Buying a House with a Well System? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
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There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a new home, but for many buyers, the local water source isn’t one of them – as much as it should be. Sure, you might be a city slicker who has gotten used to getting filtered water from a municipality and all the benefits that come with it. But if you’re buying a house in a rural area too far out of town to connect to a municipal system, chances are you’ll be inheriting a well water system.
Make no mistake, owning a home with well water isn’t a bad thing (the more than 43 million Americans currently relying on private wells for their drinking water can attest to this). The concern is that well water is often more prone to contamination and usually requires more attention and treatment than city water. It may also look, taste, and smell different from municipal water.
Furthermore, unlike municipal water systems, a well water system is a part of your property and is something with which you should become closely familiar. If you neglect it, misunderstand how it works, or treat it poorly, you could find yourself in some expensive and potentially health-threatening situations.
Luckily, this guide outlines everything you need to know to ensure you’re ready to hydrate right on Move-In Day. It covers topics like what makes using well water different from city water, some common concerns about well water, how to spot specific well water issues, and what you can do to address them. Let’s begin.
What’s so different about using well water?
Switching from city water to well water may seem daunting at first, but you’ll quickly adjust once you understand where well water comes from and how it may differ from municipal water.
· Regulation and Monitoring
Typically, private well owners are solely responsible for the safety of their water. That’s because the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal bodies do not regulate private wells. As a result, you’ll have to test your well water regularly to ensure it is safe for use (we recommend six-month or annual testing), and you’ll be the one to handle repairs and maintenance as needed. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to do the work yourself. You may have to work with professionals to ensure the necessary updates.
· The Source of the Well Water and The Condition of the Well Itself
When rainwater, melted snow, or water from other forms of precipitation falls on land, it soaks into the ground and moves downwards to fill all the possible cracks or spaces in the soil and rock. The water then settles and becomes groundwater, which collects in large water-bearing geological structures called aquifers. Whether a well is drilled, dug, or bored, it has to reach enough into the aquifer to access and pump out the groundwater.
As the water is drawn from the well, minerals may enter the supply, as well as potential contaminants (not necessarily in your well water). The condition of the well itself and the pipes and plumbing that deliver water to your home could also affect the quality of your water. That’s why it’s important to know specific factors when purchasing a home with a well, like the age of the well, how it was constructed, and the steps taken to maintain it.
With this in mind, contact the seller(s) and ask for the maintenance records and previous water tests results. Even after collecting these details, we recommend having the well inspected just in case the condition of the well has deteriorated or it’s been quite some time since its last maintenance.
Possible Concerns with Well Water in Your New Home
Well water usually has a higher concentration of contaminants, mineral concentrations, and aesthetic issues than water treated by municipal systems. Due to specific factors, the water quality may also change from year to year. Fortunately, these problems are treatable.
Here are some of the most common issues to look out for if you decide to move into a home that has well water:
· Hard Water
Depending on the location of your new home, your well water may contain high concentrations of dissolved magnesium and calcium (and sometimes iron). High levels of these minerals often contribute to a condition called hard water. Hard water can create chaos in your household, from leaving nasty stains on plumbing fixtures and kitchenware to damaging water-using appliances, like water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers.
· Increased Contamination Risk
Well water is particularly susceptible to a host of potentially toxic contaminants. For example, PFAS chemicals can enter underground aquifers through AFFF firefighting foams, industrial discharge, etc. These chemicals are highly poisonous and are said to cause cancer. Pesticides and other toxic agricultural chemicals can also seep through the soil into underground aquifers, potentially causing a host of chronic health problems once you ingest them. What’s unique about some well water contaminants is that they cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled but can have devastating effects on the health and wellbeing of various household members.
· Aesthetic Issues
If you are new to well water, you may quickly notice that it smells and tastes different than city water. Sometimes, it may look cloudy and discolored or contains sediment. Dirt, sand, silt, and other particulate matter can influence the water’s taste and smell. Beyond that, iron minerals in well water can turn rust and stain plumbing fixtures, laundry, and hair. If you notice that your hair is always dry and frizzy and looks orange, iron may be the culprit. Because municipalities don’t treat well water, the condition of the groundwater supply will affect how it tastes and smells. As a result, you’ll need to take steps to improve the water’s aesthetics.
· Unusual taste or smell (or both)
Since well water comes from underground, it may introduce bacteria, viruses, and other microbes into your water from nearby sewage discharges, feces from people and animals, and other fecal matter into aquifers that serve wells. And as you probably know, some microbes can cause your water to smell horrid. Some can even diseases and severe illnesses.
