Salt or No Salt? The first consideration is do you want to consider a traditional salt based water softener or one of the salt free water softener alternatives. Please be clear that I have never seen proof that the salt free units actually soften your water and if you carefully read their literature you will notice that they never actually say they soften water they say they “eliminate scale” or are a “water softener alternative” but be sure you understand that your water will test as being hard before and after this equipment. So a salt water softener is the only practical way to get soft water. Where to buy? A big box store offers great pricing and convenience but just try to get service after the sale! Sure you can always return it for a credit but disconnecting and returning a water softener, after it has been installed, is difficult and expensive. These big box store water softeners are very inefficient and since they’re all made in China, product quality is always a concern especially the electronics. Getting parts or even a parts list is almost impossible and their life span is only about 5 years, if you are lucky. You could buy a water softener from a proprietary national brand dealer but you’ll soon discover that they are very expensive and if you require service or parts, once again, your costs will be very high because “you can only get the parts from them” so they can charge pretty much whatever they want. Also, since they represent only one brand they will recommend just that brand even though something else might be a better fit for your family. You could buy from a plumber who works out of his truck but often these guys know very little about the product itself and keep installing the same old inefficient product because that is what they know. If the equipment needs programming, they will toss you the manual and ask you to read it and program it yourself. My suggestion, when investing in a water softener or any other piece of water treatment equipment is to buy from a dedicated independent water treatment professional. Water Treatment Professionals like myself, when certified by the Water Quality association, learn the products inside & out and because we work with water softeners every day and we see what works and what doesn’t, we know what will work best for your family. Most important is that we are an independent dealer so if we come across a product line that is problematic, we drop it and go to another one that gives better performance. We want our customers to be satisfied and rely on great word of mouth advertising and reviews to grow our businesses in our local communities. When working with a dealer who has been established for well over 10 years you can also get some great recommendations about product life expectancy's too. For example with our High Efficiency Water Boss water softeners I have seen these last over 20 years! High Efficiency or Standard efficiency is the next consideration. There are very few actual High Efficiency water softeners like the Water Boss product line on the market. These will save your family considerable money and effort as they use less than ½ the salt and 1/3 of the water compared to a standard efficiency water softener. Wouldn’t you prefer to only handle half as many 44 lb bags of salt over the next 20 years? A Clack valved water softener is another great choice especially if you are dealing with hardness and iron in your well water. Or another more economical consideration is this mechanical valved water softener. You can expect long service life for a very low investment. These three water softeners represent 3 great choices for your family, all of them will give you 15 + years of reliable service but which one is the best? Well, it depends. If you are on a municipal water supply or well water that has had the iron removed from an iron/sulphur filter and you want to save money with a high efficiency water softener this Water Boss is the best choice for your family. If you are planning to use the water softener to remove iron from your well water in addition to softening the water this Clack valved water softener is a better choice. It’s not a high efficiency so you will use more than double the salt and water during regeneration compared to the Water Boss High Efficiency Water Softener.