Choosing The Right System For Your Home

A guide to help you choose the system you need.
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Choosing The Right System For Your Home

With the recent unreliability in our water supply situation, many people have been looking at options to have a backup supply or augmenting their houses supply with rain water. With all our experience with water systems at FilterShop we decided to create a one stop product for people looking at options for water security and whole house water filtration.

We have split this product into 4 sections:

  • Pre-Tank treatment

Depending on your water supply some of the problems in the water should be addressed before storing the water, this section will guide you through the different scenarios.

  • Rain Water Harvesting

Augment your water supply with rain water and reduce your dependence on other sources (Municipal, Borehole or River water), we will give you the easiest DIY options.

  • Tank and Uninterrupted Water Supply Options

This section looks at the different options to store water and will give you an idea of what the options are.

  • Post Tank Filtration

Now that you have a backup supply of water you can improve the quality of the water going into your house, this section will help you decide how clean you want your houses water.

 

Pre-Tank Filtration

Before we start it is important to have an idea of what quality your water source is, with borehole or river water this is normally easy as you should have a water test to look at and can then just pick the correct options. With municipal water it gets a bit trickier as most people haven’t had their water tested and as such it will involve quite a bit of guess work.

There are 3 main areas that you need to examine before the water gets to the tank.

Sediment Filtration

The first is Turbidity measured in NTU on water tests, this is a measure of water clarity. (Basically how dirty is your water?) You don’t want to store dirty water as it will deposit in the tank and well frankly it is a very unpleasant job to go and clean out the tank. Also if you are looking to use an in-tank UV light the water needs to be very clear.

If you have had the water tested it is nice and easy. If your turbidity is less than 0.5 NTU you don’t have to do anything before the tank. If it is over 2 NTU then we definitely would recommend a Disc Filter or an AFM Glass Media Vessel. If it is over 5 NTU we recommend adding an Auto Flushing Deep Bed Sand Filter as a pre-filter to the Disc Filter or an AFM Vessel, and if it is over 10 NTU contact us as then it gets very complicated…

Now the tricky part is to decide what options to go for if you haven’t had the water tested. Here are a few things to try. First step is to fill a bath tub with water (as deep as you can get it), if it is completely clear you are probably under the 2 NTU level and don’t need to add any particle filtration before the tank. If however you are seeing a bit of discolouring in the water adding a Disc Filter or an AFM Vessel is probably a good idea. If the water is really very dirty to the point where you wouldn’t want to get in the water adding an Auto Flushing Deep Bed Sand Filter might be needed but at this point it is probably a good idea to rather get the water tested. One more thing to check is if you are getting large particles in your line, the easiest way to check is to unscrew a strainer form one of the taps in the house and if it has lots of large particles trapped behind it we would recommend at least a Disc Filter before the tank.

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Water Softening

Once you have decided on what to do in terms of sediment filtration the next thing to decide on is hardness. (Kalk) This is a white scaling that is left on glass after washing and leaving the water to dry (white specks or streaks, this is also often seen in showers) but it also dramatically shortens the life of geysers and kettles.

If you have a water analysis you are looking for ether a reading of Total Hardness or CaCO3. If this is over 50 ppm then you will have a reduced lifespan on items such as a geyser. There are two options for addressing this, the right way is to use a Water Softener that will chemically remove the hardness from the water and will just use normal coarse salt to regenerate. Alternatively there is a “Band-Aid” solution called Siliphos that doesn’t remove the hardness but only prevents it from scaling inside the pipes and geysers. We do however recommend using something like an Under Counter RO System with Siliphos as in our opinion there hasn’t been sufficient research done on the affects this product has on your body.

If your hardness is between 50 ppm and 500 ppm you can use one of our off the shelf softeners that range from 25L to 100L of resin. Choosing the right size for you is a little bit more complicated though. The more resin you have the less frequently you need to run the regeneration cycle. So any of the units would typically work for a household but keep in mind depending on the water quality trying to cut cost by going for a smaller softener might mean that you would have to add salt and set the regeneration cycle daily instead of weekly or weekly instead of monthly. A 25L Water Softener will have to be regenerated 4 times as often as a 100L Water Softener. If you have a water analysis it is possible to calculate the regeneration frequency if you know your monthly water usage. Another thing to keep in mind with the Water Softeners is that it does take a bit of trial and error to get the regeneration cycles set to their most efficient point.

