You might assume that the water that comes from your tap is clean. Public water systems have to follow standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before water reaches pipes delivering it to homes and businesses.
But the water that arrives is still full of contaminants and minerals. The levels of the contaminants are not supposed to pose a serious health risk, but populations including infants, children, pregnant women, and people with compromised may be vulnerable to those contaminants.
Even water with safe levels of contaminants can have odor and taste issues, which can affect the quality of your drinking and cooking water. Water filtration removes toxins and contaminants from water we use to drink, cook with, brush our teeth with and bathe in.
If you ingest dirty water that slipped by testing, like the tragic Flint Water Crisis, you might ingest contaminated water that leads to future health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports drinking water sources can cause sickness from waterborne germs, including E. coli and Hepatitis A. Some of the things that may be in dirty water include:
- Animal or human excrement
- Toxins like heavy metals and fertilizers
- Organisms like worms
- Pathogens and sediments, like bacteria and viruses
Water filtration eliminates harmful contaminants. Water can be processed in a variety of ways, depending on your needs. Two types of water resulting from treatment methods are softened water and reverse osmosis water. Here’s a look at the difference.
What’s Water Softening?
Water softening is a process that removes high amounts of minerals, like magnesium and calcium, from water. Hard water may technically be safe to drink, but it can clog up your pipes, leave a filmy residue on your skin and hair, and affect the water’s ability to lather in washing machines, showers and sinks.
If you’re seeing stains on faucets or clothes, or your dishes have spotty films on them after they’ve been through the dishwasher, or you have a film of residue on your hands after you wash them with soap, you might have hard water that could benefit from a water softener.
Water softeners contain polystyrene beads that are bonded to positively charged sodium ions. When water passes through the water softener, the water’s magnesium and calcium ions swap with the sodium ions from the beads. The result is water that can lather and that won’t clog your pipes.
Eventually, the polystyrene beads will lose all the sodium and contain just the mineral ions. To maintain the water softener function, you’ll need to add water softener salt to the water softener periodically to recharge the beads with sodium chloride.
Water softeners and installation range in cost from around $800 to $3,000, depending on how big the home is. Water softener salt replacement costs average around $2 to $15 per month.
Compared to costly water bills that can result from clogged pipes due to hard water, a water softener may be a sensible investment for your home.
What’s Reverse Osmosis Filtration?
In reverse osmosis filtration, water pressure pushes tap water against a semipermeable membrane that removes water impurities. The contaminants are left behind, and the clean drinking water collects in a holding tank.
Reverse osmosis produces clean drinking water that is on par with bottled water, since bottled water undergoes reverse osmosis, as well. Reverse osmosis is a popular choice for homeowners and business owners who want to have the purest water available for drinking and cooking and who want to save on having to purchase bottled water. Reverse osmosis water is typically used only for drinking, cooking, ice, coffee, tea, and juice beverages.
Reverse osmosis provides better tasting water because it is the only water purification method that removes total dissolved solids, or TDS, which can cause water to taste strange or badly, especially in areas where tap water has a TDS level of 200ppm or more. This is why many people prefer to drink purified water. Reverse osmosis will reduce TDS from water by up to 95%.
While water produced from a water softener is safe to drink, water that goes through a reverse osmosis system becomes even purer, because it removes contaminants that may be left behind in water that passes through a water softener system.
Reverse osmosis systems remove pollutants and other elements including:
- Dissolved salts
How Does Reverse Osmosis Work?
During the reverse osmosis process, the water first goes through a sediment filter that removes sediment and dirt. Then, water passes through a carbon filter, which removes chlorine and improves the scent and taste of water.
The water then reaches the reverse osmosis membrane, which filters out around 95% to 97% of all other water contaminants. Some reverse osmosis systems have a final polishing filter, which removes any remaining odor or taste issues in the water.
Reverse osmosis systems can cost around $450 to $600, including installation. Depending on the type of reverse osmosis filter you have and your water usage volume, you’ll need to replace membranes and filters every 6 months to 2 years.
Does Reverse Osmosis Soften Water?
Even with the sediment filter in a reverse osmosis system, reverse osmosis is not able to remove or reduce magnesium and calcium as effectively as a water softener. Hard water that passes through a reverse osmosis system can cause mineral build-up and decrease the effectiveness of the reverse osmosis system’s membrane, which can decrease the quality of the water it produces. This is why it’s recommended to have both a water softener and a reverse osmosis system. For those who would like minerals in their water, special mineral enhancing filters can be used on reverse osmosis systems to replace the minerals that have been removed by the membrane.
Especially if you are looking for water treatment in Phoenix, it’s important to consider a water softener and water filtration through reverse osmosis. According to the United States Geological Survey, Phoenix has some of the highest hard water levels in the United States. Hard water is particularly prevalent in the western United States, so it’s common for high levels of magnesium and calcium to be found in Phoenix-area tap water.
Do I need Both a Water Softener and a Reverse Osmosis Filter?
The higher the hard water levels, the more likely you’ll experience filmy residue on things you’re cleaning and the inability to lather soap with your water. You might also experience clogged pipes more often, which can make appliances less effective and efficient and cause them to be replaced more often. People living in places with somewhat hard water or low levels of hard water may be able to not use a water softener and not experience these things with their water.
A water softener system does have upfront costs, but it can save you exponentially compared to problems you might experience with your plumbing. Not to mention, your quality of life is valuable. If you’re constantly washing dishes or clothes to remove a filmy residue, a water softener can save you time and money.
The reverse osmosis system further transforms the water after it goes through a water softener into water that tastes and smells great and is free from a greater percentage of contaminates and significantly fewer TDS. For that reason, reverse osmosis water is used solely for high-quality drinking water, coffee, tea, ice, and other consumption. For the purest drinking water, a reverse osmosis system with a water softener is the best solution.
Water Softening and Filtration for Your Home
If you live in the Phoenix area, you likely have hard water. A water softener will remove minerals like calcium and magnesium, so your water doesn’t clog your pipes and it lathers like it’s supposed to.
If you want to drink water that is free from contaminants, then a reverse osmosis filter is essential. Especially in businesses like restaurants or places that serve water, a reverse osmosis filter can cut down on the need to purchase bottled water and ensure you’re serving customers with the highest-quality water available.
Contact the Clear Water Concepts team for help selecting a water softener and/or reverse osmosis filtration system for your home or business.