A water softener is you best choice for protecting your fixtures and appliances from hard water. These systems use ion exchange technology to remove calcium from your water. The process of ion exchange uses special resins to replace the magnesium and calcium ions that can build up on fixtures, appliances and plumbing, with ions that are more soluble in water. The result is soft water. A water softener using ion exchange is currently the only cost effective way to remove hardness from water.
There are some key differences between a water softener and a water conditioner. A water condition modifies the hardness ions to make it less likely that they will build up on your appliances and fixtures. This can reduce scale build up, but does not actually remove the hardness ions from your water. A water softener on the other hand, completely removes these hardness ions using a process called ion exchange. While both technologies provide good protection from hard water, a water softener will provide the greatest long term protection from hardness ions.