General Filtration Questions

Are the Filter Systems you Sell NSF Certified?

The short is is a absolutely YES!  West Carolina Water Treatment only carries products and components that are NSF certified.  There is however a more complicated explanation that needs to be made. Only prepackaged and unalterable products can can receive a NSF certification.   In order for that certification to remain valid you have to ensure that every time you open a package you get the exact same product, every single time.  This makes sense for small products like cartridge filter housing and our Millennium Reverse Osmosis filtration system.  Unfortunately the NSF’s requirement for a product to remain unchanged to maintain its certification doesn’t lend itself to well to the dynamic nature of custom whole-home filtration systems.   Because there are literally 1000’s of variations or combinations of filter system components that are used to create your unique filtration solution it would be impossible to certify each possible configuration.     While each custom configuration does not carry a NSF seal every part used to create the perfect water filter system does.  Rest assured that WCWT only uses the highest quality, industry standard parts and every filter tank, control valve, pipe fitting and filter media is NSF certificated to the highest standards.

Does a backwashing water filter or softener require electricity?

 

Yes, almost all backwashing filters require some electricity to operate the control valve. A water filter has about the same electrical requirements as an alarm clock, but they do need to be plugged in.  They are very low draw devices requiring less the 0.5 amps on a standard 120VAC outlet.  Most filters are also equipped with a small battery backup to maintain time of day and programming during power outages.  If absolutely no power is available in your application there are some other options such as solar power valves that may work.  Please contact us for more details.

What does it mean to be NSF certified?

 

Most reputable filtration systems, replacement cartridges and plumbing products intended for use in potable water systems are certified by NSF—an independent not-for-profit organization that is committed to public health, safety and protection of the environment. The NSF has developed national standards for food, water, air and consumer goods, all of which are recognized world-wide. This certification, which is displayed on a product’s label, provides assurance that the system has been independently evaluated to confirm it will perform as intended and is safe for contact with drinking water.  Great caution should be used when considering a product that is not NSF certified.  At best, without NSF certification, there is no way to validate that product’s claims, at worst the product could actually be harmful.  For these reasons West Carolina Water Treatment only carries products and components that are NSF  certified.  For further information on NSF certification please visit the NSF Web site at www.nsf.org.

What is the Water Quality Association?

 

The Water Quality Association (WQA) is a not-for-profit international trade association representing the residential, commercial and industrial water treatment industry. WQA maintains a close dialogue with other organizations representing different aspects of the water industry in order to best serve consumers, government officials, and industry members.WQA is a resource and information source, a voice for the industry, an educator for professionals, a laboratory for product testing, and a communicator to the public.  To learn more about the WQA visit their website at www.wqa.org.

What type of filter is best for my needs?

 

This is a somewhat complicated question which depends on several factors; the biggest is your overall water chemistry.  I cannot stress enough that trying to select a filtration solution without knowing all of the related chemistry is like throwing darts blindfolded.  Sure you might get lucky, but chances are you’re not going to get the results you expect.  Other important considerations include the presence of sulfur or bacteria, the amount of iron, the pH, the flow rate and daily water requirements.  Once you look at the whole picture then you can select the appropriate equipment to meet your needs.  The best answer to this question is to select the simplest system possible that meets your needs.

Where does the backwash water go?

 

The backwash water can be routed to one of several locations. If an exterior downspout or drain line is available this is usually the first choice for the discharge water, or depending on the lay of land around your home sometimes we can discharge directly on the ground.  However when discharging the water outside is not an option we can also route the backwash water to septic tank or sewer line with no concerns in most cases.  As an alternative some people choose to catch the backwash water and store it for use in irrigation or watering livestock. We can also always find a solution that works for your location.

Where should my filter be installed?

 

This is an important question because you water filter system is a long term investment and needs to be installed somewhere is can be easily cared for. First, for whole home filters you must have access to the incoming water line. To treat the all of the water in the home you have catch it at its source, before it branches off to other parts of the home.  Next the filter needs to be upright; they will not function on their side.  That means laying them down in a crawl space is not an option. Finally, they need to easily accessible.  Its best when then are installed on a flat, ground-level service where a hand truck can be used to move them.  Water filters are heavy, exceeding 200-300 lbs in most cases. They will need service and repairs along the way and being able to easily access you filter will help keep it working properly and save you big money down the road.

