After years of tap water, I'd finally had enough of drinking water that tasted like it had been skimmed from the pool of the local YMCA. Between the chemical taste and concerns over lead and other contaminants, installing an under-sink filter became the most economical option to ensure my family was drinking pure water. It wasn't until I installed the filter system that I realised just how much stuff was in my local water supply. The photos speak for themselves!
First, the picture above is the system I installed at home, the Whirlpool® Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Filtration (WHER25) which purchased from a local chain store. For step by step instructions of a typical under-sink filter check out the overview at the Creative Homeowner guide below. For a sense of scale here is the following photo of the system installed under my rather typical double basin sink:
Installation was a breeze. The hoses were colour coded the instructions were straightforward. Save for the hassle of drilling a mount hole in the sink the whole process would have taken me under 30 minutes. Let it stand for the public record however that drilling stainless steel is a surprisingly arduous task. Who knew that mere millimeters of steel could be that strong?
After the initial installation I sterilised and purged the system by putting a few drops of bleach into the lead hose and letting the system pressurize itself with the now sterilised water. Once I'd purged the system and got it up and running my curiosity got the better of me. What exactly was going down the drain? What was the series of filters removing that I wasn't drinking? The quick and dirty way to find out was to disconnect the drain hose from the sink drain and let it drain directly into a container. I grabbed a plastic container that looked rather like a graduated cylinder of enormous proportions. Once it was rinsed out I disconnected the hose and let it drain for about 15 seconds into the container. The following is the results of that experiment, one large container of the "brine" drained off the filter system next to one Pilsner glass of the pure water from the reverse osmosis tap. What looks like particles in the glass of filtered water are actually little tiny bubbles:
Short of sending off the waste water to a lab to be analysed, I can't tell you what exactly that cloud of stuff is. The filter system removes the following: sand, silt, particulates, rust, chlorine, cysts, lead, arsenic, copper, nitrates, nitrites, radium, chromium, magnesium, sodium, asbestos, and radium. The water smelled like sulfur and I opted not to give it a taste test. Despite the lack of rigid scientific analysis I reached the following conclusion: the ass-smelling briny swill that was in the container was not in the glass I was drinking out of. Good enough for me!
Now the question of money: Just how economical or uneconomical will the filter ultimately be? The filter system cost $158. Based on the parameters of my local water supply the filters should last 12 months before needing to be swapped out at a cost of $100. The local cost of water is approximately $1.10 per thousand gallons. Our daily usage of the filter for drinking and cooking is about 5 gallons (it's rated for 22 gallons per day) so the five year cost based on current usage and factoring in the water used to purge and clean the filters would work out to be 8 cents per gallon. If we maxed out our usage at 22 gallons per day per the manufacturer's ceiling the cost per gallon would drop to just under 2 cents per gallon. Compare that to the cost per gallon of bottled water like Aquafina (which is just bottled reverse osmosis filtered water) is $8! [128 oz in a gallon, 16 oz in a $1 bottle of Aquafina ((128/16)*$1)=$8)]
- $8.00 - gallon of purified water if purchased via small consumer bottles
- $1.00 - gallon of purified water purchased by the gallon jug
- $0.08 - gallon of water purified via under sink reverse osmosis filter
The filter has been installed for two weeks now and has definitely been well appreciated. The water tastes better, the coffee made with the water tastes better, the espresso machine makes better espresso, and the milk steamed with it is smoother and more delicious. On top of that everyone drinks more water now that we don't have to imagine that drinking a pool really is good for us.