The 7 Best Whole-House Water Filter and Softener Combos (2024)

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
March 27, 2024

To pick the best whole-house water filter and softener combo, I reviewed 19 products from top brands such as SpringWell, Fleck, SoftPro, Culligan, and Aquasana. I then ranked them using Drinking Water’s seven-step method. My results were independently reviewed and verified by James Layton, an EPA consultant with 25 years of experience working in the water filtration industry.

The clear winner was the SpringWell MMV-1. It effectively filters and softens city water supplies and comes with a lifetime warranty. I also chose a salt-free softener as a zero-maintenance solution and a well water combo system that targets iron, sulfur, and manganese.

Best Overall: SpringWell MMV-1 9.7/10

  • Four-stage filtration removes 99.9% of city water contaminants
  • Softens even the hardest water (up to 20 gpg)
  • Space-saving single-tank design
  • Lowest cost per gallon over 15 years
  • Minimizes waste and maintenance through smart-control system
  • Lifetime warranty (industry best)
  • Not suitable for well water
  • Adds a small amount of sodium to your water

The SpringWell MMV-1 is the best filter/softener combo thanks to its effective filtration, limitless softening capacity, and lifetime warranty.

Pros

The SpringWell MMV-1 is the best filter/softener combo for the following five reasons: 

Pro 1 of 5: Effective multistage filtration

First, the SpringWell MMV-1 uses four-stage filtration to remove 99% of the more than 100 chemical contaminants often found in city water.

It does this by combining two filter media. The first is KDF, a special alloy that reacts with and neutralizes chlorine and converts heavy metals into tiny particles that are easier to trap. This eliminates both of these contaminants from your water.

The second is activated carbon, which traps hundreds of other chemicals, including VOCs, PFAS and other “forever chemicals,” herbicides, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. It does this through a chemical process called adsorption. In simple terms, these chemicals are electrically attracted to the carbon and stick to its surface as the water passes through and over it. “Activated” means it’s been heat-treated to increase its surface area so it can catch a higher number of contaminants. 

This dual-filter process is far more effective than traditional filters that use only one kind of filter media, such as the Kind Water, Pentair, and King Water whole-house filters. 

This means that if you want to ensure your water is safe and great-tasting but also doesn’t stink like a swimming pool, you should get the SpringWell MMV-1.

Pro 2 of 5: Softens even very hard water

Second, the MMV-1 is able to soften even the hardest water, as hard as 20 grains per gallon (gpg) or more.

Hard water is water with high levels of calcium and magnesium, aka hardness minerals. To remove them you need a water softener. A water softener is filled with a bed of tiny plastic beads that attract and hold calcium and magnesium. These resin beads eventually can’t hold any more minerals, so the water softener will wash them with salty water, which removes the calcium and magnesium and resets the resin bed so it can continue working. This process is repeated over and over again without degrading the beads, which allows the MMV-1 to effectively soften even very hard water.

This means that if you’re worried about scale buildup on fixtures or appliances, your soap doesn’t lather, your water feels rough on your skin, or it leaves a residue on your glassware, the SpringWell MMV-1 will fix all these problems.

Pro 3 of 5: Unique single-tank design 

The third major pro of the SpringWell MMV-1 is that the filter and the softener are combined in a compact, single-tank unit that takes up less space than other combination systems.

The combo units sold by SpringWell’s major competitors, including Fleck, SoftPro, and Culligan, are all two separate units just sold together, which take up as much space as you’d imagine two separate filter systems would take. SpringWell designed an all-in-one system that combines filter media and softening resin in the same tank. 

This means the SpringWell MMV-1 takes up around half the space of any other similar product on the market. 

Pro 4 of 5: Smart control reduces waste

The fourth distinguishing feature of the MMV-1 is that it uses modern tech to reduce the unavoidable waste of a water softener.

Water softeners regularly flush the resin beads that trap calcium and magnesium. This gets rid of the hardness minerals and allows the beads to keep trapping more of them. Once the beads are refreshed, this salty water gets flushed down the drain, which wastes water and depletes your filter’s salt supply. 

Most softeners refresh themselves every few days or once a week, regardless of how much softening they’ve done. However, the MMV-1 measures the actual amount of water flowing through the filter to determine how clogged your resin beads are and cleans itself only when absolutely necessary. This allows it to use less water and salt than other filters on the market, saving you money and maintenance time.

Pro 5 of 5: Limited lifetime warranty

The last thing you want to do is spend two grand on a filter/softener combo and have it break on you in just a few years. These things are meant to be an investment, and they are worth the money only when they last you as long as you own your home. 

