rv water softener

The 7 Best RV Water Softeners: Review & Buying Guide

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A recreational vehicle water softener unit also called a portable hard water softener offers its user with the benefits expected from stationary softer units that are used at home. The only difference is that it can be carried and moved around. This feature is especially helpful for motor homes, recreational vehicles, and boats.

The best portable hard water softener on the market will make a superb investment for people who are always on the road. Some recreational vehicle owners are already faced with polluted water and hard water. Having a hard water softener on board ensures that your water has been thoroughly filtered before you use it to cook, take your bath, or wash your dishes.

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Hard water is contaminated with elevated levels of hard minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. You might recognize hard water by its red appearance, strange taste, and foul smell. To further complicate things, hard water does no good on the plumbing system.

Taking a bath or a shower with hard water causes skin irritations and coarse hair. Soap doesn’t dissolve making it difficult to make bubbles. If you had been tried living the RV life, you would already know the annoying issues comes with using hard water. Fortunately, portable hard water softener units are now available on the market so you can transform hard water into soft water.

Since these unit are designed to be portable, you can load one in your recreational vehicle or motor home before you hit the road. This machine will help you remove magnesium, calcium, and other hard minerals that contribute to the hardness of the water. The filtered water is called soft because it becomes safe and convenient.

Using a hard water softener also guarantees that your pipes will be protected and your kitchen appliances will have longer lives. It means you don’t have to continue descaling your kettles and pots that are usually victims of limescale buildup. For this article, I will be presenting the top 7 models of portable hard water softeners to help you choose the best one to furnish your RV with.

The 7 Best RV Water Softeners of 2019

Everything You Need To Know About RV Water Softeners

Getting the ideal water softener unit to cater to your needs is important as you don’t want to be spending your good money on a unit that has to be replaced too soon. You really have to consider a lot of things if you are out there to find the best unit that is worth its price.

This buyer’s guide might be short but we have made it as informative as it can be. We have listed the factors and features that will really make a difference. We hope that this helps you to find the best water softer based on the considerations that you might have, too.

Types of RV Water Softeners

Deciding on what type of softener system you need will help you to narrow down your choices. You might consider getting a salt-free type of water softener system that greatly helps if you don’t want to deal with salt problems. Of course, this choice also has a downside. This type is only good at descaling and conditioning the water unlike the other types of hard water softeners. 

Electronic water softener system is also worth looking into. This type has and uses electrical wirings to change the charge of the ions on hard minerals. It does share similarities with a salt-free system; it cannot efficiently and completely remove calcium and magnesium carbonates and produce soft water.

But of course, this type is still useful in preventing minerals from attaching themselves to the hollows of your plumbing system’s pipes and other plumbing fixtures. You still get to save some money from dodging maintenance works. 

Magnetic water softener systems or simply called magnetic softeners do feature strong magnets that are connected to the unit’s pipes. These magnets are non-chemical alternatives to soften hard water. This method can possibly prevent clogs in your plumbing system’s pipes and accessories.

RV Water Softener Sizes

You’ve got to go with a unit that is compatible with the space that your recreational vehicle has. A portable hard water softener unit might be a good solution as you can move it in and out without running into trouble. 

Getting a portable one will upgrade the comfort of your RV life and camping. Most of the time portable hard water softeners have tank designs, and they even only use table salt that can easily be bought from shops. It’s true that portable models are not efficient for household use due to its compact size, but this size is perfect that meet the demands when used for motor homes and recreational vehicles.

A small sized water softener unit supplies soft water that is sufficient for up to 5 users.

Level of Water Hardness

One more thing to consider is the hardness of the water. There are commercial kits that allow you to test and measure the degree of hardness present in the water. In the United States, the acceptable hardness level of water is between 20 and 30 GPM. Some water softener models are only effective for moderate hardness. If the test result shows anything higher than the slight hardness, I would recommend looking for a hard water softener with higher efficiency.

Capacity

The hard water softener unit’s capacity is calculated based on how much hard water grains can it remove. So you’ll have to think about how many grains you would like to remove weekly. This way you will have an idea which water softener capacity is perfect for your needs.

To calculate the capacity that your water softener needs to have, multiply the grains per gallon value with your entire water consumption in gallons. Doing so will make it easier for you to have a good estimation of how much capacity should you settle on. The grain capacity of commercial models starts from 15,000 grains with maximum capacity at 100,000. 

Getting a hard water softener unit that has insufficient capacity would prove your investment to be useless because it wouldn’t be up for the job. Be sure to get something that has the capacity that you need while still being small enough. Buying a bigger one might unnecessarily make you cough out more money. Although if you have decided to get a system that needs salt to function, it’s a practical move to get a bigger unit because it wouldn’t need to regenerate too often and would last a long time with you. You might not have to look for a replacement too soon.

