Best Salt-Free Water Softener – Reviews, Awards, And Discounts 2021
Salt-based water softeners present the most effective approach to combatting hard water, but they’re not always eco-friendly. The main disadvantage of salt-based water softeners is the chloride waste that’s discharged into well water, municipal supplies, and other sewage systems. Whether you’re looking for an eco-friendly approach to hard water or are residing in one of the states affected by the California ban, a salt-free softener is your best choice.
The thing about salt-free softeners is that they use alternative means to substitute the traditional ion-exchange technology, which to this date, is the most effective method. These saltless systems aren’t as productive and are often falsely displayed as water softening machines when they function as a water conditioner. This is purely an advertisement tactic, as most salt-free water systems are advanced conditioners. But to save you some time and protect you from frauds, we have put together a guide comprising of the most effective (and diverse) salt-free water softeners* on the market.
* The prices of these salt-free softeners were correct at the time of writing, and they represent the regular amount that’s subject to change with different vendors, sales, and coupons.
1. Pelican NaturSoft Series ($1,495*)
* If you join the Shield Autoship Club, you will get a 15% discount on all replacement water filters and free shipping on all orders over $49.
The best salt-free water softener is within the Pelican NaturSoft series, and it remains one of the most effective saltless water softeners to date. This claim is also backed by the DVGW who has certified the Naturisoft as the only water softener alternative with a 99.6% effectiveness in preventing hard water scaling. Other third-party organizations that endorse this salt-free water softener are the IAPMO and the WQA, which recognize these systems’ structural integrity, performance reliability, and material efficiency. The best salt-free water system not only treats hard water to absolute perfection, but it also leaves in the beneficial minerals that would otherwise be eradicated with salt-based methods. The NaturSoft water softening device is officially listed as a conditioner, but we are wholeheartedly on board with its fantastic components and execution.
Our detailed Pelican review explains that the NaturiSoft uses a saltless water technology called template-induced crystallization (TIC) to treat hard water. This technology treats hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium by converting them to their crystal forms. After they’re crystallized, these minerals can no longer affect plumbing, home appliances, cookware, or water heaters, since their new shape is impenetrable to other surfaces. The TIC approach to salt-free systems is relatively new, so by launching this system into the market, Pelican has scored some extra points on innovation as well. The Natursoft is fully-operational without any electricity or water waste and extremely efficient in cutting back maintenance fees and cleaning costs. So, by using this saltless water softener, you would also be contributing to thickening your wallet, narrowing down the bills, and protecting the environment. The NaturSoft employs a continuous flow rate of 12 GPM, which is entirely satisfactory on salt-free systems.
Traditional water softeners evaluate their systems’ capacities by grains per gallon, which essentially means the amount of water softened before a regeneration cycle. Pelican approaches this differently, as they measure their salt-free systems with the number of bathrooms in each household. So, if you need a salt-free water softener for 1-3 faucets, then you ought to get the NS3 model priced at $1,495. On the other hand, families with 4-6 bathrooms are advised to get the NS6 model valued at $1,803. The maintenance-free water softener is suitable for both city and well water, and it has proven to work quite well as a whole-house water softener. On Pelican, this system has a 4.7 score, whereas, on Consumer Affairs, it has gathered a 4.6 satisfaction rating. The salt-free water softener comes with a DIY installation kit, valves & fittings, and a limited lifetime warranty.
2. Aquios AQFS220 Softener & Filter ($599*)
Our second best saltless water softener combines a conditioner and water filtration system into one and at an excellent price too. The Aquios salt-free system is ideal for removing existing limescale and other hard-water related problems. As such, it is very easy to install and easier to operate. The manufacturers over at Aquios explain that the water treated with these systems will change in texture, but nowhere close to the usual “slippery” feel that water conditioners provide. The Aquios salt-free system poses a fantastic water treatment alternative that takes care of several hard water issues, all under the $1k price tag.
The brass-threaded NPT port has 3/4″ fittings that are standard to the salt-based systems, so if you’re upgrading to a saltless water softener, you won’t experience any problems with the setup. The salt-free water treatment unit can also sustain a continuous flow rate of 12 GPM and a minimal pressure drop of 5 PSI while supplying a maximum operating range of 85 PSI.
