Navigating Water Treatment: Softeners vs. Filters

In an age where environmental awareness and personal health have taken center stage, the quest for clean and safe water has become paramount. And, as people increasingly prioritize the quality of their drinking water, discussions around water treatment options have gained momentum. Among the array of choices available, two solutions often stand out: water softeners and water filters. While both aim to enhance your water supply, water softeners and water filters work differently to solve specific issues. Let’s dive into their differences to help you determine which system would best suit your home’s needs.

A Water Filter’s Purpose

As the name implies, this system filters your water to remove any impurities or toxins. Even if your municipal water is tested and treated, if you live in or around San Antonio, your water likely comes from an aquifer. This means that anything that’s on or in the ground—including fertilizer, industrial chemicals, plastic, discarded drugs, and heavy metals—will eventually make its way into the aquifer, and therefore into your water supply. Overtime, untreated water can have negative effects on your health and corrode your pipes.

Because wastewater treatment facilities aren’t set up to remove pharmaceuticals or microplastics from the water supply, a water filter can provide peace of mind that the water you’re drinking is as free from potential contaminants as possible. This is especially important for homes that use well water, which isn’t treated in a central facility and may be contaminated by farm chemicals or other surface runoff.

There are two types of water filtration systems: whole house and Reverse Osmosis (RO). Whole house water filters attach to your home’s main water supply line and filter all the water that enters your home, usually with activated carbon. RO systems, also known as point-of-use water filters, work by pushing the water through a multi stage system including a permeable membrane that removes contaminants. While it’s true that RO water filtration systems achieve filtration and softening simultaneously through this process, these systems aren’t suitable for a whole-house application because of its high water waste, space requirements, and corrosive effects on metal  piping (including copper). Instead, RO systems are best used as a point-of-use filter, like one attached directly to your kitchen sink, refrigerator, or bathroom sink and shower.

A Water Softener’s Purpose

Unlike a water filter, which is designed to deal with substances that don’t belong in the water supply, a water softener “softens” water by removing naturally-occurring minerals. 

San Antonio is known for its mineral-heavy water. And while minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron can be healthy in small doses, they can also wreak havoc on your plumbing and appliances. Hard water can leave mineral build up inside your pipes, increasing the risk of clogs, and can shorten the lifespan of appliances like your water heater, dishwasher, and washing machine. At high levels, you may even notice negative effects to your skin and hair.

Water softeners serve to reduce the wear and tear on your appliances and can reduce the amount of soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, and conditioner your household uses. There’s only one true water softening solution for San Antonioans: ion-exchange softeners. These systems use sodium or potassium salt to replace mineral ions with sodium or potassium molecules.

How To Choose

Ultimately, having a filter and a softener is the best choice for all-around purified, softened, and great-tasting water. But, if you’re forced to choose between one or the other, there are a couple of factors to consider.

  • What is your water source?

Water filters are a must-have for any well water systems, since there’s no other process in place to ensure that your water is free from contaminants. If you have municipal water that is regularly tested and treated, water filters aren’t as critical, though they’re still nice to have, especially when you consider where San Antonio water comes from.

  • What type of water heater do you have?

If you have a tankless water heater, it’s important to have a water softener. Because these water heaters process and heat large volumes of water instead of storing them in a tank (like traditional water heaters), they’re especially vulnerable to mineral buildup. Running San Antonio’s mineral-heavy water through a tankless heater without softening the water first will significantly shorten your water heater’s lifespan.

Ready to Discuss?

Still unsure what kind of water treatment system(s) would best suit your home’s needs? Get in touch with North East Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. Our technicians can evaluate your household’s needs and work to connect you with the system (or systems) that will provide you with the most benefit. Give us a call at (210) 658-0111 or visit our website today to schedule a consultation.


Call: 210-658-0111