The best salt-free water softeners typically stand out because of their flow rate, ease of installation, and low maintenance frequency. But while these features are vital, the most important thing to look out for in a salt-free water softener is the system type.
Best Salt-Free Water Softeners at a Glance
- Overall Best – SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
- Highest Flow Rate – US Water Systems GreenWave Salt-free Water Conditioner
- Longest Lifespan – Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener Alternative
- Highest Working Pressure – SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Water Softener
- Low-Budget – Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner
- Low Maintenance Frequency – Crystal Quest Salt-Free Water Conditioner
- Best Chelation Water Softening System – AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative
- Best Electronic Descaler – Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System
Our Salt-Free Water Conditioner Reviews 2022
1. Springwell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
The SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener is the best for every factor you might consider when buying a salt-free water softening system. This is why we chose it as our overall best salt-free water softener.
Springwell Futuresoft works using TAC, has a wide pressure range, offers multiple flow rate options, is non-electric, and is easy to install. So, choosing it was a no-brainer.
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Since SpringWell uses a TAC system, you can expect top-notch water quality from it. Compared to other salt-free technology, TAC is more effective at attenuating hardness minerals.
If this product were an electromagnetic salt-free softening system, effectiveness would be around 40 to 60%. But with a TAC system, like this one, you can aim for up to 80 to 90% water hardness conditioning.
Unlike salt-free water softeners that work using chelation, TAC systems do not use chemicals. Instead, they use catalytic media for water hardness treatment. So, with this product, you will not have to worry about chemical contamination of your water supply.
With this salt-free system, you get 3 flow rate options – more than all but one of the other products in the review. With this brand, you can get what suits your home without having to compromise.
The first option provides a flow of 9 GPM and is for a house with 1-3 bathrooms. The second offers 12 GPM and is ideal for 4-6 bathrooms. Then the third, with a flow of 17 GPM, is perfect for 7 or more bathrooms.
Ease of Installation
Springwell provides 1-inch elbow fittings and a bypass valve. So, overall, the installation is easy. However, it could become a bit complicated, depending on the size of the water pipes in your existing plumbing system.
If the size in your water system matches the size of this salt-free softener, you can install the product yourself. However, if there is some disparity in pipe size, you may have to get a professional to adjust things accordingly.
The good news is if you do decide to go DIY, the company offers a detailed 52-step guide for installation. As long as you work with that guide, you shouldn’t go wrong.
This salt-free system requires very little maintenance. Besides replacing the 5-micron pre-filter every 6 to 9 months, you wouldn’t have to do much.
SpringWell Futuresoft water softener requires no electricity. So, you do not have to worry about a surge in your energy bills.
It has a working pressure of 20 to 80 PSI. While this is not the widest water pressure range for any product in this review, it is still impressive.
With this working pressure range, this salt-free water softener can slot into various water systems without getting damaged.
This water conditioner has a capacity of 1 million gallons, which equals an estimated lifespan of up to 10 years.
Pros and Cons
2. US Water Systems GreenWave Salt-free Water Conditioner
The Greenwave Salt-Free Water Conditioner is our best for sustaining water pressure. It offers a higher flow rate than any of the other salt-free water softeners in this review. But apart from that, it has high operating pressure and is pretty easy to install.
The Greenwave Water Conditioner uses a TAC system for effective hard water treatment. But besides being effective, you wouldn’t have to worry about chemical contamination, unlike in chelation.
The Greenwave Water Conditioner comes in 4 different flow rates – more than every other product in the review.
The 4 options are 10, 15, 20, and 25 GPM. With this spread, you can readily choose a model that suits the size of your home perfectly; you do not have to approximate too much.
Ease of Installation
The company provides a manual that highlights the dos and don’ts of installation. Besides the do’s and don’ts the manual contains a 13-step installation guide. For most people, the installation instructions should be easy to follow and recreate. However, it could be vague for some.
Still, we believe that this product is generally easy to install.
