Do you need reverse osmosis and water softener? Or it’s more a question of one or another? Whichever that may be, we are about to find out. Because we’ll go on a deep dive into what each system of water filtration method entails, and what it means for your water at home.
Water is a substance that is chemically composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and exists in all three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. But surely, we all are more accustomed to water that exists at room temperature, tasteless and odorless liquid.
Every life (human, animal, plant) on earth cannot survive without water. We need it to produce food we eat, manufacture products that we use, and sustain life. Seeing as water has such an important place and role in our lives (domestically and industrially speaking), it’s only right that we pay it the attention it deserves.
Water you have running at home, or a commercial entity like a bar, restaurant, or hotel, have you taken the time to wonder about its quality? Cause we consistently use it without paying too much attention to how it came about? We make our coffee at home and may also get one while at work, different tastes we may notice, but not the fact water quality may be different.
Our local tap water often contains minerals and other contaminants that affect its taste and quality. These not only have ramifications for our health but also for the long-term status of our home appliances as well.
To ensure water at our homes is safe enough for drinking and other domestic uses like bathing and washing, we install home filtration systems to help get rid of contaminants and harsh minerals.
Two very popular home filtration systems installed in most homes are the water softener and reverse osmosis (RO) systems. I know some follow-up questions would then be what is the difference between a water softener and an RO system? or what is better, a water system or reverse osmosis?
We’ll answer all those questions very soon, but let’s focus on filtration systems as a whole. We know we should be aiming for the highest quality, best tasting, cleanest and healthiest water we can, all at the cheapest price possible. To achieve that aim for our home use, we’ll need filtration systems.
In the next section, we’ll understand why water directly from the mains may not be the best for domestic use and the important role filtration systems like softeners and reverse osmosis play in our purification process.
What is Water Filtration and Why Install One at Home?
A hallmark of modern civilization is the delivery of pipe-borne water to our homes and offices. Modern supply systems are supposed to make sure all water delivered to our homes is tested and treated to ensure it’s safe for our domestic needs like drinking, cooking, washing, and so on.
Depending on where you live, it can be really difficult to be certain what you get through the municipal water supply is pure and healthy enough. Your water mains may contain high amounts of contaminants such as mineral deposits, chlorine, lead, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Here’s what we call hard water (high in dissolved minerals, largely calcium and magnesium), which can decrease its effectiveness with detergents, and cause scaling in our home appliances like ring boilers, washing machines, etc.
Chlorine and other impurities can give it an unpleasant taste and odor. And also do some damage to your plumbing fixtures and other home appliances.
You want to be as sure as possible that water you use is pure and you want to improve its quality nevertheless, a practical way to do this is to install a filtration system at home. A filtration system may be introduced at a point so that the whole house water system is treated or only at the line in your kitchen faucets or another source.
Drinking and Whole House Water
Before we begin discussing which filtration method is better, or whether you should go for both, we need to differentiate between drinking and whole-house water.
When classifying our domestic water, we make distinctions based on use. Hence, drinking water then refers to what is intended for consumption – such as water taps in the kitchen, and pot fillers. While whole house water refers to that coming out from every other faucet in the house – bathroom sinks or shower heads.
Naturally, you want your drinking water to be in its purest form, so you need to have the best filtration systems manning that section of your domestic supply. There’s a cost-benefit analysis to be had to determine which filtration system be incorporated and at what point in your domestic supply chain should the system be added.
We are all set to dive deeper into reverse osmosis vs water softener.
What Does Reverse Osmosis Mean?
Reverse osmosis (RO) is seen as the gold standard for home water purification. RO filtration is a multistage system that includes forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane.
RO Filtration Systems: What is RO water?
When properly installed, the RO filtration system can filter a large quantity of water and eliminate almost all contaminants. They are designed to operate as the domestic filter for whole house water. And often find application in commercial settings, such as a bottling water company, where purity is very important.
Ro water is the end product of the reverse osmosis purification process. Ro water is effectively free from most impurities, including dissolved minerals, organic molecules, and microorganisms.
What Does Water Softener Mean?
A water softener is a filtration system that targets removal of dissolved minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron – chemical elements that cause hard water – from the home water supply.
A water softener works by exchanging the dissolved minerals that cause hard water for sodium or potassium ions in a straightforward swap process. That’s why it’s also sometimes referred to as a cation exchange system.
What is softened water?
Softened water is the conditioned water you get after replacing dissolved mineral ions like those of calcium and magnesium and exchanging them for sodium ions.
Softened water is gotten after treating hard water following the softener process. The major issue with hard water is that those dissolve minerals can build up in plumbing fixtures, appliances, showers, tubs, and sinks, reducing their lifespan and causing costly repairs.
The water softeners are employed as a whole house water system since hard water will ordinarily come in contact with every appliance or system that makes use of water around the house.
Reverse Osmosis and Water Softener System: Benefits
Both reverse osmosis and water softener systems aim to deliver high-quality water to your house, even though they go about it in different ways.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a filtration process for water achieved by removing contaminants and minerals by passing them through a filter.