Features that are Built-in

Do your homework and find out whether the water softer system that you have your eyes on possesses the necessary accessories. You should know that some models are manually operated which means regeneration is needed every single time when you need softened water. And there are also some models that already feature cutting-edge innovations. 

As a matter of fact, you may encounter some models that were programmed to restart by themselves. These models offer more convenience since you don’t need to be bothered to constantly initiate regeneration and renewal. I would highly recommend getting one of this type if you can afford it. The best water softeners are typically meter-based which means water regeneration is automated. That does save you from exerting effort and allocating time for it.

Flow Rate

Flow rate is how fast or slow a system softens water. The speed is measured by how many grains there are per gallon. Different models have different flow rates, of course. 

As a rule of the thumb, larger capacity yields more soft water. If you get information about its flow rate, it’ll be pretty useful. And then go ahead and compare the flow rate with how much you actually use in your recreational vehicle or motor home. That should make it easier to choose which unit is capable of delivering what you need.

Maintenance

You want to choose a hard water softener system that isn’t a hassle to maintain. Some systems call for more frequent maintenance; you need to put it on your calendar to refill salt or clean the water tank.  

While some models can be left by themselves as no maintenance and tune-ups are required. But of course, this kind of feature is bound to cost you more. You need to consider if it’s worth spending more on the benefits that may save your time and effort. 

What are recreational vehicle water softener systems?

Water softener kit can be installed in your motor home, recreational vehicle, and boat. It is a system that gets rid of the calcium, magnesium carbonate, and other minerals that contributes to the hardness of the water. Hard water refers to water that contains not just traces but high levels of minerals in comparison to the typical water.

So if the water you have contains elevated magnesium or calcium levels it is now referred to as hard water. Magnesium and calcium are examples of minerals with positively charged ions.

Their presence makes it difficult for other positively charged ions to dissolve in the water as they should in water that doesn’t have magnesium or calcium. This effect is perfectly illustrated by soap failing to dissolve when used with hard water. You might wonder why your soap suddenly doesn’t lather as it should. The problem lies in the water.

Hard water creates problems by carrying mineral deposit that leaves the pipes and accessories clogged. It’s also troublesome when soap doesn’t make enough bubbles because it’s left undissolved. These problems can be solved by significantly reducing the elements that make water hard. Water softening techniques are utilized to bring down the levels of minerals.

Ions that are responsible for making water hard are removed through these techniques. And it’s not just those ions, iron ions are also removed from the water. When you live the RV life, getting a machine that’s softens the water and connects the unit to the water source is the most promising way to access softened water.

When you have access to soft water, you will spend less time and effort cleaning because the soap behaves like I should. You don’t have to exhaust your water supply clearing up the calcium ions. It also means lesser limescale deposits inside your pipes which leads to better performance and higher functionality. Furthermore, you might not have to deal with repairs and so expect your pipes to last longer.

The process of softening water is aided by ion exchanging or resins that soften lime.

How does a water softening system work?

Water softener systems have similar features with a magnet. It works with the basic law where positive and negative charges attract each other. As I’ve previously mentioned, minerals like calcium and magnesium makes up hard water as they both have positively charged molecules.

Hard water that is processed in water softener units goes through filtration. The filter is made with resin beads which are charged negatively. When water passes through these filters, the positive and negative attraction occurs prompting the transfer of minerals to the beads made of resin.

The regeneration process or cycle is another possible way to continuously have access to soft water. It involves cleaning and recharging of the hard water softener system so you can always expect soft water from your faucets.

Furthermore, you should know that almost all recreational vehicle water softeners are equipped with a second tank. This tank storage is where salt is added to soften the water. It’s also called the brine tank because it does store the brine solution.

During the regeneration process, the system introduces the salt and water solution into the first tank. The ions are exchanged once again but this time it happens in reverse. The medium is bathed with a brine solution.

Hard minerals that are trapped by the resin are expelled while the medium is replenished with sodium ions. Regeneration process also cleans and disinfects the hard water softener system. The final step in the process is expelling unwanted elements like wastes and hard minerals.

RV Water Softener Types

Everyone wants to make a healthy investment. When you’re a recreational vehicle owner, you only want the best accessories to be a part of your RV life. Getting the best water softener will be crucial in your access to safe and clean water. To make it easier for you to choose, we have listed significant information about the common water softener types. 

Salt-free Type of Water Softener System

These type of systems do not use chemicals in order to remove magnesium and calcium to soften hard water. Instead, it employs nanotechnology to change the molecule structures that are found in the water.

The structure of the molecules is changed from scale building to non-scale building. It is equipped with a filtering medium where molecular structures are altered as water flows through.

