When water softeners were first invested, they were all salt-based. That’s because the only way we knew how to soften water was with the ion exchange process. Today, however, the water softening techniques have advanced and we can finally use salt-free water softeners.
More than 85% of US households don’t have an access to soft water. That’s why water softening is essential to preserve the piping, appliances, and provide us healthy water in general.
We probably don’t have to go through all the problems hard water can cause. From stained dishes to skin irritation and limescale build-up in appliances (washing machines) and internal piping, the need for a water softener is apparent.
That’s why we have created a list of the best salt-free water softeners and reviewed each one of them. You will find them all in the table below. But first, we’ll look into what saltless water softeners are, on which principles they work, and what 5 key factors to check when buying a new no salt water softener.
We’ll also crystalize why water softeners that don’t need salt to function are miles ahead of salt-based devices.
What Is A Salt-Free Water Softener?
A salt-free water softener is an upgraded version of a water softener that requires no salt to function. This is basically it. No salt softeners are also referred to as ‘water conditioners’.
Both saltless and salt-based both turn the hard water into soft water. That means that it effectively reduced the calcium and magnesium ion concentration from 200+ parts per million to below 60 parts per million (ppm).
Salt-based softeners use ion-exchange technology. This means that the Ca2+and Mg2+ are exchanged with Na+ or K+ ions. This does reduce the hardness of water (and all the benefits that come with that) but salt does a few unnecessarily things, such as:
- You have to use 40 lbs bags of salt to fill the brine tank.
- Water has higher sodium content.
- Salt for a water softener is cheap but buying it for 20 years can cost more than $1,000.
Saltless water softeners are different. We’ll look at how they work and what benefits they bring compared to salt-based water softeners.
How Does A Saltless Water Softener Work (With No Salt)?
Saltless water conditioners are based on TAC technology (not ion-exchange). TAC stands for Template Assisted Crystallization; in most basic terms, the Ca2+and Mg2+ are inactivated in the crystallization process.
TAC technology enables salt-free water softeners to soften water without the use of sodium or potassium-based salt.
The crystallization process takes place on the softener’s resin. The resin consists of resin beads; chemically, these are tiny polymers that facilitate the crystallization process.
Standard salt-free water softeners have 8% resin beads content. The best ones can have up to 10% content; these are the high efficient salt-free water softeners.
In no salt water softener, hard water flows through the resin beads. During this process, the magnesium and calcium mini crystals are formed which inactivate them and turns the water soft.
The best part?
Effectively removing hard water ions almost entirely reduces limescale build-up in internal piping and house appliances, and has soft-water related positive effects on the skin when we shower. However, the beneficial calcium and magnesium are not removed (only inactivated via crystallization).
In turn, this has a number of positive effects compared to salt-based water softeners:
Why Are No Salt Water Softeners Better Than Salt-Based Ones?
The exclusion of salt brings a number of advantages. If you compare salt-free vs. salt-based water softeners, there are 4 distinct benefits of salt-free water conditioners. These are:
- Simpler installation. Installing the brink tank of the salt-based water softener usually requires a professional installer. Without it – in the case of no salt water softeners – you can install the device yourself (and most people DIY it).
- Less maintenance (no maintenance). Salt-based devices need resupply of salt for regeneration cycles. Salt free water conditioners don’t need salt and there is no need for regeneration cycles. That means that you don’t have to carry 40 lbs salt bags around, and, what is even more important, you don’t have to continually pay for salt.
- Eco-friendly (no water waste). The regeneration process costs water. Saltless air softener doesn’t have a regeneration process thus you don’t need to spend additional water to wash the brink tank.
- Cost-effective in the long run. Salt casts, additional water cost, and maintenance is not without the cost. By choosing to install a saltless water softener, you eliminate all these costs. Of course, salt-free softener does have a higher initial cost.
4 Factors Based To Check When Buying A Water Softeners
Of course, there are differences even between the best salt-free water softeners. When you’re buying one, you have to check certain specifications in order to pick the best one for your home.
The 4 main things to check are:
- Size. The size of a salt-based water softener is given in either grain capacity or gallons (for filter + softener combos). A single person uses, on average, from 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. For a household of 4, we need to look for about 350-gallon per day. To soften a single gallon of hard water, we need about 15-grain capacity; that means you need a minimum of 5,000-grain capacity. Most whole house no salt water conditioners have 20,000+ grain capacity.
- Flow rate. It’s important to have a higher flow rate in order for the water softener not to reduce the water pressure. For example, a family of 4 would do well to install softeners that have a flow rate higher than 7 GPM. In the table below, most saltless water softeners have at least a 10 GPM flow rate.
- Reputation (durability). The safe choice is to buy a softener from a company with a good reputation. SpringWell and Aquasana, for example, are two companies that are specialized in producing water filters and softeners. Because they have 20+ years of experience in this market, they already have a track record which is the best guarantee for durability.
