The science behind water filtration can be a bit confusing to the average person. At Filter Butler, we believe that an educated consumer is a protected consumer, and we want you to know what you are paying for and why.
Water filtration is not magic; it is a very scientific process that has been developed over the years as a means to protect families from the potential hazards of impure water. In this five-part series on the Whole House Water Filter, you will learn about the components of the system that eliminate unwanted sediments, reduce chlorine and other contaminants, and become educated about the standard and optional features that come with our system. Here are the five components of the Whole House Water Filter we will cover in this exhaustive guide:
- Sediment Pre-Filter
- Activated Carbon Filter and Copper-Zinc Mineral Stone Filter
- Salt-Free Water Softener and Descaler*
- UV Filter*
- Sub-Micron Post-Filter*
Introduction to Whole House Water Filtration
As you may be aware, homeowners have a lot of options when it comes to their water filtration needs. There are the ever-common plastic pitchers, built-in refrigerator filters, Under sink water filters, and the most comprehensive filtration option, the Whole House Water Filter (also known as a whole home water filter).
Whole House Water Filters are the top choice in homes and restaurants because they provide clean, filtered water from every single water source in the home or building. These systems filter the water as soon as it enters the homeowner’s property line, ensuring contaminants like chlorine and lead are removed as soon as they enter a home’s plumbing system. This provides filtered water in drinking faucets as well as clean water for bathing and cooking as well.
Why Do I need to Filter My Water?
Municipalities do a decent job of treating your water before it leaves the treatment facility, but this doesn’t ensure that you and your family are completely protected from harmful contaminants. Water that leaves municipal treatment plants is considered to be “clean.” Still, the presence of lead in water distribution pipes and recent findings on “superbugs” show that these facilities can’t be the only prevention source.
There are also facts about how our water is treated that don’t sit well with many homeowners. In Canada and worldwide, water is treated with chlorine to kill micro-organisms, and aluminum is added to it to clump together particles. These heavy metals are filtered out, but the water is treated again with chlorine, fluoride, and ammonia before being tested once again.
Chlorine and other additives (like ammonia) that are placed in water to disinfect it are carcinogens. While these additives are necessary evils to prevent water-borne illness, consuming this water is not good for us. Couple that with the possibility that there is an ever-growing list of contaminants that municipal plants don’t treat for and toxins – such as lead from pipe seepage – that may be present in water, and it is not surprising to see at-home water filtration popping up in more homes across the U.S. and Canada. Whole House Filters are the last line of defense from unsatisfactory treated water, municipal water treatment, and sanitation systems breakdown, and lead seepage. They are the most proactive measure a homeowner can take to protect the water coming into their home.
Filter Butler’s Whole House Water Filter
The Filter Butler Whole House Water Filter is great “right out of the box,” but optional features provide additional filtration should you need it or your personal water supply call for it. These optional features safeguard against additional undesirables – depending on what’s in your water, they may be worth the additional investment. We will explain these optional and standard features in more detail below. Let’s dive right in!
The first step in the filtration process, the Sediment Pre-Filter, reduces particulates such as rust, sediment, and silt from entering your home’s water line. Reducing the amount of dirt and debris entering your home helps protect your plumbing and appliances and prevents wear and tear to things like shower heads, dishwashers, hot water heaters, and faucet aerators. If you currently have water that is not filtered as it enters your home, you may have noticed unclear or turbid water from dirt, clay salts, silt, or rust in your water. Other visible signs of these sediments may include brown-red stains on sinks, dishwashers, or clothes. Awkward tastes and smells may also be present as a result of these sediments. They should indicate that a laboratory test of your water is needed to determine what is in it.
Health Concerns of Sediments in Water
While rust in the water is oxidized iron and is not a health concern, sediments that cause turbidity should not be overlooked. Turbidity is the measure of clarity in your water, and it should go without saying that the clearer, the better. But turbidity also indicates water quality and the effectiveness of existing filtration. Risks associated with the consumption of turbid water stem from disease-causing microorganisms that may be present within it. Viruses, bacteria, and even parasites are associated with higher turbidity levels, and these organisms can cause health problems such as cramps, diarrhea, headaches, and nausea.