Will I notice a loss of pressure with a new filter system?

 

The short answer is no, you should not.  When properly sized, a filter system produces a very low pressure drop at service flow rates, usually around 2-5 psi. Additionally adjustments can often be made to the pressure switch or pressure reducing valve to completely offset the drop. Even without adjustments most people don’t see any pressure loss in their plumbing system.

Iron Filters

1. What type of iron is in my water?

 

Iron can occur in water in a number of different forms. The type of iron present is a big factor when selecting the proper water treatment system. Water that comes out of the faucet clear, but turns red or brown after time is “ferrous” iron, commonly referred to as “clear-water” iron. This color change takes place because of a chemical reaction called oxidation.  When exposed to oxygen the ferrous iron dissolved in the water transforms into a ferric or rust-like partial which is red in color. Water which is red or yellow when first drawn has already “ferric” iron, often referred to as “red- water” iron. In a more rare condition iron can form compounds with naturally occurring acids, and exist as “colloidal” iron which can be very challenging to remove. Water containing iron related bacteria is said to contain “bacterial” iron.  While this is not a pathogenic or harmful bacteria it often requires extra steps to remove.

2. How does an iron filter work?

 

As water comes out of the ground, it is usually clear in color, even though it may contain high levels of iron; this is known as ‘ferrous’ or clear water iron. Also when dealing with “red-water” or ferric iron there is usually still additional iron that remains in clear, ferrous state. Iron filters take this clear iron and transform it to rust or ferric iron in the process known as oxidation. These trapped particles are then physically captured by a granular filtration media.  This media is periodically and automatically backwashed to rinse the accumulated iron out to drain. Most iron filter systems will remove both clear water iron and ferric iron (rust).  Special considerations must be made if bacterial iron is present.  Click here to watch a video showing how an iron filter works and its backwashing cycles.

3. Can I use a water softener to remove iron?

 

Water softeners will remove some dissolved clear water iron by a process known as ion-exchange. However, iron, manganese and/or hydrogen sulfide gas will eventually foul and ruin the ion-exchange resin. If your water contains less than 2.0 ppm of dissolved iron and manganese combined, have a pH under 7.0, and no sulfur odor, then you may be able to use a good quality water softener with a special type of resin cleaner in the brine tank. The resin cleaner will help clean the resin when the softener is being regenerated with the salt water. However we don’t often recommend this approach and strongly advise against it in most cases where the iron content is higher.

Reverse Osmosis

1. What is reverse osmosis?

 

Reverse osmosis, sometimes shortened to the acronym RO, is a filtration process that produces very pure drinking water.  A reverse osmosis system forces water, under pressure, through a semipermeable membrane and a number of other filtration steps.  A typical RO system has a pre-filter designed to capture larger particles, chlorine, and other substances; a semipermeable membrane that captures more contaminants; an activated carbon filter that removes residual taste, odor, and some organic contaminants; and a storage tank to hold the treated water for use.  A storage tank of some size is always required because the RO process is very slow (usually less than 0.1 gpm) and without the system becoming overly large it cannot produce enough water on demand to satisfy normally household uses.

2. How does reverse osmosis work? 

 

This process is called “reverse” osmosis because the pressure forces the water to flow in the reverse direction (from the concentrated solution to the dilute solution) to the flow direction (from the dilute to the concentrated) in the process of natural osmosis. RO removes ionized salts, colloids, and organic molecules down to 0.0001 microns.

You can get a whole-house RO, but this would involve a very large, complex and expensive installation.  Much more commonly, a point-of-use RO system would be  installed under the sink and would provide filtered water at a single source. They’re great for treating water used for cooking and drinking, but they don’t usually produce large amounts of treated water — more like 3 to 10 gallons a day. For this reason RO systems are typically connected to dedicated faucets in the most popular areas of the home such as kitchen.  Just like any other kind of filter technology, reverse osmosis systems require regular maintenance. That includes periodically replacing the unit’s prefilters, postfilters, and RO membrane modules.

