While the tap water appears clean and harmless it may contain impurities that necessitate further purification.
There are many water treatment procedures that you can implement at your home, such as boiling, distillation, filtration, among others. However, the most effective of them all in removing contaminants is reverse osmosis.
In this piece, we will look at how to get RO water at home.
Let’s get started.
What is a Reverse Osmosis System?
This is a water purification process that uses a reverse osmosis system to achieve pure drinking water. It involves the use of pressure from your main water supply line through a semi-permeable membrane with 0.0001-micron pores.
The fine pores allow the water molecules to pass through and prevent the passage of contaminants.
The clean drinking water is contained in a pressurized storage tank within the system while the contaminated content is forced through the drain.
RO systems are popular in many households in the US and the United Kingdom as they produce great tasting pure water.
These systems vary in size, and some brands could even custom-make the unit to your preference.
Before buying a reverse osmosis system for your home, it would be good to test your water. This will guide you on the impurities present, including TDS and minerals within your locality. With this knowledge, you will be able to go for the unit to give you maximum benefit.
What do RO Sytems Remove?
It is worth knowing the type of contaminants your system will be in a position to eliminate. A basic reverse osmosis system should be in a position to extract the following:
- Chemical components such as chlorine, calcium, magnesium, fluoride, and metal ions.
- Bacteria such as Salmonella and E-Coli
- Viruses like Hepatitis A and Rotavirus
With the many water filtration systems available in the market, it’s important to know what a complete RO system comprises.
Features of a Reverse Osmosis System
1. RO Membrane
This is the main component of the whole RO unit. It’s the semi-permeable component that inhibits the movement of the contaminants through the system.
The membrane is a fine filter that will allow only the water molecules to proceed to the collection tank while the contaminants are directed to the drain line. It’s a delicate and costly component of the system, and you should always handle it with great care.
Some RO systems with high output may comprise several membranes depending on the complexity of the whole system.
Its recommended that you change the membrane every 24 months for your system to function optimally.
2. Shutoff Valve
Most of the RO systems available in the market will comprise this feature. The essence of the valve is to bypass the flow restrictor.
The residue is washed from the RO membrane with the valve in place, allowing the system to function better through increased output and a longer life cycle. However, if your system does not comprise this feature, you can easily retrofit it to the system as it increases output.
3. Flow Restrictor
An RO utilizes pressure for the whole system to function. The restrictor allows the pressure to build up and permits the water through above the desired pressure levels.
This component controls the flow rate and prevents your system from leakage or blowing apart due to the pressure.
4. Waste Water Drain line
The restricted water with high contaminants level needs to be drained from the RO system. This means that your system should have an outlet through which the content will be drained.
The wastewater comprises heavy metals, phosphates, and pesticides, and though it may not be clean water, you can drain it to benefit your plants or your desired purpose.
Reverse osmosis systems are made of filters, and depending on the type, they may have both pre-filters and carbon filters.
The pre-filters remove the heavy sediments and chlorine before they hit the RO membranes as they can destroy them.
On the other hand, the post-carbon filters work to improve the flavor and smell of your water.
6. Pressure Gauge
This component monitors the correct pressure level for your RO system. Low-pressure levels may lead to inefficient performance or a breakdown of the whole unit, while very high pressure could lead to leakage.
This is the storage tank where the clean water will be collected after completing the filtration process.
The tank is connected to a faucet from which you will access your filtered water. You will have to make this provision for this on your countertop, or you can have it attached to the wall.
When buying a reverse osmosis system, check to see that it’s complete with these features. Even if some may be missing, evaluate whether the system has an allowance for modification.
Now that you are aware of what the whole reverse osmosis process entails, the impurities it extracts, and the main components of a RO system, the next step is to learn how it works.
How Reverse Osmosis Works
Most of the RO systems available today utilize a 5 stage procedure that yields a high output of clean water. However, there is no limit to the number of stages a unit has, it depends on the contaminants in your water.
The majority of the people prefer having the under-the-sink reverse osmosis systems as they save up on space and make the filtration work easier.
