Nothing helps you handle the hot summers in Sarasota, FL, quite like a glass of refreshing water. Bottled water is always an option if you’re looking for something to hit the spot, but getting your own reverse osmosis filtration system installed could ultimately be less expensive and less wasteful. Reverse osmosis systems are extremely effective in filtering out contaminants, simple to install, and convenient to maintain.
What Is Reverse Osmosis?
Simply put, reverse osmosis is a method of water filtration that uses a special, semi-porous membrane to reduce contaminants. Also known as “RO” for short, reverse osmosis is commonly used by homeowners, dairy farmers, and even municipalities.
How Does Reverse Osmosis Actually Work?
When water is separated by a semipermeable membrane, a pressure gradient is formed. This pressure gradient pushes the pure water molecules through the membrane while keeping large particles, such as common water contaminants like lead and copper, from getting through. After the water is pushed through the membrane by the pressure gradient, it is then passed through another filter to further remove any additional contaminants that remain.
Reverse osmosis systems generally have several different components. There are a few differences among the various setups that are available, but every RO filtration system generally has a carbon filter to remove chemical compounds, a particle filter for sediments, and a special membrane to do the bulk of the filtration. The best membranes remove more than 95% of the dissolved solids in the water.
Not every contaminant, however, is a dissolved solid. Some of the most common other toxins found in water, including benzene and methylene chloride, evaporate into the air as byproducts of chemical reactions and then make their way into the piping systems. Removing these compounds from the water is the job of the carbon filter.
In one form or another, carbon filters have been around for centuries. When carbon molecules are treated with pressure and heat, the molecules are then able to form a porous block of material that can trap organic compounds and remove volatile toxins from the surrounding environment. The most effective carbon filters are usually made from coconut shells, but filters from coal or wood can still do a good job.
The particle filter of the RO system, on the other hand, takes care of dust and rust sediments that manage to make it into the water. Many of the older pipes in the United States were made with a special zinc coating that contains lead, and this lead can easily seep into your drinking supply if it isn’t filtered out. Several cities, such as Chicago, Newark, and Baltimore, have all documented lead issues in their municipal water supplies.
The different filtering components of a reverse osmosis system are each effective on their own, but it’s the combination of these components that produces a synergistic effect. When the water first comes in to be filtered, it initially passes through the carbon and particle filters. This is known as the “prefiltration stage,” and most RO systems have between three to five other stages.
After volatile organic compounds and sediment have been removed in the pre-filtration stage, the water then flows through the main membrane to filter out smaller dissolved solids. The water molecules that flow through the membrane then make their way to the storage tank.
The storage tank holds the purified water molecules until you turn on your faucet. When your faucet opens, water is then released from the storage tank and sent through one final filter. After the water passes through the “post-filter,” it comes out of your faucet as purified as possible.
In addition to removing volatile organic compounds, dissolved solids, arsenic, fluoride, and chlorine, reverse osmosis systems are also quite good at removing common herbicides and pesticides. The best systems have also been known to remove some bacteria and common parasites. Generally speaking, RO filtration systems come with five major benefits that many of our clients find quite useful.
Benefit #1: Better-Tasting Water
Tap water can have an unfriendly, metallic taste due to contaminants like iron and lead. When these metals are filtered out, however, the water tastes much smoother, and it can also be a lot better for your health. Many of the most popular bottled waters that you see on the shelves have actually been treated with reverse osmosis systems to make the finished product much easier to drink.
In addition to filtering out metals and producing a much better taste, many RO systems can remove harmful microorganisms. The typical membrane has a pore size of roughly .1 micron, and this is much smaller than common microorganisms like Giardia, Salmonella, and E.Coli. When the water flows through the tiny pores, organisms that are smaller than the pores get left behind and excluded from your drinking water.
Benefit #2: No Need to Worry About Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning is serious business. As one of the world’s most dangerous water contaminants, lead has been implicated in everything from high blood pressure to nerve damage to sterility. Lead also tends to bind with iron, and this can lead to anemia in the most extreme cases.
The most recent case of widespread lead contamination occurred in Flint, Michigan, but several large cities have experienced similar issues. What’s even scarier, however, is that local governments have often been notoriously slow in fixing these issues. If you want to truly be safe from lead contamination, then you’re probably going to need to take water filtration into your own hands.
Fortunately, a high-quality RO system is one of the most effective methods for removing dangerous levels of lead from your water. Carbon filters trap the lead while the rest of the water flows through to the membrane, and the result is safer water. Not every carbon filter is created equal, so you’ll want to make sure that the filters in your system have been properly tested before you put them to use.
Benefit #3: A Reverse Osmosis System Is Extremely Economical
RO systems do have a few different parts, but most of them are quite inexpensive. A world-class carbon filter, for example, typically costs less than $10-$15 per month to maintain. Even the main filtration membrane costs much less than similar devices.
The best RO membranes can maintain their function for up to seven years, and the cost typically works out to another $10 per month when you factor in how long the membrane actually lasts.
Benefit #4: Easy to Install
Reverse osmosis systems don’t take a lot of time to install. The only thing that takes more than a few minutes is waiting for the storage to the tank to fill up for the first time. Other than that, the entire system can be up and running in a few hours.
Benefit #5: Easy to Maintain
Maintaining an RO system is a piece of cake. The particle and carbon filters only need to be changed once every several months, and the post-filter only needs to be changed yearly.
Once the membrane has been properly installed, it usually doesn’t need to be replaced for at least 24 months. If you have a relatively clean water source to begin with, then the RO membrane should last at least five years.
Not only are all of the RO system’s components easy to maintain and replace, but the overall health of the system is also quite easy to monitor. If you’re interested in checking up on your water quality at any time, then you can use a TDS meter to measure how many dissolved solids are coming out of your faucet. A properly functioning system will produce readings that are very close to zero.
If you think that having a reverse osmosis water filtration system sounds like a good idea, then we’d love to show you how we can help. Here at Aqua Plumbing & Air, our knowledgeable professionals are known around Sarasota for their expertise in water treatment and RO installation. We offer free consultations and 24-hour emergency support, so contact us by email, phone, or live chat to set your appointment today.
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