So I guess that if you are reading this then you know about Water softeners, their effects, their benefits and probably even the mechanisms and technologies they use; but have you ever considered or investigated about Water Filtration Systems? If you have not then you have came to the right place; especially if you are about to buy a system for your home and are choosing between a Water Softener and a Water Filter, but are not sure yet.
While Water Softeners remove just the minerals from the water that cause it to be hard and form limescale, Water Filtration Systems remove the contaminants in the water.
How water filters purify what you drink
A Water Filtration System may have many different types of filters or stages that remove several different types of contaminants.
They may include Sediment filters, Activated Carbon filters, a UV stage, an Ozone generator and injector and a Reverse Osmosis filter; each one of those uses very different technologies to remove or neutralize specific types of pollutants and other unwanted substances in the water.
Some of the unwanted substances and contaminants Water Filtration Systems remove are:
- Such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites.
- Heavy metals. Such as lead, iron, mercury, arsenic, cadmium or chromium
- Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs). Such as gasoline additives, solvents and degreasers, among others.
- Pesticides, Herbicides, Insecticides and Fungicides
- Radioactive Elements.
Let’s now take a look at how the different types of filters and stages of a Water Filtration System work:
Activated Carbon filter
Activated Carbon is a form of charcoal that comes in small pellets, but otherwise looks and feels like regular charcoal (like the one used for barbeques). An Activated Carbon filter holds thousands of pellets and each pellet of Activated Carbon has millions of small pores, this means that each pellet has a pretty large area of contact through which it can interact when water fills the filter cartridge. In fact, just one gram of Activated Carbon has an area of 500m2 or 5,400 sq ft. The Activated Carbon essentially absorbs all the unwanted smells and tastes the water may have, it especially gets rid of Chlorine, but it will get rid of up to a 99% of any smell or taste the water may have.
Almost every home water purification system includes one, although many manufacturers include at least two in all their models; one regular filter and one post carbon filter just to guarantee the quality and taste of the water.
Sediment, as you may already know, is a heavy particle carried by a fluid, which tends to sink to the lowest parts of the same when the fluid becomes static. A Sediment filter is like a strainer that will sift these heavy particles, but only those, and will not work with smaller pollutants such as chemicals, bacteria or heavy metals.
Sediment filters are rated in microns, and there are two types: nominal and absolutes filters and they differ in their efficacy. For example, a Nominal 10 micron filter will catch around 85% of all the 10 micron particles (or larger). An absolute filter, on the other hand, is much more effective and will catch a 99.9% or all of the particles of 10 microns or larger.
Ultraviolet rays are powerful disinfectants, if a DNA molecule comes into contact with a UV ray, it will be destroyed. All the known living beings have DNA so UV light will kill anything: bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, etc.
In nature, UV light comes from the sun, but the Ozone layer stops it, however, in places where the Ozone layer is thinner they may get through and potentially cause skin burns and skin cancer (by damaging the skin cells’ DNA).
The Oxygen we breathe is composed of two single Oxygen atoms, and so its chemical formula is O2. Ozone, on the other hand, is composed of three Oxygen atoms and so its chemical formula is O3 and in nature, Ozone is formed when a lightning strikes.
Most commercial and home Ozone generators create Ozone by sending the Oxygen in the air through an electric field and then inject the bubbles in the water. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant and it works essentially by ‘burning’ anything it touches: it is a very powerful and unstable oxidizer. So it works much like Chlorine, except Ozone is a 50% more potent than Chlorine and Ozone leaves no traces in the water it treats: it has no taste and it has no smell, and as soon as the water treated with Ozone comes out of a faucet, the Ozone evaporates or disintegrates into regular Oxygen molecules.
Reverse Osmosis filter
This is maybe the most complex stage a Water Filtration System may have, but also the most effective at removing unwanted substances and contaminants from water.
To understand how the Reverse Osmosis filtration works, first, you need to understand Osmosis is a chemical phenomenon in which a fluid flows from an area with few dissolved particles to another area with more dissolved particles, flowing through a semi permeable membrane.
But now imagine this: you have a container full of water that is divided into two sections, those sections are separated by a barrier with small holes; that barrier is called a membrane. Since the water molecules (H2O) are very small, they can cross through the pores of the membrane, but everything else can’t, so dust, garbage, bacteria and even viruses can’t cross, just the water.
The container has dirty water in one half and clean water in the other half. If allowed to flow naturally, then the clean water will flow from its part of the container and accumulate in the half filled with dirty water, since the fluid is attracted towards the part of the container that has the most particles dissolved; which in this case is the half filled with dirty water.
