Point of Use Drinking Water Systems
By far the most common type of home water filter system is the Point of Use Drinking Water System. More and more families are using some type of filter for the water they drink every day. In this post you’ll find out about the different choices in drinking water filters and learn the pros and cons of each.
The drinking water filters that are probably the most widely used are the ones that are installed in refrigerators with water dispensers in the door. A high percentage of refrigerators now have the ice and water feature and virtually all of these have some kind of filter. These filters are actually pretty good basic filters. They generally do a good job of removing chlorine and several other contaminants. They are not, however, nearly as effective as some of the more advanced point of use systems. Still, they are definitely better than nothing and they are very convenient.
Pitcher Type Filters
Pitcher type drinking water filters are also fairly common. These are usually the least expensive option, require no installation and are available in many stores. They are mostly pretty basic taste and odor filters, which remove chlorine, improve the taste of the water and many also reduce lead and other contaminants. Some brands may be designed to address other specific contaminants. This is dependent on the micron rating and filter type. Pitcher type filters do have a couple of drawbacks. For starters, they are only capable of filtering a relatively small amount of water at one time. You also have to wait for a little while after filling them while the water passes through the filter. So if you forget to refill the pitcher when it gets low or empty you may not be able to have a drink when you want it.
Reverse Osmosis Reverse Osmosis Filter systems clean the water by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane usually has very small pores which are able to remove a very high level of contaminants. Reverse Osmosis systems usually include some type of sediment filter and an activated carbon filter to cover as many bases as possible in the filtration process.
Reverse Osmosis Systems are probably some of the most complicated filter systems to install. Unlike most other systems, they require both a water supply and a drain connection. They also have a storage tank and usually a separate dispenser faucet. When you first look at the installation instructions for a Reverse Osmosis System it can look pretty intimidating, but many systems come with clear instructions and color coded tubing for the do-it-yourself consumer. Reverse Osmosis units produce some of the purest water possible from a home unit but they do have a couple of pretty big negatives.
First, they waste a lot of water. In fact, for every gallon of drinking water produced a Reverse Osmosis System flushes 2-3 gallons of water down the drain. This is because the excess water is constantly rinsing the membrane of the captured contaminants. RO Units also take up a lot of valuable real estate under the cabinet. There will typically be both a bank of 3-4 filter cartridges and a storage tank about the size of a basketball. Add all that under your typical kitchen sink, along with the garbage disposal and sink plumbing, and you might have to find somewhere else for the dishwashing detergent. One more possible issue with an RO System is the purity of the water. Some people think that Reverse Osmosis actually gets the water too pure. To explain, extremely pure water is considered the “universal solvent”. That means that it will dissolve almost anything. That is because water in its natural state usually contains minerals which cause it to be neutral from a PH standpoint. If these minerals aren’t present the water will “attack” whatever it comes in contact with in order to regain its mineral balance. (This is a big oversimplification but you get the point.)
A Reverse Osmosis System not only removes most of the bad stuff in the water, it also removes the beneficial minerals that are naturally present in water. Without these minerals the PH of the water is usually lowered, making the water acidic. There is a growing body of evidence that it is not healthy to drink acidic water. Bottom line, Reverse Osmosis does a great job of removing contaminants, but that effectiveness comes with a price. With more and more emphasis being placed on conserving our precious fresh water supply, many people are looking for alternatives to Reverse Osmosis to provide their families with high quality drinking water. Multi Stage Filters Multi Stage Filters are just what he name sounds like. These systems use a series of filters to remove contaminants. This type of Drinking Water System can be designed to remove almost any type of contaminant and can range in price from under a hundred bucks to a few hundred dollars.
Like the RO System, these usually include a dedicated drinking water dispenser faucet. Most Multi-Stage Filter Systems include a sediment filter and some type of carbon filter. They may also include specialized filters to address specific contaminants. Multi-Stage Filters have one big advantage over Reverse Osmosis Systems. They don’t waste water. Many are also designed to leave the good minerals in the water so it not only tastes better but is healthier too. One possible disadvantage of a Multi-Stage Filter is that it may not be as effective at removing some contaminants. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some very good filters but you have to do your research. It is probably accurate to say that an average RO system removes more contaminants than an average Multi-Stage Filter System. Distillers Distillers clean the water by boiling it than capturing the steam and allowing it to cool back into water. This is the same principle used to make moonshine whiskey. Distillers can produce very clean water but they are not very common.
They can be pretty costly and there are a lot of the same issues with distilled water as with the water produced by a Reverse Osmosis System. Distillers don’t waste water but they do remove the natural mineral content (along with dissolved oxygen) and can leave the water tasting “flat”. They also usually require an electrical supply to power the heating component. So…this guide has talks about the 5 most common types of residential Point of Use Water Filter systems: Refrigerator Filters, Filter Pitchers, Reverse Osmosis Systems, Multi-Stage Filters and Distillers. (Actually distillers are not all that common).
You may see some that are a combination of these types but the principles will be the same. The main thing to remember is that these types of filters all have one thing in common. They are designed to deliver water for drinking and maybe cooking. The flow rates on all of these are usually around ½ gallon per minute. That’s fine if you want a glass of water.
It’s not so good if you are trying to take a shower or wash clothes. That’s why the filters discussed in this post are referred to as “Point of Use”. They are designed for a specific purpose, providing clean, pure drinking water.