To have Ro water at home, your tap water will undergo the following stages:
1. Stage One
This is the pre-filtration step, where you will have pre-filters. The filters could be sediment or carbon filters. They work to control the suspended materials that could clog your whole RO system.
2. Stage Two
This stage comprises carbon filters that work to remove the chlorine component in your water. It is critical to eliminate chlorine as it could damage the RO membrane, which is delicate and expensive.
3. Stage Three
At this point, the water is passed through the semi-permeable membrane to remove a wide variety of contaminants. Both aesthetics and health-threatening impurities are removed at this stage.
The RO membrane works optimally under pressure, explaining a pressure gauge’s essence to ensure maximum pressure for optimal output.
This stage also holds the flow restrictor that works to protect the membrane from damage by water overflow.
At this level, the rejected water joins the drain line for disposal. Sadly reverse osmosis filters are known to waste large quantities of water. To control the amount of water that it drains, consider the following:
- Include a permeate pump in your system. The pump reduces wastewater by 70 %. Not all RO brands can incorporate the additional pipe, so it’s important to consider this aspect when buying the unit.
- Buy a system with an automatic shut-off valve. This works to stop the water from flowing through the drain once the tank is full.
- Utilize the rejected water for other purposes around your home, like gardening.
4. Stage Four
Under this phase, the water is drawn to the pressurized storage tank. The tank’s size is determined by your system’s size and the space available at your home.
If you plan to install the RO system under the kitchen sink, consider getting the measurements before buying the system. This will guide you on the size of the one to buy.
Consider also at this point the modifications you will make on your kitchen sink top to make room for the connections from the storage tank to your faucet.
5. Stage Five
The final stage of your filtration process involves polishing your water for great taste and smell.
The carbon filter at this phase eliminates bad odor while retaining the essential mineral content to give your water a great taste.
From here, you can now access your water through the countertop faucet.
With the 5-stage reverse osmosis process, you are assured of purified water that tastes great and is free from the bad odor common in our tap water.
Some reverse osmosis filters contain an automatic real-time feedback alert. This alert informs you of any threat to the process, whether it’s a leakage in the system, a filter, or a membrane that requires replacement.
Consider having a TDS meter with you so you can consistently check on the dissolved solids content in your water. With this, you can evaluate the performance without having to open it to check.
After a few years, you can consult a water treatment professional if you are moving house or intend to make further modifications to your system.
6. Stage Six
A reverse osmosis filter system may have this final remineralization stage. It involves adding back essential minerals to the water at the desired levels.
With an extra filter for this task, the calcium and magnesium contents are added back to the water in the desired quantities. However, this stage is optional as there are other ways you can remineralize your water.
Factors that Affects the Performance of Your Ro System
1. Water Pressure
This is the main principle behind the performance of your system.
A reverse osmosis system works optimally when your tap water has sufficient pressure. The flow rate of your water determines the success of the whole RO system. Your main water line pressure determines the number of gallons of water you get as output from the filtration process.
The RO membrane is formed in a way that without sufficient water pressure, the final product will be water with high dissolved solids and other contaminants.
Most of the main water supply lines have between 45-85 PSI. Establish the water pressure for your location before you purchase your RO system. It will guide you on whether or not to boost the pressure before connecting to the reverse osmosis unit.
Low water pressure could even lead to a breakdown of the whole system.
2. Water Temperature
This will affect your RO system’s performance in that cold water takes longer through the whole filtration process, unlike warm water.
This is because there is a higher diffusion rate through the RO membrane with warm water from the high viscosity level.
3. Quality of your Reverse Osmosis Water Filters
The sediment filters that the reverse osmosis procedure utilizes need to be of the best quality to get the maximum output.
After installation, you will be required to replace the unit’s filters after a while. For most brands, it’s recommended you replace both sediment and carbon filters once every year.
The reverse osmosis technology relies heavily on the quality of these filters. When changing the filters, ensure you do it accurately, not to destroy the whole system.
You can hire a professional plumber to do the replacement, or you can train yourself to do it as it will save you money in the long run.
