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Best Water Softeners and Treatment Systems

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Common issues that require water treatment include hard water, chemical or virus removal, UV treatment and water quality. Use our guide to research the best water softener or treatment system for you. Water treatment systems are designed to solve different specific problems, so we recommend consumers determine their precise needs before shopping for a water treatment system.

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What is a water treatment system?

Water treatment systems are used to improve the quality of the water in a household, business, restaurant or elsewhere. If a municipality’s water treatment system is not sufficient, or if a consumer is relying on water from a well source, then a home water treatment system becomes a viable option for cleaner, safer water. One example of this is softening hard water, which involves removing harmful contaminants or filtering out sediment or other particles. This allows previously unsuitable water to become drinkable and fit for household chores and other daily activities. Other water treatment systems remove unwanted chemicals from water.

How does water treatment work?

There are a variety of household water treatment systems that work in different ways. Water softeners remove magnesium and calcium in order to soften water. Reverse osmosis systems uses a semipermeable membrane to remove large particles from water. Other filtration systems can target specific problem areas, like high sediment or a chlorine taste, and focus on removing the offending substances. No matter how they work, all water treatment systems have the same aim of producing high-quality water for consumers and their families.

How to choose a water treatment system

1. Decide what contaminants to target

Water treatment systems remove a variety of different contaminants from water. The specific contaminants present in your water will help determine which type of water treatment system you want to buy.

  • Bacteria: Bacteria often lives in well water or other untreated water. Water treatment systems with UV radiation, distillation or reverse osmosis disinfection methods kill the bacteria that infect water and might make drinkers sick.
  • Minerals: Large concentrations of minerals result in hard water. Water softeners that use an ion-exchange resin are the natural solutions to hard water, though you can also rely on water treatment systems using active carbon filters, reverse osmosis, filtration and distillation.
  • Multi-contaminant removal: Some of the contaminants removed by water treatment systems include heavy metals from construction projects or damaged pipes that cause water to taste metallic, sediment that has gotten into a water supply through construction work and makes water appear muddy and brown; and chlorine added by public water companies to disinfect water sources, which gives water a strong chemical taste.

2. Compare home system options

Water treatment systems remove contaminants from your water as it flows into your house or as you use it.

  • Point of entry systems: Point of entry water treatment systems are able to treat all of the water entering a home or business and are installed after a water meter or storage tank. This ensures that all water used within the house, whether it comes from a faucet, showerhead or laundry machine, has been treated. Point of entry systems are also known as whole house water treatment systems.
  • Point of use systems: These water treatment systems are used where people directly access the water, like a kitchen sink or a showerhead.
  • Multi-system installations: Multi-system installations allow for several different types of water treatment, such as treating hardness with water softeners and removing pollutants via reverse osmosis.

3. Determine the source of your water

Where your water comes from will determine what sort of treatment it must undergo in order to be suitable for everyday use. Water treatment systems can treat water coming from a range of different sources.

  • Groundwater and water from lakes and rivers: Most water coming through the tap in your home originates underground or from a freshwater body. This common type of water is used for drinking and bathing in homes and businesses all over the United States. It is possible that this water has high levels of particulate matter or is overly chlorinated.
  • Brackish water: Brackish water is water that is part saltwater and part freshwater, which is often collected in estuaries. Brackish water can be collected and treated by water treatment companies to desalinate (using reverse osmosis). Then it can be used for irrigation or watering gardens and lawns.
  • Surface water: There are water treatment systems companies that specialize in treating surface water, which is collected rainwater or water at the top of a natural body of water. These companies collect the fresh surface water and use treatment to remove algae, bacteria and solids from the water in order to make it safe to drink or bathe with.

4. Choose if you want to be eco-friendly

All water softeners do have wastewater that can be hazardous. In this sense, no water treatment system is 100 percent eco-friendly. Still, there are options for consumers looking to reduce their impact on the environment.

