Sunday, March 29, 2009

Charcoal Water Filter. What Are They? What Do They Do?

By Peter Abertoning

If you've read about the problems with drinking contaminated water you might be getting interested in water filtration. You will have heard of charcoal water filters or carbon water filters or even activated carbon water filters. What are these water filters?

A charcoal water filter is a water filter that uses charcoal for the filter process to remove the impurities. Charcoal is carbon that has been created by heating organic material in the absence of oxygen. The good ones are derived from coconut husks.

Charcoal is quite porous and absorbs many compounds in it's pores and it is this quality that is relied on for successfully filtering the water. That's why charcoal is used in gas masks, it absorbs things quite easily, both from gases and liquids. The pores are tiny holes made in the charcoal, or carbon, and the contaminants are absorbed into the charcoal. This is achieved by means of chemical attraction, because a wide range of organic compounds are attracted to carbon.

What then, is activated carbon? Activated carbon is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen in the manufacturing process to result in a much higher percentage of pores. In other words it is more porous than ordinary charcoal. The best charcoal water filters use activated carbon.

In fact it is so porous that it can have anywhere up to 20000 or more square yards of surface area for each ounce of carbon. Now that's really porous.

You need to replace the filters occasionally in an AC water filter because the filter gradually clogs up with contaminants as they are absorbed by the carbon.

There is no doubt that an AC filter works extremely well, however any water purification system that relies solely on AC for it's filtration has some drawbacks. The AC filters some, but not all, contaminants. So the best water filters need to be a multi stage filter utilizing a second filtration process.

For instance in the best water filters, there is a 2 stage filtration process. The second stage is used to filter those contaminants not removed by the first, like lead. This is achieved by an ion exchange process where the lead ions are replaced by potassium ions. Potassium is a mineral that occurs naturally in water and is not harmful.

And there are some very nasty bugs that are also potentially still in the water after the activated carbon filtration process, the two nastiest being cryptosporidium and giardia. These are removed by an extremely fine filtration process.

So although carbon filtration, or what can be known as charcoal or activated carbon water filtration, isn't 100% successful in removing all contaminants, when used in conjunction with a second stage filtration process targeted at the contaminants not removed by the carbon, it works extremely well. If there is lead in your water, and there is in the water of most Americans, you can expect around 99% of it to be removed.

Head over to my website if you're interested in finding out more about the worlds best water purifiers.

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