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Water Softening vs. Reverse Osmosis: What’s the Diference?

Sarasota-area homeowners looking to improve the quality of their water are often confused as to the difference between and uses of water softeners and reverse osmosis systems.

Sarasota-area homeowners looking to improve the quality of their water are often confused as to the difference between and uses of water softeners and reverse osmosis systems.

Knowing which is the right option for your home comes down to understanding what each of these water treatment systems do and how they can benefit you and your family. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you differentiate the two.

Reverse Osmosis = Filtration

Reverse osmosis water filtration systems are becoming popular among homeowners (especially those with wells) looking for better-tasting, healthier water.
 
A reverse osmosis system physically removes contaminants and dissolved minerals in your water by forcing them through a filter. Some of the benefits of installing a whole-home or point-of-use reverse osmosis system are:

  • Tasteless water – If you find your water has a funny taste, a reverse osmosis system can help by removing the source of the taste.
  • No chemicals – Reverse osmosis systems are more environmentally friendly than other water filtration systems because they don’t use any chemicals.
  • Soft water – Reverse osmosis systems remove the minerals that cause hard water. So if you install a whole-house system, you can benefit from fewer corroded pipes.
  • Removes odors and unusual colors – Some water contaminants and dissolved minerals can cause strange odors and colors in your water. Reverse osmosis systems remove these minerals and pollutants.

It’s not all sun and daisies for reverse osmosis systems, though. They can be inefficient, returning as little as 5 to 15% of the water that is filtered (with the rest going down the drain.)
 
Recommended uses: If you have a home with a well that needs filtration, a whole-home reverse osmosis system may be a good idea. Also, if the water in your home tastes or smells funny, you can install a point-of-use system under your sink for cleaner, better-tasting drinking water.

Water Softeners = Conditioning

Where reverse osmosis systems rely on a filter to physically remove contaminants and dissolved minerals from the water, a water softener uses a process known as ionization to replace magnesium and calcium ions with sodium (salt) ions.
 
Hard water is water that contains high concentrations of dissolved minerals like magnesium and calcium. A water softener “softens” your water by replacing these minerals with less destructive minerals (sodium.)
 
Benefits of soft water:

  • Natural taste
  • Brighter laundry
  • Cleaner dishes
  • Longer-lasting appliances
  • Fewer clogs

Hard water can cause a number of problems in a home. Water softeners were designed to help mitigate those problems. However, the regeneration process of water softeners has come under fire by environmental agencies.
 
Recommended uses: A water softener may be a good idea if you are continually having problems with plumbing corrosion because of hard water. Water softeners are not filtration systems and do not remove other contaminants.
 
Want more help assessing the water quality needs of your home? Our Plumbing Today plumbers would be happy to help. Schedule a free estimate online.