This is why the biggest selling point of the SpringWell MMV-1 is its lifetime warranty. SpringWell will repair or replace tanks, valves, housings, bypasses, fittings, and in/out heads that break due to manufacturer defect for as long as you own the product. No other filter company offers this kind of guarantee. 

This means that if you want a filter/softener combo that will last you for as long as you own your home, and that is backed by the best warranty on the market, you should get the SpringWell MMV-1.

Cons

The SpringWell does have two limitations worth mentioning: 

Con 1 of 2: Not designed for well water

The first con of the SpringWell MMV-1 is that it is not explicitly designed for well water.

This is because the filter media inside the MMV-1 is specifically designed to remove common city water contaminants, mainly chemicals such as chlorine, chloramine, and VOCs.

The vast majority of private wells do not have these contaminants. They are much more likely to have natural contaminants, such as iron, sulfur, or manganese.

Removing these and any other contaminants from well water, such as salt water, tannins, or microbes, requires special filters specifically designed for these contaminants. For example, to remove iron, sulfur, or manganese, the filter must turn them into solids (oxidation) that can be trapped and removed from the water. 

However, every well is a bit different, and you should be sure to test it before purchasing any sort of filter. And if you want to buy something that can filter and soften your well water, you need to make sure the filter portion is adequately designed to remove the contaminants in your water.

For more information, check out my top choice for a well water filter and softener combo.

Con 2 of 2: Adds a small amount of salt to the resin

The next downside to the SpringWell MMV-1 is that as a salt-based system it does add a small amount of salt (sodium) to your water. I should stress that it’s a negligible amount of sodium, but some people do see this as a downside, so it’s important to understand why.

To remove calcium and magnesium from your water, a water softener uses a complex chemical process called ion exchange. You don’t have to understand this process to enjoy soft water, but you should know that it involves replacing what gets removed from your water with something else. Not swapping the ions would upset the electrical balance of water and goes against the laws of nature. But what should matter most to you and your water is that trace amounts of salt end up in your water after it’s been softened. 

The amount of salt added depends directly on the hardness of your water. But if you have 15 gpg (very hard water), expect around 30 mg of salt added to every 8 oz. glass of water. This is less than half an unseasoned egg, so you’ll barely notice it, but it’s important to know it’s there.

If you don’t want the added salt, or you can’t have it because you live in certain parts of the country where salt-based softeners are banned, check out my salt-free system recommendation below.

Overall: 9.7/10

The SpringWell MMV-1 is the best whole-house filter and softener combo thanks to effective multistage filtration, efficient softening, and its industry-leading lifetime warranty. 

It’s true that it adds a small amount of sodium to your water, but it also comes in a unique single-tank design that saves space and is the only filter that comes with a lifetime warranty.

All in all, if you want the best softener and filter available combined into one system, then get the SpringWell MMV-1

OR….

If you want even more information, check out my in-depth review of the SpringWell MMV-1. In that review, I go into more detail about the softening process, the installation, the smart monitoring system, and more.

Best Salt-Free Softener/Filter Combo: SpringWell CSF1 9.1/10

  • Four-stage filtration removes 99% of city water contaminants
  • Salt-free conditioning prevents and eliminates scale buildup
  • Lowest cost of ownership compared to similar products
  • No maintenance required and no wastewater
  • Backed by SpringWell’s lifetime warranty
  • Doesn’t improve soap lathering or hard water’s effects on your skin
  • Not an effective solution for private wells

The SpringWell CSF1 is the best salt-free water softener and filter combo because it wipes out scale buildup, filters nasty city water contaminants, and is backed by an industry-best lifetime warranty.

Pros

The SpringWell CSF1 scored so well and ranks so highly on my list for the following five reasons: 

Pro 1 of 5: Effective four-stage filtration

The first reason the CSF1 earned the #2 spot is that the filter uses four-stage filtration to remove 99% of chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAS, and many other chemicals found in city water. 

The four stages: 

  1. “Flex-bed”: A sponge-like material that spreads water over the filter media so that it can be more effective 
  2. KDF: A special alloy that reacts with and removes chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals, such as copper, nickel, and chromium 
  3. Activated carbon: Heat-treated carbon that acts like a magnet to hundreds of chemicals, including chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, herbicides, pesticides, and more 
  4. 5-micron sediment filter: Used to trap the remaining sand, dirt, clay, or any other particulate 

The CSF1 is much more effective than salt-free conditioner and filter combos from Kind Water, Pentair, or King Water, which all use only two stages. Aquasana uses four, but two of them are sediment filters, which is overkill and doesn’t change its effectiveness. The CSF1 uses the “flex-bed” first stage to actually enhance performance.

This means that if your hard water is plagued with unhealthy chemicals that make it taste bad, you should get the SpringWell CSF1.

