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The Hard Water Corner

Common sense information about a common problem.

How Do Refrigerator filters and Reverse Osmosis Systems Differ?

What’s the difference between the filtered water that comes from the refrigerator and the filtration systems that treatment 8-glasses-of-water bluecompanies offer?

This is a question that we receive all the time. This entry will be a brief comparison amongst available household water filtration systems.

Most people don’t know the main differences between available household drinking water filtration systems. For example did you know that a lot of bottled water products are filtered at the same level as your refrigerator?  And that refrigerator filters hold more NSF certifications than some pitcher/pour style filters that you see at the grocery store. So we will first look at who the NSF is and what their role in water filter certifications and then compare refrigerator filters to household reverse osmosis drinking water systems.

The NSF is a third party non-profit organization dedicated to public health and safety. They certify millions of products through independent testing to assure safety and compliance. NSF has three main drinking water standards whereby drinking water filters are measured 42, 53, and 58 which is reverse osmosis.

NSF 42

NSF 42 NSF/ANSI 42 establishes the minimum requirements for the certification of POU/POE filtration systems designed to reduce specific aesthetic or non-health-related contaminants (chlorine, taste, odor and particulates) that may be present in public or private drinking water.

The scope of NSF/ANSI 42 includes material safety, structural integrity and aesthetic, non-health-related contaminant reduction performance claims. The most common technology addressed by this standard is carbon filtration.

Basically the certification of 42 is entry level/basic water filter mainly to remove chlorine, taste, and sediment. This is a good first step to producing high quality drinking water.

NSF 53

NSF/ANSI 53 establishes the minimum requirements for the certification of POU/POE filtration systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether), that may be present in public or private drinking water.

The scope of NSF/ANSI 53 includes material safety, structural integrity and health-related contaminant reduction performance claims. The most common technology addressed by this standard is carbon filtration.

Although the technology looks the same as standard 42 “carbon filtration” it’s a little bit different. The filter is engineered much tighter than a regular 42 carbon filter. For example 3M has two water filters one is NSF 42 certified filtering down to 5 micron, and one that is both 42/53 certified filtering down to .2 micron. As you can see this greatly enhances the filters ability to remove a broader range of known contaminants. Now we are getting somewhere. Some select refrigerator filters have both 42 and 53 listings.

Most filters available on the market today only have a NSF 42 listing which means it only removes chlorine, taste and odor. That is a good first step but compared to the JEA contaminant list it pales in comparison when compared to higher level filters. Some select filters include the NSF 53 listing in addition to the NSF 42 listing. You will notice that the more listings a filter has the more expensive the cost. However this is a cost that I personally don’t mind paying.

What does a reverse osmosis do that NSF 42 and 53 certified filters don’t do.

A reverse osmosis goes even further than the listings of NSF 42 and 53 by de-salting the water or reducing TDS. During this process the reverse osmosis system will remove dissolved minerals, metals and salts. Here is how it is listed at the NSF.

 NSF/ANSI 58 establishes the minimum requirements for the certification of point-of-use (POU) reverse osmosis systems designed to reduce contaminants that may be present in public or private drinking water.

The scope of NSF/ANSI 58 includes material safety, structural integrity, total dissolved solids (TDS) reduction and other optional contaminant reduction claims. The most common optional claims addressed by NSF/ANSI 58 include cyst reduction, hexavalent and trivalent chromium reduction, arsenic reduction, nitrate/nitrite reduction, and cadmium and lead reduction.

A reverse osmosis also removes the salt that is produced by softening water. When you install a water softener the ion-exchange process adds a trace amount of sodium to the drinking water. The reverse osmosis will remove the added sodium. My next blog is dedicated to how much salt gets added to softened water by a water softener and why does it matter. But basically, by reducing TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) the reverse osmosis will yield a product water that is considered pure. Things like salts, chromium, and other potentially harmful contaminants will not be removed by filters that are NSF 42 and 53 certified only. The 3M RO 401 holds NSF certifications 42, 53, and 58. (It’s also one of the only RO’s on the market that hold all three certifications.)

When compared to the JEA quality water report the reverse osmosis system will cover a wider range of our current contaminants making it the popular choice among homeowners. Basic carbon filters and even some more capable refrigerators cannot reduce contaminants the way a reverse osmosis can.

What Next for Drinking Water?

The next group of contaminants that are being researched currently are called “Emerging Contaminants”. These deal with prescription drugs, over the counter medications and chemical compounds. Many experts agree that the most effective method to deal with the Emerging Contaminants category is reverse osmosis. There are no MCL’s (Maximum Contaminant Levels) set for Emerging Contaminants at this time.

Conclusion

There are a lot of contaminants that can effect human health. Removing each contaminant is a process that can be tricky and has to be tested to certify the specific contaminant has been removed. When selecting a water filtration system select one with all three of the NSF certifications 42, 53, and 58 just to be sure.

