By Mark Nelson — President, Nelson Water

With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.

Reverse osmosis is considered to be one of the most effective ways to filter tap water in the home. This technology is designed to remove up to 99.9% of contaminants as water is pushed through a semi permeable membrane. If you are still unsure about whether RO is the right choice for your home, we’ll explore all you need to know to make an informed decision.

How RO Works?

In simple terms, reverse osmosis is a filtration system. The semi permeable membrane is used to filter out impurities and contaminants as the membrane pores are small enough to allow water molecules to pass through, but prevent larger particles. The RO process means that the size of the particle determines whether it will be left in your drinking water or filtered away. Some RO filters can eliminate particles 0.001 microns in size, so they can even eliminate viruses and bacteria.

Breaking Down the Jargon

The term reverse osmosis can be a little unfamiliar and daunting, so let’s break down the jargon. Osmosis refers to a process that occurs every day in nature. It occurs when a weaker saline solution migrates to a stronger saline solution. Simply put, water with fewer particles moves naturally to adjacent water containing more particles. In a real world example, your kidneys absorb fluid from the bloodstream, as the water from your blood is passed to the denser kidneys. Less concentrated solutions always migrate to a more concentrated solution where possible.

The semipermeable membrane of an RO system allows smaller particles to pass through, but what do we mean by a semipermeable membrane? This is a technical term for a barrier that allows some particles to pass while preventing others. This is like a screen door, where air can flow through, but insects cannot.

So, how does “reverse” osmosis apply? By concentrating energy on the solution, i.e., directing tap water into the filter, it allows the water to pass through the membrane while retaining the contaminants. The RO process can desalinate water and block many types of contaminants from your water.

Is RO the Right Choice for You?

While reverse osmosis is very effective, it does have its limitations. The membrane can become damaged by particles, so if you have sediment, it may compromise the lifespan of the membrane. For this reason, RO is often teamed with other types of filtration to provide a complete water treatment. To determine if RO is the best option for your home, you need to determine what contaminants are affecting your water quality. RO can eliminate chlorine, heavy metals, viruses and other common contaminants, but if your water quality issues are limited to excess magnesium, you may prefer a standard water softener.

If you have concerns about your water quality and are still unsure if reverse osmosis is the best choice for your home, you should speak to a water treatment specialist. An experienced professional can test the contaminant levels in your water and guide you through the water treatment options best suited to your specific requirements.