With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.

Over the years, water filtration and purification technology has improved significantly. We rely on a consistent supply of clean living to stay healthy and hydrated. So, it should come as no surprise that many people are taking a greater interest in the cleanliness of their water supply. There are many different types of water purification, but in this article, we will be focusing our attention on water softeners and charcoal water filters. We will examine how each method works, how effective they are, and compare them to discover if one is better than the other.

Water Softeners

A water softener is a piece of equipment that removes dissolved mineral content that may be present in your water supply. Water with elevated levels of minerals, such as calcium, sulfates, bicarbonates, and magnesium bicarbonates. Is known as “hard water.” As the water makes its way into our waterways or groundwater, it may pass through rocks deposits where this mineral content is added.

Hard water is a particular problem for many homeowners in a number of different ways. It’s isn’t harmful to health directly, but when the water dries out, it leaves behind a thin film of mineral material. So, after showering or washing your hair, these minerals dry on your skin, and this is why many people have skin conditions or flat hair. These mineral deposits are also left behind on surfaces in your home where they form hard water spots or stains that can be tricky to remove. Hard water mineral deposits also build up in your plumbing and water using appliances. This can lead to inefficiency, frequent breakdowns, and premature failure of expensive machines.

Some water softeners work by removing the hard water mineral ions and replacing them with softer sodium (salt) ions. The amount of salt used is very small, but some people don’t like the taste, or they need to be on a salt free diet. For this reason, there are also salt free water softeners available that trap the hardening ions in a bed of resin beads.

It’s important to understand that a water softener will only remove hard water minerals from the water supply to make the water easier to use in the home. If you want clean and safe water using a water softener alone will not get you the improved water cleanliness that you’re looking for.

Charcoal Water Filters

Charcoal has been used for thousands of year to filter water for human consumption. As a filtration media, charcoal has a number of useful properties that we still use to this day. Charcoal has an incredibly porous structure; this makes it ideal for trapping very small particles, including bacteria and various other microorganisms.

Many modern water filtration systems used activated charcoal that is sometimes known as activated carbon. Activated charcoal is processed to be even more efficient at trapping pollutants in its low volume pores and at the same time, the water passes straight through the filter media.

Most charcoal based modern water filters use activated charcoal granules or powder as the filtration media. Activated charcoal powder is typically more effective at removing a higher percentage of impurities when compared to granular media. Both types are very effective at removing pollutants and solutes from the water supply.

Charcoal or carbon based filters are less effective at killing bacteria and other microorganisms. Although the filter will trap the bacteria, it is still alive, and thus it is capable of reproducing and spreading throughout the filtration media. Eventually, the bacterial growth will overwhelm the filter entirely and spread into the water passing through. Man newer charcoal based water filters are now augmented with other filtration methods such as naturally antibacterial silver that can kill any pathogens trapped in the filtration media. This delivers an even better quality of water that’s clean and free from bacteria, viruses, cysts, and other pathogens.

Which System is Best?

Well, as you can see, water softeners and charcoal water filters are actually two very different methods to treat your water supply. As such, they are not comparable, and each water treatment method is designed to deal with a specific problem. Whether you choose a water softener or an activated charcoal water filter will depend on your particular circumstances.

If you have a number of hard water issues in your home, it makes sense to install a water softener. This is a fairly simple piece of equipment that’s easy to install and use once you get used to it. Many modern water softeners have an automatic regeneration cycle to clean the resin beads inside and remove the trapped mineral ions. If you have a sodium based water softener all you need to do is top up the softener with special salt that you can find at any hardware store. Aside from an annual service, a water softener is relatively hassle free to use.

If you’re more concerned about the cleanliness of your water, an activated charcoal water filtration system is the best choice. Many homeowners that have installed this type of water filtration system are surprised at the difference that it makes to their lives. When you have purified water for drinking and cooking, you may immediately notice a change in how things taste. Food that has been prepared and cooked in cleaner water will taste better because the taste is no longer tainted by contaminants. When your drinking water tastes better people are more inclined to drink more of it, and this leads to improved levels of hydration.

Why Not Both?

While you could make a decision between these two very different types of water treatment systems, it’s likely that you would choose to install both. Many homes now experience water quality and hard water problems. This makes the water less safe to drink and harder to use for bathing, cleaning, and other tasks around the home. Installing an activated charcoal water filter and a water softener in your home will have a dramatic effect on the quality of life for you and your family.