While there has been research in the area of salt-free water treatment for hard water, the bottom line is that NONE of the electronic salt-free water treatments have been shown to effectively treat hard water and these treatments do not deliver the benefits of soft water. Every few years, a newly branded version of these treatment are introduced to the market and, so far, there appears to be no evidence that any of these electronic treatments work.
Sometimes you will see water treatment companies sell both water softeners and a salt-free water treatment "solution". However, the salt-free solutions are often removed later and a discount offered on a traditional water softener. Companies that only sell salt-free solutions might recommend that you keep it in a little longer (until the money back warranty expires). Your best bet is to avoid these units altogether.
The task force reviewed 106 papers identified through a literature search on magnetic water treatment, reviewed the papers and conducted a study on magnetic water treatment. Thirty- four of these papers met the task force's criteria for being scientifically valid. This study, the review of papers, and the task force's conclusions also cover other physical water conditioning methods, such as electronic, electrolytic, electromagnetic, catalytic, and radio frequency devices, as well as the magnetic technologies. The taskforce was unable to make a determination of whether magnetic and other physical water treatment processes work. Compare this with the research available on water softeners and make your own determination -- do you want to treat your water with something that may work or with a treatment that is proven to work.
The Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of magnetic descalers determined that these devices were NOT effective and issued this study so that "...Army public works personnel use this information to avoid unnecessary expenditure of manpower and funds to purchase and install these devices."
Consumer protection laws are clear across the land. Manufacturers must have scientific test data to back up their claims for their particular product. Since no testing standards exist in the US for these ("salt free") devices we have not tested nor certified these products so we can only pass on what we have heard. To our knowledge these scale control devices do not claim to remove calcium and so they do not produce soft water.
Penn State University's study concluded that, "There is virtually no valid scientific data to support any water treatment benefit from magnetic devices... The claims put forth by manufacturers and sales representatives of these devices are without validity."
"WQA knows of no generally recognized scientific or technical evidence which proves that magnetic, eletromagnetic or catalytic devices sold to treat water have any measurable physical or chemical effect on water quality. In fact, such evidence as WQA is aware supports the position that these devices have no measurable physical or chemical effect on water quality."
The Canadian Water Quality Association concurs with the WQA... "CWQA knows of no generally recognized scientific or technical evidence which proves that magnetic, electromagnetic or catalytic devices sold to treat water have any measurable physical or chemical effect of water quality... CWQA is becoming increasingly concerned over the rapidly escalating level of federal and provincial law enforcement activity involving water treatment devices. Many of which these federal and provincial agencies believe do not have any effect on the quality of water and therefore, certainly do not improve it. Prime examples are various types of catalytic, electromagnetic and magnetic devices. Published claims that these devices alter the hardness characteristics or improve the quality of water in other ways have been successfully challenged by enforcement officials."