What’s the Difference Between a Water Conditioner and a Water Softener?
Phoenix-area residents should know that this region has some of the hardest water in the country. Hardness is determined by the amount of dissolved magnesium and calcium in the water. Water is considered “hard” at 7.0 to 10.5 grains per gallon (gpg). Anything over 10.5 gpg is “very hard.”
Test results from the City of Phoenix’s 2020 Water Quality Report showed a total hardness of 9.9 to 16.1 gpg. These numbers are off the charts! If you have decided to combat the hard tap water in your Arizona home, you may be wondering whether you need a water softener or a water conditioner to get the job done. Learn the difference between the two terms to help you understand the choice you’re making.
Why Soften Your Water?
While drinking hard water doesn’t necessarily threaten your health, you still don’t want it flowing through your pipes. Here are some of the problems associated with hard water:
- Scale buildup: When hard water evaporates it leaves deposits behind, creating unsightly scale buildup on your kitchen and bathroom fixtures. The scaling can even reduce the efficiency and shorten the lifespan of your dishwasher, washing machine, water heater, and coffee pot/kettle.
- Plumbing clogs: The minerals in hard water can build up inside your pipes and eventually cause a clog/low water volume.
- Dry skin and brittle hair: After showering in hard water, you may notice your skin feels dry and irritated. Hard water may exacerbate eczema. Your hair may also become brittle and lose its luster over time.
- Etched dishes and faded clothes: Washing your dishware and clothing in hard water makes these products look older, faster. You may notice spotted silverware, etched glasses, and dull, sagging clothes.
What is a Water Conditioner?
Any system that changes water quality for the better can be grouped under the term “water conditioner.” This broad category includes water softeners, reverse osmosis systems, and carbon filtration. Conditioned water can be soft, but not all water conditioners soften water. Also, various companies in the water treatment industry may use the term conditioner differently.
How Do Water Conditioners Work?
Different types of water conditioners use different technologies to treat your drinking water. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to remove calcium, magnesium, and other minerals from the water, thus reducing its hardness. Only a water treatment system that softens water to below 1.0 gpg can legally be called a water softener.
- Reverse osmosis systems first pass water through a pre-filter to remove sediment and chlorine. Then, it forces the water through a semi-permeable membrane to remove dissolved solids. Finally, a post-filter polishes the drinking water before it flows to your faucets and fixtures. Advanced systems, like Kinetico’s K5 Drinking Water Station, also remove bacteria and viruses when using the bio-pure filter option.
- Carbon filtration removes unwanted chemicals, such as chlorine and sulfur, by running water through a granular activated carbon filter. These chemicals are attracted to the carbon, leaving clean water to flow through your home. At Kinetico here in the Phoenix metro area, we call this “whole house filtration”.
Install a Water Softener or Other Water Conditioner
Kinetico Water proudly offers a range of independently certified whole-home water conditioners, including water softeners, dechlorinators, purifiers, and more. Our goal is to help make your water as clean, safe, and delicious-tasting as possible. Contact us today for more information about choosing a water treatment solution for your home in Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, or Scottsdale, AZ.