When you want to improve the quality of water in your home, whether it is to make it cleaner or ensure it tastes better, water softeners and filters are the two possible solutions that come to mind. Although both can significantly change the quality of water, they do it differently and are meant for different purposes. Softeners work on the water’s hardness, while filters remove contaminants. Here we look at their differences in more detail.
Water Softener vs. Water Filter
1. Application: Softening vs. Filtering
The applications the two filters are meant for or how they treat water is their primary point of departure. Water filters are intended to remove contaminants and other harmful substances from the water, meaning they clean and make it safe for drinking or other uses.
Water softeners are used to reduce hardness in the water. They do this by removing minerals like magnesium that make water hard and cause scaling when it comes into contact with surfaces such as metal water tanks or coffee machines.
From this description, one can easily assume that water softeners quality to be a type of filter. However, it is essential to note the term water filter describes a wide range of water treatment products that do much more than soften water.
Additionally, it is also worth mentioning that some whole house water filtration systems will include water softening stage among its many water purification steps. Even with a water softener as part of their process, these are still water filters, given they do much more than softening the water.
2. Technology: Water Filtration Involves More Technologies
The technology involved in water filtration and softening also differs. Water softeners use resins, which in most instances are salt and ion exchange for removing calcium and magnesium, which are the primary causes of water hardness.
The resins in a water softener also have a sodium solution coating meant to force the calcium and magnesium ions out of the water to the resin’s active sites before being replaced by sodium ions.
Unlike water softeners, water filters will use various technologies to treat the water. The most common ones are catalytic conversion, oxidation, ion exchange, micro-filtration, and adsorption. Many will also have activated carbon to remove bad smells from the water and UV treatment to get rid of bacteria.
Since the water filters use some water filtration media, they effectively treat everything from heavy chemicals to human-made chemicals and contaminants.
3. Maintenance: Water Softeners Often Require More Maintenance
When it comes to maintenance, water softeners will give you a more challenging time as they require more maintenance. The salt-based softener requires more regular maintenance as you often need to add more of the consumable salt. Non-salt water softener systems do not need as much care, but they can still be damaged by the trace amounts of oil in the water.
Water softeners with a magnetic system will often require the least maintenance, but they have a significant drawback: their ineffectiveness against any metallic materials dissolved in the water.
On the other hand, water filters do not require as much maintenance as water softeners. In most instances, you will only need to replace the filters or wash them if they are washable after several months of use.
4. Cost: Water Filters Tend to be Pricier
Water filters tend to be more expensive than water softeners, given they are more complex fixtures with more components. You can expect to spend anything from $1,000 to over $4,000 to buy and install a water filter system. The cost for purchasing a water softener plus installation usually starts at around $800 and hardly goes beyond $2,500.
Water softeners and filters are vital for improving water quality and making it safe for household consumption. Since both play different roles, the best idea is to have a system that filters and softens the water. However, if you want to buy just one, a water filter is ideal for cleaning water by removing contaminants while water softeners are the best choice for those dealing with hard borehole water.
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