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The Most Important Water Treatment Method

by Mark Timmons November 08, 2014 12 Comments

What is THE MOST IMPORTANT WATER TREATMENT METHOD? Some people will guess that it is water softening or reverse osmosis, maybe ozonation or ultraviolet, but the fact of the matter is that the most important water treatment method is amazingly simple and woefully under-applied or misapplied. That method is simple filtration, which is commonly known as the mechanical or physical operation used for the separation of solids from fluids (liquids or gases) by interposing a medium through which only the fluid can pass. Filtration has been around for thousands of years, and by now you would think that such a simple technology would be properly applied... but it is still not well understood. I'd like to take a little time to explain what works and what doesn't work, and why, when it comes to filtration. First of all, let's break filtration down into two types: (1) Point-of-entry filtration (that means your whole house); and (2) Point-of-use filtration which would be a sink or a fridge. Point-of-Use Filtration (POU) is usually for a kitchen sink or maybe a refrigerator and typically utilizes a 5 micron filter for sediment pre-filtration. Sediment depth filters are generally made of spun polypropylene and in reality, are gradient density filters in that the outer layers trap larger particles so that the inside layers are more efficient. They are often called “melt blown” or “spun poly” filters. These filters are generally used in reverse osmosis pre-treatment, food and beverage, microelectronics, and many other applications. Made out of 100% pure polypropylene, a spun polypropylene filter is suitable for any potable water application, including high-purity. There are no glues, binders or additives that can cause side effects in water processing applications. However, you wouldn't want to use a Spun Poly filter for a point-of-entry or whole house application, because it would plug too quickly. Point-of-Entry Filtration (POE) is typically for filtration for a whole house or business and the fact of the matter is that there are two types of homes or businesses: (1) Those that have POE Filtration; and (2) those that need it! There is no question that any home or business can reap great benefits from having a Point-Of-Entry Filtration System. Why? Even on city water, there is sand, silt, grit and other things that can cause problems with icemakers, toilet internals, faucets and appliances like washers and water dispensers. If you have a water softener, you can even extend its' life and prevent unnecessary service by simply having a pre-filter ahead of it. There is probably not a single instance where simple filtration does not provide substantial benefits. So, that bring up three questions:

  1. What type of filter is best?
  2. What size is best?
  3. What micron rating is best?
floor mount big blue triple filter assembly

This is where it gets dicey. The easy part is deciding what type of filter is best. As mentioned a Spun Poly Sediment Depth Filter is not appropriate in this case, but some people use string-wound filters for a couple or reasons (1) they are the lowest cost filters; and (2) you don't have to change them very often... OF COURSE YOU DON"T BECAUSE THEY DON'T TRAP AS MUCH SEDIMENT AS A PLEATED FILTER! Look, string wound filters are better than no filters and they are inexpensive, but a pleated filter has more surface area, traps more sediment, sand, silt and grit than any string-wound filter and are cleanable and reusable. Even though a pleated filter has a higher price, it costs less than any string wound filter because it works so much better and you can re-use it after cleaning four or five times. Hands down, a pleated filter is the best choice and while there are many brands of pleated filters, there can only be ONE BEST PLEATED FILTER and that is US Water Systems. That raises the question as to what size is best. It's a simple answer. For any POE filtration, you would want to use a 4.5" x 10" housing at a minimum (that would be for a small home), but it is always best to use a 4.5" x 20" housing for better flow rates. Don't go too small - a 2.5" filter, even if it is 20" in length is too small for a whole house. Stay with 4.5 inch by 20 inch housings when you are treating a whole house for sediment. Insofar as micron rating, it is very site specific. In many cases, a 5 micron filter works great, but in other cases it works best with a 10 or 20 micron filter because you may have larger particles to trap. It's a good idea to start with a 10 micron filter and then see how effective that is. You can go up or down in micron size, based upon that or go up if it plugs too quickly. Step-down filtration is also quite effective (pictured at the right). That is where you might start with a 20 micron filter, followed by a 10 micron filter followed by a 5 micron filter. This would be utilized when you have sand, silt and sediment in large quantities. In conclusion, when dealing with whole house filtration, use larger filters such as a 4.5" x 20" housing, use a pleated cartridge and make sure you use the correct micron size for your application.

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June 01, 2015 Ejayeta

Please how can water be treatment in order to make it fit for drinking

June 01, 2015 Mark Timmons

How you treat water depends what EXACTLY is in your water. Here’s how you find out:

Once we know that, we can tell you EXACTLY how to fix it.

June 14, 2017 Dave Anderson

I know that tap water can and does have a lot of things in it that are not good for us to ingest. Because of that, I think that it would be important to get some sort of filter system so that we can have safe drinking water in our house. Like you mentioned, point-of-entry and point-of-use filtration are the best kinds of filtration because they ensure that the water circulating through your house has been filtered and they also ensure that when the water comes out of the faucet it has been purified.

April 12, 2018 Just No

I’m not sure I follow you when you say start with 10 and go up or down from there… How would you know that you need to go down to 5, unless you had superman vision to see that some sediment less than 10 is getting through?

April 28, 2018 Mark Timmons

I guess I do not understand the question…

October 08, 2018 Michael Lee

You give excellent advice to use a simple filtration system at the point of entry. I have been thinking about installing a water treatment device at my house. One of the questions that I have before I do it is how often do I need to change the filter? Is this a yearly job of a semi-annually performed service?

October 08, 2018 Mark Timmons

Of course, it depends upon what contaminants are in the water, but in most cases, it is once a year!

September 16, 2019 Callum

I feel that installing one of these filters on my water supply would help me out a lot. Now as you said here, there are different types of filters that I could go with. Of the three you listed, going with the pleated one seems like the best idea. You did mention that it would trap the most sediment when compared to the other two.

September 17, 2019 Mark Timmons

Thank you. That is correct.

November 13, 2019 Derek McDoogle

I like how you explain that point-of-use filtration is usually for a kitchen sink or maybe a refrigerator and typically utilizes a 5-micron filter for sediment pre-filtration. My wife and I are always looking for ways to improve our family’s health. I will recommend her to read about drinking water systems and see if she would like to give them a try.

February 02, 2023 Michelle

We are currently using a 5 micron sediment filter and our water is discolored in toilets and sink. It is orange, just like the sediment filter when it is dirty. It is polypropylene cartridge. Should we try a pleated filter? And if so, do you think we should go up to a 10 or a 20 micron…maybe the big particles are getting lift behind? Thanks in advance for your advice.

February 02, 2023 Mark Timmons

I do not know enough about your water to tell you how to fix it, but a filter like the one you are suggesting will not solve your problem. Most likely, the color of the water is caused by tannins or iron. The first thing you need to do is to get a good laboratory water test of your raw water. Neither tannin nor iron can be “filtered” out, but knowing what is in the water enables us to know how to treat it and completely solve your problems. Here is what you need to do first: There are several options, and you should call and talk to one of our certified water specialists in order to decide what test is best for you. You won’t find a better water test at a lower price.

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