Both a salt free water softener and traditional water softeners have their own advantages and disadvantages. However, there are some distinct differences between how they each function.
A saltless water softener cannot truly be called a water softener; these systems are more accurately referred to as “water conditioners” or “descalers”. Descaling prevents solid particles from adhering to pipes and fixtures by altering the chemical structure of the water. Salt free systems can help reduce the appearance of the cloudy build up you see in dried hard water spotting which is limescale. Learn more about descaling in my article “Hard Water Solutions: Descaling System”
The salt in water softeners actually removes minerals such as calcium and magnesium through ionic exchange, replacing them with the softer minerals potassium and sodium.
So, softeners remove hard minerals and replace them with softer ones. Water conditioners change the chemical structure of the water thereby preventing the existing minerals from adhering to pipes or fixtures.
Pros and Cons of Water Softeners
Water softeners will extend the life of your plumbing, pipes, and appliances that use water to operate. A recent study showed that shower heads used with hard water had an overall decrease in flow by 75% in just a year and a half of use while those used with softened water maintained their full capacity of flow. With water softeners you can use less soap for laundry, dishes and even bathing. Hard water is notorious for its effect on soap lathering well. Finally, water softeners have improved over the years and many use up to 75% less salt that when they first came onto the market.
Pros and Cons of a Salt Free Water Softener
Some advantages of salt free systems is that they are less costly to operate and can run virtually maintenance free, they are also very conservative with water usage in their operation. Many people will also enjoy the feel of the water that has been conditioned over water that has been softened which usually feels slippery.
Where water collects, like in a water heater, a salt free water softener is not as effective in preventing the hard water build up. Some studies claim that water heaters can lose up to half their efficiency when using hard water compared to softened water. The ease of operation can be dramatically affected by regional water contaminants so always do your research before a major purchase. Learn more in my article about “How Hard Water Can Shorten The Life of Your Water Heater.”
If some of this terminology was confusing to you read through my “Glossary of Water Related Terms”.