Pro 2 of 5: Eliminates and prevents scale buildup

Second, the CSF1 completely prevents scale buildup from occurring and over time will also remove existing scale. 

Scale buildup happens because calcium and magnesium react with the metals in your pipes and form crystals. The CSF1 uses a technology called template-assisted crystallization (TAC). In this process, calcium and magnesium are turned into crystals inside your softener. They’re then released into the water, but because they are already crystals, they don’t bond to your pipes and clog them. They simply flow right by. As they do, they will also chip away at the existing scale until it’s gone. 

This means that if scale buildup is making your sinks and faucets look ugly or endangering appliances, such as your dishwasher or water heater, you should get the SpringWell CSF1.

Pro 3 of 5: No salt required = no maintenance and no wastewater

Third, as the name suggests, the CSF1 uses zero salt, which means it requires no maintenance and does not waste water. 

Traditional softeners, like the one used in the SpringWell MMV-1, rely on salt. But the CSF1 uses template-assisted crystallization (TAC), which does not require any additional inputs. This translates to absolutely no maintenance and no waste.

What this means is that if you want a zero-maintenance, zero-waste, and zero-salt solution for hard water, you should get the SpringWell CSF1.

Pro 4 of 5: Lowest cost of ownership

The fourth reason the SpringWell CSF1 did so well in our tests is that it has a very low total cost of ownership driven by two key aspects of its design. 

First, the filter media has a one-million-gallon capacity, which should last most homes 10 years or more. That’s a filter change every decade versus every six months, which is required by cartridge-based systems, such as those from Kind Water and Home Master. These cost less up front, but the frequent replacement filters make them more expensive in the long run.

Second, the salt-free system is “set it and forget it.” The TAC media will crystallize calcium and magnesium forever, and since there’s no salt, you don’t need to buy 40 lb. bags every month. Overall, there are virtually zero upkeep costs over the lifetime of the product. 

What this means is that if you want a filter/softener combo with the lowest overall cost of ownership, you should get the SpringWell CSF1.

Pro 5 of 5: Lifetime warranty

Perhaps the biggest selling point for me on the CSF1 was SpringWell’s lifetime warranty. After spending so much of your valuable time choosing and installing a filter/softener combo, the last thing you want is to have this thing break on you in just a few years. 

After some digging, I found that SpringWell goes way beyond its competitors to source parts from high-rated suppliers, which has resulted in a product that is simply built better. This is why SpringWell is able to offer a lifetime warranty on tanks, housings, fittings, valves, and in/out connections, whereas SoftPro, Fleck, and Pentair offer only 10 years, and GE and Aquasana offer only one. 

With this type of warranty, if something goes wrong EVER, then all you have to do is call up SpringWell and they will help you find a solution. You don’t have to waste time chasing down plumbers or spend money on replacement parts. Knowing the company stands behind its product like this helps make an already superior product stand out even more. 

If you want a salt-free filter/softener combo with the best warranty on the market, you should get the SpringWell CSF1

Cons

The SpringWell CSF1 has two primary cons:

Con 1 of 2: Does not affect soap, stains, or your skin

Probably the biggest downside to the SpringWell CSF1 is that it does not actually soften water. It conditions it instead.

This is due to the salt-free design. To truly soften water, magnesium and calcium must be removed, and this can only happen using a salt-based ion exchange system. Salt-free systems use a different method to target scale buildup, and they do this effectively. But the other unpleasant effects of hard water will remain. Some of these include poorly lathering soap, a scratchy feeling on your skin and hair, and streaks on plates, glassware, and fixtures.

If your water is hard enough to affect soap, skin, and glassware, and it’s something you want to address, then you should go with a salt-based solution, such as the SpringWell MMV-1.

Con 2 of 2: Not an effective well water solution

The second downside is that the CSF1 is not a solution for private wells.

The included filter, the CF1, is a city water filter due to its effectiveness against chemical contaminants often found in these water supplies. Private wells are much more likely to be impacted by things such as sulfur, iron, and manganese. 

Very few “whole-house” solutions are designed for private wells. If you own one, make sure to check twice that any system is compatible with your well before you buy, and always test your water. In 95% of cases, you will need to get a filter for your well water before a softener because contaminants found in wells, such as sulfur, can interfere with the softener.

This means that if you own a private well, you should read the next section of this review, which discusses the best filter combo for wells. 

Overall: 9.1/10

The SpringWell CSF1 is the best salt-free softener and filter combo on the market thanks to its effective filtration of tons of chemical contaminants and its ability to eliminate and repair scale buildup on pipes, appliances, and fixtures.

