A Detailed Guide For Buying The Best Whole House Water Filter And Softener Combo

Contents

Best whole house water filter and softener combo – Purify and Remove Hardness At The same Time

According to the EPA, there are at least 90 contaminants in drinking water that are being regulated, including chloride, copper, arsenic, lead, iron, zinc, fluoride, and microbial contaminants, to name a few. While most people are satisfied with softening their hard water, combining it with water filters can help remove the hardness and purify the water in one shot. This combo works better in terms of potable water quality.  

How does a whole house water filter softener combo work?

water filtration system USA

A whole-house water filter and softener combo work together in one system. It uses a single tank that has both softening and filtration media. In these systems, water flows through the tank, where it is filtered and softened simultaneously. They may also have a sediment pre-filter installed before the water filter and softener combo system.

Generally, a whole-house water filter uses one or more filter stages to remove certain water contaminants. For example, some pre-filters trap sediments based on size exclusion. Some of the large tanks contain carbon filter media for the adsorption of bad odor and taste, chlorine and chloramine, and all kinds of chemicals and organics contaminants. Some specialized filter (media) types may remove heavy metals like lead, iron, or hydrogen sulfide. 

On the other hand, traditional water softeners use ion exchange to remove hard minerals from the water. This process takes place in a large tank filled with softening resin beads, a media bed consisting of thousands of tiny microbeads. The beads contain sodium ions. As hard water comes into contact with the resin bed, calcium and other hardness minerals are drawn out of the water. They attach to the resin beads, which act like magnets, and are substituted with sodium ions. The water is softened and distributed before it reaches the bottom of the resin tank. 

When the resin beads cannot bind any more hard water ions, then, the water softener needs to regenerate. A regeneration cycle includes backwashing the resin tank to expand the softening resin and remove any potential dirt. It is followed by a brining stage where the concentrated salt brine is drawn from the brine and enters the resin tank, washing over the resin beads releasing all accumulated hard water ions, and replacing them with a fresh sodium layer. 

Benefits Of Owning Whole House Water Filter And Softener Combo

The benefits are numerous. A whole house water filtration system means having clean, great-tasting water at every outlet in your home. All water-using home appliances will benefit from an increased lifespan.

The system is a way by which you can protect home appliances from damage due to hard water scaling and other deposits. The plumbing system also will require fewer repairs and can last up to 30 percent longer.

Reduction of scaling also results in water heaters working more efficiently using less energy. Additionally, it will reduce spotting on tiles and bathroom fixtures. It will also keep the clothes brighter. The benefits of using salt-based water conditioners are:

  • Little or no scaling
  • Removal of existing scale deposits over time
  • Some systems are virtually maintenance-free

In the case of salt-free water conditioners, you also get other benefits:

  • You won’t need to keep buying new softening salt
  • Highly suitable for those that are on a salt-restricted diet 
  • Better for the environment
  • No regeneration means no wastewater and no downtime.

Which is the best water filter softener combo in 2021?

SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water (Best Seller & Lifetime Warranty) (Top Pick)

The SoftPro Elite well water softener is a combo for treating hard well water that also has iron, hydrogen sulfide or manganese, or a combination of the three.

This filter-softener combo makes it easy to access considerably cleaner water throughout the house and is definitely our top pick.  

Why you should trust us?

We are trustworthy as we do our research and testing before handing out our recommendations. We have found that when it comes to the best water filter and softener combo, we are able to shortlist seven from the many brands and models in the market and make an informed choice of the top pick.

Below are the product details along with their pros and cons to help you make an informed choice, too. 

1. SoftPro Elite well water softener (Top Pick)

Soft Pro Warer Softener For Well

The SoftPro Elite well water softener is a combo for treating hard well water that also contains iron or hydrogen sulfide or manganese, or a combination of the three. It is a salt-based water softener with features that make it ideal for well water. Its fine-mesh resin filters iron up to 3 PPM using a fraction of salt and water.

