Welcome back to another Gordon Water Wisdom, a series of episodes that are focused on clean water and safe water in your home and business. Tom Duisterhof is with Gordon Water Systems, in business for nearly 50 years. This is their business making sure that water is clean and safe, providing you with the solutions to make it that way if it isn’t in your home or business. We’ve talked about some of the real concerns that we see on a regular basis out there, hard water, spots, staining, smelly water and things like PFOS and arsenic, very serious questions about things like that. If you haven’t heard those episodes, just click the link down in the show notes, and it’ll take you to the list of episodes that we’ve been covering. And Tom, we talked a little bit about iron in the process of some of these other conversations, but today we’re going to focus on an iron filter water system and what makes for a good one. Tom, welcome back.
Richard, thank you. Glad to be here.
When we talk about iron filter water system, am I understanding correctly that we’re talking about a system that is specifically meant to filter iron out of the water?
Is that right?
You’re absolutely right, Richard. People will say, Well, can I just put in a cartridge? You know, something that stops rocks, you know, I call it a pre-filter, right? And they do get discolored. If you have iron, you’ll see rust color on the outside of those filters. I’ll bet. And so that is what people many times will think, that’s all I need. But in reality, because iron is a bit challenging, its ability to be removed depends on the complete water chemistry. the TDS in the water, i.e. the hardness, the pH, high or low pH can impact that. Our water specialists are going to test the water in your home not only for total iron level, but then, in all candor, to best choose an iron system. One needs to know Is it ferric, iron or ferrous iron? Do we have tannins in with that? What is the pH of the water? Our specialist is going to be able to ascertain the best recommendation for you with those tests. A high pH will quite frankly make the iron easier to filter out. A low pH keeps iron more in solution and it’s harder to filter. That’s why pH comes into play. Low TDS water is a little harder to pull out iron. Higher TDS water is a little easier to pull out iron. But those types of things go into the recommendation. With respect to a Whole House Iron System, it does depend on the source. What I mean by that is we put in back washing filters, i.e. back washing iron filters on city water applications sometimes. And we do that because, quite frankly, they’ve already got chlorine in the water that’s oxidized the iron and where they are in their plumbing, and I don’t mean the plumbing in their house. I mean, the piping under the street coming to their house can impact how much iron they might be getting into their house, from the pipes or from the water source from the municipality that they’re getting the water from. But that needs to be filtered out even before it goes into a water softener. So rather than putting a cartridge, that might stop some of it, but then get all plugged up and you’ve got to change it with some regularity, a back washing filter will remove that iron and also clean itself every few days, depending on what we’ve programmed it for. And so that’s the basic iron filter would be a back washing iron filter with no other components to it. We do some of those. We do some on well water as well. We do some on city water. An iron system beyond that typically is going to have a way to oxidize the iron, whether it’s ferrous, we want to turn it to ferric. And if it’s ferric, we need to clump it up even more because ferric is what is filterable. It’s one of those things where we need to make it more filterable because it might be coming in, there’s a dimension called a micron. It might be coming in at one micron in size, and one micron is hard to filter. But when we add air, just regular air and oxidize the iron, or some of our equipment uses ozone, which is an awesome oxidizer. It oxidizes the iron, helps get rid of odor, so does air and it clumps it up,
Makes it easier to filter.
It does. And then the filter media then takes those particles or clumps out. And then again, depending on volume of water used and number of days and how bad the water is, we’ll program it to backwash itself and send those particles of iron down the drain. And so that’s the next level up when you move into iron filtration. You could have two separate tanks, one actually has an air compressor on it, and it’s a pretty good sized tank and it has a head of air and the water falls through it and it contacts and it waits until it gets to the bottom and then it goes over to the filter tank. There’s another one that’s a single tank and it has a little head of air or it has a head of ozone in it. So it’s all doing it in one tank. In either case, Iron is hard on the valve. It’s hard on the mechanics. The iron system needs regular maintenance, and the only way I can easily describe that would be if you have a vehicle that’s under heavy load, you know you drive a car in the city, start stop, start stop, start stop, your oil changes and your brakes and your tires need more work than if you’re driving on the highway, cruising a highway speed without slowing down or turning. Same thing, an iron filter is kind of like that start stop, start stop.
