When water is filled with minerals and metals, it looks murky, smells weird, and tastes awful. Even worse, it may cause mild to severe poisoning due to the higher-than-normal number of contaminants. When this happens, you’ll want to have a device that cleans it up.
Capable of providing clean water to household areas like the kitchen and bathrooms, the best ion exchange water softener is almost an essential appliance to have at home. Without it, the consequences of dealing with hard water could lead to unpleasant scenarios in the future.
As you search for your ideal pick, many offers will pop up. Although they all may look fancy, only a few of these systems can deliver satisfying results across the house. Here, we want to talk about those.
Want to know what we mean? Then let’s find out!
Best Ion Exchange Water Softener Reviews
For this section, we selected five of the most capable water softeners currently available. We focus on aspects like capacity, efficiency, and power delivered by the units.
1.Fleck 5600SXT Metered On-Demand Water Softener
By offering enough pressure to provide up to 12 gallons in a minute, this unit can supply an entire household with several bathrooms included. Since it classifies as a metered machine, this water softener quantifies and regulates the water usage at home.
This unit operates on the ion exchange mechanism, meaning that it replaces the ions responsible for causing water hardness for harmless sodium salt. Besides making the water softer, this process also makes your water resources more manageable.
Of course, that wouldn’t be possible without a proper system. That’s why this unit offers a meter-based mechanism with four modes, including an immediate meter, a delayed meter, a delayed time clock, and a day-of-week regeneration feature.
The time-based settings also make this device highly convenient. Instead of the traditional automatic regenerations, you will be able to set up regeneration schedules once the tank reaches a particular capacity level. For example, you can set the unit to regenerate when it gets 90% of its capacity.
Perhaps one of the most convenient water softener traits is that it includes a preloaded resin, making the setup process a lot easier. Also, the fact that the flow meter is capable of regenerating itself is a significant advantage, as it will reduce the amount of water and salt waste. This feature comes in handy if you don’t want to schedule the process yourself.
What We Liked:
- It comes with a preloaded resin, reducing the stress users would face during the installation.
- With 48,000 grain capacity, this unit will clean a lot of water before regenerating either automatically or by hand.
- Significantly reduces the amount of water and salt waste thanks to a highly efficient design.
- We found the user-friendly features ideal to allow users to operate the unit even without experience.
What We Didn’t Like:
- The system lacks an alarm to let homeowners know when the salt level drops significantly.
2.Whirlpool WHES40E Water Softener
Although people don’t necessarily think about aesthetics when they’re considering buying a water softener, it’s always pleasant to install appliances that enhance the house’s decoration. This unit is precisely one of those.
While active, the unit is capable of taking care of households with six people. These processes improve the lifespan of water-using appliances by allowing them to run more efficiently.
Once set up, this water softener can remove up to 125 grains of hardness per gallon and ten ppm of clear ferrous water. The system features an automatic response to calculate the salt and water amount needed for the regeneration cycles for more efficiency.
Although the esthetic design of the unit is fancy, it also serves another purpose. More specifically, the device has a screen that allows users to confirm the salt level. Thanks to that, you’ll be able to react accordingly when more water is necessary.
Since this is an NSF certified unit, it’ll successfully remove water hardness to protect the household residents against unpleasant stain often seen on surfaces like faucets.
What We Liked:
- This unit is capable of removing up to 10 PPM of ferrous water at full capacity to make it clear in minutes.
- Features an automatic system that calculates salt and water levels required for the regeneration cycles.
- Through an efficient operation, the softener reduces salt and water usage to help save money.
- We found the high 40,000-grain capacity an excellent addition for the effective removal of unwanted contaminants.
What We Didn’t Like:
- The material used for the clips that hold the bypass valve connection seems cheap and flimsy.
3.Aquasure Harmony Series Whole House Water Softener
The go-to option for many homeowners that need soft and scale-free water in significant quantities is the Harmony Series from Aquasure. This device offers a decent flow rate of 12 GPM, making it one of the most capable machines within its price range.
Since the unit comes equipped with a surprisingly efficient digital control head, operating the system’s many features is a breeze. Among some of its operations, the device can calculate the water volume to start a backwash cycle when it becomes necessary.
Those backwash cycles could be frustrating in many cases due to the loud noises produced by some water softeners. Fortunately, this device doesn’t have that issue.
Other than being efficient, this unit performs quietly, making it almost undetectable. Because of its relatively quiet performance, the softener is an ideal choice for small homes that can’t afford to have the unit installed out of ear range.
