Is a Home Reverse Osmosis System Safe For You?

It seems like everyone is talking about reverse osmosis for water treatment these days.

So, what’s all the hype about?  What exactly is a home reverse osmosis system?  And is the water produced from this type of system safe to drink?

Let’s explore these questions and find out if reverse osmosis drinking water is right for your home.

Click on the links in the table below to skip ahead to a particular question or section, or continue reading.

What is Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis is the process of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane to remove an undesired material or contaminant.

Here’s the important part for homeowners.  The end product is fresh, clean water, minus the salts, bacteria, and other contaminants.

To understand reverse osmosis, let’s first back up a little and talk about the natural process of osmosis to get the entire picture.  Are you ready to get your science on?  Good, me too!!

What is Osmosis?

Osmosis is the process where water passes through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a greater concentrated solution in a an attempt to equalize the level concentration on each side of the membrane.

Let’s say that we had a container where on one side we had a heavily concentrated salt solution, and on the other side of a semipermeable membrane, we had a very low concentration of salt in the water.  The water on the low concentration side would naturally migrate over to the high concentration side until both sides contained an equal concentration of salt ions.

 We can see this in the diagram below.  Ultimately, the overall volume of water ends up being greater on the side where we originally had more salt ions.   

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:0307_Osmosis.jpg

Applying the Pressure: Reverse Osmosis

To conduct reverse osmosis, we force water to maneuver in a way that is contrary to that which would happen in standard osmosis.  

In general, water will want to move across a semipermeable membrane to create a equal concentration of water+contaminants.  During reverse osmosis, water is pushed through the semipermeable membrane to squeeze the clean water through while capturing contaminants and retaining them on the other side of the membrane.

The semipermeable membrane is where the action happens.

The membrane is typically comprised of layers of polymer matrix materials.  Within the membrane are tiny holes.  These holes are small enough to block sediment, ions, and some bacteria but are just large enough to allow water molecules to pass through.

Imagine the screens on your windows on a warm summer night.  The holes in the screen mesh are large enough to allow airflow, but small enough to prevent pesky mosquitoes from flying in.  Take a look at the diagram below for an idea of how this works with drinking water.  

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Simple_RO_schematic.png

As pressure (A) is applied to the untreated water on the left (B), contaminants (C)  are blocked by the semipermeable membrane (D).  Contaminants, in this case, could be salt, bacteria, or a number of undesirable substances.  The contaminants are then diverted to a separate waste stream as clean drinking water (E) passes through the membrane.

The higher the pressure, the greater the percentage of clean drinking water is produced.

Contaminants, such as large particle, ions, and larger molecules, are captured and diverted to a waste stream.  Flowing water creates turbulence across the membrane to prevent buildup of contaminants.

With standard filtration systems, contaminants are collected in the media.  Reverse osmosis systems collect contaminants, and instead of gathering them on the membrane, direct them through an outlet to either be disposed of or reintegrated into the feed water. What passes through is clean drinking water.  

Which Contaminants Can be Removed by Reverse Osmosis?

These systems have been used to remove bacteria, salt, and other undesirable substances from municipal water for years. In fact, highly functioning systems can remove over 99% of contaminants.  This is remarkably efficient, when compared to other types of filtration systems.

Is Water from a Reverse Osmosis Home System Safe to Drink?

In short, yes.  

Not only do a large number of households around the country use a home reverse osmosis system, cities and entire countries rely on this treatment process to produce fresh clean drinking water.  

Orange County in California and Cape Coral in Florida both utilize reverse osmosis for treatment of municipal drinking water.  Several bottled water companies also use this type of treatment: Dasani, Aquafina, and Arrowhead, to name a few.  

On a smaller scale, you can purchase household systems to remove contaminants from your well or local drinking water supply.  

Components in a Reverse Osmosis Home System

Individual component will vary by system and the nature of the water treated.  For example, systems may have different filtering cartridges if you have city water versus well water.

