Filtration is simple; in my coffee maker I pour the hot water onto the coffee and the paper filter blocks the coffee grounds and allows the water through to fill my cup. Most filtration is like this – they just swap the paper for something else.
Drinking Dirty water can lead to serious illness or even death so that making sure that the water you use in your coffee, your cooking and bathing, is safe is both crucial and may in practise, be complicated.
Drinking Water is usually taken for granted in Advanced Western Countries but recent events in Flint, Michigan in the US and in Camelford in the UK shows that while the general level of water quality is high for most people most of the time that it is worth it to make some effort to protect yourself better.
Whether you do this on a whole household level or just by using a Jug Filter or by plumbing a cartridge type of filter into a sink supply is purely about convenience. But it is worth doing even if you have your own private well water
3 types of Filters
Having decided where to filter you next have to decide what type of filter to use – whether Ceramic or Activated Charcoal, Reverse Osmosis or Distillation.
And since my previous post was on Charcoal / Activated charcoal let’s start there.
Activated Charcoal Filters
The molecular structure of charcoal and especially Activated Charcoal resembles a fine mesh and naturally acts like a good filter. Bugs like bacteria and cysts are generally blocked because they are bigger than the pore size of the filter but viruses are much smaller and usually will get past the filter easily.
From the Wiki “Active charcoal carbon filters are most effective at removing chlorine, sediment, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), taste and odor from water.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_filtering
Due to their excellent performance they are often used as part of Reverse Osmosis and Distillation Filtration where they pre-treat the water as a first stage in a 2 or 3 stage process.
The small pore size in a ceramic filter means that they act in a similar way to Activated charcoal and so they have similar strengths and weaknesses. In addition chemicals especially volatile solvents and endocrine disruptors can flow through unhindered and that is the biggest downside to Charcoal and Ceramic filters.
Comparing this to my Coffee Maker we swap the Filter paper with a very thin membrane, perhaps made of cellulose acetate or plastic that blocks anything bigger than x and even blocks valuable minerals such as calcium and magnesium. In addition most of the water flowing into a Reverse Osmosis unit is wasted. In fact the unit only produces 10 pints of drinkable water for 100 pints flowing into it; the rest is wasted and flows into the sewage system.
This may well be the most controversial way to filter water! It relies on boiling the water and collecting the condensation. In simple systems volatile substances will mix in with the steam and pollute the distilled water and other filtration techniques will be used to remove them.
So what is the best filter? Really you need to look at all types and see which one suits you best.
Is there a particular pollutant you MUST deal with? For many it could be Fluorine and for others Arsenic. Fluorine is put into many public water treatment systems and Arsenic is found in many wells.
Does a high quality Laboratory test show bugs of some kind in your water supply? So zero in on what best suits you!
All of the systems have downsides
Activated Charcoal; The water Pitcher need frequent cleaning of the jug and replacement of the filter.
Reverse Osmosis requires a power outlet and wastes huge amounts of water and electrical power
Distillation – does not give pure water without a multi-stage unit and again takes a power outlet and time to operate.
So what do I do? I have a jug Filter in my kitchen and when funds permit I have a Berkey in mind – it is basically a big jug so it does not need an electric connection and nor does it waste water.
And its downside?
It is not a Whole house solution which you may need – it does not filter bath water or the shower. Filtering chlorine from shower water can be done simply with a shower head filter.