If your primary source of water is through a well on your property, you may enjoy the freedom that comes from not having a regular water bill, as well as your ability to remain unaffected by issues with your city or county's water supply. However, unlike the treated water supplied by municipal sources, well water can contain iron, sediment, and other substances you may want to avoid drinking or bathing in. What are the best filtering and water softening options for well water? Read on to learn more about the specific issues often present in well water and the best ways to solve them.
What substances may be present in well water?
Well water differs from treated water in that it lacks the added fluoride and often has a much higher mineral content, resulting in hard water. While there have been some studies to suggest that hard water can lower one's risk of heart disease or even prevent heart attacks, hard water can also wreak havoc on your water-using appliances and leave an unsightly (and hard to remove) residue on dishes, clothes, sinks, and tubs.
Sediment is another common issue. While these particles can be filtered out by a water softener or filter installed in your home, having this sediment flow through your well pump can decrease its lifespan, so your best bet is to try to eliminate this sediment at the source. Be sure your well is tightly sealed so that no outside debris can enter. If your pump is near the base of the well and you have an adequate groundwater supply, you may want to raise this pump a few feet to see if this decreases the amount of sediment being stirred up from the bottom of your well.
Bacterial iron may be another potential problem for well owners. If you notice your water has an unpleasant metallic smell or taste, or a layer of slime is building up inside your toilet tank or clothes washer, you're likely facing a bacterial issue. This can generally be combated by placing a small amount of chlorine in your well water to help kill off this bacteria and restore ecological balance.
Which water treatment options can tackle the broadest spectrum of well water issues?
Before investing in a water softener or treatment system, it's important to know the specific issues you're facing. Although there are some qualities common to most wells, if you're dealing with high ferrous or ferric iron content, your water needs will be much different than if you're dealing with fertilizer runoff or hard water. You may wish to purchase a water testing kit at a home supply store, or enlist a professional to analyze your water quality and recommend improvements.
In general, a water softening system that uses reverse osmosis is capable of filtering out the majority of chemicals, metals, and solids from your well. Reverse osmosis softeners use a permeable membrane that allows water to pass freely from side to side. Because iron and mineral atoms are larger than water atoms, they're caught in the membrane and removed from the water supply. You'll need to clean or replace this membrane periodically, but this type of filter shouldn't require much additional maintenance.
Other well owners have found luck with ion-exchange softeners, which replace calcium and magnesium ions (which make hard water "hard") with sodium or potassium ions. These water softeners can filter out iron particles as well, although they're not as effective at removing sediment as a reverse osmosis softener. However, if you're simply looking for something to filter out the particles in your water that affect smell and taste, an ion-exchange softener will likely fit the bill.