What is a salt free water softener?
It is important to start this article by making a correction. Technically there is no such thing as a salt free water softener in the UK or anywhere else for that matter. But don’t go running just yet, the term you’re looking for is water conditioner. There are several different kinds of salt free device designed for treating limescale, you can see a general overview of these methods here and some more in-depth examinations of products on the market here, here and here. These devices generally all try to do the same thing. That is treat the hard water minerals directly in order to change the way they behave in the system thereby preventing limescale. But like any system water conditioners have their pros and cons.
Let’s start with the bad news first. Water conditioners, as we’ve established, target the hard water minerals directly. This means that these minerals are still in the water and the water is still technically hard. Hence the point about salt free water softeners not existing. This means that many conditioners are designed to only treat the limescale and nothing else. So the water won’t feel soft and won’t feel nicer on skin and hair, like you would expect with a traditional water softener. There are some exceptions to this and you can find them in our comparison blogs and documents. For the most part soft water benefits are a premium extra rather than something to expect with conditioning systems.
The other problem with the conditioner approach is that because hard water minerals are still present in the water, in areas where water evaporates you might still see scale with some systems, with others you will find that a fine, easy to clean powdery residue is left behind, we go into detail on how this manifests in our system here, but you can find this information on other products website’s or by getting in touch with the companies directly. With water softeners this won’t be the case. For some people, an easy to clean residue might actually be a pro, it depends entirely on the expectations of the system.
Now onto the good stuff! The pros of water conditioner systems are primarily based around their size and methodology. A water softener requires a lot of space and regular top ups of salt. It will also use up large quantities of water in its regeneration process. Conditioners have none of these issues, all are compact and require no salts nor use any extra water in their process. Furthermore these systems are often maintenance free with premium conditioners lasting between 20-30 years before needing replacement.
Conditioners are the perfect fit and forget solution to limescale. Once installed they deal with the key issue, the formation of limescale, with no extra costs or effort required. Water Conditioners are also more environmentally friendly than Water softeners as they do not release sodium ions back into the water course, you can read more about the environmental impact of water softeners here and the environmental impact of water conditioners here.
The next step
So as in any industry there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches to the limescale issue. As a customer the key is to establish what the main things you want to tackle are when shopping for a solution. Do you want pristine surfaces and are willing to shoulder the expense and effort required to achieve this? Then a traditional water softener is probably the way to go. Do you want to tackle limescale with minimal effort and have some extra bonuses thrown in? Then a premium water conditioner is the item of choice. We hope this has given some food for thought in your search for a limescale solution. And remember a salt free water softener is a water conditioner!