The 10 Best Water Softener Systems in 2021

Best Water Softener Systems
Image by Canva Photos

Hard water is the bane of homeowners but a blessing to plumbers looking for business. Using one of the best water softener systems on the market can help you reduce the effects of hard water on your pipes and appliances. Softener systems can make a significant difference in how the water impacts your home and yourself. The hardness level of your water impacts everything from showering to laundry.

After researching the best water softener systems, we made a list of the top 10 available options. Our favorite of the group is the Aquasure Harmony Series Whole House Water Softener. It’s positively reviewed and comes in three different size options for grain capacity: 32,000, 48,000, and 64,000. This softener uses metered regeneration for efficiency, has fully customizable programming with a backlit digital display, and comes with an easily accessible bypass valve. 

Our Top Picks

If you’re in a hurry to find the best home water softener, here’s a quick look at our favorites.

Aquasure Harmony Series Whole House Water SoftenerBest Overall: Aquasure Harmony Series Whole House Water Softener.
A fully customizable water softener solution that comes in three sizes to meet a variety of needs.
Fleck 5600 On Demand Water SoftenerBest Runner-Up: Fleck 5600 On Demand Water Softener.
A softener system with a 64,000 grain capacity and additional filtration options from one of the most well-regarded water softener brands.
APEC Water Systems Whole House Filter and Salt-Free SoftenerBest Eco-Friendly: APEC Whole House Filter and Salt-Free Softener.
A high-end, salt-free water conditioner and filter system for your whole house that’s easy on the environment.
AO Smith Whole House Salt-Free Water DescalerBest Budget: AO Smith Whole House Salt-Free Water Descaler.
If you’re looking for a salt-free option for a small home, this is one of the most affordable options with excellent reviews.
AFWFilters IRON Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron FilterBest for Iron Removal: AFWFilters IRON Pro 2 Combination Water Softener.
If you have rust issues, this is the best whole house water filter and softener combo option for your home.
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-PortableBest for RVs: On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable.
If you want the best in portability, this unit is compact, easy to set up, and requires no electricity to run.
Genesis 2 High-Efficiency Water SoftenerBest Up-Flow: Genesis 2 High-Efficiency Water Softener
This unit only has a 24,000 grain capacity, but it’s one of the most efficient water softener systems because it uses an up-flow system.
SpringWell Salt-Free Water SoftenerBest Salt-Free: SpringWell Salt-Free Water Softener
This premium water conditioner comes with a pre-filter and can handle homes with as many as six bathrooms.
Nuvo H20 Home Water Softener SystemBest Compact Salt-Free: Nuvo H20 Home Water Softener System
This salt-free water conditioner is an excellent option for homes under 2,000 square feet, and it won’t take up much room.
Tier1 Essential Series Salt-Free Water SoftenerBest for Moderately Hard Water: Tier1 Essential Series Salt-Free.
A salt-free water conditioner and pre-filter for homes with 1-3 bathrooms and a maximum water hardness of 75.
 

The Best Water Softener Systems: A Closer Look

1. Aquasure Harmony Series Whole House Water Softener

The best water softener system overall

Aquasure Harmony Series Whole House Water Softener

Brand: Aquasure | Type: Water Softener | Salt: Yes | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰

The Harmony Series models give you full control over the system’s performance through time clock control, metered immediate control, and meter delayed control. Rated at 64,000 grain capacity, it’s big enough for a large home with three to four bathrooms, and it works for wells and city water. The tank comes with a 5-year warranty and a bypass valve. This unit also comes in two smaller size options: 32,000 grain capacity and 48,000 grain capacity.

  • The digital display is backlit and easy to read
  • It lets you manually adjust settings or program them 
  • Works great for well water if the iron levels aren’t high
  • Very heavy to move
  • It takes up a lot of room

2. Fleck 5600 On Demand Water Softener

The best runner-up water softener system

Fleck 5600 On Demand Water Softener

Brand: Fleck | Type: Water Softener | Salt: Yes | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰

The 5600SXT is designed for a larger home at 64,000 grain removal. It’s easy to install and works on-demand, based on your water needs. Its programming has a backup for power outages.

You can easily make adjustments to minimize salt usage or maximize capacity when you need more water. The system has a bypass valve, which allows you to bypass the system without shutting off the main water.