Its high-efficiency upflow technology outperforms comparable models.

The backlit digital head offers push-button control. The backwashes are automatic. The super-capacity, wide-mouth brine tanks are easy to load and need refilling less frequently as each is lined with a brine grid to prevent salt from collecting at the bottom.

It has a safety float that keeps the tank from overfilling if the softener malfunctions. The black neoprene jacket helps insulate the tank, leaving no chance for condensation to collect on the floor, and it keeps the unit from freezing. 

SoftPro Elite is straightforward to install, with available technical support. The resin is preloaded. The product has a lifetime warranty and premium customer service.

Pros

  • The SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water is available in sizes up to 80,000-grain
  • It has an easy-to-read backlit digital interface
  • The automatic refresh feature prevents the build-up of bacteria
  • The safety float prevents water damage
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty

Cons

  • The large brine tank occupies more floor space

2. SoftPro Elite High-Efficiency City Water Softener

City Water Softener SoftPro

The SoftPro Elite well water softener is a combo for treating hard well water. The hard water contains iron or hydrogen sulfide or manganese, or a combination of the three. The filter-softener combo will give considerably cleaner water throughout your home. It is NSF certified and has the Next-generation upflow technology. This system also has a high-flow programmable control valve. The upflow regeneration drives the minerals up through the depleted resin and into the drain, saving salt and remaining resin for future use. SoftPro Elite also offers a quick recharge of soft water.

For instance, if the total capacity goes below 3%, it can take just 15 minutes to recharge and restore the additional capacity before the regularly scheduled regeneration time. SoftPro Elite can save salt by making 70% of the brine ahead of the regeneration. Calculating the exact amount of brine top-up needed to regenerate the depleted resin saves up to 30% of salt usage. You can keep the tank clean by adding softened water to the brine tank.

The Smart Clean feature ensures that there is no bacteria build-up if the unit is not used for more than seven days. It has an automatic backwash override feature, i.e., if the water supply is clean, there is no need for frequent backwash to clean the resin bed. So, you can save water by skipping a few backwash cycles. 

Pros

  • SoftPro Elite water softener is a traditional water softener with ion exchange. It eliminates the scaling effects by reducing calcium and magnesium from water. 
  • The system regeneration is metered, saving water and salt until they are needed.
  • It is easy to install with the instructions from the manufacturer. 
  • The initial programming of this water softener is intuitive.
  • It is very low maintenance.
  • It comes with a limited lifetime warranty on tanks and control valves.

Cons

  • There have been none so far. 

3. Springwell water filter and salt-free water softener

Salt Free Softener With Filter

Springwell water filter and salt-free water softener combo use FutureSoft technology. It is eco-friendly and uses high-quality catalytic carbon. The water flows through the water filtration system in stages as the sediments are filtered through the 5-micron sediment pre-filter. In the next stage, the water is pushed through a KDF media to remove chlorine and other contaminants found in city water. 

The third stage involves the catalytic carbon media that removes all organic contaminants. The filtered water passes through the salt-free water softener that uses a process called TAC (Template Assisted Crystallization). It converts the minerals to a crystal form, ensuring that it doesn’t stick to any surface, thereby keeping the surfaces free from scaling.

These salt-free water softeners are also known as water conditioners as they condition or neutralize the water. Since they don’t trap minerals, there is no need for a cleaning cycle. 

Pros

  • The system removes both harmful contaminants and hard minerals 
  • It has no impact on water pressure
  • The Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener from Springwell is an environmentally friendly salt-free system. 
  • It is virtually maintenance-free 
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty

Cons

  • It can be challenging to install it in small spaces.

4. Aquasana Whole House Well Water Filter System

Whole House Water System

 The Aquasana Whole House Well Water Filter System gives you clean water throughout your home by removing 97% of chlorine and 99. 9% of bacteria and viruses. It also reduces harmful contaminants like lead, mercury, herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, etc. This system is high-performance with carbon and KDF filtration media along with UV purifier and Scale Control Media (SCM).

