There are dozens of ways to treat problems in your water, and if you’ve ever browsed this web site, you’ll know that already. With the information we have published on our site, you’ll be able to choose the right treatment method(s) for you. But at last count, there are over 1800 web pages on this site and it would seem that while the answer to your water treatment needs exists somewhere in there, it could be difficult to find. You could use the search feature we have on the main index page, you can check the FAQ section, or you can simply browse every type of system we have and read about their attributes until you find the system that will work for your water condition.
With this article, we’ll try to make the decision process a bit easier. We’ll cover the most prevalent water conditions and their treatment methods for residential and light commercial applications. We’ll start with hardness.
All water contains levels of hardness. Hardness is lime and calcium which is picked up by water as it filters through the Earth’s surface down into an aquifer. Whether you are connected to a municipal water supply or getting your water from your own private well, this water has filtered down through the Earth and picked up hardness attributes. Water hardness can cause problems with plumbing and water using appliances. It can build up scale inside of water heaters, pipes and cause film and scale on water fixtures along with bath and shower doors and tile. It is difficult to remove completely with cleansers. Hardness can also greatly reduce the effectiveness of soaps and detergents. A simple water softener can exchange the calcium ions with sodium ions which do not adhere to surfaces as readily and are very easy to clean. It also gives your water a much better feeling on your skin while bathing, and it doubles the effectiveness of soaps and detergents.
A common misconception is that a water softener will fix all problems with your water. While they certainly do make improvements to the water, if there is a pH imbalance, a great deal of iron, odor in the water, bacteria or even turbidity, a standard softener will not help much. Iron can be reduced with a water softener, but iron filtration should be considered instead. Some forms of odor can be reduced with a softener, but some type of oxidizer system should be considered. Softeners do not filter or remove bacteria at all. Sediment, chlorine, fluoride, tannins and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) are not reduced with a water softener. Softeners do remove most heavy radioactive metals from the water which is nice to know.
Iron problems with your well water? There are a few different types of iron which are described here. Different types of iron contamination are treated different ways. Bacterial iron is best treated with a chlorinator followed by some sort of activated carbon filtration. Ferrous iron or “clear water” iron is often associated with a rotten egg odor or hydrogen sulfide. This type of iron can be completely removed with a Terminator system, a manganese greensand filter or chlorination. Ferric iron or “red water” iron can be removed with the above mentioned methods, but if your water’s pH level and oxygen content are high enough, a simple Birm filter can take care of that. Bacterial iron can be detected when a glass of water is left sitting out for a while. A reddish slime buildup will form. Ultra-violet or chlorination are the best way to kill bacteria. Bacterial iron can also cause an odor which should not be confused with hydrogen sulfide odor. The best way to find out which odor you are detecting is to use a water testing kit.
Taste and odor is a popular term used to sell taste and odor filter cartridges, but this does not mean that these carbon filters will solve your taste and odor problem if it’s associated with hydrogen sulfide or bacteria. Again, a water testing kit is the best first step.
Taste and odor filters are best used for treating chlorinated water. The chlorine which is added to municipal water supplies to kill bacteria and algae, reacts with other elements in water to produce undesirable flavor and smell. Carbon filter cartridges, or better yet, whole house automatic filter systems take care of this problem very well. If you install a carbon filtration system up-line of your water softener, it can remove the chlorine in your water which will extend the lifetime of your softener’s media bed. If installed down-line of your softener, not only will it remove chlorine, it will remove any sodium residue left over from the softener’s regeneration process, which seems to be an important factor for people on low sodium diets.
Discoloration of your private well water can mean a number of problems. Iron, bacteria, tannin and manganese will cause water to be brown, red, gray or yellow. Turbidity will make your water appear milky, but so will high pH water. To determine if milky water is caused by turbidity or high pH, draw a clear glass of water and let it sit undisturbed for an hour. If the cloudiness clears up, it is a pH imbalance. If it’s still there or even settles to the bottom of the glass, you have a turbidity problem. Turbidity can be taken care of with fine sediment filtration. High pH is actually desirable to an extent, so leave it be unless your water comes out of the tap with large bubbles. Low pH will eat into copper pipes and cause leaks down the road. Low pH can make dark blue stains on porcelain and cause blond hair to change color. Low pH can be raised with a Calcite filter system.
Most water problems are treatable with one method or another, but many water problems are a combination of these symptoms. A single treatment method may not always be successful. For example, while a water softener is designed to remove hardness, it can also remove iron up to a certain concentration, but in many cases, a separate iron filtration system should be used. A combination of water symptoms can cause confusion, but if you test your water first, you will have a much better chance of determining the proper treatment methods for your water’s situation. Then treat the most problematic symptom first. Give priority to that symptom and often times, it will help to correct the other lesser symptoms as well.