  • Works well for places with very hard water
  • It goes through less salt than similar-sized systems
  • It offers the ability to customize the system for your personal needs
  • It won’t remove iron
  • Prone to springing leaks

3. APEC Water Systems Whole House Filter and Salt-Free Softener

The best water softener system

APEC Water Systems Whole House Filter and Salt-Free Softener

Brand: APEC Water | Type: Water Descaler and Filter | Salt: No | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰💰💰

APEC makes systems for homes of all sizes. This professional-grade system offers luxury spa-quality water to your entire home. It’s a salt-free water conditioner that prevents scale buildup in plumbing and appliances. It’s reportedly maintenance-free and eco-friendly.

APEC does need to be installed inside. Hardness should be below 25 grains per gallon for best effectiveness. It does not use electricity, but you get an unlimited supply of clean and refreshing water throughout your house.

  • Premium quality parts made in the US
  • Super efficient and eco-friendly product
  • Small in comparison to other filter and conditioner combo systems 
  • It doesn’t work well in areas will super hard water
  • It does not filter out iron–you’ll need an additional pre-filter 

4. AO Smith Whole House Salt-Free Water Descaler

The best budget water softener system

AO Smith Whole House Salt-Free Water Descaler

Brand: AO Smith | Type: Water Descaler | Salt: No | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰

This AO Smith water softener has a service life of six years or 600,000 gallons, at which time you’ll need to replace it. It uses salt-free technology. You don’t need to clean the unit or add salt, nor is electricity required.

The model reduces scale buildup, is the best water softener for well water if you’re on a budget, and most homeowners can complete the installation themselves. This unit is the right size for homes with one to four people.

  • Works perfect for well water
  • This unit is maintenance-free
  • Reduces chlorine smell and taste
  • It needs to be paired with a filter to work efficiently 
  • It can be a little noisy during the self-cleaning mode

5. AFWFilters IRON Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter

The best water softener system for iron removal

AFWFilters IRON Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter

Brand: AFWFilters | Type: Water Softener and Iron Filter | Salt: Yes | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰

This might be the best water softener for the money that’s out there. This water softener and filter combo unit has a 64,000 grain capacity and a high flow rate. It’s a perfect unit for the whole house, and it comes with a digital metered valve that will keep it running efficiently and make it easy for you to use. Also, it can handle sediment, manganese, iron, and hard water up to 75 gpg. The AFWFilters IRON Pro 2 is one of the most powerful units in this price range.

  • It uses metered regeneration 
  • It’s good at removing rust impurities
  • It removes sulfur, so the water doesn’t smell
  • The installation instructions are confusing
  • It has to be reprogrammed if the power goes out

6. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable

The best RV water softener system

On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable

Brand: On the Go | Type: Water Softener | Salt: Yes | Bypass Valve: No | Price: 💰

This is one of the best portable water softeners that you can find. The On The Go water softener has a 16,000 grain capacity and supplies around 40 percent more soft water than other portable units on the market. It also only takes 30 minutes and two boxes of table salt to regenerate enough water for around 40 days of use. It’s compact, lightweight, has a carrying handle, and won’t require any electricity to run. And, it does all the things a water softener should do — it prevents hard water, rust stains, and scale buildup.

  • It doesn’t take up much room
  • It has a large opening for adding salt
  • It’s quick to set up and leaves you with good water pressure 
  • The amount of softening/brining isn’t adjustable
  • Some reviewers had problems with the fittings leaking

7. Genesis 2 High-Efficiency Water Softener

The best up-flow water softener system

Genesis 2 High-Efficiency Water Softener

Brand: Genesis | Type: Water Softener | Salt: Yes | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰

This model comes with everything required for installation. It’s designed for a smaller family, at only 24,000 grain capacity, but there are higher grain capacity models. The resin tank has a lifetime warranty. The control head has a 7-year warranty.

The Genesis features electronic sensors and adjustable cycles for efficient water softening. The technology is designed to reduce salt consumption and allow the resin to recharge precisely. Genesis is a company with over 50 years of experience.

  • It has a large brine tank
  • It adjusts to your water type
  • It uses a lot less salt than downflow units 
  • Inconsistent customer service
  • Expensive for the maximum grain capacity

8. SpringWell Salt-Free Water Softener

The best salt-free water softener system

SpringWell Salt-Free Water Softener

Brand: SpringWell Water | Type: Water Descaler and Pre-Filter | Salt: No | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰💰

This water softener is large enough for a home with four to six bathrooms. DIY homeowners can do the installation, but you can also hire a plumber.

This system doesn’t use salt, so the water may not feel different, but it does take out 99.6% of the chlorine and other contaminants. The model cleans existing deposits in your plumbing and appliances, plus it prevents future buildup.

