Potential Problems With Water:
There are multiple problems that you can have with your water including:
Most people don't have these problems with their water, but it's very important to find out.
- Aesthetic Problems
- These are some of the most noticeable problems; bad taste, unusual color, unpleasant smell. While being inconvenient these things won't necessarily hurt you, but they may suggest something harmful in the water.
- Lead is extremely harmful to everyone and can cause serious problems, especially in infants and young children. Lead is a heavy metal that is picked up in the water by lead based service lines, plumbing in older homes, corroded pipes, soldered joints in copper pipes and brass fixtures.
- Nitrate is very dangerous to young children and pregnant women. It is a common component of fertilizer and is most common in rural areas.
- Organic Chemicals
- Volatile organic chemicals, when ingested, have been known to cause cancer and many other adverse health effects. Organic chemicals are most commonly found in industrial and agricultural areas from pesticides and other organic compounds. Some water-chlorinization systems also have been found to cause harmful organic chemicals to be in the water, such as trihalomethanes.
- Pathogens are disease causing microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses. Most pathogens are removed from the water supply by water-chlorinization systems.
Test for lead if you are living in an older home or an older neighborhood. If you live near a landfill or factory be sure to test for volatile organic compounds. Water that comes from a private well or a small water system should be tested for nitrates, pesticides and bacteria especially if you are in an agricultural area. Also, if your water has a strong smell of chlorine then test for chloroform.
Options for Cleaning Water:
Boiling water is a very effective method of killing microorganisms in water, but is not a very convenient solution. Inexpensive, compact iodine tablets can also be used and will kill most microorganisms, but they take 20 minutes to be effective and add a foul taste to your water. The simplest solution for cleaning water is a water filter or a water purifier.
Water Filter vs. Water Purifier
Filters are devices, much like a strainer, used for blocking larger objects from flowing with the water. Water purifiers contain chemicals which actively seek out and destroy bacteria and viruses rather than simply straining them out. Neither method is better than the other; both can treat for bacteria, but filters cannot stop viruses, like Polio, and purifiers cannot treat for protozoa, like the Giardia parasite. This is why most manufactured water purifiers include a filter resulting in multiple stages of water cleaning. Filter systems can be costly as the filter will clog and need to be replaced. But purifiers use iodine as an active ingredient to treat water, which can add a foul taste. It is recommended that some people, such as pregnant women or people with thyroid problems, should not drink water from a purifier because of the iodine.
Filter Micron Rating:
The average size of the openings between pieces of the filter media are represented in microns. For example, a 40-micron filter has larger openings than a 5-micron filter. Consequently, the 40-micron filter element will let larger particles pass through the filter than the 5-micron element.
As a general rule, the smaller micron rating for a filter is better, but as with most everything, there is a trade-off. Flow capability usually drops off as the micron rating gets smaller. To overcome this, low micron-rating filters must have larger elements to keep from sacrificing precious flow.
You may want to consider sediment filtration such as the Lakos sediment filtration system to remove larger particles, then possibly install a whole house water filter to take out smaller particles.
Another option might be to install a dual stage undercounter filtration system, which uses two filters with different micron ratings. The higher micron rating filter helps remove the larger particles from the water and prevents the smaller micron rating filter from getting clogged which would result in a reduced flow.
Choosing a Filter:
If there were one 'best' then it would be easy. The myriad possibilities in water source and qualities, as well as personal preferences (and pocket books) as to what constitutes 'good' water, makes choosing a filter a very personal choice.
Choosing the right filter begins with understanding which contaminants need to be removed from the water. Suspended particles, dissolved inorganics, dissolved organics, microorganisms, etc. each present somewhat different challenges.
Due to not knowing your local water conditions, as well as potential liabilities we do not "recommend" any one filter or filters.
We like to warn people, do not use water filters on water that is microbiologically unsafe or unknown water quality without adequate disinfection before and after any brand of filter. If you aren't sure of the water quality (especially in the case of microbiological) then we highly recommend that you not assume that just any filter can make your water safe. Most filters can not make your water safe from microbiological problems.
Solutions to Water Problems:
- Giardia (cryptosporidium, etc.) usually can be filtered out with a 1-micron or smaller filter.
- Carbon filters are the most commonly used filter to remove chlorine from the water. The carbon media reduces the chlorine to chloride.
- We get more questions about iron than any other water problem. The method depends on how much iron is in your system and how fine the particles are. A test you can do yourself would be to fill a clear glass with water and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. If the iron settles to the bottom then a cartridge type filter (5 micron or smaller) should be able to remove the majority of the iron particles. If the particles remain suspended then a filter won't help.
For removal of very fine iron particles you will need either a water softener or an iron removal system. A water softener will remove up to 4 parts per million (PPM) of iron, but if used this way the resin will need to be cleaned about once a month. If yours is higher than that then you will need an iron removal system with special media. Different media would be used for different mineral conditions. Sometimes aeration can be used. It's not necessarily better than ion resins, but you wouldn't need to regenerate the system with any chemicals. We highly recommend that you consult with a local expert before ordering any water treatment system. In many cases, for a family of two we recommend at least one cubic foot of Maz® medium to take the iron out. Maz® can be chlorinated intermittently or continuously without damage to the medium.
This must be back washed with some type of oxidizer. This can be hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, potassium permanganate, etc. (caution, some of these products can be hazardous in concentrated form). Of the above, hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate will not lose their properties as fast as most of them. To avoid having to backwash, you could use Birm® media. However some say this is the weakest of all iron media and requires a pH of 7 or above, and there can be no presence of hydrogen sulfide. Also if you have a high iron content it might not be as effective as Maz®.
- Green/Blue Stains
- Green or blue stains are usually a result of a combination of copper pipe and acidic water. This needs to be treated with an acid neutralizer. We always recommend you have your water tested locally.
- To remove fluorine, a catalyst carbon filter must be used. Catalyst carbon is a stronger carbon than what is normally used for chlorine removal and the cost is much more.