If you’ve looked into filtering or otherwise treating your water, you’ve probably noticed that there are many options and a lot of information out there. We understand it’s not always easy to understand, so let’s see if we can simplify some of it.
People typically ask us about three methods of residential water treatment: reverse osmosis, filtration, and Ultraviolet (UV) Light. Each method has its pros and cons, and each one can be ideal for different situations. Sometimes a combination of methods is actually the best solution.
Reverse Osmosis (RO): Reverse Osmosis is a process in which water is forced by pressure through a semi-permeable membrane. This is great for removing several contaminants from the water, desalinating, as well as providing mineral and pathogen free water. RO membranes are affected by chlorine, and nearly always need a carbon pre-filter to help protect the membrane. Reverse Osmosis units are also known for using a lot of water in the production; for example a very basic system may use 3-6 gallons (depending on your water conditions) of water in order to produce one gallon of clean RO water. Since water coming out of an RO system is virtually mineral-free, it is considered “aggressive” and will leech minerals out of surrounding materials, such as pipes, so be sure you use an RO system with faucets and plumbing systems that are designed to handle this. For these reasons, RO systems are usually used just for drinking water rather than for a whole house system. For more information on RO systems, click here.
Filtration: Probably the easiest and least expensive choice, simple filtration can solve many common water issues. Depending on your needs, filters can be used in conjunction with RO and/or UV systems or stand alone. Filters are given a micron rating that represents the size of the openings between pieces of filter media and the size of particles that filter will remove. Quite simply, the smaller the micron rating, the smaller the openings that allow water to pass through. Larger micron ratings are great for filtering sand and other large particles, while very small micron ratings can also filter cysts and fine silt. Naturally, the smaller the micron rating, the more it will catch. Filtration systems that are designed to catch several sizes of particles will often have a series of filters of different micron ratings to keep any one filter from having to be changed too often, but still filter the water effectively.
With the choice of filter type, you also have the choice of installation method. For drinking water only, a countertop or under counter unit is typically considered to be the most convenient to install, operate and maintain. Depending on your particular water conditions and if you are able to make modifications to your home, you may consider a whole house filter to ensure that all the water used in your home is safe from contaminants. For more information about drinking water filtration, click here.
Ultraviolet (UV): UV light systems work by exposing contaminated water to radiation from UV light which effectively inactivates bacteria, viruses and other organic contaminants. The UV light actually penetrates the cell walls of the organism and disrupts the cell’s genetic material, making the cell unable to reproduce, which renders it harmless, but does not remove the contaminant. The effects of the UV light on contaminated water are not residual; there are no lingering disinfectants in the water to continue disinfection after exposure to the UV light. This is both a positive and negative aspect of this form of disinfectant. A UV system is often used in conjunction with other treatment methods and should always be used at the closest point possible to the end user, such as under the counter for a drinking water faucet. For more information about UV systems, click here.
In order to form a more comprehensive list of options, pros or cons specific to your needs, you will need to check with a local water quality professional for the best advice in treating your water. Ultimately, the best method for your home depends on your water quality, and what you’re trying to get out of the water you have. If you only want to make your city water taste better, your ideal filtration method will be different from someone who needs their sandy well water to stop fouling the water heater.
First step: What’s your water problem?
Second step: What’s your water quality like?
Third step: Fix it!