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Activated carbon water filter: What to expect?

Activated carbon is an integral part of home water filters. It's no wonder that in addition to dealing with the vast majority of unwanted substances, it also improves the taste and odour of water. If you wish to have better drinking water quality, learn how activated carbon works, what it can capture and how to choose an activated carbon water filter.

What is activated carbon and how does it work?

Activated carbon, which is used as a filler in carbon filters for drinking water, has a specific porous surface and excellent adsorption properties. It has a very large inner surface, which is formed by pores of various sizes, which under the microscope it resembles the structure of a fungus. It is in these pores that unwanted microorganisms and molecules of substances dissolved in water are trapped.

How exactly does this adsorption take place? A substance (or virus, bacteria, microscopic dirt, etc.) is trapped in the pore wall after contact with activated carbon, where it is permanently bound by the attractive force of the molecules. As a result, the molecule is no longer released back into the water. In addition, activated carbon acts as a catalyst for various chemical reactions, so it can break down some pollutants into completely harmless substances.

This principle of water purification is very universal and can capture a wide range of undesirable types of pollution. But it does not remove important minerals from the water, so water filtered through activated carbon has an ideal composition.

What is captured by activated carbon?

  • Chemicals dissolved in water - chlorine and by-products of disinfection, pesticides, heavy metals, drug residues and much more.
  • Tiny mechanical dirt that are not trapped by the water filter and that cause water turbidity.
  • Microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. However, activated carbon is not a complete substitute for water sanitization.

Types of activated carbon

Activated carbon is produced not only from coal, but also from coconut shells, wood and other organic materials. Required properties of materials are produced by carbonization at high temperatures. However, activated carbon made from black coal, which has an ideal frequency and pore size, is the most suitable for water treatment.

Activated carbon is then divided according to its shape into granular, which is used for water treatment, as well as powdered, extruded and woven. These other types are used in various other applications, for example in air conditioning. In addition to activated carbon, a number of synthetic granules can also be used.

Activated carbon improves the taste and smell of your water and gets rid of turbidity. 

When you should use carbon filtration

If your water analysis shows above-limit concentrations of undesirable substances, consult an expert on a suitable solution for filtration and water treatment. The solution must always be tailored to the specific composition of the water, meaning there is no universal filter. However, an activated carbon filter will solve most drinking water problems.

Thanks to the ability of activated carbon to capture a wide range of mattter, a carbon filter be useful as a preventive measure, or if you simply want better water quality. This treatment method is suitable for children, seniors, chronically ill people or people who follow a healthy lifestyle. Even if the concentration of undesirable substances in your water meets hygienic standards, this does not mean that its quality is 100%.

  • In case of well water, carbon filter removes unwanted substances that are commonly found in the environment and enter the water sources naturally. These are mainly chemicals from industry, agriculture and transport, such as pesticides, heavy metals, but also most of the microorganisms that can get into the well from the soil.
  • For mains water, carbon filter removes not only chlorine and other by-products of disinfection, but also various undesirable substances that can be found in tap water and which treatment plants cannot remove - such as drug residues, hormonal contraceptives or antibiotics.
  • When filtering rainwater, activated carbon removes chemicals from the environment and unwanted microorganisms that could multiply in a water tank. The result is high-quality water.
  • Carbon filter also gets rid of odors, turbidity and aftertaste, so the water filtered in this way is crystal clear, healthy and delicious, and it also does not dry out the skin, which will be appreciated especially by people suffering from skin diseases.

Triplex fine rainwater filter Honeywell FF60​ with activated carbon

Types of activated carbon filters and their maintenance

If a water analysis shows above-limit concentrations of undesirable substances, it is necessary to use an activated carbon water filter at the inlet, such as to the entire building as part of the domestic waterworks system. However, if you only want to improve the quality or sensory properties of otherwise safe water, you can use much simpler and cheaper faucet filters, which are most often placed under the sink. In this case, only tap water will be filtered. Activated carbon is also used in filter kettles.

Cost of activated carbon filter is relatively low, the cheapest small filters cost about 70 EUR, better-quality battery filters are about 200 EUR, and larger house filters, price can climb to about 400 EUR. 

Then it is necessary to take into account maintenance costs, such as replacement or regeneration of the filter insert. Service life of an activated carbon cartridge is approximately 6 months, but it depends on the usage, degree of contamination and volume of filtered water. At the end of its service life, activated carbon loses its properties and cannot effectively remove unwanted substances from water. Such a filter cartridge is either discarded and replaced with a new one, or sent for regeneration, during which its function is restored.