Using Home Water Filtration to Decontaminate Your Water Supply
Many Americans drink bottled water even when they are at home. For various reasons, they just do not trust the quality of their water supply. Sometimes they do not like the taste of the water from their taps, and blame it on contamination from their water supply company. While there are cases where this is true, some studies have shown that most of the heavy metal contamination which takes place actually comes from the end-users' own water pipes, fittings and solder. This is especially the case for people staying in older houses which still use lead piping, lead solders, bronze/brass faucets, copper pipes, or bronze/brass/copper solder. If this description fits the plumbing in your home, your best choice to get clean uncontaminated water is to replace all your old pipes and solder. The second best choice is to either install home water filtration which removes lead and copper or drink only bottled water.
While it is the best thing to do, replacing your plumbing is an expensive proposition, especially when you consider that you probably can't stay in your house while this is going on. Factor in the inconvenience and the price of alternative accommodations, as well as the fact that you may have to eat out everyday while you're away from home, and it may not be viable. And yet drinking bottled water all the time can also be troublesome and expensive. Either you need to buy and carry all the water bottles from your nearest Walmart, or you need to sign a long-term contract with a water dispenser company to provide you with bottled water. Somehow or other, you'll need to find space to store all those water bottles. At this point, home water filtration starts sounding good.
Depending on your situation, installing a home water filtration system may be your best choice. This doesn't mean you need to immediately go look for a water filter to install on your taps. Many newer high-end refrigerators actually have an attached water dispenser with a water filter. As long as you regularly fill it up, you not only have clean water, you have cool tasty water to drink. This can work well for one or two persons, and even small families if most of the family members spend a lot of time out of the house. Supplement this with bottled water or a few spare water pitchers with water filters (PUR and Brita are the top brands in the market today) and it can even work for a mid-sized family.
Unfortunately, this solution won't work for you if you don't own one of these refrigerators which come with their own water filtration systems. If lugging around bottles of water from Walmart to your home doesn't appeal to you, one reasonably cost-effective solution is to buy a few PUR or Brita water pitchers with their own water filters. You'll probably need at least two or three pitchers because they filter water very slowly. This can work if you live alone or have only a small family. If you choose this solution, it is not a good idea to order them online. Both the new PUR and Brita water pitchers are wrestling with quality control problems, so you will want to go to a real store where you can check the quality of workmanship with your own eyes. It's not worth it to save a few dollars by buying online only to receive a water pitcher which leaks badly because the tap is badly fitted to the body of the pitcher.
If you have a larger family, you probably need to get dedicated home water filtration systems which connect to your water taps. A whole house water filtration system wouldn't help you if the contamination is coming from your own plumbing. The best home water filters are probably those relying on reverse osmosis. A good reverse osmosis home water filter will come with pre-filters to remove both sedimentation and chlorine, while the RO filter removes everything else (including the lead and copper from your water pipes). The problem with RO filters is the very slow water flow, the very high cost of the unit, the high cost of replacing the water filter cartridges, and the large amount of water that is wasted to produce clean water (typically 95 gallons of water are wasted to produce 5 gallons of purified water).
Your next best choice of home water filtration is to get a carbon filter with resin ion exchange. The carbon filter will remove any small flakes of lead or copper which break off from your pipes and solder, while the resin ion exchange will remove the lead and copper compounds which dissolve into your water supply. This can be a much cheaper solution than a reverse osmosis water filter. However, you need to be careful when buying your home water filtration system. The resin ion exchange used in water filters will not remove every heavy metal. You need to carefully check the package to find out which metals will actually be removed. A water filter which removes mercury won't be useful to you if your problem is the lead pipes or brass fittings in your home plumbing. If the only heavy metal you need to deal with is lead, two popular brands that can do the job are Everpure and Culligan. Everpure does a lot more, a lot better than Culligan, but is also a lot more expensive. Where budget is a big concern, Culligan will also work.
Where possible, you should try to buy a home water filtration unit where the carbon filter and the resin ion exchange come in two separate water filter cartridges. This will let you replace them separately. While a bit inconvenient, it is cheaper. For example, if your water has a lot of sediments, you'll need to replace your carbon filter more often. Why replace the resin ion exchange unnecessarily? On the other hand, what if your water is relatively free of solid particles? Why replace your carbon filter when it still lets the water flow through smoothly?
Basically, if your water supply is contaminated with heavy metals like lead and copper due to old piping and solder, there are several things you can do. The best is to replace the old lead, copper, brass or bronze plumbing. If this is not possible (due to cost or because you don't own the house or some legal regulations), you can rely on bottled water. Signing a contract with a water supply vendor to rent you a water dispenser and send you a monthly supply of 5-gallon water bottles can be convenient but expensive. On the other hand, buying your bottled water from Walmart and then lugging it home can be back breaking labor. If your refrigerator comes with its own water filtration system, your problem is solved once you plug in the right water filter cartridge. If not, you will probably need to buy a suitable home water filter to mount onto your water tap. But regardless of where you fit in the water filter, whether it is in the water pitcher, the refrigerator water dispenser or the home water filter unit, remember to make sure the filter will remove the correct heavy metals.
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