Choosing a water softener can be challenging due to the many options available. Two that we get the most questions about are non electric and electric water softeners. Both options use ion-exchange resin beads to remove minerals such as calcium and magnesium from hard water, but differ in terms of power source, efficiency and cost. In this guide, we will compare the key differences and help you decide which type is best for you by discussing how they work, comparing costs and maintenance needs, to provide you with the information needed to make an informed decision.
Contrary to popular belief, the water softening process itself does not require any electricity. When the resin bed inside your softener becomes saturated a regeneration will occur, this is where a brine solution is flushed through the resin bed to remove hardness minerals which allows for a continued supply of softened water. This regeneration process is controlled by a valve, in the case of an electric water softener, an electronic valve or for non electric systems, a non electric valve.
What Are Electric Water Softeners?
Electric Water Softeners feature highly programmable electronic valves that can be set to your specific water hardness (to the exact parts per million). Our versions use a water meter to measure how much water you use and only begin the regeneration process when necessary, which helps to lower running costs, save water and reduce the amount of salt your softener uses. These ‘metered’ electronic valves learn how much water you use per day and predict whether or not there is enough remaining capacity in the softener for the next day – if there is not, regeneration will occur at 2am when no one is likely to be using any water (this time can be altered to suit the needs of your household).
Electronic softeners often feature a display screen where users can see their water usage, monitor the remaining capacity of the softener and read fault information in the rare instance that there is an issue.
What Are Non Electric Water Softeners?
Non Electric Water Softeners use the same ion-exchange technology to soften your water, but the valve is powered by kinetic energy, using water pressure alone without the need for electricity. The valves use a similar water meter principle as our electric water softeners, measuring the amount of water you use and regenerating when capacity is reached.
Due to the number of mechanical components inside the valve, it is important to ensure that the water feeding your non electric softener is free from particulate. For this reason, it is often recommended to install a sediment pre-filter before the water softener.
Non electric valves do not have the ability to learn your water usage, so will regenerate when capacity is reached regardless of the time of day. If you are using water whilst your water softener is regenerating then it will be hard water, however once softened water starts flowing again any residual hardness in your pipework will be removed. This means that your system always uses its complete capacity before regeneration, which reduces excess salt and water use.
Comparing Electric And Non Electric Water Softeners
Pros Of Electric Water Softeners
- More efficient valve which is programmed to your exact water hardness, offering improved efficiency over non electric systems
- The intelligent valve learns your water usage and regenerates at night if there is not enough capacity for the next day
- Low electricity usage which equates to about the same as a small alarm clock, usually around 35p per month
- The simple design makes electric water softeners more reliable and less likely to breakdown or overflow
Pros Of Non Electric Water Softeners
- Operate using water pressure alone, without the need for a power source and without adding to your electricity bill
- Metered valve measures your water usage and regenerates when the capacity of the resin bed has been reached
- Ideal for customers with no access to a power supply near to where the water softener is going to be installed
- Quicker and easier installation, with no electrical connections or valve programming required
Cons Of Electric Water Softeners
- They can only be installed where there is nearby access to a power supply, which isn’t an option in some homes
- Valve programming can sometimes be lost during long periods of power outage such as power cuts
- Requires electricity to operate which slightly increases the running costs by adding to your energy bill
Cons Of Non Electric Water Softeners
- The valve operates based on a water hardness range as opposed to your exact water hardness which reduces efficiency
- Requires a minimum water pressure to operate, ideally 2 bar or more but never lower than 1 bar
- Regeneration can occur at any time of day and often results in a drop in water pressure to the rest of the house
What Are The Running Costs Of A Water Softener?
It is a common misconception that water softeners are expensive to run. Salt costs are usually between £1.25 and £2.50 per person per month and the increase in your water bill tends to be no more than £5 per year. Electric systems actually use very little electricity to operate, generally around 35p per month.
These running costs far outweigh the costs associated with hard water damage in the home over the same time period. This is why water softeners are often regarded as one of the only household appliances that pay for themselves over time.
Choosing The Right Water Softener
When it comes to choosing the right water softener the most important thing to consider is where it is going to be installed. This will help to narrow down your search by highlighting whether you have the option to install an electric water softener – as there needs to be a power supply nearby. If you have a power supply then you have complete freedom of choice as to whether to opt for an electric or non electric system. If there is no nearby power supply and you don’t want to have a new socket installed then a non electric system is the obvious option.