Hydrogen sulfide is also known for causing offensive odor in well water (hint: It is sometimes responsible for the nasty rotten egg odor many private well owners complain about.) Furthermore, the bacteria that produce hydrogen sulfide gas also produce slime, which can create favorable conditions for other bacteria, such as iron bacteria. Iron bacteria can produce a reddish-brownish slime. This slime can coat plumbing pipes and lead to clogs and corrosion.
Tips for When Buying a House with Well Water: Treatment Options for Well Water
When you move to an area with well water, you must ensure your water is safe, clean, and great-tasting before filling a drinking glass. The only way to achieve this is to be proactive. A part of that involves knowing the condition of the well, the composition of the water, and the steps you’ll need to take to make sure your water is the highest quality possible right from the day you move in. Luckily for you, we provide an action plan below.
· Have the well system inspected.
The first order of business is to have the well system inspected by a qualified local well contractor to ensure it is operating correctly. While this initial inspection is crucial, a green light from the inspector doesn’t mean you can forget about the well system after that. Depending on the type, you may need to be on the lookout for warning signs of impending problems. Also, ensure you use the system properly to minimize the chances of this occurring.
· Test the water before you move, and test it regularly after that.
As we mentioned earlier, you cannot taste, smell, or see some well water contaminants, even when they are present in high concentrations. Testing your water with a home water testing kit or sending it to a laboratory for testing is the only way to ensure your water quality before the move-in day.
We recommend laboratory testing because it is usually more thorough and can detect more water quality issues than an in-home water test. Also, test the water before you move in to understand what contamination problem(s) need to be addressed (if any). Afterward, you can work with a professional to assess the results and explore your treatment options.
Perhaps the seller has already installed a water softener or water filtration system in the home, but it may be time to upgrade, repair, or replace them. It’s also possible that the water quality in the area has changed since the existing equipment was installed, requiring new service alterations to ensure you have the highest quality water possible.
Whatever the case, well users should be sure to test their water again every six months to a year. They should also conduct more tests if they notice any perceptible change in the water quality, after any system maintenance is performed, and following natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding. Also, be sure to pay attention to ongoing developments in the area surrounding your home. Runoff from farms and the various nearby regions could alter your well’s water quality.
Learn more about why well water testing is important.
· Install a whole-house filtration system for well water.
Whole-house filtration systems for well water are designed to treat water at the entry point. Since this system will provide fresher, cleaner water at every outlet in your house, you’ll need to choose the right one to ensure you get the maximum protection possible.
For instance, if your water test results indicate high amounts of iron in your well water, you may want to select an iron filter like the Springwell WS1 Whole House Iron Filter for Well Water. The WS1 efficiently removes iron, sulfur, and manganese, often found in well water. This system uses the latest technologies in water filtration to remove some of the most toxic contaminants from well water. Plus, it’s more economical and environmentally friendly than most other well water filtering systems on the market.
Partnering with a professional during this process is the most reliable way to ensure you choose the right whole-house filtration system for your needs. They’ll also give you peace of mind for installation, maintenance, and overall system operation and performance. They may also point out customized solutions for well water properties common for well water in your area.
· Choose an ideal water softener for well water.
Hard water is a common problem for most well water users. As a result, you’ll need a reliable water softener to eliminate this pervasive enemy. Industry professionals can help you find a softener with the capacity necessary to combat well water at any hardness level and for the size of your specific household.
Water softeners with innovative features, like usage monitoring and automatic notification, can help you stay on track for regeneration and maintenance requirements. By maintaining your water softener regularly, you can increase its lifespan, further protecting pipes, plumbing fixtures, and water-using appliances from the effects of hard water.
The Springwell FutureSoft FS1 Salt-Free Water Softener is not ideal if you’re on a well system. This system is designed to produce high-quality, hardness-free water without salt or chemicals. Instead, it uses a physical process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). What’s more, it provides 99.6% scale prevention and does not waste water or discharge salt brine into the environment. It doesn’t even require electricity to work or needs any replacements. With that said, a salt based water softener is the ideal candidate.
· Install a secondary drinking water filtration system, if needed.
If you want an extra layer of protection, even with a whole-house system installed, an additional option is a point-of-use filter at your kitchen faucet, for example. An under-counter reverse osmosis filtration system, like the Springwell SWRO Reverse Osmosis Water Filter, can offer added support for providing cleaner, safe, better-tasting drinking water for cooking and drinking.
We know you must be excited for Move-In Day, but there are a couple of things we need to remind you about to ensure your water is safe to drink and use. Again, well water is susceptible to a range of contamination problems and, therefore, usually requires more attention and treatment. On top of that, private wells aren’t regulated federally, so everything falls on the well owner: testing, monitoring, treatment, and maintenance. But don’t worry, once you test your well before moving in (and after that), you can partner with us to find the best well water filter that suits your needs. Also, remember to maintain your well every six months to a year. We wish you all the best and hope this new chapter will be an exciting one!