Water Softener Systems - Definition and Buying Tips

When it comes to soften hard water in our home, a water softener is a must-have in the home. Generally, it is a whole house water softener that can make all the water from our faucet or shower head become soft. On the market, there are plenty of different water softener systems available to select. If you are the first time to choose one, you will find it is so difficult to choose the right one for your needs. Therefore, some background knowledge must be known. In this post, we will discuss 2 main and common types of water softeners systems on the market in order to help you make a right choice.

Types of Water Softener Systems

Ion exchange water softeners

As a well-known type, ion exchange water softeners have been available for a relatively long time. They are very common and popular and there are various models from many different brands. Ion exchange systems use salt, hydrogen or potassium to replace the magnesium and calcium in our water. Considering the cost and the efficiency, these 3 salts are the best.

A typical ion exchange softener has 2 tanks – one is a resin tank and the other is a brine tank. The hard water will pass through its resin bed and the calcium ions, magnesium ions as well as other hardness ions will be exchanged for softness ions like sodium ions or potassium ions. When the resin bed is full of hardness minerals and become saturated, a regeneration cycle will be gone through by the softener system. This process will flush brine solution through the resin bed and the hardness ions will be exchanged with sodium ions. A new process will begin after the hardness minerals are washed down the drain.

After the hard water is treated by the softener system, the water becomes soft and enters our household water supply. Once you open your faucet, you can get soft water. Because of the exchanging process, the water we get contains sodium or potassium. This depends on what type of ions is used. Most water softener systems may use sodium, because it is much easier to get and much cheaper than potassium. However, sodium used as the main exchanging ion has its drawbacks. For example, if someone is taking a low sodium diet, the water may be not suitable for him/her to drink. Furthermore, the use of sodium will make a large amount of salt release into the waste water during the softening process and how to deal with the waste water is also a problem.

Well, on the other hand, using potassium ions is much more environmentally friendly. Plus, there is no health concern.

Besides the type of exchanging ions, the number of the tanks is also needed to take into account. If it is a single tank softener, the system may have down time when it starts a regeneration cycle. Most models are designed to start the generation cycle overnight, because, at night, the needed for soft water is mostly less than during the day. During the regeneration cycle, the water you use will not be softened. Therefore, if you want soft water at any time, you probably need to install a system with several tanks. These multi-tank systems can switch from one tank to another, making the used tank have enough time to regenerate.

Salt Free water softeners

Salt free means there is not any salt used to exchange hardness ions to soften water. Salt-based systems use chemical method, while salt-free systems use the physical method Nano-technology is used in these systems. The use of nano-technology can make the structure of the molecules changed to become non-scale building. The hard water will go through its filtering media. When the molecules pass through the tank, the structure will be changed. The new structure will de-scale your plumbing system, because these new structures of molecules can affect even the existing mineral buildup in fixtures and pips.

It is clear that salt free systems don’t use any chemicals, so there is no concern of having an ion exchange water softener. You don’t need to worry about any chemicals that will be added in our water and there is no waste water produced because of no regeneration cycle. What’s more, the maintenance is also very easy and you don’t need to buy salt as exchanging ions. The water feels comfortable and you don’t feel slippery. If you use a salt-based softener, the water will feel slippery. Furthermore, they don’t need any electricity to power.


It is highly recommend having a salt-free water softener system. However, if you are limited to your budget, you also can purchase an ion exchange water softener instead.

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Norberto Pacocha
Norberto Pacocha
Hello, my name is Norberto Pacocha and I am proud to call myself a builder. As soon as I was old enough to wield a hammer, I knew that this was the career for me. I love the satisfaction of seeing a project through from start to finish, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems along the way. Building brings me joy in life so it's no wonder that I also like to explore related topics; product reviews and writing blog posts which provide insight into my projects. Everyone should have something that brings them happiness and fulfillment – mine just happens to involve glue, hammers, saws, nails and words!