Should I Treat My Water?
Installing a Water Treatment and Purification System
Most tap water in the United States is safe to drink, but many people decide to treat their water to improve the taste, odor, look and feel or to remove chemicals and pollutants. Whether you have city water or a well, a treatment and purification system can make your water healthier and more palatable.
Generally speaking, there are two types of water treatment systems: Point-of-use (POU) systems treat water at the tap, while point-of-entry (POE) systems treat all the water running into the house. A POU system might be fine if you’re simply looking to improve drinking water, but a POE system is preferable if you’re bothered by the quality of water going to the shower, the washing machine or the dishwasher.
More specifically, water treatment systems use one of four methods to purify water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Activated carbon filters absorb organic contaminants that lead to taste and odor problems. Some types remove chlorination byproducts, pesticides and cleaning solvents. These remove metals but not bacteria.
- Ion exchange units are great for treating hard water because they remove minerals like calcium and magnesium. However, they also remove fluoride.
- Reverse osmosis units are effective for removing offensive tastes, odors and colors, as well as some pesticides. But they don’t remove all organic and inorganic contaminants.
- Distillation units remove bacteria, nitrates, most organic compounds, sodium, heavy metals and more. These, too, are great for treating hard water, but they don’t remove certain pesticides and solvents.
Point-of-use systems are fairly inexpensive. You can find a decent one for less than $100. Point-of-entry systems, also known as whole-house systems, are considerably more expensive, ranging from $1,200 to $2,500 installed. But they’re a better long-term solution if you have serious or persistent water quality issues.
Most companies that sell water filtration systems will provide a free water quality analysis, but don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if you have doubts. And, as with any large purchase, you should always get several quotes before deciding on a company. Compare the companies not only on price, but also on experience and reputation. Sometimes the cheapest quote is not the best deal.