If you choose to do the replacement yourself, this is how you prepare:
- Ensure you have bought the correct filter cartridges before the replacement day. If you don’t get the exact filters for your RO system brand, ensure the ones you buy are compatible. Also, make sure the ones you are replacing are fully utilized.
- Keep the filters packaged until you are ready to replace
- Sanitize your hands with soap and water to prevent introducing new bacteria to the RO system.
- Have your RO system service kit in place before you start the process to ensure you don’t waste water running back and forth for tools.
Once you are ready with all these, you can go ahead and replace your RO water filter by:
- Turn off your main water supply line that leads to your RO system.
- At the systems storage tank, close the ball valve.
- Open the RO faucet to let off the pressure that may have built up.
- Put a flat plate or pan below the filter housing to trap any water spillage that may occur during the replacement process.
- Use your screws to remove the filter housing from the cap and remove the used cartridge.
- Accurately pick the O-rings, be keen to avoid cutting or putting abrasions on the rings as they may not seal the housing properly, and this could cause leakages.
- Clean the filter housing
- Lubricate the O-rings and ensure you place them properly back in their right place, ensure the seal is tight enough to prevent leakage
- Unpack the new filter, place it in its housing, screw back the housing to the cap, use your hand to tighten
Once you are done, before you open your storage tank, allow a few gallons of water through the RO faucet. This is to allow any external impurities that may have been left during the replacement process to drain.
At this point, your RO system is now ready for the filtration process. You can choose to change the filters either once or twice a year.
Failure to change the filters will compromise your water quality and may even lead to clogging and breakdown of your whole reverse osmosis procedure.
4. Quality of the RO Membrane
Just like the filters, your reverse osmosis works best with an all-time high-performing membrane. Upon installation, the membrane will require replacement after 24 months.
However, it’s important to regularly check its status even before the stipulated time. This is because the membranes are delicate and expensive.
You may require a plumber to do it for membranes, but if you are the handy type and have basic plumbing ideas, you can easily replace your systems membrane.
The process is almost similar to the one above for filters, only that with the RO membrane, you need to be extra careful. While screwing back the membrane housing, avoid pressure as it could damage it, leading to losses and an inefficient system that does not purify water well.
5. Total Dissolved Solids
The type and level of dissolved solids in your tap water will also influence your RO system’s performance.
High TDS levels in your water mean the system will be overworking to remove the contaminants from water.
When planning to buy a RO system, ensure you first establish the TDS levels of your location. A high TDS level will require a complex system with a shut-off valve that you can easily monitor.
To always have access to high water quality, ensure all these aspects have been put into consideration. Regularly check the reverse osmosis system to ensure it functions optimally even before the maintenance schedule is due.
Further, for optimal performance, ensure:
- Change filters and the RO membrane on time
- Most home RO systems do not use electricity, but if you opt for one that needs power, ensure you maintain the electrical components and required charge during your water filtration process.
- Carry out regular checks and maintenance at least after 6 months.
Reverse osmosis systems are a long-term investment, and with proper care, a good unit will last between 10 to 15 years.
This gives you value for your money and protects your household from health complications related to contaminated water.
At optimal performance, with a pressure level of between 40-100 Psi, a reverse osmosis system will yield 10-75 gallons of water per day.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Reverse Osmosis System
You need to measure the available space in your house before purchasing the RO system. For under sink reverse osmosis system, the average height is 18″ while the width is around 14″.
If you intend to go for a wall-mounted one, measure the space available as it will guide you on the system to buy.
Also, consider making provisions for the additional faucet that comes with the RO system, which will take up more space.
Several factors influence the cost of RO water systems. First, the number of stages that the water filtration system uses, the more the stages, the higher the cost.
Secondly, the modifications that the unit has. Complex RO systems with multiple add-ons will be more expensive.
The output in terms of gallons of water per day also affects the cost of a RO system.
The number of contaminants from water that the system can remove also influences the cost. The more impurities your water treatment unit can remove, the higher the cost.