The salt-free technology is engineered to maximize contaminant reduction while leaving only healthy minerals in your water. The system is cost-efficient and has an increased lifespan. You get clean and purified water up to 500,000 gallons or five years.

It is easy to maintain as it doesn’t need draining or backflushing. It comes with easy-to-replace pre and post-filters that can be changed every two months. The system includes a filter tank, conditioner tank, 20″ pre-filter, post-filter, brass fittings for 1″ or 3/4″ pipes, bend supports, and shut-off valves.

Moreover, it is intelligently engineered for ultimate performance. The Aquasana Rhino’s unique upflow, dual tank design increases water contact time with contaminant grabbing media and prevents clogging or media channeling. This system features the added starlight UV filtration and is a salt-free water softener.

Pros

  • The Aquasana whole-house well water filter system is a 2-in-1 softener and conditioner.
  • The saltless system needs less maintenance and is also suitable for those restricted to low-sodium diets.
  • It doesn’t require electricity to run.
  • The high-quality components are designed for durability.
  • It doesn’t waste water or needs to regenerate.
  • The warranty covers the DIY installation.

Cons

  • The filters need to change fairly regularly for the system to work efficiently.
  • It is not the most cost-effective system on the market.
  • It is not easy to install and may need professional plumbing assistance.

5. Iron Pro 48K combination water softener and filter (Top Pick)

Iron Pro Water Softener System

The Iron Pro 48K combination water softener and filter has a 48,000-grain capacity. The system eliminates red staining from iron and eliminates scale from hard water. It has a meter-based regeneration and a Fleck 5600 Sxt digital controller that is built on the tried and true 5600-valve. It has a special fine mesh resin that lasts longer in the presence of iron and filters better. It helps eliminate the hard water that causes scale build-up and iron that causes red staining with a single system. This system can remove ferrous (clear water) iron and some ferric iron. It also removes manganese. The system removes all hardness in water, removes iron up to 6-8 ppm, manganese up to 6 ppm, sand, sediment, and rust.

This system uses a meter-based regeneration process as the water you use is measured, with the system only regenerating when it needs to. So, if less water is being used, the system regenerates less often to conserve water.

Pros

  • This is an all-in-one system for iron removal and water softening;
  • It has a digital readout that provides useful information;
  • The regeneration settings are easily programmable. 
  • It has a 48-hour memory backup to save settings during power outages. 
  • It has a fine mesh resin for better performance;
  • The Iron Pro 48K combination water softener and iron filter has double backwash for more efficient regeneration.

Cons

  • The Iron Pro 48K combination water softener and iron filter is large and needs a lot of space
  • The installation may need professional help as the instructions are not always easy to follow. 
  • The upfront cost of the Iron Pro 48K Combination Water Softener & Iron Filter may be high. 

6. Aquasure whole-house water softener/ reverse osmosis drinking water filter bundle 

Aquasure Whole House Bundle

The Aquasure whole-house water softener/ reverse osmosis drinking water filter bundle is ideal for homes with around four family members and 3 to 4 bathrooms. It is rated to treat 48,000 grains of hardness by removing hard minerals such as iron and magnesium that clog up skin pores and cause irritation. It is an exceptionally performing system and is highly efficient.

The Aquatrol control head and Aquasure reverse osmosis membrane help save water and decrease overall maintenance costs. It is constructed of high-strength, premium-quality materials with built-in safety features that protect your water even during system downtime. The unit has a 5-year manufacturer warranty with lifetime tech support for the life of the system.

Pros

  • Aquasure whole-house water softener/ reverse osmosis drinking water filter bundle has a 48,000-grain salt-based softener
  • It has a carbon and KDF filtration process.
  • The cation resin filtration reduces total dissolved solids
  • It also has a sediment pre-filter

Cons

  • The Aquasure whole-house water softener/ reverse osmosis drinking water filter bundle is large and can be difficult to fit into small spaces. 
  • It has a short power cable.

