How reverse osmosis works: principle of operation and device

Among household systems for the preparation of drinking water for use, a new version has recently appeared, which is called reverse osmosis. This set of filters and a special membrane costs a lot, but is able to give odds to almost any analog.

Does it make sense to fork out? To get an answer to this question, you need to find out how reverse osmosis works, and then correlate costs and results. With our help, the process of familiarization with the advanced cleaning system will go much faster and more efficiently.

We have collected and systematized for you all the useful and reliable information about the membrane installation of water treatment. For the sake of completeness, the text material was supplemented with diagrams, illustrations and videos with recommendations to future buyers.

The content of the article:

  • Reverse osmosis system operation
  • Individual elements of the system
  • Advantages and disadvantages of reverse osmosis
  • How to choose a suitable model?
  • Conclusions and useful video on the topic

Reverse osmosis system operation

The process of osmosis is based on the property of water to level the level of impurities in solutions separated by a membrane. The holes in this membrane are so small that only water molecules can pass through them.

If in one of the parts of such a hypothetical vessel to increase the concentration of impurities, water will begin to flow there until the density of the liquid in both parts of the vessel is equalized.

Reverse osmosis gives the exact opposite result. In this case, the membrane is used not to equalize the density of the liquid, but to collect pure water on one side, and on the other hand, a solution that is maximally saturated with impurities. That is why this process is called reverse osmosis.

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Installation for reverse osmosis cleaning

In the system of preparation of drinking water on the principle of reverse osmosis, several stages of purification are used.

Water purification modules

The modules of the cleaning installation are arranged in a strictly defined order, which guarantees an increase in the degree of purification with the transition of water from one flask to another

Coarse and fine water filters

From the water supply system, water first enters the coarse filter, which holds contaminants of up to 5 microns then passes through the coal module and is cleaned again in the fine filter from particles up to 1 micron

Reverse Osmosis Membrane Filter

After preliminary preparation in the first three filters, water enters the module with a membrane, passing through which water is released from particles less than 1 micron, microbes and viruses.

The module alignment of taste and smell

Water that has undergone membrane cleaning enters the post-filter filled with activated carbon. In it, she gets the usual taste and smell of pure water.

Reverse osmosis mineralizer

In addition to the coal postfilter, a mineralizer can be included in the water treatment system, enriching the water prepared for drinking with useful trace elements.

Standard location of modules

In the process of assembling the system, you cannot change the location of the modules designated by the manufacturer of the system

The number of pre-training units

In areas where water softening and deferrization is carried out by local water utilities, the number of pre-treatment filters in the system can be reduced.

Installation for reverse osmosis cleaning

Installation for reverse osmosis cleaning

Water purification modules

Water purification modules

Coarse and fine water filters

Coarse and fine water filters

Reverse Osmosis Membrane Filter

Reverse Osmosis Membrane Filter

The module alignment of taste and smell

The module alignment of taste and smell

Reverse osmosis mineralizer

Reverse osmosis mineralizer

Standard location of modules

Standard location of modules

The number of pre-training units

The number of pre-training units

All these chemical features are of little interest to customers, especially those who are not very well versed in science. It is enough for them to understand that the center of the reverse osmosis system is a special membrane, the pores of which are so small that they are not nothing is passed that exceeds the size of the water molecule, and this is a significant part of the pollution contained in tap water.

Alas, the water molecule is not the smallest on earth, for example, chlorine molecules are much smaller, so they can also leak through the membrane. In addition, contact with large suspensions of this membrane is contraindicated. With such an impact, its small pores will quickly become clogged, and this element will have to be replaced immediately.

Reverse Osmosis System Diagram

This diagram clearly shows the five steps of water purification using a reverse osmosis system: pre-cleaning through three filters, a membrane and additional treatment

To avoid this, in the reverse osmosis system include three additional filterswith the help of which the water is pre-training. The membrane separates partially purified water into two unequal parts. About a third of the incoming volume is pure water, which then enters the storage tank.

Another two-thirds of the volume of water is the part in which the pollution is concentrated. This concentrate is discharged into the sewer. There is usually a small container between the tank and the crane. Here they install a cartridge that is designed to improve the quality of already purified water, for example, to saturate it with useful minerals.

