Adam’s Plumbing and Pumps knows the importance of drinkable water provided by proper filtration systems. There are many ways water can become contaminated and can contain anything from pesticides, to microbes, or other environmental toxins. Studies have shown that levels of bacteria present in water that has passed through an improperly maintained home filtration device may be up to 2,000 times higher than levels in unfiltered water.
What are water filters?
Filters can improve the taste, odour and appearance of drinking water. They can also remove organic chemicals and heavy metals and help remove hardness caused by minerals. However, filter purification is not 100%. Generally, water filters are labelled with the specific substance they will remove, such as chlorine or lead. They do not remove microorganisms, and are intended for use with water that is known to be microbiologically safe. No single water filter can be used to remove all types of substances from water.
There are many types of water filter models on the market, each with their own advantages and disadvantages and you must carefully consider which unit, or combination of units, best suits your household needs or business and commercial use.
Well vs. municipal water
If your drinking water is supplied by your municipality or utility you likely do not need a water filter. However it should be noted that if your home or utility has lead pipes or solder, your drinking water may contain lead. Municipally-supplied water is treated to meet health and aesthetic (taste and odour) requirements and is subject to routine testing for microbiological contamination.
If your drinking water is from a well it may not be safe from microbiological, chemical, or other contaminants. If you are ever unsure about the status of your water please get it tested. If your water contains lead, you can remove water that has sat in your pipes overnight by running the cold water until it feels cold, or you can use a certified and approved water filter.
3 types of water filters
1. Particle Filters
A membrane screens out or traps particles based on their size. These filters are rated according to the pore size of the membrane, which is measured in microns. The lower the number of microns (i.e. the smaller the pore size) the more effective the filter. For example, a filter that removes particles down to 5 microns in size produces clean water, but a 0.5 micron filter will produce even cleaner water.
There are two common particle filters: fibre and ceramic
- Fibre filters: made out of cellulose, rayon, or another fibre. These filters have larger pores that prevent large particles such as dirt from passing through, but will allow dissolved contaminants such as lead and mercury through.
- Ceramic filters: similar to fibre filters, trap asbestos fibres, some bacteria and parasites (though not enough to disinfect the water) and other particles in its pores. They will not remove dissolved chemical contaminants such as sodium.
2. Activated Carbon (AC) Filters
Activated carbon filtration is most effective in removing organic contaminants from water. Because organic chemicals are often responsible for taste, odour and colour problems, activated carbon filtration can generally be used to improve aesthetically objectionable water. When water passes through this type of filter, the carbon particles attract and remove contaminants (including dissolved substances such as hydrogen sulphide, heavy metals such as lead, mercury and copper and chlorine).
There are two types of activated carbon filters – Granular and Solid Block:
- Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filters: use a cartridge packed with granules of activated carbon. When water passes through the filter, the filter’s numerous carbon granules trap particles and remove substances dissolved in the water (such as chlorine, heavy metals and harmful organic compounds).
- Solid-Block Activated Carbon filter: composed of activated carbon particles that have been compressed into a dense material through which water travels. Very small pores and a large surface area works to trap contaminants such as pesticides, chlorine, lead and asbestos.
Note: Some filters contain bacteriostatic materials (which prevent the growth of bacteria) but these filters can still trap bacteria that can eventually grow on the filter. It is then essential to flush the filter daily with cold, treated, potable water to remove any bacterial residue. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and replace the filter as recommended.
3. Resin Filters
A module filter that contains resin can remove contaminants such as lead and other heavy metals, as well as minerals that cause deposits in kettles and coffee makers. The resin attracts and removes contaminants by electrical charge. Resin filters can be combined with activated carbon filters to remove a wide range of particles and dissolved substances.
Does a water filter increase my utility bill?
Any costs associated with the use of water filters pertains to the type and quality of filter chosen, the amount of water that is filtered, and the rate at which the filters must be replaced. In fact, storing water in the refrigerator (such as a brita filter) instead of running the tap to get cold drinking water, can help reduce your water consumption.
Types of water filter systems
Water filter systems can be divided into two main groups: point-of-use devices and point-of-entry devices.
Installed on the main water supply and treat all the water entering the home and based on the same principles as point-of-use filters but have a larger design to treat large amounts of water. Due to being larger, point-of-entry systems cost more to buy and install.
How much does a water filter cost?
The prices of water filters vary greatly, mostly depending on their size. Activated carbon filters can range in cost from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. Faucet-mounted filters usually range in price from $20 – $60. Pitcher filters are usually the least expensive, retailing for under $25.
Maintenance depends on the filter, always follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions.
Pitcher filters, the activated carbon cartridge generally has to be changed according to usage (the more often you fill the pitcher, the more often the filter cartridge must be replaced). Caution when changing filter cartridges: wash your hands before changing the filter and do not place the new filter on a contaminated surface. If the cartridge is enclosed in a housing or small tank, disinfect using a mild solution containing unscented bleach. Rinse well.
Particle fibre filters and ceramic filters: take caution to avoid bacterial build-up. These filters must be routinely flushed with treated/safe cold water on a regular basis (filters must not be flushed with hot water, as this can damage the structure of the filter).