The types of water softeners can be divided into four main groups that are based on the method they use to soften water.
These types are:
- Salt-Based Water Softeners
- Salt-Free Water Softeners
- Magnetic Water Softeners
- Reverse Osmosis Water Softeners
Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of water softeners…
1. Salt-Based Water Softeners
A salt-based water softening system utilizes the ion exchange process to soften your water. That is, the ions in the hard water are traded for softer ions, a process known as ion exchange.
This system usually comes with two tanks: a resin bed and the brine tank. The brine tank contains a brine solution that removes the hard ions (calcium and magnesium) from water and replaces them with soft ions (like sodium and potassium).
Note that this is the most common type of softener in use across many homes right now.
It’s important to know that the high concentrations of salt in water treated using this system might not be healthy for some people, like those with kidney issues. But in general, the sodium found in softened water falls within safe limits.
This type of model also requires regular refilling of salt which you have to buy.
2. Salt-Free Water Softeners
Salt-free systems are also slowly gaining popularity among homeowners, but their effectiveness cannot be compared to that of the salt-based models.
To soften your water, these models utilize a complex nano-technology process that goes as follows:
First, the scale buildup in your pipes is removed. This is an important step since this buildup increases the hardness of water flowing through these pipes
Next, the hard water atomic structure is altered such that it becomes soft.
The entire process is 100% environmentally friendly and doesn’t incorporate any additives.
Nevertheless, this design removes all the hardness in your water. That being said, it can’t soften water with a hardness rating of over 8 GPG.
Magnetic Water Softeners
In the simplest terms possible, these systems work by using magnetism to alter the liquid structure of hard water. The magnets (magnetic fields) are placed around the pipe carrying hard water to temporarily soften hard water for around 48 hours.
This system is elementary to install and maintain and doesn’t require any additives. Plus, these magnetic systems are relatively cheap.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a permanent water softening solution and is limited to water with a hardness of below 8 GPG. Its softening efficiency is also questionable depending on the model you purchase.
Reverse Osmosis Water Softeners
A reverse osmosis system relies on pressure to successfully push your hard water through a semipermeable membrane, thereby removing any impurities present.
All the impurities, including the hard minerals, do not make it through this membrane, so you’re left with 100% pure water for home use.
The best part of this system is that it also doesn’t involve any additives, it’s cheap, easy to maintain, and is space-efficient.
But it also has a few downsides: it strips water of some essential nutrients and healthy minerals, and it’s not 100% effective at reducing hardness.
Portable Water Softeners vs Standard Water Softeners: Which One To Choose?
First, it’s important to note that both are designed to help you combat hard water problems in your home by converting hard water into soft water.
A portable unit is just what the name implies: it’s portable, making it easy to move from one place to another without any problems. Without a doubt, this is the most suitable choice for people who are always on the go. So, if you want to enjoy soft water outdoors, you’ll need to buy a portable softener.
However, the portability and ease of handling that comes with these units don’t come without sacrifice…they usually come with a limited list of features – unlike the standard models.
Nearly all portable water softeners lack the regeneration feature. They also consume less power compared to the standard models. With this in mind, you can’t expect these units to soften as much water as the standard units can.
A standard water softener, on the other hand, refers to the typical size model that is common in nearly all homes. Unlike the portable model, it comes packed with all the most common features and it’s capable of softening huge volumes of water in a single day, in any given household.
For this reason, it will consume a slightly higher amount of power than the portable water softener.
One downfall is that a standard water softener cannot be easily moved from one place to another. So, homeowners who are always on the move would want to avoid it at all costs.
In my honest opinion, the right water softener for you when it comes to portability will heavily depend on your living style.
If you’re looking to replace or get a new water softener, then you’ll want to read our reviews of the best water softeners.