Reverse Osmosis vs Carbon Water Filter Systems

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Water filtration can be tricky to some, as there are any number of filtering systems available today for home and commercial use that are able to filter water safely and efficiently. There are reverse osmosis devices as well as carbon water filter systems. Knowing the differences between the two will help consumers decide which type best fits their water filtration needs. There are many questions today as to the safety and drinkability of water. There are solutions through the right filtering systems. Whether it’s reverse osmosis or a carbon filter system, there are ways to make water purer and more satisfying.

How Do Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Work?

Just how do these type of filters operate, anyway? To begin with, RO is a treatment process that utilizes pressure to remove impurities from water. Pressure forces water through a penetrable membrane that filters out or expels impurities and contaminants. Metal ions, molecules, nitrates, minerals, lead, chemicals, bacteria, odors, pesticides, herbicides and larger and weightier particles are removed. Clean, potable, drinkable water remains once the process is complete.

This water purification process also correlates with filtering of brackish or salt water as well as water treatment that has been affected by flooding, natural disasters and contamination accidents.

Additionally, osmosis water treatment is good for travels. It is effective in cases of water contamination that involves bacteria or parasites. It also helps in the elimination of harmful pesticides and herbicides.

Osmosis Stages

Most osmosis systems go through the following steps or stages that include:

1. Water passes through a filter that process sediment as well as larger particles, salt and dust.

2. Another filter processes and removes odors, putrid tastes, chlorine and mineral related oils.

3. A dense carbon filter further processes residual chlorine, other odors and bad tastes.

4. Water forces its way through an extremely fine filter which removes almost 100 percent of remaining impurities, such as fluoride.

5. Another carbon polishing filter initiates a cleansing process that prevents water from acquiring a stale or flat taste.

6. During this phase, previously cleansed water is alkalized and adapts to a pH of at least 7 or more.

7. In the final phase, a UV filter destroys any bacteria or viruses that may still be present.


Varying Filter System Types

Manufacturing will vary with RO systems as different filters are utilized to remove particular types of impurities. Another important factor, from a consumer standpoint, is the amount of water per gallon that is extracted and removed as waste. Potential buyers need to be aware of the amount of excess that a system allows for waste. Two different types include:

Filter Types
RO Filtered Water

1. Standard or traditional Tank System

A standard system usually mounts under a sink and contains a sequence of filters that push water through it. Once the water is clean, the tank acts as a storage container. A faucet is included and distributes the water, which is separate from a regular sink faucet. There are models similar to this system that also contain a shut off valve (automatic) that will stop water production once the tank is full, so no water is wasted or flushed out the drain.

A standard/basic system set up consists of the following features:

  • a pre filter – filters sediment and chlorine
  • a membrane
  • a storage tank
  • a post filter – activated carbon

2. Tank-less System

A tank-less system connects directly to water faucets and dispenses when necessary. There is no storage tank, so it is an advantageous system if cabinet or counter top space is limited. It can be costly as filters and membranes require intermittent replacement, and a booster pump may be necessary to maintain water flow.


Different Types of Membrane Filters

Different water purification needs dictate the type of membranes used in RO and they include:

1.Thin Film Composite(TFC/TFM)

This membrane rejects a high percentage of basic contaminants and it is less likely to experience organic contamination. It is limited in effectively treating chlorinated water. Pre-treatment carbon filters are used with TFC membranes when chlorinated and salt related water purification are in question. Such system purification includes:

  • Salt Removal or Desalination System – removes salt from sea water that concerns drinking water, irrigation and other uses
  • Brackish Water System – cleans dirty and high volume salt water
  • Larger Capacity /Water Treatment Plants – cleans expansive areas of seawater and brackish water

2. Cellulose Triacetate (CIA)

A Cellulose membrane is tolerant of chlorine, but it can face contamination from bacteria. There are limits on its rejection of basic impurities.


Pros of the Osmosis System

There are a number of benefits to an osmosis system that include:

  • Produces exceptional water results through technology. It allows for the elimination of a high percentage of dissolved solids as well as better taste and odor removal
  • Less expensive system to operate
  • Provides good-tasting water without the hassle of plastic containers and water delivery.
  • Convenient and easy availability. Within fingertip reach of a kitchen sink
  • Healthy drink replacement for any other beverage, whether bottled, canned, or made from a mix., as well as a cooking source for nutritional meals
  • Enhancement to more flavorful foods.
  • All around improved taste in food.
  • Good cooking source for nutritional meals

Cons of the Osmosis System

  • Removal of minerals and other beneficial substances
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can occur – Eliminates calcium, manganese, iron and other important nutrients
  • Mineral depletion affects vegetables, cereals and other types of food preparation of
  • Nutritional value of foods is minimized
  • Affects children’s dental health through loss of fluoride. Though fluoride use has been controversial over the years, it still is helpful in preventing tooth decay.
  • Demineralized water detrimental to general health due to vitamin and mineral depletion

How Do Carbon Water Filters Work?

