A new EPA study found that at least 60% of the U.S. population is exposed to toxic PFAS, or “forever chemicals.” This means that over half of the tap water supply is contaminated, and even temporary exposure to these toxins can have irreversible health effects. In light of these findings, safe, clean drinking water at home has never been more crucial. Many household water supplies can contain chlorine, heavy metals, and bacteria. This is where a reliable water filtration system comes in handy.

You’ll encounter several distinct water filtration options, including carbon filters, reverse osmosis (RO), and distillation systems. Each solution has its own benefits and drawbacks. The filtration solution you’ll need largely depends on the contaminants in your water supply. The following guide will help you decipher these popular water filtration options and identify the right solution for your home.

Evaluating Your Water Quality

The first step to selecting the ideal water filtration system is understanding your water supply. Regular water testing helps you identify unhealthy contaminants and target those specific elements.

The EPA indicates that the most common tap water contaminants include chlorine, lead, pesticides, and bacteria like E. coli. Elevated lead in your water supply can lead to serious health issues. This is especially true of children, as it can impact their intellectual and physical development.

So, how do you test your water? You can achieve reliable test results through various methods. One way to go about it is to purchase a home test kit. These products display fast results and offer a simple method for identifying a range of commonplace water pollutants.

Opting for a professional laboratory analysis gives you the most accurate and comprehensive results. Municipal water systems that support more than 100,000 users must issue reports online. You can find these details on the EPA website. Simply look for a summary that lists EPA-regulated contaminants and their potential health risks. Also, check with the local water department and inquire about free or low-cost testing services.

How Does Carbon Filtration Work?

Carbon filters are highly porous and incorporate an expansive surface area that helps them reduce bad tastes, odors, and other water particles. The carbon activates itself while increasing its surface to capture contaminants as water passes through the filter. The two primary carbon filter types are activated carbon and carbon block.

The former deploys a granulated activated carbon filter to eliminate contaminants, while the latter compresses carbon into a solid, block-like surface area. This process casts a large and efficient net for contaminant absorption. Potential carbon sources may include bituminous coal, peat, or coconut shells. Coconut shells are the most widely used because they’re the most renewable.

To create the filters, manufacturers bake them in an oxygen-free chamber to 100 degrees. This process eliminates their impurities. The carbon material is then subjected to a 1,600-degree steam that activates the carbon, leaving it with cracks and pores. These openings allow them to filter substantial contamination amounts. Carbon filters offer several unique benefits. They’re most effective at removing chlorine, sediment, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your water supply.

Carbon block and granular activated carbon filters offer higher absorption capabilities than other water filtration solutions. They are, however, less effective at removing specific chemicals like heavy metals, nitrates, and microorganisms. So, while carbon is excellent for improving your water’s taste and smell, a comprehensive filtration solution will often combine activated and block carbon with other filters.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems

RO systems are among the most effective water filtration solutions, and they’re renowned for providing a consistently safe and great-tasting water supply. We also use them for multiple applications. While osmosis occurs naturally without an external energy source, RO utilizes a high-pressure pump that activates against the system’s saltwater solution. The pump forces the saltwater through a semipermeable membrane, leaving 95% to 99% of the salts in the system’s reject stream.

The amount of pressure required depends on the feed’s salt concentration. The more salt in the water, the more pressure is necessary to offset the RO system’s osmotic pressure. Essentially two types of water come from the feed: permeate (safe water) and concentrate (unhealthy water). The permeate is also known as product water. This water drives through the RO system until it becomes near contaminate-free.

The RO filtration process involves several stages. The first stage is called pre-filtration. It removes the sediment and chlorine from your water. The water is then sent through the RO membrane to filter out dissolved particles. In the post-filtration process, the water is further purified to deliver the product water.

The primary component of every RO system is its semi-permeable membrane. This solution only lets water molecules pass through while blocking unhealthy substances like heavy metals, fluoride, nitrates, and microorganisms.

Reverse osmosis filtration offers substantial benefits. Studies from the Water Quality Association show that RO systems remove up to 99% of all contaminants. This produces excellent-tasting, high-quality water that is almost entirely free of impurities. It can meet the strictest drinking water standards. The only real downside of this filtration process is that it’s slow and uses a lot of water. Likewise, RO systems are considerably more expensive to purchase and maintain. Nevertheless, RO is still one of the most effective solutions for delivering consistently pure water to your home.

Household Water Distillers

Household water distillers send water through a natural condensation and evaporation process. It entails heating your tap water to its boiling point before turning it into steam. These solutions are even more effective at eliminating contaminants than RO systems. Distilled is so high in purity that medical and laboratory professionals use it often.

Microscopic contaminants can make it through even the most expensive household water filtration systems. This is due to the solution not receiving proper maintenance, causing PFAS, toxic “forever chemicals,” to accumulate in the system. If left unchecked, this problem can render your drinking water more unhealthy than unfiltered tap water.

As water distillers remove impurities, they also extract potentially healthy minerals. Some may see this as a drawback. However, we receive most of these same minerals from our food, at any rate. The important point to remember is that distillation eliminates unhealthy minerals as well. Distilled water is also better tasting than the water you buy in your grocery store, which may develop a flat taste as it sits on warehouse shelves. Because you make it daily at home, the distilled water usually has no taste at all.

The boiling process to produce distilled water is more energy-intensive, however. This extra demand on your power can lead to slightly higher energy costs. Like RO, the distillation process takes time. If you use a lot of water, a home water distiller may not be the most efficient filtration solution. Nonetheless, distilling your water is the most effective approach to eliminating all contaminants from your water supply. It’s also reasonably affordable after considering the long-term costs of purchasing bottled water at the grocery store.

Choosing Your Next Water Filtration System

Identifying the right water filtration system takes a bit of legwork to understand your needs, but this process is worthwhile in the end. Regardless of which filtration solution you select, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. As such, understanding the unique challenges of your water supply is crucial for eliminating its specific contaminants.

At Magic Electric, Plumbing, Heating + Air, we provide comprehensive whole-house water filtration systems to our valued customers in Boise, ID. We also supply expert electrical and residential drain solutions to keep your home operating flawlessly year-round. For more on our custom water filtration systems and water softeners or to schedule an emergency plumbing service, contact Magic Electric, Plumbing, Heating + Air today!

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