Similar to Pelican systems, these water conditioners don’t remove (or reduce) calcium and magnesium from your water supply. Alternatively, they use a premium-grade technology that utilizes a salt-free, scale reduction media that blocks hard water minerals from accumulating in piping, faucets, water heaters, and other machines. This media contains a solution called glassy polyphosphate, which serves as a superior replacement for salt-based resin. These components inhibit the scaling deposits of hard water, so they’re fantastic in removing pre-existing scale buildup on top of preventing it from forming in the first place. The salt-free softener also includes a 5-micron carbon block water filter that will draw additional minerals and sediment from your water supply. Thanks to its compact-sized build and intelligent design, the salt-free system will easily fit into any space next to your water source.
Specifically, the Aquios water conditioner will rid you of iron staining and discoloration, remove existing calcium residue, eliminate chlorine odor & taste, and reduce manganese, calcium, and magnesium scaling. The water filtration system requires little to no maintenance, but you will have to replace its water filter cartridge now and then. According to its user manual, this water filter should last an average family between three to six months, as long as the water hardness is under 30 GPG. The cartridge lifespan also depends on the water quality and consumption patterns, so the precise duration isn’t certain. On Water Softener Critic, the brand has a 4.2 rating, whereas the product itself is awarded a 4.7 score, 74% of which are 5-star reviews. The salt-free water system is destined for homes up to 2500 square feet to be easily manageable in most living situations.
3. Aquasana Whole-House Descaler ($583)
* With the code P116A, you will get a discount of up to 15% on all Aquasana water systems.
The Aquasana EQ-1000-AST is another water conditioner that can be coupled up with a filtration system for a whole-house water treatment solution. As a standalone water softener, the Aquasana unit is incredibly efficient in removing protecting internal pipes and plumbing from the remains of hard water. By eradicating harsh components, the Aquasana system will remove existing hard water scaling and ensure that such a reaction isn’t bound to happen under its care.
Unlike salt-based water softeners, salt-free models have a more comprehensive range of applications and pose a healthier solution for drinking water, watering the plants, washing the dishes, or even laundry. Throughout its water softening cycles, these systems will maintain a continuous water flow rate of 7 GPM. All components within this whole-house salt-free softener are NSF-certified, which means that besides being healthier, they are safer, more dependable, and more reliable than other models online.
To work its magic, Aquasana uses a water softening technology that utilizes scale control media. As we explained in our best water softeners review, the innovative SCM technology works similarly to Pelican‘s TIC, as it uses a house’s water flow to alter the structure of hard water minerals. Instead of exchanging them as salt-based softeners would, this maintenance-free system will reconstruct the mineral components into their crystal structure. The crystallized structure then prevents these minerals from binding, so they’re unable to latch onto internal pipes, water heaters, or external plumbing in your home. After they’re dissolved, the minerals turn into inactive particles passed through your water supply and down the drain. These whole-house water conditioners can take up a water hardness of up to 25 GPG, equal to most salt-based water softeners’ capacity.
SCM technology is among the best salt-free alternatives since it has a high effectiveness rate. It doesn’t demineralize your water. It doesn’t harm your pipes with harsh salt, and best of all, it doesn’t put sodium chloride waste onto the environment. The easy to install water conditioner is basically maintenance-free since it requires no electricity to run, salt to refill, drainage for water waste or settings to adjust. From this standpoint, the water softening procedure will only require suitable conditions that include a water pressure range lower than 100 PSI and a temperature range of 40°–90°F. The whole-house salt-free softener is ideal for both city and well water. This unit can easily be fitted with an Aquasana water filter, UV filtration system, or other water treatment systems. These salt-free water softeners are supported with a six-year warranty (and lifespan). You can also return them if you’re dissatisfied with their water softening abilities, as long as it’s within the first three months.
4. NuvoH20 Manor ($949*)
* For an unspecified period, you can get the Manor system with a $150 discount as long as you buy directly from NuvoH20.
The fourth salt-free water softener on this list brings us a brand new water softening technology that further contributes to an eco-friendly approach to the soft water production. When salt-based water softeners use resin, NuvoH20 uses the chelating agents of citric acid to break down hard-water minerals. We’ll tell you more about that in a bit, but for now, we must mention NuvoH20‘s claims that this method is just as effective as the old ion-exchange technology. In more ways than one, this claim is valid and backed by the Battelle Institute’s scientific community.
In an independent study conducted by them, NuvoH20 systems showed a 98% effectiveness in preventing hard water scaling in home appliances and plumbing. The study also highlighted these salt-free water softeners’ efficiency by reporting that their use resulted in high reduction costs of electricity, water, and detergent.
