Last Updated on April 11, 2021
There are many benefits to using soft water, but in the United States, 85% of homes are supplied with hard water. Many people turn to water softeners to solve this dilemma.
Unfortunately, traditional water softening systems utilize large amounts of salt to remove the hard minerals from the water via an ion-exchange process. This requires monthly upkeep for regeneration and large purchases of salt. Moreover, it increases the sodium content in your water. For those with hypertension or other medical issues, the added sodium could be a real problem.
Don’t worry, there is a solution to getting soft water without adding sodium. Salt-free water softeners can still provide you all the benefits of soft water without the monthly maintenance or added sodium content.
With many different models available, your options are wide open, which may present a new problem. To help solve this one, we’ve tested many of these salt-free systems to see which ones gave us the most delicious water devoid of scale and excessive mineral content. The following reviews will share what we’ve learned to help simplify the decision for you as well.
A Quick Comparison of our Favorites in 2021:
|Best Overall||Tier1 Eco Salt-Free Water Softener||
|Best Value||YARNA Alternative Water Softener||
|Premium Choice||APEC Salt-Free Water Softener||
|OneFlow+ Salt-Free Water Filtration System||
|Hardless Water Filter & Water Conditioner||
The 6 Best Salt-Free Water Softeners:
1. Tier1 Eco Salt-Free Water Softener – Best Overall
With flow rates up to seven gallons per minute to accommodate homes with up to six bathrooms, the Tier1 Eco Series Salt-Free Water Softener is an impressive unit that earned our admiration. It requires no electricity, no salt, and no backwashing. Once the system is installed, the only upkeep it needs is to have the filter cartridge replaced about every two months. Since it is a filter-based system, the Tier1 salt-free softener will filter out more than just the minerals causing hard water. You’ll see a reduction in chlorine, sediment, iron, and more. The resins inside that are responsible for softening the water will only last 3-5 years before needing to be replaced. This could be improved, and a longer lifespan would be our only real concern with this model.
We were very happy with the water that was produced by the Tier1 Eco Series. Our clothes, skin, and hair felt more nourished after just a few days of washing in the softened water. The taste of the water was greatly improved, making it much more refreshing and pleasant. Hard water spots disappeared, and we were left with perfectly clear water straight from the tap.
2. YARNA Alternative Water Softener – Best Value
There are two main problems that most people face when looking at water softening systems. They can be wildly expensive and difficult to install. SANIA has attempted to remedy both of these issues with the YARNA, which we think is the best salt-free water softener for the money. Compared to other systems, the YARNA is rather affordable. Moreover, this device is much easier to install than most systems that require hooking directly into your main water line. The YARNA is installed on the outside of any pipe, up to two inches in diameter. It then delivers electrical impulses to the water that change the structure of the mineral crystals, causing them to lose bonding ability.
Since it doesn’t actually remove the hard minerals, the YARNA isn’t a true water softener; it’s really just a water conditioner. But it does prevent minerals from forming hard water spots and scale deposits, even though it doesn’t remove them. This means you get the benefits of soft water while still getting the essential minerals that traditional water softeners remove.
3. APEC Salt-Free Water Softener – Premium Choice
For worry-free water that you can rely on, the APEC FUTURA-10 Whole House Salt-Free Water Softener is a premium product with a matching price tag. This is one case where we believe you get what you pay for. With an impressive flow rate of 10 gallons per minute, this device will have no problems providing adequate water to your entire home with no drop in pressure. That said, it’s only good for homes with water hardness levels below 25 grains per gallon. Within that range, this is an incredible system.
With no need for backwashing, electricity, or salt, this system is virtually maintenance-free. It’s also protected by a 10-year warranty, so you can have peace of mind knowing that you won’t have to worry about it leaving you high and dry. Most importantly, the water that it produces is excellent. We loved the crisp, refreshing taste, and it proved to be a great deterrent to hard water spots. There was no slimy feeling on the skin after showering and our hair and skin felt great after a few days washing in the water from the FUTURA-10.
