Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing? Here's How To Tell
Eric Roy, Ph.D. Scientific Founder
We get a lot of questions about lead service lines and how to tell if you have lead pipes, and we thought that it would be worth putting together an article that talks about some of the lesser known places where lead can exist in residential plumbing. Most people are surprised to learn that up until 2014, EPA allowed lead exist in fixtures & valves used for drinking water lines!
The Evolution of “Lead Free” Plumbing
When the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was amended in 1986, it mandated that residential plumbing could not use any pipe, pipe fitting, solder, flux, or fixture that was not “lead free.” While the term “lead free” seems pretty straightforward, the law allowed for the definition of "lead free" to evolve. The chart below shows allowable lead levels in solder, pipes, fittings, and fixtures through the 25+ years that lead was phased out of plumbing. It's worth pointing out that, it wasn’t until very recently (2014) that all pipes/fittings/fixtures used for drinkable water were required to contain negligible amounts of lead.
Maximum Levels of Lead Allowed in Residential Plumbing
|Years||Solder/Flux||Pipes, Fittings, Valves|
How to Determine If Plumbing in Your Home Is Lead Free
Solder: Unfortunately, there is no easy way to visually tell how much lead is in soldered joints after the connection is made. If you are getting plumbing work done, it's ok to ask your plumber to see the package for the solder that they are using. It should prominently say “lead free” on it.
What To Do If Your Home Has Lead Plumbing
As the US has become increasingly aware of lead contamination in drinking water because of the ongoing crisis in Flint, recent violations in large cities like Pittsburgh, and longstanding lead problems in old cities like Chicago and New York City, more and more people are asking what they can do to minimize their family's exposure to lead.
The best way, bar none is to:
- Use a high quality filter at each faucet used for drinking. Any filter should meet or exceed NSF Standard 53 for lead filtration performance.
If you are unable to use a rated filter, or if the filter you use does not protect against lead (like most pitchers and fridge filters), you can take the following steps to minimize exposure:
- Allow your faucet to run for at least 2 minutes before collecting water for consumption (drinking/cooking/washing food). Doing so allows the water sitting in the pipes to flush out and be replaced by fresh water flowing through the large mains.
- Only use the faucet at a slow flow rate when collecting water for consumption. Doing so minimizes the amount of lead particulates that can be swept into the stream and carried to the faucet.
As always, we encourage everyone to take advantage of Hydroviv's "Help No Matter What" technical support policy, where we answer questions related to drinking water and water filtration, even if you have no desire to purchase our products. Drop us a line about lead pipes in homes at email@example.com, or use our live chat function.
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Whole House Water Filters: Frequently Asked Questions
We get a lot of questions from people about Whole House Filters. Because Hydroviv has a “Help No Matter What” mindset when it comes to technical support, we sometimes find ourselves helping our website's visitors evaluate products that we don’t sell!
Update: August 8, 2017: After over a year of R&D, we are thrilled to announce that we have launched a purpose-built whole house water filter to remove rotten egg smell from all of the water that enters your home!
What Is a Whole House Water Filter?
As the name suggests, whole house filters are installed on a home’s main water supply, so they process all water that comes into the house, including water used to flush toilets, do laundry, and water the lawn.
How Much Should I Expect To Pay For A Whole House Water Filter?
Replacement cartridges can also be a significant cost for whole house filter systems. Because ALL incoming water is filtered by whole house systems, cartridges need to be replaced more frequently than if the same cartridge is used in a point of use application.
How Effective Are Whole House Water Filters?
With whole home water filters, you typically get what you pay for. Most whole house systems are designed to process large volumes of water for water softening and chlorine removal, and are not designed to remove things like chloramine, arsenic, disinfection byproducts, or lead. If you spend several thousand dollars on a high-end whole house system, pay to have it installed by a plumber, and replace the filtration media as prescribed, the system will probably perform as advertised. Just make sure that the system is designed to filter the chemicals you want removed... we have talked to people that have spent thousands on a whole house filter only to learn after the fact that it does not filter lead! On the other end of the price spectrum, most of the low cost whole house filters are only good for removing sediment from the water, and don't do a good job removing dissolved chemicals. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you remove chlorine from your home's water at the point where it enters the home, you introduce the risk of bacteria growing in all pipes downstream of the filter, because the filter removes the disinfectant.
