The 2022 Buyer’s Guide to Water Treatment

Are you considering buying or renting a water treatment system? Read our guide to discover the different types of water treatment systems, how to choose a system for your home, troubleshooting tips, and how much water treatment systems cost in Canada.

Water is essential to everything we do. We drink it, we cook with it, and we use it to wash our clothes and dishes. It flows through our homes’ pipes, plumbing fixtures and most of the appliances we use. Arguably, no other amenity affects our life and our health as much as water — but most people don’t think about the quality of their water until something is noticeably off about it.

If you are thinking about installing a water treatment system in your home, the many options available can be intimidating. This guide will introduce you to the different types of systems and the specific water conditions each can fix. It will also provide details on water treatment system costs, installation, maintenance and more.

Continue reading or use the following jump buttons to visit a specific section.

Types of Water Treatment Systems

In general, there are two main categories of water treatment systems:

  • Point of use (POU) systems (also called under-the-sink treatment systems) are located at a faucet or tap and will treat only the water flowing through that particular location; and
  • Point of entry (POE) systems treat the water at the main water line where it enters your home and will provide purified water throughout your entire home.

Within these two categories are many different types of treatment systems that are designed to address specific water quality issues.

Reverse Osmosis

One effective technique for removing chemical contaminants from your drinking water is reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis offers powerful purification, removing 90-99.99% of salts, chemicals and other contaminants.1 Using high pressure, incoming water is pushed through a semipermeable membrane that filters out salts and metals, allowing only pure water molecules to pass through. A safe and chemical-free solution, this system installs directly to your kitchen sink and greatly improves the taste and quality of your drinking water.

Combining an RO system with a water softener may help prolong the life of your reverse osmosis membrane. 

Learn more about reverse osmosis and how it can provide cleaner and better-tasting water for your home. 

Water Softener

If you see white, scaly build-up on your dishes, fixtures and appliances, it could be an indication that the water in your home has elevated levels of calcium and magnesium — also known as “hard” water. While it does not pose any health risks and is safe to drink, hard water may dry out your hair and skin, leave residue in your laundry, and can cause mineral buildup in your pipes that, over time, reduces the flow of water.

A water softener system removes the minerals from the water through a process called ion exchange. The system filters the calcium and magnesium ions and replaces them with sodium ions. As a solution for both municipal and well water, a water softener can prevent scale buildup on your fixtures and in your pipes, which not only helps increase the lifespan of your water appliances but also helps boost their energy efficiency and overall performance. 

Learn more about water softeners and how they can provide cleaner and better-tasting water for your home. 

Whole-Home Filtration

A whole-home filtration system is installed on your main water line, meaning it delivers filtered water to every tap and faucet in your home. Enjoy water free from contaminants and impurities, including iron and volatile organic chemicals, whether you’re filling your water bottle at the tap, making a coffee, washing your clothes or taking a shower. Easy to maintain, a whole-home water filter system will remove a variety of contaminants while also prolonging the life of your pipes and appliances.

Find out how whole-home filtration can provide cleaner water for your home.

Distillation

Water distillation is the reverse of the regular filtration process. Instead of removing contaminants from the water, distillation uses high heat to boil and eventually evaporate the water. Inorganic compounds and non-volatile molecules are unable to evaporate with the water, so they are left behind in the boiling chamber. The evaporated water (in the form of steam) is then collected in a separate, clean chamber where it cools and turns back into water droplets. This cycle of evaporation and condensation produces distilled water that is almost 100% pure and free from undesired bacteria, viruses, other microorganisms, chemicals, and heavy metals.

Although distillation is time-consuming and high in energy usage, it is a very effective way to purify water

Ultraviolet Filtration

Ultraviolet (UV) water treatment systems take advantage of the disinfecting properties of UV light to kill (or inactivate) a range of illness-causing microbes, including salmonella, E. coli, hepatitis and other viruses. 