- Cost. As far as water softeners are concerned, higher cost almost always means better efficiency and reliability. The best salt-free water softeners can cost up to $2,000 or even $3,000 but that’s the only expenditure for the next 20 years. Almost always it makes sense to buy a reliable salt-free water softener instead of a salt-based water softener due to no salt costs.
Based on these specifications, we have created a list of the top saltless water softeners. You can find the comparison table with the salt-free water softener reviews below:
Which Is The Best No Salt Water Softener? (Comparison)
|Salt-Free Water Softener||Photo:||Key Specs:||Price, Review, Availability|
|#1 SpringWell FutureSoft®
(Overall Best Salt-Less Water Softener)
|Flow Rate: 12 GPM
Type: Salt-Free Only
|#2 Aquasana Rhino Whole House
(Best Whole House Saltless Water Softener + Filter Combo)
|Flow Rate: 7 GPM
Capacity: 1,000,000 gallons
Type: Salt-free softener + Whole house filter (combo)
|#3 Pelican NS3 NaturSoft®
(Most Eco-Friendly Water Conditioner)
|Flow Rate: 10 GPM
Capacity: Up to 22,000-grain capacity
Type: Salt-Free Only
|#4 SoftPro Elite Saltless
(With Bottled Water Quality Filter)
|Flow Rate: 12 GPM
Type: Salt-Free Only
|#5 Nuvo H2O Dphb-a Home
(Smallest Salt-Free Water Softener For 1-2 Person Flats)
|Flow Rate: 15 GPM
Capacity: 20,000 gallons per cartridge
Type: Unique Salt-Free Only
Salt-Free Water Softener Reviews
If you compare the specification of the top rated no salt water conditioner, you can see why the SpringWell and Aquasana devices are the best.
In order to give you more of an insight into each one, you can check the reviews of the salt-free water softeners here:
#1 SpringWell FutureSoft (Overall Best Salt-Less Water Softener)
|Flow Rate:||12 GPM|
SpringWell is a company specializing in home water filtration and softener systems. They enjoy a high reputation and produce the best water filtration devices. Their best whole house salt-free water softener model is the SpringWell FutureSoft.
As the name suggests, this is their newest model with all the modern TAC technology advancement (hence ‘Future’ in the name). With the high 12 GPM flow rate, it’s one of those few no salt water softeners that you can use even if you have low water pressure. With such a high flow rate, the SpringWell FutureSoft doesn’t have a negative influence on water pressure.
Here is the best part:
The FutureSoft softener has a lifetime capacity. You’re not limited by grain number or limited gallon-related capacity. The SpringWell has achieved the lifetime capacity by implementing TAC technology with 10% resin beads content. The higher concentration of these small polymers enables both higher flow rate as well as high capacity. It can easily last for 20 years without regeneration or maintenance.
In short, it’s a simple and powerful salt-free water softener for every home. You can DIY and leave it for the next 20 years; with a guarantee that the water hardness will fall below 60 ppm (soft water).
The only drawback with such a perfect salt-less water conditioner is the price. If you buy it at Home Depot or Lowes, for example, you will pay almost $3,000 for it. However, the best part is that SpringWell does have their own retail store where you can buy their softeners directly for a much-reduced price.
If you buy directly from SpringWell, you’ll likely to get a 40% or even 50% reduction in price.
#2 Aquasana Rhino (Best Whole House Saltless Water Softener + Filter Combo)
|Type:||Salt-free softener + Whole house filter (combo)|
|Flow Rate:||7 GPM|
Aquasana is another specialized company making water filters and water softeners. During their 20+ years of operation, they have realized that there are many people who want to ‘purify their water supply’. That means that, in addition to a water softener, they wanted to install water filtration system as well.
That’s why they created the Aquasana Rhino, the best combo of the water filtration system and water softeners. It goes without saying that they have incorporated a salt-free water softener; the upgraded version of the classic salt-based softener.
In fact, you can see that you can custom-design your whole filtration system. If you buy directly from Aquasana, you’ll get their filtration system for
$1800 $900 which is a 50% reduction just because your buying directly from the factory.
In addition, you can add:
- Salt-free water softener for about $700.
- UV filter (against bacteria, viruses) for $600.
- Installation kit for $100.
With the installation kit, you can easily DIY it, add the saltless water softener, and even a UV filter, and enjoy truly pure water.
The 1,000,000 gallon capacity is enormous. That means you won’t have to worry about maintenance for at least 10 years. The 7 GPM is on the low end for a salt-free water softener, yes; but for a whole filtration system that quite a reasonable water flow. Just be aware that the water pressure might drop a bit because all the water has to go through the filter first, followed by the no-salt water softener.
All in all, Aquasana Rhino is an all-in-one water filtration platform. Adding a salt-free water softener is easy, it’s a reliable platform, and you even have an option to add a UV filter which is more than any other saltless water softener combo can offer.