6. ULTRA Whole House Well Water Filter Salt-Free System Combo 

Ultra Whole House Salt Free System

The ULTRA Whole House Well Water Filter Salt-Free System Combo is most suitable for water that contains iron, manganese, or hydrogen sulfide, or a combination of these three. Over and above the filtration, your water will also go through a softening stage using Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). It eliminates rust stains in sinks, showers, and toilets, etc., and removes the unpleasant smell of sulfur. It combines air injection oxidation with greensand media filtration to remove maximum combined ferric & ferrous iron (7 ppm), hydrogen sulfide (8 ppm), manganese (1 ppm). It also reduces arsenic and radium. Both water filter and softener combos are low maintenance. You just need to fill the brine tank with salt or replace the sediment pre-filter of the water conditioner every 6 to 9 months. 

Pros

  • The Springwell WS whole-house well water filter system removes rust stains in showers, sinks, toilets, etc., and the unpleasant odor from sulfur, making the filtered water taste much better.
  • It is safe for septic and sewer systems.
  • The digital head unit resets the air pocket daily and backwashes the greensand media periodically to flush out all accumulated contaminants. 
  • It can be connected to your mobile device via Bluetooth for programming.
  • The tanks come in a neoprene sleeve for protection.
  • It is designed for DIY installation if you are handy with tools.
  • The bypass valves, installation kit, come with illustrated instructions.
  • It is low maintenance. 
  • Springwell support is responsive and helpful.

Cons

  • Some fittings are made of plastic. Metal would have made them sturdier. 

Important Factors to consider before buying a whole house water filter and softener combo

Buying Guide

When you are deciding on the best whole-house water filters and softeners for your family, the following factors must be kept in mind: 

1. Water Chemistry   

Before choosing the right whole-house water filter softener combo, you need to test your water to know what the water contains and the elements that need to be removed. 

You could get the water tested by a state-certified lab, especially if you are concerned about the well water. As the owner of a well, the onus is on you to ensure that the well water is safe to drink. 

Laboratories offer different packages for well water or city water, testing for the most common contaminants. You may also ask for some specific tests if you are worried about some contaminants in your area. 

Municipal water supply is tested regularly, and the water quality report is in the public domain. Anyone can access it, and you will find the list of contaminants in the water in your region. This information should help you choose the right media combination for your whole house filter system/softener combo.

You could also want to buy an at-home testing kit to test for lead and chlorine levels in your water. While these DIY tests may not give you the most accurate indication of your water’s chemistry, you will still be able to get an overview of specific contaminants that are causing problems in the water supply.

2. Types of Whole House Filtration System  

Water filter and softener combos are not all the same. But they all come with filters of many kinds. 

a) Sediment Filter

Whole-house sediment filters can be standalone units or included in whole-house water filtration systems. The standalone sediment filter types can be cartridge filters or spin-down filters.

Cartridge sediment filters: First-stage filters in reverse osmosis filters or whole-house water filters or have a pleated cartridge or spun-cartridge design.

Spun-cartridge filters send water through multiple spun, melted polypropylene layers and are cylindrical in shape, offering the most thorough filtration. The outer layers have the highest micron level, and this micron level decreases with each layer towards the center of the filter. The larger sediment is removed on the outside, while the smallest particles are removed when water reaches the inside of the filter.

As their name suggests, pleated filters have a pleated or folded design, and the micron rating is the same across the entire filter. Pleated filters trap large sand and sediment particles and aren’t quite as effective as spun-cartridge filters. 

Spin-down sediment filters: Spin-down sediment filters are used for well water that has large grains of sediment or sand. These filters are installed before the larger well water filter system, such as an oxidation system.

A spin-down filter resembles a large pipette. The water enters the top of the filter and follows a centrifugal motion from top to bottom. The water is circulated through the filter, effectively removing the sediment.