The altered molecules also have a positive impact on the existing lime scale buildup in your water system’s pipes and fittings. They have the ability to descale the plumbing system, too.

One notable benefit of using a hard water softener system that doesn’t use salt is the absence of chemical usage. You don’t have to compromise and introduce some chemicals to your water system, and you will not be releasing harmful chemicals to the environment.

Another benefit of using a salt-free type of water softener system is the fact that you will be not be required to do maintenance checkups too often. Since you don’t have to buy and add salt to the system regularly. Water wastage is also significantly decreased because it doesn’t involve the regeneration cycle. This makes it a smart choice especially if you want the best for the environment, too.

Ion-exchange Hard Water Softener System Type

This type of hard water softener system works on the principle of ion exchange. It’s the oldest and most popular filtration system. Water is softened by substituting sodium or salt for magnesium, iron, calcium, and any other hard minerals. 

The presence of magnesium and calcium in the water is replaced with salt, potassium, and hydrogen. Among the three choices, most people go for salt making it the most well-known substance to soften hard water when using this kind of hard water softener system. An ion-exchange type of hard water softener is equipped with two tanks, one for brine solution, and the other one for resin.

First, water is directed to pass through a bed of resin. Through this step, sodium ions successfully replace mineral ions present in the water. After the hardness of minerals is reduced, the second phase can now proceed. Regeneration process flushes the brine into the bed of resin. 

After successful regeneration, you will observe some water being flushed out of the drain. The expelled water carries hard minerals. And then with this process, beads of resins are also left prepared to repeat the process once more. Right after the water filtration is finished, softened water is pumped to your RV plumbing system for your use.

The filtered water most likely contains sodium or potassium. Well, it actually depends on which mineral you have used and introduced to the system for the softening process. Salt or sodium are practical choices for being cheaper and more accessible, unlike potassium. People who are conscious about their sodium intake prefer potassium, of course.

Using salt may have negative impacts on the environment. In contrast, potassium is environmentally friendly which makes it a better choice. 

One more thing to consider if you’re planning on buying an ion-exchange hard water softener system is the number of tanks. You might have to go for a two-tank system and not just the system with one tank.

Single-tank units are known to be prone to downtime while the regeneration process is taking place. Most of the models under these type set the regeneration cycle overnight because it’s during that time when there’s less or no demand for soft water.

The problem is that when you are using water during the regeneration is happening, you might have to use water which hasn’t been thoroughly filtered. You might want to consider a two-tank kit if your party and you need access to soft water almost all of the time.

A two-tank system type is equipped with exchanging between the two tanks when it’s needed. This feature is pretty handy when you need to regenerate an emptied tank while utilizing the other one.

Magnetic Water Softener System

Magnetic system types are equipped with magnets inside the pipes and even around it. The created magnetic field is supposed to have effects on the water condition. This type is commonly clip on a pipe and plugged in.

When the magnetic field is activated, carbon carbonates’ electromagnetic properties are altered. They are repelled both by the pipes and by each other.

This type of hard water softener system is considered favorable and convenient, but of course, it also has one drawback. Softened water will retain its electromagnetic properties after 48 hours starting from when it leaves the magnetic field.

The Advantages of Installing Water Softeners in Recreational Vehicles

The installation of a softener system in your motor home or recreational vehicle will improve your RV lifestyle. With one around, you can be qualified to enjoy the following benefits and perks:

Lower Energy Consumption

Appliances that makes use of water like your dishwasher and your coffee maker can function better and be more effective if soft water is used. That’s because there’ll be lesser lime scale deposits that prevent the proper elevation of the temperature. Take for example a pot that has a thick layer of lime scale at the bottom, it will not quickly heat water for your coffee. You pot will take a longer time to boil water because of the cemented deposits at its bottom.

Hard water deposits are one of the main culprits for clogged pipes. Soft water doesn’t cause the same problem so you can expect continuous water flow from your faucets while you are traveling.

Softer Skin and Hair

Lime scale build-up in the plumbing system results in slower water flow. But that’s not just it. Aside from the low water pressure, the high levels of calcium and magnesium have effects on your skin and hair if you use hard water to take your shower or to wash the dishes. 

If you take a bath with hard water, your shiny hair might soon become dull, dry and prone to breakage. You might have to use a better and more intensive lotion because your skin would lose its moisture leaving you with dry skin. You don’t want to have itchy and irritated skin. Hard water strips off your body’s natural oils.

All of these problems can be solved by getting water softener system. Your hair and skin’s natural oils aren’t harmed by filtered water even when you take a bath for a long time. Being away from home doesn’t mean you can’t have an enjoyable bath or shower. You don’t have to compromise your body’s natural oils to feel clean while on the road. Natural oils are important to retain soft and smooth skin and hair.

