What is the difference between softener types/styles? : All Things Water

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What is the difference between softener types/styles?

by Jolene Mehle on 06/07/13

There are three types of water softeners.

Cabinet or all in one style:  Water softener and brine tank are combined.
Two tank system: Water softener and brine tank are independent of each other.
Twin tank systems:  Two water softening tanks and a separate brine tank

Cabinet style vs Two Tank systems
Cabinet style softeners are cumbersome and make for difficult installations in town home, closet or tight space applications. Cabinet style softeners are typically sold in department stores. Even though they are made by one company they are marketed as Kenmore, Whirlpool, GE & Morton. Ecowater, Water Boss and Northstar also offer cabinet style softeners. 
  • require pellet salt
  • come with shorter warranties
  • are more problematic
  • require maintenance
Two tank water softeners are typically of higher quality offer a more flexible installation. The brine tank is separate and can be moved for cleaning or access to mechanics like the furnace filter.  Brine tanks come in different sizes and shapes which can be important for town homes or applications where space is limited. Two tank systems have a separate bin for the salt so salt crystals or solar salt is recommended. Solar salt is 99% pure salt and does not cause problems like pellet salt. Two tank systems are typically built better so they come with longer warranties and are less problematic than a cabinet style softener.
  • higher quality
  • longer warranties
  • uses crystal or solar salt
  • no maintenance required 
Twin tank systems vs Two tank systems
Both twin tanks water softeners and two tank water softeners work much the same and provide the same quality of water. Both are a better option than a cabinet or all in one style softener.

The biggest difference between the two is a two tank water softener meters the water usage and regenerates every 5 to 7 days at 2am. When the softener is regenerating at 2am to 4am, the softener goes into bypass and is unable to filter water. This should not be of concern since this only happens once a week and most people do not use large volumes of water from 2am-4am. (You can still flush toilets and wash hands!)
Twin Tank water softeners have two softening tanks and a brine tank. Many twin tanks are small compact vessels that contain a minimal amount of softening resin. These mini tanks need to be regenerated frequently.  When the softening media is expended and needs cleaning the systems switches to the clean and ready tank while the exhausted tank goes though a regeneration. The regenerations may take place every day or two and anytime of the day or night. There is no interruption of filtering since it switches to the available tank. If you purchase the small exchange tanks system the system will need to regenerate much more often than a full size twin tanks system or a two tank system.
  • Uninterrupted softened water 
  • Usually much higher purchase cost
  • limited salt savings
  • limited benefits
What type do we sell?
We prefer the two tank water systems. Our Pentair Fleck and Clack Millennium water softeners meter water usage, use less salt and less water. Our softeners come with 5 year parts, 5 year labor warranties and have proven to be very reliable. We like the ease of use, no maintenance and space saving options the Clack and Pentair Fleck two tank systems offer.  

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