Mineral water is good for you, but it can take years off the life of your appliances. Pipes are to dishwashers, washing machines and water heaters what blood vessels are to the body. If they get plugged up with limescale from hard water minerals, appliances are forced to work harder. Over time, they become less efficient, and soon, you’re helping the repair technician build a vacation fund.
What can you do about hard water? The simplest solution is a water softener. To learn more about how they work and why the Fleck 5600SXT is our top pick for best water softener for hard water, read our review and buying guide.
Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener – Best for Hard Water
A water softener does only one thing — remove hard minerals from water. It’s old-school science using an ion-exchange process, but the technological advancements in today’s models have improved their efficiency by leaps and bounds. The Fleck 5600SXT isn’t your grandmother’s water softener.
Its 48,000-grain capacity ensures plenty of softened water throughout your home, while its high-capacity resin is engineered for long life. The advanced computerized flow meter is fully programmable and regenerates the system only as needed for maximum water and salt savings. Made of the most durable materials, it’s backed by a ten-year warranty and a reputation for trouble-free performance.
Q: Does the system have a low-salt indicator?
A: No. Check the brine tank every few weeks and refill the salt when the level is down to a few inches.
Q: Can I use this with well water?
A: Yes, but if you have high iron levels, you’ll need to an iron pre-filter.
Q: How long does the regeneration cycle take?
A: About two hours
Water softeners have few moving parts, so when failures occur, it’s in the control head. This unit made by Fleck is equipped with its top-of-the-line 5600SXT controller — a model so good that other brands use it in their systems. It monitors water usage and regenerates the system automatically. The user-friendly LCD interface displays the system’s status — a helpful feature for first-time softener owners — and it features a backlit touchpad control for smooth operation. Kits come with everything required for installation, and the resin is preloaded in the tank, not shipped in bags. It’s a great value.
Best Hard Water Softener Buying Guide
How do water softeners work? Salt-based systems like the Fleck use negatively charged resin beads to attract positively charged hard minerals like calcium and magnesium. When the beads in the resin tank are saturated and can’t absorb more minerals, salt-water from the brine tank is flushed through it, disrupting the bond between the resins and the minerals. The resin is regenerated and the excess minerals are flushed down the drain.
Water softeners are relatively low-tech, but knowing more about select performance features will help you choose the right system. Here’s what you need to know.
Resin can only hold so many minerals. When it reaches its capacity, it stops softening until the system regenerates. If you have very hard water and your softener’s grain rating is too low, the system will continuously regenerate, using salt and creating wastewater at record speed. A water test can tell you your water’s hardness, but for moderately hard water, the 48,000-grain Fleck offers plenty of capacity for most families of four.
Resin comes in two types — 8-percent cation, the industry standard, or 10-percent crosslink. For softening performance, they’re equal. The 10-percent crosslink resin lasts longer, but it’s more expensive, so it’s not a cost advantage.
The difference matters only if you have iron in your water. Iron damages 8-percent resin, so with a softener like the 5600SXT, you need to add an iron pre-filter to the system. Softeners with 10-percent crosslink resin can remove iron if it’s less than five parts per million.
Water softeners must be installed near the main water line and close to a power supply and a drain. To prevent damage to a water heater, it’s best to keep ten feet of pipe between it and the softener. You’ll need at least 12-square feet of space for the tanks and enough area around them to make maintenance easy.
• Regeneration Control
Older water softeners wasted a lot of salt because they regenerated on a timer whether it was needed or not. Most of today’s models including the Fleck monitor water use and regenerate the system only when necessary. The most significant difference between control heads on different models is how user-friendly they are. That can be in the eye of the beholder, but the Fleck controller has the features you want most including a backlit display and a range of customizable options for regeneration.
• Safety Features
If the resin tank malfunctions, the water in the brine tank can rise too high. It’s rare, but if it happens, it makes a mess. Better brine tanks like the Fleck’s come with a safety float that turns water to the tank off if the level gets too high.
Homeowners with basic plumbing skills and no space or plumbing irregularities can install the Fleck 5600SXT in a few hours. For a plumber, it’s a quick job, so professional installation shouldn’t be costly.
• Help & Support
The 5600SXT comes with a ten-year warranty on the tanks, a five-year guarantee on the control head and quick, responsive customer care.
If you have hard water, a water softener is an investment that will pay for itself in the long run. You can put the money you save in appliance repairs in your vacation fund and have a ball!