Flow Rate & Impact On Water Pressure
Another performance aspect to consider is the impact on your home's water pressure, because a whole house filter can act as a "choke point" for water delivery. You don't want to run into a situation where there isn't enough water pressure to take a shower because the dishwasher is running and someone is brushing their teeth. Be sure to take into account that the cartridges used in single stage whole house filters become clogged over time, and the water pressure can drop dramatically throughout the filter's lifetime. A good plumber is a very good resource for helping you calculate your home's water demand and thus plan for the right water filter for your main water supply.
How Good Are "General Purpose" Whole House Water Filters?
Simply put, it's not possible to build a whole home water filter that "filters everything bad" from your water on a whole house scale. For that level of filtration, you need to filter at the point of use (e.g. individual faucets- more on this below). However, there are some applications where whole house filtration makes sense. For example, we just launched a whole house water purifier that is purpose-built to remove sulfur (rotten egg smell) from water.
Hydroviv’s point of use filtration systems are designed to filter the water in your home used for drinking, washing food, cooking, and showering. By remaining focused on these applications (and ignoring the water used in toilets & washing machines), we are able offer consumers high-performance water filtration systems that cost less than the competition, and don’t require a plumber to install.
Where Can You Go For Advice On Whole House Water Filters?
Other Great Articles We Think You'd Enjoy:
What is Chomium-6?
What You Need To Know About Fluoride In Tap Water
Is Lead Lurking In New York City Tap Water?
What’s Causing White Chalky Residue On My Stainless Steel Cookware?
Dr. Eric Roy | Hydroviv's Founder
We get a lot of questions about the white chalky residue that can sometimes pop up on cookware. While the idea of residues on things used to prepare food in can cause anxiety... they are usually completely harmless! To check out water filters that remove contaminants from drinking water, check out this Duke/NC State study.
What Is The White Chalky Residue On Cookware?
What is hard water? In nearly all cases, the white residue is from calcium and magnesium-containing minerals that are found in tap water. The minerals build up on pans when water boils, evaporates, and leaves them behind. If the mineral deposits have "baked on," a normal dishwasher cycle typically won't be enough to remove them. In fact, if you use a natural dish washing detergent, the residue can actually get worse!
How To Get Rid Of White Residues On Stainless Steel Cookware?
Even though hard water mineral build-ups on cookware are harmless, they are unsightly and some people want them gone. Fortunately, this is very easy to do! Mix up a 3:1 solution of water and vinegar (any kind), put the solution in the affected pot or pan (make sure to completely submerge the mineral deposits), and turn heat it up on the stove. Once the water starts to get near boiling, shut off the burner, and let the hot liquid dissolve the mineral buildup. Sometimes it helps to give the solution a few swirls every once in a while. Once the buildup has dissolved, dump out the vinegar solution, rinse the pot with cool water, and wipe the pot dry. Easy peasy!
Hydroviv's Technical Support Team enjoys answering all kinds of water-related questions, including how to remove hard water stains from pots and pans! Reach out through Live Chat, or by dropping us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).Related Articles
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What You Need To Know About Hard Water
By Julie Bray
Hard water can create problems around the house. Mineral buildup is a nuisance especially in areas most affected by hard water. In this article, we answer questions about what is hard water and offer some practical tips on how to remove buildup without buying an expensive water softener.
What is Hard Water?
Water is a great solvent for many of the earth’s minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Unfortunately this useful property has a downside- as groundwater moves through the earth it dissolves minerals, resulting in these minerals being delivered to you via your household water supply. When the dissolved minerals in the water reaches a relative high level, which is fairly common, your water is referred to as hard water.
Water is considered hard when it exceeds 3 grains per gallon or 17.1 Parts per million. Water hardness varies throughout the United States. The map below shows areas that are most affected by hard water.
