Picking the Correct Water Filter for Your Tap WaterBy John Davis - September 23, 2015
When you’re selecting a water filter for your home there are several things you should take into consideration. The cost and quality of the system are what many people think of first while shopping. Unfortunately, many consumers fail to ask an even more important question.
Depending on where you live, your water can be polluted with different toxins. In order to get the perfect glass of water, you should buy a system that is ideally suited to filter out toxins in your local water supply.
While there are thousands of possible pollutants in your water, let’s take a look at three of the most common ones. These compounds are not only dangerous, but they are more prevalent in our drinking water than many people realize.
Tasteless and without an odor, arsenic is a semi-metal that is used in many different industries. However, its main use is as a wood preservative.
Your drinking water is at risk of being contaminated by arsenic during heavy storms. A large rain can cause runoff from industrial or agricultural sites, and this water can end up in your watershed. From there, the water is pumped up, filtered, and delivered to your home. The problem is that during a large storm, your municipalities filters can become overloaded and they can fail to function as normal.
The long term health effects of exposure to arsenic include skin damage, problems with your circulatory system, and an increased risk of cancer.
Unlike arsenic which gets into your drinking water at the source, your own home is responsible for lead tainted water. All older pipes found in homes built before 1986 are at risk. If your home is built with lead pipes, small pieces and flakes can come off in your water and be absorbed into your body as you drink.
Lead is the most dangerous for children. It can result in delayed development and problems with attention span and learning abilities. Long term exposure to lead in adults is also thought to raise blood pressure and lead to kidney problems.
Similar to Arsenic, chromium vi is an odorless and tasteless metallic compound. During periods of heavy rain it can be washed away from industrial sites and carried into your water supply.
Exposure to chromium vi can lead to gastrointestinal problems and even certain kinds of cancer if enough is ingested over a long enough period of time.
Analyzing Your Own Water Supply
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a scientist to figure out what’s in your water. In the United States every person who uses municipal water is mailed a report once a year. In that report is a list of all pollutants and their level in the water.
In the UK, if you want to test your water you can contact the environmental health office. They will test your water and give you a report on it, although it’s unlikely that they will do it free of charge.
Finally, if you depend on a well for your water, you’ll have to collect a sample and bring it in for testing. That test can run anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars, depending on how many compounds you choose to screen for.
When analyzing the results, or analyzing the card you received from your local water municipality, it’s important to keep in mind that a certain level of contamination is normal.
Even the most sophisticated, industrial sized filters are unable to remove every last trace of a chemical. Nor is it necessarily required. At a low enough level, even the worst chemicals are highly unlikely to have an adverse health impact.
For example, the EPA has stated that arsenic is allowed to remain in water at up to 10 PPB (Parts Per Billion). Other chemicals have their own safety levels. When you read your report you can compare the levels in your water to what the desired level is.
Different Types of Water Filters
After you’ve figured out which chemicals in your water supply you have to worry about, you can begin looking for a filter that’s going to meet your needs.
Below are five different types of filters that homeowners can buy. Each works through a unique process and is capable of removing different types of contamination.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
A RO (Reverse Osmosis) system is one of the most popular water filtration systems on the market today. That’s because it’s extremely effective, and for the level of filtration it provides it’s a cost effective package.
RO systems effectively filter up to 99% of unwanted pollutants and toxins in your water. They work by forcing water through a tightly wound circular filter. Unwanted chemicals and debris are washed away while pure drinking water passes freely through.
Most RO systems will effectively filter a wide variety of compounds including salt, lead, fluoride, manganese, calcium, and iron.
This type of water cleansing system works without a filter. Water is heated to its boiling point, at which point it begins to evaporate. That evaporation is caught and then collected in a container that you drink from.
Like a RO system, water cleaned with a distillation process is stripped of bacteria, minerals, metals, and other volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).
However, there’s a fairly large flaw in the distillation process. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. That means that lot’s of unwanted chemicals are left behind after the water is boiled off.
On the other hand, there are some toxins and contaminants that boil sooner than 100 degrees Celsius. Those potentially dangerous compounds will not be filtered by distillation, and they will collect in the container that you drink from.
In the true sense of the word, a water softener does not actually filter water. What it does do is remove metal cations, like calcium and magnesium, from the water. In unusually large amounts these compounds can render soap less effective and create unwanted build up and drainage problems in your plumbing.
A water softener will not remove most toxic compounds from water, and should not be thought of a filter.
UV Disinfection Systems
A UV system is designed for one purpose, to kill living microorganisms. This is a useful system because traditional filtering systems cannot remove these miniscule microorganisms from the water. A UV system will not impact the taste or quality of water, not does it have any undesirable side effects.
You should be aware that while a UV system is extremely effective at killing microorganisms, it will not filter out any heavy compounds, or other toxins like arsenic or lead.
Whole House Filtration Systems
A whole house filtration system is going to filter every last drop of water coming into your house. It can also be referred to a as a point of entry system, as it filters water right when it enters your home.
This system is very effective at scrubbing bad compounds from your water, ones that may still be left in the water after being treated by your municipality. However, do you remember what we said about lead?
If you have lead pipes, a whole house filtration system is not going to scrub any chips or flakes that get into your water.
Under the Sink Filters
This is the ideal system to ensure that you and your household are protected from any exposure to lead. An under the sink water filter is going to filter out lead and other remaining chemicals, from your water directly before you drink it.
Especially when combined with a whole house filtration system, this is one of the most effective systems on the market today.
Pour Through Filters
A pour through filter is one that you manually fill, and the most common one is a BRITA. These filters work with an activated carbon filter and use gravity to filter water.
While they are going to effectively filter most unwanted compounds out of your water, they cannot offer the same level of filtration as larger RO systems.
What to Look For When Choosing a Filter
When you buy a water filter you want to make sure that you’re getting the best possible product for your money. Thankfully, there are several independent certification agencies that will only stamp their approval onto systems of the highest quality.
A NSF (Public Health and Safety Organization) certification means that a unit was made with high quality parts that will last for the natural lifetime of the system. Additionally, NSF also certifies water filters to ensure that they work as promised.
Even more prestigious than a NSF certification is a WQA gold seal. This certification means that the system has undergone rigorous testing and has been found to live up to all the claims that were made by the manufacturer. There are only a handful of under the sink RO systems available for less than $1,000 that have this stamp of approval.
One of them, the APEC Water 90 GPD Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System has been proven by the WQA to be an extremely effective and well made system. This unit filters water beneath your sink, removing up to 99% of harmful contaminants and other particles.
Your Water Filter and You
No matter what system you choose, you should acquaint yourself with how it works. Most importantly, you should know the life of the filters in your system. Some filters need to be changed every six months and others every year.
Changing your water filter on time is a crucial step in keeping your system operating properly.
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