Downflow VS Upflow Water Softener: Which Is Better?

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Downflow Vs Upflow Water Softener

A staggering 85% of the United States has hard water, so it isn’t a surprise if your home is battling elevated hardness levels [1]. Hard water wreaks havoc on your plumbing, leaves a film on your dishes, and shortens the lifespan of all your appliances from scale buildup. A water softener can help with all of these issues, but there are two types to know about: downflow vs upflow water softeners.  

But what distinguishes upflow and downflow softeners, and which is better for your specific needs? Let’s dive in to find out. 

What Is the Difference Between Upflow And Downflow? 

The difference between downflow vs upflow water softeners are exactly as the names suggest. They can be classified as either upflow – where water is pushed upward – or as downflow – where water drops down. Both systems depend on pressure to force water both down and up. The main difference comes down to when the water is actually softened. Downflow systems go down first to soften and then back up, while upflow systems first down and then up to soften.

Downflow vs Upflow Water Softeners _ Are Upflow water softeners better
Upflow Vs Downflow Softener Process

What Is An Upflow Water Softener?

With an upflow water softener, or high-efficiency water softener, water is redirected from below to an upward motion. Here’s how it works:

  1. Using the ion exchange process, water enters the tank and then moves through an upper basket.
  2. The water travels up through a riser tube and enters the next basket.
  3. Then, the water now circulates through the filter media. The filter is designed to eliminate minerals like calcium and magnesium and replace them with salt. 

Note that the rounded bottom of the tank makes the upflow water softener system operate since it causes the water to spiral upward as it flows downward.

What Is A Downflow Water Softener?

The operation of downflow water softeners is simpler: 

  1. The water enters the tank in an upper basket, travels through the filter, and exits in a lower basket. 
  2. The filtered water leaves the tank as it ascends to the riser tube.

Key Differences Between Upflow and Downflow

  • Flow Direction: In general, water systems that use upflow direct water upwards, whereas those that use downflow push water downwards. Water pressure is used in both systems to force water up and down. 
  • Efficiency Of Regeneration: If you compare upflow regeneration to a downflow system, you’ll find upflow is around 5 percent more efficient. Thus, with an upflow water softener, you may cut back on salt usage and associated costs.
  • Brining Thoroughness: With an upflow water softener, the brine is more evenly distributed across the resin bed, resulting in a more thorough brining process.
  • Water System Parts: Both systems share similar components. However, an upflow water softener doesn’t require a backwash control valve, whereas a downflow softener does. 

Pros and Cons of Downflow Vs Upflow Water Softeners 

Upflow water softeners are considered high-efficiency, while downflow have a more simplistic design [2]. But there are nuances you need to know when deciding which type is best for your specific use. Let’s see the benefits and drawbacks of each:

Benefits Of An Upflow Water Softener 

We recommend the upflow system for a number of reasons. Here are the pros of using an uplow water softener system:

  • Backwashing is not required: Upflow water softeners usually don’t need backwashing. This is because the filter media never gets compacted because it is fluffed every time water passes through the tank. 
  • Salt conversion is higher: Forcing the filter media to whirl is another perk of upflow water softeners. This increases the amount of time the untreated water spends in contact with the filter media. If the contact period increases, there will be less ion leakage and less fluoride discharge, and the salt conversion rate will increase.
  • Use of brine is being reduced: The amount of brine required for regeneration in upflow water softeners is 15-30% less than in downflow water softeners.
  • Cost of electricity is lower: Upflow water softeners also don’t need electricity. That means they won’t add more costs to your monthly electricity bill.

Drawbacks Of An Upflow Water Softener 

Here are the cons of using an upflow water softener system:

  • More technical: Water softeners that have an upflow rather than a downflow are also more complicated. Getting the water to flow upward requires more liquid engineering.
  • Higher cost: Upflow water softeners are typically more expensive than their downflow counterparts. 

Benefits Of An Downflow Water Softener

Here are the prose of using and downflow water softener system:

  • Simple design: A benefit of downflow water softeners is that they are easier to use than upflow water softeners. Water softeners with a downflow design are less complicated from an inner component standpoint. They generally have fewer moving pieces which mean less can go wrong.
  • Inexpensive: Downflow water softener systems are less expensive than their upflow counterparts. However, it doesn’t mean that it makes them a better deal. Actually, they don’t. In most cases, those on a tighter budget may find them more suitable.

Drawbacks Of An Downflow Water Softener 

Here are the cons of using a downflow water softener system:

  • Not as eco-friendly: Downflow water softeners have a significant leakage issue, which is a disadvantage. The waste stream loses as much as 50% of all salt. This produces substantial chloride discharge, which may have undesirable ecological implications.
  • Requires frequent backwashing: The resin material or filter media in downflow water softeners can quickly get compacted, which is another drawback. Because of the steady downward flow of water, the material condenses. This is why downflow water softeners need regular backwashing. 

Decision Factors Between Upflow And Downflow Softeners 

Downflow VS Upflow Water Softener System_Is upflow better


An upflow water softener can range from $700.00 to $2000.00, while downflow softeners start at $600 and go up to over $1500. 

Even while upflow water softeners have a higher initial investment, they require less servicing over time than their downflow counterparts. So, long-term cost savings are more significant with upflow water softeners.


Upflow water softeners are less harmful to the environment and do not require backwashing, whereas downflow water softeners produce a lot of chlorine. Downflow water softeners consume more water and salt and therefore are more expensive to operate and maintain.


Water softeners use salt, water, and energy. Most upflow water softeners operate without power and use less salt and water than downflow softeners. Thus, this makes the softening and regeneration process more efficient. 

During regeneration, downflow softeners use more salt and water. These systems require electricity, so you’ll need to add salt more often.

Softening Process

Both upflow and downflow water softeners use filters to replace minerals in untreated water with salt. Upflow water softeners are more complicated because they use a water flow from the bottom to the top of the tank. This lengthens the time the water spends in contact with the filter.

Upflow water softeners eliminate the possibility of filter compacting. On the other hand, downflow water softeners are more straightforward and require less tweaking. However, the filter medium can soon become compacted as the water moves lower.


The lifespan of a water softener is approximately 10–15 years, regardless of whether it is upflow or downflow. However, appropriate care and maintenance of your water softener are essential if you want to get the most out of it.

FAQs On Best Upflow Vs Downflow Water Softeners

What is the best upflow water softener?

SpringWell, SoftPro, and Fleck are among the top upflow water softener manufacturers. It is possible to switch between upflow and downflow performance with Fleck’s 5600 SXT water softener.

Are upflow water softeners high-efficiency?

Backwashing is not necessary with upflow designs since the filter is constantly being fluffed by the rising water. Water in an upflow system can make more significant contact with the filter media due to the swirling action of the water as it moves through the system.

Which upflow water softener brands are best?

You can check out Genesis 2 Premier and Fleck 5600SXT.

What is downflow regeneration?

It refers to the path that the brine or salt water takes through the resin tank when the regeneration cycle occurs.

Article Sources

Freshnss uses only the highest-quality sources to support the facts used in our articles including: government organizations, independent studies, peer-reviewed journals, and lab testing results. Read our editorial review guidelines here to learn more about how we verify and fact-check our writing to keep our content reliable, accurate, and trustworthy.

  1. Hardness Of Water, United State Geological Survey (USGS)
  2. Water Softeners, Office Of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
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