Water is essential to life, yet not all sources and qualities of water supply are safe to drink directly. Depending on its source and quality, you may require treatment before using it for drinking, cooking, cleaning or bathing purposes.
Water softeners and filters are two popular water treatment devices. Despite having many similarities they both serve different functions, purposes, benefits, and drawbacks for individual households. We will compare their differences below so you can decide if either is necessary for your home.
Water softener vs water filter: 10 Main differences
Let’s run a comparison between these two water treatment systems so you can know which one will best suit your needs.
- What they remove: Hard minerals vs contaminants
The main difference between a water softener and a water filter is what they remove from the water. A water softener removes hard minerals like calcium and magnesium that can cause scale build-up, damage appliances, reduce soap efficiency, and affect skin and hair health.
A water filter removes contaminants such as dirt, hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, microbes, and impurities that affect the taste, odor, color, and safety of the water.
- How they work
Water softeners use salt and ion exchange resins to filter hard minerals out of the water supply, replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ones and creating soft water as a result.
Water filters use various technologies, such as activated carbon, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet (UV) light or ceramic media filters to trap or destroy contaminants in water supplies.
- Where each system is installed
One main difference when considering a water softener vs a whole-house filter is that water filters can be installed at different points of use such as, under the sink, on the faucet, on the countertop, or in a pitcher or bottle. Some filters can also be installed at the point of entry as well to treat the whole house.
Water softeners are usually installed at the point of entry of the water supply to the house so that they can treat all the water used in the household.
- Frequency of maintenance
Both water filters and water softeners require maintenance to keep running smoothly and efficiently; however, when comparing a water softener vs filter, softener systems require more maintenance.
Water softeners require regular care and maintenance, including refilling the salt tank, regeneration of the resin beads, cleaning the brine tank, and checking for leaks or malfunctions.
Water filters require minimal upkeep, such as replacing their filter cartridge or membrane every few months or years depending on their type and usage.
- Water softener vs water filter cost
Initial costs associated with water softeners typically range between $400 and $3000 or more, depending on their size, type and features. Regular expenses could include salt (between $5 to $10 monthly), electricity ($2 to $8 per month), and water usage (20-120 gal per regeneration cycle).
Initial costs of water filters range from $20 to $1000 depending on their type, quality, capacity and lifespan. Longer-term expenses may include electricity if applicable, replacing filters ($10 – $100 annually), or replacement filters ($10-$100 each year).
- Effects on the environment
Both water softeners and filters have different impacts on our environment, with water filters often having a more positive effect overall.
Water softeners may have negative environmental impacts such as increasing the sodium concentration in wastewater (which could threaten aquatic life), wasting water during the regeneration process (contributing to drought), and using non-renewable resources such as salt.
Water filters, on the other hand, can have some positive environmental impacts. These include reducing plastic waste by eliminating the need for bottled water, saving energy by improving the efficiency of appliances and protecting public health by preventing contamination.
- Effects on health
When deciding between a water softener vs water filter, many people overlook how they affect your health.
Water softeners offer many health advantages, including helping prevent dry skin and hair, soothing irritations on skin surfaces, and lowering blood pressure. Water softeners may help lower your blood pressure by decreasing calcium deposits in arteries.
However, a water softener can also pose a few health risks for some users as well. Depending on the type of softener system you install, these include increasing sodium intake, leaching metals from pipes, and reducing the intake of essential minerals.
A water filter can also have many health benefits, such as improving hydration, preventing viruses and infection, reducing the risk of cancer, and assisting your immune system.
- Water taste and quality
The taste and quality of the water in your house are very important. A water softener can make your water easier to use, clearer, and less bitter. However, water softeners can also alter the taste and quality of your water, making it saltier, flatter, and slightly less refreshing.
An effective water filter can both enhance and decrease the quality and taste of your drinking water, by making it cleaner, purer, more natural or metallic tasting (depending on its filter quality) respectively.
- Effects on your home appliances
Water softeners can extend the lifespan and efficiency of your appliances and fixtures by preventing scale build-up, clogging, staining, and rusting.
Water filters can protect appliances and fixtures from contamination such as chlorine, lead, iron or sediment. A water filter may also enhance performance by improving pressure, flow rate, clarity and other water metrics.
When pitting water filter vs water softener, in this case, it comes down to your personal household needs.
- How do they work together?
Clients often ask us if the two systems can work together. A water softener and water filter can work wonderfully together to provide you with the highest water quality for your home. A softener can further increase the effectiveness of a filter by reducing hardness levels in the water that could hinder certain filtration processes.
A water filter can enhance the safety of a water softener by removing contaminants that a water softener system won’t, including chlorine, lead, or bacteria.
Let Plumb-Tech help you find the best system for your needs.
Both a water softener and filter are devices used to treat water in different ways. Each offers different purposes, functions, benefits and drawbacks depending on your source and needs. If you need help deciding which system is right for your home, contact us for help! You may discover one or both are needed to ensure clean, healthy drinking water for you and your family.
At Plumb-Tech, we take water safety and quality seriously. To speak with one of our trained plumbing technicians about installing a water softener or filtration device in your home, book an appointment today!