The water we drink can contain chemicals, minerals, dirt and other debris that cause a bad odor or flavor. Or these items may be present, yet we do not sense them at all. Such contamination of our drinking water can allow microscopic organisms or bacteria to enter our bodies, even making us sick. There are ways to purify water at home to keep these contaminants from the fluids we drink. By using a filtration system, we can ensure we only consume clean, good tasting and odor free water.
Reasons to Purify Water at Home
Removal of Sediment
Water from the tap can contain leaves, dirt, clay particles and silt. This sediment can make water taste unusual but is not usually harmful to health. Home water filters made using replaceable paper filters or mechanical ones with metal, fabric or ceramic screens can remove sediment and leave water tasting great.
Reduction of Minerals
Calcium, manganese, iron and other minerals do not harm us when we drink them in our tap water. But they can leave water tasting odd, often with a metallic flavor. Manganese and iron cause more problems in washing of dishes and clothing, as they can stain these items and leave porcelain discolored. Minerals also reduce water pressure and even clog pipes when allowed to build up over time.
Removal of Pathogens
It is important to remove harmful bacteria and parasites from the water we drink. Water consumed from the tap can actually be contaminated with human or animal feces. This contamination creates the perfect conditions for giardia intestinalis and cryptosporidium to be transferred from the water into human intestines. Giardiasis results when giardia intestinalis live in the human digestive tract, causing up to six weeks of diarrhea and other symptoms. Cryptosporidium do not react to chlorine and can only be removed from water using water filters labeled as micro-, nano- and ultra-filters.
Chlorine is good for removing many bacteria in public water systems. But it can make drinking water taste badly and carry an unpleasant smell. Chlorine is also reactive to some metals, creating dangerous compounds. To remove the taste and smell of chlorine from water, activated carbon filters work best.
Lead is often in the news in regard to contamination of public water and environment. Lead is toxic and enters the water supply by seeping into it from degraded pipes or soldering material used on those pipes. For lead problems, reverse osmosis filters and carbon filters designed for this purpose work best.
Chemical and Pesticide Removal
Modern organic pest control chemicals dissolve well in water and can easily seep into the water supply. This residue is becoming a bigger problem as more organic pesticides are used. These chemicals and others can be removed through use of activated carbon filters.
Best Way to Purify Water
When looking at the best ways to purify water at home, options can be confusing. The four primary types of home water filtration systems are:
- Reverse Osmosis
- Pitcher Water Filter
- Activated Carbon Water Filter
- Faucet Water Filter
Reverse osmosis filtration systems are a great solution to provide yourself with a constant stream of purified water. When looking at these systems, it is important to consider your need before since your investment is a littler higher than with other water filtration systems. Make sure to read our extensive buyer’s guide before deciding which one to buy.
Reverse osmosis filtration systems work to clean water used for drinking and food preparation. They do this through several steps of filtration. Those steps include:
- Water passes through a sediment filter which traps rust, calcium carbonate and other particles
- A second sediment filter may exist, for even smaller particles
- An activated carbon filter traps chlorine and organic chemicals such as pesticides, or a cellulose triacetate membrane is used for this chemical removal
- A thin film composite membrane applies reverse osmosis filtration
- Either a second carbon filter or an ultraviolet lamp for sterilization of microbes filter the water
To use a reverse osmosis water processor, a minimum of 40 pounds per square inch of water pressure is required. These systems work well for people on city pipe systems as well as those living in rural environments needing to filter river or ocean water. People who travel or live on boats or campsites for extended periods also benefit from these systems, as do those who live in third-world countries where water quality from government operated sources is poor.
Reverse osmosis filtration systems are considered one of the best ways to purify water. These systems are also extremely useful in non-industrialized nations when giardia cysts, fecal bacteria, E. Coli, salts, metals and pesticides are in public water. Reverse osmosis filtration is not just the type of system used just for taste and odor improvement of water.
These systems have become cheaper over the last years and many great systems are even available for less than 300USD and most systems are fairly easy to install even for untrained people, some larger and more expensive systems require professional installation. Filters must be changed every 30 to 90 days with some systems having filters that last longer. Please make sure to read our guide for filter replacement as well.
Pitcher Water Filter
Pitcher water filters are easy and convenient when water quality is good but there is desire for better tasting drinking water. The Natural Resources Defense Council claims these water serving pitchers with built-in filters can improve the health and safety of water, too. Contaminants like lead, chlorine, sediment, mercury and microbial cysts can all be effectively removed using a pitcher style water filter.
These filtration carafes work when filled from the tap with water. As water is poured into a glass or other container, it passes through an internal filter in the pitcher. Most of these water pitchers have filters using carbon and ion-exchange resin or beads. The filters usually last for a specified period of time or amount of water filtered through them. Some carafes have filter replacement alert systems, while others must be changed according to estimated usage.
Although these systems work great and are economical, most only hold between 1.65 and 2.5 liters of water. This small capacity can be cumbersome for large families or people who drink a lot of water.
Activated Carbon Water Filter
Carbon filters are often considered the best way to purify water for normal household use. These filters use carbon to clean the water of chemicals and cancer-causing substances, as well as those which cause neurological problems and other health risks.
A single pound of carbon provides a water cleaning surface area equal to 125 acres of filtration. This allows carbon to absorb a great deal of contaminants without taking up much space.
There are two primary types of carbon water filters for these filtration systems. The first is activated carbon, which has a positive charge and attracts impurities from the water. Block carbon, the second type of filter, removes a higher amount of contaminants.
Carbon in either filter can remove chlorine, radon, solvents, benzene, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. Carbon filters also improve water flavor and odor. These filters cannot remove salts, arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, minerals, antimony, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, fluoride, nitrates, sulfate, selenium, thallium or some other contaminants. Large microorganisms can be removed, but viruses cannot be filtered by activated carbon filters.
Activated carbon filtration systems are fairly easy to install onto home water pipe systems. They can be costly when compared to other forms of source filtration like a water filter pitcher. But these systems are relatively maintenance free and filter all water in the household permanently, providing water that tastes and smells as good as bottled water.
Faucet Water Filter
A faucet water filter is very similar to an activated carbon filtration system which is installed onto household water pipes. But the faucet water filter is installed on one faucet in the household per unit. This is usually the kitchen or beverage bar area of a home, where most of the food preparation and drinking water is obtained.
These units are simply extensions onto the faucet and water is rerouted through the filter, then pouring from a filter spout versus flowing through the regular faucet spigot. Most of these systems have an on-off valve or switch, so the user can filter only water which will be consumed. This allows water for other, non-consumed uses to flow from the regular faucet without using the filter.
Benefits of this type of filter includes ease of installation with no tools. The filter works well for capturing as many contaminants as activated carbon filters, but on a smaller scale of use. Flavor of drinking water is improved and odors removed. But filters do have to be replaced in this type of unit every three months or so.