Does whole house reverse osmosis make sense?
The short answer is "YES" but that doesn't mean that it is for everyone. We will consider the pros and cons of a whole-house RO system and you can decide if it is for you or not.
First of all, water quality varies greatly from well water to surface water to municipal water. Well water may have things like iron, sulfur, manganese and tannin which almost always have to be removed, especially in the case of a whole-house RO system
. Those contaminants must always be removed before the reverse osmosis process. Let's not forget that reverse osmosis removes the largest spectrum of contaminants at the most economical cost of any water treatment process. Essentially, a whole house reverse osmosis system will remove 98 to 99% of most contaminants including Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), sodium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, arsenic and a plethora of other chemical and organic contaminants.
One of the key ingredients to a whole house reverse osmosis system is proper per-treatment, which includes removing the iron, sulfur, manganese, tannin and other nuisance elements. So, ahead of an RO system, it is essential that filtration or oxidation of these contaminants are accomplished. If the water is hard, then it needs to be softened or (what I prefer) use an anti-scalant to prevent hard water build-up on the membranes. Anti-scalant systems are gaining popularity because no water is wasted and no salt is needed.
A whole house RO system consists of the aforementioned pre-treatment, the reverse osmosis system itself, an atmospheric storage tank, a re-pressurization pump, ultraviolet light or Quantum Disinfection
and sometimes a calcite filter
to raise the pH or add some TDS back to the water. Here is what a city water whole-house RO system might look like:
Who might need a whole house reverse osmosis system? Lots of people. It could be health related in that they may want to remove as many chemicals as possible from their water. Many people have a sensitivity to such chemicals and therefore need a whole house RO system. In other cases, it may be that there are contaminants in the water that create ascetic issues such as high chlorides, sodium, sulfates and others.
Sometimes we see water that has TDS levels in excess of 2,000 PPM (the USEPA recommends drinking water that is below 500 PPM). I'll grant you that the water you use to flush your toilet doesn't have to be super clean, but the amount of water used for flushing toilets in very insignificant compared to most other uses for water in your home. Washing dishes or clothes, bathing, shampooing, shaving and cleaning in clean reverse osmosis water is a pure joy.
Back in the day, people used to bathe in rainwater, which is generally absolutely soft. When I was in Haiti a few years ago, we would wait for a heavy rainstorm and stand underneath a downspout plume just to enjoy a good shower. With shorts on and a bar of soap, we enjoyed every second of that shower.
If taking a shower in the cleanest water on the planet, without chemicals, pesticides and hardness appeals to you, then maybe you are a candidate for a whole house reverse osmosis system. If you want to be able to drink from any faucet in the home, then maybe a whole house RO system
is for you. Maybe you just want the best water possible. If so, a home whole house reverse osmosis system may just be what the doctor ordered!