For many homeowners, deciding between two top-class water softeners is a tough task – especially when they don’t know much about water softeners in general. It is even more challenging when both systems seem to have all the bells and whistles required to produce the highest-quality softened water possible.
If you fall into that group, you’ll likely face a similar dilemma when choosing between high-end water softeners like the EcoPure EP31 and the Springwell FutureSoft FS1. Both systems are very reliable and offer many remarkable features and technologies to remove hardness-causing minerals from your water supply. Of course, it wouldn’t make any sense to purchase both softeners. So, how will you know which system is the better choice?
Our best response is to carefully examine each softener then compare them to determine what sets them apart. From there, you can make a decision based on two or more factors, such as:
- What situation(s) each unit is best suited for
- Their design, specs, and other details (including weight and dimensions, appearance, capacity, features, power ratings, available upgrades, and accessories, etc.)
- Softening processes and performance
- Ease of installation and maintenance
- Warranty and satisfaction guarantee
Afterward, you’ll likely find all the information you need to make an informed buying decision. Luckily for you, we’ve done the groundwork so you don’t have to. Continue reading this review and comparison article to see if the EcoPure softener can match up to the FutureSoft system, or vice versa.
EcoPure EP31 31,000-Grain Water Softener
Included in EcoPure’s impressive line of water softeners is the EP31 salt-based softener, a compact system with scores of user-friendly features for enhanced water softening performance.
If you have a small-sized home and a tight budget, the EP31 can adequately supply fresh, softened water to a family of four people without burdening your pocket. You’ll also be happy that this softener can remove those annoying mineral stains from your plumbing and fixtures and uses less detergent to make your fabrics cleaner, brighter, and softer.
Furthermore, the EP31 increases the efficiency of your water-using appliances so that they can last longer. This specific model is a much smaller version compared to its siblings, but they all share similar characteristics. Let’s examine it closer.
Design, Specs, and Performance Claims
Small Size and Sleek Design
The EP31 is one of EcoPure’s (EP) smallest water softeners. It has a dimension of 18 x 24 x 46 inches and weighs around 82 pounds. That means it will most likely fit comfortably in a relatively small space. In terms of appearance, the softener has a dark gray water-bottled-like body with a sleek glossy finish. You wouldn’t even know that it’s a water softener at first sight. At the top of the system is a control unit with a small display and a few buttons. To the left of the screen is a small neatly-placed “ECOPURE” logo. But overall, the EP31 has a robust, minimalistic design. If good visual aesthetics is a top priority for you, this softener excels in that category.
Impressive Softening Capacity
This EP softener has a remarkable softening capacity of 31,000 grains per 12.9 pounds of salt. This capacity is slightly better than the 30,400 grains offered by the GE softener in our GE GXSF30V vs. Springwell FutureSoft Water Softener review. The EP31 can eliminate up to 31,000 grains of hardness before it needs to regenerate and would need 12.9 pounds of salt to achieve this stated capacity. Aside from that, it can remove hardness from water at a rate of 110 grains per gallon (GPG) while its 1-inch water connections allow it to produce a rated service flow rate of 7.2 gallons per minute (GPM).
Like the GE salt-based softener, the EP31 must regenerate itself from time to time to remove minerals from the resin beads that absorb minerals from the hard water. The regeneration cycle uses 31.1 gallons of water for the entire process at a maximum salt dose and 2.5 gallons per 1000 grains at a minimum salt dose of 2.4 pounds. Compared to the standard water softeners on the market, the EP31 is superior – to a slight extent. A typical water softener usually uses up to 35.5 gallons of water for its regeneration cycle. The EP softener also efficiently removes 5,090 grains of hardness per pound of salt at the stated minimum salt dose.
Other Remarkable Features and Technologies
The EP31 softener has several distinctive features that help to enhance the user experience as well as its softening performance.
One main feature is the low-salt indicator button that flashes when the softener is running low on salt. This feature allows you a few days to refill the brine tank. It can be handy because if the system runs out of salt, it will not operate efficiently, and the water produced will not be as soft as you’d like (if soft at all). By refilling the salt on time, you can be sure to have a constant supply of fresh, softened water running through your household all day, every day.