Alternatively, check out the best Salt for water softeners – here!
4. OneFlow+ Salt-Free Water Filtration System
Compact and space-saving, the OneFlow+ is an effective and low-maintenance salt-free scale prevention and water filtration system. With a max flow rate of 10 gallons per minute, it can easily handle the water needs for a whole house. Since it is a salt-free system, the OneFlow+ uses two cartridge style filters to condition the water. The media cartridge is to prevent scale and remove the hard water causing minerals. It will last up to 250,000 gallons or three years. The second filter is a 20-micron carbon filter that removes sediments, chlorine, taste, and odor. It’s good for up to 50,000 gallons or one year of use.
Since it doesn’t require any electricity, installation is relatively simple. It just requires one line in from your main water and then one line out to reconnect. There’s almost no maintenance, but we still aren’t wild about replacing two filters. The OneFlow+ is also one of the more expensive systems to begin with, though it doesn’t offer any special functionality. Definitely a solid performer, just not the one that impressed us the most.
5. Hardless Water Filter & Water Conditioner
More than just a water conditioner, the Hardless NG Lotus also filters out sediments and bad taste to leave you with a refreshing drinking experience, even if your tap water isn’t the best to start with. Unfortunately, it’s not a true water softener, so it isn’t removing the minerals that cause hard water. Instead, it changes the structure of the mineral crystals so that they can no longer bond together, eliminating scale deposits and other hard water problems. The NG Lotus uses no electricity and requires very little maintenance. It contains a single, five-stage filter that is easily replaced with no tools.
When installed, this device doesn’t affect the water pressure in your home. We still had adequate flow to all fixtures, but the water was noticeably improved. Hard spots were gone and the water tasted much better. However, we did have some problems with the unit leaking. The cartridge wouldn’t seal correctly when we first installed it. Luckily, it’s backed by a four-year warranty so we had no problems getting a replacement.
6. Eddy Electronic Water Softener Alternative
Though it’s not a true water softener, the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is one of the most affordable ways to get salt-free soft water in your home. It doesn’t remove the minerals from your water, but it does prevent them from sticking together, which is what causes the hardness in water. This is what makes the Eddy device a descaler and not a true water softener. To do this, the Eddy descaler requires electricity, making the installation considerably more difficult. You may even need a professional to do it for you.
In our testing, the Eddy descaler did help to reduce hard water spots, but it didn’t eliminate them. They took longer to form, but they still appeared in time. We tried it in a home with high concentrations of iron in the water, but the Eddy wasn’t effective at removing the iron and we still had discolored water that was leading to rusty fixtures. We appreciate the lifetime warranty that stands behind the Eddy descaler, but that’s not enough to redeem it. Despite the low price, we can’t recommend this device because it’s simply not effective enough at softening water.
See our reviews of the top: Fluoride water filters of the year
After reading the comparisons of our six favorite salt-free water softeners, you may have some questions that need to be answered. You probably noticed that there are some key differences between these models. Some install on the outside of your water pipes, while others hook directly into the mainline of your home’s water. Some models filter the water as it passes through, and other devices merely condition the water. Moreover, you may be considering the benefits of a salt-free system over a traditional water softener. Is it a better bet? Why should you choose a salt-free softener instead? In this section, we’re going to discuss all of this to make sure that you’re fully informed before you make a purchase.
Benefits of Salt-Free Systems
Traditional water softeners use salt to replace the excess calcium and magnesium molecules in your water with sodium molecules. This type of water treatment has been shown to remain effective for years, so why should you choose a salt-free system instead?
Regular softeners require continual regeneration of the resins inside, resulting in weekly upkeep and maintenance. You’ll need to regularly check the salt levels and add more whenever needed. You’ll also need to flush the brine from the system. All of this upkeep can get tedious over time, but a salt-free system eliminates this issue. Many salt-free softeners don’t need any upkeep at all. They will simply continue to condition your water without any input from you. Others will need occasional filter replacements, a simple process that takes very little time, effort, or expense.
