Water filtration: Keep it clean, keep it safe

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By Nanci Dixon
Water is such an essential element and, as an RVer, it becomes an even more essential part of everyday life. Whether connected to water hookups at a campground or carrying your water with you, you want to have it clean and safe.

When we first started RVing, I wanted clean and safe water, so we purchased gallon jugs of spring or drinking water for years. That was fine when we were vacationing or just RVing on the weekends, but once we went full-time, the space the jugs took, the time to buy more or refill, and all that plastic was just not acceptable. To make matters worse, despite our new blue inline filter, our desert water was brown, staining the shower, the sink and bowls. While we did have a canister filter in our water bay in the motorhome when we purchased it, I could tell it was definitely not doing its job!

We needed to invest in better water and the first step was to research water filtering systems. For those seeking assurance of fresher, safer water, I found there were a number of options.

Canister filters

The most common are the external canister filters. They come in a single configuration, dual and even triple canisters allowing for multiple steps in water filtering. Stands for the filters vary from homemade to elaborate metal casings. Amazon has a number of canister systems. Another canister option available from Clearsource can be found here.

We bought the one below because it was so heavy and would stay in place, and we only needed a two-filter canister. I do buy filters from different sources, though, depending on our location and the water quality.

Clearsource water filter canisters

Sediment filters

The first step in filtering is sediment filtering. The efficiency of sediment filtration is measured in microns. Canister systems generally have a sediment filter as the first filter, filtering 5 microns. In comparison, the standard blue inline filter only filters about 100 microns. Anything smaller than 100 microns (a human hair is around 75 microns) gets into the water system.

A sediment filter removes dirt, debris and grit from the water. A sediment filter helps protect appliances and plumbing from clogging as well as improving the efficiency and life of the remaining filters. 

Carbon block filters

The second filter is usually a 0.5 micron carbon block filter that can filter out additional sediment, Giardia cysts, cryptosporidium, chlorine, lead, mercury, pesticides and petrochemicals. Carbon filters improve the taste of water by eliminating chlorine and chloramines.

Additional filter options

There are a variety of options for a third filter. Because of the sand and dirt in the water in our area, in Arizona we use a 0.2 micron sediment filter as our third filter. A 0.2 micron ceramic filter will filter out bacteria, as does the process of reverse osmosis.

When we are in Minnesota or Wisconsin, we switch our third filter to an iron and metal-reducing filter.

Many other options are available for a third filter if one is needed.

If further concerned about the safety of water used for drinking, there are a couple of additional options after filtration.

UV purification systems

UV purification systems purify the water by exposing it to UV light, which then eliminates bacteria, cysts, viruses and other living organisms that can spread disease. 

Reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis is another system that provides purified water while eliminating all salts and solids out of the water by pushing it through a semipermeable membrane. While providing high-quality drinking water, it generally does not suit the needs of RVers because of the room the system requires for an additional tank and a pump. There’s a lot of wastewater generated as well. Only 20% of the filtered water is usable while the remaining 80% is flushed out as wastewater. 

Water pitchers

Water purification pitchers like Zero Water and Brita are also helpful. We use a water pitcher for our water for coffee and drinking and have now eliminated even buying bottled water.

Water softeners

Another step in having great tasting water and protecting your plumbing, faucets, appliances and water heater from buildup and scaling is to add a water softener. A water softener removes calcium and magnesium. We added a water softener when the water, even after filtration, was so hard it was caking on faucets and etching the glass shower doors. It’s simple to regenerate, and the time between varies from place to place depending on the water. Sometimes we need to flush in two weeks and sometimes it’s more than a month. We also bought our On the Go softener from Amazon. There were two sizes and I chose the smaller one that requires regeneration more often but was lighter and smaller to store.

RV Water Filter Store and Clearsource are two great resources for advice and purchasing. Note that the filters are standard size and are usually interchangeable with a different brand of canisters.

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Scott Taylor
21 days ago

FYI – UV doesn’t ELIMINATE microorganisms, it simply makes them unable to reproduce, so yes, you still drink them, but they can’t multiply in your gut and make you sick! I use a whole house ceramic filter on the incoming line to keep all the nasties from reaching us!

Tom
22 days ago

We use a Berkey filter system, not cheap, but worth it. We bought a factory blemished unit, saving 20%, we couldn’t find any blemish.

M. Will
22 days ago

A very good story. Its amazing how many RVers out there seem to think that there $15 to $20 blue water filter that you screw onto the end of your hose or screw onto the side of the trailer is actually giving you any kind of safe water to drink. Its probably better than using nothing but thats about it.

Dave
22 days ago

Wow. What an informative story. Thank you!