The quality of your water supply is crucial both for your health and preserving the lifetime of your water pipes, appliances, and fixtures. Hard water can cause limescale buildup, inhibit the efficiency of your water heater, boilers and other appliances, and prevent lathering. It may also cause an unpleasant taste and bad odor in the water. Water conditioning helps to improve the quality of your water.
There are different types of water conditioning systems. This article will review the best product in each category, discuss the various types of water conditioners, and answer related FAQs.
5 Best Water Conditioning Systems
Best Electronic: HQUA 5000E Electronic Water Descaler
The HQUA 5000E Electronic Water Descaler delivers great value at a budget price. It has an elegant, compact design that is both functional and easy to install. It has the capacity to descale enough water for a private household with up to 7 members.
It not only prevents new limescale build up, but it also gets rid of old limescale. It operates by producing complex and frequency modulated electromagnetic wave that is transmitted through two cable bands to the water pipes. Through resonance, the natural frequency causes calcium and magnesium ions to precipitate into a crystal-like, non-adhesive consistency.
It is quite efficient with a power rating of 4W. It costs approximately 5-7 dollars a year in electricity bill to operate the HQUA 5000E Electronic Water Descaler.
The unit is easy to install by yourself in about 5 minutes. It should be installed at the entry of your pipe system on the main water supply line. You can mount it on the wall using the adhesive tapes directly on the pipe and cable ties. It is compatible with all types of plumbing including plastic, galvanized, stainless steel, copper, and iron
The Simplysoft salt-free water softener has a dual tank system. It is a two-in-one descaler and carbon water filter. It easily hooks with the rest of your whole house filter system for comprehensive water treatment.
It utilizes the salt-free Scale Control Media (SCM) technology, which alters the structure of hard water minerals to prevent scale build-up. The inverted tank maximizes the amount of time the water is in contact with the SCM for optimal descaling. The 5-micron pre-filter removes silt, rust, and sediments that could clog up the conditioner.
You may need a professional plumber to install the unit to prevent leaks on the joints. It is most effective when installed as a complete whole house filter inclusive of the KDF filter.
The manufacturer recommends replacing the tank after every six months. It comes with a 6-year warranty on the filter and tank and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
The Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains Water Softener is a high-efficiency salt-based water softener. It not only prevents limescale build-up but also softens the water. It can handle up to 48,000 grains of hardness and is suitable for households with 2-4 bathrooms and can serve up to 5 people.
It is easy to install with intermediate plumbing skills or you could hire a professional plumber or handyman. It comes as a complete package with all the parts for easy installation. It has an upgraded quick connection fitting for a plug-and-play installation.
Unlike traditional water softeners, this one is fitted with a digital control head that enables you to schedule the regeneration process and backwash. It calculates water output and determines the backwash schedule accordingly. You can also easily start a regeneration process with a single press on a button.
The digital display is backlit for easy visibility of information such as current flow rate, time of the day, and the tentative volume or time before the next regeneration cycle.
For easy maintenance, it has a detachable by-pass valve that eliminates the need to shut off the main water source. The high-capacity brine tank has a wide-opening design for easy refilling.
The resin tank comes pre-filled with high-capacity cation resin that can last 10-15 years as long as the softening system is regenerated properly. The resin tank is made of heavy-duty fiberglass and is lined with polyethylene to ensure it is corrosion-resistant.
This descaler is made of a large ultra-powerful neodymium magnet. They are made in the USA using solid steel. Unlike most other magnetic water conditioners, they are not encased with plastic. They offer a 360-degree magnetic field, which changes the molecular structure of metallic ions preventing them from adhering to the surface of the water pipes, water heater, faucets, and other water fixtures.
It is easy to install in a few minutes without the need for any specialized plumbing tools or skills. It is suitable for installing in smaller homes, apartments, and mobile homes. It fits in any type and size of the pipe, including copper, iron, ABS, and PVC. The magnet is 3-1/2” inches long. It is available in 7 other sizes.
It works best on water with low hardness levels. For higher hardness levels, you can use it alongside a traditional water softener.
This scale control and metal control chelant is a proprietary non-phosphorous aqueous formulation. It is best suited for use in spas and pools.
It contains a calcium and metal stain reducer. It is effective at controlling the saltwater generator electrode scale without causing orthophosphates, which may inhibit chlorine sanitation and promote algae growth.
It is a patented non-toxic, non-hazardous formula. The maintenance dosage is 1-quart per 10,000 gallons for new pools, and 6-ounces per 10,000 gallons every other week.
