The best water conditioner empowers households to protect their plumbing systems and water appliances from limescale without cumbersome and costly maintenance.
However, choosing a water conditioner is not as straightforward as some think. Buyers must consider some product attributes to weed out the mediocre brands from the best. Our research showed three significant factors for buyers to ponder over.
- Water Conditioning Technology
Unlike water softeners, water conditioners feature at least three technologies. Although the result is similar, they vary in mechanisms of action.
Template or nucleation-assisted crystallization (TAC/NAC) offers the closest limescale-reduction performance to a water softener. Chelating technologies work similarly but bind the hard minerals instead of crystallizing them. Meanwhile, magnetic devices are simple and affordable but with unproven effectiveness.
- Water Conditioning Performance
You want to buy a water conditioner to prevent limescale formation without worrying about tedious maintenance. However, a water conditioner is useless if it cannot manage your hard water level. As a rule, a water conditioner with a higher GPG rating is better than a low-GPG unit (i.e., 20 GPG vs. 15 GPG).
- Installation Requirements
Different water conditioner types vary in installation requirements. Magnetic water conditioners are the easiest to install, while TAC and NAC systems are more complicated (especially if they’re part of a water filtration system).
These factors are not the only things buyers must consider when choosing a water conditioner. We will explain the others in our guide and highlight how each performs in real life in the following product reviews.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Water Conditioners
1. YARNA CWD24 Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System
The YARNA CWD24 is an innovative water conditioner that looks like the iSpring ED2000 and Eddy ED6002P-US. I am surprised to learn this device has a different mechanism of action from other water conditioners I know.
I am familiar with electromagnetic water conditioners that create an invisible field to attract metal ions in the water. Although this inline water conditioner also draws electricity to function, its mechanism is different.
Electric current feeds a microchip-controlled device to deliver electric pulses in the water. I remember in elementary chemistry that chemicals contain atoms with varying electrical charges. Hence, passing electricity to the water should induce a change in the hard mineral’s molecular structure.
It helps explain how this device prevents limescale formation. Calcium, magnesium, and other metal ions will freely float in the water and never stick to surfaces.
Like the Eddy ED6002P-US and iSpring ED2000, installing this water conditioner is as hassle-free as mounting the electronic controller on the wall. Families can also secure it with zip ties along a horizontal bar parallel to the water pipe.
Surprisingly, this water conditioner works with copper, PEX, steel, PVC, and other water pipe materials. I have seen products that only work with metal tubes, limiting their functionality.
This option might be pricier than the iSpring and Eddy, but it is still more affordable than most products I know. It should be an excellent choice for families on limited budgets.
The icing on the cake is the brand’s generous 12-month money-back guarantee. I could test this for 11 months and return it if it does not meet my expectations.
Although I do not question this water conditioner’s limescale-prevention performance, I wish the results were quicker than three months. I can imagine families’ frustration, wondering if the device is working.
2. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Water Descaler
Although the scientific community finds electromagnetic systems’ “water conditioning” abilities inconclusive, real-world users claim otherwise. An electromagnetic water condition enjoying rave reviews is the iSpring ED2000 Whole House Water Conditioner.
It looks uncannily similar to the Eddy ED6002P-US but with a slightly lower GPG rating. Unlike the YARNA CWD24, this device produces an electromagnetic field to attract metal ions in the water, including magnesium and calcium.
The electromagnet gathers clumps of hard water minerals, preventing them from adhering to pipes’ and water appliances’ inside surfaces. Its electromagnetic field is effective up to 50 feet, allowing fixtures and appliances within the range to free themselves of limescale.
Experts say water conditioners are not suitable for moderate to moderately-hard water. However, this brand begs to differ. It can handle water with 10.0 to 19.0 grains of hard minerals per gallon or 171 to 325 ppm. The only product on our list surpassing this performance is the Eddy ED6002P-US with its 20 GPG rating.
Like the CWD24, this water conditioner works with different water pipe materials (i.e., PEX, PVC, steel). Setups are also a breeze; even a grade-schooler will have no issues winding the cables around a water pipe. They only need to follow the direction for maximum electromagnetic effect.
I was concerned about its electrical draw. However, the company says this unit only consumes about 36 cents of electricity monthly or $4.32 annually.
I must caution homeowners to check their water iron levels before buying this conditioner. The company advises users to install an iron filter or a similar filtration system before setting up this device because it can only handle 0.3 ppm of iron (about 0.018 GPG).
3. Aquasana EQ-1000-AST Whole House Water Filter System
Water conditioners are great for preventing limescale. Sadly, they do not remove water contaminants, and neither do water softeners. Families who want a comprehensive water treatment system that screens impurities and prevents scale buildup should consider the Aquasana EQ-1000-AST.
This product is not the average, run-of-the-mill variety. Instead, it is a four-stage water filtration system with a salt-free water conditioner at the core.
