Low-maintenance compact water softeners

Written By: Wendy Oldenbrook

Compact water softeners are much easier to maintain than their large, traditional counterparts. Gone are the days of giant bags of salt and brine tanks that take hours to recharge. Three new types of water softening technology have made using a water softener virtually maintenance free.

Salt-free compact water softeners

Instead of using traditional salt ion exchange chemistry to remove hard water minerals, salt-free compact water softeners use chelation to bind the hard water ions and prevent them from depositing scale in pipes and appliances. These water softeners use a variety of chelating agents. The NuvoH2O systems use CitraCharge to bind with hard water ions while the Aquios water softener systems use a polyphosphate compound.

Compact water softeners that use chelating agents have a replaceable cartridge that typically needs to be changed every six months. However, consumers should check their specific water softener. The Aquios AQFS120 Mini uses a replaceable cartridge that is rated for 15,000 gallons or three months of average use by a family, while the Aquios AQFS220 System uses a cartridge that the manufacturer says will last between four and six months.

Consumers should follow the manufacturers’ guidelines on when to replace the filter. Additionally, watch plumbing fixtures for hard water build up. Consumers with extremely hard water may need to change the filter sooner than typically recommended if they begin to see scale build up.

Electromagnetic compact water softeners

The second group of compact water softeners that are easy to maintain use electricity to prevent scale buildup. These systems are actually tiny appliances that wrap electric wires around a water pipe and then mount on the wall or directly onto the pipe. Electricity flows through the water and changes the crystal form of hard water molecules while they are in solution to make them less likely to deposit scale in pipes and appliances.

These systems must be plugged in to work, but other than that, require no ongoing maintenance.

Magnetic compact water softeners

Magnetic compact water softeners are the third group of water conditioners that are extremely easy to maintain. This technology uses very strong magnets that are installed directly onto water pipes. The magnetic forces change the molecular structure of hard water ions and suspend then in water so that they no longer form scale deposits.

Once these magnets are installed, there is no further maintenance required.

Tips for low maintenance systems

  1. Because these systems do not remove hard water ions, instead rendering them less likely to form scale, consumers should not expect to see a change in the hard water readings of a repeat water test. The hard water ions remain in the water, however, they do not behave in the same manner.
  2. Be sure to keep the original sales receipt and warranty information. Many compact water softeners have excellent warranties.
  3. For systems that require a periodic replacement cartridge, send a reminder through Outlook calendar, or make a note directly on a paper calendar to insure that the replacement happens on time.

Compact water softeners using salt-free chelating agents, electricity and magnets require very little attention once they have been installed. At the most, systems using filters need to have the filter replaced once every three to six months. Technological advancements such as these make fixing hard water issues not only easy, but virtually maintenance free.

Best ways to dispose of old water softeners

Written By: Wendy Oldenbrook

With the advent of new water softening technology that is environmentally friendly, inexpensive and easy to maintain, some consumers may be wondering how to upgrade their systems and get rid of their old water softeners. The good news is that water softeners and brine tanks do not contain any hazardous materials. This article will explore the best ways to dispose of an old water softener.

Professional un-installs it

First, because of the size of these systems and the connection to the household plumbing, a professional should un-install the water softener. Pipes may need to be cut and homeowners need to be sure that the water pipes have been properly capped. A plumber can also help move the tanks from a basement into a garage or an outside location to help facilitate disposal.

If the old water softener is being replaced with a new one that requires professional installation, check to see if they will take the old one with them when they are done.

Sell or recycle it

If the system still works or can be fixed, consumers should consider listing it for sale or giving it away for free on Craigslist. Don’t forget to include old bags of salt pellets that may go with the water softener.

If selling is not an option, the next step to consider is recycling the system. According to Recycling San Diego, many old water softeners have metal that can be recycled. From metal tanks to pieces of copper pipe, recyclers may even pay consumers for their scrap metal.

Call the trash company

If there are no recycling options in the community, call the local trash company. The trash company may come and pick it up for a small fee.

Some companies require that the salt be emptied first. Chipping salt out of a brine tank can be time consuming, especially if it has hardened at the bottom of the tank. If the trash company requires the removal of the salt, it may be worth it to hire someone privately to take the system directly to the dump with the salt still in it.

Find incentives

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District of Los Angeles County offers a financial incentive for customers in their district to have their automatic water softener removed. In response to concerns that water softeners were increasing the salinity of the city’s waste water and polluting the Santa Clara River, these systems were banned in 2008.

Consumers are required to fill out an application before they remove their system to claim a $150 rebate. The sanitation district also offers free professional help both to un-install the system and dispose of it.

While this type of incentive program appears to be rare, consumers should call their sanitation district and ask. By August 2014, over 25 communities in California had banned or restricted the use of traditional salt-based water softeners. Offering new incentive programs could be next.


Faced with the hassle of disposing of a heavy old water softener, consumers should consider a number of options. First, make sure the system was un-installed correctly. Next, check to see if the system can be sold or given away on Craigslist. Call the recycling center and trash company to find out if they will accept this old system. Lastly, if you live in California, check with the local sanitation district to see if they offer any incentives. Disposing of an old water softener may be inconvenient, but it is not impossible.

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