 99.6%.
Some water conditioners use a chelation agent like citric acid to bind the minerals together so they precipitate out.
Electronic and magnetic water descalers reduce scaling by electromagnetic water induction.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Water Filter and Softener Combo?
The benefits are manifold. Whole house water filtration means having access to clean, great-tasting water at every outlet in your home including shower(s). All water-using home appliances will benefit, too, and they’re lifespan is likely to increase. Installing water filtration before a water softener also helps to protect the latter from clogging.
Speaking of, a water softener is another device which not only protects your home appliances from damaging due to hard water scaling, your entire plumbing system will require fewer maintenance and repairs, and last up to 30 percent longer – all because the formation of scale is prevented.
Reduced or no scaling also results in water heaters working more efficiently for lower energy cost. Cosmetic benefits include reduce spotting on bathroom fixtures and tableware etc., softer and brighter clothes, and improved lathering of soaps and shampoos.
Some of the benefits associated with saltless water conditioners are:
Less to no scaling
Even existing scale deposits will vanish over time
Some systems are virtually maintenance-free
You don’t need to keep buying new softening salt
No extra sodium in water is ideal for people on a salt-restricted diet and better for the environment
The conditioned water doesn’t feel slippery
No regeneration means no downtime and no wastewater
Do I Even Need a Water Softener if I Have a Whole House Filter?
Water softeners and water filters are fundamentally different. The purpose of a water filter is to remove one or more undesirable contaminants, for example to improve water taste and/or safety.
Water softeners were designed to provide a solution to water hardness. They remove certain minerals from water, first and foremost calcium, to prevent scale deposits from forming among other things
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will my water filter-softener combination last?
It depends. A high-quality setup can last up to a decade and longer.
How often will I need to change filters?
With sediment pre-filters, you’re probably looking at annual or biannual replacements. Large filter media tanks usually last between 5 and 10 years.
Is UV light required for water filtering and softening?
Not necessarily. UV light treatment is great if your water isn’t microbiologically safe as it kills any living organisms including bacteria, viruses, and cyst.
Questions about our whole house water filter and softener system reviews? Ask away!
About the Author Gene Fitzgerald
Gene Fitzgerald has been with BOS since the very beginning. She is head of content creation and has fully immersed herself into the home water treatment industry only to become an expert herself. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
Learn more about Gene and the rest of the BOS Team.