Water softeners are some of the best investments you can make because they come with countless benefits. They will improve your home’s water quality and help you extend the overall life of your water-using machines and plumbing.
Now, there are many types of water softeners available on the market, each with unique benefits and cons. To put it differently, no water softener does it all or is for everyone. We’ve already discussed some tips on how to save water, now it’s time to talk about how to make your water better.
The four main types of softeners are cation exchange water softeners, TAC (Template Assisted crystallization) softeners, electromagnetic water softeners, and dual water tank softeners.
Below, we’ll present you with what each type does, how they work, and what you should consider before choosing one.
What is a Water Softener
A water softener is essentially a device used to remove hard water minerals, like magnesium or calcium, from your water supply (i.e., eliminate hardness in water).
Hard water causes lots of problems, like clogging pipes by leaving a buildup of deposits in them. This not only reduces water flow at your faucets, it could also result in leaks or even pipe bursts due to pressure peaks throughout the plumbing system. Hard water also reduces how effective soap and detergents are.
What can a tap or well water softener do about it? When the water enters the water softener, it goes through a resin tank. Here, granular beads bond to any hardness minerals in the water. The hardness stays behind in the resin tank being replaced with sodium ions. The process is called ion exchange and it improves the overall quality of your water by removing any hard water minerals altogether.
Lastly, water softeners need regular regeneration with salt, with the frequency of regeneration depending on how hard your water is, the size of your home, as well as the size of the softening system.
Advantages of Water Softeners
A water softener has many advantages. Let’s take a look:
- Since softened water doesn’t have any minerals in it, it can have a purer taste than hard water.
- It’s good for your hair and skin because it makes them softer, less dry and itchy.
- Softened water helps you clean your home more easily. Hard water can leave stains and spots on your dishes and glassware, while softened water doesn’t. Your clothes may also be whiter and brighter since you won’t have to deal with stains left behind by hard water. Plus, mineral buildup can leave unsightly rust stains in your bathtub or toilet
- Water softeners prolong the life of appliances, like your washer, water heater, or dishwasher. Mineral buildup deteriorates these machines and makes them lose their efficiency.
- Most importantly, softened water extends the lifespan of your pipes, preventing clogging.
Types of Water Softeners
There are four main types of water softeners. We’ll discuss each one of them in detail below:
Cation Exchange Softener
Cation exchange water softeners are among the most common types of softeners — they’re super popular because they are so effective. The way they work is exactly how explained above: They use ion exchange to remove hard water minerals from the water and exchange these with sodium ions, which are way less likely to cause buildup in appliances and pipes.
Cation exchange water softeners need regular regeneration with salt, which can annoy some people. Also, they can cause your water to have a slightly soapy feeling.
- A cation exchange water softener releases sodium into your water system during regeneration. This can have an impact on the environment and is why salt water softeners are banned in some regions.
- The salt and extra water needed for regeneration aren’t free.
- Drinking soft water or using it for cooking will increase your daily sodium/potassium intake. Both were found to be a factor in hypertension, high blood pressure and other diseases.
- People who have to restrict sodium intake in their diet should consult their doctor before installing a cation exchange water softener at home.
- There won’t be any soft water when during regeneration (usually scheduled at night).
TAC softeners, also known as salt-free water softeners, use a different process than ion exchange; they use Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to completely change the shape of minerals in your water so that they stop causing buildup. Again, TAC water softeners don’t remove minerals from your water but change the structure of these minerals to prevent mineral scaling.
These softeners are considered environmentally friendly and are great for people with low to moderately hard water. More pros:
- No wastewater
- No salt
- No maintenance
- Not the best choice if you are concerned about mineral spotting and staining
As a last note, keep in mind that TAC softeners aren’t very expensive and cannot process a high volume of water. In other words, they’re great for homes or small offices.
The third type of water softener is the electromagnetic softener, also known as a water conditioner. As expected, these softeners use electromagnetic waves to alter the properties of water minerals aiming to prevent scale buildup in your water supply system and fixtures.
Electromagnetic water softeners don’t remove minerals from the water and don’t use salt for regeneration or any chemicals. Like TAC softeners, they are environmentally friendly and perfect for people with low-to-moderate hard water.
The thing is, these softeners aren’t as common as the previous ones, so it may be a bit challenging to find one. That said, this type of device is essentially an electronic device, so it won’t interfere with your plumbing system and requires no installation, which is super cool in our book.
Main con: Electromagnetic water softeners seem to not work for everyone. Reviews are mixed.
Dual Water Tank Softener
Dual water tank softeners are considered some of the best because they come in pairs. These softeners are designed for large households or medium businesses that consume a lot of water on a day-to-day basis and will provide you with soft water any time you need it.
Dual tank water softeners combine 2 resin tanks in one system. If the active tank needs to go into regeneration, the other jumps in and keeps providing softened water.
The only issue with dual water tank softeners is that they’re expensive. Yet, if you choose one, know that you’ll get your money’s worth in the long term.
Which Type of Water Softener is the Best for Your Home?
Each of these types of water softeners comes with its unique pros and cons. So, it’s crucial to consider your individual needs and preferences when you’re in the market for a water softener.
- Cation exchange water softeners are highly effective at removing minerals from hard water, but need regular regeneration with salt.
- On the other hand, TAC and electromagnetic softeners are environmentally friendly and don’t require any chemicals or salt, but may not be as effective at preventing sediment buildup.
- Dual water tanks softeners are expensive but come in pairs for an endless supply of soft water.
In the end, the best type of water softener will depend on the hardness level of your water, budget, and personal needs.