Testing the Waters: Water Quality in Your Home

Faucet with running hot water

Reading time: 5 minutes

Ahhhhh. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a cool drink of water. Unfortunately, with that water, you might be drinking common contaminants, such as lead, arsenic, and nitrate.

Before you reach for a sports drink, listen to Aaron Simmons of Automatic Water Conditioning Co. Aaron has been helping homeowners to increase the quality of their water for more than a decade, and his company has been helping New Jersey homeowners for more than 70 years.

Aaron explores the process of testing the water quality in your home and how to achieve a refreshing and safe glass of water.

#Waterhomegoals and testing types

a person washes celery in the kitchen sink with tap water
What are your home water goals?

“If you’re concerned about water quality, any time is a good time to test your water,” says Aaron, whose company installs and services more than a thousand filtration systems per year.

The most important aspects of water testing are knowing your goals for water quality and your water source.

“Some people are on wells, and some people get municipally supplied or city water supplies,” says Aaron. “The issues can be very different between those supplies.”

Most homeowners are concerned about what they consume or what they’re giving to their families. In this case, Aaron recommends using an independent, thirty-party laboratory to learn if your water is safe, but this type of testing can be expensive.

DIY homeowners can find water quality test kits, such as litmus test strips at their sometimes at local hardware stores, Amazon, or even at your local town offices. Unfortunately, the test results lack accuracy. 

a home test for your water quality
Is your water up to EPA standards?

“A lot of home water tests tend to be plus or minus 20%, which is pretty significant,” says Aaron, “but at least they give you a baseline.”

It will also help you determine if your water meets the EPA standards.

When it comes to water quality and testing, many homeowners seek help with “hard water,” which constitutes 85% of the U.S. water supply. Hard water has calcium deposits, which will manifest as white, filmy mineral deposits on your faucets and fixtures. It also creates dry skin, hair frizz, and other issues around the home.

“Laundry comes out gray and feels hard,” says Aaron. “No matter how much fabric softener you use, it’s still hard or feels crusty.”

Not to sound like a laundry detergent commercial – but no one wants faded or crusty clothes. And you certainly do not want to drink dangerous chemicals.

Check to see if your county has hard water with the U.S. Geological Survey. Anything above seven is alkaline or basic; anything below is acidic. You want your water to be about seven. (My county’s registered 7.2 pH this morning.)

Keep your clothes bright and water safe

a water filtration system is in a basement
Consider a whole-house approach to water quality.

There are a few ways to fix your contaminant or hard water issues on the home front. Some homeowners opt for whole-house filtration systems like water softeners, which helps to mitigate mineral concerns.

“It’s also a very common tactic in the removal of chlorine contents, or chloramine, which is what’s used as a municipal disinfectant,” says Aaron. “It makes the water taste pretty bad, and it smells.”

If you don’t mind the chlorine smell while showering, then treat only the tap water that you’ll be consuming with point-of-use water filters.

a pitcher of water with cucumber is on a table
Are you looking to treat your tap water?

“You can do a much finer filtration at a point-of-use, like a kitchen sink,” says Aaron. “That can rule out most known contaminants and is relatively simple to do. It could actually be cheaper than testing water samples.”

Aaron stresses that a third-party test may be necessary when using looking to treat your entire home or if you have a health concern about your well water.

When it comes to municipal water, lab testing might not be necessary. That supply can change on a daily basis, but homeowners can get peace of mind from their water quality report. They receive this annually from their municipal suppliers.

Getting “smart” about water filtration and replacement

clear water splashes upon a rock outside.
Smart tech is now helping with leak detection.

On average, homeowners tend to replace systems every five to seven years, though Aaron still repairs some systems that were installed before The Empire Strikes Back debuted. (For those non-Star Wars fans, that would be before 1980.)

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of planned obsolescence out there as well,” says Aaron. “Even though your system could last 15 years, a $15 part breaks, and nobody can fix it.”

That’s why Automatic Water Conditioning Co. uses Pentair products, one of the largest water filtration equipment suppliers globally. This helps to ensure homeowners may be able to repair their systems down the road.

Also, smart tech has begun to integrate the water quality industry, with devices that monitor water usage and provide leak detection.

“Most of the companies aren’t quite there yet on the technology,” says Aaron, “but it’s been rapidly developing over the last two or three years.”

How to choose a water quality professional

a professional crouches to read a water meter
Find a professional with WQA certification.

When venturing into unchartered waters, you want the best person for the job.

The Water Quality Association (WQA) is a leading force in water quality with research for homeowners, educational courses for professionals, and laboratories for product testing. The organization also works with the National Science Foundation to set industry standards and bring awareness to water quality issues.

When choosing your water quality service professional, you should look for someone who has been through the WQA certification process.

“It’s pretty rigorous,” says Aaron. “I carry a master certification through them, and our installers and service technicians are certified.” 

blue pipes for a water filtration system
Professionals will find the best system for your home.

The association itself is a great resource and a good place to start your search for a certified professional. Aaron also suggests cross-referencing the WQA database with online reputations and sites.

“It’s very important to reach out to somebody local, who’s familiar with what can be done in your home and what cannot,” says Aaron. “You don’t know what the rules and regulations are, and they do vary from area to area in the country.”

It’s always important to understand the process and product options for your home.

“It’s important for homeowners to ask questions about their water quality, especially with municipal supplies,” says Aaron. “Try to educate yourself. There’s a lot of information out there, and water quality is becoming a much more prevalent issue in people’s minds.”

Thirsty for more home knowledge?

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vipHomeLink can help!

Get to know about your home, including its water quality, with vipHomeLink. Our home management app offers expertly-backed vipTIPs to help you learn more about the systems in your home and how to perform routine maintenance. Plus, the app sends personalized reminders for home maintenance and tailored recommendations for home improvement.

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Looking for more information about your home’s water quality and filtration systems? Reach out to Aaron Simmons, Automatic Water Conditioning Co., email at [email protected] or call (908) 766-0634. 

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