Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their homestead-building adventure unfolds.
This week, we’ll continue our homestead water series. The first post on our well water system covered drilling the well and other aspects of the well outside of the home. This post will focus on what the water-well system looks like inside the home, as some features are different from the equivalent for a home on a city or rural water system.
First, we have a breaker switch for our well. This controls whether the submersible well pump is "on" or "off." The switch must be flipped "on" for the pump to work and bring water into our house. (We're the only ones who can turn off our water now!) The incoming pipes from the well are in our basement, and the whole system that the water runs through before going into the other pipes and, ultimately, to the faucets throughout our house is shown in the picture below.
With the pump on, the water comes in, via underground pipes, to a pressure tank in our basement (large blue tank on right, shown above). When on a city or rural water system, the water pressure is controlled outside of your home by whoever controls the entire water line network. But, for a home well system, you need a pressure tank to provide a constant pressure level in between well pump cycles, and to create a buffer for the well pump so it doesn’t have to turn on each time we just need a quick shot of water. (Plus, we don’t have to wait for it to turn on and deliver water at a decent pressure level each time either.) How you maintain and work with your pressure tank will depend on whether you have an air-over-water, diaphragm or bladder pressure tank. Your contractor should be able to help with this decision, but you can read at the link above to get familiar and make your own decision.
Next, the water will travel to a whole-house water filter (small, clear receptacle in center, shown above). This will remove odors, sediment, and help reduce the corrosive effects of any contaminants in the water. While this won’t necessarily fix any serious bacterial concerns (which we don’t think we have), this should keep the water from spotting, staining or leaving a smell on any- and everything the water comes into contact with. Many whole-house water filters are available, and you can spend between $30 up to more than $300.
As a side note on the bacterial concerns, we will have the well water thoroughly tested (and will explain the testing process in a subsequent blog post) before we move in. We will know if the water needs any further treatment to be potable (we don’t predict this will be a concern, based on neighbors’ reports).
From the filter, the water then flows into the water softener (the large white, rectangular tank to the left, shown above). The softener helps with "hard water," which is common in our area. It uses a process called "ion exchange" to remove dissolved minerals, such as iron and calcium, that can’t be trapped in the water filter.This, too, will reduce spotting and creation of a white film on our dishes, sinks and showers.
The rest of the process is pretty much the same as a city- or rural-water connected system. The water travels to a heater and then through the pipes to the faucets. The water that eventually goes down a drain will either travel to our greywater disposal system or to our septic system.
Next week, we plan to put up a photo series of the house-building progress. We are about two weeks or so from being able to move in, so the process is moving along rapidly now! Every day or so, we make an exciting trip to our future home and check on the progress.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer and Tyler by leaving a comment below!