What I wish I knew when I got my (new) House #Water #Plumbing

This article is primarily about water purification. I knew nothing about it, and I have gone through the process of finding and installing a good water filtration system from a reliable company which is trusted. I did not want to pay a “water company” the typical $3–4k for an RO system, which could be a scam. I wanted regular plumbers to be able to install an RO filter from a brand they were familiar with as a reliable one.

Some Background

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to design their house. Even without an Architect, you can customize your house to make it work better for you, even by making some choices which your builder may not know.

When we were searching for a house in the right school district, we simply could not find one which was “structurally sound” on “flat” ground (I am cursed to think like this because of the Civil Engineers in my family).

In the end, we were forced to buy a “new” house (not yet built), because it was the only house available in our market (even currently, it is amazingly hard to find any house in this area). It is not too expensive — not anywhere near the $700–800k it costs to buy a house in the SFO Bay Area.

We made a lot of choices, looking back, we could have made even better if only we had asked to work with an Architect. One of my good friends in College was an Architect and so I knew that we could do a lot better if we could customize stuff on CAD and see everything in 3D. It is so easy to do! any Architecture Student can do it.

But, we were new, and we knew nothing about how to do stuff here, so, we did what we could:

  • Carpeted staircase to the Basement (hated the bare wood in most new houses — you see the new house and then looks like you are going down into a dungeon!).
  • One step upgrade to the kitchen cabinets (totally worth it).
  • Network cables in every room (how I wish, I had insisted on CAT 6 then, instead of the default CAT 5e). Today I would recommend CAT 6A or even CAT 8. I would have asked for more ethernet outlets in more walls today. We ended up doing that anyway.
  • Wider garage door (took a while to ship, I hated the narrow entrance even in large garages). Today, we don’t know how we would have lived if the entrance was even a feet “less wide”.

Yes, this is a small house, but we built a better, small house. If you live in an area with snowfall like one of our friends, a great idea (courtesy them) is to get heating wires on the roof so that you don’t need to clear snow off the roofs after a particularly heavy snow fall. Gosh! I would not be able to deal with that.

But… none of these things are the subject of this article. There is one overlooked thing, which you simply cannot do afterwards. This article is about that — what is turning out to be a big “missed” chance — a major regret.

It’s all about water

It’s kind of interesting that long before I even got my first job, I had heard about the water problems in America. It is kind of crazy that there has been many, many instances of people dying of cancer and such because of a contaminated water supply.

It is even worse in other countries. This is why once I moved away from my small town which had very pure, but very chlorinated water, I always got bottled water. I did not like it - it was just a fact of life. Plastics are an issue, so we tried to just refill the large bottles of water every week at the local Grocery store.

The problem is that lugging large bottles of water around takes it toll over the years. It is just too hard, especially with everyone WFH — 4 bottles per month, becomes 10 which have to be lugged around even if you get it delivered to your home. That is why we upgraded our whole house water purification system — and got an RO filter.

This article is my guide to what to get from a trusted company — and not get scammed by a hundred companies out there who sell “so called” water purification systems. Who knows which of them work, and which don’t?

I did not know then that this was a sediment filter. We were facing issues of hair loss, and bad smell in the house. And I had seen a sediment filter at a nearby house. That is when my plumber installed what seems to be the most reliable and popular sediment filter around:

I was surprised to see such a large company like 3M providing such good service, with knowledgeable service reps reacheable very easily, and who can answer the most technical questions without any issues.

https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Aqua-Pure-Whole-House-Large-Diameter-Water-Filter-Blue-Plastic-Housing-AP802/?N=5002385+3291875771&rt=rud

I usually get it from here, but they are not the cheapest:

Once we got the filter, a few months later, we heard of a chemical leak nearby, and we then found that when replacing the filter, every 6 months, the water was black.

I thanked the Gods that we did not drink this water!

Even through the filter, the water had lot of particulates and even something oily if you look at a bucket of water under sunlight.

What I never realized till today was that while the water in my house was contaminated by sediment and god knows what else, this thing stays in the pipes for a long time. If one, I had got all the filters I needed from day one! the pipes would have stayed pristine. This also means sediment in the plumbing and low water pressure in the faucets (again sediments clogging).

If you get a new house like I did, get the right whole house filters from day one to keep your pipes and plumbing last longer and work better.

The Recent Upgrades

Getting tired of lugging water bottles, we decided to:

  • Get an RO filter for cooking and drinking instead of the large 5 gallon bottled water (only for drinking).
  • Add another filter to the whole house filtration to further reduce contaminants because we have had to install in shower water filters which reduced hair loss significantly (we know when cleaning the vaccums).

