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Best Water Softener System and Company Buying Guide | Filtersmart

Researching through different water softener company ratings, comparison charts and reviews you might be wondering which is the best water softener should you buy? Do you need a salt-free water softener? A salt-based water softener? Electromagnetic or ion exchange? Is a reverse osmosis system a “softener?”

What companies are the best to deal with?

In short, what’s the best water softener type out there? And how can you tell?

Water Softeners: A Quick Introduction

(An Example Of A Traditional Salt Based Water Softener)

A water softener, true to its name, softens hard water. Hard water is water that, for whatever reason, has a high concentration of magnesium and calcium. There aretonsof methods to either get rid of this magnesium and calcium or to lessen its effects.

A salt based systems removes these minerals and then replaces it with sodium.  Sodium is added to the water and then ends up back in the natural water supply and is terrible for farmers and the environment.  A major reason why some cities are starting to ban the use of a traditional salt based water softeners.  

We’ve already reviewed the various systems and processes by which water softeners work, like distillation, reverse osmosis, electromagnetism, ion exchange, and – of course, template-assisted crystallization (which ourFS1000 system uses in order to affect the crystalline structure of magnesium and calcium so that it remains suspended in the water). Our salt free systems are eco friendly and don't add any sodium to the water 

Now, let’s talk about the old-fashioned way to sell water softeners and how you can avoid some basic hard selling that local water softener salesmen use in order to sell you a product that 1) you might not need and 2) doesn’t work.

Local Whole Home Water Softener Dealers: Avoid High Pressure Sale Tactics

This, at first, might seem off-topic, but I’ll tie it back to the main point so that you can understand exactly how it relates.

“Hello, Ma’am. Mind if I Test Your Water Hardness in Your Home? It’ll Only Take a Minute.”

That line above – that’s the basis of selling water softeners the old-fashioned way.

If someone offers you a free service, like testing your tap for “hard water,” (which sounds dangerous and undesirable) you’re probably not going to turn them down. Even if you don’t plan on buying whatever they’re selling, it couldn’t hurt to know whether or not you have a hard water problem, right?

And so you let them in and the test comes back positive: you do have a hard water problem, and you decide – since the salesman was so kind to identify the problem for you – you’ll just buy whatever water softener he’s selling. He’s doing you a favor, after all, so you might as well return it.

Besides, he’s incredibly pushy: He knows that you don’t know anything about hard water, so he insists that it’s a problem you have to get rid ofimmediately. He’s even surprised that you haven’t suffered any health issues as a result of drinking, bathing, and showering in hard water for this long.

Now there are two problems: 1) hard water isn’t bad for you; in fact, the magnesium and calcium are actually good for you in a lot of ways, and 2) instead of selling youa salt-free, template-assisted crystallization water softener, the salesman installs a salt-based water softener (which takes the healthy magnesium and calcium ions in hard water and replaces them with unhealthy sodium ions, a dietary problem that we’ve talked about time and time again in our articles), and signs you up for a service that replaces the sodium tank every month.

He not only forced you into buying something that you don’t really need, but he also turned the business of water softening into a subscription model, costing you a ton of value.

The Best Alternatives to Salt-Based Water Softeners

If salt-based water softeners are off the table, what are the best salt-free water softeners of 2020?

The FS500 from FilterSmart

Of course, the first product we have to mention is the FS500 from FilterSmart. Through the process of template-assisted crystallization, the FS500 changes the way that limescale forms on appliances. It doesn’t remove the magnesium and calcium ions in the water; it just breaks them down into smaller crystalline structures, keeping them suspended in water for up to 72 hours, thus preventing limescale build-up.


Water Softeners vs. Anti-Scale Conditioners: What’s the Difference? 

Basically, they all treat the effects of calcium and magnesium in hard water, but not the calcium and magnesium itself.  A traditional water softener uses ion exchange, a process that replaces the calcium and magnesium with sodium, thus softening the water. If you were to take a test strip and test for hardness, the rating should be zero.    

A water conditioner sometimes refers to either a salt-based water softener or a salt free water softener.   As with a salt free water system, the calcium and magnesium are "conditioned" so that they cannot create scale. That’s why they’re also sometimes referred to as anti-scale systems.  

There’s an ongoing debate in the water treatment industry on what to call the salt free systems.  We tend to still use the word "softener" as it treats the hardness. The definition of “water softener” according to is, “any of a group of substances that when added to water containing calcium and magnesium ions cause the ions to precipitate or change their usual properties: used in the purification of water for the laboratory, and for giving water more efficient sudsing ability with soap.” Since salt-free systems change the usual properties of calcium and magnesium by preventing limescale build-up.

The objective of this debate – which is usually pushed by salt-based water softener companies – is to confuse the buyer. If people hear the terms “anti-scale system” or “water conditioner,” they might think that those systems don’t treat hard water at all, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

To avoid this confusion, we call our systems, “water softeners.” They effectively do the exact same thing, so why change the language?

In with the New

Nowadays, people are more concerned about removing chlorine, chloramine, volatile organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, and other chemical compounds in the water than with removing natural minerals like calcium and magnesium.  Some of the purest spring water wells in the world are filled with these healthy natural minerals.  

Traditional water softeners were highly effective in treating the negative effects of these natural minerals, but not so great at treating all of the other unhealthy contaminants in the water. That’s why we use a granular activated carbon filter to remove and treat real "contaminants.”

To treat the effects of hard water, we sell an anti-scale, salt-free water softener that addresses the effects of hard water without the need to add salt or sodium.  So, the “new way” of water treatment is to filter the water and treat the hardness with anti-scale media, like with our FS-1500, a best-selling water treatment and filter combo.