  • Green filtration companies: There are some water filtration companies that filter water with the environment in mind, and they only use green materials and products.
  • Eco-friendly options: Some water treatment systems companies offer customers eco-friendly products and services, like salt-free treatments, which use significantly less water to filter water than a traditional salt-based system.
  • Traditional water treatment systems companies: Many water treatment systems companies use traditional technology and products, and they are not particularly focused on environmental-friendliness.

5. Understand maintenance requirements

Performing proper maintenance on your water treatment system is a must if you want it to continue working, and it’s always wise to follow best practices.

  • No maintenance required: Some water treatment companies handle all maintenance for water treatment systems, including installation and regular check-ins and updates.
  • Minimal maintenance: There are some water treatment systems that require minimal maintenance from customers, like checking filters to see if they are clogged or dirty or watching monitors on filters that change color when they are ready to be replaced.
  • Customer maintained: Some water treatment systems require complete maintenance by the customer. This might involve tasks like replacing filters regularly or adding salt to water softeners.

Types of water treatment

person filling a cup with water

The type of water treatment system you need will depend largely on what you want to achieve. Certain methods only remove physical impurities, others chemical impurities, while some remove both. The most common types of water treatment systems include:

  • Water softeners
    Water softeners take hard water and make it soft. Hard water has a high level of minerals making it unpleasant to drink or use. Water softeners remove certain minerals, including calcium and magnesium, to soften the water.
  • Water conditioners
    The term “water conditioners” applies to a wide variety of products that remove impurities from water. They do not, like water softeners, specifically reduce water hardness. Some remove chlorine, improving the flavor of water.
  • Activated carbon filters
    Activated carbon filters use beds of activated carbon to remove contaminants from water. This is done through the process of chemical absorption, where contaminants are trapped within the porous structure of the carbon filter. Carbon filters remove chlorine, taste and odor from water. If you feel that your home’s water has too strong of a taste that you would like to neutralize, a water treatment system with a carbon filter might be a good choice.
  • UV filters (Ultraviolet)
    Companies that use UV technology utilize UV rays to disinfect water and kill bacteria. If your water source is a well or another source that might host harmful bacteria, then a UV filter water treatment system will serve you well.
  • Distillation
    Distillation is not as commonly used as it was in the past, but it does have a long history and is an effective method of treating water. The water is boiled and, as the water turns into steam, it is collected, leaving contaminants behind.
  • Reverse osmosis
    Some water treatment systems rely on reverse osmosis, a process in which dissolved inorganic solids (such as salts) are removed from a solution (such as water). This is accomplished by normal household water pressure pushing tap water through a semipermeable membrane. A reverse osmosis system is a good choice if you want to remove particulate matter from your water. It also makes water taste more neutral.

Water Treatment Systems FAQ

What is a whole house water filtration system?

A water filtration system is a unit that connects to your main water line and improves the water quality in a house by making it cleaner and safer. Water treatment systems can soften hard water, remove unwanted chemicals and improve the taste.

Is a water softener worth it?

Yes. Hard water causes a variety of problems and is unpleasant to drink. The high mineral content in hard water leaves mineral deposits that build up in plumbing, bathroom fixtures and tiles. Hard water also dries out your skin and hair.

How much is a well water treatment system?

A well water treatment system typically costs between $700 and $3,000. The average cost is around $1,800. Costs vary depending on the type of treatment your well water needs, which can include:

  • UV filters
  • Distillation
  • Reverse osmosis
How do you purify water from a well?

Well water often has bacteria living in it. To purify the water, you need a water treatment system with distillation, reverse osmosis or UV radiation.

How much should it cost to have a water softener installed?

It should cost you between $200 to $300 to install a basic water softener unit that regenerates manually. For a water softener with a timed or metered system, professional installation costs anywhere between $800 and $3,000.

How do I choose a water softener?

When you're choosing a water softener, you need to factor in the number of people in your household and how hard your water is. To calculate the unit size:

  1. Multiply the number of people in your house by 80, which is the number of gallons the average person uses per day.
  2. Use a water test kit to determine the grains of hardness in your water.
  3. Multiply the grain amount with the total number of gallons to be used.