What Are Signs That You Have Hard Water?
Hard water contains high amount of calcium and magnesium. When these two chemicals bond together, they create mineral deposits or scale.
In the industrial setting, hard water can create buildups in machinery, such as boilers and cooling towers, leading to either the use of expensive mineral removal systems or expensive maintenance.
In the domestic setting, hard water makes household cleaning tasks more difficult and can cause serious problems.
Hard water prevents soap from lathering by causing insoluble participates in the water creating problems around the house. Calcium and magnesium from hard water react with soap to produce soap scum. This forces homeowners to use more water for showering and washing dishes, which could increase monthly water bills.
Clothes may appear grey and dingy and feel rougher. Detergent is less effective when used with hard water as soap scum may lodge in the fabric during washing. This may shorten the life of clothes.
Dishes and glasses often look murky or foggy due to the presence of soap scum after being washed in hard water.
Soap scum can also make the hair feel slick and dull. Washing the body with soap and hard water may leave a film of sticky soap curd on the skin. This can create irritation and possibly hinder cleaning.Bathroom
Hard water can create a film on showers, tubs, sinks, faucets, and other fixtures. Once the scale deposits itself on a surface, getting it off can be very difficult. These deposits can make the kitchen and the bathroom look dirty and dingy after being cleaned.Pipes
Minerals in hard water deposit in pipes over time, which gradually slows the water pressure in a house. Complete blockage of pipes is unlikely. Pipes may become clogged with scale overtime, creating less movement through pipes. This is similar to cholesterol buildup, creating less movement through blood vessels.Appliances
Mineral deposits from hard water can interfere with appliances such as dishwashers, water heaters, and washing machines. Loose minerals may cling to appliances and cause them to break.
Is Hard Water Bad For You?
Hard water is not a health hazard. The National Research Council states that hard drinking water contributes a small amount to the calcium and magnesium necessary for the human diet.
Additionally, many experts even believe that drinking hard water can decrease the risk of heart attacks (“The high heart health value of drinking-water magnesium” by Andrea Rosanoff). This speculation is currently under further investigation by World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups.
How to Fix Hard Water
Public water system operators are required to provide annual water quality reports. These tests sometimes include water hardness information. Water hardness tests are also available through your city or state health department upon request for a small fee and many companies that sell softeners offer testing material.
If you find that you need to soften your water, there are some expensive hard water solutions such as Ion Exchange (magnesium and calcium bond with sodium in the water) or Reverse Osmosis. Typically these treat the whole house and can be thousands of dollars.
Water softener systems can be an okay hard water solution but also expensive. If you don't have the money or motivation to buy/maintain an expensive water softener, here are some practical tips:
How To Remove Scale From Your Showerhead:
1) take an old toothbrush and remove any surface deposits visible on the showerhead. 2) Take a bag of distilled white vinegar and submerge your showerhead in the bag. 3) Use a rubber band or twist tie to tie off the bag and secure the vinegar. 4) After 12 hours remove the bag and turn on the showerhead to flush the deposits.
Other Easy Fixes For Hard Water Nuisances
- Run white vinegar in dishwasher: Add two cups of white vinegar to the dishwasher can reduce buildup. Running the dishwasher with dishes that have been stained by scale can help remove some of the foggy/ murkiness.
- Use lemon juice to spray and soak fixtures: Using a spray bottle with lemon juice can help remove some of the buildup and make sinks, faucets, and other fixtures that have mineral deposits shiny and new.
- Clean glass windows and shower doors: Spray white vinegar on windows and shower doors to remove buildup.
- Use cleaning products designed to limit hard water impact: hard water treatment shampoo and detergents solve hard water problems safely and effectively. These products are formulated to to remove buildup.
- Reduce the temperature of your boiler: As the temperature increases, the more mineral deposits will appear in your dishwasher, water tank, and pipes.
The mineral deposits left behind by hard water are a great nuisance, but these solutions can help. These hard water cleansing solutions can be effective and inexpensive.
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