Many homeowners have questions about the quality of their water, whether they get their water from a private well or a public water system. There are many ways to filter and treat water, from removing minerals from drinking water using a Britta filtration pitcher to treating the entire water supply entering the home with a whole house filtration system.
Municipal water services test their water for some contaminants regularly and are regulated by state and federal law but as we've seen in Flint MI and other cities across the nation, testing municipal water is a good idea as well. Municipal water test results are available to the public and can be obtained by contacting your water service. If you have a private well, your water quality is not regulated by the state. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure the water entering the home is safe.
Know If You Have Contaminants With Well Water Testing
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recommends that people who draw water for home use from a private well get their water tested every 3-5 years. Homeowners should also conduct a comprehensive water test before purchasing any water treatment system. There are many different kinds of treatment systems that address different problems. If the water quality issues in arsenic, for example, purchasing a water softener will likely not be enough to remove the contaminant.
If you need help conducting the water test, Skillings & Sons can recommend labs and give advice on proper testing procedures.
Deciding on a water filtration system
Once testing is done, you must decide if you want to treat the water as it comes into your home or just at the faucet. Treating water where it comes into the home – the point of entry – is a good option when minerals or contaminants are in the water, such as iron, manganese, bacteria or radon. It is also recommended in homes where the water supply has arsenic levels above 250 parts per billion. Homeowners may opt for a point-of-entry system when the contaminant, like hard water, if likely to clog pipes or damage appliances.
Filtering water at the faucet, or point of use, is often an option for people who are concerned about chemical contamination or who want to improve the taste of the water. These filters treat water for drinking and cooking, usually at a kitchen sink, but do not treat water for bathing or washing clothes.
As a general rule, point-of-entry systems are more expensive than point-of-use systems.
Types of water filtration systems
Water softeners, water filters, and other filtration systems are designed to address different water quality issues. Knowing which systems are best to handle your water quality problems will help you in selecting the one right for your home.
Ion exchange systems, also called water softeners, are one of the most common point-of-entry systems in homes in New England. Ion exchange systems remove calcium and magnesium, which cause hard water. Some designs also remove radium and barium and can remove other contaminants as well. Water softeners are efficient and relatively affordable, but they may not be the right fit for every home.
Activated carbon filters is an option for both point-of-use and point-of-entry. They work by passing water through a special carbon filter which removes organic contaminants that cause affect taste and odor, as well as metals like lead and copper. Depending on the model and design, these filters can also remove chlorination, pesticides and other contaminants. Activated carbon filters must regularly be changed for the system to working properly, or bacteria and dissolved minerals can collect in the filter.
Reverse osmosis systems can be the right fit for homes that want to filter water for cooking and drinking only. Reverse osmosis systems are installed at the point-of-use and remove nitrates, sodium, other dissolved inorganic and organic compounds. They also remove foul tastes, smells or colors. Homeowners should know exactly what contaminants are in their water before buying since reverse osmosis filters do not remove all compounds.
Activated alumina systems take the home’s well water and pass it through an activated filter, typically a fiberglass canister. Metals and minerals like arsenic, uranium and beryllium stick to the alumina and are discarded with the used filter. Activated alumina can be utilized with both point-of-use and whole house treatment systems. Activated alumina is relatively cost effective, especially if you need to treat a large amount of water.