Some spin-down filters also come with a flush valve, and they need to be flushed regularly to remove the sediment. Some provide automatic flushing, making it more convenient. Spin-down filters last longer than sediment cartridge filters because of their flushing capabilities.

b) Carbon Media

Carbon filtration media is available in both filter types, solid carbon block media and granular activated carbon (GAC).

The solid carbon block filters are made from compressed carbon. They have a larger surface area, allowing a longer contact time between the filter and the drinking water. As the water flows through the solid carbon block filter, it navigates a maze of pore sizes, making it easy to remove big contaminants.

Carbon block filters are also better for removing heavy metals like lead, microbiological contaminants, and arsenic, radon, mercury, radon, and asbestos.

Granulated Activated Carbon Filters are made from naturally absorptive media, such as coal or coconut shell. These filters have a large surface area with hundreds of tiny micro-pores to capture the contaminants in a process known as adsorption.

GAC filters are ideal for removing contaminants that affect the water’s smell and taste from city water, such as chlorine. The GAC filters also work well in removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and certain heavy metals, like lead.

c) Oxidation Media

Oxidation media, also known as air injection media, targets common well water contaminants, such as sulfur, iron, and manganese. This process involves injecting a bubble of oxygen into the top of the tank to expose the water to oxygen. Contaminants such as iron get oxidized into their insoluble forms. After they have been oxidized, they can be filtered out of the water.

A resin made from manganese greensand or similar material is usually used to trap contaminants as water flows through the system. When the resin becomes saturated with the trapped contaminants, the system will regenerate by flushing the media and replenishing the oxygen bubble.

Oxidation media is ideal for well water and not as good a choice for city water. 

d) Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) Media

KDF, or kinetic degradation fluxion, produces a chemical reaction called oxidation-reduction, or redox. The KDF media is a zinc-copper alloy media and can be found in a number of different granule forms, each targeting a specific set of contaminants.

KDF-55 is a common choice as it removes chlorine from municipal water. KDF-85 works effectively with well water, as it filters out hydrogen sulfide and iron. KDF media can be used in whole-house water filters and in point-of-use filters, such as faucet filters and showerhead filters.

e) Combination Media

Some types of KDF media can be used in combination with carbon media. A common filter media combination is KDF-F fine mesh and activated carbon. Together, they offer a more effective performance, removing a broader range of contaminants.

3. Types Of Water Softener Systems 

Water Conditioner Vs Ion Exchange

Ion exchange water softeners and salt-free water conditioners are the two most common conditioners that produce similar results. But, their processes are different.

Ion exchange water softeners

Ion exchange water softeners use salt. The sodium ions in the system’s resin bed are released into hard water in exchange for the magnesium and calcium minerals. 

These salt-based water softeners need to regenerate when the resin bed becomes saturated. Regeneration takes place at around 2 or 3 am when most people don’t use their water.

Water conditioners

On the other hand, water conditioners are salt-free alternatives that don’t need to regenerate, making them less wasteful and more efficient.

These units use template-assisted crystallization (TAC), a scale-prevention process. A hard, crystallized overlay prevents the minerals from sticking to surfaces. Water conditioners don’t actually soften water. But, they prevent limescale. 

4. System Capacity 

The next factor to consider is the system capacity. If the system has a larger capacity, it is likely to last longer before it needs to be replaced or requires regeneration. Capacity and water pressure usually go hand-in-hand as the capacity helps increase water pressure. It may be easier to base it on the number of bathrooms in your home.

5. Flow rate and water pressure 

Flow rate and water pressure are two more factors to consider when purchasing a whole house water filtration system and softener combo.

It’s important that both the water softener and filter process water at a speed that can adequately supply your whole home without any drop in water pressure, regardless of the number of appliances. The pressure should also be right, or higher pressure could damage the pipes and household appliances. You would be better off looking at a whole-house filtration system that has a pressure rating of anywhere between 10 and 15 GPM.

6. Available Space 

Any whole-house water filter and softener combo can take up a lot of room in your home. Some filter/softener combos may have a single tank, but most of them come with two units.