Note: its Florida State law that all reverse osmosis systems be NSF 58 certified. Before you buy a water filter from an independent dealer clarify if it is certified then ask to see the page in the owner’s manual that lists the NSF compliance. There is a flood of cheap imported water filter systems on the market that have not been tested and listed with the NSF and therefore should not be used in Florida.

Sincerely

Brad Berdon

 

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Soft Water and Snow Birds

Soft Water and Snow Birds.florida snow bird

It’s not hard to understand why it is that so many experienced citizens relocate here to North East Florida for their retirement. What’s not to like? Located close to water at every turn along with pleasant weather most of the year make our area an ideal location.  The only ice around here is in your freezer and the hardware stores don’t stock anything related to snow.

snow birdsHowever if you are relocating from the North East then you may never have had the need for a water softener before.  Florida Water Technologies Inc. is a leading provider of water softeners for Del Webb Ponte Vedra, Nocatee and the greater Jacksonville FL area. Our experience with the water softeners and the come and go lifestyle of snow birds have lead me to write this blog. I regularly get asked about the following two topics.

Turning off the water supply when leaving town-Does it hurt the water softener?

Most of our snow bird customers like turning off the water to the entire home when leaving town. This does not hurt the water softener in any way. It will actually save your salt supply in the softener tank by turning off the water. However you do not want to unplug the water softener. It’s critical to leave the system plugged in while you are away. Sometimes people unplug the softener when the turn off the water because they don’t want to hurt the softener. You cannot hurt the softener by turning off the water but you should leave it plugged in.

Noticing a strong rotten egg smell upon your return-is it the water softener?

No. The water softener cannot produce the odor of rotten eggs. The leading cause of rotten egg odor in your home is the water heater. Upon leaving town water naturally stops flowing through the plumbing system causing the water to become stagnant. In the water heater it’s nice and warm which makes a great place for bacteria to grow. When bacteria die and decay it gives off the smell of rotten eggs. The best thing to do to eradicate this problem is to drain down the water heater once you get back in town. You can either use a hose to drain down the water heater from the garage or you can use the bath tub. To use the bathtub simply open the hot side only and let it run for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the water heater). You may want to open a window as the smell could be very strong depending on how long you have been gone. The water heater will refill with fresh running water and the smell will be gone. There is a way to confirm that the smell is coming from the water heater. First select a faucet inside the home that has independent hot and cold valves (not a blended valve where one lever controls the hot and cold as these fixtures provide a mixture of hot and cold which makes it hard to isolate). Next run water from the cold side only fill a clean cup about half way and put your nose as close the water in the cup and smell. Do the same thing on the hot side. 90% of the time you will find the hot side is the only side with the smell. If the softener could cause a smell like rotten eggs it would be consistent on the hot and cold side of the plumbing system.

I hope this helps and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Brad 

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How a water softener works

There are different types of water softeners

A water softener in Jacksonville removes the calcium and magnesium which is prevalent in hard water; it does this magic through ion exchange. Hard water makes things much more difficult than they have to be; hard water makes cleaning difficult, it leaves a scum on the fixtures in the bath and kitchen, leaves water spots on the dishes and makes clothing appear dull and grey.

Hard water comes from ground water such as the aquifer. This happens as the water is surrounded by underground rock structures that are rich in minerals, including calcium and magnesium; it is these two minerals that make water “hard”. The measurement for hard water is somewhat strange, it is measured in grains per gallon and each grain of hardness is equivalent to the weight of one grain of wheat. Water which has calcium and magnesium content in excess of 3 GPG is said to be hard, if the GPG reaches 10 it is considered to be very hard.

There are chemicals that can be added to commercial detergents which will soften the water that is used for laundry, but these chemicals are no use when the objective is to soften the water that is used throughout the house; this is done through ion exchange. An ion is a molecule which has an electrical charge, a water softener in Jacksonville contains an exchange medium; this starts out with a coating of sodium ions with a positive charge. The ions of the two offending minerals, calcium and magnesium are also positively charged but their charge is greater than that of the sodium. As the hard water runs through the exchange medium, the ions of calcium and magnesium are captured as they have a stronger attraction. The sodium ions are freed from the medium.

Sooner or later the exchange medium is completely coated with the ions from the calcium and magnesium, when this occurs; the system is backwashed and recharged. The ions of the minerals form a compound with the chlorine which is used in the backwash process and they are washed out, the sodium ions reattach themselves to the exchange medium and the cycle repeats.

Depending on how much attention the homeowner wishes to pay to his water softener in Jacksonville the units are available in manual, semi-automatic and full automatic. Full automatic is by far the choice of most homeowners.

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Water Filtration Systems for Florida

Water Filtration systems for Florida

Homeowners often want to improve the quality of their water using filtration. Water filters come in a variety of sizes for different applications. Some want filtered water just for their kitchen uses others want water filtration to be applied to the whole house. The most popular filtration media is carbon. Carbon is very porous and has an incredible ability to filter chlorine and other contaminants.