But what exactly is citric acid, and how does it remove hard water minerals? Well, water that’s high in minerals like calcium and magnesium causes these components to bind with one another and incite a reaction known as galvanic corrosion. To prevent this reaction, NuvoH20 utilizes citric acid, which is essentially made of small powder-like particles that replace salt resin components. This powder has chelation abilities, meaning that it can bind itself to the “harmful” minerals of hard water and keep them from dissolving in your city or well water supply. The reaction formed by the interference of citric acid alters the pH levels of water by modifying them to an ideal range. The citric-acid method may be the closest alternative to salt-based water softeners; only it doesn’t leave-in any salt-like chemicals that are harmful to the environment. The Manor range of salt-free softeners is ideal for areas where water hardness doesn’t exceed 25 GPG, and the water pressure range is within 100 PSI.
The NuvoH20 salt-free water softeners are all made of FDA & NSF approved materials, so you won’t have to worry about their structural integrity or potential health hazards. As such, the salt-free water softener is primarily aimed at homes no larger than 1500 square feet, so most medium-sized families will be able to benefit from its water softening abilities. NuvoH20 guarantees that this water treatment system won’t interfere with your current water flow rate, as its continuous range can go from 15-18 GPM. The same goes for water pressure as well, seeing how this unit’s ideal range goes from 40 to 60 PSI for optimal water treatment. Like the Aquasana units, these salt-free softeners work by utilizing a replaceable 50,000-gallon cartridge that lasts for about six months. The easy to install system is warrantied for five years, but you can return it at any time within the first 90 days.
5. Ecowater ESS1152 Series (N/A)
We couldn’t have talked about eco-friendly water softeners without mentioning the brand whose name precedes its work: Ecowater. The first underdog of the salt-free water treatment world isn’t very keen on its digital marketing but quite renowned for its water softening products. The ESS1152 soft water system is a salt-free water softener that uses a twin-tank design to treat hard water. This unit is relatively larger than traditional salt-free water softeners shown above, so it’s more suitable for homes where water consumption ranges from medium to heavy-duty. This system’s precise price tag depends on its grain capacity, water filtration media, and other specifics that can only be evaluated by an official Ecowater technician. Don’t worry; we have already thoroughly researched the brand, so you can get all the information you need about it here on Water Whizz’s review.
The great thing about the Ecowater system range is that the manufacturers have provided several media types for dealing with hard water. After your initial water test, the Ecowater technician will identify the minerals present in your water supply and suggest the most effective media for softening the hard water. Presently, the Ecowater system provides media for iron reduction, lead removal, calcium & magnesium decrease, and treatment of other minerals that are not commonly found in the city or well water supplies. If we get down to the specifics, we will see that this Ecowater system is entirely controlled by its electronic meter that prompts an on-demand operation for your home. That means you will spend little to no effort with maintenance since the system will automatically adjust its water usage and softening settings according to your home’s usage patterns.
One of the most talked-about features of this salt-free softener is the full menu-driven settings range it employs. Thanks to this feature, you will be able to customize the unit’s regeneration cycles, softening frequencies, water patterns, time settings, and much more. The salt-free water softener is coated with a multi-wrap fiberglass resin tank, so you won’t have to worry about any drainage issues or potential leaks. The premium soft-water system also has self-cleaning distributors that ensure a fantastic flow rate and minimal pressure drop. You can even notice the intelligent design on its high-grade brine valve that features an automatic shut-off function to prevent overfilling or other water-related hazards. Ecowater has a 4.1 score on Yelp and is A-rated on Angie’s List, so we can safely say that the brand is one of the most dependable manufacturers currently on the market.
6. APEC Water Futura 15 ($1329*)
* With APEC’s Spring Sale, you can get a water treatment system with an up to 45% discount.
The APEC Futura system lives up to its name by using a somewhat futuristic approach for producing soft water. This salt-free water softener effortlessly treats hard water by deeming regeneration cycles, backwashing, and electricity unnecessary. First, this water softening system is designed for homes with 3-6 bathrooms, so it would ideally suit larger households that want soft water on demand but are left with hard water minerals instead. According to the manufacturers, this salt-free system is maintenance-free, meaning that it needs minimal time and effort to get it to work.
The salt-free softener can sustain a water hardness of up to 25 grains per gallon, which is just enough to cover most of the United States’ groundwater. If that isn’t impressive enough, the manufacturers over at APEC have also integrated a water filtration system that takes water softening up a notch.
