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Commonly Asked Questions About About Water Filtration – An Interview with Doug Burns, The Water Man, creator of The Wellness Forum’s water filtration units.
Q: Why do we need to filter tap water?
A: Drinking water is not as clean as it used to be. Today, our drinking water contains hundreds of chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, detergents, and other chemicals, and a lot of chlorine.
Q: How many and what types of chemicals are found in city tap water?
A: Over 200 chemicals are currently found in tap water, and many of them combine to form new chemicals. These chemicals constantly change, new ones are introduced, and the combinations of chemicals change as well.
Chlorine is the most noticeable, and the amount of it is increasing as the quality of the water deteriorates.
Q: Why does the city use chlorine?
A: Chlorine is a disinfectant – it kills bacteria. It’s necessary to chlorinate the water in order to make it safe to drink after it travels through water lines and through the pipes in your house. However, you can think of chlorine similarly to the wrapping that protects breads as it sits on a shelf. The wrapping keeps the bread fresh and safe, but you unwrap the bread before eating it. Filtration devices allow you to “unwrap” water by removing the chlorine at point of use.
Q: What are the available means for filtering water?
A: Reverse osmosis, distillation and carbon filtration are the three ways to filter water. Reverse osmosis forces water through a semi-permeable membrane, and removes everything, including minerals and other nutrients. In addition to creating a sterile, acidic product, it is quite wasteful, since it takes more than a gallon of tap water to net a gallon of drinkable water.
Distillation also removes all minerals and nutrients from the water.
Granular activated carbon is the best option. The carbon absorbs chemicals in the water, especially chlorine, and leaves the minerals and nutrients in the water.
Q: What is a water softener?
A: A water softener reduces calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron in hard water. Hard water is problematic because the minerals bind to pipes, bathtubs, water heaters and appliances, eventually affecting their function. Water softeners work by causing the “hardness” minerals to be replaced by sodium and/or potassium ions. The harder the water, the more sodium and potassium ions are released into the water. Softeners are most appropriate for well water.
People on a low-sodium diet should not consume water processed through a water softener, particularly if the water is very hard.
Q: Can a carbon filter be used with a water softener?
A: Water softeners are best used on well, rather than municipally treated water. However, if city water is particularly hard and deposits are being formed on appliances, then a softener can be necessary. A carbon filter can be used after the softener, and will remove gaseous chemicals, but will not remove sodium.
Q: What about filtering well water that is not municipally treated?
A: There are two methods that work – a pyrolex filter or a greensand filter. Neither of these filters removes bacteria, so if there is bacteria in well water, it needs to be chlorinated and then filtered in order to be safe for drinking. Note that carbon filters are not effective for well water.
Q: Back to carbon filters, you think they are most efficient. How do carbon filters work?
A: Granular activated carbon was developed in the early 20th century. It is a process by which carbon, with the recent addition of coconut shell, is granulated and activated to create a surface absorption area that is enormous. A half teaspoon of this carbon has a surface area of about the size of a football field! This surface area attracts and binds foreign substances, such as gaseous chemicals, through an electrochemical process. The minerals and other nutrients remain in the water.
Q: Why is a whole house system better?
A: A whole house filtration system causes water to be filtered at the source of entry into the home, before it enters the water heater. The increased size of the filter allows for longer exposure to the carbon, causing more absorption of chemicals. The absorption capacity of carbon is directly related to the amount of time it is exposed to the media bed.
Whole house filters result in all water entering the home being filtered, not just water at the kitchen sink. Taking a shower causes the absorption of the amount of chlorine in 8-10 glasses of water, and the chlorine enters the lungs through breathing. A whole house filter means never bathing or showering in chlorinated water.
Chlorine also damages clothing, and whole house filter eliminate this concern as well.
Q: Talk about the specifics of the whole house unit your company makes.
A: Our whole house unit uses granular activated carbon and coconut shell. This media bed is 2-3 times more efficient in terms of absorption than carbon alone. The units are impregnated with silver, making them bacteriostatic. This means that bacteria will not grow within the filter, which reduces filter changes to only once every 2 years or so.
The size of the home and the number of occupants using the water dictates the size of the unit needed to filter the water and to retain proper water pressure throughout the home. The unit carries a pro-rated two-year warranty if for any reason it does not last for the entire two years.
After the initial purchase, the only cost to maintain it is the re-bed cost, which is replacement of the media bed.
Q: Do you have units available other than the whole house unit?
A: We also have an undersink unit for a single tap, and a shower unit. But by far the best value is the whole house unit if you own your own home.
Q: What about some of the cheaper units on the market, like Brita?
A: With water filtration, you really do get what you pay for. Brita uses a cheaper media bed, with less absorption capability. The water is exposed for a very short period of time since the unit is so small. Although Brita will remove chlorine, it does not remove harsher chemicals such as Round-up and other pesticides and herbicides. And, Brita filters are not bacteriostatic – if the filter is not used for a period of time, there is a real possibility that bacteria will grow within it. Last, but not least, the filters are inconvenient – several pitchers of water need to be filtered daily to meet the drinking water and other needs of a family, and the filters wear out quickly and needs to be replaced often.