As advertised by the manufacturer, this saltless water softener is maintenance-free. However, for optimal performance, you may have to maintain some other parts of your plumbing system.
Within 1 to 2 months after buying the Greenwave Water Conditioner, the manufacturer recommends that you drain your water heater tank. Then after that, you may do the draining once every year.
So, while the conditioner itself needs virtually no maintenance, you should keep other plumbing fixtures in good condition.
This product needs no electricity for its functions. So, it will not increase your energy bills. In fact, preventing or reducing scale buildup, may improve heating efficiency. As a result, your water heater’s energy consumption will drop and energy bills will follow suit.
This product has a maximum working pressure of 100 PSI – one of the highest in this review. Only the SoftPro system has a higher maximum operating pressure than this brand.
The upside to having such high maximum operating pressure is that the chances of suffering damage due to excessive water pressure are low. But then, you may install a pressure-reducing valve with the conditioner, in case the incoming pressure overshoots at some point.
The producer of this saltless water softener offers a 4-year coverage for the catalytic media. So, we believe that the Greenwave Water Conditioner would be in top condition for at least 4 to 6 years.
Pros and Cons
3. Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener Alternative
Amongst all the water conditioners in our review, the Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener Alternative is our best for longevity. But besides being long-lasting has a wide working pressure range, and offers multiple flow speed options.
The Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener Alternative is a TAC water softening system. So, you can be sure of two things:
- Unlike traditional water softeners and chelation, you wouldn’t have to worry about chemical contamination.
- Pelican offers a highly effective salt-free water softening.
This product, the NS6-P, has a flow rate of 15 GPM. So, if your house has 4-6 bathrooms, this saltless water softener will slot right in without causing a drop in water flow.
If your house has fewer bathrooms, and you feel the NS6-P will not be necessary, you can opt for the NS3-P instead.
The NS3-P, a variant of the NS6-P, shares most of its features with the NS6-P. However, it has a lower flow speed – 10 GPM. If you have 1-3 bathrooms, the 10 GPM offered by NS3-P should maintain your water flow.
Ease of Installation
For most people, installing the Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener Alternative should be a breeze. The installation guide is pretty thorough, and it includes images to make things even easier. But while the installation kit is decent, we believe it could be more concise and ordered.
While this saltless softener is virtually maintenance-free, you must replace its pre-filter every 6 to 9 months. Besides that, there isn’t much to do in the way of maintenance.
The Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener Alternative does not use electricity. So, you wouldn’t be seeing an increase on your energy bill if you install it.
The working pressure of this product is between 25 and 80 PSI. While this is not the highest on our list, it is pretty great. Within this range, there are lower chances of damage to the softening media due to water pressure. But then, you could install a pressure-reducing valve for some assurance.
As we already noted, this product has the longest lifespan of all saltless water softener systems we reviewed. Its catalytic media can last as long as 12 years – which is pretty impressive.
Pros and Cons
4. SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Water Softener
The SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Water Softener is the best for people whose water supply operates at high pressures. But besides having a high operating pressure, this water conditioner is easy to install, relatively inexpensive, has a decent flow speed, and requires no electricity.
Like most of the other salt-free systems in this article, the SoftPro Water Conditioner uses TAC. So, there will be no chemical contamination, and you will get effective water conditioning.
With SoftPro, you get a flow speed of 12 GPM. While this is not the highest amongst the salt-free softeners we reviewed, it is still more than decent. At the least, it can conduct water into homes with 1 to 5 bathrooms without a marked drop in water pressure.
Ease of Installation
The company offers an installation guide, so you could go DIY if you want. There’s also an installation video, if you prefer that. To make things even better, the company will send you an installation kit if you add the optional upgrade box to your purchase.
If you buy the SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Water Softener, you have to replace the cartridge filter every 3 months. This makes its maintenance frequency higher than that of all other products in our review, except the Aquasana conditioner.
It does not use electricity.
