What to Watch for with NSF Water Systems

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Trying to determine which water system to go with can get overwhelming. All the different softener models, company names, and certification can be tricky to understand if you don’t have the right support. Fortunately, one easy thing to watch for is whether your softener is NSF certified. Units with this certification (not just “tested to NSF standards”) means a lot as you compare products.

About NSF Certification

The National Sanitation Foundation (more commonly known as NSF) was founded back in 1944. Now they operate in the global market with other public health experts and industry professionals. This organization is responsible for developing safety standards and protocols for a variety of products. And because NSF is an independent product testing organization, consumers can trust that any water softener certified by NSF will be reliable and safe. In order to earn that NSF certification, your water system must meet these five criteria:

  • Contaminant reduction claims are true

  • System does not add anything harmful to water

  • The system is structurally sound

  • Advertising and labels are not misleading

  • Production process and materials do not change—you get consistent quality over time

Some manufacturers will try to influence consumers with clever phrases. They’ll say their systems are “tested to NSF standards,” but this is NOT the same as NSF certification. A water softener that has earned certification meets strict public health standards. It can do what says it’s going to do—like reduce odor in your water or remove certain contaminants. Systems that are only “tested to NSF standards” simply cannot make that promise. They might have met one of the certification standards, but not all five.

Residential Water System Standards

A lot of people are surprised to learn that there are no federal regulations for residential water treatment systems. That why it’s so important to have the NSF certification mark on water systems. Certification means that the product’s contaminant reduction claims are true and consistent. It also means that the advertising is not misleading.

The standards for residential water softeners developed by NSF and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) cover a variety of important factors. Together, these certification requirements are called NSF/ANSI 44. Like in the bullets outlined above, NSF/ANSI Standard 44 helps prove that softeners are well built. They also passed tests on their claims to reduce water hardness and other contaminants.

According to NSF, the most common contaminants addressed by NSF/ANSI 44 are barium and radium. The first can occur naturally in some mineral deposits. It becomes a bigger problem when it enters water supplies from drilling waste, or copper smelting and other manufacturing processes. Exposure to barium can lead to muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and damage to the liver, kidney, and heart. Individuals exposed to high radium levels can have an increased risk of cancer. It enters groundwater supplies as uranium and thorium go through their radioactive decay in rocks and soil. Having the proper filtration systems in place can help ensure that our home’s tap water is safe for daily use.

Water Softener Checklist

If you’re in the market for a new water softener, we highly recommended going with a system that’s NSF certified. Just like when you purchase a car or see a new doctor, you want to make sure that your water system is thoroughly reviewed and vetted. The NSF certification standards help give consumers peace of mind that their new unit is aboveboard and reliable. And the fact that NSF certification is completely independent is a big plus too.

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