It’s true it does not actually soften water, but this is a trade-off with salt-free solutions. It does, however, have an industry-leading lifetime warranty.

If you have scale buildup on your pipes and also want to remove chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, and other city water contaminants in one combo unit, you should get the SpringWell CSF1

OR…

To get more information, check out my full review of the SpringWell CSF1. In this review, I provide more details on the salt-free conditioning process and the unit’s smart features, and I also dive deeper into some test results.

Best for Well Water: SpringWell WSSS1 9.4/10

  • Removes up to 8 ppm of sulfur, 7 ppm of iron, and 1 ppm of manganese
  • Softens even very hard water
  • 100% chemical-free system
  • Salt-free option available
  • Supported by Springwell’s lifetime warranty (industry best)
  • Unsuitable for microbes
  • Adds a small amount of sodium to your water

The SpringWell WSSS1 is the best filter/softener combo for well water because it removes high levels of the most common well water contaminants, softens even very hard water, and has an industry-best lifetime warranty.

Pros

The SpringWell WSSS1 is the best well filter/softener out there for the following five reasons: 

Pro 1 of 5: Removes high levels of sulfur, iron, and manganese

The top selling point of the SpringWell WSSS1 is that it is a highly effective filter against the most common well water contaminants: iron, sulfur, and manganese. 

It combines the two most effective filter technologies for well water. The first is air injection oxidation (AIO) and the second is greensand. Both convert dissolved, difficult-to-remove iron, sulfur, and manganese molecules into solids that can actually be filtered. Other well filters, such as Aquasana and SoftPro, use either greensand or AIO. As a result, they can only filter 3–5 ppm of these contaminants as a result. SpringWell uses both and can remove up to 8 ppm of iron, 7 ppm of sulfur, and 2 ppm of manganese.

What this means is that if your water smells like rotten eggs, or leaves reddish-brown or black stains everywhere, you should get the SpringWell WSSS1.

Pro 2 of 5: Softens even very hard water

Second, the SpringWell WSSS1 is a highly effective water softener that can soften even very hard water, even if hardness ratings exceed 20 grains per gallon.

This is because the system is designed to continuously refresh these beads after they become saturated with calcium and magnesium. Very hard water supplies will cause this to happen extremely quickly, usually in just a few days. But this will not impact the effectiveness of the softener. 

If you have scale buildup on your pipes, notice soap doesn’t lather, think your water feels like sandpaper, or keep finding spots and streaks on glassware and plates, you should get the SpringWell WSSS1 to soften your water and reduce or eliminate these effects.

Pro 3 of 5: 100% chemical-free 

The third major upside of the WSSS1 is that it is a 100% chemical-free system.

Iron, sulfur, and manganese can be removed in a number of ways, but most of these methods involve nasty chemicals. For example, you can inject chlorine into your water. This initiates a reaction similar to AIO and is very effective. But then you have chlorine in your water, which makes it taste and smell weird and could require another filter. The WSSS1 is just as effective without the chemicals. 

The WSSS1 also does not require potassium permanganate, aka pot perm. This is used to wash magnesium greensand and keep it effective. But it can burn your eyes and skin and even cause respiratory problems if handled, which you will need to do monthly to maintain your filter. The WSSS1 uses a more modern version of greensand that can be cleaned with regular water.

This means that if you want to remove iron, sulfur, and manganese from your well water without adding or handling other nasty chemicals, you should get the SpringWell WSSS1.

Pro 4 of 5: Available as a salt-free system

The WSSS1’s fourth benefit is that you can get it with a salt-free conditioner instead of a salt-based system.

The SpringWell WSF1 features the same filter with a salt-free conditioner. Salt-based systems require you to add salt to the system periodically and also discharge salty water into the ground around your home. In a few areas, for example, in parts of California, this is banned. It’s true a salt-free conditioner only resolves scale buildup and does not address soap lathering, stains/streaks, or dry/itchy skin and hair. But it can still help protect your fixtures and appliances. 

If you want the filtration capacity of the WSSS1 but prefer or require a salt-free softener, you should get the SpringWell WSSF1.

Pro 5 of 5: Lifetime warranty

Anything you buy for your home should last at least a decade or more. Unless you’re some real-estate mogul, you probably bought your house so you can live in it for the rest of your life, or close to it. This is why when it comes to a whole-house filter/softener combo, one of the worst things that could happen is that it breaks down in just a few years. 

Because of this, perhaps the biggest selling point for me on the SpringWell WSSS1 is its lifetime warranty. Tanks, valves, housings, in/out heads, etc. are all covered for life. I’ve looked into SpringWell’s supply chain, and they use some of the best suppliers out there. You shouldn’t need to use the warranty, but if something goes wrong, the company has your back. 

