WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT “SALT FREE WATER SOFTENERS”
Several companies have begun promoting a Salt Free Water Softener. They claim these systems will change the physical properties of hardness minerals (calcium and magnesium) by turning them into tiny hard crystals which will not attach to pipes and other fixtures. In theory, it’s a nice idea to be able to eliminate a salt requirement. The problem is that there are a number of common minerals typically found in your Sudbury water supply that make these systems ineffective after having invested your money into this type of product. Also, this approach does not create “soft water”, as they do not remove hard water minerals. Therefore, you will not get the full benefits of soft water in your home. In fact, calling one of these systems a water softener is really a misnomer. The Water Quality Association has published a paper on water softening and Salt Free Water Softeners, please see the link at WQA Consumer Alert.
CAN’T TEST WATER TO CONFIRM SALT FREE WATER SOFTENER WORKS
Water softener testing consists of measuring hardness levels before and after the water softener to make sure hardness minerals are actually being removed. This method cannot be employed with a salt free water softener as the hardness minerals are not removed from the water. Testing will show equivalent hardness levels prior to water going through the system and after going through the system. As a result of this, the only way you will know for sure if the hardness minerals are not building inside your pipes and other fixtures is if you see no evidence of this after months or years. By then, your warranty period will likely be over.
HOW DOES MANGANESE OR IRON AFFECT A “SALT FREE” WATER SOFTENER?
Different companies selling a purported salt free water softener have different parameters regarding levels of iron and manganese that they state will render the “Salt Free” Water Softener ineffective. The highest allowable level in the published information we have seen is Iron at .3 parts per million and manganese at .05 parts per million. For those of you living in Massachusetts, New Hampshire or Maine and have a private well, iron and manganese levels frequently exceed these levels. In Sudbury, water test results have shown manganese levels that sometimes reach .07. In this scenario, a Salt Free water softener is definitely not a viable option for you, even by the manufacturers’ claims. For a full description of water softeners in general, please see the Water Quality Association link at WQA Water Softener info.
As a company in the water treatment business since 1989, we have seen and are presented with new water filtration technologies all of the time. The ones we feel have merit we test in-house and then in the field before offering these products to our customers as viable solutions to their water quality issues (and we have tested salt free systems). If presented with a Salt Free water softener that we believed would work in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine or anywhere our customers are located, we would naturally add the product to our warehouse. To date, we have not seen such a product. If you are looking for a water softener which reduces the salt level used in the regeneration process, there are technologically improved products that are available. Additionally, there is one last option for your brine tank as an alternative to salt (sodium chloride) —potassium chloride. It may be used in place of salt (sodium chloride) in the brine tank to regenerate the softening resin. Potassium chloride is 99.9% sodium free and an alternative for those who are looking to reduce sodium usage. It is, however, a bit more expensive than sodium chloride and not as efficient (approx. 30% less). Therefore you will have to use more of potassium chloride in the regeneration cycle of your water softener.