The Reverse Osmosis system does just what the name implies: it reverses the Osmosis process; so dirty water flows through the semi permeable membrane which stops all the dissolved particles.
To achieve this effect, the Reverse Osmosis system must apply a lot of pressure to the water, so as to overcome its natural osmotic flow and make it work backwards.
After a while though, the membrane that filters the particles may eventually get clogged, to deal with this the reverse osmosis systems have a function called backwash to clean the membranes.
To do it the device simply reverses its flow, and the water flowing backwards dislodges the particles the membrane trapped.
The water used for backwashing has all the particles the membrane has trapped during an extended period of time concentrated and dissolved in it so it may look like regular water but its taste tends to be displeasing. Such waste water is useless and is usually simply thrown down the drain.
What are the main differences between Water Filtration Systems and Water Softeners?
The main difference between Water Softeners and Water Filtration Systems is that Water Softeners only remove the minerals that cause water to be hard and Water Filtration Systems remove several different types of pollutants and unwanted substances and particles that contaminate water.
And another important difference is how they work: a Water Softener uses a tank filled with resin beads to attract and remove the salts that cause water to be hard. Water Filtration Systems on the other hand use different technologies and different mechanisms to remove the different types of pollutants that may be contaminating your water supply.
Other difference is that Water Filtration Systems require very little maintenance (which is obviously very convenient for most people as it saves you time and money). On the other hand, Water Softeners usually require more maintenance. Salt-based water softeners are the most demanding type of softeners but the most common task to do is to simply replenish its common salt stock; Salt-free water softeners require less maintenance as they do not consume any salt; and, finally, Magnetic water conditioners are the ones that require less maintenance and in fact, they usually require no maintenance at all, however, this advantage is offset by the fact that are the least effective systems in reducing water hardness and they actually do not remove any of the minerals that cause water to be hard, they just render them temporarily harmless.
Best residential water treatment systems brands and models
This is the most common question asked by people interested in improving the quality of their water supply and it is also the most tricky and hard to answer.
This is because it is very complex and there are several things to consider and what may result to be the best option for you and your household, may not be the best for someone else’s home; and that is because there are not two identical households and every situation and specific case is very different.
So, to answer this question you will have to determine first the following things: the quality of the water your household receives, how much water your household consumes and how big your budget is.
- What is the quality of the water your home receives?
This is perhaps the most basic and essential question anyone who wants to buy a home Reverse Osmosis system must answer as it will tell you what is the type of equipment you need, what are the capabilities it should have to satisfy your needs or if you need one at all.
To determine the quality of the water you receive at your home you can go to your municipal water utilities supplier and ask for an analysis which is (commonly) done free of charge. Keep in mind that if you want a more complete and comprehensive test with more information such as the level of fecal coliform bacteria or dissolved solids then you are going to need an independent certified laboratory to perform a test.
- How much water does your household consumes?
To determine the capacity and size that must have the equipment you want to acquire you are going to need to determine obviously how much water does your household consumes. This amount will vary depending on the number of people that live in your house, and a house with 1 to 3 persons is considered a small household; a house with 4 persons is considered a medium sized household and more than 4 persons is a big household.
- How big is your budget?
And finally, you need to calculate how much you are willing to spend. The costs will vary in function of the size of the equipment you need but you can find some basic equipments at prices as low as $130 USD with the biggest ones costing up to $2,000. You should also include the costs of maintenance and services (you are going to need to replace your membranes and perhaps some filter cartridges at some point, and periodically buy salt if you also get a water softener). And do not forget to include the cost of installation in case you are not willing to do that yourself.
Keep in mind that, by some estimates, with a good Reverse Osmosis system, you can save up to a $100 USD per month, so in the long run, a Reverse Osmosis system should pay itself.
And finally, let’s take a look at the top 5 best reviewed Water Filtration systems on the market as of 2015. The following systems are the ones that have received the best ratings and reviews by the users who have bought them and the main features and characteristics of each one are included.
|APEC High-Flow 90 GDP||APEC Countertop||iSpring 75 GPD 5 Stage||iSpring 75 GDP 6 Stage||Home Master Full Contact|
|Size (inches)||16 x 5.2 x 17.5||15 x 7 x 18||14 x 6 x 6.5||15 x 8 x 18||20 x 16 x 13|
|Filter life||12 months||12 months||12 months||6-12 months||12 months|
|Warranty||1 years||1 years||1 years||1 years||5 years|
|Users rating||4.9 Stars||4.8 Stars||4.5 Stars||4.3 Stars||5 Stars|