Reverse Osmosis Filtration Systems

By

Jack Yates

 

 

When it comes to Reverse Osmosis (RO)) systems you get what you pay for. We will try to wade through some of the advantages and disadvantages of owning a system, what is available, and the differences between the systems and the filters.

In general a RO filter system usually has a sediment filter, one or more charcoal filters, a membrane filter and a finishing off filter. Some systems will have a Y diverter with shutoff valves for switching from just plain filtered water (when you are camping in an area that has good water) to RO water that has run through the membrane and finishing filter when the water is not so good. Another attachment that is helpful is a gauge to measure the water pressure. When you use the membrane the water comes through slowly. Your RO will work properly at 40 psi but you can get some water at 30psi. If you are using just the sediment and carbon filters you'll hook up as you usually do. Some systems come with a small tank that hold enough RO water for drinking. The unit can be installed under the sink with a hose attached to a special faucet. Other systems will fill your RV's freshwater tank and you can use your rig's pump to supply pressure for showers, drinking, washing dishes etc.

The disadvantages of RO systems are obvious. You need good water pressure, the higher the better, so don't use your pressure regulator when filtering through your RO membrane. You have to maintain a schedule to change filters. There are filters to purchase.

The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. RO water is water without chemicals and has very few dissolved solids. It tastes good, keeps your plumbing in good shape, and eliminates the spots and coatings on your shower wall, sinks, toilet and faucets. Your hot water tank and anode will last longer (no chemicals or dissolved solids to attack these parts). Used in third world countries membranes eliminate bacteria and some viruses. The RO systems are usually easier to maintain than water softening units.

The first filter the water goes through is a sediment filter. They come in different grades from 1 micron to about 5 micron. The best quality is the 1-micron filter made of plastic. It stops most of the sediment from fouling the carbon filter and sometimes it can be cleaned and used again. The second and third filters are carbon filters. These can be either charcoal impregnated paper or one called a hard carbon filter. There is a membrane filter and finally a finishing off filter.

The one I use was bought in Quartzsite, AZ and uses a 1-micron sediment filter, 2 hard carbon filters, a Y diverter, pressure gauge, a membrane filter, and a finishing off filter. I usually carry about a quarter of a tank of fresh water in my 34-foot Alpenlite fifth wheel. This is enough to get me through one evening while I am putting water in my tank. You will quickly get accustomed to how quickly your tank fills to whatever capacity you need. If I am in a campground where the water is good then I shut off the membrane and finishing filter and turn on the valve to use the water coming out the first three filters. This valve has a hose hooked to your outside water connection. You will want to do this to allow your membrane filter to last longer.

We have had our system for two years and it works great. We only replaced the sediment and carbon filters a couple of times. Our finishing off filter is only good for 2 years so we have just replaced it. The flushing setup lets your membrane last around 5 years. This is another item not included in other systems. If you buy a system with less than a 1-micron sediment filter and anything less than a hard carbon filter you will be replacing your filters more often.

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This page was last updated on August 03, 2008