Ideally, you’ll need enough room in a dedicated installation spot for at least two large tanks. These tanks also need enough space around the units for maintenance work, topping up salt, or changing filters. Therefore, measuring the area will come first. 

Being aware of the above factors can help narrow down the type of whole house water filter and softener combo you need.

Whole House Water Filter Salt Free Water Softener Vs. Whole House Water Filter Salt-Based Combo

Whole House Water Filter Salt-Free Water Softener 

A salt-free softener is usually cheaper than a salt-based one and is easy to install. Also, this type of system is low maintenance since it doesn’t need any electricity for the cleaning cycle. There is no water wastage either during the removal of minerals from the resin bed, with significant savings on your utilities. And, for those with a low sodium diet, a salt-free softener is ideal. 

Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages is that a salt-free softener does not work well on contaminants such as chlorine and lead. So, it would be better to use a form of filtration in front of the softener. 

Whole House Water Filter Salt-Based Combo 

Salt-based softeners are designed to remove minerals that cause hardness in the water. As a result, you’ll probably notice a little to no limescale buildup on fixtures and appliances in your home. You’ll also see your clothes appearing brighter and cleaner and your hair and skin no longer feeling dry and itchy. Other long-term benefits include more efficient and longer-lasting appliances as well as fewer repairs and plumbing maintenance. But despite these benefits, most salt-based softeners are costlier than their salt-free counterparts and often require regular maintenance.

Salt-based softeners are effective in softening your water and should be used if your hard water levels are high.  

The Verdict

Our verdict is the SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water. It is a combo unit for treating hard well water that contains iron or hydrogen sulfide or manganese, or a combination of these three. It is a salt-based water softener with features that make it ideal for well water. Its fine-mesh resin filters iron up to 3 PPM using a fraction of salt and water. It has a high-efficiency upflow technology.

The backlit digital head offers push-button control with an automatic backwash. The super-capacity, wide-mouth brine tanks are easy to load with salt and need refilling less frequently as each is lined with a brine grid to prevent salt from collecting at the bottom.

It has a safety float that keeps the tank from overfilling if the softener malfunctions. The black neoprene jacket helps insulate the tank, leaving no chance for condensation to collect on the floor, and it keeps the unit from freezing. 

SoftPro Elite is straightforward to install, with available technical support. The resin is preloaded. The product has a lifetime warranty and premium customer service.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Do I need a water filter if I have a water softener?

Even if you are using a water softener, you may still need a filter to remove the contaminants in the water to make it safe enough for consumption. 

2. Do water filters reduce hardness?

Technically, water filters are used for removing contaminants and not for water softening. However, hard water has dissolved minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. Softening the water may help remove these minerals through ion exchange.

3. Can you drink whole house filtered water?

Yes, you can drink whole house filtered water as long as a reverse osmosis process is also part of the filtering process. 

4. What goes first water softener or filter?

If the filter is placed after the softener, it will prevent any of the softening resin from escaping from the softener. It also depends on the turbidity of the water. If it is high enough to plug the softener, then one should also have a filter before the softener. 

5.  How much does it cost to install a whole house water filtration system?

Installation of whole house water filtration systems can cost anywhere between $600 to $4,200. The cost depends on the type, stages of filtration in the system, and how many gallons it can filter.

Conclusion

Improved water quality is essential to good health and it is clear that we need a system that will give us safe drinking water. Therefore, it makes sense to invest in water filtration and softening units in our homes.

Here, we have given you the factors to keep in mind before choosing a whole-house filter softener combo,  information on how the system works, the difference between salt-free and salt-based water softeners, and a shortlist of 7 products you can choose from. This should make it easy for you to make your selection.

About The Author

Our Web Producer

Judith— a passionate water treatment specialist — is a waste water management enthusiast, clean drinking water advocate, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about various water equipments. Her work was mentioned in countless notable water associations. Previously she was an editor at Water Alliance.