Water Softening/Conditioning Systems

I recently moved to New Mexico, where it appears that the water is even harder than in Arizona. Shit.

I was wondering if any of you folks could recommend a whole-home water conditioning system to me based on the following bullet points. I swear, the more I research this stuff, the more confused I become. User experiences (and perhaps expert knowledge from someone who isn’t trying to sell me something) would be a godsend.

[li]My home is new and I’ve been told a salt-based softener would void my warranty (messes up the anode, which I don’t want to do anyway). Also, I’ll be irrigating my yard and water from a salt-based softener is a good way to kill my plants.[/li][li]But, I’ve also read that if it doesn’t have salt, it ain’t softening your water.[/li][li]My main goal is to minimize/eliminate mineral scaling in my plumbing fixtures and appliances. Can a water “conditioner,” as opposed to a salt-based softener, do this?[/li][li]Effectiveness and reliability of the unit are more important than cost, but if I can spend less I will.[/li][/ul]

Do any of you have any recommendations based on what I’ve outlined here? I’ve heard good things about Kinetico, but I want to make sure I’m getting the right unit for the job.

Thank you all in advance for your help.

As far as ‘messing up your anode’ that’s just something in your water heater. It’s trivial (and common) to only pipe the softened water into the cold water pipes and have the hot water come directly into the mains. IIRC, I’ve heard that softened water can be hard on water heaters. I didn’t know that was the reason though. Also, as long as you’re doing the extra piping, you can have ‘unsoftened’ water go to the spigots outside. Again, this is going to be pretty trivial. A few extra soldering connections, some more copper, and a little extra work.
Some upfront expense for the plumber, but as long as it’s done well, it’s just a one time thing with no maintenance down the road.

you don’t want treated water for your outdoor use. plumb that separate.

Lived many years without a water softener. No big deal. Then I bought a home that had one. When it died, I wasted no time in getting another one. In areas with hard water, they are awesome. If nothing more, just showering with soft water is the greatest!
Good luck. I hope you find a solution.

Anything that does not use an ion exchange column isn’t worth it’s salt <hah>

When we purchased a house in the UK, we got a water softener. I chose the model that measured the water use and only recharged the column overnight when sufficient water had run through it. We had unsoftened water for drinking water and external faucets. All the appliances that heated water (dishwasher, washing machine) used softened water. I’m assuming the hot water system was softened - avoiding lime scale in heating systems is a prime requirement for water softening. Just don’t oversoften, and monitor the anode regularly (6 monthly to yearly), or consider fitting an active (powered) anode.

The anodes in a water heater should be inspected/replaced yearly anyway, but nobody does that. They are designed to be sacrificial. For the record, I have a water softener in my pump house, and it feeds my entire house. I tossed out the water heater I had before I put in the softener, as there was a huge buildup of calcium slag in it (several inches). I don’t expect to see that ever again.

I also feed one hose spigot with the softener to wash cars and such, the other outside spigots are pre-softener water. I don’t know of any ‘conditioner’ aside from a Reverse Osmosis system that will do anything about hard water unless it is an ion-exchange (salt recharge) type.

If you are truly concerned about the salt wash, sink a french drain type pipe 4 or 5 feet down in the ground and have the flush water dump into that.

I love mine, it makes a huge difference in everything from washing hair to cooking to doing laundry.

The unit I got has a 48,000 grain capacity, cost about $700 delivered to my door, and I installed it myself in about an hour and a half.

Thanks for your feedback, everyone. I found a solution I think I’m going to go with. It’ll be a salt softener and I’ll be inspecting the heater anode regularly as a few of you suggested. I figure the anode is small potatoes compared to the appliances, fixtures, and general plumbing, not to mention not having to clean up hard water stains in the sinks, shower, and dishes.

Khendrask, do you mind telling me what brand/model of softener system you got?