Water Softeners

1. What is hard water?

 

Hard water is a common quality of water which contains dissolved compounds of calcium and magnesium and, sometimes, other divalent and trivalent metallic elements. The term hardness was originally applied to waters that were hard to wash in, referring to the soap wasting properties of hard water. Hardness prevents soap from lathering by causing the development of an insoluble curdy precipitate in the water; hardness typically causes the buildup of hardness scale (such as seen in cooking pans). Dissolved calcium and magnesium salts are primarily responsible for most scaling in pipes and water heaters and cause numerous problems in laundry, kitchen, and bath. Hardness is usually expressed in grains per gallon (or ppm) as calcium carbonate equivalent.

The degree of hardness standard as established by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (S-339) and the Water Quality Association (WQA) is as follows:

Term Grains per Gallon (gpg) Parts per Million (mg/L)
Soft <1.0 <17.0
Slightly Soft 1.0-3.5 17.1-60
Moderately Hard 3.5-7.0 60-120
Hard 7.0-10.5 120-180
Very Hard >10.5 >180

 

2. How does a water softener work?

 

A water softener operates using a process called “ion exchange” process.  When mineral laden “hard” water passes through water softener resin beads an ion exchange process takes place.  As the name suggests, the undesirable hard mineral ions, (normally calcium and/or magnesium) are exchanged or trade places with soft sodium/potassium ions.

After a calculated period of use, the sodium ions are eventually depleted and are replaced by calcium and magnesium ions.

At this point, the softener resin needs to be regenerated with new sodium ions, so the resin will again be able to exchange the hard for the soft. Salt, or sodium chloride, rinses through the resin beads during the regeneration of the softener, and washes the hard water ions off of the resin beads replacing them with new sodium ions.  This is why all true water softeners require salt; to regenerate their ion exchanging resin.

Click here for a video detailing the regeneration process.

3. Do I have to use salt in my softener?

 

This is a bit of a loaded question.  Technically the answer is no, but if you don’t use salt you have to use something similar.  Much like grocery stores sell shakers of salt-substitute for people on a sodium restricted diets, some stores that sell softener salt also sell a water softener salt substitute called potassium chloride. The potassium chloride for softeners is just as effective as regular softener salt but adds potassium instead of sodium.

The cost of potassium chloride is higher than regular softener salt and it can be harder to find in stores but may be well worth compromises if you have concerns about residual sodium in your water. Call and check on the availability of potassium chloride and the difference in price, compared to softener salt, in your area.

4. How much salt does a water softener add to my water?

How much sodium is added to the water by the softener?

That depends on the hardness of the water entering the softener. Below is a simple chart which shows the additional amount of sodium you would consume by drinking one quart (32oz) of softened water.

Hardness in Grains per Gallon Sodium in Milligrams per Quart
1.0 7.5
5.0 37.5
10.0 75.0
20.0 150.0
40.0 300.0

To make a more normal comparison using everyday foods:

Item Sodium in Milligrams
One slice of regular white bread 161
3/4 cup of canned baked beans 1130
1 tablespoon of ketchup 204
1 average hotdog 610
1 cup of whole milk 127

As you can see, for very hard water measured at 20 grains you only have 150 milligrams per quart of water in sodium added which is less than one slice of regular white bread!

5. Is softened water safe for plants?

Under normal conditions soft water is perfectly safe for plants.  Hardness levels in WNC are rarely high enough to cause problems.  When treating water that is reasonably hard (less than 15 gpg) it is unlikely that the sodium concentration would be a hazard to plants. Most household plants are far more dependent on soil conditions for healthy growth then the slight amount of sodium present in softened water.  If there is a very high hardness concentration in the water being softened, then there can be some concern about the higher sodium concentration of the softened water and it potential to be harmful to plants.

For outside sprinkling purposes, the use of softened water, for economy reasons, is not recommended unless necessary to prevent iron stains on buildings and concrete. Again, where the concentration of hardness minerals is heavy, the sodium salts replacing them might be sufficient to retard growth or kill grass.