Schematically, the principle of action of reverse osmosis can be described as follows:

  1. Water flows from the plumbing system to the pre-filter.
  2. Then the fluid undergoes the procedure of reverse osmosis.
  3. Purified water enters the storage tank.
  4. The concentrate containing filtered contamination is transferred to the sewer.
  5. Clean water from the storage tank enters the tap for clean water directly or through additional devices.

Thus, the reverse osmosis system is a set of devices that provide the ability to get drinking water with a high degree of purification. Until recently, such systems were used mainly in industry, at catering establishments in recreational facilities, etc.

Diagram of the membrane filter

This scheme demonstrates the separation of the flow of water purified using a reverse osmosis system into two streams: clean water and a concentrate that moves to the sewer.

But because of the growing demands on the quality of tap water in recent years, reverse osmosis systems for household use have become popular. They differ in configuration, performance, size of storage capacity, etc. Filters and membrane need to be replaced periodically.

How to determine that the membrane needs to be replaced? As it exploits, its pores become clogged, and a moment comes when the water simply does not flow into the storage tank. Such a membrane will have to be replaced in any case. But experts recommend performing a replacement much earlier.

Reverse Osmosis System

The reverse osmosis system consists of a storage tank, a set of three pre-filters, a membrane and a post-filter for purification and enrichment of water.

To determine the quality of water purified using a reverse osmosis system, use an electronic device - TDS-metr. With it, determine the level of salt in water.

For tap water before purification, this indicator may be 150-250 mg / l, and after purification using reverse osmosis technology, the salt content in the range of 5-20 mg / l is considered the norm. If the amount of salts in purified water is more than 20 mg / l, it is recommended to replace the membrane.

Those who wish to choose water filters used in various cleaning steps will find a lot of useful information. in the next article.

Individual elements of the system

The most expensive and basic element of the reverse osmosis system is the membrane. It is a microporous material twisted in one or more layers around a perforated plastic core. On top of the membrane is closed with a plastic protective cover, which is fixed with sealing rings.

Water enters the membrane housing and passes through a porous filler. In this case, the molecules of pure water penetrate through the porous core and then move into the storage tank.

But contamination with some water cannot overcome the membrane barrier. They exit the opposite end of the membrane unit and are disposed of.

Membrane device

The diagram shows the composition of the membrane for the reverse osmosis system: a multilayer porous material, fixed in a plastic case around a perforated core

As previously mentioned, direct contact of the membrane with ordinary tap water can be disastrous. The fact is that its pores are very small - only 0.0001 microns. The membrane cannot be removed, rinsed and re-installed, as is the case with some mechanical pre-filters.

The costly item has to be completely replaced every two to three years. The term may vary depending on the operating conditions of the membrane: pressure in the plumbing system, the amount and nature of contamination, water temperature, etc.

In some cases, the membrane can last for five years or even longer, sometimes it is necessary to replace it after the first year of operation.

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Ultra slim membrane filter

The main cleaning component of the reverse osmosis system is a membrane filter that produces water purification at the molecular level.

The structure of the cleaning membrane

The pore size of the membrane of reverse osmosis systems is 0.0001 microns. Such a "grid" misses only water molecules.

Flask for installation of membrane filter

The membrane filter is installed in a flask equipped with dots for connection to the general filtration system and to the sewage system.

Hole for drainage into the sewer

At the bottom of the flask for a membrane filter there is a hole and a flange for connecting a hose through which water that does not pass through the membrane is drained to the sewer.

Ultra slim membrane filter

Ultra slim membrane filter

The structure of the cleaning membrane

The structure of the cleaning membrane

Flask for installation of membrane filter

Flask for installation of membrane filter

Hole for drainage into the sewer

Hole for drainage into the sewer

An important factor here is the presence of pre-filters: two mechanical and one carbon. The first mechanical filter cuts off all insoluble contamination, the size of which exceeds 0.5 micron. These can be grains of sand, particles of rust and other such “mechanics”.

Then the water passes through carbon filterwhich holds the molecules of various chemicals: chlorine compounds, which are invariably present in tap water, and heavy metals from soil pesticides, dissolved iron and other organic or inorganic inclusions origin.

