4 Aug 2009

Home Water Testing -- The Review

A few months ago, I asked for advice on testing for water quality. I then bought two "different" kits for home water testing.

As you can see in the photo, the kits are nearly identical, but I couldn't tell when I ordered them.

The kit on the left has two sets of tests for coliform bacteria, nitrite and nitrate, hydrogen sulfide, hardness, alkalinity, free/total chlorine and chloride, copper, sulfate, iron and pH. The one on the right has two additional tests (lead and pesticide). I bought the right kit from Industrial Test Systems for $53 (incl shipping). ITS also made the kit on the left, which I bought for $33 from Forestry suppliers. (I have no idea if the 2 extra tests are worth $20...)

So I tested my Berkeley tap water and everything SEEMED ok.

My opinion is that nobody buys these affordable kits because they are hard to use -- different immersion and waiting times total to one hour of dip, shake and then compare to the reference card. They are also VERY imprecise. I have no idea of whether I did the tests correctly or if I was missing a bad result.

Does anyone have other experiences to add?

So my intuition that the water test market needs innovation was true. We need a reusable, fast, digital, test-kit-on-a-chip. Even a $2,000 version would sell (to someone who would deliver a "service"), but we ultimately want a $5 version in every house.

So get going, inventors!

Bottom Line: We don't use things that we don't understand or trust. Simplify!

6 comments:

  1. In Missouri where we have many rural private wells, you can go to the local Health Services office and collect a special jar with water collecting instructions and a posting bag. You collect your water as instructed (not too hard) and it is sent posthaste to a testing lab who sends you back your results (coliform only). You pay $10.

    The same system could work for a more extensive test and provide some employment and greater reliability.

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  2. I did one a little over a year ago. Sent away for the kit to National Labratory Testing. You fill the vials then send them back to the lab and they run the tests. Shortly thereafter, they send you the report. I ran two tests--one on my regular kitchen tap and one on my new filtered tap. Each test was $84.95. Interestingly, the filtered tap wasn't really that much better than the plain old Hetch Hetchy. I was happy with the tests, but perhaps I paid too much.

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  3. I do water testing for work, so I just ordered jars from the local lab we use for my own house, I think it was about $80 for copper and lead. Testing isn't cheap here, with all the rush mail to the main labs down in the lower 48, etc. I didn't test for anything else because I actually believe my utility's water quality report, and it is generally accepted that Anchorage has some of the best water in the world. I tested for Cu and Pb because it is an old house and I wanted to see what effect the plumbing had. These tests are easy - just make sure the tap hasn't been run for a while (to get that water sitting in the pipes with the most chance of having high concentrations of these metals), fill the jars (that already have a preservative in them) seal, and return to the lab. The report came back in 2 weeks, and I am well within safe limits.

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  4. Do you test for coliform bacteria without incubating? It must be very unreliable.

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  5. I'm not sure I would trust a testing lab's results anymore than I'd test the swimming pool store when I have my pool water sampled.

    Find a good liquid test kit and do it yourself.

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  6. David, you hit the nail on the head and the product is available,but Rob, no liquid reagent kits are not the way to go.

    ITS whom you bought you kit from also have an instrument called the eXact micro 7+, it is n amazing photometer that can test for over 40 parameters. OK the cost UK is a couple of hundred pounds, but the testing is so simple and accurate using test strip technology.

    I run my own company Testing Made Easy www.tme.co and we sell ITS products in the UK. The eXact range of meters are astonishing. Try them and see.

    If you have any questions I am sure George or Andrew at ITS will help you out or contact me admin@testingmadeeasy.co.uk and I will help if I can.

    Kind Regards

    Simon Stroud

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