Whole House Systems
  • Drinking Water Systems
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  • Iron Water Treatment

    How do I know if I have Iron Problems with my Water?

    If your water has a metallic taste or red/yellow colorization, you very well may have iron in your water. Iron can deposit brown, orange or yellow stains on kitchen and bath fixtures, as well as washing machines and clothing. See the EPA Office of Ground & Drinking Water-Local Water Report for information on water in your area. If you have a well or are located in a municipality not listed in this report, you may conduct a water test to confirm the amount of iron in your water. You can contact a state-certified lab for testing, or you can test the water yourself with a water test kit. See the following document for more detailed information about Iron in Household Water.

    If your water has red or yellow colorization, you probably have Iron in your water. You may also have Tannins in your water, but your water's problem is most likely Iron rather than Tannins. Tannins make water yellow/red at all times. Iron makes water a yellowish or reddish color when it is exposed to oxygen after it leaves a well or other water source. When dissolved iron comes from a well, it reaches your plumbing system and becomes oxidized in particulate (nondissolved) iron. At this point, the water may become slightly yellow or red or the water supply lines may become stained.

    To determine whether you have a Tannins or Iron problem with your water, you will need to test your water. You can do a quick test by filling a cup with water. If the color settles to the bottom after a few hours in a cup of water, then the problem is Iron rather than Tannins.

    If you need to remove Tannins from your water:
    Carbon filtration works for trace amounts. If this does not work, then you will need a treatment system similar to a water softener.

    If you need to remove Iron from your water, you should use a three step process:

    1) Sediment Prefilter (Example: TIER1-P5-20BBto reduce sediment before it reaches the iron filter.

    2) Iron Filter (Example: PENTEK-RFFE20-BB) to Oxidize the iron. This effectively reduces up to 3 ppm of dissolved iron from water. If you have more than 3 ppm, you will need a much larger system.

    3) High Density Carbon Filter (Example: PENTEK-RFC20-BB) to filter the partially oxidized iron.

    These 3 filters all fit in the 20" Big Blue System. You would need 3 20" Big Blue systems for these filters.

    What Level of Iron is safe in my Water?

    The EPA recommends that safe water includes less than 0.3 mg of iron per liter of water.

    There are a few different strategies for reducing excessive iron from your water. See the following document for details on Water Treatment for Iron and Manganese Removal.

    Solution 1: For water with up to 3 ppm (parts per million) of iron and/or if you are trying to avoid as much upfront cost you can use whole house housings with iron reduction fitlers such as the PENTEK-RFFE20-BB or TIER1-MANG-IRON.

    Solution 2: For water with up to 30 ppm (parts per million) of iron use larger water treatment solutions like the TIER1-WH-IRN-MG-SLFR-BW-1054 system. 

    More About Iron and Iron in Your Water

    Iron (Fe) is one of the most commonly-found elements on Earth. Iron is a metal that can be found throughout the layers of the Earth, and scientists gauge that 35% of the Earth's mass is made of iron.

    Iron is necessary in a person's diet, and many people take vitamins precisely to increase their iron intake. However, it is possible to ingest excessive levels of iron, which is a dangerous situation. Iron, at toxic levels, can cause harm to a person's DNA, proteins, or lipids, resulting in very serious consequences.

    The odds of someone incurring iron poisoning are very slim; through typical ingestion of iron via food, it's almost impossible. Iron poisoning can happen accidentally when vitamin supplements are taken in too great a quantity; some people also have a genetic flaw that makes them particularly susceptible to iron poisoning.

    Because iron is so prevalent, it can easily become part of a local water supply. This is, broadly speaking, not a health hazard for most people. Tap water is not likely to contain iron in significant amounts (one calculation indicates that average tap water contains less than 5% of the RDA for iron), so even slightly elevated levels of iron are unlikely to be a cause for medical concern. Rather, elevated iron levels in water are an aesthetic concern - and a valid one at that. High levels of iron in water will turn the water an unpleasant color - red, brown, or tallow - and the water tastes distinctly metallic. It can also smell bad. The water will actually discolor things it comes in contact with for extended periods of time, such as the porcelain sinks or bathtubs in a house - most undesirable.

    Iron is generally easy to remove from water. Simple water filtration systems can remove most iron from water, restoring a home's water supply to the clear-blue, refreshing stuff that we all know and cherish.

    Iron in your Water: A Solvable Problem

    Iron in your drinking water is not really a health hazard in the way that lead in your drinking water is, but most people find that high iron content in water is not desirable. However, iron is frequently found in drinking water supplies because it is one of the most common elements found on earth (at least 5% of the earth's crust is made of iron!). Because it is so common, traces of iron can be found in almost all natural water supply sources, including wells.

    Because iron is essential to good health, it is perhaps ironic that we should want to remove it from our water supply. The problem is that iron levels that are too high make the water taste unpleasant. It can taste bad and smell bad, like sulphur. Water with high iron levels affects the surfaces that come in contact with it - for example, laundry washed in water with high iron levels can turn slightly yellow. Glasses, dishes, and porcelain sinks and tubs can also suffer discoloration after prolonged exposure to water with a high iron content. So most people who have too much iron in their water will want to have it removed, and get their iron intake from other sources - food, vitamin pills, or cooking with cast-iron pans.

    People who have high iron levels in their drinking water can generally tell by one of two ways. There is soluble iron in water, which is the most common situation, and you know you have soluble iron when you can see tiny red-brown particles settling at the bottom of your drinking glass. Then there's insoluble iron, which is also called "red water" iron. This water is actually rusty or yellowish in color, and is distinctly unpleasant to drink. There is also iron bacteria which are detrimental to plumbing - they can cause clogs and smell bad. Dealing with the problem of having iron in your water is a matter of establishing how severe the problem is.

    Sometimes, people think their water's unpleasant reddish color is caused by iron when in fact it is caused by tannins. The problems are not the same and they don't have the same results. Tannins make water taste astringent, and the discoloration it causes in water doesn't settle. (Remember that tannins are found in red wine.) Tannins are easily removed from water by simple carbon filter systems, though occasionally this treatment is not sufficient. In those cases, a water softening system does the trick. But it's important to distinguish between iron and tannin content in your water before you decide on a filtering system.

    With the appropriate water filtration treatment system installed, you will see a world of difference in your water quality. Finally, you'll be able to raise your glass and truly, and joyfully, drink to a long and happy life.

    Notorious Geographic Areas for Iron Problems in Water

    Pacific northwest, areas with well water systems, and other localities.