Every time you turn on the tap, something amazing happens: your water comes out crystal clear.
Even so, the news abounds with examples of harmful substances in water, spurring many homeowners and businesses to invest in a new filtration system. But how does water filtration work and, perhaps even more importantly, does it actually improve the quality of the liquid coming out of your faucet?
If you want clean, safe drinking water, it's time to find the answers to your questions.
How Does Water Filtration Work?
Water gets around. It travels from rivers to clouds, through dirt in runoff and the muck in sewage systems.
So how do you know if the water you're sipping doesn't contain a billion pathogens waiting to hit your immune system like a hammer?
You know because of water filtration.
However, the methods of filtration vary according to the type of system used.
Carbon filtration through charcoal is a popular go-to method for clean drinking water.
There are two main types of carbon filters: granular-activated carbon and block carbon.
Active charcoal, or carbon, is treated with oxygen to open millions of pores between the carbon atoms. Through chemical attraction, the chemicals and substances that pose a danger to your health bond to the atoms.
One pound of carbon has a surface area of 125 acres. The large surface area makes it ideal for absorbing dangerous chemicals because the water interacts with the carbon for a longer period of time, allowing more substances to chemically bond to it.
What It Removes
Carbon filtration is excellent at blocking other carbon-based impurities as well as bad tastes and odors.
This type of filtration can remove the following:
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Large micro-organisms
Although activated charcoal is great for organic chemicals, other substances aren't attracted to the carbon. Instead, they pass right through it.
Most of these substances are inorganic contaminants:
Consequently, it's suggested a sediment pre-filter be added to the mix.
Another common type of filtration process is reverse osmosis. It's used for desalination, water treatment, recycling and to produce energy.
To understand reverse osmosis, you must first understand one of Earth's most intriguing process: regular osmosis.
Osmosis occurs when a weaker solution (water mixed with other substances) migrates to a solution that is more concentrated. Between these two liquids is a semi-permeable membrane that separates the solutions, allowing only certain things to pass through.
For example, a solution of pure fresh water would be drawn to a solution of salt water, "weakening" it by diluting the amount of salt.
Reverse osmosis is osmosis on rewind. Energy is applied to the more concentrated solution to press the liquid through the semi-permeable membrane. In this case, the membrane allows only water molecules to pass through, leaving salts, bacteria, and pathogens behind.
If you'd like some reverse osmosis for yourself, it's available in complete home systems or in under-the-counter systems.
What It Removes
As you'd expect, this process is extremely useful in areas with ample salt water but little fresh water. Salt and other larger particles are unable to pass through the membrane.
According to the CDC, reverse osmosis is highly effective at removing several particles or dangerous substances:
- Chemical contaminants
Reverse osmosis does not remove THMs, a by-product formed when chlorine gets added to water with organic material. Furthermore, some particles are too small to be eliminated through reverse osmosis, including some pesticides and herbicides.
While removing minerals successfully makes water "softer," reverse osmosis systems' tendency to block healthy and natural minerals can be counterintuitive.
A traditional choice for households is ceramic filtration. This process first works by allowing water to pass through the cartridge surface, which (similar to carbon filtering) is composed of small pores to stop larger contaminants from entering.
Within the filter, smaller particulates are stopped by the intricate design. Some devices are silver-lined or contain carbon cores. The silver repels bacterial growth while the carbon eliminates pesticides and other contaminants.
What It Removes
Ceramic filtration is adept at removing harmful bacteria and protozoa in water. In fact, studies demonstrate that it reduces diarrheal diseases by 60% to 70%.
This type of filtration system removes all of the following and more:
- Some viruses
While popular because of the system's longevity and low cost, consumers should carefully choose what type of system to purchase. Some ceramic filtration systems may not remove chemical contaminants because no additional features are included within the filter itself, such as carbon or silver.
Purchase high-quality products to ensure your water is clean.
It might sound like science fiction, but UV is an effective filtration choice. In this method, ultraviolet light penetrates pathogens and destroys their DNA.
This process uses very little energy and is effective in disinfecting water.
What It Removes
Ultraviolet systems are extremely efficient at removing the following:
As such, it's a common choice for rural homeowners using wells.
UV systems do not remove harmful chemicals, such as heavy metals and chlorine. It should be used in conjunction with another purification method for drinkable water.
Ionization has become a popular health trend in the US. Ionizers use technology to split water within an ionization chamber. Titanium electrodes split the water into alkaline and wastewater by utilizing the ions' charges.
A microcomputer analyzes the process to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Most ionizers have some form of pre-ionization filtration to further eliminate contaminants.
What It Removes
Ionizers remove volatile organic compounds, lead, chlorine and more. Some may reduce the amount of fluoride in the water, as well.
Ionization does not filter out soluble minerals and few scientific studies have been conducted to verify the health advantages many proponents claim it offers.
Take a Sip of Purity
When shopping for your at-home or work system, it's necessary to understand the following: how does water filtration work?
Each system type has its own unique process, which comes with several advantages and disadvantages.
However, you don't have to purchase an intricate system that will cost thousands of dollars to obtain and install. Instead, countertop filtration devices are available and affordable.
Browse our selection of countertop filters and find the perfect addition to your home or office.