Water Filters – Three Main Methods Of Filtering Water For Your Home

Congratulations! By even considering installing a water filter system in your home you are already one step closer to the wonderful health benefits filtered water can provide. But choosing a water filter can be a difficult decision. There are so many different models available on the market that it can confusing to know which is best for you. Here are the three main methods of water filtration available for your home:

1. Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

Reverse osmosis water filters are very popular and readily available. They can be installed as under-counter models, or even as a whole house water filter. Originally invented to clean salt water, reverse osmosis works by using water pressure to force water through a membrane, allowing only molecules that are small enough to pass through, thus blocking contaminants. Sediments such as iron, lead, mercury and copper are easily blocked, as are bacteria and viruses. Chlorine molecules also cannot pass through the membrane.

There are two main drawbacks to the reverse osmosis system. First, the process wastes a lot of water by needing a higher ratio of unfiltered to filtered water in order to ‘push’ the molecules through the membrane. The general ratio is 4:1. That means a lot of water is simply going down the drain.

Second, the reverse osmosis process strips the water of important minerals. Drinking ‘soft’ water that is free of minerals is not considered a good health practice. If you are taking a lot of extra vitamin and mineral supplements, however, this may not be of much concern.

The real advantage to a reverse osmosis water filter is that it requires very little maintenance, with only the occasional cleaning of the membrane.

2. Activated Carbon Water Filter

Activated Carbon, also known as activated charcoal, is a very common filtering system. Active carbon works by binding contaminants to its surface. The surface area in active carbon is massive for its small size, since it contains millions of tiny nooks and crannies. However, the binding process does eventually ‘fill’ the surface, and the filters will require changing.

The main advantage of activated carbon is that it is readily available, can be held in a small cartridge, wastes no water, and is relatively inexpensive.

The main disadvantages are that the filters need to be changed regularly, and if improperly maintained, can become moldy. Shower filters, in particular, which are exposed to a lot of hot water, can break down the active carbon filter, and become useless at filtration, or worse, a breeding ground for mold. Proper use and regular replacement of filters will prevent this problem from occurring.

3. Ceramic Water Filter

Ceramic filters are made of the fossilized remains of ancient sea life. They are an excellent filter of larger sediments, and of most bacteria and viruses, while still allowing minerals to pass through. Ceramic filters are often used in outdoor filter systems, where the main concern is filtering out pathogens, and not chemicals. Ceramic filters do not filter out chlorine, and when used in a home filter system, are usually combined with another form of filter to achieve that result.

Other Water Filter Systems

Beyond the main three there are several other types of filters that the researching homeowner may come across:

Ultraviolet water filters bombard the water that passes through with ultraviolet rays, killing all pathogens. Excellent at disinfecting water, Ultraviolet does not filter out sediments or chemicals.

Ionizing water filters separate alkaline from acid in the water, and provide both. Many people report health benefits of drinking alkaline water, and ionizer filters are used frequently in hospitals and health clinics.

KDF water filters use a brass alloy that creates a galvanic action which breaks down chlorine. These are very useful in shower heads, since the copper and zinc in the alloy actually works better at higher temperatures.

Navigating the confusing world of water filter options can seem quite daunting to the homeowner. But armed with this basic understanding of the different filtering methods available, you are now two steps closer to choosing the right filter for your home and beginning to enjoy the many health benefits a home water filter brings.

Reverse Osmosis Water Filters

The tap water that comes out of your faucet is perfect. Get a filter or be a filter. Which of these two sentences are more true? Both are partially true.

In many places, tap water does not taste good. In other places, tap water has tiny amounts of substances you would not want to drink – and over a lifetime might have an affect on you.

There are many kinds of potential problems in tap water. Even if your city provides good water, it has to travel a long way through old pipes on the way to your house.

I use a whole-house ten micron sediment filter to filter all water going into my house. I change the filters every five months, and they are filthy and red-colored, because of the rust and dirt in the water. When you use a whole-house filter, shower heads and faucet screens don’t clog. Whole-house filters are separate from drinking water filters.

All reverse osmosis water systems require both sediment and carbon pre-filters. All filters need to be changed. Plan on changing sediment and carbon filters every six months or sooner, and reverse osmosis membranes every 2-3 years.

It’s best to buy a dissolved solids meter, and test your water every month to make sure the system is working right. Pure water will measure zero parts per million of dissolved solids. Tap water will usually measure at least 200 parts per million.

Don’t get a liquid chemical test set, get a $25-$50 portable battery-operated tester with a LCD readout. These cheap meters only show the total dissolved solids in water – they do not tell you what is in the water.

Water filter systems and replacement filters are available on eBay and Amazon, and many other places – even retail stores.

The hardest parts of installing water filters are connecting to the supply side of the water into your house, connecting to a drain line for the waste water, and installing a clean water faucet onto your sink. The rest of a water filter installation is easy.

You may need a plumber, or to buy a system where they will install it for you. The best systems have clear plastic casings, so you can see how dirty the filters get. The best systems also use standard-sized replacement filters, so you don’t have to buy tiny, expensive, and proprietary filters.

Reverse osmosis water filters require both a sediment and a carbon filter in front of them, to screen out the dirt and most of the junk, before the water enters the reverse osmosis filter.

A sediment filter blocks particles larger than five or ten microns. That’s an improvement over tap water, but it does not help the taste, or filter out tiny or dissolved nasty stuff in the water. The next step is a carbon block filter.

