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Buying Guide: Water Softeners

Home Water Softening and Water Conditioning Systems

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Compare the Sp3 Scale Prevention System to the Home Master Softener

The Nelsen SP3 Scale Prevention Systems will remove sediment, chlorine and chemicals, and will condition the water hardness so that it no longer forms scale or bonds with glass or metal. It does not remove calcium or fluoride from the water. The Home Master Softener will remove calcium from the water and put salt in its place.

Both systems are effective at treating hard water problems but produce different feeling water. The SP3 water feels like natural spring water, whereas the Home Master Softener water feels either silky or slippery depending on you. Some people will use both -- the SP3 system on their main water so that all water is treated, and the Home Master Softener just before the hot water heater so just the hot water is salt softened.

The Sp3 Scale Prevention System will also remove all the chlorine and chemicals from the entire water supply and requires annual filter maintenance. The media requires replacement every 8-10 years or 1,000,000 gallons. The Home Master softener will require that you fill the salt bucket about monthly, and can be combined with the Home Master Filter for whole house filtration. However you will need to use the Tap Master Reverse Osmosis System to remove the salt from your drinking water, but many Sp3 Scale Prevention System system users get that system anyway because of the higher order of purification .

IN-DEPTH -- WATER SOFTENERS: Water softening systems reduce the hardness of water by replacing the hardness minerals - calcium and magnesium ions (other cations will be removed as well such as ferrous iron) - with another ion, either sodium or potassium depending on whether you have filled the salt bucket with sodium salt or potassium salt. In cases of very high water hardness (25+ grains per gallon) salt softening is often the only practical solution. Lower levels of water hardness can be effectively treated with the SP3 systems. However if you are planning on using the SP3 system on a well, please have your water tested and send us the report via fax or email. Using the SP3 system on city water produces great results.

Hard water creates unsightly scale on water fixtures; coats water heating elements causing power loss and increased electricity consumption; wastes soap by reducing its lathering ability, and it leaves a residue on your skin and hair. Very hard water (>10gpg) can also cause premature clogging in reverse osmosis membranes. Water is considered slightly hard if it has between 1-3.5 grains per gallon (gpg) of hardness minerals, moderately hard 3.5-7gpg, hard 7-10.5gpg, and very hard 10.5+ gpg.

Water softeners are specific ion exchangers that are designed to remove ions, mainly positively charged calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions. A water softener collects hardness minerals within its conditioning tank and from time to time flushes them away. Softeners are also able to remove up to 5 ppm (mg/L) of clear water (dissolved) iron.

The water enters the house and passes through a bed of small plastic resign beads. The resign beads are covered with salt ions. As the water flows past the salt ions, they are exchanged with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the resign beads contain nothing but calcium and magnesium and no longer soften the water. Then it is time to regenerate the resign beads.

Regeneration involves soaking the resign beads in a stream of salt ions. The salt you will use in your softener will be either sodium chloride or potassium chloride. During regeneration the water softener mixes up a very strong brine solution and flushes it through the resign beads (Please make sure to check you brine tank regularly and top it off). The strong brine displaces all of the calcium and magnesium that has built up in the resign beads and replaces it again with sodium. The remaining brine plus all of the calcium and magnesium is flushed out through a drain pipe. Regeneration normally produces up to 25 gallons of salt water.

Depending on your personal preference salt-softened water may feel either slippery or slimy when bathing with soap. Many people do not like the feel of the water treated with a water softener, because it feels as if they can't ever completely rinse off the soap – your skin feels like it has a slippery coating. Consumers are told that salt water softeners bring out the natural oils of your body. This is not true. It is a sign of over regeneration and over softening.

Water Softener Aesthetics

Salt based water softener systems can prevent the scale build-up in pipes and water heaters by removing the hardness minerals of calcium and magnesium. Because of the sodium content, softened water unites with soap limiting bathtub rings, allows better results with clothes washers and dishwashers, and leaves shower doors virtually free of the usual soap scum build-up. Most laundry and dishwashing detergents contain a lot of sodium. Sodium causes more suds, however suds do not clean. Even though the minerals are gone, the total dissolved solids in the water has been reduced but not eliminated and therefore when the water has evaporated, it may leave a residue on surfaces or around faucets which is simply wiped up. Salt softened water can also cause spotting depending on how much sodium is in the water.


