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Water softener vs water filter, what is the main difference? Which system is important and necessary for my home? These are the common questions that most individuals ponder when they are considering a whole house water solution.
Underground water is the most commonly used source of water for municipal systems and has been identified as the number one source of water with the highest percentage of mineral compounds compare to surface water sources. It is these mineral compounds that constitute to make water hard. Whereas water softeners work to eliminate the mineral compounds from water, water filters are often responsible for problems that concern water quality.
FAQ: Read about our favorite water softener in our Best water softeners for well waters
A basic understanding of the processes behind each system is significant for making an informed decision on which of the two systems you can have installed in your home water filtration system.
Water Softener vs Water Filter Systems: What is the difference?
Like we mentioned above, you need to get to understand how each of these systems works in order to make the right purchase of water purification systems for your home. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the main differences between these two water filtration systems and water softening systems.
1. Both Come with Different Water Treatment
Water softeners are designed to remove hardness-causing minerals and contaminants from your home water. These minerals include calcium and magnesium. Water filters, on the other hand, are designed to check on contamination and remove impurities from water. Water impurities may include heavy metals like lead, mercury, copper, and cadmium, pesticides, herbicide, insecticides, dirt, and sediments from your drinking water.
In a nutshell, a water softener can be said to be a whole house water filter. In this case, the term ‘water filter’ covers a wider range of products that work towards ensuring you have clean water in your home and they are not limited to water softeners. Other whole house filters include sediment filters, iron and sulfur remove filters, fluoride adsorption filters, and back-washing carbon filters. Certainly, these are different systems that carry out basic water sanitization functions.
2. Both Use Different Technology
Water softeners use either salt or ion exchange resins to get rid of calcium and magnesium from hard water to prevent limescale damage in your plumbing, kitchen appliances, faucets, and sinks. The resin beads in the tank are responsible for attracting these minerals and replacing them with sodium ions to give you soft water.
Water filters use various water purification techniques to detoxify water and remove impurities like lead, dirt, and pesticides from your home drinking water. Advance media beds are used to remove all the pollutants in your water and then followed by oxidation, micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, catalytic conversion, adsorption, and ion exchange.
Many different types of media beds are utilized to treat various heavy chemicals that can either be natural or man-made. Water that comes out after going through these media beds is safe for drinking and whole-house use.
3. Both Systems Require Different Maintenance Needs
There are different types of water softeners and they include salt-based, salt-free, and magnetic systems. The salt-based water softeners need a regular maintenance schedule as it requires restocking of consumable salt. The salt-free water softeners, on the other hand, needs little maintenance though they are often damaged by trace amounts of oil. Magnetic systems require the least maintenance and are installed for cheap. However, they are not effective against metallic dissolved materials.
Water filtration systems require less maintenance compared to water softeners but they come at a higher cost to install. So, if you are looking to soften water that comes into your home, installing a water softener will be cost-effective. But if you have more water quality concerns such as bad odor and taste, waterborne pathogens, chlorination, bacterial contamination, and iron staining, your softening systems won’t deliver you the best results!
So, which one is better for my home?
Perhaps, this is the same question you are asking yourself. So, let’s look at what each of these systems does and how they can help with water treatment around the home.
A water softener is mainly designed for hard water treatment as it works to remove high concentrations of magnesium and calcium that cause hard water. When water flows through a water softener, the hard water minerals are filtered out and the resultant water is soft. You will need a water softener in your home if:
- Soap scum build-up in your shower walls or your sinks
- Mineral-like crust build-up around your water faucets or showerheads
- Your clothes stiffen after laundry
- Irritation or dry skin and dull hair after taking a bath
- Water Filter
Water filters are designed to eliminate different types of impurities that may be found in water coming into your home. It can use the physical filtration or reverse osmosis to remove impurities, especially the large ones from water. This requires thin gauze or an extra-fine textile membrane.
Another technique is the chemical one which requires water to pass through an active material that removes impurities chemically. If you are looking for clean drinking water that also tastes great, water filters can deliver you that. You will want a water filter in your home if you:
- Want to remove chlorine
- Want to remove fluoride
- Want to remove pathogens
- Want to remove lead
- Want to remove dirt and other water impurities
Choose a System for Your Home
You must decide now, whether you want to install a water softener or water filter for your home. However, deciding between the two will depend on the water problems you are experiencing in your home.
If you have a lot of magnesium and calcium in the water and your household appliances start to build-up scale, you are dealing with hard water, and as such a water softener is certainly the best solution. But if it is chlorine that is affecting the smell and taste of your water or you are worried about contaminants like pesticides and lead affecting your loved ones, a water filter will be the best solution.
If you are looking to have cleaner and healthier water in your home, you can consider choosing systems that can filter chemical impurities, remove bacteria and viruses.
It is no doubt that both water softener and water filter are widely used in homes for water treatment purposes. Before you make a choice, be sure to test your water in advance to determine its filtration or treatment needs. This will help you zero in on the right system to install in your home for whole house water treatment.
Ideally, a water softener will protect your household possessions such as appliances and fixtures while a water filter will protect your family’s health.