Health and well being is more important to us than ever before and there is more awareness of the chemicals and pollutants that are around us, especially those in our food and drink. Typically these are heavy metals, pesticides or other chemicals which are used in the agriculture industry.
Over time even trace amounts of these pollutants can have an adverse effect. In order to protect ourselves and our loved ones we need to not just have an awareness of what’s out there, we need to take action to limit our intake. This is where water filters come in.
What is a water filter?
According to TheHomeHardware, Water filters are used to remove any impurities in your tap water. While the majority of us drink treated water which is safe, there are still some sediments (particularly in hard water areas) and bacteria which need to be removed. By removing these you can not only protect your body but also improve the taste of your water.
In simple terms, water filters act like a sieve to remove the bad parts and leave the good. Let’s take a closer look at how they work.
Types of water filter?
There are several different types of water filter which all operate slightly differently. They’re all designed to deal with specific issues, and some are more expensive than others. The key varieties are below:
Absorption filters are designed to deal with waterborne contaminants which, if left, can be a health risk. They work by running water through carbon which is a complex material with lots of different layers that filter out impurities effectively. Expensive absorption filters use blocks of carbon that filter down to a molecular level, while many domestic absorption filters use granular activated carbon.
Absorption filters are well suited for removing bacteria without impacting the taste and odour of the water.
Mechanical filters use a barrier to get rid of dirt, sediment and other impurities. These can vary widely from a single mesh layer, to a complex porous ceramic system which is more effective. A micron rating is attributed to a mechanical filter indicating the size of the particles it can remove. Typically a 5 micron rating means it will remove all visible particles, a 1 micron rating means it will filter particles invisible without special equipment, and a 0.5 micron rating means the filter will remove anything at a microscopic level.
Mechanical filters are the most common type because of the variety available. If you’re looking for an effective mechanical water filter always take a close look at the micron rating.
- Ion Exchange
Ion exchange filters can seem complicated, but actually it’s a fairly simple process. Small round metal parts are in the filter coated with a special hydrogen based ion exchange resin. The water flows through this and the unwanted chemicals are drawn out, meaning only clean water passes through.
Ion exchange filters are generally used to ‘soften’ hard water by removing and replacing the calcium and magnesium elements found in the water. While they can be very effective, you often can’t replace individual parts of these filters and will instead need to replace the whole unit.
- Reverse Osmosis
Reverse Osmosis is a slightly more complicated process in theory, but in practice it works extremely well. Impure water is forced through a membrane at high pressure which separates the impurities and sediment, leaving you with pure water. While the filter itself takes no power, there can be a fair percentage of water wasted during this process.
Reverse osmosis filters are generally used on a larger scale for industrial filtration. While they are extremely effective in your home they will generally set you back slightly more so it depends on your budget.
- Combination Filters
No one single filter will offer perfect filtration and they all have their limitations. A combination of different filters can be set up in your home to remove all of the impurities before the water reaches you, and this is often the case in household water filters that you purchase off the shelf.
Typically mechanical filtration is used alongside some other types (mainly ion exchange) as this gives the highest level of water purity. Incorporating reverse osmosis into the process has a number of benefits, but can make the filtration system more complex.
Choosing right water filter for your home
Water filters are an important piece of kit in your home with a whole host of health benefits. There is no shortage of variety when you’re selecting a filtration device, with thousands of brands available online, but it’s important to do your research to get a product that lasts. This not only protects your family for longer but gives you greater value.
Now you have an understanding of the different types of water filtration available you can start to narrow down the options and make the best decision for your home. However, when it comes down to the final choice you need to consider how you will use it, the price and ultimately the value offered.
The filter you choose should be based on your needs. A larger family will need more water filtration on a daily basis and therefore you need a more reliable and durable filter. On the other hand if you know you live in an area with hard water or other prominent chemicals that impact the water supply then you may need something more complex. Generally mechanical filters are the most reliable as they have easy to replace parts, but ion exchange or reverse osmosis can be more effective at removing impurities. It’s all about user needs and not one size fits all.
Price is always a defining factor in how you make a choice. It’s down to you to determine your budget, however as with all the things you are more likely to get a durable and effective filter if you spend a little more up front. Mechanical filters are likely going to be the cheapest whereas absorption can be more pricey.
Ultimately it’s all about value. Value is that key balance of price, quality and longevity that we want in every product and it can be hard to find. Understand how you want to use it, look at the environment around your home to determine the challenge and then you can explore the solutions. Hopefully this guide has given you the information and understanding to make an informed decision about choosing the right water filter for your home.