This is the in shower filter we use, which works well:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01G7AZB96/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  • The housing is poorly built though. I wish they had an option to get a stronger housing.

You only need to get the AP904 filter. You don’t need to get both the AP903 and AP904 as the AP904 adds some extra filtration to what the AP903 provides.

  • This is replaced yearly.

This is the best explanation I have found for comparing the filters:

Very useful
The water quality is much better after installing this. We feel less particulates in the water, better smell & the water feels “soft”.

This is where I get it from:

After having taken care of the whole house water filter, I needed to get a reverse osmosis system for cooking and drinking, and to get away from the 5 gallon water bottles.

This is the best comparison between the RO systems that I could find.

I had a long call with the amazing 3M support about the different options. Most home owners get the 301, but I got the 401 because of the larger capacity, and its ability to clean against more contaminants (remember the black, oily water). The price difference between the two systems was small enough, that it was better for me to buy the 401 system.

  • The RO401 is larger, and can produce as much as 24 gallons per day.
  • It cleans organic chemicals as well.
  • Yearly change of regular filters.
  • The more expensive membrane filter only needs to be changed every three years.

Nobody had the 401 in stock (a good sign). I went through a lot of trouble to buy it and have it shipped.

The installation was pretty complex for the plumber, but he managed to do it under the sink, with a T line, so the fridge can also run off of RO water. Remember that RO water cannot be routed through any metal parts because of corrosion — it has to be plastic or rubber.

Your fridge may not be compatible with RO water. I had to chat with LG before they confirmed that I could use RO water, but had to remove the water filter and replace it with the “dummy” the fridge came with. The water filter was metallic.

Cleaning the tank with bleach is optional (in case you are wondering — many people don’t do it), but we did it with what we had (fabric bleach — which is of lower concentration, but something is better than nothing). Remember that the tank should not be filled with water for the 24 hours when you let the water drip from the faucet — that is for cleaning the filters (as per Federal guidelines).

The other problem was that we needed the fridge line to go down to the basement and then come up. We are not sure if this will work and the fridge will get the water — that remains to be seen. I enquired and found out that a booster pump can be used if necessary between the outlet and the fridge if the pressure is too low. Here is one recommended (again it should have no metal parts — only plastic and rubber is allowed with RO water):

The RO drain outlet can be connected to the kitchen sink outlet
Don’t sweat the outlet line. This is optional & it can be confusing.
Let me clarify: You cannot install this system without the faucet. Many connections go through it. We learnt it the hard way.
This is important and has to be done beforehand. Do NOT forget to do this. You have to connect the tank to the water line to fill it.
Ok. Now, this is a “union connector” (wow). The one described above connects water lines of different diameters.

This is the most important part at the end, when everything else is done:

It is very important to note the final steps.

I still have to complete the above step tomorrow, then once all of this is done, I have to make sure that the fridge water works #FingersCrossed.

Everything is great! We followed all the remaining steps and the RO water is great! Water pressure from the RO faucet and the fridge is much, much better than before!

When the tank is full, the water pressure is unbelievable.

The water quality is great! It did taste a little different from bottled water, but we are used to it now. We never run out of drinking water or use ugly bottles now. This is what we have observed w.r.t the water so far:

  • The ice cubes don’t stick within the ice maker in the fridge. That has never happened before.
  • Rice tastes better and is softer when cooked with RO water. I feel a perceptible difference in the cooked food now.

As to the non RO water with the additional filter:

  • Shower water does not leave you with an allergic itchy feeling anymore.

They do a good job and they are steadily losing over time as people hate lugging heavy water bottles every few weeks. And they look ugly in the house. I know two companies who do this:

  • Poland Spring
  • ReadyRefresh.com

The best solution for everyone, including the environment, could be some kind of water tank they install accessible from outside the house which is connected to drinking water pipes like an RO system. These companies install and maintain these regularly. All they do is bring a lot of water in huge tanks, and fill these tanks up.

There are a lot of advantages to this:

  • There are no bottles to deal with either for the customer lugging them around, or you having to clean them and moving them around.
  • You just have to transport clean water safely.
  • You do the maintenance unlike I have to do with my RO system currently.
  • Your delivery people still keep their jobs.
  • Less Plastic = good for the environment.

To be continued…

References

This is a hard to find overview page:

This is a must read for anyone wanting to buy a water purification system and can’t get the information in a readable form from anywhere:

“If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it. Say something. Do something.” — Rep. John Lewis

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