The initial cost may be high for a whole house reverse osmosis water system. Most of them will range between $12,000 to $18,000 when installed. However, if you take proper care of it, it can easily serve you for up to 15 years with minimal maintenance cost giving you value for your money.
You will also save money on health complications since you will have pure water all through.
3. Type of Faucet for the RO System
Consider whether you will go for the air-gap or non-air-gap faucet.
Both work well; however, the non-air-gap is easy to install, less noisy, and the check valve prevents the contaminated water in the drain line from back flowing to the system.
4. The Hardness of Your Water
A reverse osmosis system does not soften water. You may consider a softening pre-treatment of your tap water if the hardness level exceeds 7 grains per gallon.
This exercise will protect your filters, membranes, and the whole RO system from eventual breakdown.
5. Waste Water
Unfortunately, these water systems waste so much water.
It’s estimated that for every gallon of pure water that a reverse osmosis process, produces, 3-4 gallons are wasted to the drain.
Therefore, it is important to consider where you will direct all the wasted water before buying the reverse osmosis filtration system. Though the water drained contains impurities, the plants can use up the drained water, and this a line you may consider.
Go for the brand that wastes minimal water. Especially the ones that will automatically shut off when the storage tank is full waste less water.
Before you buy the system, evaluate your purified water demand. This will also guide you on the size of the RO system to buy.
How many gallons of water you need in a day should guide you on the output to expect. Under the common water pressure of 60 Psi, a RO system will produce 50 gallons of purified water. An average household of five can easily be satisfied by this level of output.
A reverse Osmosis daily output may be affected by the water temperature, filters and membrane status, and the contaminants’ level in your water.
7. Additional RO System Functions
Apart from improving your water quality, you may wish to have your RO system connected to your ice maker or the refrigerator.
Consider this aspect before buying to ensure that you go for a unit that meets this aspect.
Moreover, if you plan on acquiring an under sink reverse osmosis system, you will be required to involve a professional plumber to make the additional provisions.
8. Availability of Replacement Filters and Membranes
Some reverse osmosis systems only use their brand filters. These brands have proprietary rights reserved, and they may not be compatible with the other available filters in the market.
When buying a RO system, check to ensure the replacement filters are easily available. It can be disastrous to buy the system, and a year later, when you intend to replace the filters, it becomes hard to find them.
If you settle to go for one from the proprietary brand with rights reserved, do your own research to verify that the companies future is foreseeable and their customer service is exceptional.
This will give you peace of mind when the time to acquire the spare parts comes. This is important given that you may have the RO system for up to 15 years.
9. Beneficial Minerals
Most of the reverse osmosis systems available in the market will remove all the mineral content in your water.
The dissolved solids that are removed by the filtration systems include the beneficial minerals. However, nowadays, there are reverse osmosis systems that utilize a 6 stage procedure, whereby the 6th stage is meant to remineralize your water. Adding the vital minerals back to your water.
It is important to ensure that the water filtration system you intend to buy is certified by the relevant bodies. This will give you a guarantee that the item is of high quality.
Further, in the future, when sourcing for replacement filters and membranes, check to verify that they are standardized.
This is important since in the reverse osmosis system’s lifespan, you will need many components, and you may opt to buy many filters at once.
Checking out other people’s experiences with the reverse osmosis system you intend to buy will help you make an informed choice.
How they rate the system will give you a clear picture of what to look out for and any preparations you may require as you learn from their experience.
Benefits of Having RO Water at Home
1. Great-Tasting Water
A reverse osmosis filtration system has the capacity to remove up to 99% of the TDS and other contaminants in your water. This leaves your water with a great taste.
Additionally, the systems improve your water’s odor and general appearance, this refreshing aspect, will motivate your household to drink more water.
2. Health Benefits
The great-tasting water will lead to your family taking more water which will boost their health.
The RO purification process eliminates most of the disease-causing contaminants such as lead, fluoride, and chlorine. These elements, when not monitored, can damage your organs.
A reverse osmosis system is unrivaled when it comes to removing impurities. Drinking water that has undergone reverse osmosis filtration boosts the appearance of your dental formula.