  • A sediment trap and/or filter — Sediment traps and filters collect debris that could otherwise pass through and damage the reverse osmosis treatment membrane.  
  • An activated carbon filter — One or more carbon filters may be included in the system to capture chlorine and other organic chemicals.
  • The reverse osmosis filter membrane — All systems will contain a membrane.
  • An ultraviolet sterilization lamp — For additional microbe sterilization, an ultraviolet lamp may be incorporated in the end of the system.  This is less common but a nice addition to increase purity of your water.
  • Remineralization cartidge — Some systems add minerals back to the treated water at the final stage to raise the pH and provide beneficial minerals.

Advantages of Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water

  • When produced from effectively operating systems, reverse osmosis drinking water is incredibly pure and clean.  
  • Installing these systems can prevent plastic waste and save money when compared to purchasing bottled drinking water.
  • Larger whole house systems may increase the property value of your home.
  • When well maintained, systems are very reliable.

Disadvantages of Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water

  • Reverse osmosis systems generate wastewater, as water is needed to clean off the semipermeable membrane.  However, technology has improved to reduce the amount of wastewater generated in newer systems.
  • To maintain high flow rates, reverse osmosis systems require a minimal level of water pressure from your tap.  But this isn’t a deal breaker.  If you have low water pressure at your house you can purchase a permeable pump to increase pressure and reduce waste.  Always check with the manufacturer prior to integrating a pump into the system.  
  • Beneficial components, such as minerals, may be removed from water, along with the contaminants.  If this is a concern, many manufacturers offer a separate remineralization cartridge to add minerals back into the treated water.

The Bottom Line

A home reverse osmosis system can produce highly pure drinking water for your home.  

What is the best reverse osmosis water filter for you?  That depends on your personal water needs.  Here are some highly rated home reverse osmosis systems that we would recommend.  Each may be installed by the average do-it-yourselfer.

Our Favorite Reverse Osmosis Home Systems

APEC Water Systems – 5 Stage Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System 


This is one of the most popular home reverse osmosis systems available today.  Users love the high quality of the system as a whole, plus the reasonable price of replacement filters when compared to other systems and brands.

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 99% of chlorine, arsenic, fluoride, lead, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, viruses, taste, odor, and more.  
  • Features:  5 stages of filtration, easy to install, under sink location, made in the USA. Stage 1-3 filters recommended to be changed every 6-12 months; Stage 1-5 recommended to be changed every 2-4 years.
  • Flow rate: 50 gallons treated per day.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 1 year warranty.

Click here to buy the APEC 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System on Amazon

 

APEC Water Systems – High-Flow 90 GPD Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System

This is another popular reverse osmosis system available by APEC.  It offers the 5-stage filtration process, but ALSO Super capacity filters and almost twice the flow rate.  This is a great option for you if you use a lot of water and you need it FAST.

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 99% of chlorine, arsenic, fluoride, lead, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, viruses, taste, odor, and more.  
  • Features:   5 stages of filtration, easy to install, easy-to-replace filters, under sink location, made in the USA. Manufacturers recommends replacing Stage 1-3 filters annually; Stage 1-5 recommended to be changed every 3-5 years.
  • Flow rate: 90 gallons treated per day.
  • Warranty and Return Information:  1 year warranty.

 Click here to buy the APEC 5-Stage High Flow 90 Gallons/Day Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System on Amazon

 

Home Master Artesian Full Contact Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System


 This popular home reverse osmosis system incorporates not one, but TWO, remineralization stages.  Remineralization protects the inner workings of the system and also gives you some minerals to benefit your health and reduce acidity of the treated water.  Users also say that it is easy to install, which is always a plus!                         

  • Contaminants removed: Up to 99% of chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, dissolved solids, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and more.
  • Features: 7 stages of filtration, easy-to-change filters for annual replacement, comes with everything required to operate system and filters for one year, easy to install system.  A permeate pump may be purchased separately to increase pressure and reduce waste water.
  • Flow rate: 50 gallons treated per day. 
  • Warranty and Return Information: 5 year limited warranty for parts.

Click here to buy the Home Master Artesian Full Contact Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System on Amazon

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