What is a Water Conditioning System?
Water conditioner systems are water treatment systems designed to improve the quality of hard water. It does so by either changing the chemical composition of the water or the molecular structure of the hard water minerals.
Types of Water Conditioning systems
Water conditioning systems can be categorized broadly into:
A magnetic descaler is a magnet that is fitted on the main supply line. It creates a magnetic field on the water changing the shape of hard water ions. Although this method is quite affordable as you do not require electricity or incur other maintenance costs, it is not as effective as the other conditioning systems discussed below.
These are popularly referred to as electronic descalers or conditioners. They are fitted with a magnet or capacitor, which is powered by electricity to produce an electromagnetic signal.
Typically, their design includes wires or cables that transmit the electromagnetic wave to the water, altering the molecular structure of the hard water ions to prevent them from adhering. It also creates molecular agitation of the hard mineral enhancing their flow in the water.
They are easy to install and you do not require to hire a professional plumber or handyman. They have minimal operating costs as the main cost incurred is electricity. Most have a low power consumption making them energy efficient.
Catalytic water conditioners are also known as salt-free conditioners or salt-free water softeners. These conditioning systems use a technology referred to as Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to prevent limescale buildup. They have a tank design with TAC media.
The media traps calcium and magnesium ions. It also has nucleation sites where the trapped ions form into crystals that are then released into the water. These crystals precipitate in the water to prevent adhesion. Unlike salt-based water softeners, they do not alter the hardness level of the water.
Catalytic conditioners do not need to be connected to a power source to operate. They have an up-flow design that allows ample time for the ions to precipitate without altering the water pressure or flow rate. The only maintenance required is changing the TAC after 3-6 years. Since the media is resin beads, it does not need to be replaced as frequently as resin beads do.
Chelating Water Conditioners
Chelating agents are chemicals that react with the metal elements in water to form a water-soluble complex. The chelants have a ring center where the metal ions bond preventing them from adhering to surrounding surfaces.
The most common chelants are citric acid and EDTA. Non-phosphorous chelants are the best as they do not cause orthophosphates. Chelants are best used on stagnant water such as spas, pools, and aquariums.
While it is effective, when used in high amounts, it can cause water poisoning. It also strips the water of calcium and magnesium minerals. It is not suitable for treating cooking water.
Salt-based Water Softeners
Salt-based water softeners are a form of conditioning system as they alter remove hardness causing minerals to prevent limescale buildup. They are also known as salt-based water conditioners.
They employ the process called ion exchange whereby hard water is passed through a resin tank. The resin beads in the tank contain sodium ions. During the ion exchange process, hardness minerals in the water are replaced with sodium ions from the resin beads.
Water softeners are expensive and high-maintenance water treatment systems. They are expensive to buy and need electricity to run. They also waste a lot of water during the regeneration cycle to get rid of the hardness minerals in the resin beads.
Soft water has high levels of sodium ions, which may make it unconducive to drinking water. The softening process also strips the water of calcium and magnesium minerals, which have nutritional value. Note that water softeners are banned in states such as Michigan, Texas, California, and Massachusetts.
With that said, water softening systems are highly effective at preventing scale build-up. Some soft water benefits include that it has a slick feel and causes soap to lather easily.
The most common water conditioning systems include magnetic descalers, electronic descalers, salt-free water conditioners, chelants, and traditional water softeners. The right one depends on a wide range of factors. For example, your budget, water hardness levels, the intended use of the water, and many more. Whichever option you choose should be effective at achieving your desired conditioning results.
Water Conditioning Systems FAQs
Which is Better: Water Conditioner vs Water Softener
There isn’t a better option between the traditional water softeners and water conditioners. The right system for treating water hardness depends on your needs and the factors below:
- Water hardness level
- Maintenance procedures and costs
- Whether you are keen on the environmental impact of a given system
- Whether you are keen on the chemical composition of resultant water
- Your budget
- Installation space
- Effectiveness of the system
- Size of your residence and water demand
- The capacity of the given water treatment system
- Your location
If you are not sure which water treatment system is best for you even after weighing your options against the factors discussed above, it is best to consult with a water treatment specialist.
How Much Does Water Conditioning Cost?
Water conditioning can cost less than $100 up to thousands of dollars. Chelants are the least expensive as they cost between as low as $30. Metallic and electronic descalers are also relatively affordable as cost less than $100 up to $500. Salt-free water conditioners and salt-based water softeners are the most expensive and their price ranges between $300 t0 $2000. When determining your budget, factor in maintenance costs for each type of conditioning system.