Water Filtration Equipment & Installation

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Fix-Me-Up Water Filtration Equipment & Installation List of Recommended Plumbing Books

Homeowner's Complete Guide to Plumbing; Merle Henkenius; Hardcover (Hard to Find)

Means Plumbing Change Order Cost Data, 1991; John J. Moylan; Paperback (Hard to Find)

Means Plumbing Cost Data 1994; Melville J. Mossman (Editor); Paperback (Hard to Find)

Residential Plumbing; Peter Jones; Hardcover (Hard to Find)

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Section 3.0 - Types of Filters

There are different type of filters available to remove many different types of contamination and sediment from water. In this book, I am covering the main, most commonly used, cost effective filters available on the market today. I have not covered the filtration used to remove radon, a problem that has came to light in the last number of years. The best known filtration for radon is a reverse-osmosis filtration system. Because it is significantly different in how it operates relative to iron filters and water softeners and the relatively small number of people who actually need it, I did not cover the topic in this book.

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3.1 Cartridge Filters

In line media (cartridge) type filters that remove rust particles down to 20 microns in diameter are readily available. (See Figure 1.) End of faucet filters are available down to 1 micron. A micron is equal to one millionth of a meter. Cartridge type filters are available for sand, sediment and suspended gases.

Figure 1 - Cartride Filter

Figure 1 - Cartridge Filter

There are also carbon cartridge filters that remove some iron & sulfur provided the contaminate is not a very high concentration. The faucet type cartridge filters work for most contamination problems, however, lose water pressure and require frequent filter changing. The question in how well and long do cartridge filters work. The higher the concentration of minerals in your water, the sooner the filter has to be changed.

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3.2.0 Automatic Backwash Filters

The most trouble free, automatic type of filter to remove iron and sulfur is an automatic backwash type water filter. The standard filters are manufactured to accommodate residential and small commercial needs. The filters are identical to water softeners with the exception that the softener resin is replaced with a different media.

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3.2.1 Iron & Sulphur Filters

Magnesium greensand or similar media is used for the iron & sulphur filter. Types of contamination iron & sulfur filters can remove are red water iron and clear water iron. These are the most common iron contaminations and are the major cause for rusty water that stains clothing and fixtures. Other contaminates besides iron are manganese, sulphur, dirt, and other suspended matter. The iron & sulphur filter can remove up to 10 to 12 parts per million of red or clear water iron depending on manufacturer and size of filter.

A quick and dirty test other than having your water tested is to run the water through a white cloth rag and see if the water stains the rag orange. Another indication of a red or clear water iron is to put raw water from your system in a container and see if it has turned the pan orange inside after setting for a few hours.

The easiest way to get your water tested is to take a sample to your local county health department. A second way to get your water tested is to have a water softener sales person visit you to test your water and give you a sales pitch. If you have two to three hours and a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars extra to spend on a filter system have a water softener sales person sell you a system. Otherwise get the parts and have a handy friend help you put it in. If you get into trouble, you can always hire a plumber to untangle the system. At least you can save some cost of the labor and the profit markup on the system.

The automatic backwash filter eliminates the need to change filters as most in line cartridge filters require.(See Figure 2) The only catch is that some require a chemical to be put into a chemical tank. This tank is similar to the brine tank on a water softener system except that it is much smaller, typically 5 gallons. The chemical used in these type of tanks is Potassium permanganate, a deadly poison. The iron filter uses the chemical to attract the iron in the filter to itself and is then backflushed from the media during a regeneration cycle.

Figure 2 - Smaller Backwash Type Iron Filter

Regeneration cycle times are dependant on the amount of suspended matter in your water supply and the type of regeneration control on your filter. Most filters as well as water softeners have Time-Clock controls while the more sophisticated controls are metered. The Time-Clock control regenerate the system on intervals (typically a fixed amount of chemical is used to regenerate the filter media) every certain number of days. Metered systems regenerate based on number of gallons used. This is the best regeneration system control, however, is seldom offered with an Iron & Sulfur filter.

