A Buyer’s Guide on Water Filters and Water Softeners

water filter and water softener

Many homeowners use water filters and softeners to achieve better water quality. Water filters remove contaminants and impurities from water. Water softeners, on the other hand, soften water by removing the minerals responsible for water hardness (calcium and magnesium) through an ion-exchange mechanism. 

Which Do I Need to Buy? Whole House Water Filter or Water Softener?

Before making a decision to buy a whole house water filter or a water softener, you need to test the quality of your home water. Running a test will help you understand the kind of impurities you’re dealing with. You can send a sample of your water to a lab for testing, or test your water yourself using readily available water test kits. The results will determine if you’d be getting a whole house water filter or a water softener. 

Whole House Water Filters

Whole house water filters, otherwise known as point-of-entry water filters, remove impurities from your water before distributing it to outlets around the house.  There are different kinds of whole house water filters, but they all serve the purpose of removing at least one of these impurities; sediments, heavy metals, and chemical by-products from water treatment plants that may cause unpleasant odors and taste in your water. Whole house water filters are usually made up of carbon, and some may even have Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) that helps remove water-soluble metals and bacteria.

What do you need to consider when getting a whole house water filter?

Flow Rates

A whole house water filtration system should have a standard flow rate of at least 10-15gpm. This is to ensure that enough filtered water is available in your home at all times. If the flow rate is too low, you’ll notice a drop in water pressure when you open up your taps.

Micron Ratings

Before deciding on a whole house water filter, check the micron rating. Micron is the standard measurement of the effectiveness of a water filter. The smaller the micron rating, the more contaminants removed, and the better the filtration. For instance, a whole house water filter with a micron rating of about 50 can only filter sand, silt, or rust. A filter with this micron rating would not be the best pick because it would be ineffective against chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria.

But on the flip side, if the micron rating is really small (sub-micron level), there’ll be a problem with water output, pressure, and flow. Micron ratings are usually in 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1, then the sub-micron level. Your micron rating choice should depend on the kind of contaminants you’re filtering out. 

Cost

Another important consideration when buying a whole house water filter is the lifespan and the cost to replace the filter media or cartridges. For example, a filtration system with a large media tank may be expensive but can filter gallons of water at a time, and this saves you cost on maintenance and a lot of money in the long run. Water filters that use cartridges may seem cheaper, but they need replacement at least every six months, so there is a build of cost over time.

Space

Whole house water filters consume a lot of space compared to point-of-use water filters. Before purchasing a whole house water filter, double-check your space situation and ensure you have enough space to install it. 

Water Softeners

Water softeners are made up of resin beads charged with sodium ions. They work by exchanging the minerals that cause water hardness (calcium and magnesium) with sodium ions sticking to the resin beads, trapping and eliminating them. Water softeners are as important as whole house water filters despite their different purposes. They don’t filter out impurities, but if you want to enjoy your water and your home appliances, you need to get one. Hard water is a menace to many homes, and water softeners help correct this problem. Water softeners prevent scale build-up in your household appliances which otherwise causes them to get dull and dirty and to stop working over time.

What is there to consider before buying a water softener?

Type of Water Softener

The most commonly used water softeners are the ion-exchange water softeners described above that contain sodium. Salt-free water softeners are also available and are usually known as water conditioners. You might want to consider this option if you have sodium-related health issues like high blood pressure. Water conditioners bind to hard water ions and prevent scale formation but do not necessarily soften the water, so an ion-exchange water softener is still the preferred choice here.

Cost

Water conditioners are less expensive than ion-exchange water softeners, which may cost thousands of dollars. There’s also the cost of installation and operation of the water softener you consider. Your budget should guide your buying decision.

Grain Capacity 

Grain capacity is the measure of how well a water softener works. Before making a purchase, you need to be sure that your prospective water softener has the ideal grain capacity for your entire home. A large family would consume more water and thus needs a larger grain capacity than a small household.

Flow rate

If you have a large household that consumes a lot of water, your water softener has to have a high flow rate of at least 10-15gpm, and for smaller houses, 7gpm. Having a good flow rate is essential. A low flow rate means your water will flow slowly, which can be frustrating when using the shower.

Combining Whole house Water Filters and Water Softeners

A combination of water filters and water softeners is best to ensure your home has a good water source. Most homeowners combine filters and softeners for optimum water quality. The water filter frees your water from unpleasant odor and impurities, and a water softener softens your water and protects you from scale formation and ruined appliances.

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