This is a refreshing change of pace in today’s world, where most products are intentionally designed to break after just a few years.

So, if you want a product that won’t end up in a landfill any time soon and is backed by an industry-leading warranty, you should get the SpringWell WSSS1.

Cons

There are two primary cons of the SpringWell WSSS1:

Con 1 of 2: Not effective against microbes, salt, herbicides, pesticides, etc.

The first downside of the WSSS1 is that it is not effective against everything that could be in your well. 

Every well is different, and testing it regularly is the only way to know what you actually need to remove. The vast majority of contaminated wells have sulfur, iron, and manganese, which is why the WSSS1 is likely to be your solution. But if you have microbes, saltwater intrusion, herbicides, pesticides, etc. in your water, you will need an additional filter, and in the case of microbes, you may even need to do some repairs to your well. 

If you haven’t tested your well water yet, do so now. Then come back to us. If you have more than just iron, sulfur, or manganese, check out my full review of the best whole-house filter for well water

Few combos exist for contaminants other than iron, sulfur, and manganese, but you can always buy the filter you need and then add a softener separately to build your system.

Con 2 of 2: Adds a small amount of sodium to your water

The second downside of the SpringWell WSSS1 is the same one you’ll find for every salt-based softener: It adds a small amount of salt to your water. 

The reason for this goes back to the complex chemical process that makes all water softeners work: ion exchange. You don’t need to know exactly how this works, but you do need to know that it requires a softener to add something back into your water. This maintains water’s electrical balance and keeps Mother Nature happy. What this means to you is that your softened water will get to your tap with a little bit of added sodium, thanks to the necessary salt. 

The amount of salt added depends on how hard your water is, but even extremely hard water (20 grains or more) only ends up with around 30 mg of sodium in an 8 oz glass. This is less than a glass of milk, which has 50 mg. 

If you do need a salt-free combo, or just prefer one, then you should get the SpringWell WSSF1, which is the same filter as the WSSS1, just with a salt-free conditioner. 

Overall: 9.4/10

The SpringWell WSSS1 is the best filter/softener combo for well water thanks to its effective and chemical-free removal of iron, sulfur, and manganese as well as its ability to soften water of any hardness level.

It’s true that it does not filter microbes, herbicides, pesticides, or salt, but few combo units do. But it does have an industry-leading lifetime warranty that provides tremendous peace of mind.

If you want to get rid of the rotten egg smell or stains caused by iron, sulfur, and manganese, and also enjoy truly soft water, you should get the SpringWell WSSS1.

OR…

If you’d like more information, you can read my full review of the SpringWell WSSS1. There I do a deep dive into how the filter media works, break open the electronic controller head, and do some more detailed calculations on the total cost of ownership.

Honorable Mentions: Filter and Softener Combos

Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 Whole-House Filter System 

The Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 is a decent option for those who want a whole-house water filter for city water and a salt-free conditioner instead of a traditional salt-based softener. Performance-wise, the Rhino is right up there with similar options, but Aquasana has a much more limited money-back guarantee and product warranty than SpringWell.

It uses four-stage filtration that includes a pre-filter, advanced KDF media, activated carbon, and a post-filter, which delivers water that is 97% free of chlorine and other chemicals commonly found in city water.

However, including two sediment filters is a bit unnecessary for city water. SpringWell only uses one and the other stage is its flex-bed, which distributes water throughout the filter and enhances its effectiveness. This is missing from the Rhino and limits what it can do.

One nice thing is that Aquasana offers a number of different configurations that make it easy to get the system you want. Just want the filter and conditioner? No problem. Want to add a full bypass system? No problem there either. Want two filter tanks to handle more volume? Yep, can do. Of course, each addition will cost you more money, but it’s nice having this level of choice.

I do have two concerns with the Aquasana Rhino WH-1000. The first is that although you can purchase this as a combo product with a salt-free softener, it doesn’t come as a pre-packaged deal. You kind of have to know exactly what you want and make sure to select the appropriate add-ons. 

I like that other companies put logical combos together for you rather than making the customer do the work. If you’re an expert yourself, however, this could be a great way to customize your system.

Also, this is a unit specifically designed for city water, yet Aquasana doesn’t make that super clear. If you’re using a private well and have sulfur in your water (it smells like rotten eggs), then this unit won’t do much for you. 

Overall, the Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 is a more-than-capable whole-house filter and salt-free water conditioner, but the SpringWell MMV-1 is more effective. Still, you can check out the Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 here and see if it’s the right system for you.

Evo E-3000 Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener

Designed for city water, the Evo E-3000 Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener Combo from Kind Water Systems is probably the easiest to install of all the units we’ve reviewed, but that’s all there really is to say about it. 

