How Does a Reverse Osmosis System Work?

Did you know that contaminated water has a hand in over 80% of all mortalities? Ouch, that’s scary, but the United Nations records that polluted water can be more catastrophic than the worst pandemic! Fortunately, water purification methods such as reverse osmosis come in handy!

So, how does a reverse osmosis system work? Reverse osmosis water filter employ high pressure to pump water through a semi-permeable RO membrane, leaving the impurities and dissolved salts behind.

I know you’re burning with questions about how exactly RO systems get impurities off your water. And, this post:

  • Explains in detail what reverse osmosis is all about.
  • Describes a step-by-step RO water filtration process
  • It tells you how RO systems remove salt and other impurities from water.
  • Teaches you to maintain your reverse osmosis plant

Let’s dive right in!

What is Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a method used in filtering water by the use of semi-permeable membranes. A membrane is a wall that separates high-pressure and low-pressure regions and selectively allows materials through it.

Water moves from the region of low pressure into high pressure hence the name reverse osmosis. In regular osmosis, the water would move from high-pressure to low-pressure areas.

But, in RO, the solvent goes from the part where there are impurities into another part with no impurities. Unwanted ions, molecules, and solid debris are left on one side as the pure water moves to the other.

But, to beat the natural osmotic pressure, you need pumped pressure force in place. And that’s why a reverse osmosis system comes in handy!

So, what’s a reverse osmosis system, and how does it work? I’m answering you right away!

How does a Reverse Osmosis System work?

In brief, reverse osmosis systems work by increasing the pressure in the chamber with unfilteredsalty water and then pumping it through a semi-permeable RO membrane.

The high pressure forces water to go through the semi-permeable membrane leaving up to 99% of the dissolved solidsalts and other particles.

So, one side of the semi-permeable membrane will have the permeate water that is deionized and demineralized.

Then, the other will have a concentrate which is a concentration of contaminants. The concentrate contains particles that did not go through the RO membrane.

Conditions that Influence Reverse Osmosis System Filtering Process

  • The pressure of the incoming water
  • The temperature of the incoming water
  • The type and quality of the membrane you’ll use in the RO system
  • The level of contamination of the water.

How a Reverse Osmosis System Works Step By Step

How Does a Reverse Osmosis System Work

How Does a Reverse Osmosis System Work

Source: Pinterest

Stage 1: Prefiltration

When impure water first gets into the system, the pre-filtration stage removes suspended debris. The first stage aims to remove any materials that might clog in the system.

Stage 2: Dechlorination

The chlorine in tap water kills unwanted microorganisms. But, the reactive gas can damage the semi-permeable RO membrane. So, the carbon prefilter removes chlorine and other chemical contaminants. The bad taste and smell can only go this far!

Stage 3: The Semi-Permeable Membrane

The high-pressured water now meets a semi-permeable membrane. The stage gets rid of all molecules that are not water. Instead, it allows pure water and sometimes organic solvents.

Stage 4: The Carbon post filter

By this time, the water does not have any solid impurities. Most of the biohazards are also absent. However, the membranes may have allowed organic solvent such as alcohol.

The carbon post-filtration removes any smells or aesthetic tastes from the water. The stage acts as the polishing phase.

Stage 5: Storage

The reverse osmosis system has already purified your water. So, it’s time to store it in a clean tank.

But, after the RO does its thing, is the water pure? Which exact impurities does the system remove? That’s what I’m just about to tell you!

 What Does Remove Osmosis Remove?

Aside from removing salt and solid debris, reverse osmosis separates water from several other impurities. If you live at the coast, you can use these systems to desalinate seawater.

And if you come from Flint, Michigan, where the tap water is red and stinking, you can remove the lead with the RO systems.

Reverse osmosis systems also remove:

  • Salt
  • Fluoride
  • Chlorine
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Lead
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Sediments
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Yeast
  • Human hair

However, it is focal to note that the RO process may not remove some pesticides, herbicides, and Volatile Organic Compounds( VOCs) from your water.

How long will a RO water filter last?

RO filters will serve you for a period of up to twelve months. If you leave them unreplaced after a year, your water will have a high concentration of contaminants.

Reasons for RO filter replacement include:

  • To prevent debris and dirt from accumulating and clogging your RO system.
  • Carbon-based filters tend to lose their adsorptive properties over time.

No doubt, high-end quality RO filters last longer than cheap brands. Routine maintenance is the untold secret to increasing your filter’s lifespan.

 Is it safe to drink RO water?

Yes, water from a reverse osmosis system is 100% safe to drink. In fact, reverse osmosis ranks among the best ways to purify your water.

RO provides clean and safe drinking water as it filters 95-99% of the contaminants. Remember, the semipermeable RO membrane allows only water molecules to pass through it.

Reverse osmosis systems also remove odor and bad taste from water.

The border is closed for impurities, and contaminants don’t have a visa to your clean water storage tank… literally!

 How long does a reverse osmosis system last?

With regular and routine maintenance, a reverse osmosis system can last up to fifteen years.

Maintaining an RO system involves:

  • Replacing carbon and sediment filters every six to twelve months
  • Scheduling maintenance operations every six to twelve months
  • Performing regular pressure and flow checks
  • Changing the Reverse Osmosis membrane every 12 months
  • Sanitizing and recharging the system every year

Winding up: Will a Reverse Osmosis System Work for My Home?

We hope you now know how a reverse osmosis system works. Let’s be honest: leaving water filtration to chance isn’t an option.

You shouldn’t trust your city’s water company with your life, either! Residents in Flint, MI, did that, and they probably regret it. Instead, have an RO system at your home today!