We get this question a lot — which water softener system is best for my house? It really depends on a few factors. The size of your home, the water usage in your home, and your water hardness. Options range from water softeners that solely remove the minerals (calcium/magnesium) from the water to whole-home water filtration and softening systems that also remove contaminants like chlorine, pesticides, herbicides and other chemical compounds.
Water Softening vs Water Filtration vs Water Purification
Water softening is the process that removes calcium and magnesium; minerals that cause hardness and scale in water.
Water filtration removes contaminants and can be as small as a water jug (think of those carbon filtered pitchers that hold a gallon of water and fit inside your refrigerator) or incorporated into home appliances.
Water purification removes bacteria and viruses through reverse osmosis as well as 95-97% of all dissolved solids..
Learn more about water softeners, water filters and water purification on our FAQ page.
There are several types of water treatment systems for homes:
- Salt-based ion exchange water softeners
- Salt-free, magnetic water descalers also known as water conditioners
- Reverse osmosis (RO)
Ion-Exchange Water Softeners
Water Softeners consist of two tanks. One tank that is filled with cation resin beads that remove the hardness minerals from the water, and another tank that holds salt brine that is used to clean or recharge the beads after the resin capacity has been used. This process is called ion exchange and is required for the water softener to continue to operate.
Is an ion exchange water softener right for me?
Standard water softeners last 10 to 15 years. You will need to regularly check the levels of salt crystals and fill the brine tank, and those bags of salt pellets can be heavy. Some people don’t like the way water tastes after it has been softened, and if you’re on a low-sodium diet, you may not want the additional sodium in your water. The process can add about 7.5 milligrams of sodium per quart of water for every grains per gallon (gpg) of hard minerals removed.
Our recommendation: The Evolv™ water filtration system combines dual-tank water softener technology with carbon filtration, which can save about 30% on salt and water usage, and the filtration process improves the taste of the water. Take the quiz to find out if this water filtration system is right for you.
Magnetic Salt-Free Water Conditioners
Water softening removes calcium and magnesium from water (see the previous section on ion-exchange water softeners). So when you see “salt-free water softeners” what they are really talking about is salt-free water conditioners or descalers.
A water descaler doesn’t remove the minerals from hard water; rather, it minimizes the effects of minerals on your pipes and appliances. Sometimes this technology is called water conditioning. The water conditioner charges the particles in the water so they don’t adhere to your pipes. Instead, they stay in the water, so it’s not ideal for severe hard water because you’ll still see spots on your dishes and your soap won’t lather.
When homeowners gravitate toward salt-free water softeners, it’s because they like the idea of not using chemicals or sodium/salt crystals to treat hard water.
Salt-free water softeners are actually water conditioners and don’t do anything to reduce the hard minerals in water, though.
Is a magnetic water conditioner right for me?
This technology is OK for homes that have low levels of hard water. It doesn’t remove hard water minerals. If you’re looking for a maintenance-free system, and you’re OK with some hard water residue, then this could be the right one for you.
Our recommendation: Of all the solutions we cover in this article, this is the one we’d recommend least. In the long run it will not solve the long-term problems that come with hard water, especially in Phoenic where water hardness is quite high.
Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration
If you want water that is the same quality is bottled water (and you want to cut costs from buying bottled water plus reduce waste from single-use plastic bottles), reverse osmosis water filtration may be the right option for your home.
Reverse osmosis is not used for a whole house. You don’t want reverse osmosis at the whole-house level because it would be like flushing expensive, perfectly tasty filtered bottled water down the drain each time you flush. Instead it is used for drinking, cooking, ice and other smaller uses.
Some people use both — a whole-house water softener paired with reverse osmosis at the sink.
Is reverse osmosis water purification right for me?
If you’re looking to improve the taste of your drinking water and you want to cut down on bottled water, then yes, a reverse osmosis system is right for your home (or business).
Our recommendation: With Arizona’s hard water, we recommend combining a reverse osmosis system with a water softener. While an RO system removes 97% of all contaminants, including calcium and magnesium that makes water hard, your system will last much longer if it is purifying already-softened water. RO is also only meant for drinking, cooking, tea and juice. If you want soft water for showering or to protect your pipes, that requires a whole-house water softener.
Which Water Treatment System is Best for Your Arizona Home?
This article probably took you about 3 minutes to read … even less if you’re a scanner, like most of us these days. And now that you’ve finished, you’re a little wiser about water treatment options for your Arizona home. But chances are, you have even more questions.
Save yourself more time and jump on a no-pressure call with our founder, Matt Ulrich. He’ll talk you through your options. Trust us, he loves a good water purification challenge, and he knows Arizona water like no other.