Those in The Navy are familiar with the term "Marine Whites." Sailors used to put their white clothes in ocean water to whiten them. Caution had to be used because if the clothes remained too long in the heavily salt-laden water, they would deteriorate. Salt is corrosive. Softeners use the same salt spread on icy roads, which destroys the underside of cars. Those living near oceans know well the corrosiveness of salt to cars, houses, etc. Many people with galvanized pipes found that salt softened water did prevent scale build-up, but the trade-off was the salt also corroded their pipes.

Homeowners with salt water softener systems will go through more water heaters because of the salt's corrosive effect on the heating coils. Always check with a manufacturer's warranty related to water. Softened water should not go to a pool or spa. Hard water and naturally soft water have their maintenance issues, however softened water offers potential problems that may imply or outright void the warranty on certain products.

OVERVIEW WATER CONDITIONING: The Sp3 Scale Prevention System combines both filtration and conditioning in one system. The filtration is accomplished with a very high grade of Granular Activated Carbon (GAC). Used extensively in both water and air filtration, GAC works on the principle of adsorption, where substances in water are attracted to, and adhere to the surface of the carbon. GAC is carbon that has been activated to produce an extensive intricate inner pore structure with a large surface area.

GAC is most widely used for the removal of chlorine, bad taste and odors. It is also used to remove volatile organic compounds, phenols, herbicides, pesticide s, and surfactants. Most minerals, having the same polarity as carbon, are not removed when filtering through carbon. Carbon is the last stage in both reverse osmosis and distillation systems for removal of chlorine and volatile organic compounds.

The technologically advanced Filtersorb SP3 Media is an innovative solution that prevents all of the negative effects of calcium and magnesium water hardness, while allowing the positive health benefits to remain. The system is salt free, chemical free, maintenance free (the Home Master Filter does require an annual filter change), and does not require costly regeneration and backwashing. This advanced media transforms the calcium and magnesium carbonate (hardness) of the water into mechanically stable and heat resistant calcite crystals (nanometre size) which no longer cause lime deposits. The calcium and magnesium crystals are rinsed away, preventing scale, and removing existing scale over time. The FilterSorb SP3 media has been tested and meets NSF/ANSI Standard 61. This is an independent test standard for health effects that was performed by the Water Quality Association (WQA).


Water treated by the Sp3 Scale Prevention System has more of the feel of naturally soft water (water with lower mineral content). It does not feel slippery, slimy, or mushy soft, like salt softened water. No water in its natural state feels like salt softened water. Soaps produce more lather with The Sp3 Scale Prevention System conditioned and filtered water versus untreated water. However, these soaps will rinse off quickly and cleanly, unlike salt softened water. Less soaps, shampoos, coffee grounds, tea, etc., are needed with the Sp3 system.


THE SP3 conditioned water will tend to sheet. If water is left to dry on any surface it will leave something behind. These spots will simply wipe off versus untreated water where scrubbing or chemical cleansers may have to be used. Those who are replacing a salt water softener must be told that there will be fewer suds with The SP3 water. The sodium content of salt softened water causes more suds. This is particularly true with some of the biodegradable laundry detergents. You should not use more soap to get more suds. Clothes will get clean without the excess soap and suds and rinse out and dry easier. The same with your dishwasher - use the appliance properly and with less powdered detergent.

When showering, The SP3 water rinses off quickly and cleanly. The SP3 system makes the water easier to clean up, just like a water softener, (our approach is different). A dishwasher still needs to be used properly, toilets need to be cleaned, and surfaces need to be wiped off.

The SP3 will prevent new scale and corrosion in pipes, and will de-scale existing pipes and fixtures. Older water heaters should be drained to remove scale and sediment after an initial installation. Water heaters will work more efficiently, and a savings on fuel and/or electricity will result. After de-scaling water heaters, they should be drained at least once a year. Water heater manufacturers recommend this procedure as preventive maintenance.

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