What is a Tankless Water Softener?

Computer illustration of a figure standing in front of a red question markYou may find some water softener salespeople selling products under the name tankless water softener. This is yet another term for a saltless water softener system, which also goes by salt free water softener, no salt water softener, and other names. Some people may be referring specifically to electronic water softeners when they use the term.

Regardless, using the term tankless water softener changes the emphasis a little bit. Instead of highlighting the fact that you don’t need to add salt to the system, the term advertises the space-saving advantage.

No Salt Equals No Tank

The largest component of conventional water softeners is the tank. It has to be large in order to hold the large amount of water softener salt needed for softening your water. This salt is gradually used up as the system replaces hard water minerals with sodium, which reacts better with soap and your home’s plumbing (for more information, see How Do Water Softeners Work?). Replacing the salt is a pain for many people, which drives part of the demand for saltless (tankless) water softeners.

However, space is also a disadvantage of these systems. Generally, the larger your water softening needs, the larger the water softener tank. If you use a lot of water and/or have a lot of dissolved minerals in your water, then you need a larger tank – at least, if you want to avoid going back for salt all the time. Traditional water softeners take up space in utility rooms and other out-of-the-way places in a home that may already be crowded with appliances.

Tankless Water Softeners vs Tankless Water Heaters

One of the reasons there’s so much talk of tankless water softeners is the growing popularity of tankless water heaters. In fact, borrowing the terminology is one way for retailers to spread the word about saltless water softener systems, which are less common than salt based systems. And indeed, many of the same people who value the space-saving features of a tankless water heater might also appreciate a softener that doesn’t come with a bulky tank.

People who own tankless water heaters are particularly aware of the issue of hard water and water softening. A major issue with tankless water heater systems is that calcium buildup can severely impact their operation. Of course, hard water can also reduce the efficiency and service life of a traditional water heater through scale buildup within the tank. However, with a tankless system, any scaling that occurs can have a more immediate impact.

Where to Find Tankless Water Softener Reviews

When looking for information on tankless water softeners, be aware of the different terms that are used to refer to the appliance. The most common names you will see are saltless water softener and salt free water softener. You may also want to look specifically for information on electronic water softeners.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of reliable information or reviews on these systems. They’re still relatively new, though they’re growing quickly in popularity. If you’re interested in a tankless system, you might want to start your research by taking a look at our summary of salt free water softener reviews.