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Reverse Osmosis System

In order for a reverse osmosis system to work, water pressure is used to force water molecules through a very fine membrane, which in turn leaves the contaminants behind. Purified water is then collected from the clean side of the membrane, and water containing the concentrated contaminants is flushed down the drain from the contaminated or concentrate side. The average reverse osmosis system is a unit consisting of a chlorine pre filter, the reverse-osmosis membrane, a storage tank, and an activated-carbon post filter.

A Reverse osmosis system removes salt and most other inorganic material present in the water, and for that reason, reverse osmosis lends itself to use in places where the drinking water is brackish (salty), contains nitrates or other dissolved minerals which are difficult to remove by other methods.

Using a quality carbon filter to remove any organic materials and chemicals that get through the sediment pre-filter, the purity of the treated water approaches that produced by distillation. Microscopic parasites (including viruses) are usually removed by the reverse osmosis system, but any defect or micro-tear in the membrane will allow these organisms to pass into the clean water. This is why a reverse osmosis system is not rated to remove microorganisms except when an Ultraviolet Light filter is incorporated into the system.

Though slower than a water filter, a reverse osmosis system can typically purify more water per day than distillers. Also, they do not use electricity, but a reverse osmosis system does waste water. Four or more gallons of concentrate wastewater are flushed down the drain for each gallon of filtered water produced. There are some less wasting reverse osmosis units available on the market today, however problematic, as they can re-inject the concentrate wastewater back into the water feeding the reverse osmosis thus forcing the reverse osmosis to work harder and shortening its service life. Other types of less water reverse osmosis units will inject the wastewater into the hot water line where it is dispensed out of the kitchen faucet on your hands or dishes. A better option for reducing reverse osmosis system water waste is to fit it with a pump , which will reduce water waste by up to 80%.

Two common types of household reverse osmosis membranes are the Thin Film Composite (TFC or TFM) membrane and the Cellulose Triacetate (CTA) membrane. The main differences between the two types are filtration ability and chlorine tolerance. The CTA membrane is chlorine tolerant, but is more susceptible to fouling from bacteria, and it only rejects 93% of standard contaminants. The TFC/TFM membranes reject 98% of standard contaminants on average, are less susceptible to organic fouling, but it can only treat chlorine free water. Carbon pre-treatment must be used with a TFC/TFM membrane when purifying chlorinated municipal water supplies.

The pressure required in a reverse osmosis system to purify water, is dependent on the concentration of the salt solution on the reject (concentrate) side of the membrane. Running as system at 1100 PPM on the concentrate side requires over 200 PSI. Sea water systems at 33,000+ PPM run at 800+ PSI. Under sink systems at home run at 50-70 PSI.

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