This number gives you an idea of the unit you need to handle your hard water requirements.

What are the different types of water softeners?

The different types of water softeners are:

  • Ion exchangers are the most common type of water softener. They use salt to remove magnesium, calcium and other unwanted minerals.
  • Salt-free softeners use a mineral other than salt, typically potassium, to remove unwanted minerals in your water.
  • Dual tank water softeners use two mineral tanks that provide a continuous supply of soft water.
  • Magnetic/electric softeners attach to your pipes and prevent buildup. They’re an affordable option compared with water softener units.
How long do water softeners last?

Water softeners generally last 10 to 15 years. Regular maintenance helps extend the life of your water softener.

Are water filters effective?

Yes, water filters are effective for specific needs, but they have limitations. They improve water by removing contaminants but do not remove bacteria. To remove bacteria, you need a water treatment system with a UV filter, distillation process or reverse osmosis process that kills bacteria.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Author reviews for water treatment system companies

    RainSoft Water Treatment Systems

    RainSoft Water Treatment Systems is a company that offers residential customers water and air purification services. The company is headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL, and they serve customers throughout the world.

    • Convenience: There are hundreds of dealers across the world that can install RainSoft products, so the company is a convenient choice for customers throughout many parts of the United States and the world.
    • Complimentary water test: The company provides customers with complimentary water tests to see if they are good candidates for water treatment or filtration.
    • Taste and smell: RainSoft guarantees that their product will reduce unwanted smells and tastes in consumers' water, which makes it better to drink, wash food with, cook with and bathe in.
    • Safe filtration methods: RainSoft uses activated carbon filtration, which is a method that has been deemed safe for use by the Environmental Protection Agency, and they do not use any harsh chemical products in their purification process.
    • Movable: The filtration systems manufactured by RainSoft can be moved from home to home, which means customers can take their system with them when they move and that they do not have to purchase multiple systems if they end up choosing to live in multiple homes.
    Read 3488 Reviews
    Pentair Water Solutions (previously Pelican Water)

    Pelican Water Systems is a salt free water treatment system company that was founded in 2007. The company, headquartered in Deland, Florida, specializes in filtration more than softening, although they do both. They are well known for creating drinking water that tastes fresh and clean.

    Read 862 Reviews
    Discount Water Softeners

    Discount Water Softeners has been offering commercial and residential water treatment solutions for over 25 years. It sells, services and installs water softeners, iron filters, reverse osmosis systems, sulfur filters and more. Consumers can order products online with free shipping, as well as take advantage of multiple online sales and specials.

    Read more about Discount Water Softeners
    Quality Water Treatment

    Quality Water Treatment offers customers water treatment equipment and parts at discount prices. They also offer free lifetime technical support for all products purchased through their website. Choose from products like water filters, whole-house water treatment systems, water softeners and more.

    Read more about Quality Water Treatment

    Kinetico Water Systems offers water softeners and reverse osmosis systems for your home. Kinetico was among the first companies to offer nonelectric, fully automatic water treatment systems. Kinetico’s systems are powered by moving water, which keeps your cost down for operation and repairs.

    • Nonelectric systems: Kinetico’s water treatment systems do not run on electricity. They use the movement of the water they contain to power their own filtration systems. This process keeps operation and repair costs low.
    • Free water testing and quotes: If you’re not sure if you need water treatment, you can schedule a free water test with Kinetico’s experts. You can also receive free quotes on any system you need.
    • Water softeners: Kinetico has several different options for water softeners. From compact, simple systems to full systems for hard water.
    • Drinking water filters: Kinetico has several different options for drinking water filtration. You can purchase a full filtration system or a smaller filtration tap.
    • Specialty solutions: Kinetico also sells several different specialty solutions for water that needs filtering. Aerators and dechlorinators are available to help remove chemicals and minerals from your water systems.
    Read 2057 Reviews

    Culligan got its start in 1936 and is now the leader in home water delivery as well as in-home, commercial and industrial water filtration and treatment services. It is different than most water delivery services because it doesn’t make or bottle the water it delivers; instead, Culligan specializes in water treatment systems and softeners. Water delivery services from Culligan start at $9.99 per month.