First, it’s not a softener but rather a conditioner, so it will neutralize some of the effects of hard water but not all of them. The site doesn’t make this abundantly clear and instead seems to claim that this is in fact a true softener. 

Most companies don’t go out of their way to discuss this, but Kind Water Systems seems to not want you to know it. It sort of claims this system is better without really explaining the difference. Good thing I’m here! 

One really nice thing about the Kind EVO is that it’s super simple to install. All three stages of the system come as one already-connected unit, so all you need to do is connect supply lines to either end and voilà! You’re ready to go!

Kind also has an autoship program that lets you schedule replacement filter orders in advance so you don’t forget and let your system fall out of maintenance.

The Evo E-3000 is priced competitively compared to other options I’ve reviewed, and it comes with a limited lifetime warranty, which is great to see. However, the money-back guarantee period is only 120 days, which is better than some but not as good as the six months SpringWell gives you. You can check out the Evo E-3000 here.

Aquasure Whole-House Filter System

The Aquasure Signature Series whole-house filter system is about as complete of a water filter and softening system as you can get. It includes a 10” whole-house sediment pre-filter, a traditional ion exchange salt-based water softener, a UV light sterilizer, and an under-counter reverse osmosis (RO) system.

The addition of a UV light means the system will zap and kill all microbial contaminants, and the RO system will filter out pretty much any and all particulates before it reaches your tap thanks to its smaller-than-small membrane. 

The RO unit is point-of-use, meaning it is only available at one tap. This part of the system filters water and stores it in a separate tank that is accessed from a dedicated faucet, which you usually install in your sink by drilling a hole. This is a nice extra benefit you don’t get with most combo packages. 

What’s more, and this is both a pro and a con, is that this whole system costs about one-third of what you will pay for other comparable setups. 

This sounds great, but consider that there is only a two-year limited warranty on this system, and no money-back guarantee. Personally, I felt the build quality to be a bit “less than,” and while I didn’t have access to it for long enough to see how long it would really last, I have lots of questions and concerns. 

Considering this is an important investment in your home, beware of products that seem too good to be true. But if you really want all the bells and whistles at a discounted price, the Aquasure system is worth looking at further.

Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter

The Crystal Quest SMART whole-house filtration system is effective against many harmful contaminants, but the cost is enormous. You will likely come across this product in your search, so I wanted to elaborate. 

As far as its filtration and softening abilities go, it does pretty well. But it is a “salt-free conditioner,” not a true softener, so keep that in mind. It will remove chlorine, chloramine, trihalomethanes, lead, mercury, and herbicides from tap water just like any other product, which makes it a great city water system. 

However, what is interesting is the inclusion of these tourmaline and ceramic balls as part of the filtration process. While they certainly can’t hurt, there is no science out there that proves these do anything to help with filtration, making them mainly a gimmick the manufacturer uses to get you to buy its product over someone else’s. 

Like I said, as far as its filtration and conditioning abilities go, there is nothing wrong with this product. If you get a special deal or something, then by all means go for it. But there are other products out there that do the same if not better and don’t include these gimmicky extras to try and get you to spend more money. 

The Bottom Line

In the end, the SpringWell CSS1 and WSSS1 are the cream of the crop when it comes to whole-house water filters and softener combos. 

Unmatched filtration combined with efficient salt-based softening makes for an excellent product, and SpringWell’s industry-leading money-back guarantee and lifetime warranty are just icing on the cake. 

If you’re on city water, check out the CSS1 here, or if you use well water, you can get the WSSS1 here. If you’re looking for the same filtration capacity but with a salt-free softening system, then get the CSF1 here.

Research Methodology: How We Test and Review Products

With so many whole-house water filters and softener combos on the market, it’s essential to apply a systematic approach to figuring out which ones are good and worth the money and which are not.

Drinking Water uses a seven-point research methodology that combines qualitative and quantitative analysis to narrow down a large list of options to the true best of the best.

Feel free to check out all the details about how we review water filters, but here are some of the more important factors we consider:

Use analysis

Once the initial list is created, the first step is to dive deep into the specific use case for each product.

All filters are designed to do something specific, and while manufacturers often like to position their products as being able to “do it all,” this is often not the case.

We comb through all the products on the list and throw out those that are better suited for a different use.

Learn more about how we do our use analysis.

Tech check

Along with checking the best use case for each product on our list, we also complete an analysis of the technology at play. This is different because we focus on the science behind the different filter media being used.

Robust literature exists on all the different filter technologies out there, and if something new is actually good, there’s data to support it.

For a product to make it to the next phase of our review, the technology has to pass our test.

