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!
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.
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.
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 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.
- Ideal For: 6 Peoples
- Capacity: 48,000 Grains
- Voltage: 120 Volts
- Flow Rate: 12 Gallons Per Minute
- Item Weight: 20.7 pounds
Keep In Mind
Before purchasing, there’s a small issue to keep in mind. The system doesn’t have an alarm to let you know when the salt level drops significantly. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, as the filter still works like a charm and cleans your water thoroughly.
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 stains often seen on surfaces like faucets.
- Ideal For: Households
- Capacity: 40,000 Grains
- Voltage: 115 Volts
- Clear Water Iron: 10 ppm
- Item Weight: 20.7 pounds
Keep In Mind
A slightly disappointing feature is the material of the clips holding the connections of the bypass valve. It seems to be cheap plastic, which may not be durable. Still, it far surpasses initial expectations in terms of performance by only using what’s necessary instead of wasting ridiculous amounts of water.
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.
- Ideal For: Whole House
- Capacity: 32,000 Grains
- Voltage: 110 Volts
- Brine Line: 5 Inche
- Item Weight: 88 pounds
Keep In Mind
Apart from all that, the installation isn’t as smooth as one would expect. In most cases, it takes between two to three hours to set up the unit. But if you have enough experience setting up this kind of product, the process won’t be much of a problem, and you’ll get all its fantastic results with less up-front effort.
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 for 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.
- Ideal For: Easy Programming
- Capacity: 40,000 Grains
- Voltage: 120 Volts
- Flow Rate: 13 GPM
- Item Weight: 96 Pounds
Keep In Mind
But once again, we found a water softener that’s not easy to set up. It’s safe to say that the instructions are less than ideal. In this case, getting professional assistance would be an excellent choice. Once it is installed, however, you’ll enjoy the most practical softener on the list.
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.
- Ideal For: Homes with 2-5 People
- Capacity: 48,000 Grains
- Voltage: 120 Volts
- Range: 6-8 ppm
- Item Weight: 119.7 pounds
Keep In Mind
Although this device is near-perfect, the low quality of some parts like the fittings and the bypass valve is noticeable from the moment you set the softener up. While this feels like a small step-down in quality, it is still worth mentioning they rarely break down. You’re getting tons of quality nonetheless.
Ion Exchange Water Softener Comparison
|Name||Ideal For||Capacity||Voltage||Item Weight|
|Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener||6 Peoples||48,000 Grains||120 Volts||20.7 pounds|
|Whirlpool WHES40E Water Softener||Households||40,000 Grains||115 Volts||20.7 pounds|
|Aquasure Harmony Series Softener||Whole House||32,000 Grains||110 Volts||88 pounds|
|Genesis 2 Premier Water Softener||Easy Programming||40,000 Grains||120 Volts||96 Pounds|
|DURAWATER Fleck 5600 SXT Softener||Homes with 2-5 People||48,000 Grains||120 Volts||119.7 pounds|
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.
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.