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Chlorine Dosing

The last thing that you might want to do before the tank is Chlorine dosing. This would be used if you have ether high bacteria counts or high iron content in the water. If you are looking to use chlorine you will require storage tanks that are large enough to keep more than a day’s water usage as it requires a long contact time to be effective. If you have had the water tested there are two main things to look for to see if chlorine dosing is an option for your water. The first is for every 1 ppm of nitrate in the water it will neutralise 1 ppm of chlorine, so if you want to have 3 ppm of chlorine in the water to kill the bacteria but you have 20ppm of nitrate you will need to dose 23 ppm of chlorine to maintain the level. This will make the running cost of the system very high and as such it is not recommended. The other thing to look at is PH, the chlorine won’t be effective enough if your pH isn’t between 6 and 8.

So when should you use Chlorine Dosing? If you have high bacteria levels such as a total plate count of over 1000 or coliform or E.coli is present in the water. If you haven’t had the water tested but you sometimes note a smell in the water or sliminess on filters or in a tank. If you suspect you have a lot of bacteria in your source water it is normally a good first step to reduce the levels of bacteria.The other great use for chlorine is to remove dissolved iron, in effect chlorine rusts iron and then the iron clumps together and then it can be removed by using a 1um sediment filter after the tank.

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Rain Water Harvesting

One of the very interesting options to add onto a system, especially since we are currently suffering from water shortages is rain water harvesting. The idea is to catch the water on your roof during rain storms, then remove the worst of the sediment and store the water in a JoJo tank.

There are two main components on the water collection side, the first is a gutter mesh. They come in 5.5M rolls and they basically prevent leaves from clogging up the gutters to allow as much of the water as posable to be collected. They basically create a ramp for the leaves to skip the gutters and fall off the side of the roof while allowing the water to fall in the gutters. The second part is Superhead First Flush Filters that fit onto the down pipes of the gutters. The Superhead allows the first of the water from the roof that contains the most dust, dirt and bird droppings to be flushed through to the ground like a normal gutter but then as it continues to rain it will start diverting the water through a basic filter to your tanks. Thus reducing the load on your filters after the tank. The amount of flushing that the system does can be manually set, this allows you to get the system to send water to the tank sooner if there isn’t enough rain. (Note that this will reduce the lifespan for the filters after the tank)

Depending on the layout of your houses roof you might not be able to use the whole roof area for rain collection. There are a few factors to keep in mind; all the piping from the Superhead Filter will need to be able to run to your tanks with a downwards incline otherwise most of the water will not reach the tanks. Ideally you don’t want to use a roof surface if it normally gathers excessive bird droppings. (I.e. under a tree where birds nest or sleep regularly)

Ideally you don’t want to store rain water for a long time.You want to use the water as soon as possible, thus we normally recommend a setup that fills a JoJo tank 25% with municipal water and leaves 75% of the tanks capacity to be filled by rain water. Then basically the tank only starts drawing municipal water when the rain water has been depleted while still maintaining a 25% buffer in case the municipal supply gets interrupted.

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Tank and Uninterrupted Water Supply Options

At this point there are a few choices to make:

  • Do you now or in the future water to make use of rain water?
  • Do you want a sealed system, where it is much less likely that you get outside contamination?
  • Do you want a pressure pump for the house, if so what type? If you place a tank inline do you want your whole feed to run through the tank and pump or do you only want to use it as a backup (only for municipal)?
  • Do you want to store water? If so how do you want to keep bacteria levels low in the tank?
  • If the system needs to function as a backup in case the water feed drops out do you want to manually switch over to it or do you just want an uninterrupted water supply?
  • How much water do you want to store?

Pressurised Buffer Tanks

Typically you would only use this on a municipal line as normally the feed pressure with other options is lower than what you would want to use in the house. Basically all that these setups do is they give you a backup buffer of water. The tanks have a rubber bag inside that is filled with low pressure air. (In some cases the tank is filled with air and the bag is for water.) As water enters the tank the water pressure compresses the bag and the air in the bag until the air pressure equals the water pressure. If the water pressure outside the tank drops the air pressure will force water out until the pressure is equal again. Due to this the tank only has one connection for in and out. Since the air gets compressed but remains in the tank you never actually store 100% of the tanks volume in terms of water.

What you would do is place a non return valve after your pre-filtration on the line leading to your house and then place a T and connect the tank to one side of the T. If the municipal supply drops out you will simply start drawing water from the tank instead. Then when the municipal supply returns it will automatically fill the tank again. This setup is ideal if you have frequent but short water interruptions. 

