The clear facts about water.
Water quality used to be a nonissue. But with news of pharmaceuticals in our water supplies, concerns about the effects of chlorine, industrial and biological contamination, our aging water distribution infrastructure and even the naturally occurring substances that degrade the taste and feel of water, we're all thinking about the quality of our water more than ever.
Water quality varies from home to home, and no two homes are alike. What’s right for one family may not be right for yours. There are a number of ways to treat water. Depending on the water issue, the solution may address all the water in your home, or only water that is dispensed from a specific tap.
Selecting the right water treatment system can be confusing. The information on this page should help you understand some of the treatment technologies available, but we invite you to talk with one of our local water professionals to help you understand your water and your options. They’ll test your water thoroughly and suggest solutions tailored to your water, your lifestyle and your budget.
Most homes have hard water, including those on municipal water supplies. Exactly how hard your water is will vary depending on where you live. Hard water is caused by groundwater dissolving and carrying away minerals, most often calcium, magnesium and iron, from rock.
When hard water comes in contact with heating elements or hot surfaces, it forms “scale” that builds up and shortens the life of water-using appliances like your water heater. Hard water also leaves deposits on your plumbing fixtures, tubs, sinks, dishes, silverware and glassware that are virtually impossible to clean. With hard water, soaps and detergents aren’t rinsed completely away, leaving a soap residue in your tub and shower (bathtub ring), on your laundry and even on you. Water softeners remove the hardness minerals and some forms of iron.
Most water softeners use a process called ion exchange to soften water. Quite simply, within a water softener tank, calcium and magnesium (hardness) in water are exchanged with sodium (soft water ions). When the system can no longer make this exchange, it regenerates (cleans itself) so that it can once again exchange the hardness ions for soft ones. You may have heard about “salt-less softeners” and magnetic or electric descalers that are marketed today; however, none of these devices have proven as effective in removing hardness minerals and tannins as a standard water softener that uses ion exchange technology.
Drinking Water Systems
Systems specifically designed for drinking water are often used in the kitchen where people want the healthiest, best-tasting water for drinking and cooking. Depending on the type used, they not only improve the taste but also can remove odors and other contaminants. But bringing all the water in the home up to high-quality drinking water standards is unrealistic, expensive and quite frankly, unnecessary. That’s why most drinking water systems treat the water and dispense it from a specific tap or device.
● Reverse Osmosis Systems: Recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency as an effective means for treating drinking water, reverse osmosis systems process water by using pressure to force the water through a very fine, semi-permeable membrane. Usually, RO systems are comprised of a prefilter, a membrane and a postfilter, although some also offer various advanced filtration options. In the RO system, the prefilter removes larger particles from the water before it travels to the membrane. Then, the water is forced through the membrane, leaving behind the impurities that were in the water. Since the process takes time, a small tank stores the purified water until it’s needed. But before the water is dispensed from the dedicated faucet, it runs through a postfilter to remove any remaining tastes or smells. Water produced via reverse osmosis very nearly reaches the purity of distilled water but in a much shorter time and without using any electricity.
● Carbon Filters: Carbon filters remove chlorine and unwanted tastes and smells from drinking water, but that’s primarily all they do. Simply put, the water passes through a bed of carbon that adsorbs any chlorine, unpleasant tastes and odors. There are various types of carbon filters available: pitchers, under-the-sink or countertop models, faucet mounts and those found in refrigerator water dispensers. The type that is right for you will depend on your need for water, what you want to remove from your water, the feasibility of installing the filter, the amount of filtered water you need, your desire for convenience and your budget.