Sandwiching the water conditioner is a sediment pre-filter and a dual tank featuring advanced kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF) and activated carbon filters. Forming the final stage is a post-filter I can only assume also contains carbon.
The setup traps sediments and particulates in the water before they go to the water conditioner. Its salt-free filter media crystallize hard water minerals, preventing them from sticking to plumbing interior surfaces.
As the water moves along the system, they pass through the KDF and AC filters to knock off 97% chlorine, pesticides, VOCs, and other water impurities. The post-filter removes any remaining water contaminant.
I was surprised to learn that the product can accommodate a million gallons of water. Families can expect water-conditioning performance for at least a decade. The only cartridges they will replace frequently are the sediment, carbon, and KDF filters.
Even more impressive is the 11.8-GPM flow rate. I expected it to be lower because of the multiple filtration systems.
Although this product has everything families need for setting it up, I recommend expert installation to minimize leaks. And while it is the most expensive water conditioner on this list, I must emphasize that it is a complete water filtration, conditioning, and treatment system.
4.P3 P7920 Chemical-Free Water Conditioner
Some choose a water conditioner over a water softener because of the latter’s high operating costs. Families who want a one-time purchase without ongoing expenditures should consider the P3 P7920 magnetic water conditioning device.
I am not a fan of magnetic and electromagnetic water conditioners because science cannot prove their effectiveness. However, I also cannot discredit real-world users who praise this product. If real people say it works, who am I to say they are wrong?
I have never seen a simpler water conditioner than this product. I thought the Eddy ED6002P-US, YARNA CWD24, and iSpring ED2000 had straightforward designs. Lo and behold! This water conditioner is even more simple.
It has a clamshell design that homeowners secure around a water pipe. As water moves along the tube, the gauss ferrite inside the device attracts hard water minerals and polarizes them. The change in electrical charge prevents calcium, magnesium, and other minerals from sticking to the walls of appliances, fixtures, and pipes. Families will not worry about limescale again.
One advantage of this water conditioner over other products on this list is its zero maintenance. Families can forget they have a water conditioning device in the home once clamped to the correct location. It does not use electricity, unlike the iSpring ED2000 and Eddy ED6002P-US.
This water conditioner does not affect the flow rate, either – something I do not like with the Aquasana EQ-1000-AST (although 11.8 GPM is still commendable).
I am surprised to learn the company covers this magnetic water conditioner for ten years, about as long as Aquasana’s warranty. It is one reason I believe in this product’s water-conditioning performance.
Sadly, this clamshell-style device can only fit ¾-inch water pipes.
5.Eddy ED6002P-US Electronic Water Descaler
The Eddy ED6002P-US continues to enjoy rave reviews among leading water conditioning systems. I do not know if it is because of the brand’s British roots or its no-nonsense approach to water conditioning without affecting the environment.
This water conditioner is the iSpring ED2000’s direct competitor. In a head-to-head matchup, this product outclasses the ED2000 by accommodating higher grain levels. The ED2000 can handle calcium carbonate ranging from 10 to 19 grains per gallon. Meanwhile, this water conditioner promises to handle at least 20 grains of calcium carbonate for every gallon of water.
Although experts say that conditioners are not suitable for very hard water (i.e., well water), this device’s technical specifications say otherwise. I imagine families sourcing their water from artesian wells will benefit from this device. They will no longer fret about limescale wreaking havoc on their plumbing systems and water appliances.
Like other electromagnetic water conditioners, this device works with different pipe materials. Homes can have PVC, copper, PEX, steel, or other tubes, and this system will work fine.
Setting it up is a breeze. A ten-year-old kid can wrap the cables around a pipe section, following the water’s direction. The last step requires plugging the unit into an electrical outlet, so the family can sit comfortably waiting for the water-conditioning effects to start.
I am impressed with the company’s lifetime repair and replacement guarantee, besting Aquasana and P3’s ten-year warranty.
Unfortunately, the company capped the maximum flow rate at 10.0 GPM. This number is not low if we consider the average residential flow rate, but it may deter large families with high water needs.
What to Look for When Buying Water Conditioners
Buying water conditioners is more straightforward than shopping for water softeners. While salt-based water-softening systems comprise a mineral and brine tank with advanced ion-exchange components, a water conditioner has a simple design.
However, buyers should still learn some essential attributes when looking for a suitable water conditioner.
- Water Conditioning Technology
Unlike water softeners that only have one type (i.e., ion exchange), a water conditioner for hard water comes in several forms. Although the result is the same across types, water conditioners vary in their mechanisms of action. Hence, it will be best to learn how each works to determine the right water conditioner to buy.
- Template/Nucleation Assisted Crystallization – These water conditioners feature a TAC media or resin that attracts calcium carbonate and other metal ions. The hard minerals turn to crystals before being released back into the water. Crystallized hard minerals do not form limescale, allowing TAC or NAC water conditioners to produce nearly-identical effects as water softeners. However, hard minerals are still present in the water.
