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Reverse Osmosis Facts – Answers to Top 20 Asked Questions

When you hear a term such as reverse osmosis it may elicit memories of chemistry class or you may just think that it has something to do with purifying the water. While these ideas are valid most people have more questions regarding how a reverse osmosis membrane works and need these answers before they consider purchasing a system. Here are answers to the top 20 questions that people ask regarding our wholesale reverse osmosis systems and parts.

1. What is Reverse Osmosis?

The basic principle that allows reverse osmosis to work is osmosis or the osmotic pressure. When two liquids are separated by a semipermeable membrane the tendency is to find the equilibrium point of osmotic pressure. Higher dissolved solutes equal higher pressure. Therefore normally the flow would be from purer water to saturated, but with reverse osmosis you add pressure to the equation and essentially push the higher solute solution through the membrane and filter out the solutes.

2. How does it work?

The reverse osmosis units are usually driven by normal city water pressure. The water flows through a couple of filters, including a carbon filter that removes tiny particles and organic contaminants including chlorine and its by-products. Then the water flows through the reverse osmosis membrane and removes metals such as sodium, lead and arsenic. Not all of the water makes it through the membrane but the water that does is pure and held in a tank until needed. When the faucet is turned on the purified water in the tank gets passed through a final carbon filter and comes out as pure as possible. (This is a basic description of the process and there may be more moving parts.)

3. What is the best RO system?

All reverse osmosis systems do a great job of removing contaminants but some are better than others. Depending on how many stages or filters are equipped and what kind of pressure is applied to the water to get it to go through the reverse osmosis membrane. The best solution would be to get customized information that is based on your situation. Although there are systems that will work for everyone, these systems work are best utilized when they are customized for your unique situation.

4. Isn’t RO just a distiller?

Although both distillation and reverse osmosis effectively reduce dissolved solids in water the processes that they use to accomplish this are quite different. A reverse osmosis system as we learned filters water through a semipermeable membrane under pressure. Whereas a distiller boils the water, catches the steam, and condenses the vapor into pure liquid water. Both systems require the use of carbon filters to remove the organic chemicals.

5. Is distilled water purer than water produced by reverse osmosis?

Reverse osmosis and distillation are effectively the same level of pure as far as your health is concerned. There are a few major drawbacks that are found in a home distillation system that aren’t an issue with RO systems. The electricity that a distiller uses is the biggest disadvantage as some systems can end up costing more than bottled water. The other major drawback is that some compounds have lower boiling points than water which will allow them to contaminate your processed water.

6. Doesn’t RO units waste a lot of water?

The water is not really considered a waste as it is used to wash the reverse osmosis membrane. As part of the reverse osmosis system, not all of the water taking into the system is turned into usable water but this is only during the tank filling stage. The extra unusable water is also dependent on which reverse osmosis system that you use and how efficient it is.

7. What are the maintenance costs?

The only true maintenance costs associated with a reverse osmosis system is the annual change of the filters. Depending on how hard the initial water is that feeds into the system, the filters can last several months to a few years. A general guideline to changing them is once a year, which works out to about $.25 a day.

8. Why does the RO system need pressure?

Pressure is required to ensure that the water passes through the semipermeable membrane to discard the dissolved solids. A typical reverse osmosis system requires pressure around 60 PSI and if it is much lower than that you will likely have to install a pump to increase the working pressure.

9. Can I use RO system in different parts of the property?

Yes, the reverse osmosis systems that are available can be set up to supply one, few taps or a larger unit that goes into the basement which can be used to supply the entire house’s water needs.

10. How long will the system last?

As long as you adhere to regular maintenance most of the components will last for about 5 years. They will need to be replaced but you can continue operation by installing new parts and the system will last indefinitely. Wear and tear typically are more related to how hard the water is and how much water you use.

11. Why doesn’t it remove chlorine?

There is a technicality here as a reverse osmosis system will remove chlorine but the process of reverse osmosis itself doesn’t. The carbon pre-filter takes care of all of the chlorine and the carbon post-filter does an extra check before the water gets to you. The reason that reverse osmosis itself doesn’t remove the chlorine is related to the fact that the chlorine molecule is smaller than the water molecule so it passes the filter as well, but in reality it never even gets the chance.

12. Why does a RO unit remove the essential minerals that are needed for health?

The reason is that this system cannot differentiate between minerals and just takes it all out. Using pure water in any form will have this safe feature versus spring water. The main difference is that the mineral content in water is inorganic and hard for your body to process. Most of these minerals are best consumed in an organic form like what is found in food. The main problem that a reverse osmosis membrane solves is that it filters out the chemicals that would otherwise do great damage.

13. Does ro system need electricity?

Most systems run solely on water pressure from your house. If the system required an electric pump to boost the pressure or if it contained the extra bacteria fighting power of an ultraviolet lamp than it would require electricity. Standard reverse osmosis systems don’t have these extras and therefore do not need any electricity.

14. Will a water softener harm the unit?

Water softening as you may or may not know, effectively removes metal cations such as calcium and magnesium from the water. This allows the reverse osmosis system not to work as hard as it doesn’t have to take care of the calcium and magnesium. Using a water softener will increase the life of the reverse osmosis membrane and therefore do more good than harm to the unit.

15. What is drinking water?

Drinking water or potable water is any water that has been deemed safe enough for consumption with low risk of harm. Even though water may be considered potable or of drinking quality when it leaves the treatment facility it is rarely tested after it passes through the water mains and comes out your tap. The only way to be truly sure is to get your water tested or to rid it of any contaminants by using a reverse osmosis system.

16. What is the difference between potable and pure water?

The main difference between potable and pure water is that potable water can contain minerals, bacteria, chemicals, and other materials up to a level that is deemed safe by whatever regulatory body is in your area. Pure water, such as water that has been passed through a reverse osmosis membrane, has almost all of the minerals and all of the bacteria and chemicals removed. For your health, drinking and cooking with pure water is not only safe but will increase wellbeing by not being burdened by all of the contaminates.

17. What is ultraviolet disinfection?

Ultraviolet disinfection is a method for eliminating viruses and bacteria from the water. Typically used for wastewater it can also be added to the reverse osmosis system for an added level of protection. Using this light energy will ensure that no small bacteria or viruses get past the reverse osmosis membrane for the extra insurance and peace of mind.

18. Why does the ro unit need filters?

The filters on a reverse osmosis system allow it to do the most thorough cleaning of the water as possible. There are certain organic molecules that are smaller than the H2O molecule and therefore can pass through the reverse osmosis membrane. Using a carbon filter or a series of carbon filters removes these small molecules for the purest water available.

19. What is water purification?

Water purification is the process of removing any chemical, organic or biological contaminant from the water. It is usually performed to meet a requirement for either drinking or medical applications. Water is able to hold a lot of contaminants that cannot be seen by the naked eye and purifying the water with a reverse osmosis system will allow you to be sure that there are no contaminants whatsoever in the water.

20. What doesn’t reverse osmosis remove?

This is a loaded question as a reverse osmosis system will remove almost everything from the water but the reverse osmosis membrane can only remove anything that is larger than an H2O molecule. With the addition of 4 and sometimes 5 filters to the system you can be sure that virtually all of the contaminants are removed. There is still a very small amount of minerals that does get through the reverse osmosis membrane but the amounts are very low in the parts per million range. All of the toxic and harmful contaminants are easily removed.

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