Source Water Basics

Source Water Basics

In this article we hope to address the most common questions about source waters and water ionizers.  These “basics” will outline the most common types of source water and explain what you are most likely to expect based on these common types of source water.  We’ll also address the basics of additional treatment for each type of source water and whether they are considered optional, recommended or strongly recommended.

City/Municipal Water

This is the most common type of water reported by customers.  “City” or “Municipal” water is water that is supplied by your local water service.  This water has been treated for impurities in accordance with EPA water quality standards as well as any local or state water quality guidelines.

The most common “contaminants” found in city water are chemicals used in water treatment.  These most often include chlorine, chloramines and fluoride.   The filtration system in water ionizers are designed to remove chlorine and also chloramines to some extent.  Fluoride requires special media for effective removal – at most only about 50% of fluoride is removed by the filter inside your water ionizer.  Most water ionizer filtration systems remove less than 20% of fluoride from the water.

Other city water variables are “hardness” which we will address later in this article.

Most water ionizer customers on city water do not use any sort of pre-filtration system and are comfortable relying solely on the filtration system built into their water ionizer.  Personally, I do not use any sort of pre-filtration system, nor do any of my friends or family members who are on city water.

Those customers who do choose to pre-filter their city water most often choose a fluoride prefilter.  A fluoride prefilter will cost around $85 with replacement filter costs at around $45 a year.

Well Water

Another common source water we find is well water.   Some homeowners will have one or more wells on their property that they use as their source of water for their home.

The quality of well water will vary based on the depth, construction, maintenance and local environmental factors.  While the overall quality of well water varies the most common contaminants are various nitrates, heavy metals, hydrogen-sulfide, pesticides, VOC’s as well as viral and bacterial contaminants.   The deeper and better constructed the well, the lower the risk of excess contaminants.

Most homeowners using well water will have some type of basic filtration for sediment, bacterial and viral contaminants.  Others have gone through the process of having their well water tested and will have pre-filtration systems in place to address the issues specific to their water.

Well water that has been tested and is passing through a filtration system deemed appropriate to produce safe drinking water is often acceptable for use with a water ionizer without the need for additional pre-filtration.  The most common pre-filtration systems chosen by water ionizer customers with well water are KDF pre-filters.  KDF removes hydrogen-sulfide and heavy metals which are often found in higher amounts in well water.

The KDF filter and housing will cost around $75.  Replacement filters will cost around $45 each and can last up to 12 months depending on the quality of your source water.

Hard Water

Hard water is water with an overabundance of minerals and can be found in both well water and municipal water supplies.  Hard water can leave spots on dishes, calcium scale in sinks and toilets and cause issues with plumbing and water heaters due to scale buildup.  The same is true for water ionizers.

Many people in hard water areas have taken steps to “soften” their water using a water softening reverse osmosis system.  Water softening systems do not remove the minerals from the water but convert the calcium and magnesium to sodium or potassium through an ion exchange process.  Reverse osmosis systems completely remove minerals from the water altogether.

For water ionizer customers with untreated hard water there are several options available.  Descaler products can be added to the line that supplies water to your ionizer to prevent buildup.  These can run between $65 and $80 per filter and will last up to a year, depending on the hardness of your water.  “Magnet” products are also available for either the whole house or “point of use” for your water ionizer.  These magnetic products are easy to install, never need to be replaced and require no ongoing maintenance.  They work by reversing the polarity of the minerals in the water so that they are significantly less likely to stick to pipes and/or your water ionizer which reduces mineral scale buildup.

Most customers with untreated hard water will opt for Ionizer Armor when they purchase their water ionizer.  Ionizer Armor is a point of use magnet product that clamps to the line that supplies water to your ionizer.

Customers in hard water areas are advised to follow the recommended cleaning protocols for their water ionizers every 6 to 12 months to prevent excess scale buildup on the plates.  Most water ionizers do have some sort of cleaning protocol – whether it is a cleaning cartridge sold by the manufacturer or a cleaning process recommended by the manufacturer.

While your water ionizer’s regular cleaning cycle/system helps keep the plates clean, scale buildup can become an issue with any water ionizer, regardless of the hardness of your source water.

Soft Water

While hard water has an excess of calcium and magnesium ions, soft water is lacking them.  Just like with hard water, soft water can be an issue whether you are on well water or a municipal water supply.  Soft water is also created by running water through a reverse osmosis unit which effectively removes minerals from the water

Insufficient mineral content in soft water can prevent a water ionizer from effectively ionizing the water.  In most cases soft water can be addressed easily by adding a remineralizing prefilter.  These types of filters add minerals back into the water so that your water ionizer can perform effectively.

Remineralizing filters will last 6 to 12 months, depending on the softeness of your water.

Reverse Osmosis

As stated above, a reverse osmosis system effectively removes all minerals from water.  While it is an excellent way to remove all contaminants from source water, without minerals to carry the electrical charge a water ionizer just won’t work.

Water ionizer customers will opt to bypass their reverse osmosis system or remove it altogether once their water ionizer is installed.  Others choose to keep their reverse osmosis system in place and add minerals back into the water.  If you plan to supply your water ionizer using water from a reverse osmosis system you will need a remineralizing pre-filter to reintroduce the proper minerals so that your water ionizer can do its job.

If you do choose to keep your reverse osmosis system in place you should be aware that your water ionizer’s flow rate will be slower.  If you’ve been using a reverse osmosis system you are aware of the difference it makes in the flow rate.  It will likely slow down a bit more as the water passes through the remineralizing pre-filter and then the water ionizer.

The up-side to using a reverse osmosis filter is that your water ionizer filters can be left in place for 12 – 14 months.

“Softened” Water

Traditional water softening systems “soften” water through an ion exchange process whereby calcium and magnesium are converted to sodium or potassium.  Most water ionizer companies recommend bypassing these types of water softening systems (whenever possible) for several reasons.

First – one of the benefits of drinking ionized water is its ability to penetrate the cells of your body more easily.  Whatever is in your water is also entering your body at a higher rate, including the higher sodium or potassium content created by the water softening system.  While both sodium and potassium are essential for our bodies, in excess they can cause health problems.

Next – the sodium and potassium used in water softening systems are industrial grade, not food grade.  Stores like Lowes and Home Depot have started carrying food grade sodium and potassium for use with water softening systems.  If you are unable to bypass your water softening system you should look into these “food grade” options for your water softening system.

Also, sodium and potassium are known corrosives.  While there may be no immediate effect on your water ionizer, years down the road you may find yourself dealing with additional maintenance issues as a result.

The only way to effectively remove sodium, potassium or any mineral from your water is through reverse osmosis.  Chanson now offers a “nano-filration system” which significantly reduces the mineral content without the need for the storage tank required by reverse osmosis systems.  Just like with a reverse osmosis system, the nano-filtration system will slow your flow rate and you will likely need a remineralizing pre-filter to restore the minerals necessary for proper ionization.

An alternative to traditional water softening system is a magnetic water conditioner – which installs on the water line coming into your home and reduce scale buildup by reversing the polarity of the alkaline minerals in the water.