One system for all water in the home



Wastes electricity and water



Reduces scale build up



Removes chlorine and dirt



Environmentally friendly



Requires maintenance



Safe for plants and pets



Good for cleaning and dishwashing



Requires additional system for drinking water



Produces salty, slimy, slippery water



Pollutes with salt brine discharge



Banned by law in many communities



Removes healthy nutrients from water



Lifetime Guaranteed




Buying Water Softener Systems Locally vs Online

Local distributors sometimes sell traditional water softeners for thousands of dollars – and that doesn’t include installation costs. When you factor in monthly subscriptions, you might be looking at another thousand dollars a year on top of that.

With online sellers like FilterSmart, you buy direct from the manufacturer – with, of course, manufacturer-direct pricing. That allows us to keep the costs extremely low and cut out the middle men (local dealers) entirely, passing those savings on to the consumer. The only hurdle is the installation.  Fortunately, with our non-electric water systems, you don't need an electrical hookup or even a drain, so the installation is easy to do for a DIY homeowner with basic plumbing knowledge or, at worst, a certified plumber.

Local water dealers will try and give no salt systems a bad rap because there’s no monthly maintenance cost or service repairs. That’s because you don't need  monthly maintenance costs or service repairs; no-salt systems simply hold up better in the long term. Meanwhile, salt systems are having constant issues with electrical, brine tank, water pressure problems and more.  

But if you’re dead set on a salt-based system, Amazon truly is the cheapest option for quality salt-based systems.

More>> Read our review of culligan water 

The Benefits of Choosing Online Dealers like FilterSmart

The new way of doing things cuts out all the things that were wrong with the water treatment industry. It makes for a much healthier, environmentally low-cost solution to homeowners.  We were one of the first companies that only sold salt-free water systems, so we’re glad to say that we’re a central part of this new wave of water treatment.

We’ve been selling online successfully for over 10 years now with thousands of happy customers across the country. We’ve consistently ended the debate on whether or not salt-free water softeners work. We were one of the first to sell a filter/softener combination and all of our no-salt softeners and carbon filters have at least a 4.5 or higher rating on Amazon and our website (which are verified by a third-party).

The main reason our systems have always had such high customer satisfaction is because we tell them the truth on what our salt-free systems do and don’t do. They will not remove calcium and magnesium, but they will eliminate the negative effects of those naturally-occurring minerals – like creating limescale on your pipes and appliances. If you test the water with our systems, it will still register as "hard.” We tell people this all the time.

The biggest noticeable difference with a no-salt water softener like ours is that there is no slimy, slippery feeling after taking a shower. Some people love it and some people hate it.  If you love that feeling, maybe our systems aren’t the best option for you. 

Your skin still will feel soft as there won't be chlorine in the water to "dry" your skin out, so there are no worries there. 

Do I Even Need a Water Softener?

If you live in an area with a low mineral content – like the Pacific Northwest or Northeast – you can get away with just filtering the water. If you can, get your water tested for hardness to see if the hardness levels are high enough to cause limescale build-up. We have a lot of customers that order our carbon filters and then later on down the line order our salt-free systems to address the hardness. 

Other Things to Think About

Beside the anti-scale media on the market, there are no other methods (magnetic or electromagnetic) that has been tested for effectiveness.  Arizona State University published one of the best third party tests in the industry that tested the effectiveness of all the different water treatment devices. They showed that by far anti-scale media using the template-assisted crystallization method is the most successful. The test not funded by anyone in the industry, and it showed a 99% effectiveness in keeping coils free from limescale. Our systems really work.

There are No True Comparison Sites

Every comparison site goes into two categories. First, water softener companies will disguise themselves behind a different domain name (which will then list their system as #1 and other ambiguous products down the line with lower ratings and reviews).  If you click on the "About Us" page, you will often see that they are operated by another company. They’re just trying to appear non-biased.

The other is an affiliate site. These will usually list products that are only sold on Amazon because they get an affiliate fee for listing the products on their site. Any company not interested in using affiliates won’t be reviewed by the site owner. Affiliate sites aren’t interested in reviewing the best products on the market; only the ones they can get commission for.  

So, in short, there are no true comparison sites. It’s really up to the homeowner to research the best buying decision for themselves.

More>> Water softener price and cost 

How Can FilterSmart Help?

We help customers all the time guiding them through the process of choosing a new water softener system. With so much conflicting information, there are always endless perspectives and options. We always try to be as upfront as possible about salt-free systems and traditional salt-based systems. In the end, it’s up to the homeowner to make the final decision. Most of the anti-scale systems on the market get the same media from the same few manufacturers. Warranty and components are usually the big differentiating factor.

At FilterSmart, we offer lifetime warranty on all tanks and valve heads and our carbon filters have the longest capacity at 1 million gallons.

How Long do Salt-Free Softener Media Last?

Our salt-free anti-scale media is also an industry best. It’s the most affordable and longest-lasting media that we have tested over the years. We have been in business for over 8 years, with thousands of salt-free water softener tanks sold online, and we’ve only had to replace a handful of salt-free water softener tanks. With all salt-free softening media, the longevity depends on water quality and hardness. We generally tell people salt-free media should last over ten years depending on those factors. Replacing the pre-filter for sediment and having a carbon filter prior to the salt-free media we have found extends the life of the anti-scale media.

Luckily that’s exactly what our systems do. If you’re interested, try it free for 90 days. If you’re not 100% satisfied, we’ll give you a full refund.

Questions? Concerns? Feel free to get in touch:

Call us: 866.455.9989

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