The pre-filter is like your home’s air conditioning filter in that it helps prevent unwanted sediments from flowing into your home from municipal pipes. In Toronto specifically, aging pipes are a very public issue linked to lead contamination throughout the city. In addition to lead seepage from these aging pipes, they leak water and allow untreated water and debris to seep into the water supply. The Sediment Pre-Filter ensures the filtration of these unwanted particulates that can affect health, damage appliances, clog faucets, and alter the taste and color of your water.
Sediment Pre-Filters, like air conditioning filters, should be changed out every few months to remain as effective as possible. Filter Butler recommends changing these filters out every three to six months or when the water color darkens, or water flow is noticeably slower. Replacing these filters regularly will extend the life of your Whole House Water Filter and your home appliances. These are made specifically for the FB-300 Whole House Water Filter.
As you can see, a whole house water filter system is a thorough process that relies on multiple components, each with a different function. Sediment pre-filters are the first line of defense for keeping your pipes and appliances free from damage while also improving water taste and clarity, but this is just step one. The other components of the system make your water safer by reducing or eliminating chemicals, bacteria, and viruses.
Now, let’s look at how activated carbon filters and copper-zinc mineral stone filters remove contaminants, heavy metals, and impurities from your water.
Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter and Activated Carbon Filter
Since no single piece of water treatment equipment can manage all contaminants, multiple treatment filters are used within a whole house water filtration system. A combination of several specialized filters is the most effective way to keep the water you use and drink contaminant free.
We looked at how the Sediment Pre-Filter removes sediment and debris from your water. After the water goes through the Sediment Pre-Filter, it moves on to the next filtration stages: Copper-Zinc, Mineral Stone Filter, and Activated Carbon Filter. Each of these filters utilizes a different process to treat your water. The combination of these two filters helps further safeguard your family from unwanted contaminants and impurities.
Let’s break down the filtration process for both the Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter and Activated Carbon Filter so you can learn why each is important.
Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter
Immediately after passing through the Sediment Pre-Filter and right before passing through the Activated Carbon Filter, water goes through what is called the Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter. This treatment filter is known best for diminishing the buildup of scale in the water, breaking down water-soluble heavy metals like lead, and removing chlorine while preventing the development of algae and bacteria. The chemical properties of the copper, zinc, and mineral stones help to remove many impurities from the water before it is passed on to the Activated Carbon Filter, where additional chemicals are bonded to the carbon membrane.
The Science Behind Copper-Zinc Filtration
One of the most important chemicals that is filtered out of water is chlorine. Chlorine is added to our water at the treatment plant because it is an effective microbe killer and disinfectant. While it does have its need and is beneficial to some degree, once the water reaches your home, there is simply no need for it to be in the water any further.
Let us take you back to science class for a moment. The two metals in the copper-zinc treatment process are very dissimilar. Copper is soft and highly conductive, whereas zinc is hard and has more insulating properties. As it turns out, there is a beneficial scientific process that occurs when chlorine passes through the combination of these two alloys – an electrochemical reaction where electrons are transferred between molecules, breaking the bonds of chlorine, creating an entirely new compound (zinc and cupric chloride) that is harmless to the body.
In short, when chlorinated water passes through the copper-zinc filter, it becomes neutralized, making your water healthy for drinking and bathing. Copper-Zinc Filtration uses a chemical process that is known as oxidation-reduction or redox, for short. In addition to removing chlorine, it is also effective at removing lead, mercury, iron, and hydrogen sulfide from the water. It also contains some anti-bacterial, fungicidic, algaecidic, and lime reduction properties and, when combined with other water filtration technologies – such as Sediment Pre-Filters and Activated Carbon Filtration –provides ideal filtration results.
What Does the Copper-Zinc Filter Remove?
The Copper-Zinc Filtration component is effective at reducing or removing the following:
- Hydrogen sulfide
And helps to inhibit the growth of:
Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter Overview
This process of water treatment helps to remove scale as well as prevent the development of bacteria and algae.
The chemical process in which Copper-Zinc Filters work, known as redox, is effective in eliminating and/or reducing undesirables such as chlorine and other heavy metals. By adding or taking electrons from contaminants, the alloy combination physically changes the properties of some elements, rendering them harmless or completely eliminating them.
