Salt free softeners, also called scale reducing systems, function much differently than a Water Softener does. A Softener uses a process called ionic exchange, meaning it uses sodium to replace the calcium mineral that causes hard water. This leaves you with soft water, which is the absence of hardness.
Types of Salt Free Softeners
There are a few types of salt-free systems.
- Electronic/magnetic based – one example of this is a unit that wraps around your pipe, and it uses electronic frequency to keep the calcium in solution, meaning it is dissolved in the water. The idea is to prevent calcium from building up inside of your pipes, but it does not actually remove the calcium from your water
- Media based – these units will use media to change the structure of the calcium to create a fragmented form of calcium that will pass through your pipes instead of sticking to them. This also will leave some calcium to flow through the pipes and to your tap. In both cases, the water cannot be considered “soft”. You may still experience the negative effects of hard water on your sinks, showers, laundry, skin and hair. It also does not work well in areas where water sits, such as your hot water heater.
Salt Free Pros and Cons
There are certainly some attractions to the salt free systems, such as low maintenance costs, no waste water, and of course not having to add salt. Unfortunately, many water treatment manufactures have tested the magnetic process as well as the anti-scale media and found negative results. Other research supports that there are too many mixed results to make a clear statement on the effectiveness of these systems. There are still several claims made about these salt free systems that are not scientifically proven or approved by the NSF or ANSI. In order to get ANSI approval, the claims made by manufacturers need to be validated. There are no other proven “salt-free” devices that have the ANSI certification to remove hard water minerals.
Water Softener Benefits
A Water Softener will soften your water AND prevent hard water scale from staining and clogging your fixtures. This will protect your skin, hair, laundry, fixtures, appliances, and hot water heater.
- Helps Dry Skin and Hair –Hard water will strip your skin and hair of its natural minerals. Softened water keeps your skin and hair feeling healthy and soft.
- Protects and Softens Your Laundry – Clothes last longer, look brighter, fray less, and feel softer with soft water. And save money by using up to 60% less detergent.
- Reduces Energy Costs – Soft water maintains the ENERGY STAR® ratings on your water heater by preventing scale build-up, saving you money in energy costs. Softened water also saves 40-57% of operating costs of water heaters.
- Stops Discoloration and Staining – Soft water eliminates scale and hard water stains
- Protects Plumbing, Appliances & Fixtures – Soft water extends the life of appliances. And you can use up to 70% less dish washing detergent.
Yes, a Water Softener uses salt. And let’s be honest, nobody feels like adding salt to their tank. But a Softener needs salt to clean itself. And a Softener is still the only proven method for hard water removal. Also, in case you’re worried about the amount of salt added to your drinking water…well, don’t be. In Connecticut, our water does not get so high in hardness that you would actually taste the sodium. In fact, a Softener adds less sodium to your water than you would find in a glass of milk! But, if you are on a low sodium diet, you can always use potassium pellets instead of solar salt.
If you would like to learn more about the chemistry behind the different salt free systems, visit www.chem1.com for an informative and unbiased article.