Reverse Osmosis System Filters

Mechanical and carbon filters in the reverse osmosis system require replacement every four to six months. Necessary cartridges can be purchased as a set

After that, another mechanical single-micron filter completes the preliminary water purification. As a result, the membrane receives water that does not contain impurities that can damage membrane filter or overcome it.

These filters need regular replacement every few months. But they are several orders of magnitude cheaper than the membrane, and timely replacement can significantly extend its service life.

For collecting the purified water use an accumulative tank. Its capacity can vary within 4-12 liters, it depends on the performance of the system. For the production of such tanks is usually used high quality steel. Outside the tank is covered with a layer of durable enamel. Inside install silicone gasket that divides the tank into two parts.

On one side of the gasket there is collected clean water, on the other - air. The amount of air in the chamber can be changed using a nipple located on the air side of the tank.

The air creates additional pressure inside the storage tank, which contributes to the movement of water to the tap with the necessary pressure. Of course, on the tank there is an outlet for connecting a hose through which drinking water moves to the tap.

Usually this faucet is installed at the sink. Even if the water supply through the water supply system is for some reason stopped, there will remain some of it in the tank, which will make the problem less acute. In this situation, to completely empty the storage tank, it makes sense to increase the pressure by pumping air through the nipple connection.

The degree of water purification using a reverse osmosis system brings it closer to distilled. In this case, the membrane passes molecules of oxygen dissolved in water, which enhances its quality.

To improve the taste, water can be passed through a mineralizer or other modules. But it is suitable for drinking and immediately after passing through membrane cleaning. No need to boil it for drinking.

As an additional module that improves the quality of drinking water, reverse osmosis systems can be supplemented with a mineralizer or a bioceramic cartridge. The mineralizer is used to enrich water with useful substances such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, etc.

All these minerals have a positive effect on the human nervous and cardiovascular systems, prevent the occurrence of many dangerous diseases, stimulate the normal level of blood acidity and etc.

Coal Post Filter

Mineralizer in reverse osmosis systems is used to enrich the purified water with minerals and make it more beneficial to health.

The bioceramic cartridge works differently. As part of its “stuffing” there are balls consisting of baked clay and pieces of tourmaline. This mineral is able to provide extremely beneficial effects for water. It helps to change the structure of water, which ultimately has a beneficial effect on the endocrine system and strengthens the immune system.

Over time, the resource of such additional modules is exhausted; they require periodic replacement. Therefore, it is more convenient to use a faucet with two valves.

Water is supplied to one valve directly from the reservoir, and to the second - through the mineralizer. Enriched with beneficial substances, water is used only for drinking, and it is prepared in water without minerals.

On the rules for choosing a water purification system for an autonomous water supply system of a private house, one of popular articles our site.

Advantages and disadvantages of reverse osmosis

A high degree of purification and guaranteed quality of drinking water is the main advantage of reverse osmosis systems. According to estimates, in the water purified by this method, the content of foreign substances is ten times lower than the minimum permissible rate. Features of the membrane design exclude accidental ingress of contaminants into the stream of purified water.

The principle of the reverse osmosis system

This scheme demonstrates in detail the device and principle of operation of the reverse osmosis membrane, which allows you to get purified water - permeate - and remove the contaminated part - concentrate

Such water can be safely consumed for drinking and cooking, it can be given to children and pets. For health, water obtained by reverse osmosis technology is much more useful than boiled tap water. Aquarists use this water to supplement the volume of aquariums without settling.

Despite the more complex design compared to conventional household filters, installation of such systems performed without any problems. Everything you need for installation is usually supplied. Almost all elements or their modifications can be purchased separately.

The system does not take up too much space, most often the tank and a set of filters with a membrane are fixed directly under the sink. A compact tap for drinking water, installed at the sink, usually fits perfectly into the interior.

Reverse osmosis system under the sink

The dimensions of the components of the reverse osmosis system are small, they can usually be easily installed under the sink. The kit includes a set of narrow hoses for connecting the individual elements of the system

The main disadvantage of reverse osmosis systems is the high initial cost of the kit. Further system maintenance will also require replacement costs for filter cartridges, but they cost significantly less.

Every few years will have to replace the membrane, the price of which may be about $ 50. But calculations show that as a result, the cost of clean water will cost the family less than buying drinking water from third-party suppliers.

Reverse Osmosis System Membrane

The effectiveness of the membrane in the reverse osmosis system gradually decreases, it must be replaced every few years. This period varies depending on the operating conditions.

