A Guide To Water Filter Systems And Water Treatment
By Mark Kelly, Heartspring.net
Selecting a water filter system for the kitchen, bath, or office can be overwhelming. Here's a guide to help compare the various methods for producing clean drinking water. Also, I'm working to maintain a list of the top two water filters in each filter category, featuring current prices.
Compare Water Filters
- Charcoal Filters low cost, widely used
- KDF Filter Media handles heavy metals, hot water
- Sediment Filters helps well water, prolongs 2nd filter
- Water Distillers uses energy, slow production, removes Cryptosporidium, minerals
- Ceramic Filters preferred by campers, hikers
- Reverse Osmosis removes Cryptosporidium, minerals, creates waste water
- Alkaline Water Ionizers adds milli-volt charge to water and minerals, shifts pH
- Atmospheric Water Generator uses energy, off-grid applications
- Bottled Water is expensive, has questionable sources, landfills plastic
- Ultraviolet Water Filters destroys germs, limited bulb lifespan
- Magnetic Water Filters reshapes water minerals with magnets
- Infra Red Water Filters passively reshapes water structure
- Catalytic Water Filters uses resin bead coatings, to target specific toxins
- Homemade Water Filters for survival
Related Articles: The Human Health Effects of Water
Activated Carbon Filters Media
"Activated" carbon filter media is produced by super-heating dried coconut husks in a low oxygen environment, using a process called pyrolysis. The resulting "biochar" husk, is a purified form of carbon, containing large amounts of cellular sized surface area, negatively charged to attract positively charged toxins. Toxins in the water become attached to the husk's carbon surfaces. Over time, the attractive charge of carbon surfaces are neutralized, making it time to change the filter.
There are many types of carbon water filters that can be easy to install and are low in cost. The use of carbon filter media is wide spread, both in public and private water systems.
Carbon Filters - Two Basic Types:
9.75 inch standard carbon filter
1. Carbon Block - a super heated carbon extrusion that forms carbon into a solid, yet porous block. Solid block carbon provides the properties of a sediment filter, while also increasing surface area. However, flow rate can be significantly slower than granulated activated charcoal.
2. Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) - comes in various granule sizes depending on the application. Finer granular sizes have more surface area but can also produce a channeling effect. GAC is the most widely used form of carbon filter media.
Carbon, water and trapped particles, left together in a sealed, low oxygen, environment, can allow anaerobic microbes to reproduce, especially when the filter is left unused for a couple of weeks.
To eliminate this bacterial problem, silver is sometimes added or "impregnated" to provide an antibacterial effect. Another approach is to eliminating water-borne bacteria is the combination KDF and carbon media within the same filter housing. Some sediment filter media can remove virus sized particles down to .01 micron or larger.
All carbon filters will have reduced efficiency over time. Regular filter replacement is essential to good filter performance. If the taste of the water changes, after an extended period of non-use, such as after a vacation, it's time to change the carbon filter. Check with the manufacture to see how long any given filter is expected to last. To make a fair comparison the filter's life span is measured by effectively filtered gallons.
Carbon Filters Come in Various Shapes and Sizes:
- Small custom carbon filters, attached directly to the kitchen faucet. Pur, Brita
- Small custom carbon filters, contained inside a water filter pitcher. Pur, Brita
- 9.8 x 2.8 (inches) carbon filter, enclosed in a standard 10 inch filter housing
- 9.8 x 4.4 (inches) carbon filter, enclosed in a wider "Big Blue" filter housing.
- 20 x 2.8 (inches) carbon, enclosed in a standard 20" filter housing
- 20 x 4.4 (inches) carbon, enclosed in a wider "Big Blue" 20" filter housing
- Gravity fed systems using carbon filter media.
What Carbon Doesn't Remove?
Carbon filter media by itself is incapable of removing heavy metals, such as, copper and lead. Heavy metal water sources include, older houses and public works using lead pipes, that have been shown to leach lead into drinking water. Copper pipes using acidic well water will produce green stains on tub and sink surfaces. However, KDF filter media is capable of removing heavy metals, see below.
"Hard water" contains "alkaline minerals" such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, that can pass through a charcoal filter without restriction. Research shows how mineral water can be essential to promoting optimum health in humans.
