What Is Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)?

We independently review everything we recommend. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More.
What Is Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)

Are you trying to find an alternative for salt-based water softeners to prevent scale formation on your appliances? You might want to consider Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)! 

Let’s dive into the details of TAC technology, including how it functions, its benefits and drawbacks, and more!

What Is Template Assisted Crystallization

Understanding Template-assisted crystallization (TAC) is easier than its name suggests. This innovative technique, formerly known as Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC), has been around for more than 15 years and is now in general use.

TAC technology, or Template Assisted Crystallization, uses a salt-free granular media made of tiny ceramic polymer beads that serve as nucleation sites. These sites serve as templates for microscopic crystals that isolate hardness minerals by converting their ionic structure to crystalline form [1].

Salt Free Vs Salt Water Softener_Template Assisted Crystalization (TAC) Process Diagram Infographic
TAC Process

As a result, the microscopic calcium crystals do not settle out of the water and clog your pipes; instead, they disperse through your plumbing system. 

TAC water conditioners are point-of-entry (POE) systems and are installed at the main water line to treat every drop of water that enters your home.

Does Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) Work? 

A recent study has supported that salt-free water conditioners using TAC are extremely effective in treating hard water issues [2]. For example, TAC was shown to reduce scale by more than 90%.

Template-assisted crystallization consists of a single tank with resin media that has been chemically treated. The hard minerals (calcium and magnesium)  are collected in this bed as water runs through the tank.

Crystallization of the minerals occurs within the resin at microscopic nucleation sites. Or, the minerals were given a crystalline coating that keeps them from suspending in the water. At this point, these crystals can no longer adhere to surfaces and form scale.

Once a TAC salt-free water softener has been installed, further scale buildup in plumbing and fixtures will be prevented.

Furthermore, you won’t notice any difference in the flavor of your drinking water, and the limescale problems caused by hard water minerals will be eliminated.

Can you drink TAC Water? 

Yes, water treated with template-assisted crystallization is safe to drink.  In fact, a primary driver behind salt-free water treatment was a more health-friendly alternative to salt-based softeners.

TAC does not introduce any objectionable substances into potable water.  While traditional water softeners require sodium or chemicals to remove hard water minerals, TAC units do neither.

Advantages Of TAC Water Conditioner:

No Salt Or Chemicals Added

TAC softening methods typically require nothing more than a unique resin bed to function, in contrast to salt-based water softeners, which use ion exchange and require salt to function.

Eliminates Scale

When compared to traditional water treatment methods, TAC alternatives can reduce scale by more than 90% without affecting the water flow rate.

A descaler will prevent scale buildup on your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, and other water appliances. However, a magnetic descaler is typically not as effective as a TAC water conditioner.

More Eco-Friendly

Salt-free water conditioners yield no wastewater because they do not go through regeneration cycles. This approach is a definite winner because it does not discharge salt brine water into the environment. You also get to save water because all of the water treated by the salt-free water conditioner goes directly into your home without wasting any.

Retains Healthy Minerals

Instead of completely removing magnesium and calcium from the water, Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) just crystallizes them so they don’t stick to plumbing [3].  This way, you retain the healthy minerals in your water supply. Anyways, the minerals magnesium and calcium are also needed by the body. 

Furthermore, TAC can also make your water taste better, aside from preventing the hard minerals from scaling your plumbing system. 

Media Has Very Long Life Cycle

Since this resin can last for more than 8 years without being replaced, TAC units are much lower maintenance than salt-based water softeners.

Disadvantage Of TAC Water Conditioner

Not NSF-Certified process

There is currently no way to demonstrate the efficacy of Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) technologies. Hence the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) does not certify this type of water system. 

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is an independent organization that conducts third-party tests to ensure products are safe and effective for human consumption. For those who insist on using only products with the NSF seal of approval, it’s time to start thinking about another hard water option.

Doesn’t Remove Calcium and Magnesium

Although typically marketed as “salt-free water softeners,” these systems do not soften the water like ion exchange systems. Where ion exchange actually removes hard water minerals, TAC doesn’t remove the minerals. It converts them to a crystallized form so the water is better for hair and skin, but also won’t create scale buildup. Thus, you reap the health benefits!

Template Assisted Crystallization Vs Ion Exchange

In template-assisted crystallization (TAC), polymeric beads equipped with tiny nucleation sites are used to transform a dissolved hardness into microcrystals. These particles are insoluble and won’t cause scale to grow on surfaces once the crystals have formed and been released from the beads.

To soften water, ion exchange systems use plastic resin beads immersed in a sodium chloride solution, sometimes known as brine, to attract and trap hard-to-remove ions like calcium and magnesium. A significant amount of sodium is exchanged for calcium and magnesium ions, which softens the water. After purifying about 4,000 gallons of water, the resin beads are recharged in a high-sodium chloride brine. 

Ion Exchange Process Diagram

The issue with these systems is that the brine needed for regeneration ends up in the sewers, increasing the salinity of the wastewater. 

How much Does Template-Assisted Crystallization Cost?

A saltless water conditioner will typically run you between $900 – $2,000 depending on your home size and water hardness. Most of these systems rely on Template Assisted Crystallization, and they are the best option for permanently resolving your hard water issues.


What is the Best Template Assisted Crystallization Water Softener?

The best TAC water conditioners are from SpringWell and Kind Water Systems. We have recomended these options many times in our top salt-free water softener reviews. SpringWell makes the popular FutureSoft which is our top choice for tank-based options. Kind makes the E-3000, which is our favorite cartridge-based model.

What are TAC water treatment alternatives?

Another salt-free alternative is a magnetic descaler. These systems are less comprehensive, but they are very easy to install and can help reduce light scale issues. The second alternative is to go with a salt-based water softener. These are ideal for water with heavy contamination or for well water sources.

      Enable registration in settings - general