Why you should learn how to flush sediment from wells
One of the biggest problems that people face when using well water is sediment. If you are using city water, it is unlikely that you will face this issue because city water goes through municipal filtering that removes any larger particles. On the other hand, well water is directly from an underground aquifer, so sediment such as sand, rust, dirt, and gravel becomes an issue for private well owners.
If the sediment issue isn’t treated seriously, it could lead to lower water pressure, or worse, damage to your pipes, heaters, appliances, valves, fixtures, and faucets. Thankfully, finding a solution for removing sediment in well water is not as difficult as you might think. With this guide, you will learn the necessary information about sediment in well water like how it enters your water, the risks associated when not treated, and most importantly, how to remove it.
What is Sediment?
Sediment is essentially a material that is picked up from one location and shifted to another. Typically, sediments are rocks and minerals, but other things like decomposed plants and animals are also considered natural sediments.
Sediments are typically larger in size than other contaminants and can give the water a cloudy-like appearance, depending on the source. Some sediment sinks to the bottom of a water supply, while the suspended sediment kind will float on the surface of the water. The common kinds of sediment that you will usually see are:
- Hardness minerals
How Does Sediment Get Into Well Water?
Due to the natural process of erosion, you will often find sediment occurring naturally in groundwater. The force or pressure of rivers and streams will wear away at rocks and soil and as a result, it transports the gravel, rock, and solid dirt particles towards the river’s delta.
After that, the water flows into the ground when there is rain or snow and the sediment particles will be carried along with it. While the water is traveling through the layers of rocks, soil, and decaying plant and animal matter, it may pick up extra sediment to reach your well’s aquifer.
Even though sediments happen naturally in well water systems, there are some circumstances where an excessive amount of sediments are allowed into your well. Here are some situations where you will find too much sediment in the well water:
The well screen or well casing needs to be replaced
If your well has been in use for many years and you’re only realizing the sediment problem now, there is a high chance that the problem is due to damage to your well screen or a worn casing. When there is damage or serious wear and tear on the screen or casing, small gaps or holes will form and sediments and deposits will be able to pass into the well system.
The recommended time frame to have your well inspected is every 10 years. The inspection is to check and ensure your screen and casing are in good condition. Otherwise, you will need to replace them. Typically, the lifespan of well screens is longer than what you would expect, at an average of at least 25 years of time. However, if you’re using an older well, then this can be an issue to be aware of, and you should have the screen replaced if needed.
There is corrosion in your pipes
Pipe corrosion is another concern that you should be aware of because in some cases, old iron or copper pipes may corrode and cause flakes of sediment to break off and seep into your water supply.
To know if your pipes are corroded or not, you can check the pH level of your water. If the pH level is unusually low (less than 7.0) or high (more than 8.5) or has high levels of salts or oxygen, there is a high chance that the pipes and water heaters of your home are at risk of corrosion.
There are two other common well water contaminants, iron bacteria, and sulfate, that can also cause your pipes to corrode. Moreover, abrasive sediments are also capable of causing wear and tear which can lead to a higher chance of your pipes being corroded.
If the pipes and water line in your home are experiencing some severe sediment issue, you should consider seeking help from a professional. The reason to call a professional is that they will handle everything that needs to be covered and determine how bad the corrosion is and whether your pipe needs replacements, either now or later on in time.
The existing well pump is too large
In certain situations, a well pump that is too big can lead to sediment problems. What it means by being too big is that the well pump that’s installed is too powerful for the well and the pump may suck up sand from the aquifer surrounding it.
If you feel like your well pump is too large, you should act on it immediately and contact a professional to install a pump with a more suitable pump size for your well. The reason that you should take action as quickly as possible is that your pump’s valve will deteriorate at a much quicker pace when exposed to an excessive level of sediments, and sand will accumulate quickly at the base of the well.
The well pump is set too low
The location of your well pump can also be another reason that you’re experiencing an excessive amount of sand or sediment in your water. A normal submersible well pump is set at a distance of 10 to 20 feet from the bottom of the well. In the case when the well pump is set too low to the ground, it will be more open to sediments like grit or sand being drawn in.
Even if you’ve never had any issues with the placement of your well pump you should also consider that there is a chance that the well shaft has gathered so much sediment that it heightens the base of the well. When that happens, it causes the well pump to start sucking up this sediment.
You should also take note that if you have a new well or your existing well just went through maintenance that involved drilling, sediment may have entered during the drilling process. In most cases, people would wait about a month for the settled sediment to clear from the well.
What Are the Risks With Sediment in Water from Wells?
Sediment in your water doesn’t usually have adverse health effects, even though it does affect the water, giving it a bad taste or making the water smell. More often than not, it’s the water quality around your home that matters more.
From an aesthetic point of view, sediment is usually abrasive and that means it will start to leave deposits that wear down your plumbing, fixtures, well pump, faucet fittings, and appliances if you allow it to run through your piping. If the sediment is allowed to settle, it is likely that it will cause clogging which reduces the water flow rate and can be expensive to fix.
There are some types of sediment that are associated with health risks especially if they are attached with pathogens and pollutants that can cause harm, like bacteria, viruses, lead, arsenic, fertilizers, and others. One single sediment particle might have multiple pathogens attached to it, and this is why it is important to begin testing your well annually for these harmful contaminants. You can also test more regularly if you are worried.
If you are realizing damages done around your home due to your well water, it is best you start to test for sediment so you can identify the complication and resolve it as soon as possible. Test kits can be bought online and they typically provide a mineral analysis of your water. This includes the tests for the pH level, hardness, and rust.