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3.2.2 Automatic Chemical Feeder

The iron filter in most cases comes with an automatic chemical feeder.(See Figure 3) This feeder is very similar to the brine tank on a water softener system except that it is smaller. Most feeder tanks hold a total of 5 gallons liquid capacity and a 30 pound Potassium Permangante capacity. For safety reasons, the feeders covers are attached with screws. This is to prevent children and pets from getting into them.

Figure 3 - Backwash Iron Filter with Chemical Feeder Tank

The system typically includes a drain tube, suction tube, and have an overflow fitting on them. When purchasing ask if the system you are purchasing has these items. You could end up purchasing them when you should have received them with the system.

One source for iron filters via the Internet is GOODH2O.  They sell the lowest cost water softener products on the internet that I've found.

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3.2.3 Potassium Permanganate

The chemical compound used to regenerate iron and sulfur filters is Potassium Permanganate. This mixes with water to regenerate the iron filter. Each manufacturer of iron & sulfur filters has specific recommendations on the amount of chemical you need to regenerate your particular system. The chemical bottles also have information concerning the recommended amount of chemical for correct treatment and economy.

used to regenerate iron filters is a POISON.

                  Use extreme care when handling this chemical.


Potassium Permanganate is a very corrosive chemical. Care must be used when using this chemical. Read the caution labels very carefully. Should your water ever turn pink to red to deep purple in color, do not drink the water. Potassium Permanganate can be toxic. Have your unit checked by a plumber should your water change to pink to deep purple in color.

An OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and Material Data Sheet (MSDS) can be obtained from chemical suppliers. The MSDS can provide you with additional information concerning the use and safety aspects of this chemical compound. Don't be afraid to ask for the MSDS data sheet, most corporate buyers will not even purchase a chemical from a supplier without the data sheet so most suppliers will give you one as a matter of course in doing business.

Note: It is not recommended to try using potassium permaganate to get the rust out of anything. It does not cause the rust to become suspended like other rust removal products. As I stated in Section 2.2.1, the chemical attracts the iron to it from the filter media. If you get the chemical on anything from the backwash cycle, it will be end up either very purple, very rust orange, or a combination of both depending on what part of the regeneration cycle the backwash comes from.

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3.3 Taste & Odor Removal Filter

3.3.1 Carbon Filter

The iron & sulphur filter is not good for removal of organic iron or matter. To remove organic matter, musty odors, or chlorine tastes, a highly activated carbon filter should be used. The larger, household size filters are identical to the iron & sulfur filter in appearance and installation except the filter media. These filters do not require chemicals to regenerate. The bad news is that this filter will not remove sulphur odor, red water iron, or clear water iron.

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3.4 Lead Filter/Heavy Metals

If your water tests positive for lead or what is termed as a heavy metal, there are in line filters designed to remove the contamination(See Figure 4). The filters are typically one time use and can filter up to 5,000 gallons of water (or 1 year of service). They are typically installed in-line on your drinking water line and cost between $45 and $90. Connection type and size is dependant upon the manufacturer.

Figure 4 - Lead Removal Filter

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3.5 Water Softeners

There are two basic types of controls for water softeners. The control operates the water softeners valve system. The older mechanical timer is the most widely used and lowest cost water softener currently being sold. The timer type softener regenerates at a regular, programmed interval. The timer is typically set so the unit will regenerate during an off use time. The latest type is a microprocessor controlled unit that regenerates based on the amount of water you use. This is the lowest cost unit to operate, however, is more expensive to purchase.

Water softeners come in two basic forms. One form is as an integrated unit (See Figure 5). This is more for space savings and sold as a designer type of softener. The other form of tank is the standard two tank system(See Figure 6). One tank contains the synthetic resin for the filter and the shorter tank is the salt brine tank. The cost of a typical 24,000 grain system is $ 400 to $ 500 dollars.

Figure 5 - Integrated Water Softener

Water softeners remove the hardness from water by attracting the minerals in the water to a synthetic resin bed inside the water softener. The calcium and magnesium ions are removed from the raw water by being attracted to the resin. These ions are later removed from the resin when they are exchanged for sodium ions from a brine solution during regeneration. The brine solution is made from rock salt or salt pellets and water put into the brine tank during the regeneration cycle. Salt pellets and rock salt are available at local supermarkets and hardware stores.

