Spring Drinking Water Tune-Up

Home appliances require periodic maintenance to ensure they last and operate effectively. This is especially true if they have filters such as a vacuum or heating/air conditioner. Your water supply and filtration system also needs regular attention. Water quality is very important to your health, so understanding your water supply, its quality, and treatment is essential.

Depending on your supply (public or private well), tune up procedures will vary. For public water supplies, which go through extensive testing and treatment, there may be little to do unless you have older plumbing pipe and fixtures. In this case, testing for lead and copper is recommended. 

If you are on a drinking water well, have your water tested annually for coliform bacteria, E.coli and nitrate (animal waste and sewage contaminants), and every three years test for chloride, copper, lead, iron, pH, manganese, sulfates, and total dissolved solids. In some areas, there may be other contaminants such as arsenic or radium (local health departments can provide information), which you can test for. Be sure to use a certified lab – your local county health department should have a list. If your water results indicate treatment is needed, go to this resource to find out more about filters: http://dwit.psiee.psu.edu/dwit.asp.

Whatever type of water filter you use — faucet, pitcher, refrigerator or under the sink filter – they all require maintenance. Simply be sure to change the filters as recommended by the manufacturer. Not changing them can lead to reduction in water flow and filtration performance, and can also result in contaminants no longer being trapped, which can then be released into the water. Water filters can also build up bacteria if not changed as recommended. If you have a whole house or faucet filtration system, be sure to follow the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedule. 

Investing a little time to check on your water and filtration system can help ensure safe drinking water for you and your family.

Home Maintenance for Your Health

Maintaining your home and appliances helps them last longer, perform better, and keep their value. However, did you know following maintenance practices is also good for your family’s health? 

Let’s consider those things in the home that can influence our health. 

Keeping a clean home can reduce dust, dust mites, pet dander, bacteria, mold, and mildew. This is especially important for those that have allergies or asthma. Many of our appliances (vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, refrigerators, etc.) have filters designed to capture various contaminants.

As with any filter, including those associated with your home’s HVAC system, they have to be changed regularly to function effectively. Not changing them can lead to reduction in performance and potentially lifespan, but also, harmful contaminants can no longer be trapped and are thus released into the air and environment of the interior of your home. 

Water filters in particular, can potentially build up bacteria if filters are not changed as recommended. If you have a faucet filtration system for the whole house, as opposed to a single unit on one faucet, be sure to follow the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedule. 

If you are like me, you may forget when you last changed a filter or when it’s supposed to be replaced. I remember to change the smoke or carbon monoxide alarm batteries when daylight savings time begins, but may forget other appliances. To help me with keeping on a good maintenance schedule, I started writing the date of the changeover directly on the filters. 

I also put reminders and certain maintenance items, such as heating and air conditioning service, or flush my tankless water heater, on my phone calendar and set reminders. You can even include things like having your septic tank pumped every two or three years.

Finding a way or system for you to remember and getting into the habit of home maintenance will help provide peace of mind that you are not only protecting value, but also providing a healthy environment for you and your family.  

To Test or Not to Test … Your Drinking Water

The quantity and quality of water you drink is important to your health, but what do you really know about your water quality, and do you need to treat it?

Side view of elderly woman drinking water

I often get asked “should I treat my water?” Not to be vague, but more to get homeowners thinking, I respond, “it depends on the quality, and the only way to know is to test the water.”

As mentioned in my last post, if you are on a public water supply, it is regulated by EPA, and your water utility is regularly testing the quality for about 95 contaminants. Further, annual consumer confidence reports are available from your water utility describing the water quality. Check out the report and become informed about your water supply and quality!

**Note, the contaminant lead does not come from the water source, rather leaches from household plumbing (pipe and fixtures) if you have older metal plumbing and your water is low in pH and has elevated chloride. If this is the case for your home, testing for lead is recommended.

A glass of water macro shotIf water comes from a private well, the homeowner is responsible for testing and treating the water. So back to the question of treating or not treating. How do you know what to treat for if you do not know the quality? If you have not tested your well water, contact your local county health department and ask for what to test for and get a list of certified labs that you can send your water samples to (these labs will provide complete sampling equipment and instructions).

Testing for coliform bacteria, E. coli, chloride, copper, hardness, nitrate, pH, lead, manganese, total dissolved solids, sulfates and any local contaminant (check with health department) is suggested every three years. Annual testing for coliform bacteria, E. coli and nitrates to ensure there is no contamination from animal waste is recommended. EPA Water FilterOnly with the test results will you know whether treatment is necessary.

The good news is that if one or more of the results is above the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL), there are several types of filtration available to get water within the safe drinking levels. Filtration can be expensive to buy and maintain, so it makes sense to install only the filtration needed. Filtration units may need only be installed on the faucet that supplies your drinking or cooking water. Other systems treat the entire house as with a water softener to reduce hardness or a reverse osmosis system to reduce salt and other contaminants.

To maintain the effectiveness of the filtration and water quality is critical to follow the recommended maintenance including changing filters. Several online drinking water tools can help determine what treatment system is recommended based on your water quality. Check out https://www4.des.state.nh.us/DWITool/Welcome.aspx  and http://dwit.psiee.psu.edu/dwit.asp for more information.

Invest in your health and get to know your drinking water quality!