Shortened Cleaning Time

If you use hard water, I’m pretty sure that there’s lime scale deposit in the pipes and faucets of your water supply. They might seem unnoticeable at first, but over time they’ll appear as a thin white layer. This kind of buildup can be a challenge to remove. I’m very sure of that. You might have to allocate regular cleaning time to scrub it away. 

If your plumbing system is equipped with a hard water softener unit, you don’t have to be brushing and spending much time doing so. You don’t have to search for scale removers on the internet or buy commercial removers.

And take it from me, removing severe lime scale buildup is very challenging that you might as well replace your entire plumbing system and appliances. That’s why I highly recommend investing in a superb water softener unit. Equipping your plumbing system with a hard water softener system ensures that your pipes are free from lime scale. You will be dodging a lot of troubles caused by using hard water.

Lesser Damage to the Environment

Water softener systems are environmentally friendly. It lessens the need for cleaning chemicals which are known to pose threats to our environment. If you don’t use cleaning products which have chemical ingredients you will not be contaminating the streams and rivers. You will not be causing further degradation. It does feel good to know that you’re not messing up the environment.

Not to mention that getting the right model of hard water softener will also help prevent rust, extend the lifespan of your appliances onboard, reduce the number of water spots, as well as eliminate the weird taste and odor of water.

FAQs

You might still have questions about water softeners: 

How do I regenerate a hard water softener system

Different models of hard water softener units have different manual regeneration steps. But from what I know, I can tell you that some of them are equipped with integrated knobs that when turned initiate the water regeneration process.

When water regeneration cycle is initiated, water will be pumped in from the water source then it will be passed through some tanks. While the regeneration process is ongoing, water also flows back and forth between the water tanks through a loop.

This water loop was designed to extend the water flow and to thoroughly filter the hard water. Regeneration cycle also filters out the impurities mixed in with the water. Plus, it prevents rust from building up and other problems with the pipe from occurring.

What does regeneration time mean?

Regeneration time usually takes about an hour and a half to complete. Most ion-exchange water softener systems need at least this amount of time to finish an automated regeneration cycle. Regeneration is the cleansing of the filter medium by the hard water softener.

It cleanses away unwanted minerals that are dissolved in the water when the chemical process is reversed. And remember that the schedule of the regeneration cycle is handled by a valve in the system. The valve acts is an integral part of the system that gives commands to initiate the regeneration cycle in the most ideal time.

Do water softener units require lots of salt?

Of course, the answer to that is yes. Water softener units need help from salt to successfully function. Hard water needs to pass through plenty of salt, so you need to have a sufficient amount of salt added into the tank. If in case you don’t add enough salt, the process is pretty much useless and the end result would still be hard water instead of softened water. You must always be sure to add sufficient amount if you want it to work.

It is important to always have the right salt level in the salt tank. I can’t give you an exact number on this because each model has a different requirement. Please consult the product’s manual for specific a specific answer on this. However, I can tell you that there’s a halfway mark where salt should never go under.

When you find out the right salt level for the hard water softener model that you have, you’d better make sure to keep it consistent. You might have to check on it every month just to make sure it has enough salt to function properly. This guarantees you to have continuous access to soft water. 

If you don’t want to use salt to soften your water, you can look into magnetic water systems. These models are don’t require salt and still supplies you with soft water.

Can potassium be a substitute for salt?

Well, yes. You can opt for potassium as a perfect substitute for table salt. Both of these minerals will work. Potassium chloride is a good alternative although this choice wouldn’t be an economical one considering it is more expensive than salt. Still, for people who prefer or need to stick with a no-salt diet it works quite well. But you should also know that potassium easily melts when wet.

A potassium bridge might get developed inside the saline solution tank as a result when substitution is made. For this reason, it is recommended to have the saline solution tank filled halfway only when you are using potassium chloride. Doing so will make it easier to notice it if it sinks to the tank’s bottom after the completion of the regeneration cycle.

Final Word

Before settling on an recreational vehicle water softener unit, it’s a must to do your assignment and look into things. Comparing different brands and models will you decide which one can cater to your needs for your RV life. Reading through the pros and cons may give you a little push, too. 

It helps to read reviews and even taking the time to read a guide just like this article. You’ll be boosting your chances of landing on the best choice when you have information at hand. You might come across a model that would go ahead and prove itself as a very good investment and stay with you longer than you might expect. Only you know the considerations you have to take into account when choosing the best water softener system.

Thanks for taking the time to read all this way. Don’t forget that we have also rated and done reviews on recreational vehicle’s water pumps, RV tank-less water heaters, RV water hoses, and RV pressure regulators for water to help you choose which ones are best for your needs. Check out our shortlist of the best models and brands. Equip your new RV fresh water system or update your old one with the best shower heads and the best water filters. 

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