You are probably aware of the whole house filters and softeners, but did you also know that you can get a two in one combo? Now, these could be quite expensive, and I don’t want you to waste money on something you don’t actually need. So, in this article, I will help you to determine whether you need to get one, show you some of the benefits and introduce my recommended picks.
The short version is: There are two combo systems that I think are worth mentioning Aquasana Rhino and Pelican. Both come as a filter and salt-free conditioner. If you are looking to soften very hard water, I would select a whole house filter and softener separately.
Let’s not waste your time and talk about who would actually find the whole house filter and softener combo useful!
Filter and Softener: Is It For Everyone?
First of all, let’s establish who would need the whole house filter in the first place.
The name “whole house filter” gives you a hint that these systems are designed to be installed for the whole household.
Second, I believe that if you use well as the primary source of water, whole house filter is an absolute necessity to have.
Right, where should I start? Unlike municipal water provided by the city, groundwater is not treated in any way. This leaves a lot of opportunities for water to get contaminated.
Just to give you a few examples of how groundwater can get contaminated.
The list could go on and expand to commercial runoffs like shops waste, car wash chemicals, paint shops, etc.
Honestly, if you think about this, pretty much everything you can think of, could contaminate groundwater because there is no way to protect it.
Additionally, groundwater is rich in sediment and minerals by nature, which causes that well water is usually hard.
Speaking of hardness, this is where the combination of filter and softener comes handy.
The bottom line:
If you live in a house with a private well, you can’t go wrong with a given combo.
Now, what you need to establish is the hardness of the water. The reason for this is, that included softener is salt-free. Let’s talk about what it means for you.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Combo Units
The main benefit of this type of filter is that it comes as one product. For you, it means that you are installing only one system, which just makes life easier.
Another benefit for you is that the whole system is under one warranty. If you decided to buy softener and filter separately, you could get different warranty length for each system. Claiming warranty could be a real issue with this. With all in one system, you won’t have this issue.
The big plus will see people that are in any way restricted to salt. The thing is that the softener is salt-free, also known as a water conditioner. This being said, it doesn’t remove minerals as salt-based softeners, but rather prevents minerals from adhering to your appliances.
In a way, it could be said that it disables minerals rather than removes them. Now, despite its clear benefits, I have found a few drawbacks too.
First and the main drawback I have found is that these systems are not suitable for houses with very hard water.
The reason for this is that salt-free systems are good at softening moderately hard water. However, these are not the best solution for very hard water.
So, if this is your case, you might not see the benefit in these systems and separate filter and salt-based softener would be a better solution for you.
This being said, keep reading as I will cover watch-outs if you decide to combine two separate systems together.
Can You Make Your Own Combination?
If you have read to this point and still feel like the combo is not the right option, and you might need something more powerful, this chapter is for you.
Of course, you can simply buy a whole house filter and softener separately.
When doing so, you need to prepare yourself that there will be much more hassle when installing them.
Instead of installing one system, you will be connecting two, and in my experience, this always comes with issues.
For example, one of the most common issues I have seen is that the two systems have different size of connection and pipes.
Now, the standard connection of this type of filters is 1″ inch. However, some whole house manufacturers, as well as softener manufacturers, could have a ¾ inch connection.
I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, because even when something like this happens, you can still install both systems. I just love to avoid unnecessary issues in the first place. So if you are like me, just be aware of this when creating your own combination.
Another piece of advice I would like to give you is to install a whole house filter before the softener.
You might have heard that salt-based softeners can make water taste slightly salty. Now, this is not an exactly correct statement.
The softener only replaces mineral ions with sodium ions. The sodium itself is not going to make the water salty.
However, if the supplied water contains chlorine, the reaction of chlorine and sodium ions, could make water to taste salty.
For this reason, installation of whole house filter before softener makes an absolute sense. The filter will remove all the chlorine from water, so the further softening won’t have an impact on the taste.
Additionally, filter will remove other contaminants and as a result the softener resin will last longer.
You can also combine a filter with salt-free softener, but I wouldn’t recommend it, and here is my why.
Can You Use Salt-Free Softener With the Whole House Filter?
As you probably figured out by now, the short answer is yes. You can use non-salt based water conditioners with filters too.
But, the reason I wouldn’t do it is that conditioners have the same performance as the ones used in all-in-one systems.
I just don’t see the point of buying the conditioner separately from whole house filter. You won’t see a different result, and in this case, a combo is a perfect option for you.
Hopefully, I have covered all the questions you might have when selecting the right water treatment system for your house.