Installed at the main water line, a UV water treatment system provides disinfected water throughout your entire household. Completely chemical-free, it uses lamps that emit UV rays with the optimal frequency to eliminate microbes and bacteria most effectively from the water. A UV water treatment system requires a five-micron sediment filter to be installed ahead of the UV system, but otherwise very little maintenance is needed. 

Iron Filter

If your water leaves reddish or blackish stains or smells bad, you may have elevated levels of iron in your water. Excess iron can cause deposits in pipes and appliances that will eventually impact water flow and pressure. An iron filter will adjust the levels of these minerals in your water.

Self-cleaning and easy to maintain, an iron filter is installed at the main water line and treats all the water flowing through your home.

If your water is yellowish or brownish in colour, there may be tannins present. Tannins are typically found in shallow well and surface waters. They can turn water brown and give it an odd taste and odour but don’t represent a health risk.

Tannin biomolecules are difficult to remove with conventional filtration systems. Charged membrane filtration (CMF) uses technology to chemically absorb rather than filter the contaminants. Without a mechanical barrier for the water to filter through, CMF does not compromise water pressure or flow.

How to Choose the Right Water Treatment System for Your Home’s Water Conditions

A water treatment system installed underneath a kitchen sink.

Because each type of water treatment system is effective for its own specific set of water conditions, deciding which one is best for your home is not an easy task. 

As a first step, consider the source of your water supply:

  • If you receive your water from the municipality, your water has already been treated according to federal and provincial guidelines. The water is clean and safe to consume. However, certain impurities may remain in the water and others may be absorbed between the time the water leaves the treatment plant and the moment it enters your home. 
  • If your water comes from a well, it is your responsibility to make sure the water has a healthy level of chemicals/minerals and is free of undesired microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.  

Secondly, the makeup of the water itself should be evaluated to know which toxins and contaminants affect your water supply. Different filters eliminate different toxins and no one system can eliminate them all. Knowing which impurities need to be addressed will help you make an informed decision about which water treatment system is right for you. 

That said, most water-related issues are not easy to identify. For that reason, a thorough water analysis is essential to understanding what’s in your water supply. A water analysis conducted by a trained expert can help you pinpoint your exact needs and figure out which impurities need to be addressed, but there are a few important clues you can detect on your own that can help you make your decision.

Odour

If your water smells abnormal or bad, it could be due to excessive amounts of chlorine or iron in your water. If it smells like rotten eggs, hydrogen sulphide is the most likely culprit. Reverse osmosis is highly effective in removing chlorine and other mineral contaminants from your drinking water. The system will purify your water and eliminate most offensive tastes and smells. 

If your water supply comes from a well, an iron filter might be the best option. Iron filters are very effective in removing iron and hydrogen sulphide that often cause an unpleasant smell in water.

Municipal water:

  • Reverse osmosis

Well water:

  • Reverse osmosis
    OR
  • Iron filter

Bad Taste

Chemicals, minerals and dissolved metals all affect the taste of your water. Whether you’re cooking, brushing your teeth or just drinking a glass of tap water, bad-tasting water will negatively affect the basic activities you do on a daily basis. 

Reverse osmosis removes salt, chlorine and other chemicals from your water, leaving it without any taste or odour — so you can enjoy it straight from the tap. 

Municipal water:

  • Reverse osmosis

Well water:

  • Reverse osmosis

Chlorine

Chlorine is a disinfecting agent that is used to eliminate a wide range of contaminants and harmful bacteria from the municipal water supply, such as E. coli. Chlorine levels in municipal water are closely monitored to avoid overexposure to potentially unsafe levels of the chemical. However, if you’re concerned about chlorine, reverse osmosis is the most effective means to address it, removing 90-99.99% of the contaminant from your water.1

You may also want to consider adding a water softener with dechlorinator to your reverse osmosis system. A water softener with dechlorinator provides an additional barrier that removes chlorine and other volatile organic chemicals while also softening your water and eliminating odours.

