Upflow Vs Downflow Water Softener – Which Performs Better?

Updated: June 10, 2021 by Zac Harding

Let’s compare upflow vs downflow water softeners.

An ion-exchange water softener works in two ways, upflow or downflow brining. In an upflow system, the brine flows from bottom to top. In a downflow system, the brine flows from top to bottom. The upflow design is said to outperform the downflow design.

Are upflow units more brine efficient? Are they more water-efficient?

In this comparison, we seek to determine whether or not upflow brining is more efficient compared to downflow brining. We will also confirm if upflow systems are more water-efficient. We have also recommended three top products for each type.

Main Differences Between an Upflow Vs a Downflow Water Softener

The main differences between upflow and downflow water softeners are:

  • An upflow water softener pushes the brine to the bottom and up through the resin bed, whereas a downflow water softener pulls the brine into the salt tank and then flows to the top.
  • An upflow water softener is said to be five percent more efficient as far as recharging the resin with salt is concerned, whereas a downflow system is claimed to be less efficient.
  • An upflow water softener doesn’t have a backwash control valve because the water flows up, whereas a downflow system has a backwash control valve. After all, the water flows down.

Upflow Vs Downflow Water Softener: The Top 3 Products of Each Type

Top 3 Upflow Water Softeners

1. AFWFilters Combo Carbon Upflow Water Softener — Best Overall

AFWFilters Combo Carbon Upflow Water Softener

Do you want a great upflow water softener that requires minimum maintenance? Look no further than this great model from AFWFilters.

Key Features

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

This amazing water softener offers one-inch porting throughout, providing you with maximum flow rates with reduced pressure loss.

The upgraded 10 percent resin is regenerated with a precise solution of salt. The upflow regeneration of this system offers superior efficiency in terms of water waste and salt use. It provides more throughput for every pound of salt added into the tank. This unique system also produces water that is lower in ion leakage.

Pros

  • Less wastewater and reduced salt use
  • Reduced pressure loss for maximum flow rates
  • The Fleck bypass valve improves the system’s versatility
  • Produces water that has less ion leakage
  • Preloaded resin requires minimum maintenance

Cons

  • Some models may not come with an instructions manual
  • Only one flex line is included

Verdict

This amazing upflow water softener delivers superior results. But make sure you get a model that comes with the instructions manual.

Overall Rating: 4.8

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2. ABCwaters Built Fleck 5600SXT Upflow Water Softener

ABCwaters Built Fleck 5600SXT Upflow Water Softener

Are you dealing with absurdly hard water from the city or the well? This amazing water softener with an upflow Fleck valve will improve the quality of your water.

Key Features

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

This high-quality upflow water softener offers maximum flow rates with less pressure loss throughout your home. It uses new age upflow brining technology to save you up to sixty-four percent less water and seventy-five percent less salt. This can save you up to two hundred and twenty dollars per year.

Upflow regeneration with reverse flow regeneration preserves unused softening beads from a needless exchange. The system calculates the exact amount of salt it needs to regenerate.

Just double-check the product you receive and make sure all the components are in, including the tube required for draining the resin tank during the regeneration cycle.

Pros

  • Provides maximum flow rates with less pressure
  • Saves you a lot on salt and water, reducing maintenance cost
  • Unused softening beads are reserved by the system
  • It calculates the exact amount of salt needed for regeneration
  • Delivers safe, clean, soft water without scale buildup

Cons

  • It may fail to come with some important accessories
  • The price tag is a little bit high for a small budget

Verdict

This is the complete upflow water softener that has been missing in your home. Just make sure it comes with all the important accessories.

Overall Rating: 4.2

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3. Genesis 2 Premier Upflow Water Softener

Genesis 2 Premier Upflow Water Softener

Do you want spa-like showers and softer skin in your home? You can make that possible with this great model from Genesis.

Key Features

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

This is a digital-metered water softener that features upflow brining or regeneration, which is great because it improves salt and water efficiency. The resin regeneration in this system takes place from the bottom up, allowing for a more precise recharge. The upflow brining is very effective at preserving softening beads that were not used in the ion exchange.

The system features 1.25 CF 10 percent crosslink resin that is a very effective ion exchange medium. The resin is typically porous, offering a significantly large surface for ion exchange.

What I don’t like about this model is the fact that replacing the resin can be pretty messy.

Pros

  • The resin is more durable when running city water at your home
  • The resin has excellent chemical and physical stability
  • The upflow brining improves salt and water efficiency
  • The system flushes stagnant water to prevent bacterial growth
  • Reverse flow regeneration conserves unused softening beads

Cons

  • Resin replacement can be a little bit messy
  • It is slightly expensive for a tight budget

Verdict

This is a good-quality upflow water softener that guarantees you soft water and improved durability of your plumbing fixtures.

Overall Rating: 4.0

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Top 3 Downflow Water Softeners

1. Aquasure WS-EM-64 Water Softener — Best Overall

This great downflow water softener is exactly as pictured. It delivers superior downflow regeneration for the best results.

Key Features

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

The Aquasure WS-EM-64 is a reliable downflow high-efficiency water softener with great performance. This model has a simple mechanical design that has been proven to have a long life with little to no maintenance. It comes standard with a complete bypass as well as a large brine tank with a safety float and salt grid.

The drain line flows a steady stream during rinsing and backwashing. If you set the system to run at default settings, you should expect it to use about thirty gallons of water on full regeneration.