You may want to consider testing for iron and sulfur if your water doesn’t have a clean order or leaves brown or discolored stains on your surfaces. For a more detailed analysis of your water quality, you can opt for a laboratory test. However, do expect lab tests to take a longer time to provide you with your results.
How to Remove Sediment in well Water
Now, let’s take a look at the best types of sediment filters for removing sediment from your well water.
Best Types of Sediment Filters for Well Water
Generally, there are two types of sediment filters on the market that have proven to be very effective for removing unwanted sediments. The two types of filters are spin-down and cartridge filters.
A spin-down sediment filter is normally installed as a pre-filter, also known as a first-stage filter. This sediment filter comes before a larger filter that removes specific well water contaminants, such as manganese and others, giving you clean, sediment-free water.
A spin-down filter is usually found in a whole house water filtration system which provides benefits for your entire home. If you treat the water that is close to your home’s POE, you can expect to enjoy the benefit of making sure that all your piping, plumbing, and appliances benefit from clean water. Moreover, they can also be protected from damages by the abrasive nature of sediments.
The spin-down filter is a uniquely designed sediment filter with a see-through clear exterior, allowing you to check the sediment build-up inside. This filter is also shaped like a big pipette, usually around 5 to 50 microns, and is equipped with a flush valve that can be used to flush out the accumulated sediment. This feature allows you to clean the filter easily without having to remove the filter from its housing.
Spin-down filters are also easy to install and require almost little to no service or maintenance, other than flushing them periodically. Moreover, when compared to other sediment filter types, these filters will have the least impact on your water flow rate. There are varying sizes for this type of filter to fit different pipe diameters, but they are generally capable of handling a water pressure of 20 to 80 GPM.
The cartridge filter is also the most popular type of sediment filter that you can consider. Like the previous water sediment filter, cartridge filters are also installed as pre-filters. However, you can also use them as a standalone filtration solution to have sediments removed.
Cartridge filter systems are designed with their own filter housing and are meant to be placed at your main line, before your hot water heater. The two types of cartridge filter designs that you will encounter are a spun cartridge and a pleated cartridge.
A spun filter got its name because of its cylindrical shape. Spun filters are usually made from layer on top of layer of melted, spun polypropylene. When water travels into a spun filter, it will go through many stages of filter media for a thorough filtration and a better chance of capturing sediment across its large surface area.
For this type of filter, the layer on the outside will have the highest microns and is also incredibly porous. This means that its microns can trap the largest particles, such as gravel and sand with ease. With the water traveling further into the filter, it will meet filter media with increasingly lower microns. These small microns are best for trapping smaller sediments, making them a great water treatment system for treating different sizes of sediment and giving you clean water of the highest quality.
Likewise, pleated filters are also named after their design where their water filtration media is “pleated” or folded. This design is also great for thoroughly filtering out large sediments like dust and sand. Since pleated filter cartridges only have one type of filter media, which usually has high microns, many people find this type of filter to be less effective than spun filters to remove smaller sediment like silt from the well water.
Pleated filters are usually the preferred choice for whole-home or under-sink filters and offer excellent value for money. When you install this type of filter as the first stage of a filtration system, it will remove the harmful bigger sediments, while letting the smaller ones go through. These can then be filtered out using cartridges with lower microns, giving you sediment-free water.
Unlike some other filters out there that lower the water pressure and affect the water flow rate, this type of filter ensures that the flow rate is not only unaffected, but improved with less drop in water pressure.
Conclusion: Ready to clean sediment out of a well?
With a better understanding of water sediment, you can take action as soon as possible to rectify any complications before so much sediment is in your water and causing you even more headaches. As long as you take action early, you can save yourself the hassle of dealing with the aftermath.
What size filter do I need?
To find out the ideal filter size, you will need to consider the following:
- Microns. Buying the right filter is often determined by the size of each grain of the sediment you intend to get rid of and this is often measured using microns. Generally, filters on the market eliminate grains of 20 microns down to 5 microns. To put into perspective, grains of sand from a beach are around 60 microns, coarse silt is approximately 30 microns while clay goes all the way down to 0.5 microns. If your water smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, then you might want to consider using a 10-micron filter to get rid of the smell.
- Flow rate. A filter will inevitably slow down the flow of your water getting to your fixtures. If you are using backwash-based filters, then you need to make sure that your well pump is up to standard. To know the flow you need in your house, you will need to identify how many gallons per minute your fixtures use and decide which is the right filter for your house.
- Filter class. The class of a filter usually refers to the mesh size. If it comes with a huge mesh number, it means the filter can get rid of fine sediment from your water. However, the bigger the mesh number, the slower the flow, and more gallons per minute will be needed.
Should I test my well water?
Testing your well water is always a good idea and you can get a kit for it online with ease. Once your well water is tested, you can take action immediately if there are unwanted contaminants found.
What other alternatives are there for eliminating sediment from water?
This is dependent on the type of sediment complication you’re facing. For example, a water softener system is a good choice for eliminating hard water-causing minerals that leave a “hard” scale in your piping. Besides a water softener, another water treatment system that you can consider is a reverse osmosis system, which provides one of the most thorough filtrations on the market right now.
How can I flush sediments out of a hot water heater?
You can follow these steps to drain sediments from your water heater:
- Turn off your water heater.
- Switch off the cold water valve.
- Leave the remaining water in the tank to cool.
- Attach a garden hose to the drain valve which is usually found on the side of the tank.
- Ensure the other end of the garden hose is above a drain or bucket.
- Open your faucets to prevent a buildup of pressure in your pipes and heating tank.
- Open the drain valve to let the sediments and water from the tank to run through the hose pipe and to your drain opening.
- After draining, use fresh water for cleaning the tank.
- Once the cleaning is done, reverse each step mentioned above and place everything back to how it was.