If you’ve ever taken a swig of bottled water, you’ve more than likely tasted water that’s been filtered with reverse osmosis. But what exactly, is reverse osmosis? How does it work, and why should you care? We at ACE Home Services are here to answer all these questions and then some: let’s dive into everything you need to know when it comes to reverse osmosis.
Reverse Osmosis: How It Works and Why It’s Beneficial
Think back to your chemistry classes in high school, and you may recall a few lectures that threw around the term ‘osmosis.’
For the purposes of this blog, osmosis is a process during which water goes from a weakly concentrated solution, passes through a membrane, and winds up in a more heavily concentrated solution. Basically, pure water travels through a filter into some less pure water to balance out concentrations.
Now, you may be thinking, “Why would I ever want my drinking water to go through osmosis?” Well, you wouldn’t, and that’s where reverse osmosis comes in. Reverse osmosis uses a synthetic semipermeable membrane to filter out dirt, sediments and contaminants like chlorine that we don’t want to be drinking.
During reverse osmosis, applied pressure moves water from high concentrations of contaminants to lower concentrations, thereby keeping dirty water from getting into pure water and forcing it to go through a filter. Since the contaminated water has to go through a filter, all its dirty molecules get trapped, and only clean water gets to pass through.
The process of reverse osmosis is so good at purifying water that it even filters out nearly imperceptible microorganisms, which you definitely don’t want to have in your drinking water. After reverse osmosis is complete, you’re left only with totally clean H2O.
Unlike processes such as carbon filtration, reverse osmosis can eliminate up to 99.9% of sediments and contaminants typically found in water. And while carbon filtration can get rid of unwanted particles that are as small as 1 micron (one-millionth of a meter), reverse osmosis can eliminate even smaller particles—as tiny as .001 micron!
As much as we’d all love our local tap water to be as clean as possible once it travels from a municipal plant to the faucet, the reality is that it’s collecting tons of total dissolved solids and other contaminants along the way. Thanks to reverse osmosis filtration systems, though, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your water is as contaminant-free as possible.
Reverse Osmosis Filtration Systems: Everything You Need to Know
Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the process of reverse osmosis, the way reverse osmosis filtration systems work should be much easier to wrap your mind around. Reverse osmosis systems use a pre-filter to get rid of contaminants and then force water through a membrane to eliminate total dissolved solids. After the water has moved through the reverse osmosis membrane, it finally goes through a post-filter to purify drinking water before it’s introduced to a faucet.
Membranes and filters
Reverse osmosis filtration systems use different stages that depend on how many pre- and post-filters they use. A reverse osmosis system’s center of activity is its reverse osmosis membrane, but RO systems typically use lots of other filtration types, too. Generally speaking, filtration systems may have as three to five stages of filtration.
Reverse osmosis filters always use membranes as well as carbon and sediment filters. Depending on whether water goes through them before or after traveling through the reverse osmosis membrane, these are called either pre- or post-filters.
Reverse osmosis systems use at least one of the following filters:
- Sediment filters, which cut down on dust, dirt, and rust
- Carbon filters, which eliminate volatile organic compounds and other contaminants like chlorine
- Semipermeable membranes, which get rid of as many as 98% of total dissolved solids
Different stages of reverse osmosis systems
The reverse osmosis water purification process includes the following stages:
- Water is introduced to the system and goes through pre-filtration, which uses a sediment and carbon filter to get rid of sediments and contaminants.
- After prefiltration, water travels through the RO membrane and is rid of its dissolved, microscopic particles.
- Water now flows into a storage tank, where it is stored until it’s needed. All the while, reverse osmosis systems are continuously filtering water until their storage tanks fill up.
- You can now turn on your faucet, triggering water to release from your filtration system’s storage tank. Water from the tank goes through one more post-filtration process before getting to your faucet.
The importance of a storage tank
It’s important that your system has a reverse osmosis storage tank so that you have plenty of water when you need it most. Reverse osmosis filtration systems process water pretty slowly (it can take up to one minute to produce two or three ounces of RO water) and if you were to turn on your faucet at your system’s membrane production rate, you’d need to wait a few minutes to fill your glass. Thanks to RO storage tanks, you don’t need to wait at all.
Contaminants and sediments that RO systems get rid of
Reverse osmosis filtration systems use their semipermeable membranes to get rid of total dissolved solids such as fluoride and arsenic. As you know by now, these systems also use carbon and sediment filters to take care of different reduction duties; carbon filters eliminate chlorine as well as the unpleasant odors and bad taste that come with it, while sediment filters remove dust, dirt, and other debris.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the different things that reverse osmosis filtration systems remove from your water:
The one thing that RO systems can’t get rid of, however, are bacteria and viruses. Although it’s possible for reverse osmosis to reduce certain bacteria in your water, bacteria can still begin to grow on your RO membrane and ultimately introduce itself into your water supply.
Installing a reverse osmosis system
In addition to removing contaminants and sediments that reverse osmosis can take care of, it also reduces dangerous dissolved contaminants in your water; reduces your water’s sodium levels; is more eco-friendly than bottled water; easily fits under your kitchen sink; and of course, is easy to install and maintain.
At ACE Home Services, we’ve helped countless homeowners like yourself in the Phoenix metro area install and maintain reverse osmosis filtration systems to improve the quality of water in their homes. If you’re interested in learning more about our RO systems and how they can work for you, feel free to give us a call today at (602) 492-4342!