- Chelation – A chelating water conditioner features citric acid or ethylene-di-amine-tetra-acetic acid (EDTA) to bind with hard minerals, such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. The binding prevents hard minerals from sticking to the inside surfaces of water pipes, appliances, and fixtures.
- Magnetic/Electromagnetic – Hard minerals have metallic properties, allowing them to react to electromagnetic forces. Magnetic conditioners are simpler to set up and require no electricity. Although these technologies are affordable and effortless to install, their effectiveness remains doubtful.
- Water Conditioning Performance
Many brands market their water conditioners as “salt-free water softeners.” However, experts say there is no such thing as a “salt-free water softener” because these products DO NOT remove hard water minerals.
Their action hinges on the technology’s ability to form non-limescale-producing crystals without dumping calcium carbonate, magnesium, iron, and other metal cations down the drain.
Experts do not recommend water conditioners for well water, especially those with “very hard water” (i.e., >300 mg/L or >17.5 grains per gallon). Well water contains high to moderate manganese and iron levels that can clog nucleation sites in NAC water conditioners or TAC media.
This action prevents the water conditioner from “crystallizing” calcium and magnesium, allowing them to form limescale.
Hence, buyers should read the water conditioner’s technical information to determine how many grains of calcium carbonate per gallon of water it can “crystallize.”
For example, some brands can “condition” 10 to 19 GPG, while others can accommodate 20 GPG.
- Installation Requirements
One advantage of water conditioners over water softeners is their uncomplicated installation requirements. Some products only require clamping the water conditioner over a water pipe, while others need homeowners to wrap cables around the water tube.
Still, other conditioners have setups similar to a water filtration system. It will be wise to get a professional in such cases.
Not all water conditioner brands state their products’ operational lifespan. Hence, you might want to be more creative in researching product longevity. Reading customer reviews and product evaluations should help determine how long a water conditioner will last.
The good news is water conditioners have a longer lifespan than conventional water softeners. Some say they can last a decade, while more “honest” brands state that their water conditioners will only last four to six years.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a water softener and a water conditioner?
The principal difference between a water softener and a water conditioner for home, commercial, and industrial applications lies in their impact on calcium carbonate and other minerals that give water a “hard” characteristic.
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines “hard water” as water containing calcium, magnesium, iron, sulfates, and bicarbonates at standardized concentrations.
Water softeners work by passing “hard water” through a sodium-charged resin bed, attracting calcium carbonate and other hard minerals and exchanging them for sodium. The hard minerals stay in the resin bed to saturation.
When the system can no longer hold calcium carbonates, the water softener “recharges” by flushing the hard mineral-rich resin with water and replacing the exchanged sodium with fresh salt. Hence, a water softener REMOVES hard minerals.
Meanwhile, water conditioners DO NOT REMOVE hard minerals. Calcium carbonate and other metal cations stay in the water. However, they are incapable of forming limescale because of structural changes.
For example, catalytic water conditioners alter calcium carbonate’s chemical structure as it passes along the device. This action allows the chemicals to flow with the water, preventing limescale buildup. Hence, the “hard minerals” are still in the pipes, although they will not produce hard water scales and stains.
How often should I add a water conditioner?
Seasoned aquarists recommend adding a water conditioner for aquarium units during every water change or when adding water to the fish tank.
Do not dump the water conditioner straight into the aquarium. As a rule, hobbyists should dilute the water conditioner in tap water before adding the solution to the fish tank.
Suppose you are preparing an aquarium to accept its aquatic inhabitants (a process we call “cycling”). In that case, it is best to add a water conditioner daily until the fish tank is ready for its residents.
Cost of a water conditioner?
Water conditioner price ranges from $500 to $3,000. However, some brands are more affordable than others. For example, the YARNA CWD24 only costs about $300, while the iSpring ED2000 will set families back by $160.
More robust water softeners might cost more than a thousand dollars. For instance, the Aquasana EQ-1000-AST costs about $1,667. However, it is worth noting this product is part of a more comprehensive water filtration system.
How long will it last?
Water conditioners should last longer than water softeners because they have simpler designs. Most products can last at least a decade without showing signs of deterioration.
However, some water conditioners might have a shorter lifespan. For example, the Greenwave water conditioner only lasts four to six years.
The world might have conflicting opinions about a water conditioner’s limescale-prevention capabilities. However, the best water conditioner can protect water fixtures, pipes, and appliances just as well as water softeners. Its ease of installation and zero maintenance adds to the charm.
You might want to explore other products that are not in our review. Our buying guide should give you a clear head start on choosing the right water conditioner for the family. Try it and let others know.
As the founder of Usawaterquality, I have been working to deliver quality advice on utilizing water components for numerous households. Here, we believe that water quality is the most critical part of health care, so the investment and attention for the water system will never go to waste.