How To Choose a Water Softener: The Definitive Guide 2023

Are you suffering from dry skin, skin rashes, and various other skin diseases even though follow all cleanliness and health regimen? I am afraid you use hard water for showers and other purposes.

It’s not just you who have the hard water in their homes, around 85-percent of the total population in the United States gets hard water. But what they do, unlike you is, use a water softener.

Water-softener removes minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and many other substances from hard water, to make them not only good for drinking but for other regular households’ purposes.

Soft water reacts with soaps, and other detergents better to help you effectively use the water bathing, cleaning, and for regular household business.

Soft water not only extends the lifespan of the pipes and other appliances but prevents your expensive glassware to develop spots, and helps you get rid of dry skin and rashes.

I see buying a water softener is not an easy task. There is more than one consideration to which users have to pay attention, to make their purchase worthwhile.

In this post, we are going to help you learn that important consideration, and make you pick the right water softener.

How to choose a water softener

What is Hard water?

Water that contains 1GPG (Gallons per Gram) minerals or contaminations is called hard water.

This is the technical definition, on average, water up to 3.5 GPG is soft, and if you receive water at this level of GPG, you can use it without having a water softener.

But if this scale is reached up to 10 or more, you should seriously think of using a water softener.

Pick the right type of Softener

I am sure you already know the job of water softener and you also know that there are different types of water-softeners you need to choose among them.

These are some types of softeners you will see in the market.

  • Salt-Based
  • Salt-free
  • Dual-Tank
  • Electronic or magnetic descalers

Let’s learn about them in detail to make it easier for you to pick one as per your needs.

Salt-Based Water Softener/ion Exchange water softener

Salt-based water softeners are the most common and traditional types of softeners.

They work on the ion exchange principle, where calcium and magnesium are exchanged with salt, removing the most commonly found substances in hard water.

This type of water softeners come with two compartments; a resin tank full of resin beads and a brine tank full of salt.

In most cases, the process is done in a single tank, but in one tank, there will be downtime, when regeneration happens, you would not be able to use a water softener.

When the water passes through the resin tank, opposition in electrical charges between the water causes the beads to attract calcium and magnesium ions. In that way, all contaminations dissolved in the water are easily removed.

When the resin beads can’t hold more magnesium and calcium particles, the degeneration process happens.

This processor flushes the stored contaminations off. The degeneration process usually happens once or twice a week.

Salt-Free Water Softener

Salt-free Water softeners are water conditioners. They do not remove the calcium or magnesium particles from the water, the way salt-water softeners do.

Rather they alter the minerals and allow them to remain in the water without clinging to the surfaces and precipitating into the scale.

The hard water minerals still remain in the water but they lose their ability to form scale.

In other words, you can enjoy the health benefits of calcium and magnesium without having to deal with the problems associated with the lime or clinging.

In dual tank water softeners two tanks are used instead of one. If you are using a water softener for your home, dual tank softeners are often the right options for obvious reasons.

In the case of the dual tank, there will not be any downtime, no gap in the production of soft water production.

Single tank softeners have downtime, when the regeneration process happens, where the gathered minerals are being flushed, twin tanks switch from one tank to the other, without blocking the supply.

Again, dual tank water softeners are expensive and mostly used for big homes and commercial shops. On average, one dual tank water softener can easily cost around 1500-3000 dollars.

Electric or Magnetic Descaler

Again, electric or magnetic descalers don’t soften the water technically. They do not remove the magnesium or calcium off the water, but chemically alter their composition of them, so that they don’t cling to the surface or form scale.

The Descaler is often attached to the main supply of your water-line. It sends electromagnetic waves that alter the composition of hard water and prevent them from forming scale.

Here, you don’t require any degeneration process, no substances are being removed from the water, but still, the water is technically softened.

These are the most cost-effective units, with the lowest possible maintenance.

You are not required to weekly degenerate them like the way you did with salt-based water softener, it’s a one-time investment and lasts around one or two years once installed.

One Descaler can easily be purchased for around 300-500 dollars, you can check, they are the cheapest among the three types.

The Right Size and Capacity

When buying a water softener, I think after the type, size is the most important aspect.

It is the right size that helps you easily handle the demand of your everyday household water needs and consumptions.

