You hear the term ‘hard water’ thrown around from time to time, but what does it mean? Hard water is simply mineral-rich water which has accumulated things like calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese in its journey from rainwater into water for the home. So, if you find soap and shampoo not lathering, dishes coming out of the dishwasher with spots or streaks or a water-level ring in your bathtub, then you’ve got hard water.
There are no health risks to hard water, but the resulting limescale could cause damage to plumbing over time. Research suggests that homes across 60% of the UK and 85% of the US are subject to hard water, so if this affects you, look into buying a water softener. They (lab coats on) use the principle of ion exchange to substitute the unwanted minerals for regular sodium-based salt. But don’t worry, this isn’t a science lesson, but instead a breakdown of the best water softener units available to buy right now.
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This water softening unit by Water2Buy makes bold claims, promising to eliminate 100% of limescale from home plumbing. Running on a daily cleaning cycle, it will filter and soften approximately 1,250 litres of water per day, which should be sufficient daily water for households of up to 4 people.
The W2B200 will also not affect water pressure, so everything will remain the same, albeit softer. It’s also a very quiet unit, and set up properly, will not start the cleaning cycle until around 3am to make sure you aren’t disturbed. Coming in at a compact 65cm high, 44cm deep and 22cm wide it’s smaller than the average washing machine or dishwasher and is straightforward to install – just connect the inlet and outlet hoses to the back and away you go.
Eddy Electronic’s Water Descaler/Softener approaches the softening process a little differently to its large-scale counterparts. Instead of the larger units that connect directly to the water supply, this is a salt-free alternative appliance that instead uses two sets of coiled wires. These wrap around the water supply inlet pipe and create a magnetic field that, on a particle level, adjusts the limescale’s adhesive properties so that the particulate minerals don’t collect in the pipes. The purported healthy benefits to certain minerals are therefore preserved.
These can be used on all pipe types save for lead piping, and the supplied cables will suit pipes of up to a 28mm diameter. Usefully, wire sets for larger pipes are available from the manufacturer. Eddy also offer a 12-month money-back guarantee as well as a lifetime warranty on repairs and replacements.
Promising to eliminate all limescale from your home water supplies, Tapworks’ AD11 water softener offers a hard water solution on a huge scale. With an extra-large 37kg salt tank and capacity for 2266 litres of water, it would be suitable for very large households or even smaller businesses. Straightforward controls also keep things nice and simple.
Despite its large capacity its not an overly huge machine, and at 65x47x30cm, is still comparable to the majority of large kitchen appliances. One other major positive on this appliance is that it is shipped with all the pipes and connectors required to hook it up to the mains water supply. Tapworks also offer a remote diagnostic telephone line for help, should you choose to install it yourself, as well as good warranties depending on your usage.
Housed in a smart, simple and fairly minimalist white plastic body, this water softener from Crown by Harveys is a neat all-in-one water softening package. Adding to the low-key aesthetic is the size, which at 49x46x21cm, will comfortably fit in most cupboards and should slot in alongside any existing plumbing, so you’ll barely know its there. It also runs very simply, not needing any electrical connections to keep it ecologically sound – it simply uses existing water pressure.
The twin-tank system is all housed internally, and thanks to the water pressure-based system, provides a constant supply of softened water. An installation kit is supplied with all the hoses and fittings you’d need if you wanted to have a go at installing it yourself, and the unit can be oriented any way so that the inlet/outlet port can be on whichever side you need for your plumbing. To top it off, 2 salt blocks are also provided with the package.
This water softener system by AquaHouse utilizes a salt-free system to reduce limescale in the home with a claimed effectiveness of 99.6%. A very compact system, measuring up at 34x24x21cm, it will tuck neatly away in whatever space you’ve set aside for it. Because of its size, it makes an ideal choice for smaller households where water flow rates don’t exceed an average 8 litres per minute (for context, flushing the toilet once uses about 13 litres per minute), but can also handle peak rates of up to 20 litres per minute. Larger units are available for bigger households.
The salt-free system utilises a system abbreviated as TAC, which runs water through a filtration system that holds onto the unwanted minerals in hard water. It then converts them into harmless mineral crystals, preventing any limescale deposits. An installation kit is supplied, and AquaHouse offer a 3-year guarantee on parts and fixings. The internal filter system itself also usually lasts for 3 years before needing replacement.