Carbon water filters work through the use of a layer or bed of activated carbon that absorbs and removes impurities, toxins and waste products. Ions within carbon create a positive charge. Carbon attracts adverse substances and any chemicals present in unfiltered water, which possess a negative charge. As water passes through the filter, contaminants, organic compounds, chlorine, pesticides, herbicides and other substances are removed, while the natural vitamins and minerals remain intact.

Carbon is a versatile and effective treatment for water cleansing because of its large filtering surface area. If the carbon happens to be in a solid or block format, it provides filtration of particulates to the smallest degree.

Types of Activated Carbon Filters

  • Under the Sink – cartridge based filters that mount under a kitchen or bathroom sink or other water source
  • Counter-top – cylinder type unit that serves as standalone unit. Placement is situated at the sink or basin level, or anywhere else where water requires filtering.

Type of Carbon Utilized in Carbon Filters

Carbon filters designed for home use contain either of the following:

  • Granular activated carbon – has a larger particle size in comparison to powdered activated carbon. Size distinction makes its outer surface smaller and suitable for adhesion of various gases and vapors, which enables quick diffusion. In water treatment, varying sizes of granules are utilized that are able to pass through specific mesh sieves. The granules are balanced in size and surface and easily accommodate water filtering.
  • Powdered block carbon – has an increased ability to remove contaminants from water slightly better than its granular counterpart. Both are effective. Block carbon filters simply have a higher removal percentage rate.

Whether granules or blocks are used, the importance of carbon filtration is based on the amount of carbon that is in a cartridge unit or cylinder. Also, the time that a contaminant or other impurity is in association with carbon will determine effectiveness. The more carbon used, the better the purification results. A slow water rate also affects results. The longer a contaminant is in contact with carbon, the higher the absorption rate. The size of carbon particle also determines the rate of purification.

There are advantages and disadvantages to carbon filtration systems, and they include:


Pros of Carbons Filters

  • Utilizes natural materials in the filtration process, such as coconut shell, wood, and bituminous (natural hydrocarbons)
  • Less costly and easy to maintain
  • Enhances the taste of water and eliminates odors
  • Filters out organic chemicals, microorganisms and chemical germicides (chlorine) as well as any carbon based elements

Cons of Carbon Filters

  • Inefficient at removing chemicals not drawn to carbon, such as nitrates, heavy metals, sodium, fluoride, arsenic, copper, mercury and other substances
  • Present difficulties with removal of dissolved contaminants
  • Short-lived service – caused by the bonding sites in the filters that become packed with contaminants and no longer work.
  • Often require replacement
  • Ineffective with removal of certain bacteria and viruses
  • Nurtures bacterial growth (unless small amounts of silver are infused within carbon filters)

Using Both Filter Types to Maximize Benefits

Though carbon water filter systems have disadvantages, it is apparent there are uses for them alongside other more inclusive filtering systems. Carbon filters are handy for their smaller component size, convenience and easy availability to a counter top area; whereas, osmosis related filters are bulkier and do require additional space for storage and use. A carbon system acts as a companion piece to an osmosis filter, as contaminants that one system is unable to process can be done by the other.

As no filter has the ability to remove every harmful substance present in water,it is advantageous to use both osmosis and carbon water filtration systems to achieve superior water. Both filters can process and deliver clean and safe water. Another thought is to look for filters that combine both carbon and osmosis in their systems, as they are available in the marketplace.

The combined advantages of osmosis and carbon water filtration systems are many. It’s easy to determine the benefits of either using one or the other, or a combination of the two. Utilizing the two or adding a combined system will also work for effective water filtration.


Factors in Choosing a System

One important note with choosing a water filter is the water source and its location. It is probably a good idea to determine what type of contaminants may be affecting a local water source. Whether the water’s origin is through a city or county water department or is located in a rural area where wells may be present, it’s worth looking into the different purification possibilities for varying locations.

Another thing to consider is whether water pipes and plumbing in a home or business are old. They may contain lead or other contaminants. Those old pipes can leach lead and other impure substances directly into water. Investigating that aspect is important when considering a water filtration system.

Before choosing either of these systems, you’ll want to know what kind of treatment your water requires. You’ll also want to know what impurities are present. Finding a system of the right size and model, along with the right features, is also important. You want one that has direct access to a water source, whether you are going to place it on a counter top or under a sink.


Conclusion

Once you have all the answers to your water filtration concerns, you can make a clear choice in one that best meets your direct needs. Making the right selection is an important one for health and well being. Like any other clean water conscious consumer, you want safe and clean water now and in the future.

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