The Essential Role Of Water Filtration In Modern Households (2024 Guide)

This is a collaborative post

If you are a new homeowner, or are looking to buy your first home this year, then you have a lot of things to consider, not least of which is the water in your home, where it comes from, and how to make it as good as it can be. If you are on city water in the United States, then chances are your water is fairly good. If you are on a private well, then things are likely more complicated. Wherever you get your water, however, you can benefit from a home water filtration system. 

Municipalities in the United States generally do a pretty good job of cleaning up water for public and private use, but even in the best-maintained water systems, problems and foul-ups can occur. Water is a very tricky substance, with the characteristics of a strong solvent, meaning that water will eat away at nearly everything it comes into contact with. 

This dissolved material is carried along either in small particulate form, or dissolved (in solution) within water, so water can quite literally anything that physically exists on Earth, from parasites and bacteria to lead and arsenic, to human-made synthetics such as PFAS and microplastics. Let’s dive into what might be lurking in your water, and how a modern water filtration system can benefit your home.

Why Water Filtration is Essential

Since before recorded history, human beings have recognized water’s unique place as both a bringer of life, and a bearer of illness and danger. One of the most basic elements of our physical world, water is involved in nearly every important physical process within our bodies, and is something that we are in more or less constant contact with, both externally and internally, within our bodies, organs, and cellular structures. 

Whatever contaminants, pollutants, or poisons are in our water, are also in our coffee cups, our shower heads, our ice cubes, and our baby bottles. Water filtration is, and always has been, one of the most immediate and pressing issues of human existence. Without clean water, life is miserable, and swiftly over. For those of us fortunate enough to live in a developed country with modern water treatment systems and reliable access to safe, potable water, the thought of going without it on a daily basis is hard to fathom. For nearly ¼ of the world’s population, however, lack of access to clean water is a daily reality.

Even for people in developed nations, with access to reliable water infrastructure, however, the benefits of home water filtration are numerous. A home system can help to remove chlorine, chloramines, fluoride, and other disinfectants and additives put in by municipal treatment plants, as well as providing additional protection against aged or leaching pipes or any other contaminants that find their way into your water.

Benefits of Whole House Water Filtration

If you are a homeowner, then you want to start by considering not just your drinking water, but the water throughout your entire home. Your property, and its value, is affected by the water it comes into contact with, just as your health is. Do you live in an area with extremely hard water? If so, then a water softener is a very sound investment. Not only will a softener make your water more enjoyable to shower and bathe in by removing the calcium and magnesium, but it will also dramatically improve the life and performance of your water heater, pipes, and water-reliant appliances. Limescale is hard on plumbing and fixtures, and if you’ve ever tried to scrub off caked-on calcium deposits, you know first hand how unsightly they can be. A softener will prevent that from happening, and can even help to remove or reduce existing limescale build-up.

If water hardness isn’t a big problem in your area, however, then you may consider a different sort of whole-home system, such as a combination of sediment and activated carbon filters. Sediment filters, made from dense material like polypropylene, trap physical particulates, while activated carbon strains out dissolved chemicals in water through a process called adsorption. The combination of these two filtration processes can help to knock out a whole host of common contaminants found in water.

Common Water Contaminants in Households

Water contaminants can differ dramatically from one region to the next, sometimes being markedly different from one city to the next, or within the same county. Water quality depends on the lay of the land, the location of watershed areas, local geological and soil conditions, nearby manufacturing or construction plants or projects, animal activity and human population in the area, meteorological patterns, the layout and nature of local water systems, and so on. If you want an accurate assessment of what is in your water, start by Googling your city’s most recent federally-mandated water quality report; to dial in further, send a sample of water from your tap to a laboratory for testing. Tests are readily available for roughly one hundred dollars.

Generally speaking, contaminants that you can expect to see include a variety of classes, or types: 1) disinfectants, such as chlorine and chloramines, are introduced into water at the city level in trace amounts, to kill microorganisms; 2) sediment and minerals, whether in particulate or dissolved form including heavy metals like chromium, arsenic, and lead; 3) microorganisms and parasites, 4) volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as chloroform, and, and 5) emerging synthetics such as microplastics and PFAS.

Installation and Maintenance of Water Filtration Systems

Installing a home filtration system is often something that you can handle yourself, though it depends on the system type. Nearly anyone can handle a refrigerator filter install, and DIY-ers should have no problem setting up an inline filter, or even an under sink reverse osmosis system. For big whole-house systems like water softeners, however, it is advisable to call in professional plumbers. Water damage is very expensive, and not something you want to deal with. Maintaining filter systems typically requires little more than changing out the filters every few months to once a year, whether by you, or your water service provider.

Types of Household Water Filters 

From big water softeners in the basement to a small cylinder in your refrigerator, how much you want to filter at home is up to you. Keep in mind that a localized filter in your fridge or under your sink will only treat the water right there, whereas whole house water filters will treat the entire home. You can also combine a whole-house with a kitchen sink faucet; in fact, many people like to pair a reverse osmosis system under the sink with their whole-home softener, as the RO membrane will remove some of the additional salt imparted in the ion exchange process in the softener. Whichever type of filtration system you choose, make sure that it contains at least one stage of activated carbon. Often used in conjunction with sediment and reverse osmosis technology, carbon filters provide healthy, great-tasting water due to carbon’s unique ability to remove objectionable tastes and odours in water, making them arguably the most essential part of any robust home system.

Point-of-Use vs. Point-of-Entry Filtration Systems

A helpful set of terms for the distinctions discussed above are “point-of-use,” vs “point-of-entry” systems. Any filter that is acting right before the point that the water is being used or consumed, such as a fridge filter or under sink RO system, is known as a point-of-use, or POU system. If your filters are treating your water at the spot where the water is first entering your property, such as a softener or a whole-house system, then you have a point-of-entry (POE) system. As you design your ideal home filtration system, keep in mind the benefits afforded by both types of systems–you can get the best results by tailoring them together to meet both the house’s needs, and your drinking and cooking needs.

Future Trends in Water Filtration Technology

The water filtration industry is currently hard at work considering new and more effective ways to treat the discouraging variety of emerging contaminants that are being developed on a seemingly daily basis by industrial manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and so on. New threats such as PFAS and microplastics present serious challenges to human and animal health, as well as the health of the planet and its ecosystems. Keeping educated about new threats is the best way to ensure that you stay ahead of any dangers.

The Bottom Line  

The world is a dangerous place, and water is a potent vector for spreading material pollutants and contaminants. It’s far better to be informed about the reality of the situation, and ready with filtration on hand to deal with it than to wait until something goes obviously wrong. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so add some home filtration to your domicile today, and rest assured knowing that you have the additional protection.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post

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