This salt-free water softening system is designed to withstand pressures between 30 and 125 PSI. As we said before, this is the highest of all the salt-free systems in our review.
With its high maximum operating pressure, this product can handle higher input water pressure than the others in this article. So, the likelihood of damage is lower. But then, if the pressure from your water source exceeds the maximum operating pressure of this device, you should get a pressure-lowering valve.
The conditioning media of this product is estimated to last around 6 to 10 years, which is pretty decent compared to the others.
Pros and Cons
5. Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner
The Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner is the best for those who do not want to spend much on getting a salt-free softener. But beyond being budget-friendly, this product has high working pressure, uses TAC, and is easy to install.
The Aquasana Water Conditioner is a TAC salt-free system. So, it comes with little or no risk of chemical contamination, unlike salt-based water softeners.
This product allows water to flow at a rate of 7 GPM. This is far from impressive, considering all we have seen so far. Going by its flow speed, it is ideal for houses with no more than 2-3 bathrooms. So, if you have more than 3 bathrooms in your house, the incoming water flow may suffer if you install this device.
Ease of Installation
The installation guide included in this product is perfect for DIY. The instructions are simple, and they come with images that make things even better.
Overall, this product requires little or no maintenance. But then, you have to replace the pre-filter every 2 months. None of the other salt-free softeners requires a replacement as frequently as this.
Going by the above, you have to buy a new pre-filter every 2 months. But the good news is the manufacturer offers free shipping on whole house water filters and replacement tanks.
Does not use electricity. So, you do not have to worry about a spike in your energy bill.
It has a maximum working pressure of 100 PSI – the second-highest on our list. With that, it can work with various water supply systems without getting damaged. But you may add a water pressure reducing valve if your water system is at a higher pressure.
The softening media of the Aquasana Water Conditioner has a water treatment capacity of 600,000 gallons. With such capacity, you can expect this product to last for up to 6 years.
Pros and Cons
6. Crystal Quest Salt-Free Water Conditioner
The Crystal Quest Salt-Free Conditioner is the best for infrequent maintenance. But apart from infrequent maintenance, it has a long lifespan.
The Crystal Quest Salt-Free Conditioner uses a TAC for water softening. You get effective water conditioning devoid of chemical contamination and water wastage.
While the manufacturer does not state the product’s flow rate, we estimate it to be around 9 to 12 GPM, which is good enough for homes with 1-4 bathrooms.
Ease of Installation
The installation instructions for this product are a bit complicated. But if you are used to installing things yourself, you might be able to work around it. But if you can’t, get a professional to help.
The Crystal Quest Salt-Free Conditioner has the lowest maintenance frequency of all the TAC softeners we reviewed. You only have to replace the cartridge filter every 12 to 18 months.
In our review, the Crystal Quest Salt-Free Conditioner and the Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System are the only two products that use electricity. So, if you are getting either of them, you should expect a rise in your energy bills.
The working pressure – 50 to 60 PSI – of this conditioning system is not impressive; it could be higher.
The Crystal Quest Salt-Free Conditioner has an impressive lifespan. Its conditioning media can last around 5 to 10 years – one of the highest in this review.
Pros and Cons
7. AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative
The AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative is best for people looking for a chelation softener system. But beyond that, it has a decent flow rate, is easy to install, and has a fair lifespan.
The AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative uses chelation instead of TAC. So, while it might give you better-tasting water, there is a risk – albeit minimal – of contamination. But then, for a salt-free softener that uses chelation, it is pretty effective.
The AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative has a flow rate of 12 GPM, which is decent. If your house has 1 to 5 bathrooms, this would slot in fine.
Ease of Installation
The installation is straightforward and flexible. You can install the device indoors and outdoors. However, if you install it outdoors, ensure it gets some shade.
The AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative is pretty portable. So, it is a prefect option if you have limited space.
Since this product does not include a pre-filter, it needs no maintenance.
It does not run on electricity.