The following are the major benefits of RO systems:
· RO systems are very effective in the removal of a wide range of impurities, including dissolved minerals, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds.
· Better-tasting water is achieved because no addition of other chemicals is used during the process.
· Restore water to its odorless and colorless state by removing impurities.
· RO systems can be used for both residential and commercial filtration of water
A water softener is a conditioning process for water achieved by using ionization to replace calcium and magnesium ions – which cause hard water – with salt ions.
The following are the major benefits:
· Removes the ions of calcium and magnesium which causes hardness and replaces them with those of sodium or potassium. This helps increase the lifespan of your home appliances, including reverse osmosis systems if you have one installed.
· Can save you money on your energy bills and home appliance repairs.
Suitable for industrial or residential treatment of water.
Cost Analysis of Installing and Maintaining both Water Softener and Reverse Osmosis Systems
Cost of Installing Reverse Osmosis Systems:
The cost of installing a reverse osmosis system comes down to two major factors: the filtration capacity of the system and the specific impurities that you want to get rid of. However, the average cost of installing a reverse osmosis system is between $300 and $1,200. Bu reverse osmosis systems can get more complex and larger, in which case, you can expect the cost to skyrocket.
Cost of Maintaining Reverse Osmosis Systems:
Thankfully, the maintenance cost of a reverse osmosis system is relatively low, especially when compared to that of water softeners. What needs regular maintenance are the filters and permeate tank: the filter will need changing while the permeate tank cleaning. And when impurities and contaminants clog up the system, you may need to flush periodically to remove the build-up.
Cost of Installing Water Softeners:
The cost of installing a water softener also comes down to two main factors: the size of the system and the specific features selected. Generally, a water softener typically costs anything from $300 to $3000.
The lesser priced softeners are generally installed at the point of use (POU) so that they have a smaller capacity when compared to the higher priced systems which are usually installed at the point of entry (POE) – essential for whole house water.
Cost of Maintaining Water Softeners:
More maintenance is typically required for softener devices compared to reverse osmosis. A sodium or potassium salt will need to be added regularly to produce soft water. Also, water softeners need to be descaled at least once a year. The cost of all these maintenance activities for a water softener cost more money than changing filters. Hence, softening devices are more costly to maintain.
Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener: Which System Should you Choose
To know the right filtration and purification system to use for your home, you need to know the condition of your municipal water supply and the kind of impurities it contains.
That being said, reverse osmosis is employed to increase the quality and remove a wide range of impurities from the water, including dissolved minerals, bacteria, viruses, and organic molecules. Water softener, on the other hand, softens hard water by removing dissolved minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, from your municipal supply.
Who’s to say the hard water supplied to your home may not also contain a high amount of impurities, bacteria, and organic compounds? Perhaps, it may be best not to decide between either one system, but by incorporating both filtration systems to purify your home water.
Do You Need Reverse Osmosis and Water Softener?
The reverse osmosis system can eliminate a wide variety of water impurities and contaminants, including dissolved minerals, viruses, and organic compounds. The RO system is very effective by all accounts and can eliminate 99% percent of contaminants.
But it is not the most effective treatment for hard water, especially when the calcium and magnesium ion levels are very high. You may still feel the effect of hard water on your skin or hair, and your appliances would still experience some levels of scaling and clogging – even the RO system is not left out!
The Water Softener does the job of softening your water to the letter. The chief culprits (calcium, magnesium, and iron ions) are easily displaced when hard water is treated with softeners (often with harmless salts of sodium or potassium) inside the water-softening device.
Most homes usually install a form of water filtration system, such as reverse osmosis, with the belief that would be enough to purify their home water supply. To a certain degree, only one filtration method can the needed quality.
But the effects of hard water on the lifespan of home appliances can be significant. Reverse osmosis systems are just like any other appliance which can get bogged down because they come in contact with high amounts of hard water for them to be useful to us.
In essence, installing a water softener can benefit your home, regardless of whether you have other filtration systems installed already.
Most Comprehensive Home Water Filtration
To get the highest quality from your home supply, you need to combine water softener with reverse osmosis, thus bringing the best both systems have to offer together. Such a combination will remove the most stubborn impurities, and contaminants, including dissolved minerals, bacteria, viruses, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
While both systems are effective when used alone, you must install the softener device before the RO unit. This ensures the RO system does not waste resources trying to eliminate minerals that have already been treated and softened. Also, the softener will help remove minerals that will build up in the reverse osmosis system, thus increasing the lifespan of your RO unit.
Installing a filtration system is the most effective way to remove impurities and increase the quality of your water supply. A water softener is particularly effective against dissolved minerals like calcium that cause the hardness of water, while a reverse osmosis (RO) system can eliminate a wide range of contaminants.
Whole-house water softeners and reverse osmosis are becoming the norm these days. The combination of both systems gives the most comprehensive filtration and purification solution for your residential and commercial use.
The cost of such a system typically depends on the size of your house, the plumbing fixtures, and the filtration complexity. A professional will be able to lay down your options and recommend a combination that utilizes the obvious strong points of both reverse osmosis and water softener at a price you can afford.