Soft water is responsible for keeping our hair shiny, skin soft, and saves our appliances from a shortened lifespan due to one common culprit: hard water. Hard water is an issue for many Calgarians due to the calcium and magnesium levels that flow from the Bow and Elbow Rivers. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean the best water softener system will be your only solution or even solve your water-related issues. A water conditioner may be better suited depending on a few key factors.
Hard Water Problems and Soft Water Solutions
You’ve likely come across the term hard water, but what exactly does that mean for your health and home? If there are a lot of dissolved minerals in the water, such as calcium and magnesium for Calgarians, this is considered hard water. These minerals, which come in the form of ions, accumulate in your water as it travels through the ground.
Hard water’s most noticeable effect is the mineral build-up on surfaces that have come into contact with it, like your coffee machine, kitchen tap, or showerhead. These mineral deposits are referred to as “scaling.” It’s important to check the bathroom fixtures and surfaces like the shower doors for signs of hard water effects. Scale accumulation, a white mineral deposit, is the most common red flag of hard water in your home.
The mineral build-up will also accumulate on surfaces other than those in your bathroom and kitchen. Over time, it can take over the interior walls of pipes. It may also wreak havoc on water-heating appliances like your dishwasher or water heater. The scale accumulation on these appliances will diminish their efficiency and shorten their lifespan.
On the other hand, if you’re running into other harmful chemicals such as chlorine, chloramines, volatile organic compounds, or more, a water conditioner may be better suited with a combined softening feature.
When deciding between a water conditioner vs water softener, it’s crucial to keep in mind that the two systems work differently and remove various impurities. Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between a water softener and a water conditioner, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each system.
What is a water softener?
A water softener is the most common choice for many Calgarians to combat the hard water for their home and business. It works through an ion exchange referred to as reverse osmosis by dissolving the mineral ions and replacing them with sodium or potassium.
What is a water conditioner?
A water conditioner isn’t actually designed to soften the water. Instead, its job is to change the water composition to halt scaling build-up on your pipes and fixtures. Just because it’s not a water softener doesn’t mean you won’t see major benefits.
Water softeners and conditioners act in different ways and provide various outcomes. Most water conditioners are salt-free systems designed to eliminate undesired chemicals from your water’s flavour and smell. Among these chemicals are lead, chlorine, chloramines, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and organic gases.
The way it works will vary depending on the type of water conditioner you have. Some water conditioners filter away undesired substances from the water as it flows through the system, resulting in cleaner water. Other water conditioners provide soft water advantages by modifying the mineral structure of the water through a substance known as template-assisted crystallization (TAC) media.
Water conditioners run with lower maintenance, less cost, typically take up less space and improve your drinking water. But before you’re sold on it, you’ll want to know the big differences in water quality, maintenance, and problems each system solves.
The Best Water Softener System
If your goal is to improve your water quality, you’ll need to read the next section carefully. Water conditioner vs water softener have significant differences, so you’ll need to compare the following criteria to find the best system that will solve your home’s water issue.
The actual feel and quality of the water is the most considerable distinction between water conditioners and water softeners. Water softeners are only responsible for exchanging water hardening ions with sodium ions and do not filter well or tap water.
On the other hand, water conditioners filter the water and eliminate contaminants, but they leave hardening minerals like calcium and magnesium in the water.
If you’re only concerned with reducing water hardness and don’t care about the quality of the water, a water softener is the best solution. A water conditioner is a better choice if you’re more worried about water quality than hardness. This method removes chlorine, fluorine, sulphur, carcinogenic disinfectant byproducts, pesticides, herbicides, and other dangerous substances from your drinking and cooking water, rather than hardness. Keep in mind that these chemicals aren’t present in every home’s water supply, so a water test is recommended to determine what your water quality needs are.
When it comes to the feel of the best water softener system for your home, a water conditioner will have a more natural feeling, whereas a water softener will create a slippery feel to your water.
Aside from the initial price of purchasing a water conditioner vs water softener, you should also consider the ongoing costs of operating and maintaining your selected system.
Water conditioners are the most cost-effective to run because they rely solely on water pressure to operate. The pollutants are pushed against the filters by the running tap water, absorbing them. This saves on both energy and water costs since there isn’t any power used throughout the process or wastewater to dispose of. All you need to do is change the filter once a year.
On the other hand, water softeners require a bit more attention and an upkeep cost.
Water softeners are in charge of creating ion exchange in water, which requires the use of energy. These systems also employ salt to add sodium ions to your water, which means you’ll have to change cartridges on a frequent basis. When you add it all together, your annual operating costs might easily surpass $200.
Water Conditioner vs Water Softener – What Should You Get?
If you’re concerned about the general quality of tap or well water, investing in a water conditioning system is your best choice. If the water you’re using is already clean, but you’re concerned about scale-forming minerals and are looking for added benefits such as soft skin and hair, a water softener is better suited for your needs.
Our plumbing specialists can examine your treatment requirements and make specific recommendations based on the water problems you want to be solved. Whether it’s a foul odour or the effects of hard water you need to combat, we’re your local resource for the best home solutions. If you’re not sure what the best water softener system is for you, call Plumbing and Heating Paramedics now to talk with one of our experts.
Do you have a water softener or water conditioner? Did you notice any changes after it was installed? What surprised you? Share your experience to help other readers decide which system is best for them.