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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a database of approved water safety and water quality testing labs, each of which can offer a laboratory service for commercial and non-commercial users. In some cases, local government agencies can provide these services, helping businesses, organizations, families and individual citizens stay safe and healthy.
However, there are home water test kits available too. These kits include the equipment required to achieve quick and easy testing, delivering results without delay.
So, how do these two forms of testing compare? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which one should you choose for your business, facility or even your home? Let’s take a look.
Advantages of a Home Water Testing Kit
Using a home water test kit provides a number of advantages:
- Relatively Inexpensive – Home water test kits tend to be cheaper than the laboratory testing option. This may make the home test attractive for small businesses or anyone else working on a budget.
- Easy to Use – The test kit is easy to use with no prior training, and personnel will be able to follow the straightforward instructions. If handled with care, the test kit results should be accurate.
- Quick Results – The results of a home test will be returned far quicker than a lab test. This means users can gain insight far sooner, rather than having to wait around for a lab report.
- Integrates with Ongoing Processes – Home testing is minimally disruptive. If you are operating an industrial facility or another business, you can carry out home testing as you go about your ongoing processes.
- Low Levels of Resource and Personnel Intensity – Test kits are highly accessible and do not require large amounts of resources to operate. They can also be used by small teams, so you won’t have to divert too many of your employees from other tasks.
Disadvantages of a Home Water Testing Kit
There are also disadvantages to this kind of testing:
- Limited Results – The results you receive will not be as detailed as they would be if provided by a lab. For instance, home well water testing and other test kits may only inform you of the presence of certain contaminants, without providing insight into the level of contamination. Some contaminants may go undetected altogether.
- Accuracy Is Not Guaranteed – You and your teams are wholly responsible for the accuracy of testing, and for any testing errors.
- May Not Be Suitable to Ensure Regulatory Compliance – Certain industries may require stricter and more rigorous forms of testing. A home test may not be enough to achieve full regulatory compliance.
- Shouldn’t Be Deployed On Its Own – Generally, a home water kit is useful for confirming or denying your suspicions that there may be a contaminant in the water supply. For further insight, you may need a laboratory test as well.
- Data Auditing Concerns – You are responsible for the data delivered by the home test. This data may need to be properly managed so that it can be audited by environmental bodies and agencies. Failure to do so may result in a fine or penalty.
Advantages of Lab Water Analysis
Lab water analysis offers its own set of benefits:
- Provides Data Across a Range of Different Fields – Laboratory analysis tends to be more detailed and more comprehensive than home testing. This means the insight delivered may be more suitable for businesses and industrial facilities.
- Accuracy Is Guaranteed by the Lab Team – Lab testing removes the responsibility of the facility owner or the consumer themselves. The lab assumes responsibility for the accuracy of the results.
- Testing and Analysis Is Handled Externally – While home testing kits are easy to use, there is always the possibility of human error. Lab testing reduces this risk, as analysis is carried out by highly trained experts.
- Regulatory Bodies May Prefer Lab Analysis – Generally, regulatory bodies prefer lab analysis because there is less risk and fewer opportunities for error. This is why you may still have to use a laboratory even if you have already carried out a home test.
- Data Can Be Managed and Audited – Laboratory test results may provide data that is easier to store and manage than home test results. This may also be provided in an easily auditable format.
Disadvantages of Lab Water Analysis
There are disadvantages to lab analysis too.
- Relatively Expensive – Lab analysis is generally more expensive than home water testing.
- Slow and Time-Consuming – It generally takes longer to complete a lab water analysis, because the samples will need to be delivered to the lab and the lab will need to send the results back to you.
- Lab Analysis May Return the Same Results – The results you receive from your lab analysis may end up being the same as what you received from the home test. This may lead some to believe the additional test is a waste of time and money.
- May Provide Unnecessary Results – The lab analysis may provide you with more results than you needed. For example, the analysis may test for contaminants that are not relevant to your study.
- May Be More Disruptive – As lab analysis takes longer and is carried out by external teams, it may be more disruptive to your internal operations than home testing.
Choosing the Best Option for Your Purposes
As a rule of thumb, your home water test kit is stage 1 of the water testing process, while the lab analysis is stage 2. This means it is a good idea to deploy home testing as a preliminary procedure, indicating whether or not a specific contaminant is present in the water sample. If repeated home tests do not show any contamination, this is probably fine, but it is still important to confirm this via a more comprehensive lab analysis.
Health and safety always need to come first. This is why it is worth investing in a robust regimen of water testing and analysis. There is a place for both home testing and for laboratory analysis within this regimen – and deploying both alongside one another provides the most accurate and reliable results.