The Mineral Stone Filter prevents the chemical compound (KDF) used in the Copper-Zinc Filter from clumping, which can cause water pressure loss. It also keeps additional sediment from going through the filter.
Combining Copper-Zinc with Activated Carbon Filters
For the most effective water filtration, it is recommended that Copper-Zinc Filters are used in conjunction with Activated Carbon Filters. Copper-Zinc Filters enhance the life of Carbon Activated Filters and help by removing numerous heavy metals. An area Activated Carbon Filters are not designed for. The Filter Butler Whole House Water Filter comes standard with both of these filters, providing homeowners with added piece of mind and one less thing to consider when selecting a home filtration option.
Activated Carbon Filter
To understand the Activated Carbon Filter, it’s helpful to compare it to the Sediment Pre-Filter (the water filtration process preceding Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filtration). The Sediment Pre-Filter filters out particles by size, whereas the Activated Carbon Filter, or AC Filter, uses a process called adsorption. Adsorption, not to be confused with absorption, is defined as the adhesion of atoms, ions, or molecules from a gas, liquid, or dissolved solid to a surface. Adsorptive filters attract contaminants and hold them onto the surface of the carbon.
There are two variations of Active Carbon, but the one that is most commonly used in water treatment is called Granular Activated Carbon (GAC). GAC is effective at adsorbing the following substances:
- Benzene– associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects
- Chlorobenzenes– a known cause of eye, nasal, and skin irritation
- Trichloroethylene– short and long-term exposure is shown to effect the central nervous system
- Carbon tetrachloride– long-term exposure has been shown to impact the liver and kidneys
- Methylene chloride
- Vinyl chloride
- Industrial wastes
As we mentioned above, water is disinfected at the municipal water treatment facility with chlorine or chloramines. When chlorine comes into contact with certain organic matter, it can produce compounds such as trihalomethanes (THMs) as byproducts. Your Activated Carbon Filter can help to remove some of these disinfection byproducts as well as chlorine and chloramines. AC Filters can also help to reduce lead in your drinking water, although the Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter is more commonly cited for this purpose.
What is Activated Carbon?
Activated Carbon is actually charcoal treated with oxygen. This type of material is produced so that it opens up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms, aiding in the chemical process through which adsorption occurs. Activated Carbon has a huge surface area that provides bonding sites in which to attract and prevent impurities from passing through your filter and into your home.
Carbon Filtration Limitations
We mentioned that Carbon Filtration is a chemical process where certain chemicals – such as chlorine, pesticides, and solvents – will bond to its surface. However, chemicals that are not attracted to carbon – such as sodium and nitrates – will pass right through this filtration process. Activated Carbon Filters will also not remove microbial contaminants like bacteria and viruses, nitrates, and minerals like calcium and magnesium. Bacteria and viruses can be removed by using a UV Filter, and effects of high mineral content, like scaling, can be neutralized through the Salt-Free Water Softener. Many of these filtration options are add-ons which is why it is important to know what’s in your water and to determine what you need to safeguard your family from.
Activated Carbon Filtration Overview
The Activated Carbon Filter is the third stage of the water filtration process. AC filtration is a chemical process (although no chemicals are added) in which certain organic compounds, solvents, pesticides, and industrial wastes are bonded to the carbon, preventing them from passing through to your home’s water supply. The Coper-Zinc Filter complements the Activated Carbon by helping to capture heavy metals, reduce impurities, and extend the life of the carbon bed.
The Sediment Pre-Filter, Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter, and Activated Carbon Filter do not capture minerals and microbial contaminants. This is why add-ons such as the UV Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener, and De-scaler may be desired depending on your water test and individual filtration needs. In Part 3, we will look at how the Salt-Free Water Softener and De-scaler change the structure of minerals to eliminate the effects of hard water and prevent scaling.
As you have already learned in this series, Whole House Water Filter systems have multiple components and steps that rely on one another. We have already covered the features that come standard in the Filter Butler Whole House Water Filter: the Sediment Pre-Filter, Copper-Zinc and Mineral Stone Filter, and Activated Carbon Filter. The remaining parts of this series will focus on optional add-ons that let you customize your filter system. For the cleanest, purest, and safest water, adding the optional Salt-Free Water Softener to your Whole House Water Filter is a smart option.