Another feature of the reverse osmosis system, which can hardly be considered a drawback, is low productivity. Purified water seeps through the membrane very slowly, the standard membrane capacity is about 150-300 liters per day.

At the same time, more than half of the water coming from the water supply system goes down the drain, which to some extent affects the amount of utility bills.

But if the volume of the storage tank is chosen correctly, then problems can arise for a short time only if starting the system immediately after installation or after its long idle time with empty accumulative tank.

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Reversibility of reverse osmosis filters

All reverse osmosis unit filters are subject to periodic replacement. The terms of its implementation are indicated by the manufacturer.

Coarse cartridge change

To change the cartridge, you just need to unscrew the bottom of the filter module and install a new cartridge.

Modules-flasks for installation of cartridges

The size of replaceable elements should correspond to the size of a plastic flask. Ideally, it is better to buy cartridges from the manufacturer of the cleaning system.

Recycling Cartridges

End-of-life cartridges are disposed of, it is senseless to restore their filtration properties by washing and cleaning

Reversibility of reverse osmosis filters

Reversibility of reverse osmosis filters

Coarse cartridge change

Coarse cartridge change

Modules-flasks for installation of cartridges

Modules-flasks for installation of cartridges

Recycling Cartridges

Recycling Cartridges

We recommend an article on the topic: Reverse osmosis: harm and benefits of membrane cleaning of tap water.

How to choose a suitable model?

The dimensions of the elements of reverse osmosis systems usually meet a certain standard, but not always. Using a system with standard parameters gives a wider choice of replaceable elements. Practice shows that domestic products, which are cheaper than their foreign counterparts, differ little in quality from the latter.

Replacing the cartridges of the reverse osmosis system

Cartridges of pre-filter of reverse osmosis system, as well as membrane and post-filter require periodic replacement. It is not difficult to perform independently in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Of course, it is better to make a purchase directly from the manufacturer, from a verified dealer or in a reliable store. Good reverse osmosis systems have a technical passport, official warranty, detailed instructions for installation and operation, as well as quality certificates.

The size of the storage tank depends on the needs of the family, as well as the size of the space in which the device will be installed. The capacity of the maximum size will be appropriate for a home in which a large family lives, the most demanded tanks are about 8-10 liters.

An important indicator - working pressure in the plumbing system. The optimum indicator is 2.8 bar. If the pressure is too low, it makes sense to buy a reverse osmosis system with a built-in pump, which will provide sufficient drinking water pressure. If the pressure in the water supply system is much higher, you will need to install a pressure reducer.

Reverse Osmosis System

If the individual elements of the reverse osmosis system have standard sizes, it will be easier to find suitable replacement cartridges. This point should be clarified before purchase.

The membrane of the reverse osmosis system requires the closest attention. This element must be consistently high quality and with suitable performance. For a small family, an optimum indicator is about 7 liters per hour.

It makes no sense to overpay for a more productive membrane, if it is not necessary. For comparison: a device with a capacity of 15 liters per hour can easily meet the clean water needs of a small catering establishment.

A standard is considered to be a set that includes five basic cleaning steps: three pre-filters, a membrane and a post-filter. The content of this last item may vary.

The mineralizer and bioceramic cartridge have already been mentioned. Installing a cartridge containing coconut shells, activated carbon and silver ions is also considered a popular solution.

These substances disinfect water, in addition it is cleaned and give it a pleasant taste. Another interesting option for post-processing water is an ultraviolet disinfectant. Some models of reverse osmosis systems allow the use of several different cartridges at the same time.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

Video # 1. A general overview of the principles of functioning of reverse osmosis systems can be found here:

Video # 2. This video describes in detail the operation of such a system using the example of the “Geyser Prestige M” model:

Video # 3. This video allows you to compare the features of the flow-through filters and reverse osmosis systems:

Reverse osmosis systems are a reliable and convenient way to provide your home with enough clean drinking water. Yes, the prices of such devices remain high, but they are more than paying for themselves, since clean drinking water reduces the risk of many diseases and improves the quality of life.

Want to talk about personal experience in installing and operating a reverse osmosis system? There is information that you would like to share with us and visitors to the site, any questions? Please leave comments in the box below the text of the article.

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