fresh clean water
we've tapped a few sources for the skinny on our water and filtering systems

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By: Thomas M. Ciesla

Treating Your Water
Water treatment technologies fall into two general categories: water softening and water filtration. Each can be installed either as a point-of-entry solution to treat all water coming into a home, or as a point-of-use solution, such as a filter at the kitchen sink. Water softening uses a sodium chloride solution to remove calcium and manganese ions that make our water “hard”. Water filtering removes suspended particulates and chemicals and is often combined with water softening to deliver clear, good tasting tap water. Activated carbon filters, either granulated or solid type, are the most effective means of removing cloudiness, chemicals and other suspensions.

Bill McGraw of Quality Water Systems notes that in some areas around metro-Houston, especially where well water is the primary source, excessive sediment in the water requires a multi-stage filtering approach to reduce wear and tear on just one filter system. As McGraw explains, , “Ninety-eight percent of our installations employ whole house systems along with point of use systems, usually for drinking water and ice makers.”

In the Houston area, manufacturers such as Culligan, Rainsoft and Eco offer a complete range of systems that can be purchased through retailers such as Sears or from water treatment contractors for the more sophisticated systems. A faucet mounted water filter will cost around $12 and give you some ability to filter out chlorine and suspensions. Small under sink filter units costing between $90 - $200 will have slightly larger filter cartridges capable of removing additional contaminants and will last a bit longer before needing replacement cartridges that cost anywhere from $9 to $35. These filtering systems are designed to provide bottled-water quality drinking water.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) units work very similar to our kidneys and produce the purest water of all by using pressure to push water through a semi-permeable membrane that filter out almost all contaminants. These units, priced between $300 - $700, are popular as under kitchen sink installations, providing drinking water at the sink and also feeding the refrigerator icemaker. RO does have some drawbacks that should be mentioned however: production is slow, averaging anywhere from 30- to-100 gallons in 24 hours, and the process is quite wasteful. Out of 100 gallons produced only 20 gallons are actually drinkable; the remaining 80 gallons go down the drain.

Point-of-entry water treatment systems are usually water-softening units combined with carbon filters, removing water hardness and contaminants such as sediment, chemicals, and organics before the water enters the house. These units are also available from the retail or professional outlets and require a space about the size of an air conditioning condenser slab. Proper sizing is crucial to a successful installation in order to satisfy local codes, assure proper water pressure and provide reasonable periods of time between backwashing and replacement of the filtering medium (sodium chloride crystals). Point-of-entry systems cost anywhere from $1,200 for smaller units, up to $4,500 for larger, more sophisticated units.

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If a home's tap water is salty, cloudy, or tastes bad, then it might be time to review water filter systems, like those at Culligan (

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