Like Aquasana and Ecowater, APEC has utilized a multi-purpose media system that effortlessly binds to the hard water minerals and makes them inactive. The inactivity caused has immediate effects on plumbing, internal pipes, and cookware since it removes pre-existing scaling and prevents it from happening again. The all-natural scale prevention system takes the weight off of your home appliances and not only prolongs their lifespan but ensures that they work more efficiently as well. Besides maintenance, the Futura water softener also awards you a reduced amount of water treatment systems required since it conveniently deals with many minerals at a time. Specifically, the Futura system will reduce calcium and magnesium to an unspecified range, chlorine up to 2 ppm, and copper up to 1.3 ppm. If you also have to deal with iron or sulfur, you have to purchase an additional iron pre-filter.
The main reason that makes this system one of the best salt-free water softener options lies within its whole-house abilities. By purchasing the Futura 15, you will be investing in a heavy-duty water softener that effortlessly distributes soft water throughout the faucets in your home, regardless of the number of stories. APEC continually emphasizes that all elements, parts, and components used on their softener systems are made of premium-grade materials manufactured in the US. The systems themselves are 100% environmentally friendly as they require little to no water to function, don’t have a drainage system for dissolving water, and require no electricity to run. The low maintenance in this water softener is further supported by Futura’s ceramic media that ensures its catalytic granules aren’t wasted on the water softening process. This prompts a longer lifespan for the media and a shorter effort that you, as a user, will have to invest in keeping the system in its best shape.
7. Pelican EZ-Connect Softener & Filter ($815*)
* For an unspecified period, you can find the product at just $738 in Home Depot.
Another Pelican water softener that made it to the cut is the EZ-Connect system that combines a water softener and filter into one. This creatively-designed unit is one of the most effortless water softeners out there since it is specifically engineered for maintenance-free installation and use. The compact-sized system shouldn’t worry you since it can emit a flow rate of up to 10 GPM. The multi-purpose unit incorporates the Pelican Carbon Series water filter and the previously-mentioned Natursoft water softener.
We felt it was crucial to include this combination system as well, seeing how many people in the US suffer from several excessive minerals that can’t be kept under control with a simple descaler. The maintenance-free system works along the same lines as all other Pelican units, meaning that it requires no electricity, water drainage, or resin to run.
The molded single-channel design within this softening system is excellent because it requires little to no time to finish its assembly and set up the system. The EZ-Connect water softener comprises three different pre-filters that conveniently battle with various minerals in the hard water. First, the water softener can reduce chlorine components up to 99%, which is fantastic for people supplied with city water sources. The one-stage “regeneration” cycle in this machine is prompted by using a carbon block & sand media that effortlessly destroys the hard water minerals while also protecting the environment. The Pelican device also includes a chloramine filter that clears chlorine minerals’ remains that are added into the water supply for more thorough disinfection. Thanks to its triple-filter softening approach, the EZ-Connect system will provide cleaner and softer water that will significantly improve the quality of your cooking, showers, cleaning, and much more.
One of the things that customers loved the most about the EZ-Connect system is the clear sediment-filter housing that comes in quite handy when evaluating the number of contaminants cleared by the water softener. The whole-house water system is primarily aimed for indoor use, but you can easily convert it for the outdoors by purchasing an extra coating with anti-freeze components. The EZ-Connect is described as being fully-functional for families of up to four people, so it will be a right fit if your water usage patterns range from light to medium duty. As we mentioned earlier,
Pelican is among the most trusted brands when it comes to salt-free alternatives since they’re pretty much the only company that’s officially recognized for 96% effectiveness in treating hard water without salt. For an added peace of mind, Pelican sells this product with a limited lifetime warranty, and Home Depot adds to the bunch by giving you the chance to return the item within 180 days too.
8. iSpring ED2000 Whole-House Conditioner ($145*)
* If you’re a member of Amazon’s Prime subscription, you can get this softener with a 5% discount.
Another whole-house salt-less water softener that has been the talk of the town for quite some time is the iSpring ED2000 model. This system is entirely different from the water softeners discussed above since it softens the water using electromagnetic waves. The iSpring softener is another unit that stresses the lack of maintenance affiliated with its installation, use, and adjustment.
According to the manufacturers, this water conditioning system hosts one of the most efficient processes since it reduces energy consumption with a one-year payback period. Moreover, you’ll be pleased to know that the salt-free water unit is neatly designed for extreme hard-water areas that can suffer from hardness levels of 10-19 GPG. As such, you can easily install the device both in city water or well water systems, seeing how it applies to most mineral reduction procedures that regular water softeners employ.
