Go Back

Which Type of Water Softener Do You Need?

The Two Types of Water Softener

When determining which type of water softener a homeowner may want, it’s best to consider a few different factors. Salt-based water softeners and salt-free softeners are the two main options. To make matters slightly more complicated, there are a couple of different salt-free systems to choose from. Some communities even have regulations against salt-based softeners for environmental reasons - especially in places suffering from drought.

Why Have a Water Softener At All?  Hard Water Residue on a Showerhead

Hard water isn’t necessarily bad for homeowners’ health. It is, however, bad for their plumbing and frustrating to deal with in the home. Hard water is heavy with minerals like magnesium and calcium. The presence of these minerals can leave trace residue on everything it contacts. 

Homes with hard water have visible residue on dishes, silverware, sinks, and tubs. It can also dry out their skin and cause gunky buildups on faucet heads. Worse, these buildups can occur in the home’s plumbing system, causing expensive problems in the long-term. Water softeners are a way to reduce the mineral content of their home’s water supply, turning hard water soft.

Salt-Based Softeners: The Good and The Bad 

Salt Inside a Water Softener

The best thing that salt-based softeners have going for them is their price. They tend to be much cheaper than their salt-free counterparts. They are also more effective. But with that efficacy comes problems. 

Salt-based water softeners use a lot of saltwater to flush out the main tank, which is necessary to recharge the ions that remove minerals from the water. This saltwater puts a strain on city water treatment plants and can end up in lakes, streams, or crops. While a little bit of this water isn’t harmful, a lot can cause environmental damage.

Lastly, salt-based softeners must be refilled with salt on occasion, so salt will need to be purchased every so often. While large salt bags aren’t expensive, they do add another item to the to-do list.

Salt-Free Softeners: The Good and The Bad

Reverse Osmosis Water Softener

There are a couple of different types of salt-free systems on the market. All of them are more expensive than salt-based softeners. One version uses reverse osmosis, which is more costly but effective. However, the membrane used to filter out minerals and impurities in a reverse osmosis system doesn’t last long in high-volumes of water.

Other salt-free systems use potassium chloride or citric acid instead of salt. Potassium chloride is more expensive than salt, and they still have to buy large bags of it regularly. Water softeners that use citric acid and other environmentally-friendly binding agents are called chelation softeners. 

However, some of these systems don’t actually remove the minerals from the water. Instead, they use chelation to make sure the minerals don’t build up and cause problems for the plumbing, appliances, or dishes. However, the buildup can still occur where water sits, such as in a water heater.

The type of softener a homeowner get will depend on what they want it to accomplish and whether salt-based systems are allowed in their community. For questions regarding softeners, contact local plumbing experts to get professional guidance. 

About Home Pro Plumbing

Home Pro Plumbing has been serving Minneapolis, MN, with stellar customer service for years. They are a community-oriented company with tried-and-true techs and a guarantee behind all their work. They offer emergency service, transparent pricing, and excellent workmanship.