While listening to an episode of The Survival Podcast, it occurred to me that I should write a blog post about the pros and cons of reverse osmosis (RO) water filtration at home. In this article, I’ll share our decision-making process that led to the purchase of our system back in 2006, and hopefully, I’ll de-mystify the concept of using RO for your daily water needs.
Before 2006, we had used all sorts of filtered water options. We used pitchers, we used faucet-mounted filters, and we even subscribed to a bottled water service for a period of time. All of these options provided us with tasty water, but they were rather expensive, and some of the options weren’t very convenient. I know it sounds snooty, but I wasn’t willing to drink municipal tap water, so we started looking for a different option.
It wasn’t long before my husband suggested that we purchase and install a reverse osmosis system at the rental that we called home, but I had questions, of course. First, I wanted to know how complicated the install was. Second, I wanted to know if we’d be able to take it with us when we moved. And third, I wanted to know if it was going to be cheaper than the options we’d been using since there were still media filters that required changing and some servicing of the system that was required over time.
In the end, we decided to pay approximately $150 for a 5-stage RO system from Sam’s Club. Had we purchased that system in a home improvement store, we would have easily paid nearly $300, so we understood why folks were reluctant to make the initial investment.
We were fortunate because the kitchen sink at the home we were renting had a knock-out plate for the RO faucet. That meant that we didn’t have to modify property that was ours in any way, and we uninstalled the system and took it with us when we moved to our own home in 2009.
Before I talk about the pros and cons of our setup, I thought it important to mention that we didn’t know about things like the Berkey when we bought our system, and I’m fairly certain that even if we did, we still would ahve gotten an RO system for daily use.
After 13 years of using our system, here are the pros and cons we’ve discovered up to this point.
- Convenience — I don’t have to remember to fill a bucket or pitcher, nor do I have to fiddle with ice cube trays or containers of water in the fridge. Our setup is plumbed to our fridge, so we don’t have to worry about replacing fridge filters either. And when I want to cook with RO water, I just turn on the faucet.
- Footprint — Our RO setup does use space under the kitchen sink. The pressure tank and all the filter components are down there. As far as space use topside goes though, we have a small faucet that’s mounted in the right-hand corner of the sink and that’s it!
- Taste — Because everything is filtered out of our water, the taste is as pure as it gets. Because my kids have grown up drinking it, they turn their noses up when they have to drink water that’s full of grit, chlorine, and other assorted nasties.
- Fluoride and Minerals — I love the fact that my RO system removes fluoride from our drinking water. And since the minerals as removed as well, appliances like my hot pot, my steamer, and my coffee maker last a lot longer and don’t need to be de-scaled. Some folks see the lack of minerals in the water as a con, but there are remineralization polishing filters that you can use between the pressure tank and the faucet if you’re so inclined.
- RO systems require utility line pressure to function. In an emergency situation, you’re not going to get water from your swimming pool, dump it into your RO setup, and end up with filtered water at the faucet. For this reason, we store water, and we might consider something like a Berkey after we’ve addressed some of our other goals.
- RO systems use water to back-flush the RO membrane, so they do “waste” water. Some folks choose to divert that water into storage while others opt to use “low waste” kits that can reclaim some of that wasted water. We’ve never noticed excessive use from our setup, so we haven’t worried about it.
- You do need a bit of plumbing knowledge to install one of these setups. If plumbing isn’t your thing, you might need someone to help you with the install, but most of the maintenance is no more complicated than what you’d expect with a pitcher, whole house setup, or Berkey.
In the interests of full disclosure, some of the components that came with the original system have not lasted the 13 years that we’ve had our setup. Last year, we replaced the faucet, and a year or two before that, we replaced the pressure tank. It wasn’t until we set out to replace it that we learned those weren’t supposed to last more than 5 years anyway, so we lucked out.
We also replaced the RO membrane to a model that was rated for more gallons per day. The old membrane still worked, but the upgrade was a personal choice more than anything.
I feel so blessed to have access to delicious, safe drinking water, and I doubt I’ll ever use anything else as my primary source of water for drinking and cooking. That’s just what works for us though. As always, your mileage may vary.