Salt-Free Water Softener and Descaler
Water Softeners can be a stand-alone type of filtration system or used in conjunction with a Whole House Water Filter, as both filters do completely different things. Whole House Water Filters remove contaminants and impurities from your water, whereas Salt-Free Water Softeners prevent scale to increase the lifetime of your appliances.
The benefits of treating your water with a salt-free water softener include:
- Scale-free silverware and glassware (dishwashers and sinks)
- Cleaner, scale-free shower heads and faucets
- Lifespan preservation of all water-using appliances
- Improved efficiency of water-using appliances by as much as 20 to 30 percent due to the prevention of scale buildup (estimated)
We will cover some of the common questions about the differences between water softening and water filtration, the advantages of a salt-free versus a salt-based system, and more below.
Water Softening vs. Water Filtration
One of the more important things to identify about Salt-Free Water Softeners is that they shouldn’t be looked at as a solution for safer drinking water. This role is left up to the other components of the Whole House Water Filter and the optional features other than the water softener. Water softeners reduce or alter minerals that cause your water to be hard and increase the life and effectiveness of your appliances.
Again, water softeners don’t make your water safer for drinking. This process happens before the water enters the water softener. If you want the safest water as well as water that will not cause scale build-up, the combination of a Whole House Water Filter and optional Salt-Free Water Softener is your best bet.
Water Filters Remove:
- Heavy metals
Water Softeners Remove:
- Minerals & Iron (salt-based only)
With water softeners, there are typically two choices: salt-free or softeners that require the manual insertion of salt into the filtration system every few weeks/months. Filter Butler utilizes modern salt-free technology called Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) to soften water and reduce scale by as much as 99.6 percent. This process safely and effectively hinders scale buildup by altering hard minerals into inactive microscopic crystal particles and negates the need to add salt or chemicals to your water.
With NAC technology, there is nothing added or removed from your water. This is important because it retains naturally occurring minerals that are considered to be good for you and results in tasty water that most homeowners desire. NAC technology dissolves minerals to prevent scale while simultaneously allowing healthy minerals to pass through.
While traditional salt-based softeners are effective at removing scale in the same way that salt-free softeners are, they also have a lot of negatives.
The Advantages of a Salt-Free vs. a Salt-Using Softener:
- No need for manually adding salt.
- No need for a back-flushing softener with fresh water.
- Reduction in costs because regularly purchasing salt is not required.
- No wasting precious resources (salt).
- Virtually no maintenance.
- Added sodium in water is suspected of contributing to cardiovascular issues and/or weight gain.
- No need for a drain connection or electrical power.
- No adverse effects on the environment. Salt-based softeners increase the salinity of wastewater, which reduces the ability to reuse water for agricultural or industrial use.
Water Softeners Save You Money
In Canada and throughout North America, there is a high likelihood that you have hard water. The scaling caused by the minerals found in hard water builds up over time, and that buildup clogs your plumbing lines and the water pipes that flow through your appliances. Like a clogged artery that needs to push blood to the heart, your appliances have to work harder to flow water to you, therefore reducing their efficiency and increasing your electrical costs.
Preventing these minerals from creating scale is important for the effectiveness and lifespan of your appliances. An excess of dissolved minerals can result in the clogging of pipes over time, create a higher risk of scale deposits (as you may have witnessed on your shower head or faucets), and reduce the life and efficiency of common appliances like coffee machines, ice makers, dishwashers, air conditioners, hot water heaters, and clothing washers.
Salt-Free Water Softener Overview
The Filter Butler Salt-Free Water Softener is an optional feature that complements the Whole House Water Filter. The Whole House Filter is effective at removing impurities from your water, whereas the Salt-Free Softener is a great solution for families who want to prevent scale buildup and prolong the life of their water appliances. The salt-free water softener will prevent minerals from creating scale deposits on shower heads, faucets, and on all water-using appliances. Eliminating this scale results in more efficient appliances and faucets, longer-lasting appliances, and a reduction in energy costs that have been estimated to be as much as 20 to 30 percent.
Filter Butler Salt-Free Water Filters require minimal maintenance and the two main filter tanks that come with this system only need to be replaced every six years. The replacement process does not require the help of a plumber and takes just a few minutes.
