Water Filtration Systems


The Most Common Disadvantages
Of Reverse Osmosis

The disadvantages of reverse osmosis are several, but the main that to remember is that additional steps are required for complete purification.  So, if asked, “Does reverse osmosis make water safe to drink?”  You can answer, not if that is the only system used. 

Most of the disadvantages of reverse osmosis (or RO, as it is commonly abbreviated) apply to home use of the system.  Some, however, such as waste-water created, apply to anywhere that the systems are used.

The process works by forcing highly pressurized liquids through a membrane.  Think of tying a dish towel over the mouth of a bucket and then spraying the cloth with your high pressure hose.  A little water would end up in the bucket, but a lot would end up on the ground.  That’s basically what happens in RO.  Depending on the system, as many as 5 gallons end up on the ground for every one that gets in the bucket.

From an environmental and a financial standpoint, waste-water is one of the biggest disadvantages of reverse osmosis, but the systems also use other resources.  Electricity is needed to run the pumps.  At home, one would notice a big jump in the electric bill.  Now, let’s look at what the system can and cannot remove.

RO’s best application is for desalination or removing the salt from sea water.  It can remove the minerals from power plant boiler-water, so that deposits are not left on the machinery.  It can be used to improve the quality of rain-water for crop irrigation.  And, it can be used to remove sewage from domestic waste water before it gets back into the drinking supply.

 Those are the “cans” and they are all good applications.  The disadvantages of reverse osmosis concern the things that it cannot remove.

RO membranes cannot block chlorine or other chemical contaminants.  They cannot block bacteria or microns smaller than the size of the pores in the membrane.  Those are only two things, but they are very important.  No, because of the presence of chemicals, bacteria and micron particles is the complete answer to “does reverse osmosis make water safe to drink”.

In a complete system, carbon filters, chemical or UV disinfection and additional micron filters are used to completely purify.  Then minerals are added back into the water, because drinking de-mineralized or distilled on a regular basis has been shown to cause health problems.  After re-mineralization and adjusting the pH levels, the liquid can then be deemed “safe”.

Last but not least of the disadvantages of reverse osmosis is price.  While other whole house systems can be bought for around a thousand dollars, RO systems start at $10,000.

That’s a deciding factor for many people and a huge difference to anyone, especially when you know the answer to does reverse osmosis make water safe to drink.   If additional measures are needed and must be purchased, then the cost continues to grow.  Plus, the membranes require constant maintenance and frequent replacement, depending on the quality of the source-water.

The bottom line is that, for most people, the disadvantages of reverse osmosis outweigh the conceivable benefits.  In the majority of cases, there are better choices for your home.

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