Monday, November 7, 2011

Time To Move On!

Its True!  After years of living in our happy home on Blogger, we've moved to WordPress and integrated the blog with the entire website.  If you haven't stopped by in a while, check it out! for the site - and the RSS feed for the blog subscription is right at the top in the middle (or linked right here to make it easy!)

Please update your RSS feeds accordingly - submit your feedback, ask a question and you never know - you may just win a prize! ;)  We're launching some brand new products and we'll be giving some away to our friends that subscribe and support all the work!

That's it - have a great week and thanks for keeping in touch!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Arsenic, Uranium and Other Trace Elements, a Potential Concern in Private Drinking Wells

A recent article published by the US Government indicates that a full 20% of residential wells contain contaminants that are above the levels set as "safe" by health officials.  Contaminants like arsenic, chromium and even lead are showing up at levels that could prove harmful to anyone drinking them.

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone tell me their family has lived on the land for generations and "the water was good enough for my grandpa, so it's good enough for me," well, I'd probably have a couple bucks by now anyway.  The fact is, 90% of the contaminants we have to worry about didn't even exist when our grandparents lived on the land.  We have no control, and in most cases, no idea what is happening upstream in the underground aquifers that water wells draw from.

I'm working with a client that is building a brand new home on "family" land - land that's been owned for years in Sturgeon County.  After careful consideration of the options, it was decided to dig a well instead of hauling water with to a cistern, the way most new acreage builders like to do.  In this case, some unexpected contaminants showed up and they definitely require treatment.

Probably the most-concerning was lead.  It was 20% higher than the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) as set by Health Canada.  Fluoride was also too high, testing at 5x more concentration than the new regulations allow for city water.  Both of these are effectively treated, assuming optimal conditions, by either reverse osmosis, or distillation.

With these serious issues, this is no time to fool around with cheapo-Joe's RO - when health is on the line, the obvious choice is a system that carries the Water Quality Association's "Gold Seal" - stating that the purifier has been sent to a lab, its performance analyzed, and GUARANTEED reduction of these specific contaminants is provided by the manufacturer.

We only provide equipment that is certified by the WQA to achieve a minimum reduction, then we take the specs, compare to the water analysis, and ensure that we are in the optimal zone for making good drinking water.  This goes well-beyond just plugging in the equipment and hoping for the best.  Reverse osmosis requires sufficient pressure to meet the Gold Seal specifications - and no well water pressure system I've ever seen is sufficient in this regard.  Consult an expert in your area to ensure the system is within specifications for pressure, pH, TDS and contaminant reduction.  Anything else is taking a gamble with your health!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Does Tucson's Water have to do with Edmonton???

Sediment & Scale Water Damage
The municipality of Tucson, Arizona just made an announcement regarding their city water supply. The water the municipality treats and delivers to the residents is filtered and chlorinated, much like it is in most cities. One thing Tucson has been doing been doing until now, is something Edmonton had done until the year 2000 - softening the water for the town's supply.

The Arizona news story talked about the town having to do cutbacks and not being able to supply conditioned water to the residents. They stated, "'s the city's job to make sure the water isn't going to get you sick, as far water quality and hardness, it's gonna fall on the homeowner." Until now, they had been removing hardness minerals which have been known to cause build-up and clog water pipes. Soon their levels will rise in the water and so could the damage to homeowner's plumbing, hot water tanks and fixtures.

Not having softened water, as many Edmonton area homeowners found out when Epcor stopped softening their water, leads to increased soap use, and requires higher temperatures to do an adequate job with laundry. Softened water saves between 50 and 75% of detergent usage and allows for laundry to be done with cold water - not only saving money on soaps and energy consumption, but actually doing a better job of laundry. As noted in a 2009 Battelle study,
The study found that tankless water heaters completely failed to function because of scale plugging in the downstream plumbing after only 1.6 years of equivalent hot water use on 26 gpg hard water. Softened water saves 34% of costs compared to operating on 20 gpg and saves 47% compared to operation on 30 gpg hard water.