It works well with pressures as high as 70 PSI. But you could install a pressure regulator if your water supply flows at higher pressures.
The AO Smith Whole House Water Softener Alternative has a capacity of 600,000 gallons. So, you can expect it to last for up to 6 years.
Pros and Cons
8. Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler
The Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System is our best salt-free system for people who prefer electromagnetic water conditioning.
The Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System uses an electromagnetic field to prevent scale buildup. It is unlike TAC and chelation water softeners because rather than binding or crystallizing hardness minerals, it disrupts them with electromagnetism.
Of course, going by the way it works, this product will leave essential minerals in your drinking water, which is good. But then, its effectiveness is generally only about 50%. So, while it might work for low levels of water hardness, it might not be good enough for serious cases of hardness.
It does not get in the way of water flow. So, it has no flow speed/rate.
Ease of Installation
The installation is very straightforward. The device is completely DIY – you do not need tools or the services of a professional.
It requires no maintenance.
It uses electricity and will most likely raise your energy bills.
There isn’t much information about the working pressure of this product. However, the manufacturer advises that you install a pressure regulator with the system.
It has a lifespan of up to 10 years – one of the highest amongst the salt-free water softeners in our review.
Pros and Cons
When buying a salt-free water softener, pay attention to the system type; this is very important.
Salt-free softeners are of 3 main system types: template-assisted crystallization (TAC), chelation, and electromagnetic. Each of the no-salt water softener systems is effective to varying degrees. But more times than not, people have the best experience with TAC systems.
TAC systems are the most effective. But apart from being effective, they typically do not run on electricity, and they come with little or no risk of chemical contamination. However, a TAC system may need a water filtration system to keep out certain contaminants. So, if you do not have a whole house water filter that can keep those contaminants out, you will have to spend on a water filtration system.
While most saltless water softening systems run without electricity, some – especially electromagnetic salt-free softener systems – do. Obviously, if your saltless water softener runs on electricity, your energy bills will rise.
The combined power consumption of an electric salt-free softener and your water heater could send your utility bill through the roof. So, to keep running costs as low as possible, prioritize a saltless water softener system that does not use electricity.
The flow rate of salt-free softeners is basically how much water they let through them per unit time. Different salt-free systems come with different flow rates. The higher the flow rate, the faster water flows through them. So, depending on your house and family size, you may want to keep an eye out for saltless water softeners with rapid flow.
Electromagnetic salt-free softeners typically have no effect on water flow. So, if you are buying one, you do not need to bother about flow speed. Contrarily, you should pay attention to flow rate when buying TAC and chelation softeners. These two types of softeners come with media that can intercept water and consequently, reduce flow rate. So, if you are buying one, check their flow rate score to ensure that they will not impede water flow into your home to an unbearable level.
Installation Space and Ease of Installation
Saltless water softeners come in different sizes. So, before you pay for what you want, ensure you have enough installation space for it.
If you love DIY or if you just want to avoid spending on getting a professional to install your salt-free softener, ease of installation should be a priority for you. Buying a salt-free system that comes with a user-friendly guide on how to install the device would make DIY very possible and very easy. So, when making a choice, read through the manual, if you can. If the instructions are clear to you, then installation should be easy for you.
Most salt-free water conditioners are virtually maintenance-free. However, you may still have to replace their sediment filter routinely. Of course, it would be much more convenient if the time between each replacement were long. So, before buying, check how often you would have to replace the filter. If you are okay with the timing, go for the product.
If the pressure from your water source is higher than the maximum operating pressure of your water softener, the softener may take some damage. So, ensure that the product you buy can handle the pressure of the water coming from your water supply. You could even buy a pressure regulator for extra safety.
Types of Salt-Free Water Softener
Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) Water Softeners
The TAC softeners are the most common type of saltless softeners, and they are also the most preferred type.