This water softener is a durable unit capable of operating efficiently for many years by featuring fiberglass-lined polyethylene. This material makes the tank long-lasting and resistant to corrosion, which is ideal as the device can hold a high capacity of water.
While it may not be as essential as the other things mentioned here, the softener’s aesthetics is another noteworthy feature. The black color, as well as the structure of the unit, look incredible. It could easily blend with the rest of the house without looking out of place.
What We Liked:
- Efficiently removes water hardness, scale, and spot build-up while supplying clean water for the household.
- Capable of treating 32,000 Grains of hardness, the unit removes hard minerals such as iron and magnesium that could irritate the skin.
- The Meter Control Head allows users to keep track of the unit’s performance, control its functionality, and more.
- Built with fiberglass lined polyethylene, the tank puts up high resistance against corrosion.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Since there are no proper instructions included, the installation process can take hours.
4. Genesis 2 Premier Water Softener
Classified as an up-flow, metered, and on-demand water softener, this device offers excellent results through efficient performance. Similar to some of the most capable systems seen previously, the Genesis Premier keeps track of water usage to initiate the regeneration cycle when it nears the filtering capacity.
The reasons to consider purchasing this unit are many. For an easy operation, the softener has a control head that triggers regeneration cycles depending on the water flow.
Another advantage is the LED display, which shows users essential information such as the current flow rate, how long has passed since the last regeneration cycle, and how many gallons of water the system will filter before executing the next regeneration cycle.
People will also appreciate the system’s memory, which allows the softener to maintain the user’s programming without any automatic resets. Once set, the device will follow your instructions, and it will continue to do so even after power outages.
For improved performance, the system has an effective design. It automatically cleans the resin using direct water pressure, allowing it to maintain the resin tank clean. This process also increases the resin’s lifespan due to the less salt and water used.
As a safety measure, the softener can flush any water that has remained in the resin tank longer than seven days. This feature comes in handy to prevent bacteria growth, especially if the home residents go out for vacations and leave the system unsupervised.
What We Liked:
- Durable resin puts up with chlorinated water and chloramines, which is useful if you’re on a municipal supply line.
- Includes an Automatic System Refresh feature to flush stagnant water following seven days of non-use, which prevents bacteria growth.
- We found the Control Head attached super-helpful at reducing the amount of effort it takes to operate.
- Its efficiency is fantastic, considering it saves around 9,720 pounds of salt and about 32,400 gallons of water per year.
What We Didn’t Like:
- The lack of detailed instructions could complicate the installation if you don’t have much experience.
5.DURAWATER Fleck 5600 SXT Iron Pro Water Softener
First and foremost, this device features a complete system that includes the tank, control head, a convenient 10-inchx54-inch high-density fine mesh resin, and the 15-inchx17-inchx33-inch brine tank. Plus, the softener comes with a one-meter system to keep track of water usage and regenerate it.
The softener can put up with 48,000 grains while offering a water flow rate of 14 gallons per minute for its capacity. Once active, the device can remove iron from the water up to 8 ppm range while also taking care of the manganese.
The installation process also happens to be quite intuitive, allowing DIYers and people with less experience to set it up without inconveniences. If you have trouble during any step of the process, the instructions included are useful to keep you on track.
After setting it up, the softener offers plenty of user-friendly features to operate its system. For instance, the LCD screen keeps you updated on the device’s functionality via status and error codes that follow hard water removal and troubleshooting.
Additionally, the touchpad controls make operating the softener an easy task, even for users with no previous experience handling one of these systems. Those controls allow you to have easy access to each of the features offered and settings that control the hard water removal.
Ideally, this device is suitable for homes with 2 to 5 residents and will back up from 2 to 3 bathrooms in total. Besides the main parts, the softener has a brine tank and a 1-inch stainless steel bypass valve that allows in/out plumbing connection while improving the system’s servicing ability.
What We Liked:
- We found the 48,000-grain capacity and high-level resin to be super-effective at removing unwanted types of contaminants for years.
- Once installed, the softener removes all types of hardness, including iron, manganese, sediment, sand, and rust.
- It is suitable for households with 2 to 5 people as the unit will supply from 2 to 3 bathrooms at once with no problem.
- User-friendly controls on the touchpad make it easy to operate the system, including its extra features.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Some low-quality parts such as the fittings and bypass valve take some points off the unit’s overall performance.
Ion Exchange vs Water Softener
Even though they may share the same goal of dealing with water hardness, there are some significant differences between the ion exchange and the water softener processes.