It’s not the physical size of the water softener, it is the capacity or capability to remove the dissolved substances off the water without frequent regeneration.

Water softeners come in various sizes, they are rated by the number of grains per gallons hardness or contaminations they can remove from the water.

The best size for you is the one which lasts at least 3-days between the recharges.

To figure out the right size, multiple the number of people in your home by 75, the average water consumption by one person in 24-hours.

Then multiply this with the number of grains per gallons hardness in your water. In this way, you can easily learn the right size of the water-softener an average house need.

For example, if you are a family of 4 members, (75×4=300), it is the total gallons of water consumption per day.

Now multiply this with the water hardness level, suppose your water hardness level is 10, it is a total of 3000 grains per gallon of hardness which is required to be removed per day from the water.

Water Softener Regeneration

Traditional water softeners come with resin beds. These resin beds capture the minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the water to help you get clean soft water.

The resin beds get coated by the minerals, and you regenerate them using salt.

Regeneration is a long process and takes as much as 90-minutes and requires as much water to wash a load of laundry as well as the salt.

You can set your water softener for regeneration at night when you are not using the softener, or in some modern water softeners, you can program them beforehand.

Keep in mind that, not all softener comes with a reminder to make you learn what to put the salt on or initiate the regeneration process. In some, you have to keep an eye on or check the salt level manually.

Well, if you have a big home or a small business, look for a dual tank water softener, in that case, you will always have a water supply.

In regeneration too, there are two types; Metered and time-based.

  1. Metered regeneration: Modern water softener comes with metered regeneration. In this, an electronic sensor measures the total water consumption of your home and starts the regeneration when your home consumes waterless, and when necessary. Here, you get better efficiency, and less budget spent.
  2. Time-Based: In time-based water regeneration, it starts after the preset date. It starts at present, whether or not there is any water left. For example, if you fill up your swimming pool, or use lots of water for other purposes, the regeneration would not start, it will start on the preset date, or if you manually start it, which takes time, and you will be without water.

Water Softener Certification

Certifications though do not signify the product’s performance; it at least makes you learn that the product you are buying is on par with industry standards.

There is independent as well as government bodies that test and verify products such as NFT international, or WQA Gold seal.

So, if the water softener you are buying either or both of the certificates, you know that the product is at least meets the industry standards.

Your Budget Range

Budget is the most important aspect as if you are on a budget, your options will be more refined, and the additional features or accessories might not be achieved.

Budget is not just about buying a water softener, there are two more levels that cost your money like installation and maintenance.


Purchasing is the first spent, you pay for buying a water softener. The most affordable ones are those that don’t require a regeneration process.

The regeneration process requires salt and many other checks which cost more than others. If you don’t require regeneration firsthand, you would easily buy one for around 300-500 dollars.

Ion exchange or salt-based water softeners are expensive. Here you pay for salt to top up your brine tank, and the regeneration process in itself waste gallons of water which surely cost you a big. A

nd about buying a water softener, salt-based, you spend around 1300-1500 dollars easily.


Maybe if you are an expert or affiliated with the water softener installation business you could do the installation yourself. If not, then you have to spend on the professional installation.

For Descaler water softener installation, it might not require plumbing, but for all other types you require plumbing, and you better know plumbing services and their cost.

Space for Installation

More than paying for professional plumbing services or buying a water softener, important is the space left for installation.

I wanted to add this point in the first few important points along with the right type, but then I decided to elaborate on it in the installation segment.

If you have tiny space for the installation of a water-softener, probably you should go with magnetic or electric descalers.

They don’t require much space likes of resin tank or brine tank, they just have to be attached to the water supply mainline, that’s it.

Ion exchange water softener with two tanks requires the largest space. They consist of two tanks, brine and resin tanks. Plus, you also require space for topping up with the salt.

Keep in mind, for the regeneration process, you will have to do it for yourself, so make a good space, or you will be suffering from reaching the tank almost every week.

So, the best thing, or you can call it expert advice, is to choose the location beforehand and measure it in advance.

Check the available space, and match it with the measurements of the softener you are buying online,


Now comes the third part where your money will be spent. Actually, if you buy a Descaler conditioner, you would not be spending anything in terms of maintenance.

