Which Water Filter is Best for Me?

under sink

There are many different types of water filters and it’s easy to become confused about what type of water filtration is best going to solve your specific water problem. Water filters can be placed into four different categories, sediment, carbon, reverse osmosis (RO) and distillation.

Sediment: This type of water filter is used to remove particulates from the water like dirt, oxidized iron, and other particles that are suspended in the water. A sediment filter acts like a very small screen that filters out the sediments in the water. Sediment filters are sized by the size of particle they remove and can be very small to take out very fine materials like silica or much larger for removing sand from the water.

Carbon: Carbon filters are the most common type of water filter and are a key component of virtually every home water purification system. Carbon is very effective at removing dirt and sediments from water, chlorine, and many other chemicals. Carbon filters have very fine pores that are able to trap the particulates. In addition, the carbon acts like a sponge and is able to absorb the chlorine and other chemicals. It is very important to change the filter as the manufacture recommends ensuring the effectiveness of the filter. This type of filtration is used primarily to improve the taste of water and in removing the objectionable odors, like chlorine.

Reverse Osmosis: This is the most common way to purify water for drinking and cooking. A reverse osmosis system incorporates carbon filtration and a semi permeable membrane. The membrane is used to remove Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) which are minerals, salts, heavy metals, etc. that have dissolved into the water. This provides excellent tasting water that has as much as 99% of most of the impurities that can be in the water removed.

Distillation: A Distiller boils the water and the condensation is collected leaving the total dissolved solids behind, very similar to boiling water in a tea pot and the scale residue collects on the bottle of the kettle. This is an effective way to produce purified water, although, many object to the flat taste the water has.

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The Scoop on Salt Free Water Softeners

water faucet

We are all looking for easier, more convenient, less expensive, and environmentally friendly ways to do things around our homes and one of the commonly marketed products to help do this are “salt free water softeners.” The question that begs an answer is how effective are these systems at providing soft water, or the benefits that water softeners provide.

An internet search for salt free water softeners can sometimes create more questions than answers. There are multiple listings of companies selling these products making all sorts of claims about their product capabilities and other listings from various entities that repudiate these claims.

Over the past 20 years or so I that have been involved with the water industry I have come across information from various sources that may be helpful if you are considering one of these products. In the mid 90’s there was a surge of interest in “salt free water softeners” and at that time several respected organizations did research and published their conclusions.

A leading consumer publication tested magnetic water treatment devices to see how effective they are at protecting water heaters from scale build up. They installed new water heaters in homes and ran one on soft water, provided by a conventional water softener, and others had water from a salt free water softener coming into it. After a couple of years the water heaters were removed, cut open, and examined for scale build up. The water heater that had the salt free water softener providing water to it had no measurable difference in scale build up than if it had had no water treatment at all. In fact the scale build up in the water heater was no different in any way, in quantity or chemistry, as compared to the water heaters that had untreated water flowing through them.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection also published a Consumer Alert titled “Magnetic Water Treatment Devices Do Not Work.” They quote a water chemist as saying “We could find no measurable water quality benefit that the units provided. If the devices really worked, every public and private water supply in the state would be using one by now; but the fact is – they are not.”

In another study commissioned by the Water Quality Association the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was selected to determine the effectiveness of salt free water softeners. In the executive summary of their report Dr. Dan Carda states: “The study found that there is no change in the physical and/or chemical properties of the water treated with permanent magnetic devices.”

Recently I discovered a website that lists many of these products that are sold to treat water but make claims about being able to do so without filters or salt and it provides analysis on the science behind them. This may also prove helpful as you seek to sort fact from fiction.

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Are there risks to bathing in Chlorinated Water?

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Have you ever gone to get a drink of cool refreshing water only to be greeted with the smell of chlorine and wondered how good it is to drink that stuff. You may have even had the same question as you were soaking in the tub or enjoying a nice long hot shower and pretty soon the air started to smell like you were in a swimming pool? Over the past couple of decades researchers have studied the effects of drinking and bathing in chlorinated water and the research may be surprising.

Some research indicates that bathing and showering in chlorinated water may actually be more harmful then drinking it. When we bathe, the hot water causes the pores of the skin to enlarge which allows the body to readily absorb the chlorine and associated chemicals. Other research indicates that when we shower in hot water the Chloroforms have much greater vaporization rates and are easily inhaled and absorbed through the skin. According to research published in the Science News in January 2007 researchers at the Municipal Institute of Medical Research in Barcelona found that people who drink Chlorinated tap water have a 35% increase in bladder cancer than those that didn’t. A similar link was found in those who frequently swam in pools treated with chlorine and also those who bathed in chlorinated water. Other side effects are dry hair and dry itchy skin, and premature aging of the skin.

Chlorine isn’t all bad though, it’s added to the water to act as a disinfectant, therefore protecting us from bacteria and other living organisms that can be in the water. The good news it that is can be very easily removed with some basic filtration methods. The most common way chlorine is removed is with a carbon filter and this can be done at the kitchen sink, refrigerator, drinking fountain, shower, or from all of the water in the home.
Carbon works by absorbing chlorine and other chemicals from the water. Carbon is also very effective at removing dirt and sediments from water.

Are Water Softeners Green?

water faucet

As society searches for ways to have less of an impact on our environment many of us start to look around our homes and try to invest in items that are more energy efficient and green. If you live where the water is hard, which is water that contains high amounts of calcium and magnesium; a water softener just may be the greenest appliance you can own.

A properly functioning water softener will add years to the life of any water using appliance or fixture, significantly reduce the soaps required for laundry, dish washing, and bathing, and eliminate the use of harsh chemicals for cleaning scale deposits from showers, toilets, etc. They also help to reduce the energy needed to heat water by 17-20%. Recently the Water Quality Association (WQA) released the results of a comprehensive study detailing some of the ways soft water can protect appliances and save energy.

Additionally, BCIC, which is an organization the strives to find green solutions for people who live in urban areas, rated what they believe to be the 5 best home water filters and the Kinetico Water Softener was rated as the most Green Water Softener.

Kinetico water softeners are different from other systems in many ways that make them more environmentally friendly. They are non electric so no power is required to operate them, they use an average of 70% less salt and water, and they will provide you with an unlimited supply of soft water 24 hours a day so you receive the benefits of the system no matter how much water you us.