Emergency Services

Salt-Free Water Softener vs Salt Water Softener

At Shamrock Plumbing, we’re no strangers to water softener installation. One of the questions we get asked the most about water softeners is “Should I get a salt-free water softener or a salt water softener?” Believe it or not, there are a lot more differences between the two that go beyond just using some salt. We’re here to help answer all your water softener questions, let’s dive in.

How Do They Work?

Salt-Based Water Softeners

A salt-based water softener uses an ion exchange process to eliminate the minerals that cause hard water, including calcium and magnesium. This process is typically done with two different tanks, the resin tank, and the brine tank.

This process works by hard water flowing into your resin tank that is full of beads. The resin beads then soften the water by removing the hard water minerals and it is sent through your pipes and into your home. Because the resin beads can’t catch every little hard mineral that runs through your water, every few days, salt water is sent to your resin tank where the sodium cleans the resin and washes away any excess minerals.

Salt-Free Water Softeners

While salt-free water softeners do remove hard minerals from your water, they don’t technically “soften” your water. Instead, they condition your water by crystallizing hard mineral ions to keep them from forming scale within a plumbing system.

Unlike salt water softeners, a salt-free water conditioner consists of only one tank containing pieces of potassium. When the hard water flows through the potassium, a chemical reaction crystalizes the calcium and magnesium particles, sending conditioned water to your plumbing system.

blue water softeners

Which is Better: Salt-Based Softener or Salt-Free Water Conditioner?

Now that you have a better understanding of how each of these water softeners works, let’s go over the pros and cons of owning them. By understanding the basics of both softeners, you’ll have an easier time deciding which one better fits your home’s needs.

Pros of Owning a Salt-Based Water Softener

Salt-based water softeners are more commonly used because they completely eliminate hard water, eliminating any problems that are caused by hard water. Here are some of the benefits to salt-based water softeners:

  • Prevents clogs in plumbing from excess hard water minerals
  • Cleaner dishes and glassware
  • No more scale buildup on sinks, toilets, and showerheads
  • Healthier skin and hair after showering
  • Clothing that looks brighter and feels cleaner after washing
  • Stops calcium buildup from damaging your water heater and dishwasher
  • Better lather for soap and dishwashing liquid
  • Lower heating bill

These are just some of the benefits you’ll start seeing when switching to soft water. Not only does it bring more cleanliness and health benefits to your home, but water softeners are also very dependable. They typically have a life span of ten years.

someone pouring salt into a water softener

Cons of Owning a Salt-Based Water Softener

When it comes to water softeners, there aren’t many cons. The biggest complaint that people have is the fact that it uses too much salt. Because of this, you will have to purchase bags of salt to replenish the brine tank. These large bags of salt are upwards of 50lbs and can be very heavy.

Some are concerned about the water softener adding sodium to their water. However, while it does add some it doesn’t add enough to harm you. How much it adds will depend on how hard your water is. But typically, there is around 12.5mg of sodium per 8 oz glass of water.

Pros of Owning a Salt-Free Water Conditioner

The biggest selling point to owning a salt-free water conditioner is that it eliminates the hassles of salt. So, you won’t have to lug around heavy bags or worry about increasing your sodium intake. Some of the benefits of owning a salt-free water conditioner include:

    • No salt means no maintenance
    • Can save you money on salt, soap, and more
    • Produces better soap lather
    • Kees scale from forming on the plumbing system

Similar to salt-based water softeners, salt-free water conditioners have a lifespan of around eight years, with regular maintenance. Also, if space is a concern for you, the single tank of the salt-free softener takes up slightly less space than the two-tank salt-based system.

Cons of Owning a Salt-Free Water Conditioner

The biggest con to owning a salt-free system is they don’t soften the water. Therefore, if you’re currently experiencing any of these hard water problems, they might still exist. The problem is when the water exits your plumbing system and hits oxygen, the calcium and magnesium particles detach from the water droplets and can still cause hard water problems to occur.

Saltless conditioners also tend to require more maintenance than their salt-based counterparts. The reason for this is they fail to reduce the hardness of the water sitting inside them. As a result, this water can produce scale buildup and reduce the effectiveness of the system.

Which is Right For You?

Overall, there is no one answer to which is better. You should decide based on your budget, how hard your water is, and which works best for your home. If you have any questions, the team here at Shamrock Plumbing is here to help! Contact us and we’d be happy to go over questions, installation, and more!

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