Because here, no maintenance is required, you just connect your main water supply line with the electrical for magnetic descalers which change the composition of your water chemically.

It’s your traditional Ion exchange water softener that requires the most maintenance.

The brine tank requires regular salt tops up, without the addition of the salt, which costs them money, there would not be any regeneration.

And if you want real water softening, this is the genuine and most recommended water softening method.

Other than this, occasionally you might have to change or replace the beads. I don’t think you would be required to replace them for as long as 5-6 years if everything goes smoothly.

Read Also: Water Softener Overflowing

Bypass Valve

I have seen many committing the mistake of not checking or installing the bypass valve for their water softener.

Maybe they don’t like using water without softening, or they don’t know it unless they install it and require it when it’s too late already.

Actually, a bypass valve helps you to bypass the water softening unit. Here there can be two ways, in some cases, you can manually bypass the softening unit, or when the water softener is broken or not working, or the brine unit is full of magnesium and other minerals.

The bypass valve gives you a separate route for the water to help during the maintenance process or regenerating process.

It allows you to use the water, even when you don’t require soft water, or when the water softener is broken and not working fine.

Most traditional Ion exchange salt-based water softener comes with a bypass valve in their kits. You just keep that in mind to ask the plumber to install that during the installation process.

Descalers conditioners do not require a bypass valve. If the Descaler is not working, what you will learn easily with the water, you just remove the piece from your water-line, and there you are with hard-water using, better than no water.


For me, Warranty is the most significant aspect. After all, a water softener is one of the expensive items you have to purchase for your home, and if there is a short or no warranty, there is a red flag.

You know that big brands, the ones that produce qualitative products always back their products with a warranty.

If there is no warranty coverage, even if the product comes at a cheap price range, I think you should not take risk of buying.

Because here, installation is going to cost you around $300, and if the water-softener stops functioning after 3-4 months, besides the price you spend on buying, the installation cost would also go waste.

So, I see big brands cover their products, for as long as 10-years.

Local regulations and Plumbing Codes

Before you go ahead and buy a water softener, check your state’s water local regulations or plumbing codes.

Along with the installation and maintenance, it’s the regeneration drain water that should meet the local government’s guidelines or regulations.

If you have a plumber friend in the locality, you can take his/her help. Or take advice from a local plumber before buying a water softener, he/she can guide you better than others belonging to other states or countries.

Additional Features or Controls

Before you take any of the water softeners at your disposal, check their various features and get acquainted with them. Such as its regeneration controls or cycles.

Not all water softener comes with the same regeneration controls, the time one cycle takes in one regeneration, or the amount of salt one recharging takes.


Choosing the right softener, the one that falls right on your requirements, budget range, and needs are very tough.

You have to look at more than features, such as the right type, size, cost, and installation.

Don’t forget to check your water hardness level, and if you have a local plumber in your acquaintance, take his suggestion as well.

Because, every area’s water hardness is different, and from his/her suggestion, maybe you learn about one feature or aspect which saves your money.

FAQs About Water Softeners

Should I buy or rent a water softener?

For some users, renting out a water softener is the most attractive and beneficial option.

Because in renting out, you don’t require upfront costs. Especially if you are going to live at a place where you have to stay for one or two years.

For a complete installation one, it might require around 2000-2500 dollars. But renting out can easily be done at 20-50 dollars per month.

How can I calculate My water usage needs?

Start with the family members you are, and multiply it by 75. On average, one person consumes around 75 gallons of water in 24-hours.

For instance, if you are two persons at home, it would be 150 gallons per day consumption.

Now, learn the Per gallon grains of hardness in your water. It can’t be measured without a testing kit, every other home owns a testing kit, you can buy it for yourself or can borrow it from someone.

For instance, if water hardness is 9 gallons per grain, multiply the water consumption to 9, it would be 150×9=1050 gallons per grains of water hardness your water softener needs to clean in 24-hours.

How many salts does a Softener use?

This relies on more than one factor. Mainly it depends on how many resins beads your water softener has, and its regeneration.

For example, if your water softener has 3.4 sizes of resin beads, then it can on average consume around 12-pounds of sale per cycle.

Again, it is hard to exactly tell the salt requirement of a water softener, on average it could be around 80-120 pounds of salt per month.

Emily Davis

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