Figure 6 - Typical Two Tank Water Softener

A water softener will remove up to 10 parts per million of iron and gets a noticeable amount of iron out of the water. A problem arises when there is to much iron for the water softener to get out. What occurs is the water softener will stop softening once it has saturated with mineral ions. This is what occurred with my system. Because my major contamination problem was clear water iron, I put the iron filter in front of my water softener (Between the well and water softener). This greatly reduced the regeneration cycle times on my water softener and I even get softened water now.

One source for water softeners & iron filters via the Internet is GOODH2O.  They sell the lowest cost water softener products on the internet that I've found.

Tip: Some water softener manufacturer's claim they have a special bacteria eliminating resin in the top of their units. This resin needs to be replenished every year or so for great tasting water. The truth is that their claim is somewhat true.   Dumping a cup of laundry bleach through a regular water softener (via the brine tank) every 3 months can kill bacteria as well and costs less.  As was pointed out by one "Water Conditioning Professional" who is not happy with this publication (as it cuts into his livelyhood), resins and bleach do not get along and if left in the resin tank will destroy a number of manufacturer's resins.  

If you really want the special bacteria eliminating resin, you could walk into one of these manufacturer's dealers outlets and purchase the resin, go home and take the top off your water softener and dump it in per their instructions. If you can't get it all in, the next time you need to put some more it (typically once a year), scoop enough off the top to get it all in.   I have never bothered to do anything with the resin tank since this is, in a number of instances, just another means of selling you something you neither need nor want.  Unless there is a problem with the system, I never open the resin tank, barring a bacterial contamination of the well.

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Section 4.0 - Pipe

There are 4 types of pipe typically used around the country. They are PVC (poly vinyl chloride), copper, lead, and black iron. Since lead pipe is a health hazard and outlawed for use as a water pipe and black iron is only in very old houses as well as rusts, I will be describing installations using PVC and copper pipe.

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3.6 ph Filters

PH filters are used to raise the ph level to the neutral level. The filter won't raise it any higher than that.  Primary use of these systems is to treats corrosive (acidic) water. Alkalinity and pH are increased through processing.    The way the residential units typically work is that water passses through a granular calcite material (calcium carbonite, marble or lime)

A mix of calcite and magnesium oxide can also be used if the water is very acidic. If a higher flow rate is needed, a system to chemically feed soda ash, sodium carbonate or caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) is sometimes. These systems increase the sodium content of water, whereas using calcite or lime increases calcium.

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4.1 PVC Pipe

Should PVC pipe be used for your plumbing, substitute plastic pipe for copper tubing from the parts list and use PVC pipe adhesive instead of solder with flux. Instead of soldering, the adhesive is applied to the PVC pipe and assembled. PVC pipe and adhesive is available at most hardware stores and plumbing outlets. Follow the manufacturers directions and wait times.

If preferred, you can still use copper pipe. The cost between copper and PVC on a small job like a water filter installation is not much. The only additional parts would be a pair of compression unions designed for PVC to copper connections.

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4.2 Copper Pipe Soldering/Joint Sweating

The majority of homes in the United States have copper pipe. For that reason, the installation instructions are written for sweating copper pipe joints. This is typically done with a small inexpensive propane torch. These torches are open flame devices. Use extreme care so you don't set anything on fire or burn yourself. For your safety, have a fire extinguisher in the area when doing the installation.

Figure 7 - Solder Fillet Detail

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4.3 Three Way Valve (3-way)

One of the key details to any installation is the installation of a three way valve bypass. This valve configuration will allow you to bypass your filter should you need to have work done on the system or you take the system with you when you move. There are two ways to accomplish the valving. One is to use a commercial bypass valve(See Figure 8).

Figure 8 - Commercial 3-way Bypass Valve

The second is to make your 3-way from three individual valves. If time is money and ease of installation is important, the commercial 3-way valve is the way to go. If you have time on your hands and want to save 25 to 30 percent of the cost of the commercial valve, the three valve configuration is the lowest cost way to go (See Figure 9).

Figure 9 - 3-way Valving Set-up

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