Next, we will look at how the Sub-Micron Post-Filter utilizes microfiltration to remove small particles and microorganisms from your water. This is an optional feature for our Whole House Water Filter. It is especially useful for those living in areas where the local water supply is susceptible to protozoa, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia, both of which may be resistant to the chlorine used in standard water treatment facilities.
Does a Whole House Water Filter Work if My Home Uses Well Water?
If your home doesn’t get water from the municipal water treatment plant, you may be wondering what your options are for water filtration. The level of protection you’ll enjoy when you install a Whole House Water Filter is a common concern many homeowners have.
Starting with the general question of whether a Whole House Water Filter works for you is a good one, but there are additional questions that really get to the heart of your well water filtration needs. We will address these to help you decide if a Whole House Water Filter is what you need and the additional components you should consider.
Primary Uses of Home Well Water Filtration
Most homeowners that utilize water filtration systems install them to do the following:
- Improve the taste and clarity of their water
- Eliminate or remove specific contaminants
While all water filtration systems help to eliminate or remove specific contaminants, there may be different impurities that you are concerned about within your well water supply. This is partly why there are different filtration components – such as a sub-micron post-filter and a UV filter – that may be more attractive to some homeowners than others.
Ideally, you should get a water assessment every year to test for the most common pollutants. These tests will look for unwanted items like pesticides, inorganic chemicals, volatile organic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and other undesirables that may cause sickness or that have been correlated with disease.
Health Canada provides some resources for treating well water and mentions that bacteriological testing should be conducted by the provincial health lab in your locale or by a certified private lab.
What is Filtered from Well Water with a Whole House Water Filter?
Contaminants that cause foul odors
It is often cited that well water smells like rotten eggs. This distinctive smell is hydrogen sulfide, a naturally occurring contaminant in groundwater but does not pose immediate health problems in most instances. The activated carbon filter that comes standard in Filter Whole House Water Filter will absorb the odor-causing chemicals that give the unpleasant smell created from hydrogen sulfide.
While the presence of hydrogen sulfide in water is generally considered to be harmless, there are sources that reference adverse symptoms and effects from higher concentrations. These symptoms include minor effects like headache and asthma problems to more severe health concerns such as respiratory tract irritation and, at extremely heavy concentrations, death.
Bacteria and parasites
If you get your water from a well, you are at an increased risk of ingesting water that is contaminated by bacteria and parasites. These contaminants can cause minor health problems but can also be associated with more serious health concerns, such as diarrhea, vomiting, chills, fever, headaches, abdominal cramps, and malaise. These symptoms are commonly associated with the cysts Cryptosporidium and Giardia, which the add-on water filtration component, the UV filter, can help to inactivate. The UV filter works in conjunction with the sub-micron post-filter to eliminate bacteria and parasites and dramatically reduce organic and sediment particles. The two components are highly recommended for homeowners who rely on wells to get their water.
How do Contaminants get in My Well Water?
You may have heard that overlying soil acts like a filter for groundwater, helping prevent disease-causing microorganisms like Cryptosporidium and Giardia from entering your water supply. This is generally the case, and groundwater is typically a safe option for consumption. Unfortunately, the improper design, installation, or age of your well may mean that is it more susceptible to the infiltration of undesirable contaminants than you may think.
This is why it is advised that you test your well water annually and be proactive about keeping your family safe from pollutants in your drinking water with the installation of a Whole House Water Filter.
Choosing Your Whole House Water Filter
Filter Butler makes choosing the right filtration system for your well water simple. Based on the above information regarding smell, bacteria, and parasites, we recommend a Whole House Water Filter with the optional sub-micron post-filter as well as a UV filter.
If you choose to make a purchase through the site (rather than over the phone), start by selecting your rated capacity (300,000 gallons for three years or 1 million gallons for 10 years), whether you want to rent or purchase, and click “Add to cart.” From there, you’ll want to select “Customize your filter” and then add the UV Water Filter as well as Whole House Post Filter mentioned above (Note: if you select the UV Water Filter, the Whole House Post Filter will automatically be selected as these components work together). Selecting these customizable options provides you protection against common undesirables found in well water.
These options will help to provide you and your family with the best-tasting, cleanest and safest water possible. Rent or buy the Whole House Water Filter today and enjoy the peace of mind.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.