Are Salt Free, Saltless Systems Worth It?

Salt Free, Saltless Water Systems.  We’ve received more inquiries in the past few years about these types of systems with customers wanting to install them in their home.  They seem convenient, easier to maintain, and are environmentally friendly.  Do they work?  Do they remove the hardness (calcium and magnesium ions) from the water?  The main question about salt free, saltless systems is do they provide the same benefits as a water softener?

If you did an internet search, there are multiple companies selling devices that are “salt-free” or “saltless” water softeners, which can be enticing because who likes lugging salt to the water softener.  Many times, these systems create more questions than answers.  The first answer is to define what a water softener and a salt free, saltless water system are.

A water softener uses a process called ion exchange. It has an electronic or metered valve with a fiberglass tank and inside the fiberglass tank is a polymer resin bed. The water softener uses a cleaning cycle to bring sodium ions from the salt tank to attach to the resin bed.  When a faucet is turned on inside the house, hard water enters the resin bed.  The hard water minerals attach to the resin beads in exchange for sodium ions.  Over time, the resin bed becomes exhausted with hardness ions and the water softener will recharge itself.  The hard water minerals are flushed down the drain and replaced sodium ions.

Often called a descaler, a salt free, saltless water system does not remove hardness minerals from the water.  These systems alter the chemistry of the hard water minerals.  They “crystallize” the hardness minerals to reduce the rate at which appliances, fixtures, and other water using appliances need to be replaced.  The process of these systems changes the hard water minerals allowing them to, in fact, stay in the water.

By using a water softener, the hard water minerals are removed allowing your home to live with clean, soft water.  You’ll experience smooth and soft skin your hair bright and shiny, or your clothes stay bright and colorful longer.  You’ll spend less time cleaning your home from hard water spots and buildup.  Your appliances will last even longer on a water softener due to the lack of hard water minerals.  When soft water is tested, the hard water minerals are reduced to 0-1 grains per gallon.  If using a salt free, saltless system, the average hard water in McHenry and Lake Counties in Illinois range from 15-40 grains per gallon so you’ll still have that hardness in your water.

From our experience, we’ve installed a salt free, saltless system in a customer’s home.  After 6 months, at the customer’s request, we removed the system because they felt the water was not soft.  It didn’t have the soft water feeling.  They noticed hard water scale too.  Our company does not sell salt free, saltless systems nor do we recommend them to any customer who has hard water.  If you are still considering a salt free, saltless water system, keep in mind you won’t receive the same benefits of a water softener.