So you have made the decision to purchase a water filtration system, here is a list of guidelines I suggest you pay attention to before you spend your hard earned cash. A good filtration system is a great way to have and keep a back up source of drinking water operational or just to improve the quality of your primary source.
1) Learn what is in your water, I can’t stress this one enough. Knowing what is in your water is the first step of every water treatment process and decision to be made. If you don’t know, find out. There are many different types of filters out there, and each one is better at removing different contaminants. For example hardness can be filtered out, but is best removed with a water softener. Some charcoal filters can remove chlorine and some taste issues but usually little else. Unless the charcoal is activated carbon, then it can remove a lot more including some waterborne toxins.
2) What size of system do you need? Do you need it for one person or a multi-family residence? Will the system meet the demand? Will a counter top filter suffice or do you need to go built in filtration. It is a good idea to start with the number of people in the house and then double it. So that you won’t have to worry when guests come over and if your system is built in it won’t limit the potential buyers when you sell.
3) Does it need to be portable? If you plan on leaving, portability will be essential. Sometimes a total water security plan has two filters. If the second one is portable that is definitely an asset.
4) Know that manufacture’s claims on filter run times/volumes is for tap water (clean water). If they say 1000 gallons per filter that usually means clean tap water. And if you push that volume of dirty water through the filter you can add contamination to your water. See my article on filtration to see how you can add contamination.
5) How much will it cost to install. More money doesn’t always translate into a better filter. Overkill is possible. That being said, the reverse is true as well, you get what you pay for. Go too cheap and it may not do a good enough job. Overspend and you may pay too much for the same quality water. There are filters on the market that can turn domestic waste water into (almost) drinking water quality. Most consumers do not need this level of treatment. But a true disaster prepper would want this level of treatment. I know I do.
6) How much will it cost to operate. If it has cartridge filters, how much are they, how many will you need in a year? How many will you need if the quality of your source water decreases dramatically? The filter run time or total filterable volume will drop as turbidity increases. Some filters can be washed and reused. Others need to be replaced.
7) Is the filter capable of filtering out pathogenic organisms like bacteria and viruses? If all you plan on filtering for is to remove chlorine and flouride then it isn’t such a big deal. If on the other hand you want to remove more I suggest you invest in one that does remove pathogens. Even if a filter does remove pathogens, it is not 100% able to do this. At best it is a 99.9999% removal and this 0.0001% can grow into a serious problem later. Therefore, disinfection is absolutely a must after filtering. However the more pathogens removed the easier it is to disinfect the water.
8) If the filter has multiple media (multiple substances in the filter to filter different contaminants) do you abandon the whole filter if only one of the filter media is used up? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This decision would be made on a case by case basis even by me.
9) Find a third party review. Someone more removed from the profit motive is more likely to point out negative points of the system. No system is perfect, only better suited to your needs. Know what your needs are to better know what you should buy.
10) For the record I don’t filter my tap water. Any secondary filtration I have/do is for emergencies only. I don’t want people to read this and think their municipal water supply is unsafe. When the system is working (honestly it usually is. when was the last time you lost water?) municipal tap water is some of the safest water to drink (if you live in north america, I’m less versed on other reigions). So please don’t feel obligated to buy something based on this article alone. That being said, there are always emergencies and don’t you want to be prepared?
That’s all I can come up with right now. Is there anything you would add to this list? Something I missed? Let me know if you can think of anything else.