Learn more about the tech check portion of our review process.

Water test data

It’s not uncommon for filter manufacturers to use statistics to try and demonstrate why their products are better than the competition. We don’t just take this data at face value but rather put in the work to verify it and even collect our own when it’s needed.

Our intent here is to verify all manufacturer claims and also identify any false information.

Learn more about how we collect and use water test data.

Installation test

Our reviews are comprehensive in that we take into account every aspect of the buying process, which includes what happens after you make a purchase.

Whole-house filters are fairly straightforward to install if you have basic plumbing knowledge, but there are lots of things companies can do to simplify or sometimes complicate the process.

To make sure we’re recommending truly top-notch products, we run installation tests on all the products that make it past the first few levels of our review process.

Learn more about how we run our installation tests.

Cost-of-ownership analysis

In addition to the up-front cost of buying the filter, there are often ongoing costs associated with water filters, mainly maintenance and filter replacements, but also energy bills and installation costs.

We calculate all of these to project how much you can expect to spend both at the moment of purchase and throughout the product’s lifetime.

Learn more about how we conduct our cost-of-ownership analysis.

Warranty check

While complex, water filtration technology has been around for some time and should be built to last. While we analyze all the materials used in every product we look at, it’s also our belief that a good warranty says a lot about a product and a company.

It says the company is ready to stand by what it makes and sells. This is why we dive deep into every warranty manual to get all the details.

Learn more about how we do our warranty checks.

Customer service test

No one wants to buy from a company and then never hear from them again, especially when making an investment as large as a whole-house water filter.

This is why we run extensive checks on a company’s customer service operation before we even think about recommending one of the products.

Learn more about our customer service test.

Before You Buy a Whole-House Filter and Softener Combo

Whole-house filter and softener combos are not actually one product. Instead, they are two separate products sold together as an all-in-one water treatment solution.

Determining which combo product is right for you is an important first step. If you haven’t already, you should consider testing your water to see what’s in it and what needs to be filtered out.

You could also check out my review on the best whole-house water filters to see which unit is best for you.

This will help you determine which type of filter you can buy, and the next step is to determine which softener is best.

Water softeners target “hardness minerals” to eliminate the negative side effects of hard water. With a water softener, you can say goodbye to scale buildup, soap that doesn’t lather, streaks and stains on your glassware, and an itchy, dry feeling on your skin after showering.

Salt-Based Softeners: The Only True Softeners

The big thing to keep in mind with water softeners is whether salt is involved in the process. True softeners, which remove hardness minerals from your water, use a process called ion exchange.

In ion exchange, water passes over a resin that attracts calcium and magnesium, then a brine solution rinse exchanges them for sodium.

To completely alleviate the unwanted effects of hard water, this is the best and only solution.

It has two main downsides. First, it does add a little bit of sodium to your water. How much gets added depends on how hard your water is, but even then it’s an extremely small amount.

To give you an idea, a water softener working on a very hard water supply (15 grains per gallon) will only add about 3.5 mg of sodium to each ounce of water.

So, for every eight ounces you drink, you’re consuming about 30 mg of sodium. Very few food products have less sodium, including many fruits and vegetables. For example, a boiled egg has around 80 mg of sodium.

The other main drawback is that to charge the resin with sodium, water softeners regenerate with a brine solution (water heavily concentrated with salt). You will need to periodically add salt (around once a month) to your brine tank to keep it fresh.

Also, some of this brine solution gets flushed down the drain, which can raise environmental concerns in some areas, both about water waste and salt added to the ecosystem.

Salt-Free Softeners: Not True Water Softeners

For most people, these drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits of truly soft water, but alternatives do exist.

Many water treatment companies sell “salt-free softeners.” These are not softeners. Instead, they use a filter medium that turns calcium bicarbonate (what’s in your water) into crystals of calcium carbonate, which don’t dissolve in water.

These crystals then pass right over your pipes, fixtures, and appliances and do not cause scale buildup. But all the other side effects of hard water will remain.

In short, salt-free softeners, aka water conditioners, are a solution if you have only slightly hard water, are on a ZERO sodium diet, live in an area where traditional softeners are banned, or want to avoid the slippery/slimy feeling truly soft water can leave on your skin.

They’re also great for people seeking an eco-friendly solution to mildly hard water.

These products are all over the water softening market, and they do just fine based on their design. They’re also less expensive to purchase and maintain.

But it’s important you know the difference before you shop, especially since most companies will market salt-free conditioners as softeners, which they simply are not.

My review includes both options, though I do give preference to true softeners since they actually soften water.

Now that you know a bit more about the details of filter/softener combos, you can click the link below to go back to my recommendations to find one that works for you.

