A brief overview on Well Water Filtration Systems also referred to as a home well water system or water well treatment systems.
Treating well water is a broad subject; one could easily dedicate an entire web site to this entire subject. There are many reasons why domestic water wells may require water treatment of one type or another.
Simple Well Water Filtration Systems…
Some well water applications are very basic and simple, they will not require any knowledge of complicated water quality issues and a well’s water chemistry analysis may indicate the raw well water is fine with the exception of maybe a little bit of hardness. The grain per gallon of hardness is easily determined by the amount of Calcium and Magnesium in the water which can cause water staining, scaling etc.
We can easily do a few calculations and will quickly know the hardness of water and the problems to be expected as a result. Water hardness may range from naturally very soft to extremely hard… I’ve treated water as high as 100 grains per gallon, that’s very hard water! However most hard water is easy to treat and will likely require a properly sized water softener system containing a high grade of water conditioning resin monitored by a electronic control or head. An electronic valve will provide plenty of flexibility with many years of service.
You may reside in an area where everyone has hard water and that’s the extent of the water quality issues in that area, even some municipal water systems may provide water with a hardness issue causing many residents to resort to the use of a water softener system with either a sodium or potassium brining system. In the world of water treatment hard water alone is probably the best issue to have as its generally quick, easy and relatively inexpensive to resolve.
A softener system operates by pumping water through a resin matrix. This matrix traps the magnesium and calcium ions that cause hard water and other naturally occurring ions by exchanging them with sodium or potassium ions. Over time, however, the efficiency of the matrix decreases as the sodium or potassium is exhausted. To regenerate the treatment capability of the softener, the device is backwashed with a concentrated sodium or potassium chloride brining solution.
The frequency of regeneration cycles and volume of backwash created depends on the hardness of the water, the volume of water used in the home or building, and the size of the water softener. Correct sizing of a system is vital. Used properly, softeners regenerate one to three times per week and produce between 40 and 150 gallons of brine per week. If a water softener is set up incorrectly the amount of brine can be much higher and become very wasteful… which is another reason why I will only install with an electronic control. I like the flexibility of electronics… completely worth a little extra upfront cost.
Water softeners are set to regenerate based on either flow measurements or by a timed interval. Flow regulated softeners generally produce less backwash brine than timer regulated systems even with a calculated reserve or buffer. The brine used for the regeneration process must be disposed of properly. It has traditionally been directed into the septic system, discharged underground into a rock pit, or simply piped out of the building to the ground surface. Regardless of where it goes, the brine can potentially impact groundwater or surface water if not properly managed.
Backwash brine contains excess chloride, sodium, and potassium ions from the regeneration salts as well as naturally occurring ions removed from the source water that may have been concentrated by the water softener. The high concentrations of chloride in the backwash are a particular concern. High levels of chloride in the groundwater used for drinking water can affect water taste and corrode pipes and fixtures. Chloride laden water discharged to the ground surface may damage vegetation… too often I have discovered a water condition discharging very close the well head. (A really bad idea!)
More Advanced Well Water Filtration Systems….
Unfortunately though it’s not always as easy as having a local plumber install a water softener. On Vancouver Island, British Columbia we work with many different types of water quality issues, wells within a few feet of each other can differ considerably in volume, chemistry and quality.
All of this partly explains why there are so few people qualified to offer water well inspections in many areas as there’s often just too much to know and with plenty of potential liability as a result. It would be difficult to go onto a property for sale and make the decisions that may be required while performing an inspection without a good number of years of experience in this field in both the water and perhaps even the Real Estate industry. I have found having extensive Real Estate experience very important if not absolutely necessary to effectively represent and negotiate on the behalf of a purchaser or vendor.
The same goes with designing Water Well Filtration Systems, a home well water system needs to be designed according your water chemistry analysis, and problem well water can be tricky to treat successfully over the long term.
Well Water Filtration Systems Can Be The Problem!
Too often I have entered a basement or pump-house full of water treatment equipment which was poorly installed to say the least. The home owner as proud as a new father when he presents his water system to me and announces that he paid $10,000, 12 years ago!
All I see is a water treatment system that looks like an overpriced mess, sometimes overgrown with cobwebs and covered in rat droppings… If I am inspecting, I may not be easily convinced that the treatment system is working effectively. Remember… never allow final invoices of Well Water Treatment Systems to fool you.
Many well water filtration systems have not seen much maintenance for quite a number of years, actually probably since the water treatment system was installed to be more accurate. Home well water systems are like anything else they require servicing from time to time. Perhaps the homeowner was not informed or the person that installed the system has never contacted the owner again, sometimes people just don’t want to spend the money on servicing… whatever the reason a system may be in a terrible state of repair or completely fouled-up. The water treatment system may have been just inadequate from the time of installation and just deteriorated over time… sometimes quickly. Often homeowners continue to call their installer soon after the installation… but eventually they just gave up because they couldn’t get anyone to show up or ever return a call. This is less likely to happen if you connect with a reputable water treatment company.
Sometimes It’s Best To Start Over…
There may be little you can do to improve poorly designed Well Water Filtration Systems; sometimes I can easily improve the situation with little expense but other times I may suggest that the homeowner really needs to start from scratch with a new system.
Not having the home water filter system inspected along with the well and pressure system can be a costly mistake, it’s usually worth every penny that a good inspection may cost… I would consider it an investment!
Fouled Well Water Filtration Systems Are Not Healthy!
If a home water filter system didn’t performed very well when it was newly installed then over a period of time it can get pretty filthy and can actually make the treated water seem worse than the untreated raw water directly from the well. I’ve seen some systems so fouled that I’ll decide to put the treatment system into the by-pass mode… when I call the homeowner a few days later; often to hear that their water quality has improved since my last visit… they may even say they feel their water treatment system is working much better. I explain that I’ve done nothing more than by-pass their home water filter system so that they’re now running straight off their well without any treatment at all. Well water treatment systems can also cause a water bacteria sample to be reported as contaminated as the systems are often the perfect breeding ground for a contamination issue, we can really end up with some very high Standard Plate Count (filthy, slimy water is another name for that one) – it may not be the well at all but a contaminated home water treatment system.
Not All Well Water Filtration Systems Are
Built To The Same Quality… Far From It!
Most plumbers do purchase their supplies from local plumbing wholesalers. Plumbing wholesalers usually offer plumbing-grade-standard mass produced well water filtration systems; many do plumbers do install water treatment equipment some are great and some really suck… it’s the luck of the draw! Generally though you will end up with basic generic equipment (not customized for your water, basic manual controls, and will likely contain a lower grade of media… the inners that actually treats the water! Plumbing wholesalers need to move a lot of this equipment in large volume to make it worth their while as that’s what wholesalers do… the higher their volume the less they pay to the manufacturer as they purchase such a large supply.
Wholesalers also like to keep things very simple, preferring not to become overwhelmed with technical issues and especially water treatment questions. They’re not in the business of educating plumbers in water treatment and groundwater technology it’s a very specialized field where some may like to dabble at the expense of others. Well water filtration systems should never be treated like they are a basic hot water tank installation…. it may be far more complicated. Most water treatment specialists do not purchase water treatment equipment from plumbing wholesalers, we work with completely different types of suppliers who are also specialists in the water treatment industry and it’s their business to service and consult with treatment specialists and often custom build or supply those of us who do.
Do A Little Homework Up Front….
If you’re going to do business with someone regarding water well filtration systems do ask for a few good references and call them on the telephone, most people will rave about good work and service, they’ll be happy to help you either way. Your home well water system is an investment in your home – you definitely want the water treatment installation done properly the first time… don’t become someone’s water treatment experiment. Speak with a few people within the industry, you’ll know when you meet someone who really understands what they’re doing they’ll generally be miles ahead in knowledge.
As a specialist with many clients I’m very specific about having everything done properly, my groundwater services usually run with a property for many years… if the home sells I will then service the new homeowner and teach them how to take care of their home well water system. I feel that if the job is done right and maintained then most Well Water Filtration Systems will operate very well for a lot of years with little grief to the homeowner. Service calls are sometimes required as they’re part of the business and things do break, we can certainly have an issue once in a while with a new installation too… I may have a little extra tweaking to do and need to make an extra trip or two but fundamentally my systems are designed to work, that’s what important.
Well Water Filtration Systems that are not well designed or correctly installed are very costly and time consuming which is fine if your water treatment professional warranties his system and workmanship indefinitely. If the home water filter system is not warrantied against defect for at least a year (problems will usually show up during the first few months) you may not be a happy homeowner, the system might not work according to expectation and you may end up with a few empty promises and $200.00 service invoices on an ongoing basis. Ask about warranties as you don’t want to be nickeled and dimed to death with senseless service calls. Asking the all right questions early and try to learn as much as you are able, it will be helpful… do try to find someone who you are very comfortable.