Q. We are currently building a new home and have decided to install a reverse osmosis drinking water system. Should we install a system under our kitchen sink and hook it up to the icemaker. What if we want to put another one at our wet bar or in the master bath? Does that make sense? – Signed Bill K.
A. Reverse osmosis systems are rapidly becoming more commonplace in new homes. With that in mind, let’s consider what your best course of action might be. First of all, reverse osmosis (“RO”) systems consist of the following components:
- 1, 2 or 3 Pre-Filters (before the membrane)
- The Reverse Osmosis Membrane
- A Post “Polishing” Filter
- A Storage Tank
- A Faucet
The water is generally filtered with a 5-micron sediment pre-filter and is next filtered by a carbon block or granular activated carbon (GAC) filter (or both), before it is processed by the reverse osmosis membrane (the contaminants are literally separated from the water by the membrane and flushed down the drain).
Next, the clean water is sent to a storage tank (typically 2-4 gallons in size) where it is available for use. Whenever water is called for, it passes through a post-filter of GAC to remove any unwanted tastes and is polished to an even higher quality. Most systems are also equipped with an automatic shut-off valve (ASOV), which stops the flow of water to the drain, when the tank is full.
Originally, RO systems were designed to fit under a kitchen sink, but in a new home that is not the only place where a RO system can be installed, nor is it the most practical place. There is limited space under a kitchen sink and the person who spends the most time in the kitchen dislikes having to give up storage space because of an RO system. Additionally, servicing a system under a sink is more difficult and and leaks are more common due to space constraints. Where else can an RO system be installed? It is very practical to install one in the basement, garage or utility room. This makes service easier and results in no loss of space under the sink.
In times past, most RO systems were rated at 12 to 50 gallons per day. That simply means that if it ran continuously for 24 hours it would produce that amount of water. However, in the Midwest where water temperatures are lower than 77 degrees Fahrenheit; the production is about half the rated capacity of the system. Today, many homeowners are opting to connect their kitchen sink, vegetable sink, pot filler, wet bar, multiple ice-makers and the master bath to the RO system. This necessitates the usage of higher capacity RO systems (75 to 300 GPD) along with larger storage tanks and delivery pumps, which boost the pressure. During the construction of a new home, RO lines can easily be installed to any number of fictures. These lines are constructed of special poly-tubing, designed for high purity water and approved by NSF. The are typically 3/8″ in size, 1/2″ is sometime used. A manifold can be used to provide multiple connections ans total control for the system, if multiple outlets are utilized.
During the framing of the home, it is a simple matter to install the RO lines; much like computer, cable TV or telephone cable is ran inside the walls. In the scheme of things, the cost to run the RO lines during construction is very insignificant, but once the wall is dry-walled and finished, it may be difficult, if not impossible to install a reverse osmosis purification system. While it is possible to connect the RO lines to the cold-water faucets in the home, the most common method is to install dedicated faucets on the sink and locations desired. This prevents the high purity water from being wasted for hand washing and the like. There are many designer faucets in a veriety of colors and configurations to match the sink color and decor.
Home owners should be able to rely on the homebuilder to provide options for quality water throughout the home. Planning ahead, during the construction phase – or before the construction – can provide an inexpensive solution for high-quality RO drinking water throughout the home; making the homeowner happy and helping the builder look good in the process.