This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a small commission. Thanks.
I’ve installed hundreds of water descalers and softeners over the years. People’s reasons for getting one are ranging from ruined plumbing to serious health issues arising from the hardness of the water in their homes.
However, I didn’t fully understand how serious it all is before I started gathering data for this guide.
And let me tell you, it goes way beyond the effects on your plumbing.
Hard water has been repeatedly proven to have serious effects on human health, ranging from simple hair and skin health to cardiovascular disease and gastric cancer.
The good news
If you are reading this, you probably already have concerns of your own about hard water. The good news is that you stumbled upon the corner of the internet with all the information on water descalers you’ll ever need.
If You’re in a Hurry – a Brief Take on My Top Pick
If you’re in a hurry and just looking for actionable advice on what to get, I’ve got you. In my opinion, the Yarna CWD24 is the best value for money for a vast majority of US households.
The CWD24 ticks all the boxes – it’s efficient, reliable, easy to install, covered by a solid warranty and works just as well as descalers that cost twice as much. It’s a no-brainer.
Who am I to advise on water descalers?
There’s no way of answering that without boasting. I’ll accept that.
Over the years of my work as a plumber, I’ve installed hundreds of these things. In fact, according to my math, the number is getting close to four digits.
I know the industry inside out. I know the brands, the problems, the manufacturing standards (or lack thereof).
If you feel like that’s a good enough reason to put that phone on airplane mode and give me the time of day, let’s get you a good water descaler.
Best Water Descalers Reviews – My 2021 Picks
It’s my experience that when it comes to efficiency, no other type comes close to electronic water descalers. So, that’s what we’ll focus on in this guide.
Apart from my first-hand experience, I took the time to go the extra mile for this guide and gather enough data to make the information as unbiased as possible:
Here’s what I did to get to my top 10 picks:
- I talked to 2 of my colleagues who specialize in descalers
- I analyzed 50+ products, focusing on long-term user satisfaction
- I rated all descalers in 6 quality categories (Effectiveness, Capacity & flow rate, Installation & Compatibility, Power economy, Warranty)
The picks you’ll see below are the products that scored highest in the quality categories, with ‘effectiveness’ having the most gravity of the six.
For the sake of simplicity, I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of my rating process. Instead, we’ll get straight into my top nine picks and what earned them a place on the list.
If there’s such a thing as a household brand of descalers among people installing these for a living, it’s Yarna. In fact, three out of the top nine picks carry the Yarna name – this unit, CWD30, and CWD48.
The main difference between the three is the maximum pipe diameter. Typically, a supply branch leading from the street to your home will be a 3/4 or a 1-inch pipe. That means that this Yarna will do just as good of a job as its ‘bigger brother’ while making a smaller dent in your budget.
OK, draw-win might be a better way to put it.
What makes it better than other electronic descalers
This descaler excelled in two categories: long-term efficiency and user satisfaction.
What does that mean exactly?
It means two things:
- It works better and longer
- I had the least complaints about it
I’m in the habit of following up with clients 3 or 6 months after the job. After a descaler installation, I follow-up with questions about the changes in the water taste, flow, and other issues it aims to solve (like laundry stains).
Here’s my data on this Yarna water descaler system:
- This Yarna has a high satisfaction rate, with over 90 % of my clients being completely satisfied with it
- Zero flow rates changes that required additional intervention on my side
- One of the lowest percentages of device malfunctions
Let’s dig deeper and look at some of the key decision factors.
It did the job reliably. Since I started gathering information for this guide (about eight months ago), I installed 4 of these and followed up with each client to check how effective the newly installed units were. Two of my colleagues whose data I also use installed a total of 13 among them.
Out of the total 17 new users, 14 described the changes in the water quality as “significant,” two said it was “noticeable,” and one said they didn’t notice any major changes.
If you’ve been working the job as long as I have, you’d know that’s as good as it gets with an electronic water conditioner.
Capacity & flow rate
The descaler did not cause any changes in flow rate, and there are no capacity limitations. The latter is pretty standard for any high-quality unit (it’s the nature of the technology, more on that in a minute).
Still, I have seen changes in flow rates with lower-quality descalers.
Installation & Compatibility
This thing is easy to install, and I found that most people who called for help had dilemmas about where to install it (rather than how).
It does take a minimum of 10 inches of accessible pipe, though. It’s compatible with pretty much any type of piping: plastic, PVC, iron, stainless steel, copper, PE-x, and compound pipes.
In my experience, the instructions are clear, and the materials are easy to work with. You just wrap the brass around the pipes, and you’re good to go.
Water flavor and residue elimination – before and after the Yarna water descaler system
The reports on improvement in water taste were mixed. My opinion is that most people who talk about taste don’t know what to expect from a water descaler. That might sound blunt, but it’s the truth.
These things are not filters, and the changes in taste, while present, are often too subtle and will not wow.
On the other hand, the descaled water resulted in dramatic improvements in residue buildup. It’s probably the single most noticeable change you will see – from the shower heads to your dishes.
My stats about the water conditioner
If we’re talking about my clients, all 4 of them who had the Yarna CWD24 installed reported a significant improvement in residue buildup, and 3 of them reported a noticeable change in the fixture staining.
On a more statistically significant note, I analyzed 700+ user experiences, and 90% of users were satisfied with their newly installed descaler at the 6-month mark. That number becomes 91% at the 1-year mark.
- Effective at removing scale
- Reduces power consumption & lowers the heating bill
- Prevents new residue buildup
- Prevents corrosion
- Easy to install
- Can be used outdoors
- Doesn’t require maintenance
- Compatible with all types of piping
- Low power consumption
- Light (1.25 lbs) and small (5.9 x 1.8 x 2 “)
- More expensive than most descalers
Why I like it
I have long-term customers who have this Yarna installed, which means I get to see the effects first-hand. The descaled water puts much less stress on the appliances; the pipes are cleaner, and the heating bills are lower.
This Yarna is not cheap but, in my opinion, it’s worth every penny.
If you need a robust solution and are ok with spending extra to get it, you’ll want to look at the Scalewatcher 3.
It was patented in 1991; it’s an industry classic and comes from one of the most trusted brands.
This descaler system packs a whopping 600 mA of power, which is good enough for most water parks, let alone a house.
For the end-user, this means that it will do the job faster and give you extra peace of mind. Just like most of the best electronic water descalers, it cleans the pipes from unwanted residue without interfering with healthy minerals in the water.
My experience with the Scalewatcher 3 water conditioner
I personally installed only two of these in my lifetime. Two of my aforementioned colleagues installed 8 units among them.
The main advantage over other electronic water conditioners is how robust and fast it is. The removal of old buildup is typically very slow in areas with particularly hard water. Any model from the Scalewatcher series does it faster than 99% of the competition.
The extra power also means that the action is so robust it comes close to that of a traditional water softener. In fact – I’d put it somewhere between the two – more potent than your run-of-the-mill water conditioner and not as aggressive as a salt-based softener.
- Faster buildup removal
- Robust action on hard water
- Low maintenance
- Simple installation – no plumbing involved
- Prevents calcifications and corrosion
- Easy to install
- Compatible with all pipe materials
- Pricier than most competitors
This is my top budget-friendly pick choice among salt-free electronic water descalers. Let me be clear – I’m not saying that I think it’s the best out there, but it is a solid value for money.
The design is similar to most modern salt-free devices. It descales without a complete circuit on each coil. This makes it much easier to install compared to older, closed-circuit products.
Why I like it
I installed three of these in my time, and the results were there. It does what it’s supposed to do – descale. That’s the crucial part.
There are things about it that could be better but, with the price in mind, it’s a great bang for your buck.
- Does an excellent job at descaling on a whole-house level
- Powerful enough to work on very hard water (up to 19 grain per gallon)
- No need to change any of the plumbing; it’s as easy to install as any
- Requires practically zero maintenance
- Universally compatible with all pipe types
- I’ve seen on-arrival issues reported by users
- The customer service could be better
- Shorter warranty than most of our top-picks (1-year)
If you researched the topic, Eddy is probably the first product you’ll learn about. It’s probably the single most popular water softener alternative out there.
I’ve had the most data to work with when rating the Eddy than any other electronic water conditioner. The satisfaction rate is at a solid 80%, which is as high as you can expect in this price range.
Why I like it
It’s a whole-house system and does a good job with hard water (as high as 20 grain per gallon).
Finally, I was impressed by how efficient the customer service is at honoring the no-questions-asked warranty (which is not a given in the industry).
Albeit, I would like to see the warranty extended past the 1-year.
- Proven track record of efficient descaling
- Closed-circuit design
- Easy to install and needs no maintenance
- Works well on very hard, high-grain water
- Unconditional warranty and responsive customer service
- The 1-year warranty could be longer
The second entry from Yarna made the list of top choices easily. However, it didn’t make the top five because I tried to find a good balance between price and value.
This whole house electronic descaler is pretty similar to its ‘baby brother,’ only more robust. While the CWD24 is listed as suitable for 1-inch pipes (or lower), this salt-free descaler can go up to 2-inches.
It’s backed by a 1-year risk-free warranty, meaning that you don’t have to jump through hoops to return it.
- Slick design
- Powerful and effective
- Ultra-flat coils allow for a closer grip of the piping
- Works well on very hard, high-grain water
- Unconditional warranty
- Probably too powerful for an average home (if we define ‘average’ as homes with 3/4 or 1-inch piping)
- Costs more than most descalers
The ScaleBlaster SB-75 is an advanced water softener alternative that uses no salt. Instead, two small coils of wire wrapped around your home’s water supply line create a magnetic wave that changes how minerals behave in the water.
The chemical composition of your water doesn’t change. Unlike salt-based softeners that remove calcium and magnesium, the ScaleBlaster SB-75 “suspends” them, so they don’t stick to pipes.
Your plumbing and appliances will begin a new limescale-free life.
What I liked about it
It changes the water just enough to avoid both the slick feel of softened water and the dryness that comes from untreated hard water.
To put it simply, it hits that sweet spot between slimy and drying.
- Well-balance descaling action
- 3-year warranty on all material and workmanship defects
- Fully computerized
- Not a good choice for spaces bigger than 4000 sq. ft
- HOW IT WORKS BETTER: Yarna CWD48 water descaler whole house...
- WHO BENEFITS FROM YARNA: If you have: Blocked piping...
- EASY & CLEAN INSTALLATION: You need access to a Min 10” of...
Best for high-diameter pipes and commercial use.
Another entry from Yarna, bringing the total to three, which is their entire product range (now that the EWD03 isn’t available). I’d like to stress that Yarna did not receive any special treatment from me.
The proof is in the pudding – the CWD48 has an exceptional user satisfaction rate of over 90%, and the few negative experiences I found are stemming from on-arrival issues.
Why not put it in the top 5, then?
Because I believe that the Voltage output of 48V is an overkill for most people, the lower-voltage products from Yarna do the job just as well for a regular household.
The CWD48 is a great option if you’re dealing with wide pipes – up to 4 inches.
All the extras come at a price which most people don’t need to pay to descale water effectively. Again, if you’re working with wider pipes, it’s a life-saver.
- Internal power source
- Wide range of pipe diameters – 3/8 to 4 inches
- High voltage output
- Suitable for outdoor use
- Good choice for commercial use
- Easy installation
- I’ve seen a few reports of on-arrival issues
I haven’t personally installed or tested this eye candy, and all the data I have on it comes from the owners and a fellow plumber that swears by it.
This water conditioner is one of the few products that stand out in terms of design. Most devices that I reviewed here would be an eye-sore if installed in a visible spot.
More often than not, that’s a moot point because the pipe entry point (where you’ll be installing it) is rarely in plain sight.
If that happens to be the case in your home, you might need something that does the job and looks cool in the process. This piece ticks those two boxes.
What I like about it
It’s by far my favorite design. It’s slick and minimal and will work well in any space. It also packs some serious power and can descale water as hard as 35 gpg.
One of the things I learned in my two decades as a plumber – if a product is German-made, make sure not to dismiss it lightly, even if you’ve never heard of the brand or don’t like the design (which was true with this Calmat and me).
My dislikes aside, Calmat found its way into the top nine picks despite the hefty price tag- mainly because the cost was offset by the unique 5-year warranty policy (which is the second-longest among my choices).
Another uncommon feature of the Calmat is that it’s the only descaler on the list that claims to restore water pressure. That’s a tall order but, from everything I’ve seen, it delivers on all accounts.
- Highly efficient
- Low power consumption
- Salt-free system
- Made according to strict German standards
- 5-year warranty
- Universal – compatible with all pipes
- Pricier than most water descalers and water softening systems
- Crude design
10. Scalewatcher 4
Comparing the Scalewatcher 4 to your run-of-the-mill home descaler is an orange-to-apple comparison. There’s little point in doing it.
If descalers were animals, this Scalewatcher would be a mammoth.
It’s by far the most powerful non-commercial unit I looked at, packing an impressive 700 mA.
On the flip side, it’s the most expensive product in the top nine.
- Second-to-none in terms of sheer power
- Simple, clean design
- 5-year warranty
- Universally compatible with all pipe diameters and materials
- Low to none maintenance costs
- The highest price among my top picks
How to Choose the Best Water Descaler
Before we move to answer some of the most commonly asked questions, let’s make sure that we’re clear on the basics.
What is an electronic water descaler?
An electronic water descaler is a device that uses electricity to change the way calcium, magnesium, and other minerals interact with the water in your house without actually removing them.
How do they work?
An electronic water descaler works by changing the shape and size of mineral particles in the treated water.
They are a great water softener alternative.
The technologies used:
- Low-voltage current
How my top pick (Yarna CWD24) works
The unit consists of two main parts – the central unit that creates an electromagnetic field and the coils.
As the water flows through the frequency-modulated field of the coils, the ions of calcium and magnesium bicarbonate crystallize.
In this form, they flow through the water freely without sticking to the plumbing system.
The two parts of the system
An electronic water conditioner consists of a central unit with a microchip and coils. The central electronic unit creates frequency-modulated impulses, which are then sent through the coils. These coils are typically made of copper to be super-conducive; they wrap around the pipes and change the properties of the minerals in the water.
Unlike salt-based water softeners, a descaler system (water conditioner) doesn’t remove or chemically react with the water. You might see some people referring to the device as a salt-free water softener, but that’s not entirely accurate.
Again, it’s because they do nothing to change the minerals in your water chemically – the change happens on the structural level.
Types of electronic water descalers (capacitive and electromagnetic)
This is the most common type.
They work by sending electrical impulses through the water, which prevents minerals from bonding with each other and your plumbing. This type of descaler is the most effective of the three at removing hard scale buildup, which can clog pipes, reduce flow rates, leak, and even corrode fixtures over time.
They cost more.
Electromagnetic water descaler works by sending a field of magnetic waves through the water. It changes electrical charges on minerals and lowers the chances of scale buildup.
Just like the capacitive, these devices descale your water without any added chemicals or salt.
Key Factors to Consider in Buying a Water Descaler
The effectiveness of a water descaler is somewhat intangible. For the purposes of this guide, I used personal experience (my own and that of my colleagues) and the available statistical data from owner experiences.
I say that it’s intangible because, while it is possible, the pH changes in the water cannot be a direct measure of the effectiveness (like they are in salt-based systems).
Capacity & flow rate
The technology behind the devices doesn’t require filtering or adding anything to the water, which is why any good electronic water descaler doesn’t really have a capacity. It’s only limited by the diameter of the pipe it’s made for.
If anything, the flow rate should improve as the descaler does its job at dissolving the old mineral buildup in the pipes. For most people, however, this change will not be noticeable.
Installation & compatibility
The concept and the device of both electronic and magnetic water descalers are simple. None of the devices we recommended above will take more than 30 minutes to install, even if you don’t have any previous experience.
For professionals and handy people, it’s a 5-15 minute job.
Compatibility is becoming less of an issue in recent models, and almost all of them are compatible with all pipe materials.
The warranties on the devices that I have considered for this guide vary from one to ten years. Given the simplicity of the product, anything below that is unacceptable in my book.
I am a conservative buyer, so I did make an effort to take the price into account – up to a point. I didn’t even consider the cheap descalers that don’t work (in my experience) or those who had a user satisfaction rate of under 70%.
When choosing a descaler, look to get the most value for your money.
In most American homes, the main pipeline from the street to the house is either 3/4 or 1 inch in diameter, supply branches use 3/4-inch-diameter pipes, and pipes for individual components are 1/2 inch.
With that in mind, I’d say that going with a descaler that fits on 1-inch pipes is a safe bet – whether you want to soften the water for the whole house or an individual component. If the piping is wider, there are products on our list that will be a good fit (the Yarna CWD30).
The “best electronic water softener” will tick all the quality boxes above.
FAQs about Water Descalers
Water softener vs. descaler – what’s the difference, and which is better?
The difference between a water softener and a descaler is that the former changes the chemical composition of the water, while the latter doesn’t.
I wouldn’t say that either is “better.” It all comes down to your needs and preferences.
Do water descalers work?
While you may find conflicting information on this, they do work. At least the ones we talked about today.
The important thing here is to know what to expect from a descaler. If you expect dramatic changes in the taste of your water, you won’t see them, and you might think that nothing’s happening.
How to tell if the descaler is working
Here’s what I tell my clients when I install a capacitive electronic water descaler; run an experiment and judge for yourself.
Take a clean glass from your cupboard when installing the descaler – a glass washed with untreated hard water. Give the device a few months to work, take a glass from the same set and compare.
Chances are, you’ll see significant differences in white stains and mineral buildup between the two. Even though the water is still hard, it behaves differently. The calcium and magnesium are still there; they just don’t stick to your plumbing system.
How to install a descaler?
Installation is simple. Just follow these four steps:
- Choose a location (as close as possible to the main pipe entry point)
- Wrap the coils around the pipe as tightly as you can and secure them on both ends (the minimum number of turns, coil length, and cable used will vary from model to model, so make sure to follow the instructions closely)
- Plug the connector into the power input
- Attach the plug to the wall socket and turn it on
Is there such a thing as electronic water softeners?
No, ‘electronic water softener’ is just a phrase that stuck. Saying that a device is an electronic water softener is imprecise because it does not directly soften the water. There is evidence that electromagnetic fields have a slight effect on the water pH but not nearly as significant as traditional softeners.
I’d say that the closest accurate expression would be ‘water softener alternative.’
Key takeaways and updates
If you want to solve your hard water problems and still stay away from direct chemical action on your water, a descaler system might just be where your search ends.
But not all descalers are created equal, far from it.
Choosing the right product is, in my experience, the difference between being blown away with the benefits and being disappointed and feeling scammed. I see it every week.
It’s a dynamic market
New arrivals are hitting the market every month. Some of the new descalers are giving the time-tested products like the Yarna a run for their money.
That’s why I do my best to update this guide as often as my work allows. It’s the only way to keep the information fresh and relevant at all times.
So, even if you don’t decide now, make sure you bookmark this page for future reference.
Stay smart & choose a descaler that works but won’t drain your checkbook (pun intended).