Inline water filter versus water softeners : the facts
When you want to treat your water supply at home to banish limescale-causing hard water, you have two main choices: fit an inline water filter or a water softener. Here are the facts about each so you can choose what’s best for you.
What is an inline water filter?
An inline water filter is usually fitted to the cold water pipe that serves the central heating combi boiler or sometimes directly up to the kitchen sink, although this is rare. Water is filtered or treated using a few different methods depending on what filter you have, or are planning to install.
The inline water filter keeps itself in full-on stealth mode by being hidden from sight, fitted under the sink or countertop.
What types of inline water filter are there? Magnetic, Electrolytic and Ceramic
Magnetic filters pass the water through a magnet when you open your tap. This bonds the tiny microscopic calcium, magnesium and other particles together. Now they are less likely to bond to your pipes, taps and other components in the system.
Electrolytic filters use a zinc constructed body to react with the copper present in the pipe, creating a charge – again forcing the small particles in the water to bond together.
The ceramic exterior filters sediment, (often found inline on the way to a kitchen tap) filters organic matter and large particle; and the internal carbon core filters chemicals such as chlorine, and waterborne pesticides such as Giardia as well as bacteria. See this as a single use water softener resin chamber. They need changing once every 6 months depending on your water hardness.
What is a water softener?
A water softener removes calcium and magnesium from your water as it enters your home. These two minerals are what makes water ‘hard’, causing limescale and subsequent damage to your boiler and other water-using electrical appliances like your washing machine and dishwasher.
How does a water softener work?
Here’s for the science bit! Water softeners work by using a process called ion exchange, which remove calcium and magnesium. They are usually fitted out of the way but in an accessible place such as a garage or utility room. They soften all the water coming into the home and their size depends on water usage in your home. We’ve got a full page on water softeners you can find here.
Prices of an inline water filter versus a water softener
Inline water filters cost generally less than £200 and a water softening system starts at £400 or so, depending on the number of people in your home and complexity of the softening system.
Should I choose an inline water filter or a water softener?
Inline filters are cheaper and can work in low use, low occupancy situations. In really hard areas, they aren’t really up to the task.
If you really want to treat the water coming into your home properly, you’re going to have install a water softener. It’s the only way to filter, then expel the particles that cause water hardness.
If protecting your boiler, washing machine and other electrical appliances from limescale is your bag, then a water softener is your best bet. It also does a better job of removing limescale. As a bonus, your glassware and your hair will be shinier. For me, it’s the water softener every time!