#3 Pelican NS3 NaturSoft® (Eco-Friendly Saltless Water Softener)
|Flow Rate:||10 GPM|
|Capacity:||Up to 22,000-grain capacity|
Pelican NS3 NaturSoft is a combo of saltless water softener, conditioner and anti-scale device all in one simple device. As you can see, the NaturSoft consists of only one tank that takes care of effectively removing hard water ions and turns the water soft.
In fact, it can achieve a total of 99.6% effectiveness. That means that it will prevent and reduce limescale built-up by almost 100%. Other saltless water softeners that attempt to do this are usually big (and ugly) devices that require electricity and can waste quite a bit of water.
The heart of the Pelican NS3 NaturSoft is the eco-friendly design. This is a high-efficiency water softener that requires no salt to reduce the water hardness. On top of that, it doesn’t need any electricity, does not waste water, removes the water’s slimy feel, and keeps the beneficial mineral in your water.
From the standpoint of how much impact a saltless water softener has on the environment, the Pelican NS3 NaturSoft is the holy grail. The N3 is the standard-sized one that requires the only 22,000-grain capacity to soften water in a 1-3 bathroom household.
As we know, having little to no impact on the environment is usually associated with higher costs. The Pelican NS3 NaturSoft costs $3,400 if you buy it at standard retailers like Lowes or Home Depot. However, Pelican offers their own factory pricing that reduces that price by about 50%.
If you need a saltless water conditioner to soften your water, protect yourself and your family, as well as prevent limescale build-up in your piping, the Pelican NS3 NaturSoft is a simple device that can care of all that.
#4 SoftPro Elite (With Bottled Water Quality Filter)
|Flow Rate:||12 GPM|
With most salt-less water softeners, we get soft water that doesn’t cause damage to our appliances, piping, and our skin. SoftPro Elite saltless water softener offers all this. But the key features that consumers love is the ability to upgrade the softener with a bottled water quality filter.
If you are buying bottled water on a regular basis, you know how hard it is to carry it from the store, store it in your house. The cost of drinking bottled water can run over $200 per month per person. The $600 upgrade SoftPro Elite filter can deliver bottled water quality throughout the house. In every faucet in your home, you will have properly softened and filter water that is of the same quality as bottled water.
The SoftPro Elite saltless water softeners require no salt to function. It can achieve up to a 12 GPM flow rate; this is important because it doesn’t drop your water pressure.
All SoftPro water softeners, salt-based and salt-free, are assembled in the USA. As it’s the case with every saltless water conditioner, you can install the SoftPro Elite by yourself (you even get an installation kit for free; otherwise such kits cost up to $100).
In addition to the saltless water softener and bottled water filter, you can even add a UV filter as well as a ‘filtered drinking water’ reverse osmosis system for pristine clear water. All these filters are optional but they are priceless if you want to truly have crystal clear water in every faucet in your house.
#5 Nuvo H2O Dphb-a Home (Smallest Salt-Free Water Softener For 1-2 Person Flats)
|Flow Rate:||15 GPM|
|Capacity:||20,000 gallons per cartridge|
Not everybody needs a powerful (and pricy) water softener for 3 or more bathroom houses. In many cases, people who live in the cities are looking for a smaller saltless water softener that could be installed in a flat. The revolutionary technology of Nuvo H2O Dphb-a enabled everybody to install a simple and effective water softener for 1-2 people.
The revolutionary part is the use of the cartridges. Instead of a big tank, the Nuvo H2O employs small 20,000-gallon cartridges. These use the chelation process that – via a drop on the pH level of water – reinvents the TAC technology. The key part is that calcium and magnesium crystallization can take place in a much smaller device.
Of course, if you have a big house, that small cartridge won’t be able to sustain a 15 GPM flow rate. For a small flat, however, the Nuvo H2O is a perfect small salt-less water softener. It’s easy to install, requires virtually no maintenance, and it costs more than $1,000 less than the bigger no salt water softeners.
The only drawback is the limitation of the cartridge. It can handle only about 20,000 gallons before it has to be replaced. For example, if you use 100 gallons/day, you will have to change it in about 200 days. And a new cartridge costs about $80.
All in all, it’s nice to have a small salt-free water softener that can be installed in a small flat. You have to change the cartridge maybe even twice a year, but you can enjoy soft and pure water even in a big city.
Verdict And Open To Suggestions
As you can see, the salt-free water softeners make sense from several standpoints:
- Higher effectiveness (up to 99.6% limescale prevention).
- Financially (you don’t have to buy salt).
- Environmentally (no salt means you don’t add sodium in the environment and don’t needlessly waste water for regeneration cycles).
Removing the salt-based ion-exchange softeners and replacing them with the modern salt-free water softeners has become customary primarily due to lower costs to your wallet and to the environment.
If you have experience with a no salt water conditioner, you can share your opinion in the comments below. We’re also open to question about how these modern water softeners work.