Houses with well water can have a bit of a stigma. A lot of people don't understand how well water works and why it's necessary and, as such, may shy away from buying property that relies on a well for drinking water. But actually, there are both benefits and drawbacks to getting your water supply from a well. We'll review those here and tell you what you need to know if you're looking at a home with well water.
Why do some homes have well water?
Some properties get their water from a municipal supply that's delivered via a system of pipes. But some homes aren't set up to receive city water -- either because they're in a remote location or because they're located on a large amount of land, and running pipes all the way to the home just isn't efficient. If your property doesn't have access to public water, you'll need well water instead.
Homes that have a septic system instead of a public sewer line tend to have well water, though it’s possible to have a well in conjunction with sewer access.
How does well water work?
Well water comes straight from the ground. Wells are drilled deep into the earth to access that water, which is carried up via a well pump. Then the water is delivered into your home via a pipe that's connected to a pressure tank. From there, your home’s piping system sends that water where it needs to go.
What are the benefits of well water?
Having your own water system has its advantages. For one thing, you won't get a water bill every month from a utility company because the water you use will be coming from your private well instead. And when issues like water main breaks arise, they won't impact you because you're not dependent on a municipal system.
Also, well water may contain certain minerals and nutrients that public water may not have, which could not only have health benefits, but also lead to better taste. That said, you'll generally need some type of filtration system to remove potential contaminants from your water.
What are the drawbacks of well water?
There are certain pitfalls you may encounter if you buy a home with well water. For one thing, as mentioned above, you'll generally need some type of water treatment or water filtration system that works on a house-wide level to remove sediment and contaminants.
You'll also need to maintain your well to ensure you have a steady flow of water. Although wells themselves are designed to be durable, they do need to be inspected from time to time. If your well pump starts to go, or your well's pressure switch, which signals its pump, malfunctions, you'll be stuck without water until the issue is addressed.
Furthermore, your well is dependent on electricity to power its pump, and if the power goes out, it means you're out of water, too. You can combat this issue by installing a generator that can kick in when the power goes out, but that's a potentially large expense to bear.
Well water also tends to be hard water, which isn't unhealthy per se, but can alter the taste and smell of your water -- and not for the better. Hard water can stain your sinks and toilets, make it difficult to wash away soap scum, and, in some cases, cause your pipes to clog. You can address this issue by installing a water softener, but again, that's an added expense you'll need to consider.
How to make sure well water is safe to drink
Clean water is a must, whether it comes from a well or another source. But if you have well water, you may need to take some extra steps to help ensure your water is safe to drink.
Your first step involves water testing -- checking for bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants that could make your water unsafe. Knowing what contaminants are showing up can help you determine what sort of water filtration system is best for your home.
But testing isn't just a one-time thing. You'll need to do it every six to 12 months, or on an as-needed basis, such as when:
- Your water suddenly changes color.
- Your water starts tasting funny.
- Your home's septic system has recently malfunctioned or failed.
Keep in mind that environmental contamination can impact well water safety, which is why it’s important to test your water regularly. In fact, it pays to research contamination issues in your area before buying property with a well. The EPA may be a good source for this.
From there, you'll need to figure out which type of water filter is best for your home. When choosing a filter, you'll need to pay attention to things like:
- Efficiency ratings.
- Flow rate.
- Filtration capacity.
- Specific contaminants the water filter system is able to remove.
Generally speaking, you'll need a whole-house water filter when you have well water, because you want contaminants removed not just from your drinking water but from the water you bathe in as well. In fact, you may want to opt for a whole-house reverse osmosis system, which will usually come with a sediment filter to remove rust and dirt particles, as well as a carbon filter to get rid of chlorine and other contaminants that can impact your water's taste. You may also need a water softener in conjunction with your filtration system.
That said, you don’t necessarily need a whole-house filtration system. You can instead put individual filtration systems under sinks, which is a less costly prospect than having a house-wide filtration system.
Is a home with a well right for me?
When you own property with a well, maintaining that well and testing its water for safety is your responsibility. If that's something you're willing to take on, you may find that it opens the door to owning property on a large stretch of land where you have complete privacy and plenty of space to spread out. Just make sure you're really committed to testing your water regularly, installing the right filters to ensure that it's safe, and maintaining your well itself before taking that leap.
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