What’s in a Water Test?
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re already a Gordon Water customer.
If you’re reading this and you’re not already a Gordon Water customer, your interest has likely been sparked for one of two reasons…
One, you have questions about your current water – you might not have any water treatment equipment in your home at all, or equipment that has been there since you moved in that you’d like to understand a little better. Your water could be hard, have an odor to it, or have color to it and you’re tired of dealing with it. You deserve better. Say it again; You deserve better. Two – You are building a new home. You could be on a private well or city water. You’re curious to know about the water sources in the area and how they might affect you and your family. Regardless, the point is whether you’ve followed us for a long time, or are just now starting to do your homework – you’ve likely noticed or heard us talk about our free, in-home water test (and if you haven’t heard about it, someone should have a stern talk with the marketing guy).
Seriously, it’s true – we will come out to your house and conduct a free water test that fits your schedule and provides you with a detailed analysis on the results. No strings. No hassle.
Some people call us chomping at the bit over things like this (read: anything free), others more apprehensive to invite a stranger into their house and others yet are afraid of the high-pressure ‘hard sell’ (we do not do this). The point is, many people don’t know what to expect when they sign up for a free, in-home water test. In today’s blog, we will go over exactly what you can expect when having your water tested by a professional at Gordon Water Systems.
Highly Trained, Professional Technicians
To get a better understanding of this process myself, I sat down with Water Specialist Ben Roper (Bachelor of Science – Chemistry; Earlham College) for an impromptu interview discussing the process. As much as I hate to admit it, I did not understand how much planning and attention to detail goes into one of these free tests.
Ben started in with me right away, talking about the importance of communication and ‘the right way to approach’ someone’s home. “We always call when we’re approximately 30 minutes away,” he said. I personally thought it was interesting that he went into detail on approaching the door – something I think a lot of people in residential sales roles do not consider.
“Slowly but confidently, walk up the driveway and up to their door, ring the doorbell (if applicable) or knock, and take one good step back,” he advised. We talked earlier about how one reason people may have some trepidation regarding an in-home call is because it’s inviting a stranger into your home. This simple step back is meant to give the homeowner space in the initial greeting and meant as a sign of respect as we enter your home. We also always wear booties or remove our shoes upon entering a home.
So, what’s really in a water test?
After the initial greeting, pleasantries and basic questions – and finding out what concerns you have about your water, our specialists (test kit in hand) will start testing your water. “We’re always sure to place a towel down underneath our kits to avoid scratching counter tops, or set our kit somewhere safely on the floor”. This is your home and we are guests. From there, we’ll draw our first sample, which (if applicable) would be a test of your current, treated water. This will give us a gauge to see (if there is existing water treatment equipment in the house) if it is in good working order and softening your water.
Once we’ve completed the initial treated water test, we then draw a sample of their raw water. This is water that has gone through no changes or equipment as it enters the house.
“We test this water in several ways – first for tangible or visible contamination (clarity, smell, etc.). Following that, we use a TDS meter (Total Dissolved Solids) to measure the amount of total dissolved solids in the water. (measured in parts per million, or PPM).” We will take this raw water from one of two sources, an untreated spigot outside or from the pressure tank in the basement. We will then run water until the pressure tank kicks on, showing that fresh water is now being pumped from the well. Now we have our raw sample.
We’d mentioned a visual check for clarity and smell earlier with the treated water and we do it with the raw sample, but really we’re doing so much more with just this simple test. Clarity refers to the hue the water might carry. Is it slightly yellow or red? Is it perfectly clear? This could be sediment, iron, or tannins – which are all treated and handled differently. When we test for smell, we’re trying to identify if there’s anything present in the water that is creating that sulfur, kind-of rotten egg smell. There are a few iterations of this, and that typical slimy/bacterial smell. It could also be metallic (like tin, or a “blood-like” smell).
We then begin again testing for TDS. Again, TDS is a general reading that includes mineral salts in your water. What does that mean? We’re looking at the levels of limestone plus other dissolved ions like chlorides. Once we have our reading, we’ll compare it to our chart to see it’s mostly hardness or if you have something else in the water.
For a better visual of what “hardness” in water really means, for every 5 grains per gallon hard, it’s the equivalent of one aspirin tablet worth of rock per gallon of water. TDS The metric of measuring things in “grains” is actually derived from ancient Egypt. A grain is a unit of measurement of mass, and in troy weight, avoirdupois, and Apothecaries’ system, equal to exactly 64.79891 milligrams.
It is nominally based upon the mass of a single virtual, ideal seed of a cereal. From the Bronze Age into the Renaissance era, the average masses of wheat and barley grains were part of the legal definitions of units of mass. In modern day American culture, grains are used to measure the weight of a bullet or projectile (arrows), is commonly used in dentistry (gold-foil is measured in grains). We also measure particulate emission levels in grains and water hardness.
So now we have a good working definition for clarity, smell, hardness, and TDS, but that’s not all we consider in your free, in-home water test. Iron is another metallic contaminant that can cause problems with your water. One of the most prevalent differences in our approach to testing iron is that we test for ferric (oxidized), ferrous (non-oxidized) and total iron, while others will typically only test for total iron, or do not test for iron at all.
“To prove our ability to treat the iron issue, we will run your raw water sample through a miniature, portable softener. When we re-test the water, if it’s clear, we’ve proven the iron is removable by softener alone. If not, your iron problem may require more iron-specific equipment outside of the realm of what a normal softener can handle.”
“Next we test for tannins,” Ben said. “When we did a visual inspection of the water, we may have noticed a yellowish tint. We use white, styrofoam cups to compare bottled, reverse osmosis water. If the water carries that yellowish hue, it’s possible that there are tannins present.”
“This is a very common mistake we see out in the field,” he added. After removing the iron with the portable softener we’d mentioned earlier, if there is still color, it very well may be tannins. We can conduct additional tests to confirm that it is in fact the presence of tannins and not iron. Tannins, often confused with or mistaken for oxidized iron, are different. Tannins comprise organic matter – think leaves, sticks and debris (tannic acid is in fact the acid that’s found in your tea and coffee – but not nearly as delicious). A water softener alone can not remove tannins and require specialized equipment, or at the very least a softener with a mixed resin bed.
Included in your free, in-home water test, we also test for:
- Nitrates & Nitrites (think fertilizers and agricultural runoff)
- PH Alkalinity (Basic) vs. Acidity (Acidic)
- Hydrogen Sulfide (typically done via smell as our noses are so sensitive to it, we do also offer a test for this).
We also offer an assortment of paid-for tests, including:
We provide these tests to educate our clients and ourselves.
We want to know everything about your water so we can treat it quickly and effectively the first time around – no fail. Once we’ve completed your plumbing and water audit, we offer good, better and best solutions to solve your water issues at several price points, catering specifically to your needs.
So now you get it – our thorough, quick (usually about an hour) and free, in-home water test is the perfect way to learn more about the plumbing and water in your house. If you have questions about your water (and if you’ve made it this far, you do!).
Give us a call or follow the link below for your free test! Do it today!
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and hydrated summer!