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Tool Talk Discussion Forum

Re: Water filters or softners ?

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Author  [Modern View]
Hal/ Eastern WA

12-23-2013 18:03:18

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Depends on just how bad the iron problem is, and how much you want to spend dealing with it.

My well is in basalt, and there is some iron in the water. Over the years, the iron problem has got worse, not better. Untreated, the water would make toilet bowls pretty brown if they were not brushed out a couple times a week. And there was no good way to wash white clothes at our house. We took them to the laundramat in town.

When we built our new house about 20 years ago, I planned for a water softener preceded by a whole house filter. That worked very well for years, and I only had to change the element in the whole house filter a couple times a year and add salt to the softener tank.

About 10 years ago, I started to need to change the whole house filter element much more often because the filter would plug with rust granules and flow would be reduced. Apparently more smaller rust got by the filter, as it caused wear to the valve portion of the Sears water softener, which made it hang up and not soften the water right.

Last Winter I noticed that my pump was running a lot more than it should have for the small water use we have at that time of year. I figured out that the galvanized 1" water line between the pump house and the house had rusted out and was leaking badly. We limped the system through the cold weather and I replaced the water line with plastic in the Spring.

I had expected that there would be lots less iron in the water with the now plastic water line. There was less rust, but still a significant amount. I replaced the whole house filter with a much "tighter" one and also put in a new water softener. The water in the house is fine again now, however I need to change the filter element about every month, or flow is obviously reduced.

I suspect that some of the iron in my well water comes from the 20 foot steel casing at the top of the well, which was required by law when I had the well drilled in 1976. The static level of the water in the well is sometimes as high as 6 feet from the top, however at other times it is quite a bit lower. I would guess that the steel casing gets wet sometimes and then is exposed to air at other times, which seems like a great way to get the steel to rust.

One of the things that helps to lessen the iron in the well is to treat the water with citric acid. I dissolve about 10 pounds of citric acid in 5 gallons of hot water and then pour it into the well through piping I have installed in the well top seal. There is a chemical reaction in the water after the citric acid is introduced. The orange rust turns black and seems to become more soluble. The first time I tried this procedure, the water turned VERY black, almost like ink. When I flushed the system a couple of days later by running the hose out on the lawn, the water ran black for more than an hour. But then it became clearer and finally got pretty good. I didn"t have much rust in the water for a while. Maybe I will try treating the well in January.

There are other devices that treat water prior to it going through a softener. I have looked at them a little. They are fairly costly.

Can you hook up to the municipal water supply, at least for the house? That might end up being the least expensive solution, unless that water also has iron problems. If you do hook up to that supply, I would suggest NOT USING GALVANIZED PIPE! It rusts out...and has to be done over.

Or you might want to try the filter and water softener system like I have. I suppose I have close to $1000 invested in it, installing everything myself.

You really should not drink water that has gone through a water softener, as it will have increased sodium ions in it. High sodium might make blood pressure be higher than it should be. The solution to this problem is to plan your plumbing work so the cold water to the kitchen sink does not go through the softener (like the softener instructions tell you to do!!!). And then only drink water from the cold water tap in the kitchen sink. Or you can drink only bottled water, like we do, since our well water does not taste that good.

I hope this helps. Having lots of iron in the water is a real pain. Good luck!

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