But the thing is, the drain line may not comply with your local plumbing codes.

Pros

  • The system is easy to install and no leaks
  • The digital meter is easy to program and read
  • Comes with preloaded resin in the cylinder
  • Large grain capacity for up to eight people
  • The bypass valve adds versatility

Cons

  • The drain line may not comply with some local plumbing codes
  • It may come with missing fittings

Verdict

Aquasure WS-EM-64 is a superior downflow water softener for the cost-conscious consumer.

Overall Rating: 5.0

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2. Fleck 5600SXT On Demand Water Softener

Fleck 5600SXT On Demand Water Softener

Have you been looking for a high-quality downflow system for eliminating scale buildup and reducing hardness? This Fleck model fits the description.

Key Features

  • Digital meter
  • 40,000-grain capacity
  • Backwash rate of 2.4 GPM
  • 8% crosslink resin
  • Salt grid safety overflow

With the latest water softening features and one of the simplest to program digital panels, this water softener is a set and forget. You don’t have to worry about resetting or reprogramming the time.

This model does a good job of removing hardness causing minerals. The digital meter control valve tells the system when to regenerate. It is also counting how much water goes through the system because it is a demand-initiated controller. The salt mixes with the water on the bottom of the brine tank. When the system needs to regenerate, it is going to draw the brine solution and run it through the resin in a downflow process or co-current brining.

One downside here is replacing the resin, which may get a little bit messy.

Pros

  • Easy to program digital control panel
  • The system regenerates when necessary
  • Salt grid safety prevents overflow
  • The unit installation is easy and fairly quick
  • Very effective at removing iron

Cons

  • Replacing the resin may be a little bit messy
  • Possible to receive a model with missing accessories

Verdict

Protect your home and reduce the hardness of your water with this downflow system from Fleck.

Overall Rating: 4.9

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3. Pentair WS48 56SXT10 Fleck Water Softener

Pentair WS48 56SXT10 Fleck Water Softener

Are you looking for a downflow water softener that is good enough to replace your outdated system? Check out this model from Pentair.

Key Features

  • Digital metered control
  • 10% crosslink resin
  • A flow rate of 14 GPM
  • Water consumption of 3.5 gallons per minute
  • Bypass valve

In this water softener, the brine flows through the system from top-down, which is the same direction as the service flow. The co-current brining removes magnesium and calcium to create soft water. The ten percent resin features more bonds that do a great job of holding the beads together.

What I don’t like about this system, however, is the fact that it may come with missing accessories.

Pros

  • The system comes with preloaded resin for reduced maintenance
  • The 10 percent crossling resin lasts longer
  • The bypass valve allows you to direct water away from the system
  • The digital metered control allows for easy programming
  • Easy and quick installation

Cons

  • It is possible to receive a unit with missing accessories
  • Some models may come with a defective control head

Verdict

With this good-quality water softener, you should expect scale-free plumbing fixtures and soft water for your entire home.

Overall Rating: 4.7

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Upflow Vs Downflow Water Softener: How Do You Know Which One to Get?

Here are the most important things to take into consideration:

Technology Behind Upflow and Downflow Water Softener

Upflow Technology

The upflow technology regenerates with the resin being recharged from the bottom up and only recharges depleted. Because of this technology, these systems are regarded to be more efficient than downflow systems.

Pros

  • The unit only recharges the depleted resin
  • It uses about seventy-five percent less salt
  • It uses about sixty-five percent less water
  • The system pushes the hardness to the drain away from the resin

Cons

  • The valve gets coated over time when used with well water
  • Removing and washing the valves is time-consuming

Downflow Technology

In a downflow system, the resin is recharged from the top down. So, this means water is regenerated from the top down and backwashing is usually necessary.

Pros

  • Systems based on this technology are cheaper
  • Fewer parts are included in a downflow system
  • The valves will not easily get coated when used with well water
  • Backwashing helps get rid of any remaining contaminants
  • Downflow systems are more effective at flushing out oxidized ions

Cons

  • Tunnels may prevent the resin from being recharged
  • They don’t have superior brine or water efficiency

Correct Water Softener Size

Now you know how to differentiate between the two technologies. But do you know how to size your water softener? There is a formula that simplifies everything.

The formula requires you to know the number of people in the household, the number of gallons consumed per person, grains per gallon (number of grains to be removed or water hardness). On average, one person is estimated to use seventy-five gallons in a day. You can find the hardness of your water by calling your municipality if the water running in your home is from the city. You should buy a water test kit if you are using well water.

For example, if you have a household of 4 people, each using 75 gallons of water, the water hardness is 10, and the water comes from the city, then the calculations will be 4*75*10 = 3000. For this example, the hardness that needs to be removed per day is 3000 grains. Have a look at the water softener sizing chart to find the most ideal system based on your calculations. For this example, you will get the best results with a 32,000-grain capacity system.

Final Thoughts

An upflow water softener only recharges the depleted resin and pushes the hardness away from the resin. This new technology also uses less salt and water, making it highly efficient. A downflow water softener, on the other hand, is very effective in flushing out oxidized ions and backwashes to help get rid of any remaining contaminants.

AFWFilters Combo Carbon Upflow Water Softener is the most effective upflow system that doesn’t need backwashing, a drain line, or electricity. Aquasure WS-EM-64 Water Softener is the best overall downflow system that provides optimum backwash rates and service. It is also very effective at eliminating oxidized ions.

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