Municipal water:

  • Reverse osmosis
    AND
  • Water softener with dechlorinator

Well water:

  • N/A

Cloudy Water

Cloudy water may be caused by excess air trapped in your water. This poses no threat to your health — and if you wait a few minutes to let the water settle, the trapped air bubbles will rise to the top and the water will become clear. 

If it doesn’t dissipate, it could be due to an excess of metals and minerals in the water (commonly known as “hard water”). Hard water is usually accompanied by white residue on fixtures and dishes. While that residue is also not harmful to your health, it can build up in and damage your appliances and pipes. 

A reverse osmosis system removes all sediment as well as 90-99.99% of dissolved salts, chemicals and other contaminants from your water.1

Municipal water:

  • Reverse osmosis

Well water:

  • Reverse osmosis

Sediment

Loose sand, clay, silt and other soil particles are called sediments. They cause the water to look murky and can, over time, damage your plumbing and appliances by causing clogs and blockages.

A whole-home filter system, installed at your main water line, physically blocks these sediments from entering your home, creating a barrier that removes dirt and debris from your water supply. However, because sediment filters do not create a barrier for volatile organic chemicals or bacteria, their function can be enhanced when used in combination with another water treatment system, such as a reverse osmosis system or water softener.

If your water comes from a well, a whole-home sediment filter is highly recommended. Groundwater has a higher concentration of sediment than municipally supplied water, so a sediment filter can help with removing sediment in the water for your home. 

Municipal water:

  • Whole-home filter

AND

  • Reverse osmosis

OR

  • Water softener with dechlorinator

Well water:

  • Whole-home filter

AND

  • Reverse osmosis

OR

  • Water softener

Hard Water

Water is considered “hard” when it contains high levels of dissolved minerals. These minerals leave white residue on dishes, glasses or fixtures. They also cause mineral buildup that decreases the lifespan of your water-using appliances and can severely damage your plumbing and pipes. While hard water can dry out hair and skin, it has no negative health effects.

Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to replace the hard minerals in water (calcium and magnesium) with sodium ions. A water softener with dechlorinator is a combination water treatment system that provides an additional barrier for removing chlorine and other volatile organic chemicals while also softening your water and eliminating odours. 

Municipal water:

  • Water softener
    OR
  • Water softener with dechlorinator

Well water:

  • Water softener

Dry and Itchy Skin

If you have dry, itchy skin, your water may be to blame. Due to its overabundance of minerals, hard water will dry out and harm your hair and skin: the minerals block the skin’s pores, limiting its own moisturizing abilities. The high concentration of minerals in hard water also makes soap and shampoo less effective, drying out your skin even further.

Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to replace the hard minerals in water (calcium and magnesium) with sodium ions. The treated water can help prevent dryness of the skin and allow soap and shampoo to lather more easily.

Chlorine in water also affects skin’s dryness and can cause irritation and itchiness. While known for its effectiveness in eliminating bacteria, chlorine will also wash away the skin’s own protective barrier of oils that naturally retain moisture, leaving your skin dry and defenseless.  

A water softener with dechlorinator is a combination water treatment system that provides an additional barrier for removing chlorine and other volatile organic chemicals while also softening your water and eliminating odours.

Municipal water:

  • Water softener

OR

  • Water softener with dechlorinator 

Well water:

  • Water softener

Stains and Discolouration

A high concentration of metals, such as copper, iron or manganese, can cause discolouration in your water, which can then lead to unsightly stains on your faucets and fixtures. A water softener can remove excess levels of minerals and metals from your water, which helps prevent staining around your home. 

If your water supply comes from a well, an iron filter can remove all excess iron from your water. Discoloured well water may also be contaminated by tannin. A tannin filter removes the organic materials and helps to make the water clear so it leaves no stains.

Municipal water:

  • Water softener

Well water:

  • Water softener

OR

  • Iron filter

OR

  • Tannin filter

Bacteria

If your water comes from a well, it may contain potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella. As the well owner, it is your responsibility to monitor and regularly test your water to ensure it is safe to drink. One of the most efficient ways to remove bacteria from your well water is UV light purification, which is chemical-free and requires very little maintenance to provide purified water for your home.