It’s getting a lot more wear and tear than, say, a water softener, and it’s in part because the iron is pretty hard on it. And so as a homeowner, you’re obviously keeping an eye on ooh am I getting color? Is my toilet stained, is my shower stained. And, you know, am I seeing any of that? But you’ll also want to do a little pm just like you do with a car. You change the air filter, you get oil changes, you check your brakes or have somebody check your brakes. You want to have us or a reputable service company come out and check the equipment that they provided to you at least once a year. And there may be components, quite frankly, that need to be cleaned or replaced once a year. They’re not big components, but they need to be checked out because if you have a failure of an iron system, guess what happens? It’s just like you just blew the motor in your car. You know, the car still looks OK, but it doesn’t run. Same thing with an iron filter. Well, it looks OK, but it’s not filtering iron, right? And next thing you know, you’ve got a big repair, and it’s so much better on an iron filter to do those annual visits from us to head off that big expense three or four years down the road when you don’t have those check ups.
So just to be clear, and iron filter water system is not a standalone, is that correct or can it be? That is to say it’s either in addition to a system, a whole house system or a drinking water system that you have, or it’s by itself.
It is specific for rust and odor. Yeah, it is specific for that. We do have some people on occasion that will go well, you know, budget or personal preference, whatever it is, they just want the iron out of their water. Yeah, it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen the vast majority of the time that iron filter is really the first step. And then after the iron filter is the water softener, OK. And then after the softener is a drinking water system. And so that’s the vast majority of the time. On occasion we will get somebody that just wants an iron filter. Or maybe they have an existing softener and they just need an iron filter now.
Okay? They work separately, though, although together to achieve all the goals that are necessary. But you don’t get just an iron filter system and have it do everything.
That’s correct. It is designed for one thing and one thing only. It doesn’t soften the water and it doesn’t clean out the nitrates and the arsenic and the PFOS. And you know, all the other things that we want to address in a drinking water system.
Ok, how about that filter you talked about? You said it, it cleans itself in a time frame that has been programmed to do so. How long does that last generally, is that I once a year replacement also?
Yes, the one I talked about that doesn’t have oxygen or ozone in it. That’s in a particular situation where a once a year would be a good checkup. The ones that are more specific, that have oxidizing components like air or ozone, those definitely need an annual. The back washing because it doesn’t have that key component, either an air compressor that’s pumping air into the system or an ozone generator that’s being drawn into the system, those are more electromechanical devices on top of a backwashing filter, so they just add a little bit extra to it. So you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the annuals on those. The back washing filters, good to do, but probably something that could be every couple of years.
All right. And someone who is contemplating an iron filter system is doing so because before you’ve actually come over and analyzed the water, they’re seeing some effects of it. Somehow, I presume there’s a tannins or there’s some staining or there’s some other indicator. Is that fair to say?
Well, the staining is the critical one. And it’s funny because 0.3 parts per million of iron. I mean, it’s a third of one part per million, yeah. So how to draw that example, you have one person standing in a crowd of a million people, that’s one part per million. But if that person is a toddler and they’re standing in a crowd of a million people, you don’t see them right. It’s hard to see that one in a million person, let alone that toddler in a crowd of a million people. But at 0.3 parts per million, iron creates enough color that people go, I’ve got to get rid of this. Uh huh.. You know, it’s staining the bathtub. It’s staining the toilet bowls. It’s staining the sinks. It’s an amazingly small amount of iron that that people start to complain.
Well, I like your analogies, Tom. They work really well. The car thing, the toddler and the million people, I get it. It makes sense. It could be a minuscule amount. It could be enough to make a stain. The point is, and you’ve heard us say this over the course of these episodes is that you need an evaluation and Gordon Water Systems can do that, they can come over and analyze your water and understand completely whether it’s a toddler in the crowd or an adult in the crowd and help you understand that. So right in the show notes is the link to Gordon Water Systems’ website. Have a look, the phone number is there. Make the call, and Tom and his team can help you sort out exactly what the situation is and exactly what the solution is. Until next time, Tom, thank you.