Water softener Vs water descaler, how do they work? and their benefits

water softener vs descaler

Many of the homes are supplied with hard water, while hard water itself is not a problem. The high mineral content found in hard water can cause problems in the form of limescale. Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are dissolved into water from chalk and limescale rocks creating hard water.

The higher the mineral content in the water, the harder is the water. While these minerals are not harmful to humans and can be good for you. The calcium carbonate (or limescale) that forms when hard water is heated can create numerous problems for your plumbing and appliances.

Therefore, households and businesses may wish to find methods to alleviate the problems hard water can cause. Water softeners and water descalers are two methods to reduce the problems associated with hard water.

However, a common misconception is that water descalers and water softeners work in the same way, which is not the case. The only common feature between the two is they both alleviate hard water problems and limescale deposits. Otherwise, the two types of filtration systems work completely differently.

Here is a rundown of how both work and the benefits you can receive from using each system.

What is a water descaler?

Water descalers are small and convenient devices that can easily be installed on your main water supply. This device neither alters the chemical composition of water nor removes minerals that cause scale build-up.

How does water descaler work?

Electronic water descalers really work and create an electromagnetic field that forces ions of calcium/magnesium bicarbonate to crystalize and descale. Descaling restricts these ions from sticking inside of the pipe, and appliances.

Using a water descaler provides you with the benefits of soft water, such as preventing corrosion of iron & steel piping and preventing scale deposits with maintaining healthy minerals. All that is required for installation is locating your main supply pipe, attaching the coils of wire from the descaler, and fixing the unit to a nearby fixture.

Benefits of Water Descaler

  • The main benefit of installing a water descaler is the prevention of scale build-up.
  • It treats the water to prevent scale build-up and will allow appliances to work more efficiently and extend the lifespan.
  • However, water descalers will not remove any existing build-up of scale but do not allow further build-up which makes cleaning easier.
  • Saves water pipes from getting insulated, helping to cut down on your heating bills.
  • People suffering from skin conditions have also noted an improvement in their conditions as well.
  • Descalers only require electricity to operate with very little maintenance required and do not leave salt or other mineral traces in the water, as water softeners do.
  • Water descaler does not waste the water during descaling the water.

Read FAQ’s related to water descaler here.

What is a water softener?

A water softener is a device designed to reduce water hardness by removing the minerals that cause scale build-up using a process called ion exchange. Unlike water descalers, water softeners remove the minerals in hard water to make the water ‘soft’.

Softeners are available in multiple different sizes and styles and can be installed anywhere, including utility rooms, garages, cupboards, or by the main water supply. However, water softeners are not as small and convenient as water descalers and take up much more installation space.

Water softeners are not as easily installed either as a discharge hose needs to be fitted by a drainpipe or water outlet, thereby requiring a plumber or professionals to install the water softener system. Professionals can also guide to select the best water softener for your use.

How does a water softener work?

A water softener is a mechanical appliance that uses a chemical reaction called ion exchange to remove calcium and magnesium ions from the hard water to soften the water. A water softener works in a completely different way than descalers.

The Mineral Tank of the water softener is filled with permanently fitted, formulated polystyrene beads also called resin beads. These beads carry a negative charge. Minerals in water like calcium and magnesium carry positive charges.

As water enters and is filtered down through the mineral tank, negatively charged resin beads attract positively charged calcium and magnesium minerals from hard water. These negatively charged minerals stick onto the resin, leaving soft water to flow to the distribution tube and out to the home for use.

At some point, resin beads will be saturated with ions of calcium and magnesium and become ineffective to soften the water. When this happens, we have to give it a recharge. The process of regeneration happens in three stages collectively called regeneration.

water softener regeneration process
water softener regeneration process

1. Stratification

In the first stage, water is brought down from the water supply into the mineral tank then it forces up to expand resin beads. This process is called stratification

2. Brining

The second stage requires to pull down brine into the mineral tank. In this stage two things happen simultaneously, water is entered through the supply pipe and diverted down through as shown in the second figure, and then back up through the drain.

As soon as the water passes the top of the mineral tank a siphon is created this siphon draws the brine from the tank this is called the brining process. This process takes around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the size of the water softener unit.

3. Fill and Rinse

As in the second stage, the brine tank is emptied and resin beads are still expanded, we need to compress it and refill the brine tank.

In this stage again water enters through the supply pipe and passes down through the resin tank to rinse and compress the resin beads. During this happens water supply pipe also supplies water to the brine tank to refill the tank.

Benefits of Water Softener

  • The main benefit to installing a water softener is that it removes calcium and magnesium minerals to transform hard water into soft as opposed to water descalers allowing minerals to leave in the water.
  • Removing excess minerals from the water also improves the taste.
  • Soft water with no calcium and magnesium builds up inside the pipelines and appliances saves you from costly repair and cleaning.
  • Softening of the water also provides you beauty benefits as bathing with water lacking harsh minerals picks up and holds moisture to your skin and hair easily.
  • Soft water also makes cleaning easier as soft water fully penetrates and dissolves soap. It also allows creating a lather more easily too requiring less soap, shampoo, and detergents.

Water softeners vs water descalers – the final verdict

When deciding on whether a water softener or water descaler is best for treating the problems with hard water, it is important to consider what you want to achieve from installing such devices.

For example, if you want to prevent scale build-up, a water descaler may be the more suitable solution as these are easier to maintain.

These devices are also much more suited for areas with low levels of hard water. However, if you are in an area with very hard water, a water softener may be the more logical choice to reduce the problems associated with hard water. Here is a final rundown of water descalers and water softeners to help you decide:

Difference between water softener vs water descaler

Water DescalerWater Softener
Does prevents minerals from depositing and solidifying inside the pipeline, and appliancesOutrages the minerals from the water to soften it
Does not remove calcium and magnesium from the water Removes calcium and magnesium from the water
Does not wastage the waterWater is wastage through the outlet
Cheaper than a water softenerExpensive compared to water descaler
Quite easy to installInstallation needs professionals
Convenient to install anywhere around the water supplyNot as convenient to fit as descaler
Treated water does not feel soft and slickTreated water feels soft and slick
More suited to areas with water supply with low-level hardness More suited for areas with high-level hard water supply
Water Softener Vs Descaler