You’re probably unsure how electromagnetic waves can soften hard water minerals, and you’re right for it. iSpring’s mechanism is quite innovative since it uses a technology that’s not commonly found in salt-free softeners. How it works is that the softener utilizes a patented computer chip that emits an electromagnetic wave through your water supply’s system. This wave matches the resonant wave frequencies that are found in existing water clusters. These water molecule clusters are altered by the chip’s waves and are broken down into active twin-molecules with a larger surface area than their initial form. This structure improves the molecules’ bonding capacities and helps the water particles effortlessly attach to the hard water minerals. By doing that, the softener significantly reduces these minerals’ abilities to cling to pipes, plumbing or cause damage to cookware and other home appliances. This not only prevents future scaling but also allows the existing scale to break down.
There is some discussion regarding the effectiveness of these softener systems. Still, we can safely say that they’re a fantastic approach for people looking for a neat solution to their hard water problem. iSpring is incredibly transparent in this matter, as the manufacturers explain that many factors could minimize this unit’s effectiveness. To begin with, the brand explains that this system is most functional in about 50 feet, after which it may need an extra conditioner to supply larger homes. The ED2000 is also sensitive to high iron content, as it will be significantly less performative in water supplies where iron is present over 0.3 ppm. Luckily, iSpring offers a solution to this problem that can be solved with an extra whole-house water filter system.
Nevertheless, this system is rated with a 4.1 score on Amazon and is awarded an “Amazon’s Choice” seal for the water descaler category. The water descaling unit is also warrantied for one year by iSpring.
9. Springwell FutureSoft ($1384*)
* If you use the code clean7, you will get the FutureSoft with a 7% discount.
The Springwell FutureSoft is another sophisticated softener that’s most fitting for well water supplies but can also be adjusted for municipal water sources. The high-rated unit is renowned for its softening abilities that don’t use any harmful chemicals while ensuring a nice and consistent flow rate throughout the house. According to Springwell, this system’s components exceed most salt-free softeners’ abilities, whether it’s about design, proprietary media, or overall performance. As a result, the FutureSoft will grant you cleaner dishes and cutlery, non-scaled pipes and plumbing, and more efficient appliance performance.
On top of it all, these salt-free systems are among the few units available online that provide a minimal (almost inexistent) pressure drop. This is most favorable since most water softeners lower the water pressure in homes to an unbearable amount.
When it comes to the technology used with Springwell saltless softeners, we can say that we’re quite familiar with it. The FutureSoft uses the template induced crystallization procedure that we previously saw in Pelican products. By converting the excessive mineral particles into hard-structured molecules, this softener ensures that no hard water can harm the plumbing by causing scale buildup. Thanks to the neutralizing properties of TIC, you’ll gain an endless stream of soft water available on-demand, without having to worry about unloading the “dirty water.” And because these units don’t trap any minerals, the softener doesn’t need to utilize a cleaning or regeneration process either, giving you a five-star treatment without the maintenance or costs attached to it. Springwell claims to have a 20-year legacy in this field, so you can rest assured that quality will be granted.
Another hallmark that makes this softener stand out from its competitors is the neatly-designed tank it hosts. As Springwell explains, the secret to efficient saltless softening is to manufacture a tank that fluidizes the media bed more effectively, not just one that is tossed there and wished for it to do the trick. According to them, the FutureSoft lies entirely in this scale, as it can correctly reach this goal in any temperature range, pressure level, or flow rate. Speaking of, we must also mention that you can find this system on three different models aimed at various water capacities in the home. The first model can take up 1-3 bathrooms and can sustain a maximum flow rate of 12 GPM, the second is fit for 4-6 bathrooms and can go up to 16 GPM, while the third can suit more than seven bathrooms and ensure a maximum flow rate of 20 GPM. FutureSoft’s effectiveness is also guaranteed by its lifetime warranty, further supported by a six-month return policy.
Other Systems Worth Your Time
Salt-free softeners are great for the environment and can save you a lot of time & effort in maintenance, but they’re not the best at reducing all issues that come with hard water minerals. Lucky for you, there are a lot of units that you can combine your softener with for optimal results. Below, you will find our guides on the best-rated consumables that will kick your saltless system up a notch.
- Clack Water Softener Parts
- Water Softener Shower Heads
- Water Filter Pitchers
- Faucet Water Filters
- Under-Sink Water Filters
- Water Distillers