Another great use for these tanks is to extend the lifespan of a pump. If you place a tank like this after a booster pump and set the pressure switch triggering the pump to allow the pressure to drop a few Bar before turning on again you can allow the pump to only turn on once a few hundred litres have been used and then run for a longer cycle. Depending on the pump this might save quite a bit of power and a lot of the pumps on the market draw by far the most power when starting up.

These tanks range from 10L to 500L in capacity.

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JoJo Tanks

This is a low cost way to store a lot of water, but unfortunately comes with a few drawbacks... but advantages too.

Things to keep in mind when looking at placing JoJo tanks inline:

  • They aren't pressurised so you will require a booster pump to have good pressure in your house.
  • They aren't sealed, this results in contamination from the air.
  • Although the tanks are very durable they will degrade over time when using in tank UV lights.
  • Organic growth occurs in the tanks; even though they are dark inside water sitting in the tanks will almost always start growing bacteria.

 

The advantages:

  • Stores large amounts of water at a low cost.
  • Can be cleaned on the inside, although this does mean that someone climbs inside the tank.
  • Low risk of algae growth.
  • Easy to connect and widely available.
  • Can connect multiple units for large storage requirements.

What Tanks Should I Buy?

These tanks are widely available up to 10,000L and are even manufactured in larger sizes. If you are looking to store large amounts of water I.e. if you want to make the most of rain water harvesting the tanks can be connected side to side to create very large storage reservoirs. They require a strong stable flat surface to rest on as water is quite heavy; a full 10,000L tank is 10 Tons on a relatively small foot print so ensure that you adequately prepare the area before placing a tank.

The size of the tank you need will depend on your individual situation. A typical house of 5 people use about a 1000L per day this is for watering the garden as well as household use. If however it is only for household use you can cut that number in half. (This is an estimate but if you have people who take long showers it can be a lot more, a shower can take about 700L per hour.) So if we take an example where you want to have a day's worth of water stored and you don't have people who love to take long showers a 1000L tank might be sufficient.

If however you are using Chlorine dosing you want the water to have at least 24 hours of contact time with the chlorine so in the same example you would then rather use a 2500L tank to ensure a longer average contact time.

To add another variable into the equation, if you want to add rain water into the same tank you would ideally want to only fill the tank 25% from your source (municipal, borehole or river) and leave the rest of the tank for rain water. So in our same example if you are using chlorine dosing now you would want a 10,000L tank to keep the same backup. If it rains however you can now catch 7500L of rain water and use that first before having to fill the tank again.

Ideally what you would want to do with this is place an electronic level switch in the tank at the 25% level. This switch will then control ether a pump or an electric valve depending on your source water setup. This will then keep the tank at a 25% level to ensure you have a buffer in case the water supply is cut off, but then if it rains you will use the rain water first before returning to your normal source of water.

Controlling Bacteria Levels In The Tank

One of the biggest problems with storing water is bacteria growth inside the tank. There are 3 basic options to address this:

  1. Do nothing in the tank but place filters after the tank that should be able to handle the bacteria levels. This is an option and we do offer systems that will be able to handle high levels of bacteria. The problem is that you are going to have to change the filter much more often than at a lower bacteria level and that you have a higher risk of the system simply being unable to cope with the amount of bacteria. This is a risky option especially with rainwater as the bacteria can fluctuate dramatically.
  2. Dosing Chlorine Directly into the tank ether through an inline chlorinator with a solenoid valve and a timer or the more manual ways such as a chlorine floater or poring some chlorine into the tank. Keep in mind that the pH needs to be in the right range and nitrate levels need to be taken into account. Also make sure to do research on what to use if you want to dose manually and don't just use pool products that have other additives that could be harmful.
  3. The easiest and lowest maintenance option is to use an In-Tank UV light. (requires Electricity) We have a very low cost system specially made for us that has a 8,000 Hour lifespan. UV light directly kills the bacteria growing in the tank. Depending on the bacteria levels you can then decide if you run the light permanently or place it on a timer to extend the usable time of the UV system.There are 8760 hours in a year; so if the light is only on for a quarter of the time the system will have a service life of 4 years. This is a great system and it comes in two sizes, both should work for most application but for larger tanks such as a 5,000L or 10,000L we recommend going for the larger UV system. Things to keep in mind; it is a glass bulb as such we recommend a sediment filter after the tank just in case something happens and the bulb is damaged. Also this isn't designed to be a 100% solution for bacteria but rather something to keep bacteria levels low. As such we strongly recommend placing another barrier to bacteria after the tank.