TAC softeners work by converting hard water minerals into crystals using a scale control media. The catalytic media serves as a template for the minerals; you could say it triggers and defines how the minerals crystallize. Hence, the name. TAC may also go by the name nucleation-assisted crystallization (NAC).
TAC softeners do not actually remove hard water minerals, so they are better-called conditioners since they only reform the minerals to prevent scale buildup.
Chelation Water Softeners
A chelation softener works a bit like a salt-based water softener because both require the addition of a chemical to the water. However, the actual mechanism of action differs.
While salt-based softeners use ion exchange, chelation softeners bind the hard water minerals to a chelating agent.
In the past, you’d hardly find chelation softeners for domestic use. But these days, they are more common. While they are effective to some degree, most people accept that TAC systems are generally more effective.
Electromagnetic Water Softeners
The technology behind electromagnetic softeners is relatively novel. So, its effectiveness is not so impressive right now. But if you want a maintenance-free softener, they are the perfect option.
Electromagnetic softeners work by inducing an electromagnetic field in water using a coil or magnetic. The said electromagnetic field is expected to magnetically attract hard water minerals towards it. This way, it separates the minerals from water, disrupts existing scales, and prevents the formation of a new scale.
Salt vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners
The simplest difference between saltless softeners and salt-based water softeners is that one uses salt while the other doesn’t. However, there is much more to these two types of water softening systems than the presence/absence of salt.
A salt-based water softener works using an ion exchange process. Salt-based softening systems typically come with two tanks: a resin tank and a brine tank. The hard water flows into the resin tank, where resin beads remove calcium and magnesium ions from the water. Then brine flows into the resin tank and sodium is exchanged for the calcium and magnesium ions.
Unlike a salt water softener system, saltless systems use either TAC, chelation, or electromagnetism to modify the minerals in the water. They do not remove the minerals, they only prevent them from adhering to water pipes.
Since salt-based water softeners will actually remove hard water minerals from the water, the term water softener describes them more accurately. Unlike saltless softeners, they actually create soft water, not something like soft water.
Overall, salt-based systems are more effective at water softening than salt-free systems. However, salt-free systems are easier to maintain than salt-based systems. TAC and electromagnetic salt-free systems are also at minimal risk of chemical contamination.
Pros and Cons of Using a Salt-Free Water Softener
Advantages of No-Salt Water Conditioners
- Prevents scale formation without water wastage.
- Virtually maintenance-free.
- You get to retain valuable minerals in your water.
- Little or no risk of chemical contamination.
- The plumbing system is safe from corrosion since the system does not use salts and other possibly corrosive chemicals.
- Lower running costs.
- No environmental pollution through brine effusion.
- By removing scale and preventing scale formation, it can improve the efficiency of water heaters. Consequently, you spend less on heating.
Disadvantages of Using a Saltless Water Softeners
- Limited effectiveness on the water with high hardness levels.
- Has little or no effect on stagnant water.
- They typically require water filters to ensure the media lasts long.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Do salt-free water softeners really work?
Salt-free water softeners work as they should. However, they do not really soften water.
Unlike traditional water softeners, the soft water you get from salt-free softeners contains hardness minerals. The minerals remain in the water, but they would have been rendered “inactive” by the salt-free softener.
There is no real difference between a water conditioner and a water softener. Salt-free systems are more accurately described as water conditioners, while traditional water softening systems are the actual softeners.
Do salt-free water softeners regenerate?
Salt-free softeners do not need to regenerate because, unlike a traditional water softener, their softening media does not capture hardness ions.
Is it safe to drink softened water?
Generally, it is safe to drink softened water. But then, if the softened water has high levels of sodium, you may avoid drinking it.
Can you cook with softened water?
You can cook with softened water. In fact, when you do, you wouldn’t have to worry about the taste issues that come with hard water.
The best salt-free water softener is one that uses a TAC system. But beyond that, high-quality saltless softeners have high flow rates, high operating pressure, and low maintenance frequency. They also do not need electricity to work, and they last for at least 6 years.