  • Very little maintenance required
  • Filters out lots of water contaminants 
  • It softens the water without leaving you feeling slimy
  • It doesn’t impact water pressure
  • Somewhat difficult to install—especially in smaller spaces

9. Nuvo H20 Home Water Softener System

The best compact and salt-free water conditioner

Nuvo H20 Home Water Softener System

Brand: Nuvo H20 | Type: Water Descaler | Salt: No | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰

This model is for a smaller home with only one or two people and less than 2,000 square feet. It’s not a good fit for homes with a private well. The cartridge needs replacing about every six months. It’s NSF approved, and it doesn’t use salt or electricity. It prevents scale buildup and removes existing deposits.

  • Fairly easy to install
  • This unit doesn’t take up a lot of space
  • This water conditioner doesn’t waste any water
  • It does not filter out organic contaminants
  • Several reviewers had issues with some of the replacement cartridges turning their water blue

10. Tier1 Essential Series Salt-Free Water Softener

The best conditioner for moderately hard water system

Tier1 Essential Series Salt-Free Water Softener

Brand: Tier1 | Type: Water Descaler and Pre-Filter | Salt: No | Bypass Valve: Yes | Price: 💰💰

Tier1 filters are backed by a satisfaction guarantee and made to the highest standards. This system doesn’t use salt, reducing limescale buildup. It is easy to install and only takes up about 3-square-feet of space. The primary filter will need changing about every two months, but the resins should last three to five years. This system will work for a home with one to three bathrooms.

  • It takes the chlorine out of the water
  • The water tastes better after installing
  • It doesn’t make the skin feel slick when showering 
  • It doesn’t remove calcium or magnesium
  • Disrupted water service during regeneration

What to Look for in a Water Softener

Filling a Water Softener System with Salt
Image by Canva Photos

You may have hard water if you notice any of the following things in your home: smelly water or pipes, rust stains or mineral buildup, lots of soap scum, dingy laundry, dry skin and hair, or soap that never feels like it gets a good lather. 

Fortunately, the best water softener systems help to prevent the adverse effects of hard water. However, with so many available choices, it can be hard to know what’s best. Let’s take a look at where you’ll want to start so you can determine the right model for your home.

1

Types of Water Treatments

Although water softeners are not the only way to improve your home’s water quality, they are among the best options.

  • Salt-based water softeners. These are the best water softener systems for removing heavy minerals. Because these are the most common softener type, there are also options for almost every home size and water hardness level. They require a bit more maintenance than the other options because you’ll need to replace the salt periodically. If you opt for this type of unit and want to know which water softener salt is best, we recommend following the manufacturer’s advice on the model you get. Some units will work fine with regular table salt, while others will require a specific variety of salt to function correctly. 
  • Salt-free water conditioners/descalers. These systems will help prevent scaling but won’t remove the heavy minerals from your water. These units are often maintenance-free, smaller, and better for the environment. These are not always the best option for areas with very hard water.
  • Magnetic/electric water softeners. The best magnetic water softeners attach to the outside of your water pipe. They won’t remove any heavy minerals, but they work to neutralize them to keep them from bonding together. This option is usually only a good fit for smaller homes.
  • Filters. You can add filters to most salt-based and salt-free systems. They work as an extra layer of protection. They can help extend the life and up the efficiency of your softener system. These are a good option for any home with very hard water or sediment issues.

2

How Do I Find the Right Size?

The best water softener system for your home must fit your home’s size and the number of people living there.

If you have one to two bathrooms with three or fewer people, you should look for a small to midsize system with a 20,000+ grain capacity.

If your home has three or more bathrooms and four or more people, you should look for a mid to large-sized system with a 30,000+ grain capacity.

You also need to take your water’s hardness into account when deciding on size—the harder your water, the higher the grain capacity you’ll need. 

3

How to Test Your Water Hardness

Not all hard water isn’t the same. For instance, the best water softener for Arizona will likely be different from the best softener system for Oregon. Why? Because those states are often at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to water hardness levels. Whether you have city water or well water can also make a notable difference in hardness levels. 

Water hardness is measured by grains. To determine your water hardness, check with your local municipality or test your water. You can hire an expert or use a home kit to test your water quality and find out everything from its hardness level to potential contamination levels.

The average person uses about 80 gallons of water per day. Multiply the number of people in your home by 80, then multiply that number by grains of hardness in your water supply to determine how many grains of hardness need to be removed each day.

Our Process

For this guide on the best water softener systems, our team spent 11 hours researching the most popular options from over 20 brands and manufacturers, big and small. We then read about one hundred user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each unit. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 10 water softener systems on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.

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Further Reading

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