KDF Filter Media - Kinetic Degradation Fluxion
KDF is a redox filtration media, researched, developed and patented by Don Heskett, founder of KDF fluid treatment. KDF converts free chlorine to a harmless chloride. This media of high-purity copper-zinc formulations is used in pretreatment, primary treatment, and wastewater applications. Patented KDF process media are 100 percent recyclable and contain no chemical additives. Hospitals, restaurants, municipal water treatment facilities, and homes use KDF media to safely reduce or remove free chlorine, iron oxides and hydrogen sulfide.
Pleated Cellulose: Maximum flow with minimal pressure loss. Used with treated water sources.
Pleated Polyester:Limited reusability. Used with treated or untreated water sources. Chemical and bacteria resistant.
Spun Polypropylene: String wound polypropylene. Gradient density construction. Offers dirt holding capacity and durability.
Water distillers heat water to create steam, when it cools, or condenses, the result is purified water where any impurities are left to linger in the remaining hot water. This process is similar to the natural weather cycle on Earth. The sun heats and evaporates sea water to form clouds. The clouds condense over cooler green land masses, producing purified rain water. Similar to rain water, distilled water is devoid of minerals. Pure de mineralized water is "hungry,"ready to attract and dissolve whatever it touches. Drinking water of this purity can leach healthy minerals from a person's body. Once the rain water contacts the "grounded" earth through river beds and aquifers, the water "matures" by absorbing minerals.
According to the U.S. EPA, "Distilled water, being essentially mineral-free, is very aggressive, in that it tends to dissolve substances with which it is in contact. Notably, carbon dioxide from the air is rapidly absorbed, making the water acidic, and even more aggressive. Many metals are dissolved by distilled water."
Dissolved minerals in drinking water are more natural than purified water. For example the alkaline mineral magnesium has been show to support several hundred bodily functions, essential to a healthy metabolism. Long term consumption of pure distilled water can have negative health effects. Adding a measured amount of minerals, such as, sea salt, magnesium chloride, trace minerals and baking soda, can effectively re mineralize and "self ionize" distilled water into a more natural colloidal state.
Ceramic Water Filters
Ceramic filters are made from Diatomaceous Earth, a tiny fossil substance made up of silicon shells left by trillions of microscopic, one celled algae, called diatoms. Laboratories consider a filtering medium with an absolute pore size of .01 micron to .45 micron to be bacteriologically sterile and .45 micron to 1.0 micron to be bacteriologically safe.
Light weight ceramic filters are popular with hikers and campers, used to that gather water that may have potentially harmful microbes. Flow rate of ceramic water filters are slow.
As the top layer of ceramic material becomes clogged with contaminants they can be scrubbed off and flushed away, thereby creating a new layer ready for filtering.
Reverse Osmosis Filters
Reverse osmosis was originally developed to remove salt from sea water for military submarines. The reverse osmosis process draws water through a membrane. Salt water is put on one side of the membrane and pressure is applied to stop, and then "reverse," the osmotic process. Lot of water pressure is required, making water production is comparatively slow.
Besides sodium salt, the reverse osmosis process also removes all minerals. Water without minerals can be a health problem. Dr. Zoltan Rona comments in her book, "Pure Water" against the use of de-mineralized water produced by distillation and reverse osmosis. Dr. Rona adds, "Longevity is associated with the regular consumption of hard water that is high in minerals. Disease and early death are more likely to be seen with the long term drinking of distilled water." Water produced by reverse osmosis is similar to the distillation process, purified yet, devoid of healthy minerals. However, minerals can be added after the RO or distillation. See: Bio-available Magnesium
Filtering Radiation from Drinking Water
Reverse osmosis water filters, tested in a seven county study in South central Montana, where found to remove radioactive particles. The Boulder Batholith granitic formation in Montana has been identified for its uranium contanimation. Rod Caldwell, a USGS scientist, comments, "radioactive elements, are unstable trace elements that naturally occur in rocks, soil and groundwater." Costs for RO systems range in price from $150 to $2,900 The Jefferson county Evironmental Health Department stated, "the mid-range models seemed to work best." Source: Billings Gazette
Water Ionizers - Electrolyzed Alkaline Water Filters
Forty years ago Russian scientists devised a simple method of separating water into two streams of alkaline mineral rich water and acid mineral rich water. They used a series of magnetically charged plates and a ceramic separator filament. As water passed between the plates, the magnetic field drew alkaline minerals to one side of the ceramic filament, and acid to the other.
Alkaline and acid waters are used in hospitals and clinics, both for drinking consumption and wound healing in place of expensive drug regimens. Some water ionizers include Far Infra Red (FIR) technology to their systems. FIR takes advantage of the natural thermo electrical properties of tourmaline crystals.
