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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.

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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 up to 99.5% of salts, chemicals and metals. 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

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 up to 96% of the contaminant from your water. You may also want to consider adding a water softener with dechlorinater to your reverse osmosis system. A water softener with dechlorinater 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 dechlorinater

Well water

N/A