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 filtersbombard 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 filtersseparate 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 filtersuse 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.