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The Next Step Is Choosing a Pump

You would want a pump setup that consists of a few components:

  • A non-return valve to ensure that the pressure the pump builds up doesn't just flow back into the tank.
  • The pump itself, there are many different options and they vary greatly in price.
  • A pressure switch to control the pump, ideally one where the lower and upper triggers can be set independently.
  •  A Pressurized Buffer Tank to prevent the pump form continuously turning on and off. These tanks extend the lifespan of a pump. If you place one of these tanks after a booster pump and set the pressure switch triggering the pump to allow the pressure to drop a few Bar before turning on again you can allow the pump to only turn on once a few hundred litres have been used and then run for a longer cycle. Depending on the pump this might save quite a bit of power and a lot of the pumps on the market draw by far the most power when starting up. These tanks range from 10L to 500L in capacity.

If you have a Washable Disc Filter after the tank then you would place it before the pump. This will extend the life of the pump as it will remove abrasive particles from the water. This is highly recommended when Rain Water Harvesting is in place.

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Post Tank Filtration

This is the final step before the water enters the house. At this point you need to decide to what degree you want to filter the whole houses water.

Ideally you don’t want to run your irrigation water through the final filters unless you are still sitting with a really bad water at this point. If the water in the tank wasn’t run through fine particle filtration such as rain water; then it is a good idea to place a 20 Micron Washable Disc Filter after the tank. This will prevent sprinklers form getting clogged up and will extend the life span of the rest of the filters that are on the houses line. (You would draw your irrigation water after the Disc Filter but before the rest of the filtration.)

At this point you now have a water that has already been through quite a bit of filtration. If you don’t want to make the water drinkable in most cases the water should be acceptable for use, it may however still have smells and might still be visibly dirty. We would highly recommend as a minimum placing some Big Blue Filtration in place. We always recommend filtering down to 1 um then to 0.2 um; at this level you have a basic barrier for bacteria, this isn’t a 100% solution but is should stop most of the bacteria. If you have any smells in the water then you would need to add a carbon filter to reduce this, the problem with carbon is that it very susceptible to bacteria growth. To reduce the risk of further contaminating the water with bacteria we would highly recommend upgrading to KDF filters instead of carbon filters, they have an active component that inhibits bacteria growth in the filters, this greatly extends the life span of the filters.

The Ideal filters for a basic final filtration after a tank would be a Triple Big Blue Stand with a 1 um Sediment Filter (this blocks visible dirt and is a low cost filter to replace) followed by a KDF Cartridge (removes smells and chlorine from the water) and then a 0.2 um Filter to block bacteria. If this is in place you have got a water that should be fairly safe but it isn’t a 100% solution. If you want to make the water drinkable in the house we would highly recommend getting a system with ether a UV light or an Ultra Filtration Membrane to block or kill any remaining bacteria. UV kills Bacteria by damaging their DNA while Ultra Filtration (UF) physically filters to 0.02 um thus it removes the bacteria. Typically we would only recommend UF if there is a high risk of power disruption or if there is a high concentration of super fine particles in the water. Keep in mind that none of these systems will remove salt from the water, if you have a high salt content (up to 500 TDS, if higher contact us for a custom solution) you will need a Reverse Osmosis (RO) System in the house for drinking water.

Once you have decided on the type of system you want to install you need to decide how much water you will need. A good way to estimate the water requirements is by having a look at how many showers you have in the house, an average shower draws about 700 LPH. So if you have two showers you would want a filter system that provides at least 1400 LPH.

The Triple Big Blue Units provide about 1400 LPH when equipped with a 0.2 um filter, this can vary depending on the water quality and the pressure of the pump you have in place. So if you have more than 2 showers we would strongly recommend placing another system in parallel. If you draw more water than the filter can handle the 0.2 um filter basically implodes from the pressure differential destroying the filter itself.

If you have a source that you know has bacteria in we would recommend oversizing the UV light to give it the best chance to kill all the bacteria. If you have a single set of filters that provide 1400 LPH and you had low or no bacteria (plate count of under 1000) the 1800 LPH UV light would be fine, but if you had higher bacteria counts we would strongly recommend using a 2700 LPH UV to give the light a better chance to kill everything. Similarly if you have two filter stands in parallel rather use the 5000 LPH UV if you have bacteria instead of the 2700 LPH UV.

There are many other options available on our online store but these products as mentioned here should cater for 90% of situations. Please contact us if you are having trouble deciding what would be the best solution for your situation, also if you have a water analysis and want to check if you have made the correct choices for your water we will be happy to go through it and give you expert advice. 

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