Have you wondered how to improve water quality in your home?
Does your tap water taste, smell, or look weird? Even if local water reports state that it’s technically safe to drink, how can you be sure that over time, those molecules don’t affect your health? To be safe, many homeowners take steps to improve their water quality. Some go so far as to alter their whole plumbing system, but there are cheaper, less obtrusive ways to go about it.
We’ll start with the simplest and most affordable steps you can take then move up to the bigger, more expensive measures.
- Aerator maintenance – You know those mesh, screen-looking thingy just inside your faucets? Those are called aerators. They are there to split the water flow into several streams, thereby introducing air, which uses less water overall and reduces splashing.
But how often do you clean them? If the answer is never, you’re in the majority. The problem is that aerators can trap bacteria and other minerals and grit that come through your water lines. Not only does this reduce the efficiency, but it increases the ick factor of the water you’re drinking.
Don’t fret. Cleaning an aerator is super easy.
- First close or cover the sink drain.
- Unscrew the aerator from the faucet with your fingers or with pliers.
- Take out the mesh filter.
- Use tap water to rinse loose stuff from it.
- Then place it in a cup of vinegar and soak it for an hour.
- After that, clean gently with a small brush, rinse, and reassemble.
- Depending on your water quality, repeat this up to twice a year.
- Sink filters and pitchers – When you think water filter pitcher, you probably think Brita, and that’s a good brand. There are others just as good. For less than $30, you can invest in a pitcher that will remove chlorine, Benzene, lead, mercury, and other nasty stuff. You’ll need to replace the filters now and then when the indicator says so.
Don’t want to bother with a pitcher? Then opt for a faucet filter that screws right onto your kitchen faucet. They do the same thing as filter pitchers, but cost a tad bit more and require filter changes now and then. But you don’t have to fool with filling a pitcher, so that’s convenient. Installation is easy too.
- Shower filters – Hard water or heavily chlorinated water can irritate and dry out your skin and hair. In just one 10 minute shower, your skin can absorb more chlorine than drinking a full 2 liters of tap water. Chlorine also becomes airborne, so while you’re singing songs that make your dog howl, you’re also breathing it into your lungs and bloodstream. Lovely, huh?
You can prevent all that with a shower filter. These are easy to install with minimal tools. They may come as one whole piece with a built-in shower head or may be an inline filter that installs behind your shower head. There are also some that fit on your bathtub faucet if you or the kiddos prefer a nice warm bath. They range anywhere from $20 – $60.
- Point of entry filters – Instead of filters installed at the point of dispensing, you can install filters at several points of entry into your plumbing system. For instance, an under-sink water filter can be plumbed under your kitchen sink. It has a separate small tap for filtered water. These come in a few different varieties, but usually involve a combo of carbon block filtration with a pre-filter to remove heavy metals, chlorine, chemicals, and microscopic bad guys such as Giardia.
Others can be installed at pretty much any water source, including your bathroom, garden shed, and even your refrigerator for fresh, cold water and ice (if it doesn’t have one built-in). Here’s a handy guide to show you how to add one for your fridge. It does take a moderate skill with plumbing, so seek help from Cousin Joe or your local plumber if you think you may do more harm than good.
- Water coolers/dispensers -You may think these only belong in an office setting, but more homeowners are turning to stand alone water coolers and dispensers. These can be standing models or countertop if you lack the floor space.
There are several benefits to owning these:
- The ones with pre-filled jugs require ZERO plumbing skills. So if you tend to burst a pipe just by looking at it, then this is a good option. But there are also bottle-less ones that can hook up right to your plumbing.
- Water coolers are portable, so you can move them wherever they’re needed most, even while traveling or camping.
- Some offer both hot and cold water.
- They’re still a cheaper and greener option than disposable water bottles.
- You can choose to refill them yourself at self-service refill stations in stores or hire a service to come switch the jugs out for you.
- Water softeners – If your home’s water is very hard, you should consider installing a water softener. They can be plumbed to soften your whole house’s water supply or just to soften certain areas like your laundry room and bathroom. Unless you’re really adept at plumbing, you will probably need a professional to install one of these.
There are numerous benefits to having softer water. For one, there are fewer water spots and mineral deposits on your dishes, tile, and plumbing fixtures. It’s gentler on your skin and hair, leaving it softer and less dry. You won’t need to use as much soap and shampoo because it will lather much easier. Your clothes will be softer and less dingy. All appliances will last longer since they won’t get clogged with excessive minerals.
- Whole-house filtration, reverse osmosis, and distillation – Whole house filtration involves installing to the main water supply line for your house. They’re usually multi-stage systems with a few different filters. They’re an expensive option, but once they’re installed, you have the peace of mind knowing that all the water in your house is high quality and safe to use. Professional plumbers should install these.
For a slightly cheaper option, you can go with a reverse osmosis system that can be installed at one of several points in your plumbing. Some can even go under the sink.
Water distillers work by heating the water to make steam. As the steam evaporates and cools, contaminants are left behind. Distillation is kind of a “scorched earth” method that removes EVERYTHING else in the water besides H2O. It’s highly valued in laboratories and hospitals. Besides being expensive up front, distillation is rather slow, and the resulting water tastes very flat. But, if you live in an area with terrible water quality, this will provide you a safe means to use your tap water.