The WS355 water softener unit from BWT is one of several in the range, designed to accommodate larger households of up to 6 people. Measuring in at 60x48x27cm, it’s designed to fit in most kitchen cupboards and therefore offers a decent out-of-the-way solution. Fitting is also a simple job, with an installation kit supplied. An electronic control system built into the unit, monitors the water and adapts the softening process depending on the amount of water going through it. Therefore, it only uses as much salt and water as is needed at any one time, keeping the running costs low.
Utilising salt to filter out unwanted mineral deposits in the water and convert them into harmless products, the system can be used with salt blocks or regular salt. BWT also offer warranties; 5 years on parts, and 2 years on labour at home, giving you a little extra peace of mind.
Which Water Softener to Go for?
Best quality & features – The Water2Buy W2B200 deftly treads the line between quality and value to deliver a unit with the best quality and features. Removing 100% of household limescale, it efficiently stores up to 1,250 litres of softened water per day and the automated cleaning and filtration process can be set to run at night for minimal disturbance. What’s more, it stands out as an excellent choice thanks to a cost that falls in the middle of what these appliances can set you back, giving you a good balance between initial investment and savings over time.
On a budget – The Eddy Electronic Descaler/Softener is an excellent choice for those who want to give water softening technology a go but don’t have the budget (or space!) for a full-sized unit. The compact unit will slot in just about anywhere and should prove effective for all but the hardest water areas without putting too much of a hole in your wallet. It’s also a good budget-friendly option because of the installation – you shouldn’t need to get a plumber out, just wrap the wires around your pipes and enjoy the benefits!
The best for big households – The BWT WS355’s capacity for 6-person households means it’s the sure-fire choice for big houses. With an optional high-slow kit available from the manufacturer, it’s capable of handling high levels of water flow with an efficient usage of salt to keep running costs low, another positive for big families on more of a budget.
For long-term money saving – Crown by Harveys’ water softener might seem like the kind of investment most would baulk at, but if you’re thinking long-term then it’s really worth the up-front cost. Aside from being an efficient all-in-one machine, its biggest potential saver comes from the fact that it doesn’t need an electrical connection to do its thing. Therefore, you get a constant soft water supply without any extra strain on your electric bill, and you recoup the benefits of softer water with fewer and fewer repairs needed on your water-using appliances.
Water Softener Buying Guide
The benefits of having a water softening unit installed can be huge. While some may seem like a huge and slightly scary investment at first, the benefits of softening your water can be incredible. In the short term, you can enjoy nicer showers and baths, better cleaning on dishes, and overall nicer-looking taps and other water outlets. In the long term, you can prolong the life of your water-using appliances and ultimately save money on repair bills. Sounds good, right?
In order to know what you’re looking for, and to cut through the technical plumbing jargon, here’s a buying guide to help you make sense of what’s out there and therefore what you need.
This is a twofold consideration, really. Firstly, it relates to the size of the unit. Most full-size water softeners are smaller than the average large appliance like washing machines or dishwashers, and as such ought to comfortably slot into most under-counter kitchen cupboards. So, always be aware of how large a unit is relative to how much space you have, and keep in mind that some units also have fittings that add to the dimensions.
The second size consideration is about you and your household. You can calculate your litres-per-hour usage if it helps quantify things, but most manufacturers specify how many people their units can comfortably handle. For reference, small/average households are set at 1-4 people, and anything above 4 is considered large.
Obviously not all water softeners are made equal, and equally not all water is equal. Some areas have harder or softer water than others, which is something dictated by the composition of the ground itself. For the hardest water areas, a salt-based unit might be the better choice to physically convert unwanted minerals into harmless by-products, as salt-free styles simply may not be able to keep up with demand.
This is something you can check yourself, but with everything on this subject, if in doubt call a professional and get a consultation. The short version is that a plumbing system with large pipes will require a softener that can process higher volumes of water more quickly, but smaller pipes less so. It’s also worth noting where your mains water supply enters the house, as this can affect water pressure – systems with tanks in the attic tend to have a more constant pressure than supplies that enter downstairs, or in any external structures.
The world of plumbing may seem a little daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Many water softeners might seem like a huge investment at first, but they will pay for themselves in no time at all by merit of money saved on future repairs. Besides, the benefits of softer water are huge! No more showers drying out your skin, and clean dishes again. So, if hard water has affected you and your home, you’ve now got all the information you need to do something about it.
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