What Is the Best Type of Filtration for Well Water?

Posted by
John Woodard on September 08, 2023

 About 15 percent of Americans receive water in their homes through a private well. These households, comprising more than 43 million people, do not benefit from the safe water that city treatment provides. Rather than the burden of water treatment resting on the city, homeowners who use well water must discern which treatment systems they need and install them accordingly. Multiple filtration options exist for these homeowners, and some are more effective in certain situations than others. In this article, you can discover the types of filters used on well water and what contaminants they are used for.

Key takeaways

  • A well water treatment system should always incorporate some form of sediment filtration and disinfection. This most often looks like a sediment filter followed by a UV water purifier.
  • If your well is contaminated with lead or arsenic, consider installing a reverse osmosis system under your kitchen sink and do not drink or cook with water from other fixtures.
  • If your well contains high iron levels, consider installing a whole-house carbon filter.
  • A well containing hard water must run through a water softener before it wreaks havoc on your home’s plumbing.
  • If you have any questions regarding the safety of your well water or your well water filtration system, consult a professional to inspect your well water system. When dealing with the water in your home, it is best to eliminate as much risk as possible.

Why filter well water?

Without a filter or treatment system, well water can taste foul, look dirty, or cause serious illness. Unlike municipal water, contamination levels in well water are not regulated and maintained under a specific threshold. As a result, well water often contains bacteria, iron, arsenic, and other contaminants at unsafe levels. If left untreated, contaminated well water can wreak havoc on both your short-term and long-term health. For the safety of your family and yourself, ensure you know what contaminants are present in your well water and install the appropriate systems.

Learn more: Well water contamination and its symptoms

Should I use a whole-house well water filter?

Whole house well water filters are essential in removing contaminants that are unsafe for purposes beyond drinking and cooking. For example, while you do not drink water while brushing your teeth, bacteria-infested water can still cause a problem if a small amount is swallowed. Other contaminants, such as water-hardening minerals, may cause issues with your home’s plumbing. These types of contaminants must be removed before water enters your home’s plumbing.

You can make your well water safe to use with a whole-house filtration system, but you may wish to supplement your drinking water with a point-of-use system. Just because water is safe to drink does not necessarily mean it has a pleasant taste and odor. To remove additional contaminants from water that you will use for drinking and cooking, consider installing a point-of-use filter, such as a reverse osmosis system.

Learn more: How to install a whole house water filter for well water

How do I test my well water?

While you can perform tests for specific chemicals with an at-home water test kit, you should test your well water comprehensively through a state-certified laboratory. Some counties even provide free well water testing. To find a certified laboratory near you, consult the EPA’s certified laboratory list. A laboratory test involves collecting water samples and shipping them to a nearby laboratory. Once shipped, the results should be sent to you within two to three weeks.

Lab water tests are much more expensive than at-home test kits, but they also provide much more accurate, comprehensive, and thorough results. When treating well water, knowing the contaminants in your water is essential, making the high price tag of laboratory testing a worthy investment.

Well water should be tested at least once each year for coliform, TDS, nitrates, and pH. If you notice signs of any other contaminants, have your well water tested immediately. Possible signs include unusual taste, odors, or colors.

Learn more: Lab water tests vs at-home water test kits

Types of filters to use for well water

Sediment filters and UV disinfection systems should always be used on well water, but you may need additional filtration if your well contains certain contaminants.

Sediment filters

Sediment filters, as the name suggests, remove sediment, dirt, and debris from well water. While sediment filters do not disinfect water themselves, they are key in the disinfection process. When sediment is present in water, it blocks the disinfecting ultraviolet light of UV systems. Because of this, sediment filters must always be paired with a UV system. In fact, sediment filters are used as a prefilter for almost every type of filtration system. Keep in mind that sediment filters possess a high micron rating, so they do not remove chemicals, bacteria, or heavy metals from water.

Sediment filters remove:

  • Sediment
  • Dirt
  • Debris
  • Turbidity (cloudiness)

Learn more: What is a sediment filter and how does it work?

UV disinfection systems

An ultraviolet (UV) disinfection system prevents bacteria, viruses, parasites, and cysts from causing waterborne illnesses in your home. While city water treatment kills bacteria by the addition of chemicals, UV systems deactivate microorganisms without altering the composition of the treated water. UV systems work by subjecting water to a wavelength of UV light that deactivates the DNA of microorganisms. Without a UV system or an equivalent treatment method, your well water may not be safe to drink, cook with, or bathe in.

UV disinfection systems deactivate:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Spores
  • Cysts
  • Parasites

Learn more: What is a UV water purifier?

Water softeners

Water softeners are essential if your well contains water-hardening minerals. All water contains a certain level of water hardness, but some regions of the United States are more prone to these minerals than others. For example, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and South Dakota are some examples of state with particularly hard water. To determine the total hardness of your well water, have your well tested.

A water softener removes water hardness by exchanging calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium or potassium ions from a brine. This increases the sodium content of the water, but, more importantly, it reduces the negative effects of hard water by softening it. A water softener protects your home’s plumbing, appliances, and your well water storage tank from damaging limescale. Soft water is also beneficial if you install a reverse osmosis system under your sink. Calcium and magnesium can clog the membrane of a reverse osmosis system, reducing its efficiency. When installed after a water softener, a reverse osmosis system can run at peak efficiency, providing high-quality water.

Water softeners remove:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Other water-hardening minerals

Water softeners add:

  • Sodium or potassium (depending on which brine is used)

Learn more: What is a water softener?

Reverse osmosis systems

Reverse osmosis (RO) filtration systems are rarely used in whole-house applications. Rather, they are installed at a single point of use, most commonly a kitchen sink. If you have installed a sediment filter and UV system but are not satisfied with how your water tastes, an RO system will remove foul odors and flavors that make the water unpleasant. In addition, RO systems remove practically all other contaminants from water. These systems are especially important if your water supply contains lead, arsenic, or other hazardous contaminants that can be bathed in but not consumed.

Reverse osmosis systems remove:

  • Fluoride
  • Salt
  • Sediment
  • Chlorine
  • Arsenic
  • VOCs
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Most other contaminants

Reverse osmosis systems do not remove:

  • Some types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites

Learn more: What is a reverse osmosis system?

Carbon filters

Carbon filters are often used in both whole-house and point-of-use applications. They can be found in refrigerator filters, reverse osmosis systems, or in conjunction with whole-house filtration systems. Carbon filters specialize in removing contaminants that cause foul tastes and odors. Certain carbon filters may also be rated to remove iron, heavy metals, lead, or coliform. They are often used in city water to remove the taste and odor of chlorine, but they can also provide a crisper taste to well water as well.

Carbon filters remove:

  • Chlorine
  • Mercury
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Iron (if certified)
  • Heavy metals (if certified)
  • Lead (if certified)
  • Coliform (if certified)

Learn more: What is a carbon filter?


If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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