is my Whole House Filter Really Making My Water Safer to Drink?
If you only have a single whole house filtration system, your water is most likely not optimized for your drinking or cooking needs. Your unit is most likely treating only a few types of contaminants because whole house water filters are meant to primarily treat water for bathing, cleaning and general use applications. A whole house filter will make your water safer to drink, but only a reverse osmosis (RO) water system can provide truly safe drinking water. Still your whole house filter will provide you with some level of protection, which is an improvement over untreated tap water. To better understand the effectiveness of your current filter, you will first need to determine what contaminants are in your water, what type of system you currently own, and your system’s capabilities and limitations.
Water Tests and Reports Can Determine Water Quality
If you are on municipal city water, you should receive a yearly report from your water company that lists the types and levels of contaminants they tested for and found in your water. These reports will typically also list the EPA established limits of each pollutant so make sure to check that the contaminant levels are in compliance with the standards. Another way to determine what is in your water is to conduct your own sight and smell test. Does your water smell like a swimming pool or rotten eggs? Is your water unclear and muddy? Do you see red or slimy buildup in your showers and sinks? These are all signs that your water is contaminated and your current system is either ineffective or the filters need to be replaced. Another option would be to send a sample of water to a professional water testing lab for further evaluation. People on well water in particular should do this at least once a year during spring time to protect against changing water conditions. While this method costs money, it will provide the most detailed and accurate results of your water quality.
What Does My System Really Treat?
If you are adding salt to your system every few weeks, you likely own a water softener, which is a type of whole house water filter. Water softeners are ion-exchange systems that are used to soften water, and while they will remove scale and some minerals from the water, they do not actually filter most water contaminants. Unhealthy chemicals, bacteria, heavy metals and chlorine by-products will not be removed by a water softener and softeners actually add salt to water making it even less potable.
You may need to open your filter housing to determine what type of whole house filter you have. If you are unsure, it is better to send your filter picture to an online water company to get a free evaluation. If your system uses sediment and activated carbon filtration, you will be better protected from water contaminants compared to a water softener. Whole house activated carbon filters will remove most common chemicals found in tap water including harsh disinfectants such as chlorine and chloramines which are added to sanitize city tap water. Even at low levels they can cause skin rashes, allergic reactions and other health concerns. Other harmful water pollutants include bacteria such as e.coli, cryptosporidium, salmonella, giardia, and coliform bacteria just to name a few. These microbial contaminants are actually controlled by chlorine and chloramines; however they can find their way to drinking water from improperly treated water sources, water main breaks or even accidental water siphoning from a neighbor’s backyard. The best way to remove these chemicals would be to use a whole house catalytic activated carbon system, while a whole house UV light would be effective against microbial contaminants like bacteria and cysts.
To Drink or Not to Drink? Let RO be your Guide.
Whole house water filters will only treat and remove certain specific types of contaminants because they are designed to primarily treat water for bathing, cleaning and general use applications. They will reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and microbes during showers and baths, but will not provide drinking quality water. To truly protect your drinking water, you will need to install a reverse osmosis system. RO technology filters out water pollutants down to 0.0001 microns in size and delivers up to 99% contaminant rejection rates to provide ultra-pure bottled water quality. It is the most efficient technology on the market and is often used with whole house filters to provide a truly complete water solution for the home.