Saltless Water Softeners

We receive more questions about no-salt and saltless water softeners than ever before.  Most people have bumped into an internet ad for Pelican or NuvoH2O systems.

The very question “Do Saltless Water Softeners Work” is somewhat unfair.

These systems are not certified by any governing body as “water softeners.”  It would be unfair to say that they don’t work.  They’re simply not water softeners.

A water softener, by definition, removes the calcium and magnesium to below 1 grain per gallon.  These Pelican or NuvoH2O systems are not water softeners.  These systems do not provide soft water.  They attempt to reduce scale and are “water conditioners.”

That’s a huge distinction.  Scale might build up more slowly, but the water will not “act soft.”  Soap won’t bubble, hair won’t rinse clean and hardness spots on dishes will still appear.

The purpose of these systems is to reduce the rate at which appliances, fixtures and otherwise build up scale as a by-product of hard water.

Types of Salt-Free Water Softeners Conditioners

You’ll see a few different types of equipment that use no salt or offer the benefits of scale reduction.  If you break up the claims and statements made, they really fall into a few big groups.

Magnetic Water Softeners

Let’s make this brief:  We have never seen one of these working and regularly replace them.

This scam goes back to the 1930’s.

Descaling Cartridges

The rest of these products use some sort of chelation sequence to reduce the effect of scale.  This is a form of water conditioning.  Our Kinetico Scale Reducing System will do the same.  We can’t, legally or ethically, call it a water softener.

Saltless Softener Costs

The cost of a true saltless water softener conditioner is directly related to the water hardness and the volume of water consumed.

Let’s use a specific example.  The Home Depot carries an Aquasana product.  It’s a 50,000 Grain 20 in. SimplySoft Salt-Free Water Softener.   The disposable softener conditioner can be purchased for $279 and the replacement filters are $199.

For the sake of today and doing some quick math, let’s use the City of Madison’s water report.  The average Madisonian uses 68 gallons of water per day.  The hardness is just under 20 grains.  We’ll use 20 for easier math.

The math is:

  • 50,000 grains of capacity
  • divide this by 20 grains of hardness and we get 2,500 gallons of capacity
  • a family of four will use 68 gallons * 4 people or 272 gallons per day meaning the softener will work for 9.2 days…let’s round it up and use 10 days to be nice

Ok, so let’s add this up:

  • For the first 10 days, ignoring installation or sales tax, it’ll cost $279.
  • For the remaining 355 days of the year, you’ll need 35.5 filters at a replacement cost of $199/each.
  • Year 1 Total Cost: $279 + 35.5*199 = $7,343.50

On the plus side, in year 2 you’ll only need replacement filters so your costs drop to $7,264.

I chose Madison as  I was just reading their water report (yeah, fun life I know).  We can do the same with Milwaukee water.  That’s 8 grains of hardness.  The math is the same except you’ll get 23 days of service on the same consumption so it’s just under 16 filters in the first year.  So $279 for the first one plus 15 @ $199.  So $3,264 in the first year.


What’s the real cost for a NuvoH2O Manor?

I honestly do not know.  They will simply say that their filter cartridge is good for 50,000 gallons or 6 months.  For a water treatment professional, that’s not how we calculate volume.  The life should vary if the water is 3 grains hard or 30.

Let’s just take their one-size-fits-all approach and assume then that the costs of the system are limited to two filters per year.  The system is +/- $999.  That includes the first filter.

The replacement cartridges are $89 + shipping.  Let’s just call this $100 in filters for the first year and $200/year thereafter.

So the five-year cost of a saltless softener conditioner is roughly $1,800.  And that’s without the benefits of soft water.


How Much Money Is Saved On Salt

Not much.  For that same family on Lake Michigan water, a family of four needs to treat:

8 grains of hardness * 68 gallons per day * 4 people * 365 days = 800,000 grains of hardness per year.

The most efficient softener on the planet is the Kinetico Premier S650.  It removes 5,377 grains of hardness per pound of salt used.  So that’s 147 pounds of salt or just under 4 bags.  This is roughly $20/year in salt; however, that is for water that is actually soft.  We’re not reducing scale, we’re completely preventing it.

If you are considering a saltless water softener conditioner, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Much like perpetual motion, saltless water solutions make a lot of sense until you try to put them into the real world.

Wanna Stick with the Salt?
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    • Hi Brian, I’m familiar with those and many of the sort.

      In general, there is no such thing as a salt-free softener with the exception of maybe the disposable ones we see on RVs.

      The big issue that I have with most of these companies is the complete refusal to certify their systems under the guise of trade secrets. The NSF performs the third-party testing for our equipment no differently than how UL certifies the iPad I’m writing on.

      What those companies are doing is selling a car that gets 200 mpg due to some proprietary technology, but they refuse to let anyone test their mpg claim.

      This is probably one of the better links on the topic. This is from a retired chemistry professor and I love reading his work:

    • I am from BC and have extremely hard water (50g +). I installed one about 3 months ago. The change in our water was huge. We tried a salt softener years ago and never was sure if it even worked. With this one we can wash our car and lawn with very soft water. Our dishwasher works well without rinse aid or vinegar. We no longer have to clean our tub and shower with toxic cleaners like CLR. 5 stars for me
      G Ryde

  1. Well, this was an eye opener. Thanks for clearing up the misconceptions. I almost fell for the saltless spiel because I wanted to avoid dragging 40lb bags down the stairs every month. But with a hardness of 24, I think I’m going to have to do just that.

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