Chlorine is added to our water supply by the municipal water treatment companies. The purposechlorine for chlorine is to control pathogenic bacteria in our drinking water. Unfortunately, this chemical may present potential complications to human health as well as complicate the life of a water softener. We will spend the next few minutes talking about options that a homeowner has in reducing the chemical chlorine in their homes.

I am not a medical doctor so I cannot definitively determine the exact cause and effects of consuming chlorine. However, I can speak to the effects of chlorine causing damage to water softeners.

Water softeners in Jacksonville FL, have a daunting task. Not only does a water softener have to soften some of the hardest water in the nation but it also must function with some of the highest chlorine levels in the nation. Most of the internal parts inside a water softener have extreme sensitivity to chlorine exposure and will yield a lower life expectancy under prolonged exposure. Water softeners typically all work the same. There is a series of cycles where by the system will perform regeneration. Most softeners use a piston driven style, where a movable piston will push and pull itself into different valve positions. These different valve positions are separated by seals and spacers. These parts are the only wearable items inside a water softening system. The rubbery nature of the seals are excellent in making a seal around the piston however they are extremely sensitive to chlorine.

Another area of concern is the softening media called resin. It’s made of styrene which looks and feels like plastic. Prolonged exposure to chlorine will greatly reduce the life expectancy of ion-exchange resins. In some cases, depending on chlorine levels, the water softening resin life span can be reduced by 75%!! When that happens you could lose the water pressure to your homes plumbing system. Most people in that case call the municipal water treatment company. The water treatment company will instruct homeowners who experience a water pressure drop to put the water softener into the bypass position. This will restore water pressure to the home but you will not have treated water any longer. The water softener will need a repair.

The best way to apply carbon filtration to a water treatment system is through pre-filtration. That simply means installing a designed filter ahead of the water softener system. A certified carbon pre filter will not only deliver higher quality water to every tap in the house but it will protect the water softener from the woes of chlorine-greatly prolonging the life expectancy. Surprisingly a lot of companies do not offer a certified carbon pre-filter.

Side note: Florida Law requires that carbon filters must meet certain criteria to be eligible for legal sale in our state. With a large influx of Chinese made filter media and cartridges, you will have to look closely to see if the filter meets Florida’s requirements or not. If the water system that is being proposed does not bear the certifications needed please seek a second opinion before you move forward. If you would like more information on this topic send me a message.

Sincerely,

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Is Your Water Treatment Company Insured?

Today I wanted to invite a friend of mine, Andrew Roberts with We Insure Florida, to provide some information to better protect homeowners. It is very necessary to understand the risk you take when you hire a company to provide services at your home. There are two main types of insurance that a water conditioning company should carry to protect their customers and themselves from undo risk. When installing a water softener system at your home you always have the potential to cause damage to the property along with the potential for a worker to become injured on your property while working.

“Andrew, why should a company carry General Liability Insurance?”

That’s a great question Brad. The risk that a homeowner faces while hiring an uninsured company is tremendous. When a resident hires a company that doesn’t have General Liability Insurance then the homeowner’s insurance policy will be responsible if damages occur. This could be something simple all the way up to something catastrophic. I have seen examples of the worker putting a hole in a wall all the way up to knocking out the entire block’s power. Both of these situations could leave the homeowner paying out major expenses if they were using a crew that did not carry the proper insurance for the job.

“Andrew, what if a worker gets hurt while working at the residence?”iStock 000010666919Small

Good question. Workers Compensation Insurance is especially important in a businesses like water treatment when workers are lifting bags of salt and heavy water softeners. You see, if an uninsured worker gets hurt while performing work at a residence then the liability of the homeowners insurance medical payments would be responsible for the hospital bills incurred by the worker. Now that may not seem fair but in Florida anyone invited into your home to do a job for you is considered an “invited guest” and the homeowner is responsible for anything that happens to the property when dealing with an uninsured crew.

"Andrew, what can our readers do to protect themselves?”

Make sure the company that you are considering is carrying General Liability and Workers Compensation insurance. If you aren’t sure ask the company to see their policies that document their coverage. Most companies will have no problem providing a copy of coverage to the homeowner before work begins.

 

Thanks Andrew.

Florida Water Technologies Inc. is audited every year to make sure that our company has accurate coverage and limits. We would never put our customers at risk by cutting corners on things like liability and workers compensation insurance.

 

we insure fl

Andrew Roberts is owner of We Insure Florida Ponte Vedra location. They specialize in providing homeowners insurance policies as well as auto coverage too. If you are moving to Florida and need some help with your insurance needs. Or if you have any questions for Andrew he can be reached by calling 904-373-9001. Or you can CLICK HERE to visit Andrew online. 

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