Handyman: Understand water issues before buying filters

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

The quality of our drinking water became a larger-than-life issue during the Flint water crisis. Fortunately for most people in southeast Michigan, the general quality of water coming into the home is good.

“On average, most of us are pretty safe and the utilities do a good job of monitoring and treating the water that comes through the distribution system into homes,” said Rick Andrew, the global business development director of water systems for NSF International, (800) 673-6275,, an independent organization that tests and certifies products for food, water, health sciences and consumer goods industries.

Andrew said the first step in determining your water quality is to review the annual water quality report that you can find on your city or township website. Water quality reports help you identify if there are contaminants in your tap water and how these may affect your health.

Andrew said if you want to go beyond the water quality reports, you can have your water tested at a laboratory. To find one qualified to do the testing, go to the state of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality website ( to find a list of certified drinking water analysis laboratories.

While the water quality reports can be a good gauge of water contaminants in the water being delivered to your home if you are on a city water system, Andrew said those homeowners with well water are really on their own.

“If you are using a private well, your water is susceptible to many contaminants, such as septic infiltration, or agricultural run off like fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides,” Andrew said. “So I recommend those on a well get their water tested.”

One thing to remember is that the quality of water being delivered to your home is only one part of the water quality equation. Many people think adding a point-of-entry (whole house) filtration system will ensure the quality of the water coming out of the faucet. But the age of your home’s plumbing system can also contribute to contaminants like lead.

“Galvanized plumbing was used in homes through the 1950s and then it was solder-based through the 1990s so that means contaminates like lead and other heavy metals may seep into the water that comes out of the faucet,” said Jamie Reynolds at Reynolds Water Conditioning, (800) 572-9575, That’s where a point-of-use system would be appropriate.

“A point of use system is attached to a faucet in the kitchen or the refrigerator water line to filter your drinking water and remove chlorine used to treat city water and other contaminants,” he said.

He said a standard carbon based single stage point of use filter can be installed on a kitchen faucet or refrigerator water line for around $250 while a more advanced 5-stage reverse osmosis system would range between $750 and $1,000.

“When choosing between the two types of systems, you have to take into account what you are trying to do and what your budget is,” Reynolds added.

While filtering the water only for drinking and cooking is the most popular for many homeowners, Reynolds said water quality for the entire house can be improved with a whole-house point of entry system that can range on average from $1,000 to $1,500 installed. The point-of-entry system will also eliminate a hard water issue that often is a concern with city water, and the water softening capabilities is also vital for those on a well system since the amount of iron in well water is even harder than the city variety. Conventional water softeners use salt, lime or substances known as chelating agents to reduce hardness.

But remember, these point-of-entry systems only filter the water coming into your home and won’t correct any contamination problems that may occur due to old plumbing.

If you are looking for DIY systems to install, look at manufacturers like Culligan,, Pelican Water Systems,, or Whirlpool,, to name a few.

Pelican Water Systems is also one of a few companies to offer a salt-free water softening system. According to Iain Whyte, Pelican CEO, it is not a chelation system, generates zero waste water and no salt brine or harmful chemicals are discharged into the environment. The system also requires no electricity and requires no salt replacement packets like salt-based systems. In the Detroit area, Plumbing Professors (800) 654-1300, is one of the recommended installers of Pelican Water Systems if you don’t want to install it yourself.

Before you purchase any system, I recommend linking to the NSF website page ( that helps you locate a list of filtration products and the contaminants they filter so you can buy a system that fits your specific water issues. Another good source for information on our water is the Water Quality Association’s website,

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 from 8-10 a.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.