Welcome to the second part of the reader’s questions series, where we answer frequently asked questions submitted by our readers. In the last part we addressed how reverse osmosis systems work in general. This time we are going to answer the question: ‘What is the difference between water softeners and ro systems?’
Water Softeners And Reverse Osmosis Systems
The comparison between water softeners and reverse osmosis purification systems does not make much sense to begin with. This has to do with the fact that, in contrast to ro systems, conventional residential water softeners don’t filter the water they process in any way. What a water softener does is, it softens the water by removing calcium, magnesium and certain other metal ions. This removal is usually achieved using ion-exchange resins.
Why Soften Water?
You might ask, why it is necessary to soften water in the first place. There are a couple of reasons to do that. First of all metal ions like calcium and magnesium cause a variety of problems, if they are dissolved in water in large amounts (also called hard water). Hard water can lead to the buildup of limescale, which might foul your plumbing system and household appliances (washing machine, dish washer) and promotes corrosion.
Soft water on the other hand is more compatible with soap and other washing detergents and makes it easier for your dish washer and washing machine to do their job.
Reverse osmosis systems filter water by removing dissolved contaminants and pollutants that might be harmful to our health. Unfortunately the filter membrane does not differentiate between good and bad substances and therefore also removes nutrients that would benefit us. There has been an ongoing discussion about the advantages and disadvantages that come along with a residential ro filter system. You can read more about this discussion here, if you like.
A combination of a whole house water softener to protect the plumbing system and household appliances and a ro purification system to remove chemicals, bacteria, viruses, etc. from your drinking water makes the most sense to me.
In case you don’t have the budget or don’t want to pay for both, make sure to not confuse a water softening device with a purification system or you will end up disappointed. Before you purchase anything, get all the info you need in order to be able to make an informed buying decision.