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An image of a sink drain - learn the difference between a water filter and water softener with the experts at Zest Plumbing & Drain

Water Softener vs Water Filter

February 8, 2024

You use water for a variety of purposes in your home. It provides you with clean clothes, fresh drinks, sparkling teeth, soft hair, smooth skin, pristine dishes, and more. If you're not enjoying all these benefits, then your water is underperforming and may require a water softener or water filtration system.

The good news is that once you've identified the issues with your water, you can fix this problem with the right home installation. Our team at Zest Plumbing & Drain, can install everything you need to get the fresh home and delicious water that you deserve.

What a Water Softener Does

A water softener removes minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the water. At high levels, these minerals make your water hard. Hard water creates a scaly buildup inside appliances, on water fixtures, and on the heating element in your water heater. This decreases the effectiveness, efficiency, and life span of any appliance that uses water, including your dishwasher, washing machine, water heater, and refrigerator. Hard water also leaves unsightly spots on your dishes and causes your clothing to look dingy even after it's been washed.

A water softener contains a reservoir filled with resin beads that capture magnesium and calcium, trading them for sodium. The system periodically rinses the resin beads in a concentrated salt solution to release the captured minerals and wash them away. As a homeowner, you'll need to keep the water softener tank filled with salt so it can perform this process whenever the resin beads become saturated in minerals.

You should always hire a professional plumber to install a water softener. This system must connect directly to the water lines in your home, tackling hard water as close as possible to the point of entry so you'll have soft water throughout the building. A skilled plumber can help you select the right size system for your home and make sure it's properly installed so you get optimal results from your water softener.

What a Water Filtration System Does

A water filtration system removes contaminants from your water using one or more filters. Many different types of filters serve to remove various contaminants from the water. Some options you'll encounter include:

  • Carbon filters: Carbon filters attract contaminants to the surface of the activated carbon and can even change the composition of certain chemicals. They're effective for capturing pesticides, chloroform, chlorine, and several volatile organic chemicals.
  • UV light: UV radiation from UV lights kills bacteria in the water.
  • Reverse osmosis: Reverse osmosis systems use a semi-permeable membrane with microscopic openings to capture around 95% of contaminants. This filter can remove lead, copper, arsenic, chromium, fluoride, selenium, cadmium, barium, and more.

You can choose a point of entry or whole house filtration system to address water throughout the entire dwelling. This type of system requires a complex installation, so you should work with a licensed plumber. If you just want to focus on contaminants at a particular point in the home � such as the drinking water that comes out of your refrigerator or faucet � you can opt instead for a smaller point-of-use water filter. These come in the form of faucet filters, under-counter filters, and showerhead filters.

Water Softening vs. Filtration: What Do You Need?

A water softener and water filtration system are two very different things. A water softener addresses hard water, while a water filtration system, like reverse osmosis, provides water purification. Depending on the condition of the water in your home you may need only one or both of these installations.

Do I Need a Water Softener?

You should consider installing a water softener if:

  • You suffer from dry skin and brittle hair from the water you shower in.
  • Your hair and skin feel grimy even after you've washed.
  • You have mineral spots on your glasses, flatware, and coffee pot.
  • Your faucets and shower heads have a white scaly buildup.
  • Your water heater's heating element fails often and has a scaly mineral buildup on it.
  • Your water heater makes popping sounds from bubbles rising through mineral buildup on the bottom of the tank.
  • You can't get soap to lather properly in the shower.
  • Your laundry comes out looking dull.
  • Your tub or shower has persistent soap scum in it.

With a water softener, you'll enjoy cleaner water fixtures, more efficient and longer-lived appliances, a good soapy later, and clothes, dishes, skin, and hair that look and feel clean.

Do I Need a Water Filter?

A water filtration system provides water purification either throughout the home or at the point of filtration. Signs you may need water filtration include the following:

  • Water with an unpleasant odor like sulfur or rotten eggs.
  • Water with a strong unpleasant taste.
  • Water that's cloudy or discolored.
  • Known chemical contaminants, such as high levels of iron, in the area where you reside.
  • Persistent unexplained digestive issues.

How Can I Get More Information About My Water?

While the above indicators will give you a general idea of what's wrong with your water, they don't provide a detailed diagnosis. If you're unhappy with the quality of your water but uncertain about which contaminants are causing the problem, you should get a water test. Testing your water will let you know exactly what the issue is so you can choose a filtration system that focuses on the right problems.

Testing the hardness of your water is another good option if you're not certain that hard water is the cause of your troubles. Once you have a clear diagnosis, you can install the exact filtration system or water softener that you need. In some cases, you may want both.

Book Your Water Treatment Appointment Today

If you're having trouble with your water in the Greater Phoenix Valley area in Arizona, our skilled plumbers at Zest Plumbing & Drain, can help. If you're facing an ongoing water quality issue, water filtration or a water softener may help. However, if there's a sudden change in the quality of your water, you may have another issue such as a broken water line. Fortunately, we have a fix for that too. Call us for all your plumbing needs.

Our Current Specials

Save $100

Any size High-Efficiency Water Heater

Expires August 18, 2024. Show coupon to technician to redeem.

Save $500

Tankless Water Heater System

Expires August 18, 2024. Show coupon to technician to redeem.

$35 Off

Any Plumbing Repair

Expires August 18, 2024. Show coupon to technician to redeem.

$50 Off

Garbage Disposal Replacement

Expires August 18, 2024. Show coupon to technician to redeem.

$50 Off

Any Drain Cleaning

Expires August 18, 2024. Show coupon to technician to redeem.

Only $29

Water Heater Flush and Fill

Expires August 18, 2024. Show coupon to technician to redeem.

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