5 FAQs About Point-of-Use Water Treatment

With tap water quality consistently in the news, some of your customers may be interested in installing point-of-use treatment systems. Here are some of the inquiries that may come up.
5 FAQs About Point-of-Use Water Treatment
Many systems consist of multiple filters. While this system from Glacier Bay has its own floor-mounted case, most systems are attached to the side of the cabinet.

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The safety of the water coming out of our taps has been in the news a lot lately. As with anything that gets media attention, there is good information, misinformation and just plain bad information. Many homeowners are concerned and confused about their drinking water. Whether you want to develop a business selling and installing water treatment systems, or you just want to be able to provide information to your customers, here's list of questions they might ask.

1. How do I know if I need a water treatment system?

Find out by consulting the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), sometimes called the Water Quality Report. Every water utility that serves more than 25 people is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to test its water and provide customers with an annual report. The EPA tracks about 90 known contaminants, and the report will list the levels of the contaminants, if any, that are in the water. The amount of contaminants can be compared to what the EPA considers a safe level. The report also lists possible sources of the contaminants.  

It is important to realize that once the water leaves the treatment facility it can pick up contaminants from the pipes it flows through. In addition, drinking water contains elements that are not harmful to most people but affect the taste, smell or appearance of the water. That's why some tap water may smell like chlorine or rotten eggs, or why the water may appear cloudy.

People who get their water from private wells will not have a CCR. Their only recourse is to have the water tested by a certified testing laboratory. The EPA recommends annual testing for:

  • Nitrates
  • Coliform bacteria
  • Total dissolved solids
  • pH levels

2. Why not just drink bottled water?

Bottled water is about 2,000 times more expensive than tap water, and it is not an environmentally friendly alternative. The average price of a gallon of bottled water is $1.20, although some boutique brands cost much more. Compare that to tap water, which costs less than a penny per gallon. When you consider that most bottled water is sold in single-serving (16.9-ounce) bottles, the cost rises to over $7 a gallon.

On the environmental front, the plastic used for the bottles is a petroleum-based product. Some estimates say it takes about 17 million barrels of oil per year to make the plastic and fabricate the bottles. That is enough oil to power about 1 million cars for a year — and it does not include the fuel consumed to transport the bottles from the bottling plant to store shelves. While plastic water bottles are 100 percent recyclable, only about 32 to 37 percent are recycled. The rest end up in landfills.

One last point about bottled water: About 45 percent of the bottled water on the market is not water from a pristine mountain spring, but purified tap water.

3. How can I purify my tap water?

A point-of-use (POU) water treatment system allows homeowners to install a compact system that will clean up the water they use for drinking and cooking, rather than installing a system that filters all of the water that enters the house. As a category, POU systems include countertop pitchers and filters that attach to the kitchen sink faucet, but the focus of this article is on the types that are installed under the sink and come with a dedicated faucet.

These systems make use of a few different filtering technologies that include activated carbon, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light:

  • Carbon filters do a good job of removing the things that affect the smell and taste of the water, but some can also remove harmful contaminants.
  • Reverse osmosis systems force water through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane acts like a screen to remove particles. Filters and the contaminants they remove are measured in microns. A human hair is about 100 microns, but some bacteria, like E. coli, can be 0.2 to 4 microns. The reverse osmosis process takes some time, so these systems include a storage tank so that water is available when needed.
  • Ultraviolet systems zap water with UV light to kill bacteria.

No one technology removes all contaminants; so many water treatment products use a combination of treatment technologies. Systems can consist of a single filter or two or more filters in sequence to remove specific contaminants. Reverse osmosis systems often include carbon prefilters and postfilters to treat the water. 

4. How do I pick a system?

It is important to know what needs to be filtered out of the water so that you can target the problem with the right type of system. That's why reviewing the CCR or testing the water is the first step in the process.

When looking at products, you will see claims on packaging and in manufacturers' literature like "removes 99 percent of lead" or "removes 100 percent of bacteria." Both the Water Quality Association and NSF International certify water treatment products, allowing you to check out the claims of a product you are considering.

You should also consider the flow rate of a product. Carbon systems provide information in gallons per minute, reverse osmosis systems are listed by the number of gallons they can filter in a day. Other extras to look for include indicator lights that signal when it is time to change the filters and systems that provide a selection of faucet finishes. 

5. What will it cost?

POU systems are relatively inexpensive when compared with whole-house filters. The cost depends on a number of factors, including the number of water treatment technologies used.

  • A single filtering cartridge system may cost under $100.
  • A multi-stage carbon filter system will run between $100 and $250.
  • A reverse osmosis system can cost anywhere from $150 to $400.

Installation is straightforward, and the kits contain everything needed, making it easy to get filtered drinking water in your home.

About the Author
Fran Donegan writes home- and garden-related content for numerous digital and print publications. He is the author of the books Pools and Spas and Paint Your Home. To learn more about water treatment systems like those referenced in this article, visit The Home Depot website.


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