A water alkalizer may be attached to the kitchen tap or installed under sink. It filters the water first, and then alkalizes and acidifies it via the ionizing chamber, creating the two streams of water.
Alkaline water is used for drinking, with many people reporting health improvement and reduction of acid symptoms. Acid water is used for skin care applications. It may also be used for household cleaning because it is a powerful antiseptic. Domestic models will provide water at the same rate asa kitchen tap.
A catalytic converter can alkalize approximately one pH point (ten times the original pH) A water alkalizer can alkalize up to 1,000 times more than the original tap water pH - depending on the minerals contained within the input water. Some systems depend on the addition of calcium and sodium to achieve alkalization. Water must have minerals present to facilitate the ionization process.
- Problems with Water Ionizers
- The Hazards & Benefits of Water Ionizers
- Frequently Asked Questions about Water Ionizers
Atmospheric Water Generators
Atmospheric water generators intake air to condense, and collect moisture to create water from the air. Similar to a de-humidifier, refrigerant circulates through a chiller array, (coils or plates) lower in temperature than the humidity (dew point) of the intake air temperature. This causes condensation of water, collecting on a chilled spinning disk, shedding and channeling the condensed water into a holding tank. Output performance is dependent on the humidity present in the air with operational humidity ranging from 35% to 95%. Once the water is condensed, UV light, ozone, and various filtration methods such as reverse osmosis can create, clean drinking water. The system doesn't require a water source since it performs like a "water factory" making water from moisture already present in the air. Similar to a water distiller and a reverse osmosis filter, atmospheric water generators produce water devoid of minerals.
Ultra Violet Radiation Systems
UV systems use high frequency light to irradiate water through a glass element. Water passing the element is exposed to the light, which kills all living organisms.
UV systems are very common in Third world hotels etc where the possibility of serious disease occurring from local water consumption is high, especially from fecal matter in the water.
Although an excellent sterilizing system, it is impossible to know whether the system is always working without a laboratory analysis of the output water. For this reason the more sophisticated systems incorporate an hour counter so a new element can be replaced at a safe interval.
The bottled water craze is so big that Coca-Cola and Pepsi predict that within a short time, water will create more revenue for them than their less healthy products. By 2007 the market will be twice the size. Yet is it really worth almost double petrol?
The USA loves bottled water. We spend billions per annum on something supposed to be "pure", or drawn from "springs", and we fall for the epics of sparkling streams and idyllic waterfalls as we rush for the checkout.
How does bottled water compare with free tap water?
The Weekend Australian commissioned a report by the University of Technology, Sydney. The report stated that "the best-selling bottled water, Mount Franklin, was no cleaner than the cheapest brand".
Yet "premium" bottled water such as Mount Franklin sells in supermarkets for about 209,000% more than tap water.
Dr. Grant Hose, research fellow in eco-toxicology at UTS, who oversaw the analysis, said the results showed that the notion that bottled water was somehow more "pure" than tap water was incorrect. "Tap water is as healthy for you as bottled water - it's no different," Dr. Hose said.
The analysis tested three tap water samples and three bottled waters for bacterial contamination, impurities that affect taste such as dissolved solids, and other factors It also screened the samples for the minerals calcium, magnesium, sodium (a measure of salt), fluoride and nitrate.
Neither tap nor bottled water samples had detectable bacterial contamination, and all were well within guideline limits for the other substances.
Tap Water - The Rational Choice Understand the advantages of drinking tap water over bottled water.
In the last forty years there have been advances in water filtration technology. This has come in part from the work of Russian scientists on ionized water, but also from the research of Viktor Schauberger, an Austrian inventor who recognizes that water was far more than something to wash garbage out of our body and quench thirst. His work found that water indeed has a memory, and that this memory can be restored.
The systems below reflect some to the concepts originally discovered by these pioneers.
Magnetic De Scaling Systems
Magnetic de scaling involves passing the water through a magnetic field. This has the effect of re-arrangement of atoms, or ions in the water.
Magnetic units do not filter or change pH. Some magnetic systems are used as de-scales for pipes in hard water areas, for which they may work well.
When water flows through a magnetic field (whether it is electrically induced or induced using magnetic media such as Magnetite), it experiences a polarization of minerals and a change in the ionization of these minerals. The result can be softer water, forming smaller water clusters that may provide greater hydration properties.
Energetic Water Treatment
These are systems that use no power, but rely on the technology pioneered by Austrian Viktor Schauberger. Basically, they reconfigure incoming water by passing it through a vortex system. Energetic conditioners are similar to magnetic de scalers, natural flowing steams, rivers, and aquifers, churning and channeling under pressure. Yet water tends to stick to non-conductive surfaces such as rocks and fissures. The stretching force between the sticking and flowing molecules produce a natural electrostatic charge as demonstrated by this college lecture video, Kelvin's Electrostatic Generator as well as the discovery of Electricity From Water"
Energetic conditioners do not, filter the water, but work to help encage naturally occurring nano particles with multiple layers of "Buckey ball" water structures. This nano particle structuring process helps to produce the colloidal water properties of conductance, vibration and memory. Energetic water treatments are usually attached to the house water inlet pipe so they can service the whole house.
One example of an energetic water conditioner is Utopic's water treatment process
Here's a video explaining the the creation and applications of structured water
Another example of this approach is creating a simple water vortex or "cyclone" with two round water containers as demonstrated in this video by Daniel Vitalis.
Far Infra Red Systems
A number of systems include the use of Far Infra Red Energy. This is a completely natural form of energy that emanates from certain minerals, the most effective being the semi-precious gem, tourmaline.
Tourmaline mineral crystals produce an electric charge when affected by pressure and, or temperature change.
Other minerals are used, often under proprietary brand exotic names. Far Infra Red energy (FIR) has the ability to soften water, to negatively charge it, and to restructure it into smaller molecular clusters which may assist in hydration of the body. Most systems use FIR by including it in the replaceable filter.
Catalytic Conversion Water Filters
These systems use technology not unlike that used to control emissions in our modern car. They convert heavy metals, chlorine, pollutants and viruses into harmless oxidized form, breaking them down to their basic elements.
The research and proven technology for this comes from Estonia (former USSR). has been used to manufacture systems that can be rushed to drought or conflict areas, throw a hose into a stagnant pool, and supply fresh, safe water immediately - to World Health Organization standards. Because they do not filter the water, they need no filter, and domestic models will last up to 1,000,000 liters. They also negatively charge the water and alkalize it.
Home-Made Water Filter - A Recipe for Survival
Common forest items can be used to create a ready-made, siphoning water filter that uses charcoal and moss as a filtering agent. Filter applications include camping and self survival.
Birch branch, willow bark, sphagnum moss, carbon, sand and sticks.
Tools Needed: None.
Drinking Water Definitions
MCL: (Maximum Contaminant Level)‚ This is the level at which the EPA requires corrective action and can impose penalties.
MCLG: (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal)‚ This is the level at which the EPA has determined that unacceptable health risks may occur. Notice that the MCLG is always at or below the MCL‚ the law allows some unhealthy levels of contaminants. A "Superior" water system only means that it complies with EPA minimum water quality standards‚ not that it doesn't‘t contain unhealthy levels of contaminants.
ppb: (part per billion)‚ The unit of measure used for many water borne synthetic chemicals.
ppm: (part per million)‚ The unit of measure used for chlorine in tap water.
mg/L: (milligram per Liter)‚ A unit of measure used for contaminants in water.
Most Common Things To Look For: Lead‚ VOCs (volatile organic chemicals)‚ Organic Contaminants‚ and Disinfectants By-Products (THMs‚ Trihalomethanes)‚ are the most noticeable problems on these reports. Often these toxic chemicals exceed the MCLGs or healthful threshold. Also these thresholds are relevant only to the one contaminant; if more than one is present the thresholds for heath risks drops considerably.
Does Pore Size Matter?
Cryptosporidium is not typically removed from public drinking water supplies, such as lakes and reseviours. Chlorinated chemicals, used for public water treatment, do not eliminate cryptosporidium. For protection against contacting Cryptosporidiosis (an illness caused by ingesting Crytosporidium), The National Science Foundation (NSF) recommends using a water filter that can remove particles less than, or equal to, 1 micron in diameter.
There are two types of filter pore size, absolute 1 micron, and nominal 1 micron. The absolute 1 micron filter will consistently remove more Cryptosporidium than a nominal filter. Some nominal 1 micron filters will allow 20% to 30% of 1 micron particles to pass through.
To find out if the filter you are purchasing is designed to remove Cryptosporidium, look for the NSF trademark including the words "cyst reduction" or "cyst removal" on the filter's label information. For more info about removing Crytosporidium, see nsf.org/certified
Page Updated: January 2013