What are the main differences between a water filter and a water softener? Which system is more necessary and important for my home? These are a few of the questions that many people often ask when they are considering a whole house water filter. A basic understanding of the mechanics behind each system is important for making an informed purchasing decision on a home water filtration system.
Water Filtres or Water Softeners -What’s in a Name?
Water filters are any systems that can filter and remove contaminants from the water. They can include small RO drinking water systems and also large whole house water filters which treat water throughout the entire home. Water softeners, as their name would imply, are a type of whole house water filter that softens water by removing minerals which make water hard and cause scale. Therefore while you can say that a water softener is also a whole house water filter, the term ‘water filter’ encompasses a much large scope of products which includes more than just water softeners.
Examples of other whole house filters include backwashing carbon filters, iron & sulfur removal filters, sediment filters and fluoride adsorption filters just to name a few. These are completely different systems that perform vitally different water purification functions entirely. How Whole House Water Filters Work Whole house water filters use a wide variety of water purification technologies to treat water contamination. Advanced media beds are used to remove pollutants from the water through the process of adsorption, ion-exchange, micron-filtration, catalytic conversion and oxidation.
There are many types of media and their versatility allows them to treat everything from natural and man-made chemicals to heavy metals. Most work by first trapping or converting contaminants within their matrix and then removing them through the processes of regular backwashing cleaning cycles or media and cartridge replacements. For microbial concerns, UV lamps are used to sterilize water by attacking the DNA of microbial contaminants with ultraviolet light which effectively destroys bacteria, viruses and cysts. Screen, sieve and membrane filtration can also be used to remove pollutants within a wide range of micron ratings.
How Water Softeners Work
Water softeners treat hard water by using salt and ion-exchange resins to remove calcium and magnesium hardness from the water. These resins are coated in a sodium solution and when hard water comes into contact with the resin beads, the calcium and magnesium ions migrate out of the solution to the active sites on the resin and are replaced in the solution by sodium ions.
Salt-free water softener alternatives are also available for people don’t want to add salt or chemicals to their water.
These salt-less systems use an advanced ceramic media that effectively attracts and neutralizes hard water scaling properties without the need for regeneration, backwashing, or electricity. They are also more eco-friendly because they do not require rinse water and electricity, are easier to maintain, and are 100% salt free making them a more natural and healthy water softening alternative.
Choosing a System
Water softeners are excellent water purification systems that will protect your home from the harmful effects of hard water scale buildup. However, if you have other water problems such as with water chlorination, bacterial contamination or iron staining, you will need to consider getting a whole house filter that will treat those specific water concerns as well. It is quite common for homeowners to install both a water softener and whole house filter to properly treat their incoming water, and these total solution type setups offer more complete filtration coverage.
Today’s whole house filters are highly efficient, long lasting and very affordable making them a great home improvement investment that will protect your health and home from many years to come. Below is a table that lists some common water problem and the systems which can treat them.