The 5 stage water filtration procedure will reduce your household trips to the doctor by prompting you to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water every day.
3. Value for Money
Though the initial cost may be high, the system can serve you for up to 15 years. The maintenance cost notwithstanding, this is a long period to have access to high-quality water.
Compared to the amount of bottled water you could have consumed during this period as an alternative, the RO systems give you value for your money.
RO systems help you protect the environment compared to bottled water, leading to more plastics waste in the environment.
Once you install this system, all you need is your glass or bottle that you will be drinking water from for a whole 15 years.
5. Simple to Maintain
Reverse osmosis systems require minimal attention throughout the year. All you need to ensure is that you carry out your scheduled maintenance on time.
Replace the filters and membranes on time to ensure optimal functioning of the system all year round. This is unlike other water purification systems that always require your attention.
6. Unlimited Water Supply
With proper maintenance, a RO system will have minimal to zero breakdowns. This guarantees your household a constant supply of high-quality water.
Some reverse osmosis systems give automatic feedback on the quality of your water and the system’s status. This allows you to act on time to ensure you don’t lack purified water f
7. Saves on Space
The under-sink reverse osmosis system allows you to maximize the available space. Compared to other purification systems, you can customize it to your desired size.
You can also choose to mount the system on your wall to maximize the available space.
8. Essential Minerals Contained
There are some brands of reverse osmosis filter system have their final stage as demineralization. This involves adding the essential minerals to your water before you access it on the outlet faucet.
This ensures your water from the procedure is great at the taste and contains the required levels and types of necessary vital for your health.
9. Easy to Install
You don’t have to hire a professional to install the system; you can do it yourself. Following the manual that comes with every RO system or watching the online tutorials will help you install.
How to Maintain a Reverse Osmosis System
A reverse osmosis system is a long-term noble investment meant to serve you for a long time, up to 15 years. Therefore it’s important to ensure proper maintenance of the unit.
1. Replace Components on Time
All the filters need to be replaced ideally after every 6 months. However, the replacement of the RO membrane depends on the nature of your water.
You will have to replace the membrane between 2-4 years for hard water, while for soft water, you may replace it within the 5-7 years period.
2. Drain the RO Storage Tank
Once the tank is full, the ball valve turns closes it to avoid spillage and wastage of the water.
Slow consumption of the treated water means that your water is retained for a long time in your tank. This may alter the quality of water. Therefore, consider draining your water routinely after two weeks.
You can drain the water at night to allow the tank to refill.
3. Clean the Storage Tank
As you replace the filters and the membrane, don’t forget to sanitize the tank. At least once per year, using a special sanitizing solution to get rid of the slime that may have accumulated over time.
4. Clean and Replace O-Rings
When changing the filters, wipe off the O-rings. Check for abrasions and cuts on the rings keenly as this could cause leakage. Replace the rings promptly when worn out to prevent breakdown.
5. Get the Right Faucet
Ensure the outlet faucet from which you access your water is made from the right material mainly brass or stainless steel. The tap should be tight to prevent leakage when not in use.
A reverse osmosis unit works perfectly in removing contaminants present in your water. Though your tap water may appear clean, it contains dissolved solids that require the extra purification process to remove the impurities.
Given that our bodies are more than 70% of water and the medics recommend a high daily intake of water, it is important to drink pure water. This will save your organs from failing and reduce health complications posed by unpurified water.
Ro systems require minimal maintenance and serve you for longer durations, making the investment worthwhile.
EPA recommends that water with a TDS level above 500 ppm is not fit for consumption. Given that most areas have their water with TDS above this level, it is critical to invest in a reverse osmosis unit.
Within your home, you can use a reverse osmosis water unit under your kitchen sink, for your refrigerator, for the whole house, for agricultural purposes, to treat your well water, among other areas that require pure water.
However, a reverse osmosis unit does not soften your water. For hard water above 7 GPG, you will be required to soften the water before the reverse osmosis process. Hard water above this level will damage the membrane and ruin your whole RO system.