Whole house water filters should be sized so that you don't have to mess with them too often. NOTE: The pre- and post-filter elements as employed on the H2O-IL9A and other H2O International whole house units are common, replaceable sediment cartridges*. They are not protected from bacterial growth, so they should be changed-out at least once a year.
An example of this size and configuration of whole house water filter would be represented by ESD's H2O-IL9A filtration unit.
Another factor that indicates a filter the size of the H2O-IL9A (9" diameter x 48" tall tank) would be appropriate for up to 8 people is its "Recommended Flow Rate" of up to 8 gallons/minute. The rate of 8 gallons/minute should be adequate to cover most circumstances 5-8 people would represent for a potential "peak demand." For fewer than 5 people, you would probably be better served by a whole house system rated for peak flows not over 6 gallons/minute. That would suggest the need for a smaller filter, like ESD's H2O-IL7A. The H2O-IL9A will work just fine at the lower gallons/minute flow rates. It's just that larger filters cost more, so if the smaller filter looks to be adequate to the task, it may represent the more economical size for you.
The H2O-IL9A whole house water filter is augmented by an automatic backwash head assembly. The automatic backwash feature is employed when incoming sediment levels suggest that a) the pre-filter replaceable elements are going to need to be changed at least once a month or more often, and b) that the sediment is of such volume, or of such fine-grained nature, that significant quantities of it will get past the pre-filter.
Sediment that gets past or overwhelms the pre-filter can represent a damage potential to the media bed in the main filter tank. Such sediment can, effectively, "blind" the filter media, rendering it ineffective long before its actual capacity for absorbtion and adsorbtion has been realized. Premature filter media bed replacement represents an expense that would easily justify the additional initial expense of the automatic backwash valve head assembly. Units with the automatic backwash valve must have access to a floor drain for the backwash flush water.
Very typical Q&As about whole house water filtration:
-- How long will a whole house filter last?
-- Would I still need a water softener if I get a whole house filter?
(Or, same Q as above -- Would I need a whole house filter if I already have a water softener?)
-- How will I know when it's time to replace the filter media bed?
-- What water contaminants are NOT properly addressed by whole house filtration?
-- Can I install my own whole house unit? Does ESD install?
Q -- How long will the whole house filter last?
A -- In the process of arriving at this page by way of the Head-scratcher Q&A Key, you indicated that the whole house unit would be serving up to 4 people. The only way to figure an estimate on how long any size water filter will last is to consider that filter's rating in the number of total gallons of flow-through. How many gallons should it treat?
The H2O-IL9A filter tank contains enough combined GAC/KDF granular media to be rated for 750,000 gallons of flow-through. The average water usage in the USA has been estimated to be right at 80 gallons per person per day. For (let's say) six people, that's 480 gallons per day. A little math:
6 people x 80 gallons/person/day = 480 gallons/day
480 gallons/day x 365 day/year = 175,200 gallons/year
750,000 gallons (H2O-IL9A rating) divided by 175,200 gallons/year = 4.28 years (around 51 months)
Of course, there are many variables that can't be calculated. On average, how much chlorine is in the incoming water? What other chemicals will the filter be obliged to absorb and adsorb? Are any of the 4 people gone from the household most of the day? Most of the week? Did you have a bypass line plumbed-in to relieve the filter from processing water that will be used for rough, utility purposes (mopping, washing cars, etc.) -- like an outside hose bib or basement faucet. LOTS of variables. In most cases, users will get a longer service life out of these whole house and other water filters than the math would indicate.
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Q -- Would I still need a water softener if I get a whole house filter?
A -- What you need to know is that water filtration (chemicals reduction) and water softening (minerals reduction) are complementary but entirely separate technologies. In a word, yes, if you determine that you need a whole house water filter, whether you already have or install a new water softener will have no bearing on the function and purpose of the whole house water filter. Water filters will reduce things of a mineral nature a little bit, but not enough to brag about, and certainly not enough to decide you wouldn't need a water softener if you get a whole house filter. Vice versa for water softeners -- they might reduce things of a chemical nature a little bit, but not enough to say you wouldn't need a water filter.
H2O International water filters employ a combination of GAC (top grade coconut shell Granular Activated Carbon) and KDF (a synthetic filter media). Both are excellent filter media, both adsorbing (like a sweater picks-up lint) and absorbing (like a sponge soaks up water) things of a chemical nature, effectively removing them from the water that is flowing through the media bed. Water softeners, on the other hand, employ a ion exchange resin core that attracts (adsorbs) things of a mineral nature, effectively removing them from the water that passes through the softener tank.
Water filters and water softeners can work nicely as companion units, but their functions do not overlap to any significant degree. In a nutshell, water filters address contaminations that are more likely to be considered health hazards (chlorine, chlorine byproducts, pesticides, herbicides, etc.), whereas waster softeners address contaminants that are more likely to be considered a cosmetic problem (iron staining porcelain, calcium deposits, sulfur taste and odor, etc.).
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Q -- How will I know when it's time to replace the filter media bed?
