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How to Choose a Water Softener: Buying Guide

If you have hard water at home, you no doubt understand the importance of having a reliable water softener.

Hard water isn’t harmful to you, but it’s still not ideal. It can shorten the lifespan of your plumbing appliances by up to a third, and your water might not taste as good. Hard water can also dry out your hair and skin. So if you don’t already own one, it’s worth investing in a good water softener.

A water softener will generally last you around 10 to 15 years, and if you’re thinking about buying a new one, there are some things you should consider! Our buying guide will explain how to choose the best water softener for your home.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my water softener?

There are a few signs that indicate that you might need a new water softener, or at least need to have yours serviced. If you are in the shower and the soap isn’t lathering up, or you’re noticing that clothes are coming out of the laundry stiff, then it’s likely that your water softener isn’t working properly. You might also be noticing a buildup from the minerals in hard water on your faucets and pipes.

Different types of water softeners

You may be wondering what type of water softener is best for you and your household. So first, let’s take a look at the different types of water softeners that are on the market:

Salt-based water softeners: This is the most common type of water softener. They’re often called ion exchange water softeners because they use resin beads to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium, then release sodium ions. Because the resin needs to be regularly recharged, you’ll want to look for a softener that regenerates after a specific amount of time, or after a certain amount of water has passed through it. Most regenerate once per week.

Salt-free water softeners: These types of water softeners don’t use salt to remove heavy minerals from your water. Instead, they use a system that attracts minerals and turn them into crystals, which then prevents mineral buildup.

Dual-tank water softeners: The main distinction between dual-tank water softeners and more traditional water softeners is exactly as the name indicates. This water softener has two tanks, one that’s always functioning and a second one that continually going through the salt regeneration process. (You can also get a salt-free water softener with dual tanks.)

Magnetic water softeners: Ideal for homeowners that don’t have a lot of extra space, these are compact water softeners that fasten right onto your water pipe. These types of water softeners work by using a magnetic field to strip negative or positive ions. Since the minerals will be neutral, they won’t stick to each other and will remain water soluble.

What should I look for when buying a water softener?

When shopping for a new water softener, aside from the price, one of the first things you need to consider is the size. And to calculate that, you need to consider your water hardness and your average daily water consumption.

Water hardness is frequently measured in grains per gallon, and you can get an accurate measurement with a water hardness testing kit. Or give us a call, and we can test the water in your home, plus also inspect your piping systems to see if any other problems are contributing to hard water issues.

The higher your grains per gallon, the harder your water is. That means you’ll need to invest in a water softener with a larger grain capacity. If you’re going with a salt-based softener, you’ll also want to make sure you get one with enough resin beads so it can last at least a week before going through the regeneration process. We don’t recommend salt-free water softeners if you have very high levels of hard water in your household.

3.5 to 7 grains per gallon is considered moderately hard water, with 7-10 being hard and anything more than 10 being very hard.

Then, you’ll need to consider how much water your household uses. Think of how many people live in your house, and how many water-based appliances you use. The more water you use, the bigger you’ll want your water softener to be.

If you’re not sure exactly how much water your household uses, multiply the number of people who live in your house by 75 to find out approximately how many gallons of water you need per day.

Then, take that number and multiply it by the number of grains per gallon. If you’re going with a salt-based softener that regenerates every seven days, multiply that number by seven. That will tell you just about how much grain capacity your water softener will need.

How much does a water softener cost?

How much you’ll pay for a new water softener will vary. A basic salt-based water softener will set you back around $500. Salt-free or dual tank water softeners, especially high end ones, could cost as much as $3,000, per Angi. Magnetic water softeners are the smallest and cheapest and generally won’t cost more than $200.

If you’re ready to purchase a water softener and have further questions, or need to have your new water softener installed, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-888-BEN-1776 or contact us online!