Another exceptional trait of the EP softener is the demand-initiated regeneration (DIR) feature. The DIR component complies with specific performance specifications to minimize the amount of brine and water used in its operation. Essentially, the underlying Auto-Sense Technology calculates how much salt and water is required to regenerate the system, so it only uses what is needed. That way, the system significantly reduces the salt and water usage, thus lowering your water bill and reducing the amount of money you spend on salt.
Softening Process and Performance
The EP31 softener uses ‘ion-exchange’ to achieve its intended purpose. This process works by using resin beads and salt to displace hardness minerals in water like calcium, magnesium, and up to 7 parts per million (ppm) of iron in the water.
It works by swapping out the hardness-causing minerals with sodium. The resin bed inside the filter contains millions of negatively-charged tiny beads on its surface. The softener then pumps diluted brine containing positively-charged ions through the beads so that the sodium ions stick to the beads. (Bear in mind that opposites attract.)
When the positively charged hardness minerals enter the softener, they have to make contact with the resin bed. When that happens, the beads attract and trap the hard-water minerals on the resin bed and release the sodium ions that were attached to the beads. The displaced hardness minerals are then washed down the wastewater drain during the regeneration cycle. Soon after, the system replenishes the resin with more salt, and it is ready to soften more water.
Ease of Installation and Maintenance
As for installing the EP softener, you’ll need a 110- or 120-volt power supply and piping with a standard 1-inch NPT male thread to connect the softener to your water supply. If you already have some DIY experience, you can use the installation kit and reference the installation and operation manual from EcoPure to get the job done.
The kit includes all the connectors and tubing you need to install the system correctly. Besides, the manual is well written and contains many useful images that will aid you in the installation process. If you decide to hire a professional instead, you can find well-trained, certified plumbers in your area at www.credibleplumbers.com.
In terms of maintenance, you’ll need to install the system in an area where it’s not too hot or cold. Also, you can program the electronic controls so that the system will inform you when the salt is running out. We also love that the EP31 has a cleaning feature that keeps larger particles of sediment from entering your home’s plumbing system. This feature provides added protection for water-using appliances and provides an extra backwash to keep the cleansing screen clean.
There’s a five-year parts-and-labor warranty available on the EP softener, but only if you register the product and use the EPCL cleaner as EP recommends. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a measly one-year warranty.
Why the Springwell FutureSoft FS1 Softener is the better option
The EcoPure EP31 is an excellent softener in many different ways, but it is no match for the Springwell FutureSoft Salt-Free FS1 Water Softener. Here’s why:
More sophisticated design (if it matters to you)
If the design of your softener is a top priority for you, then you’ll be happy to hear that the Springwell FutureSoft FS1 has one of the most intriguing designs we’ve ever seen in a water softener.
It has a unique, glossy silver cylindrical body with a black base and the Springwell logo near the top of the unit. The EP system also has a great design, but the Springwell system looks sharper and more modern.
Better suited for larger households
The FutureSoft system produces a flow rate of 12 GPM, which is almost twice the EP softener’s 7.5 GPM flow rate. That means the FutureSoft system can adequately supply fresh, softened water to homes with up to three bathrooms, while the EP system will likely struggle to do the same.
A 12-GPM also means that you won’t experience any drop in water pressure when using the FutureSoft system. However, depending on the size of your home, you might see some reductions in water pressure while using the EP31 softener.
When it comes to softening capacity, the FutureSoft system also outperforms the EP system. The FutureSoft softener removes 35,000 grains of hardness while the EP31 softener only removes 31,000 grains.
Softening process and performance with significant health and environmental benefits
An outstanding feature of the FutureSoft system is that it doesn’t use salt to soften water – unlike the EP31. Instead, it uses a physical process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). During this process, the water passes through the FutureSoft media that contain catalysts that convert the minerals to small calcite crystals. Once the crystals are no longer dissolved, they become suspended, and their chemical structures change.
