Maybe it’s something in the water, but we’ve had more calls for water filtration and water softeners this winter than we ever have before. Certainly, it’s been an…interesting few months in the Valley since we last discussed home water quality and the issues with Chromium-6 in the water in Vacaville. Since then, Woodland and Davis have also tested high for the substance. The cities contend that their water quality is the same as it always has been and that the state’s changing standards for drinking water have resulted in their failing the new, more rigorous tests. The state says the levels are still unsafe, no matter what the old standards were. Either way, it has people concerned about the water in their homes. Today, we’re going to talk water filtration and water softening, and help you get informed on this hot-button topic in our region.
We install water purifiers pretty regularly, and we find that they’re great technology to help alleviate homeowners’ concerns about their drinking water. Which system we install depends on the home and the client’s needs. Generally, there are two types of filters — whole-house filters and smaller units. Both function in similar ways, using either reverse osmosis, water distillation, carbon filters, or ceramic parts to remove bad-tasting substances from your water as well as nasty elements that you can’t taste.
Smaller filtration systems run the gamut from countertop “gravity” models to the kind that screw onto your faucet head or shower head. They generally cost less than a thousand dollars and will require pretty frequent maintenance. If your area has “hard” water like ours does, these smaller filters may require more frequent replacement and repair than they would otherwise, and the lifespan of these units is usually not nearly as long as their larger whole-home counterparts.
Whole-house filters function similarly, but they’re much more robust. These filters are installed outside the home and filter water as it enters the house, meaning that all the water will be clean in the home. That’s important when it comes to dealing with contaminants that can be absorbed through the skin as well as ingested; filtering drinking water is only so effective if the shower is contaminated as well. Chromium-6 is a great example of such a substance —it can be absorbed through the skin and can also cause skin conditions with repeated exposure. So if you’re serious about chromium-6 treatment, whole-home is the way to go.
We could write a novel about hard water here in Sacramento and the surrounding region, but nobody would read it and it probably wouldn’t sell well. So here are the Cliff Notes: We have hard water here in our area. That means there’s a lot of minerals floating around that you (hopefully) can’t see. These minerals can be deposited on your pipes, eventually damaging plumbing and any devices that use water. To combat this, we install water softening devices that make sure the water isn’t hard anymore. They pull the hard minerals from the water, meaning that the water that enters the home is free of these substances.
Water softening is especially important when combating chromium-6. Unlike most contaminants that affect human health, chromium-6 can’t be removed effectively by filtration. Water softening or reverse osmosis is the best way to deal with this carcinogen. If you’re concerned about this and other contaminants, there are many systems that filter and soften the water, giving you the best of both worlds.
Other Options and Maintenance
There are a lot of water-treatment devices out there, and while we won’t be calling any brands out by name, we do see a lot of “BS” marketing for devices that don’t do anything more than the two processes we’ve discussed above — or don’t do anything at all. Water filtration and softening is important, but it’s not rocket science. Anybody claiming otherwise is probably using advertising speak to bamboozle buyers with big words. An HVAC tech will be able to help you figure out what it all means and whether it’s right for your home.
They’ll also be around to help maintain your water filtration and softening systems. Smaller units often can’t be maintained except for a change of filter. Larger whole-home units will require occasional filter changes and cleanouts; water softeners will require salt refills after the tank goes almost empty, as well as an annual cleaning of the system and tank. This maintenance is important, and it’s important to have it done by trained professionals—ideally, the same ones who installed the system!
It’s also important to get your water tested before making decisions on what equipment to buy. That way, you’ll know what you want to filter out in the first place. Remember that if chromium-6 is on your mind, water softeners will help. Any filtration system that doesn’t also soften the water will do a lot of good for other contaminants, but they won’t fix chromium-6. Start by calling a trusted plumbing tech in your area and work with them to test your water, find a solution, and install a system that’s right for you.