Scale Acts an Insulator
Further, an independent report by the Water Quality Research Council showed a 30% (THIRTY PERCENT!) savings on energy usage for gas-fired hot water tanks, simply by using conditioned water. Most people don't think about it, but the hot water heater is the second-highest user of energy in a home. Since we just got word last week that energy prices are going up yet again next month, it makes sense to keep as much as possible from going up the chimney!

At least Tucson residents were publicly advised about this change and adding residential treatment like water conditioning and reverse osmosis was recommended by the municipality. I don't know anyone in the Edmonton area that remembers hearing such recommendations here - just those that started noticing a scale build up on their faucets, having to replace hot water heaters more frequently, higher energy bills (take a look if you still have your old bills!) and grubbier looking laundry.

An average family of 4 saves $1200 a year using conditioned water - even more if they install a drinking water system and stop buying expensive bottled waters.  For a link to the article referenced and a short video on the news story, please click HERE.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Moving From a Cistern to Well Water

This is an update to the family I mentioned June 26th, "Well Water vs Cistern Water" - they decided to go ahead with the treatment system and take their cistern offline.

Douglas Environmental closed off their cistern, just before their next scheduled water delivery (instant savings of $60!) and tied their well into the plumbing servicing the entire home. The water from this well wasn't particularly nice to start with - it has very hard (17 grains or almost 300 mg/L hardness) and had problems with iron, sulfur (or sulphur, if you prefer) and some tannins and organics that would be causing staining.

This called for two separate units to treat the water for the whole home, and a reverse osmosis (RO) system to supply pure, fresh drinking water to the kitchen faucet, a faucet in the basement and to the fridge & icemaker for chilled water and perfect ice. We ended up softening and sediment filtering the water in the first stage of treatment - for this, we used the "Puratech" system from Hague Quality Water followed in series by a special carbon filter unit that would handle the tannins, organics and H2S gas (sulfur - causing the "rotten egg odour" many well water families are familiar with.)

The family had a sink in the basement where they plan on making wine. It was determined the best place to install the RO system was under the basement sink, feeding a faucet right there for purified water, then run a line upstairs to feed the kitchen's RO faucet and the fridge. Normally, we install the RO completely out of the way, in the utility room where the pressure tank and any well water treatment equipment would be, but logistically, this time installing under the sink seemed to make the most sense.

After the transition was complete, the home actually had better water from the system than was being supplied to any city water home. Their well supplies LOTS of clean, fresh water now - and the organic staining most cistern owners deal with is a thing of the past. Other than the power to run their well pump, something still required with a cistern, the water is "free" to use now.

Unlike a cistern where rationing drives people crazy, not to mention the $120+ per month for water hauling, there is very little for this family to do or think about when it comes to their water. Monthly, they are to check salt levels on the conditioner and annually, there is a maintenance required on the drinking water system - something recommended even if they were to stay with the cistern, since that water is immediately stale and contaminated with dust, dirt, organics and often even with frogs and mice. (Yuck!)

Now the water is fresh and free-flowing. The way it should be!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Right Tool for the Job

I was asked to come out and check a rural home's water system this weekend. The owners have been trying to keep it going since they purchased their acreage, but have dealt with staining and bacterial build-up in their plumbing, as well as a rotten-egg odour in the home.
They had someone come to replace the "Birm" media in their iron filter in 2008 and have since had their water tested by the County. Even after their air injector, mixing tank and birm filter, they were still getting 0.74 parts per million (ppm) of iron through their plumbing - more than double the concentration where staining starts to be visible on fixtures.

I tested their raw well water as well as their water at the tap. I confirmed the system was only removing about 1/2 the iron coming from their well. The main problem is that there was H2S (hydrogen sulfide) gas present in the water. Some of it was being oxidized by their air injection system, but birm is specifically not suitable for treating water with H2S present. This is either a case of some overzealous salesman extolling the virtues of his magical "chemical free" iron filter, or perhaps a case where the water chemistry had changed and the birm system simply wasn't capable of keeping up.