Municipal water:

  • If you suspect bacteria contamination, contact your municipality right away

Well water:

  • UV filter

Iron and Manganese

High concentrations of iron and manganese can cause black and brown staining around your fixtures and appliances. These minerals can also leave an unpleasant metallic taste and may even cause your water to smell like blood, rotten eggs or burnt matches.

Reverse osmosis can remove both iron and manganese from your water, but a whole-home filter is recommended as well to help prevent the deposits of the minerals from clogging the sensitive membrane of the reverse osmosis system.

If your water supply comes from a well, an iron filter might be your best option as they are very effective in removing iron and manganese from your water.

Municipal water:

  • Reverse osmosis

AND

  • Whole-home filter

Well water:

  • Iron filter

Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring metal but is typically not found in municipal water or well water. The presence of lead in your water can present serious health concerns and even cause poisoning. Banned for use in the construction of Canadian homes since 1975, older homes’ pipes and plumbing could potentially be a source for lead contamination. You cannot see, taste or smell lead, so a water analysis is highly recommended if you think there is lead in your water.

Reverse osmosis is a very effective means to remove lead contaminants from your drinking water. 

Municipal water:

  • Reverse osmosis

OR

Whole-home filter

Well water:

  • Reverse osmosis

Tannin

If your well water is dirty, discoloured and has a bitter taste, it may be contaminated by tannin. Tannin is a biomolecule found in plants and poses no threat to your health. Tannin filters help to make the water in your home is clear, so that it leaves no stains and has no undesired taste.

Municipal water:

  • N/A

Well water:

  • Tannin filter

Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Water Treatment System

The interactive panel of a water filtration system.

In addition to the condition of your water, you’ll also want to think about how and where a water treatment system can be installed in your home — two factors that will play a big part in which system you ultimately choose.

Ease of Installation

Generally, point of use (POU) or under-the-sink water treatment systems are easier to install than point of entry (POE) or whole-home treatment systems that require more complex plumbing skills. If you decide to tackle a POE installation project by yourself, be sure to familiarize yourself with your homes’ plumbing system and read all the instructions carefully. Incorrect installation may cause your water treatment system to malfunction or be less effective, or may lead to water damage in your home. 

Professional installation will provide you with ease of mind that the water you consume is being treated effectively. Enercare can help you with the installation and service of a water treatment system for your home.

Space Requirements

How much space you’ll need to install a water treatment system in your home will depend largely on the kind of system you choose: 

  • POE systems, such as water softeners and UV systems, can vary quite significantly in size. They are installed on the main water line, usually in the basement or near the garage of your home.
  • POU systems are compact and designed to fit into cabinets and narrow spaces under your sink.
  • Water distillation systems are operated from your countertop and do not need to be integrated into your plumbing system.

Keep in mind that some systems need electricity to operate, and some may have additional drainage requirements you’ll need to accommodate. Also, don’t forget to calculate the space needed to maintain your system. Filters and bulbs need to be changed regularly, so avoid future hassles and headaches by taking the time now to find the right location in your home.

How Much Does a Water Treatment System Cost?

When considering the costs of a water treatment system, you’ll want to factor in both the initial installation costs and the ongoing operating costs.

Purchase and Installation Costs

In general, several factors affect the total cost and should be evaluated ahead of time, including:

  • Water source: Is your water supplied by the municipality or a well?
  • Type of water treatment: Are you installing a system for the entire house or a single tap? How many stages of filtration do you need?
  • Environmental choices: Energy-efficient units usually cost more upfront but may help save you money in the long run.
  • Personal preferences: How many people live in your household? How much water is consumed on an average day? Consider the amount of water used by appliances, filling bathtubs or showering, watering plants, etc.
  • Technical requirements: The size of your home and the number of bathrooms will affect overall system requirements.
  • Code requirements: Local plumbing codes may require specific materials and devices to comply with codes and standards, which could have an impact on the price you pay.

Operating Costs

Under-the-sink water filters are the most economical option, with operating costs usually ranging from $50 to $200 per year. Whole-home water filtration systems typically cost between $130 and $350 to operate per year but will supply filtered water throughout your entire home. Distillation units are a cheaper investment initially but require significant amounts of energy to run, resulting in higher operating costs than other water treatment options. 

Enercare can provide you with detailed information on water treatment costs and help you find the right water treatment solution for you.

Government Rebates

Governmental rebates are offered on occasion. Be sure to check with your local, provincial and/or federal government for updates.

Buy vs Rent

Different options are available to help you get a water treatment system up and running in your home sooner. As a first step, you should think about whether renting or buying is the right option for you.

  • Renting

Renting a water treatment system requires little upfront investment and the ongoing rental charges typically cover the cost of maintenance and repairs, making those costs more predictable. 

  • Buying

If you plan on staying in the home you own long term, purchasing a water treatment system may be a good option. Water treatment systems will protect your pipes, plumbing and appliances from premature wear, saving you money in the long run. A water treatment system demands a significant financial investment but can add value to your home should you decide to sell down the road.

The advantages and disadvantages of either option should be weighed carefully before you decide to rent or buy a water treatment system. Enercare’s water treatment hub offers detailed information on your renting and purchasing options.

Common Problems with Water Treatment Systems

An Enercare technician servicing a water filtration system.

Water treatment systems need to be maintained regularly to keep the water in your home clean and safe. Failing to perform adequate maintenance can negatively affect your water’s quality.

Dirty Filters

Dirty filters are often behind most problems encountered with water treatment systems. Filters become less effective over time and may allow contaminants to re-enter your water supply. To keep your system running efficiently, it’s important to replace your filters regularly. 

  • Pre-sediment filters usually need to be replaced every six months. Some come with built-in indicators that will alert you when replacement is necessary. 
  • Carbon filters, water softeners and UV filters do not have replaceable filter elements. These systems need to be maintained regularly to ensure optimal water filtration.

If you notice a bad taste, change in colour or sudden drop in water pressure, you might need to change your filter. The number of contaminants that need filtration, above-average water consumption and hard water can shorten the lifespan of your filter. 

Mould

Moist and warm environments encourage mould spore growth, but most mould seen in water treatment systems is usually caused by filters that are not changed or replaced according to the recommended schedule. Exposure to mould can cause disease and allergic reactions, so be sure to keep your filters clean.

Clogs

Mineral deposits and sediment buildup in your filtration system can affect your home’s water pressure. If clogs are present, less water can pass through and the pressure in the pipe may increase to the point of bursting. If you notice a change in water pressure coming from your tap, you may have used your filter for too long. Check your filter immediately to prevent potential damage to your pipes.

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure safe and clean water is supplied to your home. Maintaining a regular maintenance schedule can extend your equipment’s life and reduce the cost of repairs.

Water Treatment System Troubleshooting and Maintenance Tips

Preventative maintenance of your water treatment equipment will save you problems and costly repairs in the long run. Ensure your system stays running smoothly by taking the following actions:

Replace Filters and UV Bulbs on a Regular Basis

Water filters and UV bulbs need to be replaced regularly to ensure optimal performance. Check them frequently to make sure they are working correctly. 

Monitor Your Water Quality

Ensure your system works efficiently by monitoring your water quality. Regular check-ups will help you identify problems quicker if your water quality changes. Knowing which parameter needs to be addressed, you can respond quickly and ensure your water remains clean and safe to consume.

Call an Expert

Avoid costly repairs by having your system serviced by trained and professional plumbers who will ensure your water treatment system is installed and maintained correctly. 

Have Any Questions?

Call our team at 1-855-642-8607 or fill out the following form to request a free in-home assessment and price quote for a water treatment system for your home.

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