Back to product recommendations

Dive Deeper: In-Depth Water Filter Guides

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about water filters and water softeners before you make a purchase, here are some resources you can check out:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best whole-house water softener and filtration system?

The best whole-house water softener and filtration system is the SpringWell CSS1, which is a whole-house filter combined with a salt-based conditioner.

But the best filter/softener combo is really going to be the filter that best aligns with the contaminants present in your water.

The best thing to do is to test your water and then seek out a filter/softener combo that will meet your needs.

Do you need a water softener if you have a whole-house filtration system?

You need a water softener in addition to a whole-house filtration system if you have hard water. The two systems do not do the same thing.

Hard water is not necessarily a health concern, but it can cause scale buildup, streaks on your glassware, poorly lathering soap, skin irritation, and damaged hair.

If these are concerns, it’s smart to add a water softener to your whole-house water treatment system.

Can you have both a water softener and a water filter?

Yes, you absolutely can have both and it’s recommended if you have hard water and also want to remove the many potential contaminants present in your water supply.

How much does a whole-house water softener and filtration system cost?

Costs for whole-house water softener and filtration systems range between $500 and $3,000. It depends heavily on the type of filter and softening system you use.

The best and most effective units tend to be $1500 and up.

Do I need a sediment filter if I have a water softener?

You need a sediment filter in addition to a water softener if your water supply has high levels of sediment in it. Water softeners address the “hardness minerals” calcium and magnesium, but they do not deal with other types of sediment.

Sediment filters usually go before water softeners to remove these particles before the water heads to the softener.

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Tiffany

Very helpful article! :D

James Layton

Thank-you Tiffany! If you have any questions, please ask. We’re here to help you find the most effective water quality solutions.

Philip Tympanick

How much water waste in gallons does the regen process create for the Springwell WWS and Salt Softener and can I tap into the 3/4″ drain pipe for my HVAC air handler.

James Layton

Philip,
The amount of water used ranges from 35-60 gallons depending on how much brine is needed to regenerate the softener. harder water will require more brine. I am not able to say if taping into the HVAC drain will work. In a worst-case situation you could have brine back-flowing into the HVAC system. Water softeners typically require a dedicated line to the drain or wherever you want to send it.

Philip Tympanick

Given I’m told these systems produce between 30-125 gallons of gray water during the regen cycles, where and how are we expected to expel this water if we don’t have a drain in our basement? I would be afraid to run this water through my septic given the salt content generated by the water softener because that would likely corrode the concrete tanks. I don’t want to expel onto my property for fear it will kill all the plants and grass. Can you explain what the best method is for capturing the gray water and disposing of it is?

James Layton

Philip, That is a good question and many others have wondered the same. I checked the most up to date research and it turns out that a well-maintained water softener that discharges into a septic system will cause no harmful affects. In some cases the softener discharge enhanced the performance of the septic system. Let me share my own experience with discharge water and what I have observed in other homes in my neighborhood. My home has no basement. The softener sits in a closet on the ground floor. I had no drain for the discharge. I attempted to run a hose from the discharge to a drain on the second floor. I will skip the reasoning. The discharge water did not have enough pressure to push the water up to the second story drain. I discovered that I could run a small diameter PVC pipe behind the baseboard trim and out of the house through a hole I drilled in an outside wall. I sent the discharge water to a grassy area in a corner of my yard. Over the years I have observed no harm to the plants. A neighbor had a similar drain except it poured the water directly into a row of shrubs and trees. He experienced no harm to the plants. I have seen stand-alone sumps designed to pump water to an upstairs drain (or wherever you want to send the water). The submersible pump automatically turns on when the water level rises in the sump. Perhaps something like that will work for your situation. I have seen some homeowners send sump water to the street, provided it is not a great distance from the home.

Ashley

I have a well and am also interested in addressing the “microbes, salt, herbicides, pesticides, etc.” that could occur given farming runoff worries and increasing construction around my area. So, I would love to have an all in one system that back flushes/ regenerates and takes care of all the things. Can I get a WSSS1 with a UV light and whatever else is needed? Or is there another system out there for this?

James Layton

Ashley, The WSSS1 is an excellent well filtration system. It will handle many of the issues well water can throw at us. You can add a UV disinfection system to this or any other filter system. You mention pesticides. If you want every faucet in the home to be filtered, than a whole home activated carbon unit can be added to the filter system like the CF-1. If you are only concerned with water for drinking and cooking at the sink, a reverse osmosis filter system, placed under the sink, will provide really pure water for people and pets. The Waterdrop G3P300 actually has a UV disinfection feature built in. This filter can be placed on the counter if you like. Take a look.