A -- Though some companies sell units with little LED or other timer indicators on them, they are largely inaccurate. Face it, those "Time To Change Me" lights and other indicator mechanisms are not actually sampling the water that is passing by to tell you that -- "Hey, this thing is starting to let some chlorine get past it." An automatic, continuously sampling device like that exists, but it would probably cost more than the water filter itself. At best, they are little flow meters, indicating the number of gallons that have been passed through the filter. At best, they are harmless -- at worst, people who change filters when those little indicators say so are probably throwing away filters that have many weeks/months/years of good service life left in them.
The best "meter" to determine when a water filter is approaching the end of its useful service life is your own taste buds, and your own nose. Once you get "spoiled" on de-chlorinated water, be it for drinking water or shower water, any chlorine getting past the filter will be quite noticeable.
Think you might have tasted some chlorine in that last glass of water? Here's some factors to consider...
If your only water filter is a POE whole house unit, you may have drawn that glass of water at a moment when other household residents were also using/running water. Is somebody in the shower? Somebody else in a different restroom flushing the toilet? Someone brushing their teeth or running water to change the fish tank water? What I'm getting at is that the whole house filter may have been getting water passed through it at a rate that is pressing or exceeded its recommended flow-through rate. If you pass water through any filter at a rate that exceeds its recommended flow rate, it can't do as good a job of removing those chemicals -- like the chlorine you tasted. If you are the only one in the house and you draw a glass of water, that whole house unit will probably be functioning at a 90-99% chlorine reduction capacity. But, put it up to or over its recommended flow-through rate and that efficiency might be reduced to 70-80% chlorine reduction efficiency.
Finally, water filters -- anybody's water filters -- grow increasingly less efficient from day-1. Think of that sponge again. With every drop of water a sponge absorbs, it represents that much less capacity to absorb more. Water filter life (or I probably should say "death") is a gradual and sometimes subtle thing -- not a sudden collapse of filtering efficiency. They won't just suddenly quit on you altogether -- so when you first notice, or suspect, any chlorine getting past the filter, and the calendar (your calculation of how long the filter should last based on the number of people served) says it's probably getting close, then it's probably getting close. Time to replace the media bed.
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Q -- What water contaminants are NOT properly addressed by whole house filtration?
A -- Again, GAC/KDF are excellent filter media for removing things of a chemical nature, and not at all appropriate to address contaminations of a mineral or of a biological nature.
As mentioned above, removal/reduction of mineral contaminants are best addressed by ion exchange water conditioners (softeners). [NOTE: extremely heavy mineral contamination might call for additional/custom water treatment technology in addition or in place of ion exchange treatment]. Removal/reduction of things of a biological nature is referred to as "disinfection." Water filters do NOT represent disinfection technology.
If you are on a private well that has tested positive for coliform (e. coli) bacteria, an indicator organism, or have reason to suspect a biological contamination from whatever your source of incoming water, you would be well advised to consider installing a disinfection system. Again, water filtration and water softening may be effectively applied as companion technologies to a disinfection system -- but those three technologies should not be considered as representing any overlap in function.
There are other contaminants that may require special treatment technology to address, other than the standard water filtration, water softener or disinfection systems. Some examples might include persistent high nitrate levels, specific/exotic contaminations such as MTBE or other point-source industrial pollutants, or natural contaminants such as algae if you are drawing your water from a private pond.
Whatever the list of contaminants, there is a proper technology -- or a combination of various technological components to constitute a treatment system -- to address them all. Water treatment should not be a "hip shot" deal, and "one size fits all" usually represents a bad approach. That's not to say that most water treatment circumstances need to be treated by exotic and expensive custom-designed system. On the contrary, most water treatment circumstances are appropriately address by one or two common units working in companionship to deliver the desired water quality at the tap. Even on problem wells, probably fewer than 20% of them require any custom filter configuration.
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Q -- Can I install my own whole house unit? Does ESD install?
A -- ESD distributes water treatment units manufactured by H2O International all over the United States and beyond. In a word, NO, we do not install units, even on a local basis. For whole house units, we strongly recommend customers hire a qualified plumber to do the installation. Usually, installation of a whole house unit will involve some accessory plumbing -- like plumbing-in a bypass line, etc. Plumbers typically carry with them all the tools, piping, fittings and adapters a custom installation will require.
We DO recommend the customer specify how you want things to be -- like specifying a bypass line (if appropriate) and things like that. Probably no two household plumbing schemes are alike, so there's no way I can know what to recommend from this distance. It'd probably be best not to offer to help or "supervise" the plumber (some will even threaten to charge extra for that sort of "help"). Give him/her your instructions, hand over the installation instructions that come with the treatment unit, and leave the plumber to his/her work. Ask for a final inspection and show-and-tell by the plumber of what s/he did before calling it a done job.
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* The replaceable sediment cartridges are common hardware store items. Usually, system owners can acquire the replacement elements locally at far less cost than having them shipped directly to you. Ask for "10-inch sediment cartridges." In the case of the H2O-IL9A, the pre-filter element is a 5 micron pore size, the post-filter is a 1 micron pore size. These are simple sediment-straining filter elements and are not really considered as being involved in actual water treatment.
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