However, if you have any questions left, don’t be afraid to leave them in the comments below, and I will help you out.
Below I have selected products that fit into everything said earlier. These are amazing picks, so just keep reading to find out more.
Best Whole House Filters and Softeners
If you have been in the market for filter and softener, you have probably come across this one. Aquasana Rhino system is one of the most known whole house filters with softeners.
The brand has been around for some time and has got many happy and not so happy customers. So let’s dig down into the performance.
Aquasana as combo system the unit removes all main contaminants that you can usually find in your tap water.
Additional pre and post filters also ensure to remove sediment, rust and heavy metals.
What I would like to mention is the lifespan of this filter.
Aquasana has developed a system that should last about 1,000,000 gallons or alternatively up to 10 years. You only have to change pre and post-filters regularly, and I would suggest about every three months.
It is clear that the performance of this filter is at a high level, but the installation of this unit seems to be a big pain point for many users.
It has been reported that the installation instructions are not clear, which makes it challenging to install the system.
The bottom line is: If you are one of those people who struggle to assemble IKEA furniture, don’t even try your luck to install Aquasana and call a local plumber. This would be a much better option and what is more important, your peace of mind.
I would also recommend you to add a Pro Install Kit into your basket with this filter. I am sure your plumber will thank you later.
Additionally, because the unit will be installed by the certified plumber, you won’t lose the warranty in case something goes wrong and you damage the product. The proof of this is required when a warranty is claimed.
Speaking of warranty, Aquasana offers a 10-years warranty for its Rhino series. For your own safety, make sure to read T& C’s of the warranty.
Customer service is another pain point of Aquasana. Although there is a mix of responses in terms of service satisfaction, the majority of users have complained that customer service is not helpful nor very knowledgeable.
Now, there might have been some of the misunderstandings between customers and the company, which happens often.
Regardless of this, I feel obligated to make aware that you might hit the wall when contacting the manufacturer. So, I have decided to test Aquasana myself.
I have reached out to them through their email asking two questions about fluoride and installation kit. As you will read in a minute, I have done the same thing with Pelican.
Now, in terms of the response speed, I have been contacted in a couple of hours saying that my inquiry has been passed to the whole house team and someone should be in touch shortly.
However, it has been a couple of days, and I still haven’t received any response.
I am pretty sure that you might have some questions in your head about the product, so below you can find answers for it. If I haven’t covered something, leave a question in the comments below.
Q: Does Aquasana Rhino Remove Fluoride?
A: No this filter is not capable of removing fluoride out of water
Q: What Is The Flow Rate?
A: The flow rate is 7 gallons per minute.
Q: How Often Should I Change Cartridges?
A: As mentioned earlier, make sure to change pre and post-filters regularly every three months. The primary (blue) filter is designed to last 10 years or 1,000,000 gallons. Please take these numbers as an estimate, because water quality in your area will dictate how long they will last.
So, keep it in mind and keep checking the quality of filtered water. If you have noticed that it went down, you might have reached the point when you need to replace filters.
Q: What Is The Fitting Size?
A: The kit includes ¾ inch fittings
Although it has a few flaws with customer service and installation, Aquasana is a great shout if you are looking for the filter and conditioner.
I also like the fact that you can customize the Rhino series to work for you. If you have hard water and need actual softener, you can only buy a whole house filter part and separate salt-based softener.
Pelican is another great candidate to be installed in your house. Similarly to Aquasana it comes with pre-filter, primary filter and softener but is missing the post filter.
The company has been around for some time, since 2007 to be exact and falls under the umbrella of Minneapolis based corporation called Pentair.
Now, similarly to Aquasana, all filtration stages are hidden in a housing. In total Pelican uses the following stages.
- GAC Media
- KDF-55 Copper and Zink Media
Therefore, you can expect similar performance as earlier mentioned.
The difference between these two is that Pelican is designed to last about 600,000 gallons or 5 years. This number was tested based on the capability to remove chlorine out of water.
Although Pelican has a shorter lifespan, it has a higher flow rate of 10 gallons per minute.
Speaking of flow rate, I want to talk more about how to select the right Pelican for you.
How to select right Pelican
The company has got two versions of this system based on the number of bathrooms in your house. According to the manufacturer, the first type is designed for 1-3 bathrooms, and the second type is for 4-6 bathrooms. Now, I believe that this might be quite confusing classification.
Let me explain, the number of bathrooms in a house doesn’t necessarily give a total water consumption.
For example, you might have a big house with five bathrooms but at the same time small family. So, according to the manufacturer, you would need a bigger system, but in reality, you don’t really need it.