Its unfortunate the technician that replaced the birm media in their filter seems to have neglected to test the water. The owners complained of rotten egg odour to him and that is an immediate reason to check for H2S gas. If it is present, there is absolutely no point in replacing the birm media - it simply won't work on that water. Period. Instead, the technician charged them around $700 for a service call and left a system behind that had no chance of working for his customer.

Perhaps ignorance, perhaps arrogance - but there is no excuse for what happened there. If you have water problems, especially with well water, you need to ensure you are dealing with a professional, not just some slick sales guy that may not be properly trained on how to treat different kinds of problem water. I left some recommendations for new equipment using a media called manganese greensand that will work and keep him going for the life of the property. Hopefully they take me up on the offer to help - spending more money trying to get the wrong system going is throwing good money after bad!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When Would Whole Home Reverse Osmosis Make Sense?

Having represented the Hague Quality Water brand for years and having had nothing but success deploying their solutions, it seems odd that I would be suggesting a GE product for a client we're working with for an acreage near Sherwood Park.

The clients live in a high-end acreage in a beautiful subdivision in the Edmonton area.  They just purchased the home and are finishing the basement, as well as performing some other renovations.  With the steam shower they are installing and the high-end fixtures, it only makes sense to have high-performance water feeding their home's plumbing system.

Initially, due to the high flow rates, we were looking at either a dual residential softener system or a single commercial unit, depending upon the client's needs.  The WaterMax system has the highest flow rate of any residential water conditioner or water softener at 13 Gallons Per Minute (GPM) but that still may not handle the high-end, multiple nozzle steam shower with body sprayers the client is getting installed.  In order to effectively soften and remove the chemicals and chlorine, two units need to be installed in parallel, effectively doubling the maximum flow to over 20 GPM.

The down side to this is cost.  Clearly, for more performance, most people expect to pay more money.  In this case, instead of a traditional water conditioner plus reverse osmosis drinking water system, we explored a whole-home reverse osmosis system by GE - a new system called "PureOFlow."  This cabinet-style system will soften all the water and remove chlorine and chemicals for the whole home - without the need for additional plumbing to run lines to separate faucets for a traditional reverse osmosis drinking water system.

With this configuration, all the home's water would be purified, leaving all existing taps delivering bottled-water (or better!) quality throughout the home.  This is accomplished without the use of salt, a necessary addition to a traditional softener or water conditioning system.  In terms of price, it actually cost about $1000 less to go this route, and as a bonus, the repressurization system included with this PureOFlow system will deliver up to 22 GPM of water flow to the home - enough to run the steam shower unit without any additional hardware.

It turns out once again that it pays to work with a water professional that keeps up on technology and offers multiple solutions - not trying to force the same answer to solve every problem.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Savings are Crystal Clear

Independent research has confirmed something people with water softeners have known for years - soft water just plain works better!  Not only do you get the less-tangible benefits of softer skin, using less (if any at all) moisturizer and less itchiness, soft water has proven effective at helping every household's bottom line.

According to independent research done by the Water Quality Research Foundation people with soft water can cut their laundry and dishwasher detergent costs by 50% AND switch to lower temperatures -saving money on energy and making homes friendlier to the environment as well.

According to the study, soft water users, using 50% less detergent and switching from 100 degree to 60 degree water temperature achieved the same results OR BETTER than traditional setups. 

The fact that softened water combined with the least amount of detergent and lowest temperature provides the highest degree of whiteness compared to increased hardness with the highest level of detergent and temperature is a noteworthy finding.                          -Pauli Undesser, Water Quality Association (WQA) Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs and Toxicology Manager for WQA’s Gold Seal Certification Program 

The same or better stain removal and whiter whites!  The same savings goes for dishwashers - less soap, less energy and little if any rinse agent chemicals (like "Jet Dry") needed to get spotless dishes.

This is something we've known for years, conditioned water doesn't cost money, it pays!

For more information and an overview of the study, please see: