Published November 23, 2020 by Julia Weaver, Redfin
If you’re moving out of the bustling city to a more peaceful and quiet countryside home, chances are you’re buying a home that has a well water system. Most homes in cities access their water via traditional municipal sewer systems. However, millions of homes in rural areas across the US housing market rely on well water to keep faucets flowing – over 15 million, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While using well water may be new for you, there are many upsides to a well water system, including:
- Safety: well water, when properly maintained, is perfectly safe to drink and use.
- Availability: well water is available anywhere, even in rural areas that don’t have access to a municipal water supply.
- Affordability: well water can be cheaper than paying sewer fees. You’re not hooked up to the local water supply, which means no monthly bill.
If you’re buying a home with well water, it’s ultimately up to you to maintain it. So it’s important to have a thorough understanding of how the well water system works and the preventative care necessary to keep your well and your water at an ideal level of quality. Some homeowners don’t know that their water well systems require service and routine maintenance until it’s too late. Add these five tasks to your home maintenance to ensure your water stays safe and usable.
1. Test your well water annually
The quality of well water is always changing. While the government doesn’t require annual testing, it’s important to have your well water tested annually to protect those in your household.
The very nature of well water makes it far more susceptible to contamination. It’s important to make sure your well water is safe to drink and use in cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The testing process looks for things like bacteria, nitrates, iron, water hardness, manganese, and sulfides. If levels are too high or too low, depending on the substance in question, maintenance can be essential to prevent potential health hazards. If you do notice a change in the color, taste, or smell of your water, make sure to get it tested immediately – even if it hasn’t been a year since the last test. And, if you live in an area affected by flooding, you should have your water tested after every major flood in addition to an annual inspection.
The good news is testing water is both easy and affordable. DIY kits are available at most hardware stores. These products allow homeowners to take a water sample and send it to a third-party lab to be analyzed. Once analyzed, the testing company will provide results and, if necessary, guidance on next steps.
2. Get your well water system inspected each year
In addition to testing the quality of the water, you’ll also want the well itself professionally inspected once a year if you’re buying a home with a well. Your well water system plays a key role in keeping water clean and usable. If it’s not operating up to standard, it’s easy for problems to arise.
A professional can determine whether your well and your well pump are working properly and diagnose any problems if present. They’ll look for damage or irregularities – such as signs of cracking or settling – which could allow contaminants into your water. An inspector can assess the damage and help you make the necessary adjustments to keep your well working as it should.
Ignoring issues with your well can result in costly problems down the road, like full system replacements. An annual inspection is relatively affordable and can guarantee peace of mind while helping you save on repair costs.
Or, you can choose to hire a professional. They’ll collect samples from the well, send them to a lab, and provide you with reports on water quality. This can give peace of mind in knowing your water was tested in a state-certified lab. You’ll also have the opportunity to review the results with an expert who will provide next steps.
3. Evaluate your water softener
Water hardness refers to the mineral levels in the water. Hard water has high mineral content, while soft water has low mineral content. Due to the nature of a well, well water tends to be hard. Drinking or using hard water in day-to-day cleaning isn’t dangerous. However, there are still side effects to watch out for, such as:
- Build up around faucets and in tubs, sinks, and toilets
- Leaving skin dry and itchy
- Spots and stains on dishes
- Dingy laundry
- Slow-draining sinks and tubs
- Corroded plumbing
- Reduced appliance lifespan, like washers and dishwashers
Most homes with well water likely require a water softener to avoid the challenges of hard water. This equipment uses salt to neutralize the impact of heavy mineral content. However, maintaining a water softener can require regular replacement of a brine tank. Be sure to check salt levels regularly and replace the tank whenever necessary.
4. Prevent hard water stains
If your new home has hard water, you’ve probably noticed the rusty orange stains in your porcelain sink, tubs, toilets, and residue on your laundry and dishes. This is from the high iron content Hard water stains are caused by the high iron content found in well water. And although iron is typically not a safety concern, hard water stains can be a challenge to remove if not addressed immediately.
For those who do not have a water softener, it’s best to prevent hard water stains at the source. After each use, wipe down the surfaces of your tub and shower. Regularly clean sinks and toilets to prevent buildup. If hard water is damaging your clothing, let laundry sit in a vinegar solution prior to washing. Place a cup of vinegar in your dishwasher prior to starting a cycle to avoid hard water stains on your clean dishes. Vinegar and baking soda can work wonders on existing hard water stains, as can numerous hard water-specific cleaning products.
Consider incorporating a water softening system into your home to significantly reduce stains, and perhaps eliminate them altogether.
5. Keep your well water tasting and smelling fresh
Most of the time, wells don’t result in dangerous drinking water, unless bacteria is present, but water can smell or taste different.
A filtration system can eliminate minor impurities, including hydrogen sulfide – a harmless substance with no flavor but can smell like rotten eggs. However, if filtration isn’t keeping water clear and odor-free, there may be larger issues involved with your water well system that a professional will need to address.
If you’re buying a home with well water, be sure to do some research about the water in your area, and any regulations for the area where you’re buying.