Reverse Osmosis is a process in which dissolved inorganic solids (such as salts) are removed from a solution (such as water). This is accomplished by household water pressure pushing the tap water through a semipermeable membrane.
A few impurities found in tap water that can be removed with Reverse Osmosis filtration technology:
When household water pressure pushes water through the RO membrane and additional filters, such as sediment or carbon filters, the impurities are filtered out and subsequently flushed down the drain. What is left, is delicious, clean-tasting drinking water. Note that many RO units incorporate a 4-5 stage process for optimal water quality.
You may be interested to know that Reverse Osmosis technology is not new. In fact, RO processes began being utilized by municipalities back in 1977. Since then, Reverse Osmosis has become increasingly popular because it is safe, cost-effective, and easy to maintain.
Generally, residential “Point Of Use” POU RO systems are installed and stored under the kitchen sink. Regarding the common components of a four to five-stage RO system, note that:
- Most RO systems look similar and have the same basic components.
- Although most RO systems look and work basically the same way –they differ in the QUALITY of their components.
- Cold Water Line Valve: Valve that fits onto the cold water supply line. The valve has a tube that attaches to the inlet side of the RO pre filter. This is the water source for the RO system.
- Pre-Filter(s): Water from the cold water supply line enters the Reverse Osmosis Pre Filter first. There may be more than one pre-filter used in a Reverse Osmosis system, the most common being sediment and carbon filters. These pre-filters are used to PROTECT the RO membranes by removing sand silt, dirt, and other sediment that could clog the system. Additionally, carbon filters may be used to remove chlorine, which can damage the RO membranes.
- Reverse Osmosis Membrane: The Reverse Osmosis Membrane is the heart of the system. The semipermeable RO membrane is designed to remove a wide variety of both aesthetic and health-related contaminants. After passing through the membrane, the water goes into a pressurized storage tank where treated water is stored.
- Storage Tank: The standard RO storage tank holds from 2 – 4 gallons of water. A bladder inside the tank keeps water pressurized in the tank when it is full. The typical under counter Reverse Osmosis tank is 12 inches in diameter and 15 inches tall.
- Post filter(s): After the water leaves the RO storage tank, but before going to the RO faucet, the treated water goes through a final “post filter”. The post filter is usually a carbon filter. Any remaining tastes or odors are removed from the product water by post filtration “polishing” filter.
- Automatic Shut Off Valve (SOV): To conserve water, the RO system has an automatic shut off valve. When the storage tank is full, the automatic shut off valve closes to stop any more water from entering the membrane and blocks flow to the drain. Once water is drawn from the RO faucet, the pressure in the tank drops; the shut off valve then opens to send the drinking water through the membrane while the contaminated wastewater is diverted down the drain.
- Check Valve: A check valve is located in the outlet end of the RO membrane housing. The check valve prevents the backward flow of treated water from the RO storage tank. A backward flow could rupture the RO membrane.
- Flow Restrictor: Water flowing through the RO membrane is regulated by a flow restrictor. There are many different styles of flow controls, but their common purpose is to maintain the flow rate required to obtain the highest quality drinking water (based on the gallon capacity of the membrane). The flow restrictor also helps maintain pressure on the inlet side of the membrane. Without the additional pressure from the flow control, very little drinking water would be produced because all the incoming water would take the path of least resistance and simply flow down the drain line. The flow control is most often located in the RO drain line tubing.
- Faucet: The RO unit uses its own faucet, which is usually installed on the kitchen sink. Some areas have plumbing regulations requiring an air gap faucet, but non-air gap models are more common
- Drain line: This line runs from the outlet end of the Reverse Osmosis membrane housing to the drain. The drain line is used to dispose of the wastewater containing the impurities and contaminants that have been filtered out by the reverse osmosis membrane.