Salt Free Systems… do they work?

As the water treatment industry has grown and technology has advanced, there are more options than ever for home water treatment. And while this is generally a good thing, it does make it much more confusing for the average Joe to pick out the right system for their needs. Right now, a common question we are asked is whether salt-free systems or traditional softeners are the best for treating hardness in the water. Salt-free systems are popular for their claims of helping with hardness and scale buildup without the added hassle of buying and loading salt into the system every few weeks. On the other hand, the traditional softeners are tried and true and have very minimal complaints from users. Taking a deeper look at these options, we can see right off the bat that things aren’t as black and white as you might think.
First off, salt-free systems are not softeners. They are actually conditioners. They do not remove the hardness from the water, though. They change the makeup of the molecules to become non-adhesive, basically just making the scale buildup easier to clean. This means you will still see the symptoms of hard water, like buildup and spots, they just won’t be as hard to scrub off. Another con of salt-free conditioners is that the hardness levels of the water do not actually change, making it difficult to tell if the system is even working. Lastly, conditioners only work in very particular situations. They require there to be no iron in the water and the hardness must be below 15 gpg. This means for many homes in America, these systems simply won’t work.
Traditional softeners are, of course, softeners. They use ion exchange to actually remove hardness minerals from the water and replace them with sodium ions from the salt. This means you will not get any hardness or scale buildup in the home with soft water. Because it uses ion exchange, softeners are capable of removing a lot of hardness and even a good amount of ferrous iron, making them a great choice for people on well water. As mentioned above, softeners are tried and true, and in this case, the saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is fitting. The process of ion exchange has remained unchanged for decades and softeners continue to be the best option for most homes and water qualities in the case of hardness removal. If you would like more info about the salt-free conditioner vs softener debate, call us! We’d love to answer any questions you may have and will always lead you to the best option available for your specific needs!

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