When it comes to water hardness issues, the traditional water softener manages to remove calcium, magnesium, and silica ions, leaving behind small quantities of those elements to create what we call “temporary hardness.”
The softener then replaces those ions with salt, in a process called ion exchange.
Other types of water conditioners manipulate the behavior of the hardness minerals in a liquid solution. As a result, these minerals will still be present, but they won’t continue to build upon surfaces and cause other problems.
We also have to remember that calcium, magnesium, and silica can be healthy for humans and other animals, which is why keeping them in the water could be an advantage. That is, as long as they’re not damaging the household’s plumbing system.
How Do Ion Exchange Water Softeners Work?
As the basic definition tells us, ions are charged atoms or molecules. Once the system dissolves ionic substances in water, those molecules result in cations, which are positively charged particles. Then anions are negatively charged particles.
The ion exchange process replaces those ionic substances depending on the electrical charge. To do that, the system passes an ionic solution through the resin, which works as a matrix in which the ion exchange occurs.
Resins in the ion exchange are similar to small, porous microbeads, although they are sometimes available as a membrane in a sheet-like form. While the process or waste stream passes by the resin, the loose ions found at the surface get replaced by ions with affinity to the resin material.
As time passes, the resin gets saturated with now contaminant ions, requiring a new regeneration or recharge cycle. Here, the system flushes the resin using a solution, often featuring salt. This solution replenishes the cations or anions found on the resin’s surface and then releases the contaminated ions.
Advantage Of Ion Exchange Water Softener
Here are some of the advantages you can expect from the best ion exchange water softener.
An ion exchange system offers an efficient and effective water softening method that most homeowners will be able to use easily. Plus, the units reviewed here manage to put out high flow rates to supply entire households.
No longer will you have to deal with hard water! The ion exchange water softeners are easy to install and simple to operate. In most cases, the units do most of the processes automatically.
We learn that these units work well for industrial and municipal water treatment systems throughout our ion conditioner reviews.
The units can provide treated water at high flow rates to essential areas of the house, such as the bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and more.
Ion Exchange Water Softener Cost
An ion exchange water softener’s cost depends on several factors, including the unit, installation expenses, and maintenance costs. First, let’s start by saying that the units’ price varies from $300 to thousands of dollars, depending on the brand and quality.
Next, we have the installation costs. If you get professional assistance, you could very well quickly end up paying around $400 to get a salt-based ion exchange system installed.
When it comes to maintenance, you’ll need a bag of salt to complete the regeneration process. Those bags are between $7 to $12. Although not bad, these small amounts add up. Also, you’ll have to consider getting the Ionics water filter replacement eventually.
Then, we also have to consider wastewater. A household of three residents can use about 3,650 gallons of wastewater per year, which is expensive and can also leave a negative environmental footprint.
To sum up, that’d be around $700 for an average ion exchange system, $400 for the installation, $10 for a monthly bag of salt, about $110 for resin replacement, approximately $1440 for one year of water softening, and $1720 for one year of water softening without salt.
What Contaminants do Ion Exchange Systems Remove?
The contaminants that the ion-exchange process removes depend heavily on the type of resin that does the job. Typically, both cationic and anionic resins are found in an ionics water softener. But some of them usually come with either one or the other. Here’s more about them:
Classified as SAC, strong acid cation resins, or WAC, weak acid cation resins. Both of them are perfect for demineralization. Plus, SAC resins also happen to be suitable for softening. On the other hand, WAC resins are useful for de-alkalization purposes. These resins will remove the following contaminants.
- Anionic Resins
Classified as strong base anion resins (SBA) or weak base anion resins (WBA). The former works for demineralization, while the latter are ideal for the absorption of acid. These resins remove the next contaminants.
- Perfluorooctane sulfonate anion
- Perfluorooctanoic acid
- Specialty Resins
These include a variety of ion exchange resins ideal for industrial purposes. Some of them are the chelating resins, which remove metals in dilute solutions. Another one would be the magnetic ion exchange resins used to extract natural organic matter from water.
As you can see, the best ion exchange water softener offers many benefits that make it a must-have appliance at home. These systems treat water properly, supplying areas like the kitchen or bathrooms with clean water for various purposes.
Because hard water can be so damaging to your health, it is heavily advised that you get one of these. Taking a look at the reviews above and the information exposed in this article should help you pick the ideal model so you can start avoiding the possible dangers they produce.
Either way, be sure to get something that meets your standards. Don’t let hard water become a danger with one of these.