    Read more about Culligan

    NuvoH2O sells salt-free, whole-home water softener systems. The company has three system options, including a water softener system with a taste system for homes looking to reduce odor and poor tap water taste and have water quality similar to that of bottled water. Other products include carbon filters and micron filters.

    Read 46 Reviews

    Easy Water has been treating water for homeowners for more than 25 years. The company has an environmentally-friendly focus, using natural products to treat water, and they are headquartered in Fishers, Indiana.

    Read more about EasyWater
    LifeSource Water Systems

    LifeSource Water has been treating water for customers across America since 1984. They use a healthy and natural process to get rid of hard water, remove bad taste or odors from water and eliminate scale left behind by water in showers, tubs and sinks.

    Read 2 Reviews
    Martin Water

    Martin Water Conditioning treats water in Pennsylvania and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic. The company has been in business for more than 40 years, and they are headquartered in Myerstown, PA.

    • Certified employees: The company has more than 40 employees who are certified with the Water Quality Association, so they are knowledgeable experts about water treatment.
    • Spot-free car rinse systems: In addition to treating drinking water, the company also has a system to treat water with which customers wash their cars, to ensure water does not leave spots on the car after the wash.
    • Environmentally informed: Martin has four water system operators that are certified with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which means they are informed about eco-friendly and sustainable water treatment practices.
    • Free water analysis: The company offers prospective customers a free water analysis test to see if their water needs conditioning, filtration or treatment.
    • Agricultural water treatment: Martin Water specializes in treating water near agricultural areas that might be affected by herd, livestock and poultry operations.

    Aquasana offers water filters for at-home use. Its products are designed to filter out the most common contaminants without adding chemicals or odors to your water. You can purchase Aquasana products on its website or at your local hardware store.

    • Type of water treatment: Aquasana offers whole-house water filtration systems. The company also sells under-sink filters for people who only want filtered water from one tap.
    • NSF-certified: Aquasana’s filters are NSF-certified to reduce 77 water contaminants
    • Products: Aquasana offers under-sink water filters, countertop water filters, shower filters, whole-house filters and replacement filters.
    • Price range: Aquasana’s replacement filters start at $8, its under-sink filters start at $99.99 and whole-house filters start at $649.
    • Eco-friendly treatment options: Aquasana prioritizes the eco-friendliness of its products by manufacturing them with recycled ingredients.
    Clearly Filtered

    Clearly Filtered water pitchers are made with premium medical-grade plastics that are free of BPA, BPS and EA. Customers can select from pitchers, under-sink systems and more to filter out heavy metals like fluoride, lead and chromium-6.

    • Clearly Filtered products: The company sells filtered pitchers, water bottles, showerhead filters, under-sink systems, refrigerator filters, replacement filters and combo packs.
    • Cost: Water pitchers prices start around $75, and replacement filters range from $35 to $50 each. Showerhead filters range from $85 to $100. Water bottle prices range from $15 to $50.
    • Customer service: Clearly Filtered customer service representatives are available over the phone during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT.
    • Certified: The company’s filtration technology is independently tested and certified by EPA-approved third-party laboratories.
    Springwell Water Treatment Systems

    Springwell water filter systems, softeners and filter-softener combo systems are designed, built and packaged in the United States. The company is endorsed by the National Testing Laboratories and is a member of the Water Quality Association.

    • Springwell Water products: In addition to whole-house filters, Springwell offers salt-free or salt-based water softeners, dual-system filters, well water systems, reverse osmosis systems, water testing kits and replacement water filters.
    • Cost: Whole house water filter systems are priced at $700 to $1,500. Water filter and salt-free water softeners prices start at around $2,000. Financing programs are available for qualified applicants.
    • Customer service: Springwell customer service representatives are available by phone during regular office hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.
    • Guarantee: Springwell provides a six-month money-back guarantee on water treatment systems and a lifetime warranty on tanks and valves.

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