Vice versa, there might be a scenario where, let’s say, you only have two bathrooms, but your family is big, and the consumption is higher.
The bottom line is that always look at the number of people in the household to estimate which size would be the most suitable for you.
I would say a good number for the smaller unit would be about five people per household to manage the total load.
Because I am a data-oriented, the best option would be to measure the flow rate in your house for a couple of days and take the average to see which unit would be more suitable for you.
In terms of the installation, unlike Aquasana, this unit is fairly easy to install, but give yourself a couple of hours when figuring this out or again let the specialist get the job done.
I haven’t seen much of feedback about the customer service, so I have decided to test this myself. At least from the buyer’s point.
So, what I have done is I have asked a few questions about this unit and emailed them to the customer service. What I was looking for is the response time and the quality of information.
Let’s have a look at the speed of the response. I have been contacted by the customer rep in three hours after I have sent an email. This is an absolutely fantastic speed.
I have asked whether the system is capable of removing fluoride and whether it comes with the installation kit?
I have received a clear response to the question about fluoride. However, I didn’t receive an answer to the installation kit.
Have a look yourself below.
The bottom line: The customer service is very quick to respond, which is a good sign. Maybe it was me who has worded a question wrongly, but not all my questions were answered.
Talk to me in the comments below if you have experience with Pelican customer service, to help other readers.
Q: Does Pelican Remove Fluoride?
A: No, this system is not capable of removing fluoride out of water.
Q: Is Installation Kit Included With The Product?
A: No, you need to buy the kit separately.
Q: What Is The Connection Size?
A: The connector size is 1”.
Q: How Often Do I Need To Replace Filters?
A: You need to replace pre-filter every 6 months. Main filtration medium lasts about 600,000 – 1 mil gallons depends on the type.
Pelican is a great alternative and main competitor to Aquasana. It overcomes some of the design flaws that Aquasana has like the installation process, and offers a solid treatment.
Above, I have covered 2-in-1 systems with filter and conditioner. However, if you have got water that is very hard, you might need a real softener to remove hard minerals from the water.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a filter that would include salt-based softener in it. If you know a system like it, make sure to let me know in the comments.
Below I will include the self-made combo you can use for ultimate appliances and health protection.
Express Water and Fleck Combo
Let me start with explaining why I have exactly selected these two units.
The first reason is that both units have the same connection sizing if you remember me mentioning this earlier in the article. So, both have 1″ inch connection, which means that you won’t have to overcome that problem.
Second, both offer excellent performance.
The filter is capable of supplying 0.25 gallons per second, which is the prime benefit as it doesn’t slow down the flow, which is good for you and the softener.
It is straightforward to replace cartridges and what I like the most is that each stage has its own pressure gauge.
The pressure gauge is an excellent indicator as to when you need to replace the cartridge. The pressure increases over time as the cartridge gets more and more clogged with contaminants. Also, you can simply take the pressure out by pushing the pressure relief button when maintenance is needed.
Apart from that, transparent sediment stage housing will give you an additional hint when the maintenance is needed.
Now, unlike the previous two systems, Express Water requires you to maintain the system regularly every 6-9 months. So, don’t expect this unit to last 5 years as the previous two.
Fleck Water Softener
Let’s jump onto the softener. I have selected the particular type of 5600sxt. This wasn’t a random choice as this particular one has got a high capacity of 48,000 grain.
The softener has a service flow up to 12 gallons per minute. Note, that this is a similar flow as the Express Water. The combination of both will ensure that you won’t have any misalignments in terms of the performance.
Let me explain: You might have a high capacity flow filter, but the softener is only capable of working half of the flow. This creates a bottleneck and will result in you being unhappy and probably returning the product.
Another thing is the connector size, which is 1″ – same as the filter and is designed to be easily installed. Give yourself 1-2 hours to get this softener set up. Instructions are self-explanatory, and the process itself is pretty straightforward.
What I like about this particular softener is that it is fundamental, without any unnecessary fancy add ons that are just expensive, let’s be honest.
You need a simple softener that is efficient and for the good money which is exactly what Fleck is. With the similar flow as Express Water, these units are perfect to use in combination.
I know that this was a very long guide, but let’s be honest these products will last you ages and are not cheap. So, you want to ensure that you have made the right decision and selected a unit that will serve your needs without any additional headaches.
As always, I am very keen to read what you have to say in the comments below.
This will help others who are in a similar position as you to make an informed decision.
Share your thoughts below.