Well Water Contaminants That Quickly Harm Home Appliances

Contaminants in your well water can do more than just make water taste or smell bad. In addition to causing digestive upsets, they can also harm plumbing fixtures and home appliances. Some well water causes so much damage to appliances and fixtures that their lives are drastically shortened. It will often be much cheaper to invest in water filtration or treatment than to keep repairing and replacing plumbing and appliances.

Which Contaminants Do the Most Damage?

  • Iron creates stains on appliances and plumbing fixtures; flakes of rust traveling through the water system can clog appliances. When iron concentration in water is high, iron can build up inside pipes, cutting down the water flow.
  • Calcium and magnesium are the minerals that cause hard water. These minerals form scale on appliances and plumbing fixtures and clog water lines in appliances. When well water is acidic, the buildup occurs more quickly. Hard water can shorten the lifespan of plumbing fixtures and water-using appliances by half. 
  • Sediment consists of sand, rocks, minerals, particles from plants, or microbes. Some types of sediment will settle to the bottom of a glass while others will not. They can accumulate in water heaters, aerators and other water-using appliances, requiring repeated maintenance or causing failure.
  • Fluoride settles to the bottom of water heaters, along with calcium. These sediments absorb the heat causing more energy to be used and can lead to a shorter life for the water heater. 
  • Tannins result from decomposition of leaves and plants. They can cause water to have a yellow tint, which can also cause staining on fabrics and plumbing fixtures. They can also damage water treatment devices or disinfection systems.

Removing These Contaminants Before They Can Do Harm

Choosing the right filtration to remove these contaminants is a tricky task. To remove iron, for example, you would need to know which of three types of iron are present in your water. Different methods of filtering are effective for each type. 

Your best choice is to get an accurate water test to find out exactly what you are dealing with and then consult with a water treatment professional who can provide many different systems. Let them advise you on the right system for your water. 

Here are some of the most common systems and the contaminants they can filter out. 

  1. Water softeners are well known for removing calcium and magnesium before they can build up in your appliances. They can also remove low levels of dissolved iron and manganese, 
  2. Reverse osmosis removes many minerals and metals, such as fluoride, arsenic, sodium, copper, lead, manganese, calcium, chromium. It can also remove chemicals such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals.
  3. Ion exchange systems typically take out calcium and magnesium and may remove some iron and manganese. Some types of ion exchange systems can remove arsenic, lead, chromium, nitrates and fluoride. 
  4. Activated carbon filters remove chemicals that give water a bad taste and smell, such as chlorine or hydrogen sulfide. They can also remove sediment, industrial chemicals, chloramines and heavy metals. There are different types of carbon filters so check the capability of the filter you are considering. 
  5. Sediment filters remove dirt, debris and cloudiness from water. If the iron present is insoluble (ferric iron), a sediment filter will remove it. Sediment filters are often placed in sequence before other water filtration systems. 
  6. Manganese greensand oxidizes dissolved iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide so they can be more easily filtered out of the water. 
  7. Centrifuge systems spin at high speeds, causing heavier particles to separate out from the water. They can remove sand, debris and other sediment of a certain size from water. 

A special note about tannins: Removing tannins from well water is a complicated task that may require multiple treatments or filtration steps. There are several systems of removal (anion exchange resin systems, sediment filters, ultrafiltration, and oxidation and filtration). Knowing the right method(s) to choose requires knowing if iron is also present and the size of the tannin particles. This is a job for a certified water treatment professional. 

The Solution Starts With a Comprehensive and Accurate Water Test

As you can see, water treatment systems must be tailored to the contaminants. Some water will require multiple steps of filtration to produce high-quality water. 

When you’re beginning to plan water treatment or filtration for your well water, contact ETR Laboratories for a comprehensive water test performed by a lab that has completed tens of thousands of tests. Check out our water tests and then, if you’re not sure which test to choose, call us at (800) 344-9977.