Almost all carbon block filters are activated. Activation is a process where high pressure steam is passed through coal to purify it so that it becomes almost pure carbon. Carbon is the fourth most common element in the universe, and is needed for life. Carbon makes an excellent filter, especially when extruded into a solid block.

Activated carbon block filters strain water to trap much more particles than a sediment filter can. Activated carbon filters have a positive charge to attract chemicals and impurities. As the water passes through the positively-charged carbon, the negatively-charged contaminants are attracted and bound to the carbon.

Activated carbon block filters strain out sediment, dirt, bacteria, algae, chlorine, some pesticides, asbestos, and much more. They filter sub-micron size particles, making quality water that tastes good.

The water passing through activated carbon blocks still has some particles, chlorine, nitrates, fluoride, and other dissolved junk. The next step for the best quality water is a reverse osmosis filter.

Reverse osmosis filters force water through 0.0001 micron-wide holes, through semi-permeable membranes. Long sheets of membranes are sandwiched together and rolled up around a hollow central tube in a spiral.

The reverse osmosis filter removes 99% of the remaining junk in the water. It takes almost everything out, even the calcium and magnesium in the water. Most often a small carbon filter is used after the reverse osmosis filter, to improve the taste and catch a bit more of that 1% of junk the reverse osmosis filter lets go though.

Even after sediment, carbon block, and reverse osmosis filters, water is still not perfect. Chloramines and metal ions, while reduced, may still be in the water. For this reason, some systems include a final deionizing (DI) filter.

DI filters are usually cartridges filled with plastic-like resin crystals that grab the remaining ions in the water. After the DI filter, the water is very pure.

Reverse osmosis water filters generate waste water, and they produce only a few drops of clean water per minute. For this reason, most reverse osmosis systems have a storage tank to accumulate water. All reverse osmosis systems have a drain line for waste water, that is “wasted”. The waste water can be used for plants, dumped down the drain, etc.

Ultra-pure water can grow algae very easily. When you take chlorine and other nasty stuff out of water, tiny microbes and sunlight can combine to make a perfect environment to grow harmless algae.

The quality of water filtered this way is cleaner than even distilled water. Some people think pure water tastes flat. Some people add a tiny amount of sea salt to pure water. For me, no salt is needed, pure water tastes like water should.

The Internet has baseless scare stories about how ultra pure water is dangerous. Hogwash. If you inject pure water, it may hurt you. Drinking pure water does not hurt anyone unless they are fasting.

The instant that pure water hits your mouth it’s no longer pure. Nothing is better for making coffee, cooking, and ice cubes, than using pure water.

My observations over 20 years show that pets, plants, and people really like it. When growing sprouts – with pure water, I found they grew twice as fast as with tap water.

The truth is that ultra-pure water is missing minerals. If you get calcium and magnesium in your diet, you are more than ok. Ultra pure water has no lead, copper, barium, or other garbage.

For me the trade-off is clear. What I want from water is water. As long as you get calcium and other minerals from food or supplements you should be fine. Also, too much copper is not good for you, so why get it in your water?

Personal Use Water Filters

It is a fact that every little bit helps! One of the biggest landfill and waste pollution problems is plastic water bottles! They are clogging up landfills, killing water life, and ruining our beautiful land and oceans. There are many solutions to reducing plastic waste. We can choose to recycle them, but a better choice would be to filter our own tap water, and stop purchasing them all together.

A good quality water filter is the perfect solution to the glut of plastic water bottle waste. Simply hook them up to your faucet or water supply, and your water is filtered and safe to drink. It is important to know what is in your water by having it tested by a qualified lab. Once you know what contaminants are in your water, purchase an NSF certified water filter to insure that the contaminants found are what the filter removes. (NSF insures that the filter you are buying is certified to reduce the contaminants that may be found in your water). Also make sure to check with the manufacturer of that filter to see if their product removes the contaminants you want out.

Another great option for people on the go, is reusable water bottles with a filter built right in. Many water filter companies are developing water filter bottles to help stop plastic waste. These reusable water filter bottles are designed to filter any water, anywhere.

Brita has developed The Brita Bottle:

• The Brita Bottle has been tested and certified by NSF International against NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for the reduction of chlorine (taste and odor) and particulate reduction (class VI).

• Replace filter every 128 servings, 20 gallons or roughly every two months

• Bottles are BPA free and recyclable

Smart Planet Eco Filtered Water Bottle:

• Filters for better taste, odor, heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants

• Can filter up to 100 gallons

• Replacement for disposable bottles

• BPA free

• These water filter bottles are NOT NSF Certified

Multi-Pure’s Wriggle water filter bottle: (not yet released)

• Has an activated carbon filter which claims to remove, organic contaminants from regular municipal tap water

• Meets or exceeds NSF International Standard 42 for chlorine, taste and odor reduction

• Filter life, 2 months or 40 gallons/150 litres.

Hydros Water Filter Bottle:

• Lasts for 3 months (approximately 150 uses)

• We are tested to the ANSI/ NSF standard 42 for water filtration

• reduces chlorine, chloramines and particulates

• natural anti-microbial which helps to prevent the build-up of bacteria

Writers note: I was NOT able to find any proof of NSF certification

It is a fact. Using a water filter instead of purchasing bottled water is helping to reduce plastic bottle waste. The more choices we can give consumers, the better. Filtering your own tap water with a high quality filter saves the environment, your budget, and could possibly improve your health! It is a win, win, win, for all. Good health to you!