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You’ve probably seen an ad or infomercial for the NuvoH2O salt-free water softener. It’s one of those highly hyped ‘as seen on TV’ products.
The manufacturer claims that it harnesses the power of citric acid to soften your water without adding salt or changing the way your water tastes.
But is the water softener as good as advertised?
Online reviews are generally positive though there are several complaints that the system doesn’t work in all areas. It’s also expensive.
It actually costs more than most salt-based water softeners.
But if you don’t mind the price tag, many customers say the NuvoH20 system works. It not only prevents scaling, it will also remove existing mineral deposits in your plumbing.
Read on for our full review.
If you are looking for a salt-based water softener instead, see our best water softeners guide for top recommendations.
If you are looking for a water softener that will ultimately prevent scaling, this is not it.
As many customers have noted, you will still see some scaling after installing the NuvoH20.
It will be less than before, and it will take longer to form. But it will not go away completely and will be more noticeable if you live in a hard water area.
This is an issue with all salt-free water softeners, not just the NuvoH2O. These softeners do not actually remove hardness minerals from water.
They only change how they behave, either using a chemical or magnetism, thus preventing them from attaching to surfaces and forming scale. I’ll explain shortly how the NuvoH2O system works.
Since the hardness minerals remain in the water, some of them still form scale.
This is in contrast to a traditional water softener that removes almost all hardness minerals from water.
But even though the NuvoH2O doesn’t actually remove these minerals, it does a great job ensuring they are not a nuisance.
You’ll notice less scaling on your appliances and plumbing. The water will taste better, and there will be no more deposits on your glassware.
You’ll also find that the water lathers more easily and doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry and leathery.
The NuvoH2O water softener uses a process called chelation to change the behavior of magnesium and calcium ions in water.
The system includes a cartridge filled with citric acid. Water pressure pushes out a little bit of the acid at a time.
The acid then bonds or chelates with magnesium and calcium ions, changing their chemical state and preventing them from forming scale.
The amount of acid is very small and doesn’t change the taste of water. But it can lower your water pH.
That’s why the manufacturer recommends using the softener only with water of pH of at least 7.2. This ensures the water doesn’t get too acidic and corrode the pipes.
As I mentioned, the NuvoH2O doesn’t work for everyone.
Citrus-based chelation works great for mild to medium hard water. But if you receive very hard water, I’d recommend a traditional salt-based system.
Even the manufacturer themselves admit that the softener is not ideal for high levels of water hardness.
If you have a heart problem or issues with high blood pressure, your doctor has already recommended that you take in less sodium.
While drinking water is the last place you’d expect to find sodium, salt-based water softeners release water with added salt that could affect your health.
The NuvoH2O, and other salt-free systems do not add any salt at all.
The chelating agent used by Nuvo is completely safe. They do claim it is FDA-approved though they provide no evidence, and we couldn’t find any either.
They say it is safe for plants and animals as well.
Another advantage of buying the NuvoH20 is that you save more water compared to a salt-free system.
That’s because the system doesn’t need to regenerate, a process that wastes several gallons of water in traditional softeners.
The softener’s compact size makes it fairly easy to install.
The manufacturer recommends hiring a professional plumber, but you can do it yourself if you have an hour or two to spare.
The package comes with most of the things you’ll need to set up the system. These include the housing and cartridge, wrench, mounting bracket and back plate as well as the mounting screws.
You’ll need to have a few other tools plus the fittings required to connect the softener to your plumbing system.
Once you have everything in place, identify where you are going to install the water softener. The best place if you want all the water coming into your house to be ‘softened’ is the main water line.
Remember to switch off the water and drain the pipes before you proceed. It’s also a good idea to turn off power to the water heater.
The product manual has detailed installation instructions including the right pressure rating, the size of fittings and avoiding leaks.
Maintenance is easier compared to salt-based water softeners. You don’t have to add salt every few weeks.
The only thing that needs replacing is the citric acid cartridge. It has a capacity of about 50,000 gallons after which you need to get a new cartridge.
The average family uses about 50,000 gallons in 6 months. But your cartridge may last for longer or less depending on your water usage.
But instead of waiting until you start experiencing the effects of hard water again, regular 6-month replacements ensure you always have soft water.
Replacing the cartridge is a 5-minute job.
The housing head has a bypass valve built-in so, you don’t have to bother turning the water off. Just turn the valve, open the housing using the included wrench and replace the cartridge with a new one.
You can safely dispose the old cartridge along with your plastic recyclables.
We like that it works as advertised. I know we said it doesn’t do very well with extra-hard water but the manufacturer is honest about it.
For most areas, the NuvoH2O Manor works great to reduce the effects of hard water. It even removes existing scale in plumbing, something salt-based water softeners don’t do.
Unlike a traditional water softener, it does not waste water nor does it add any salt to your water.
We also like the easy installation process and effortless maintenance (the bypass valve and easy-change cartridge are great).
Most salt-free water softeners are half the price of their salt-based siblings. The NuvoH2O is twice as expensive as a salt-based softener.
That’s before you even factor in the relatively pricey replacement cartridge (which you can find here) that you have to buy every 6 months.
The Manor is designed for large homes and big families, but that still doesn’t explain the price tag, especially when you consider it is not as effective as a traditional water softener.
While we readily recommend this softener for families that don’t want salt in their water, we still think the value for money is a bit disproportionate.
Something else to note before you order this system is that it does not remove contaminants in your water.
I’m mostly talking about iron here, which some salt-based water filter can remove.
The NuvoH2O does not deal with ferrous iron. So if you’ve been getting rust stains on your sink and toilet bowls, you’ll have to buy a separate iron filter.
The NuvoH2O Manor doesn’t completely justify its high price tag, but we still think it’s a great buy for families looking for a good quality salt-free water softener.
It works well enough to reduce scale, eliminate scum and prevent the skin-drying effect of hard water.
Ed is a water specialist in Tampa, FL. He built CleanerSofterWater.com to help his friends and family learn about DIY solutions to common water quality issues in the home.
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