No Added Sodium
There are many reasons why you may limit, or at least monitor your sodium intake. Water softeners increase the sodium content in your water, which can make a big impact on your sodium intake when you drink it all day every day. Salt-free softeners don’t add sodium to your water, so it’s much safer for individuals with hypertension, kidney disease, heart problems, or many other health concerns.
All the Benefits of Soft Water
There are many benefits to soft water, and you may be wondering if a salt-free system will still provide all of them. Though salt-free systems don’t remove the minerals completely, they do neutralize them and prevent them from bonding together. This means that you’ll get all the benefits that soft water provides, without stripping the water of essential minerals. The calcium and magnesium that water softeners remove are necessary for your health. This gives salt-free systems the leg up since they keep in these vital nutrients.
What to Look for in a Salt-Free Water Softener
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of choosing a salt-free softener over a traditional one, let’s go over the differences between models that set them apart from one and other. Different methods of conditioning the water and different installation methods could make one preferable over another.
Most of the salt-free water softeners that we tested didn’t require any electricity to run. Instead, they were simply powered by water pressure. We prefer this style since it won’t increase your energy usage, costing you more money each month. What’s more, running wires and hooking into your electricity can greatly complicate the installation process. If you have to call a professional, it’s going to be much more expensive.
How Often Do Filters Need to be Replaced
Some models that we tested featured filter cartridges that need to be replaced regularly. These filters can last just two months in some setups, while they may last 1-3 years in other systems. For the least maintenance possible, go with a system that only requires yearly cartridge replacements.
Your water conditioning system needs to supply enough water for an entire house. If just one person is living in your home, this may not be a big deal. If you have a whole family under one roof, then your water needs may be greater. Be sure to get a unit that has adequate flow to supply your kitchen, all your bathrooms, and all of the people in the house. Some salt-free softeners have flow rates of 15 gallons per minute and even higher.
Ease of Installation
If you have to call a professional to install your water softener, it’s going to be considerably more expensive. Luckily, many of these systems are very easy to install and most homeowners can do it themselves. On the other hand, some systems may require more complex plumbing or even electricity. Keep this in mind when choosing which water softener will provide your home with salt-free soft water
Between our reviews and buyer’s guide, you’re probably ready to rid yourself of those pesky minerals and start enjoying some salt-free soft water. Before you make a final purchase, we’re going to quickly go over our top recommendations once more so that they’re fresh in your mind. Overall, we thought the Tier1 Eco Series was the best salt-free water softener. More than just preventing the buildup of hard minerals, this softener will remove sediment, chlorine, bad taste and odors, and more. It provides enough water for an entire house and requires no maintenance or electricity.
For the best value, we suggest checking out the YARNA Whole House Alternative Water Softener. It’s easy to install on any pipe up to two inches in diameter and effectively prevents minerals from forming scale deposits for an affordable price. Finally, when you don’t mind paying a premium for top of the line performance, the APEC FUTURA-10 is a whole house salt-free softener that does it all. It provides pure, soft water at up to 10 gallons per minute. It’s maintenance-free and protected by a ten-year warranty so you can rest assured that your clean water won’t be compromised.
David Slone runs the TapIt Water blog. He first learned about water filtration and the impact it has on the world in college. Ever since that day he has worked towards making the world a better place. He writes to inform you about water filtration, the consequences of plastics, bottled water, and how we can do things better.
He loves to spend time with his beloved wife, 3 kids, and dog when he’s not writing.
- 1 A Quick Comparison of our Favorites in 2021:
- 2 The 6 Best Salt-Free Water Softeners:
- 2.1 1. Tier1 Eco Salt-Free Water Softener – Best Overall
- 2.2 2. YARNA Alternative Water Softener – Best Value
- 2.3 3. APEC Salt-Free Water Softener – Premium Choice
- 2.4 4. OneFlow+ Salt-Free Water Filtration System
- 2.5 5. Hardless Water Filter & Water Conditioner
- 2.6 6. Eddy Electronic Water Softener Alternative
- 3 Buyer’s Guide
- 4 Conclusion: