There are two ways by which water softener works: upflow or downflow brining. To put it simply, an upflow water softener, the direction of the flow of brine is from bottom to top. On the other hand, the downflow system works from top to bottom. Generally speaking, the upflow design is said to be superior over the downflow system.

Let’s know more about these two systems and the best options you can purchase in the market.

Key difference

Here are the main differences between upflow and downflow water softeners:

  • As stated, an upflow water softener takes the brine from the bottom up through the resin bed while a downflow system pulls the brine into a salt tank before flowing to the top.
  • When it comes to recharging the resin with salt, upflow water softener is deemed to be 5% more efficient than a downflow system. 
  • Since the water flows up, an upflow water softener has no backwash control valve unlike the downflow system.

Table comparison

TypesUpflow water softenerDownflow water softener
RegenerationUpwardDownward
Tunneling and channeling issuesNoYes
EffectivenessMore effectiveLess effective
CostExpensiveCheap

Top recommendations for Upflow Water Softeners

AFWFilers Combo Carbon Upflow Water Softener

AFWFilters combo carbon water softener, Black
  • COMPLETE PACKAGE - Complete package that includes a whole house Water Softener w/ UPGRADED 10% resin & Upflow Carbon Filtration System. Our package also includes an installation manual and technical support. AFW Filters water bottle included with system. Water bottle has sanitizer pack, silicone lubricant, and hardness test strips for the PERFECT install!
  • WATER SOFTENER - Complete whole house system. Controlled by the Fleck 5600sxt digital meter valve. 48,000 grain high capacity softening system with UPGRADED 10% resin media. Recommended Service Flow up to 12 GPM (Household sizes of 2-5 people). Fleck valve includes 5 year warranty and tank has 10 year warranty.
  • UPFLOW CARBON FILTRATION - Eco-friendly upflow design provides outstanding filtration without the need to backwash. No backwash means no electricity required, no drain line needed, and no wastewater produced. Provides water filtration and cleaner, safer water. 1.5 cubic ft. High Activity Carbon Media - Carbon media is a media derived from coconut shells that filters water contaminants.
  • UPFLOW CARBON CONTAMINANT REMOVAL - Removes a wide range of contaminants including chlorine and chloramines, pesticides, herbicides, organics, MTBE, and THM. It also removes most other chemicals, tastes and odors, and is an excellent system for general filtration.
  • Includes 24" flex line to connect outlet of carbon filter to inlet of softener. Systems are assembled with NSF approved parts, filters and media.

The great thing about this is that it does not need much to maintain. The AFWFilters water softener has a one-inch porting that provides maximum flow rate with pressure loss reduction. It also houses an upgraded 10% resin which is regenerated with an accurate and precise salt solution. You can rely on the efficiency of this water softener when it comes to water waste and salt usage since it gives more for every pound of salt put into the tank. Lastly, the water produced by this system is low in ion leakage. 

Features

  • Upflow brining
  • Upgraded 10% resin
  • Fleck bypass valve
  • 48,000 grain capacity
  • Black 10-inch diameter tank

Pros

  • Decreased salt usage
  • Less water wasted
  • Water produced has less ion leakage
  • Requires minimum maintenance
  • Versatile due to the Fleck bypass valve

Cons

  • Some models has no user manual
  • Comes with one flex line only

ABCwaters Built Fleck 5600SXT Upflow Water Softener

ABCwaters built Fleck 5600sxt Water Softener and Upflow Carbon Filtration - 48000 Capacity
  • Complete package Overview - Complete turn-key Package that combines a whole house water softener & upflow Carbon filtration system. Our Package also includes value-added items such as our installation kit, install guides that are easy to follow and technical support to simplify your experience. We believe this is Package provides the most value when compared to the market
  • Water softener Overview - Complete whole house system. Controlled by the popular fleck 5600sxt Digital valve meter. 48, 000 grain high capacity softening system uses an upgraded 10% cross-linked resin (ABC10). Best quality in the Industry. Recommended service flow up to 12 GPM (household sizes of 2-5 people). fleck valve includes 5 year warranty
  • Upflow Carbon filtration upflow design provides efficient filtration without the need to backwash. No backwash means no electricity required, No drain line needed, and no wastewater produced. Greener water filtration and cleaner, safer water is a breeze with our carbon tank filter system. 1.5 cubic ft. High activity Carbon media - Carbon media is a natural media derived from coconut shells that removes water contaminants through absorption
  • Upflow Carbon contaminant removal removes a wide range of contaminants including chlorine and chloramines, pesticides, herbicides, organics, mtbe, and THM. It also removes most other chemicals, tastes and odors, and is an excellent system for general filtration
  • GUARANTEED SATISFACTION. We guarantee satisfaction with our product and customer service or get your money back. We pride ourselves in providing a hassle free consumer experience. We offer a 60 day return policy with money back guarantee.

You can depend on this water softener from ABCwaters to massively improve your water’s quality. It offers maximum flow rates with concomitant decrease in pressure loss. The great thing about this model is that it utilizes a new age upflow brining technology that lets you save up to $220 a year from water and salt. The system calculates the exact amount of salt needed so there’s less to waste. 

Features

  • Upflow brining
  • ABC10 resin
  • 48,000 grain capacity
  • Fleck 5600SXT digital valve
  • Upflow carbon filtration

Pros

  • Maximum flow rate with less pressure
  • Reserves unused softening beads 
  • Calculates exact amount of salt needed for regeneration
  • Provides safe, clean, and soft water without limescale buildup

Cons

  • Sometimes arrives with missing components
  • Higher price tag

Genesis 2 Premier Upflow Water Softener

Genesis 2 Premier 40,000 Grain Water Softener,1.25" Digital Metered, On Demand, High Efficiency Up Flow
  • Genesis Premier System Includes: Genesis Premier Upflow On Demand Metered Control - 13 GPM (2 GPM Backwash Rate) 1.25 Cu. Ft. 10% Crosslink (Highest Durability and Capacity) Resin 3/4" and 1" unique bypass with integrated turbine meter. Large 14x14 brine tank holds up to 200 lbs of salt. 10x44 Resin tank with lifetime warranty & 10 year control head warranty Now Featuring our black Tank Tux neoprene tank jacket reduces tank sweating Large 18x33 brine tank holds over 300lbs of salt.
  • Family of 4 will save 8,280 lbs. of salt and 32,400 gallons of water versus downflow water softeners Genesis Premier On Demand Upflow control valve with electronic sensors, adjustable cycles, and proven seal and spacer design Direct Flow design allows for more efficient operation with fewer moving parts Reverse Flow Regeneration preserves unused softening bed from unnecessary exchange saving salt Upflow Brining calculates the precise amount of salt brine required to regenrate saving up to 30%
  • Automatic System Refresh flushes stagnant water after 7 days of non-use, preventing bacterial growth Soft Water Recharge Mode ensures soft water during usually heavy water usage 10-Year Control Head/Valve Warranty and Lifetime on Resin and Brine Tank Over 1 Million Tanks Sold with Zero Returns
  • Our Exclusive Genesis Premier Upflow On Demand metered digital water softener is a premier water softening system that sets the new standard for high performance while offering more features designed to make installation easier and faster than ever. All while saving you up to 75% on salt and 64% less water.

The Genesis 2 Premier water softener is a digital-metered model using an upflow brining or regeneration system to improve salt and water efficiency. As discussed, the upflow brining is effective at preserving softening beads not utilized in the ion exchange process. Additionally, the system features 1.25 CF 10% crosslink resin that acts as an effective and efficient ion exchange medium, especially with its porous nature. However, the resin can get quite messy.

Features

  • Upflow control valve
  • 40,000 grain capacity
  • Large 14×4 brine tank
  • 1.25 CF 10% crosslink resin
  • Direct flow design

Pros

  • Durable resin
  • Excellent chemical and physical stability
  • System eradicates stagnant water to prevent bacterial growth
  • Upflow brining enhances water and salt efficiency
  • Conserves unused softening beads

Cons

  • Replacing the resin can be messy
  • Quite pricey

Top recommendations for Downflow Water Softeners

Aquasure WS-EM-64 Water Softener

A reliable and on top of our downflow water softener list is the Aquasure WS-EM-64. It houses a rather simple mechanical system that promises long life with little to zero maintenance. It has a complete bypass and a large brine tank with a salt grid and safety float. This unit houses a drain line that allows a steady stream when backwashing and rinsing. Keep in mind too that if you set this to function at default settings, it will be using 30 gallons of water on full regeneration. However, the drain line may not comply with your local plumbing codes so confirm that first.

Features

  • Digital control valve
  • 5-foot brine line
  • 14-foot drain line
  • 64,000 grain capacity
  • 1-inch high-flow threaded ports

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • No leakage
  • Easy-to-program and easy-to-read digital meter
  • Large grain capacity up to 8 people
  • Preloaded resin in the cylinder
  • Versatile due to the bypass valve

Cons

  • Drain may not comply with some local plumbing codes
  • May have some missing fittings

Fleck 5600SXT On Demand Water Softener

Fleck 5600sxt On Demand Water Softener with Resin Made in USA/Canada, 40,000 Grains, Black
  • Complete water softener for whole house
  • Average size for 2-4 people with average water use
  • Easy to follow installation instructions

This water softener from Fleck is simple to program yet holds the latest water softening features. Once you program it, you can totally forget about it as it’s extremely low maintenance. This specific unit is great at removing hardness caused by minerals. The digital meter also conveniently lets the system know when it’s time to regenerate and will then draw the brine solution and it through the resin. A small downfall is that replacing the resin can get a little messy.

Features

  • 8% crosslink resin
  • 40,000 grain capacity
  • Digital meter
  • Salt grid safety 
  • 2.4 GPM backwash rate

Pros

  • Easy-to-program control panel
  • Overflow prevention via the salt grid safety
  • System regeneration when necessary
  • Removes iron effectively
  • Easy and quick unit installation

Cons

  • Resin replacement can get messy
  • May arrive with missing accessories

Pentair WS48 56SXT10 Fleck Water Softener

Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck water softener, Black
  • Fleck 5600Sxt digital metered control head
  • 1.5 cu. Ft. Upgraded 10 percent crosslink resin
  • Easy to install with AFW install kit as pictured included, reliable long lasting water treatment
  • Complete system including standard 14x33 brine tank, mineral tank, valve with bypass and adapter

With this machine, the co-current brining takes magnesium and calcium out to produce soft water. The 10% resin features more bonds to hold the beads together effectively. But always check your order as soon as it arrives because this can come with missing accessories. 

Features

  • 10% crosslink resin
  • 14 GPM flow rate
  • Digital metered control
  • Bypass valve
  • Water consumption of 3.5 gallon/minute

Pros

  • 10% crosslink resin lasts longer
  • Preloaded resin decreases maintenance requirement
  • Bypass valve allows directing of water away from the system
  • Easy and quick installation
  • Easy-to-program digital metered control

Cons

  • May arrive with missing accessories
  • Some units come with a defective control head

What is the purpose of a water softener?

A water softener, also known as an ion exchange unit, is a piece of equipment that removes salts from water. The water softener’s filter exchanges minerals like calcium and magnesium for salt.

Hard water, or water containing minerals, can cause a variety of issues, including clogged plumbing and a chalky film on your dishes. It might even cause your hair to get dry and your skin to become irritated. By softening the water, a water softener prevents these difficulties.

What does the term “regenerate” on a water softener mean?

When a water softener regenerates, it flushes out the minerals it filtered out of hard water. This method enables water softeners to continue softening new water as it passes through them.

To avoid channeling, downflow water softeners require regeneration. This is when the filter’s efficacy is reduced as a result of tunneling in the filter media. However, because channeling isn’t an issue with upflow water softeners, regeneration isn’t normally required.

Upflow vs. Downflow

Upflow water softener

With this technology, the resin is being recharged from the bottom up and has the capability to be recharged only when depleted making it more efficient. 

How does upflow water softener work?

An upflow water softener, as the name implies, softens water from the bottom up. Water first enters the tank and flows through an upper basket. The water is then delivered through another basket after passing through a riser tube.

At this point, the water is swirling through the filter medium. The filter’s purpose is to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium and replace them with salt. This technique softens the water so that mineral deposits do not form, which can clog plumbing and cause other problems.

Pros

  • Recharges only when depleted
  • Uses 65% less water
  • Uses 75% less salt
  • Hardness is pushed to drain it away from the resin

Cons

  • Maintenance can be time-consuming
  • Valve gets coated in the long run, especially with well water

Downflow water softener

Now this is the opposite. The resin is recharged from the top down and backwashing is typically necessary.

How does downflow water softener work?

Water enters from the top and flows downhill in a downflow water softener. Water enters the upper basket and then flows down the tank. It then runs around the exterior of the distributor tube through the filter.

Following that, the water flows into the lower basket, up the riser tube, and out of the tank. This technique, like the upflow water softener, is designed to soften hard water. As the water travels through the filter, minerals are removed and replaced with salt.

Pros

  • Fewer parts needed
  • Cheaper technology 
  • Backwashing helps eradicate contaminants
  • Most effective at flushing out oxidized ions
  • Valves are not easily coated with well water

Cons

  • Tunnels may prevent recharging of resin
  • Inferior brine or water efficiency

Water softener size

One important thing in setting up a water softener is to know what size you should get. Fortunately, there’s a formula you can use to do so and you’ll need the following information:

  • Number of people in the household
  • Number of gallons consumed per person
  • Grains per gallon or water hardness (you may check with your municipality or purchase a water test kit)

To estimate, one person utilizes 75 gallons of water in a day. For instance, you have 4 members in the house with each using 75 gallons of water with a hardness of 10. The calculation then will be: 4 x 75 x 10 = 3000. This means that 3000 grains of hardness needs to be removed on a daily basis. You may also check a chart to get the best system for your calculation and specifically for this estimation, you should use a 32,000-grain capacity system.

For more about sizing your water softener.

Downflow vs. Upflow: The detailed breakdown

In this section, we’ll compare upflow versus downflow water softeners in a few distinct ways. This should help you understand their parallels and differences.

Cost

The cost of an upflow water softener ranges from $700 to $2000. Upflow water softeners are more expensive to install than downflow water softeners, but they are less expensive to maintain. Upflow water softeners are more cost effective in the long run.

Downflow water softeners can cost anywhere from $600 to $1500. Aside from the goods and installation fees, you will also have to pay more for water and salt. Furthermore, while using a downflow water softener, your energy expenditures are likely to be greater.

Longevity

Both upflow and downflow water softeners have a 10- to 15-year lifespan. However, it is critical to properly maintain your water softener in order to maximize its longevity.

Water Softening Method

Water softeners, both upflow and downflow, use filters to replace minerals in untreated water with salt. Upflow water softeners use a bottom-to-top flow of water, which is more sophisticated and necessitates more liquid engineering. As a result, the water and filter have more contact time.

The filter is not at risk of becoming compacted with upflow water softeners. Downflow water softeners, on the other hand, are simpler and do not require as much configuration. Even yet, the water’s downward velocity might quickly begin to condense the filter medium.

Functionality

Excess metals and minerals in the water can be removed by using a water softener. Calcium, iron, and magnesium are some of the minerals that harden water. When you use hard water in your home, it deposits various minerals in your bathtub, shower, and toilet. The accumulation of such particles not only clogs but also corrodes your plumbing system.

Water softener manufacturers assist consumers in resolving such issues by providing two types of units, up-flow and downflow water softeners. Before we get into the distinctions, it’s worth noting that both of these types of water softeners are salt-based.

Though most prior models used downflow technology, the current models adopt upstream technology, which is thought to improve the effectiveness of the water softening system. An up-flow water softener conducts water upward, whereas a downflow water softener directs water downward.

A downflow water softener is intended to move water from the entry point through the upper basket. Such technology is thought to be inefficient and wasteful. Due to channeling concerns, such a unit is known to utilize a lot of water and salt. Choose an up-flow water softener if you want to save money. A unit like this allows water to flow upward from the tank’s bottom. It goes upwards in a swirling pattern through the resin. The upward regeneration of such a unit allows it to preserve a significant amount of potassium or salt. If you choose this sort of water softener, you will not need a twin tank system.

Last words

There is a clear option between upflow and downflow water softeners. Upflow water softeners have numerous other advantages, not the least of which is lower cost. Upflow water softeners use less water and salt than downflow water softeners and are far more efficient.

Furthermore, upflow water softeners are more environmentally friendly than downflow water softeners, which produce a lot of chloride waste. Furthermore, backwashing is not required with upflow water softeners. Finally, channeling is not an issue because the water flows upward, fluffing the filter material regularly.

A downflow water softener may be a preferable option in some cases. However, upflow water softeners offer the best overall value and effectiveness.

FAQs

Are upflow water softeners better?

In general, upflow brining is more efficient in terms of salt utilization and water waste. It has a higher “throughput” per pound of NaCl. A resin bed regenerated in an upflow pattern will produce water with lower ion leakage for a longer service life. It has a higher level of “effluent.”

Which type of water softeners need backwashing?

Backwashing is required to increase the filter media in those that are designed with downflow technology. This is due to the fact that the direction in which the water enters exerts pressure on the filter medium, compacting it. Because the filter media is fluffed every time the hard water goes through your tank, an up-flow water softener does not require backwashing.

Are downflow water softeners effective?

Although this machine softens water, it is not as effective as up-flow water softeners. This is due to the fact that water does not always reach the filter medium, reducing the efficacy of such a unit.

Which once can help you save on costs?

Choosing an up-flow water softener may appear expensive at first, but it can help you save more in the long term because such a unit uses less water and salt.

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