Beyond that, there are plenty of concerns surrounding the health effects and environmental impacts of using sodium to soften water. Ion-exchange usually causes salt particles to remain behind, which may enter your drinking water. For people on low-sodium diets, repeatedly ingesting sodium in the water can eventually lead to many adverse health complications. The exchange of hardness minerals for sodium adds about 7.5 milligrams per quart for each GPG of hardness removed.
Besides, salt-based softeners eliminate the calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that are beneficial to human health from your diet. Without these minerals, your body’s internal physical and chemical conditions may become imbalanced, leading to increased urination, decrease in red blood cells, and even an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. High levels of sodium in water can also dissolve potentially toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium from pipes, and introduce them into your drinking water. Short- or long-term exposure to these chemicals can be toxic to your health and can even cause death.
If you care enough about the environment (as you should), you can see that using ion-exchange softeners can be dangerous. These softeners discharge high amounts of sodium chloride into the environment after several regeneration processes. The sodium chloride may then enter septic or sewage systems, then move into delicate ecosystems and affect living organisms. Plants, in particular, cannot thrive in saline environments, so the sodium will most likely throw off their acidic levels and cause them to wither and die. Moreover, the salt can accumulate in the soil and prevent plants from growing the same area in the future.
Another concern with the EP31 and other salt-based water softeners is their frequent regeneration and backwashing cycles. These processes use more water than regular consumption. The EPA states that a typical ion-exchange softener uses an estimated 25 gallons of water a day or up to 10,000 gallons per year.
Since the Springwell FutureSoft system doesn’t use salt, you don’t have to worry about any of these problems mentioned above. It even provides 99.6% scale prevention without using a single ounce of chemicals or salt, so you’ll know you’re protecting your health as well as the environment.
Optional UV purification add-on
The FutureSoft system comes with an optional UV purification system that destroys 99.9% of pathogens in water, including viruses, bacteria, Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, E. coli, and many others. Unfortunately, this option isn’t available with the EP31.
No Electricity or Replacement Needed
The EP31 is relatively small in size, so it shouldn’t use a lot of electricity. However, the fact that it requires electricity to work makes it inferior to the Springwell System. The Springwell Softener can work without electrical power and salt. It also doesn’t waste water and will never need any replacements. In our opinion, these benefits surpass the compact size and space-saving features of any softener on the market.
Industry-Leading Lifetime warranty
We have to take our hats off to Springwell for being one of the few manufacturers that offer a lifetime warranty on their water systems (the parts and valves) and a six-month money-back guarantee. A good warranty is always vital because it can determine if a water softener lasts for an entire year or up to a decade and beyond.
These exclusive coverages also apply to the FutureSoft softener. With the six-month money-back guarantee, you can return the system within six months for a full refund if you aren’t satisfied with its performance. You’ll have to stand the return shipping costs, though.
In contrast, the EP softener only comes with a limited one-year warranty, though you can extend it to five years under certain conditions. To our knowledge, EP also does not offer a satisfaction guarantee.
Financing Option Available
Not every homeowner is in a position to purchase a water softener in full, especially in the case of an emergency. We assume that Springwell considered this possibility and decided to allow customers to finance the FutureSoft system (and several others) with affordable monthly payments over three, six, or 12 months – with no hidden fees. How thoughtful of them! What’s even more exciting is that the signup process is super easy. They’ll only ask you to enter a few pieces of information to see if you’re eligible – done. But if you cannot afford to cover the full cost of the EP31 softener upfront, you’re on your own. That’s just the sad reality.
If you have up to four people living in your household, the EP31 softener can produce enough high-quality softened water for everyone – but at the expense of ingesting more sodium and destroying the environment. That is not to say that the EP31 is not a remarkable water softener. It’s just that when you consider the magnitude of its drawbacks and how the FutureSoft system seamlessly fills those gaps, you immediately realize how much more value the FutureSoft softener offers. You’ll also find that the FutureSoft system outperforms the EP31 in many other aspects. The way we see it, the Springwell FS1 Softener steals the show.