Even though water is essential to our health and wellness, we often take it for granted. We assume that the water in our homes is safe & healthy when the reality is, it might just be meeting the minimum standards. Legal does not necessarily equal safe when it comes to water utility providers. The federal government has not updated legal limits for contaminants in tap water in almost 20 years, even though we have a lot of new data bout what is safe.
How safe is my drinking water?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has put together an amazing database to help you understand your tap water. Just go to: EWG’s Tap Water Database and enter your zip code. We looked up the Lakeway MUD, which provides our office with water. It turns out our tap water has 17 contaminants, with 11 exceeding EWG guidelines! Several of these are over 200 times the recommended levels and cause serious potential effects like cancer.
This sounds scary, but the good news is you can protect yourself and your family by filtering your tap water. If you scroll down on the page, the EWG lists the type of water filter that can best filter out your specific contaminants. An activated carbon filter (like the Brita water pitchers) can help with many contaminants, but the most effective filter by far is a Reverse Osmosis or RO Sytem.
What is a Reverse Osmosis (RO) System?
An RO system is a water filtration device that is connected to your sink, refrigerator, or both to ensure you are getting clean & healthy water and ice. It removes contaminants from unfiltered water by using pressure to force it through a semipermeable membrane. The fresh clean water flows through to your plumbing system and the leftover waste, called brine, is sent down the drain to exit your home with the rest of your wastewater.
How does an RO System work?
The main benefit of an RO system is the RO membrane, which is able to filter out the tiniest of contaminants. However, RO systems also include prefilters and postfilters to create optimum water quality. Different systems offer either 3, 4, or 5 stages of filtration. Each RO system includes at minimum, a sediment filter, a carbon filter, and the semi-permeable membrane. The sediment filter removes larger particles like dirt, dust, and rust – this is particularly important if you have an old water heater than is introducing rust and sediment into your hot water. The carbon filter reduces volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), chlorine, and other contaminants that give your water a bad taste or odor. The semi-permeable membrane comes in to filter out just about everything else.
After your tap water completes its multi-stage filtration, it flows into an RO storage tank that holds the water until you need it. The storage tank is very important because RO systems work slowly. It can take up to one minute to produce just a few ounces of water. The storage tank ensures you have plenty of water ready at all times.
What are the benefits of an RO System?
We’ve already talked about the main benefit of RO systems – getting safe, clean drinking water into your home! Many of our customers also love their RO’s because they prefer the taste of their drinking water to the regular tap water provided by utilities.
If you do not have an RO system, your only other option is to exclusively drink bottled water or to use cheaper but much less effective water filters like those that are built into pitchers or attached to your sink. Installing an RO system is much better for the environment (no more single use plastic water bottles!) and is an investment that can save you a lot of money in the long run.
RO systems are also very easy to maintain, can be installed without much interruption to your home, and fit discreetly beneath your kitchen sink.
How does an RO System compare to a Water Softener?
It’s easy to get confuse RO systems with water softeners, but they are actually quite different. Water softeners do not filter harmful contaminants from your water. They simply remove calcium and magnesium from your water so that the water is less harsh on washing clothes and showering. Reverse Osmosis systems actually do soften water through the process, but they are not an ideal treatment method if you have very hard water. If your hard water is above 7 grains, it will create more wear & tear on the RO’s membrane, which means you’ll have to frequently replace it.
If you have hard water, it’s actually a great idea to have both a Water Softener and an RO system. They work very well together! The Water Softener can remove damaging iron from the water before it gets to the RO system, but then the RO system will remove the sodium that is added by the Water Softener. This ensures you have top quality drinking water and the ideal water for bathing and washing.
Ready to install an RO System?
Call Reliant Plumbing today to set up an appointment for an RO System install.