According to a 2005 Freedonia Group study, reverse osmosis (RO) and ultrafiltration (UF) will lead the m embrane separation technologies industry, predicted to exceed $3 billion in 2010. These two value-added technologies can reduce exceedingly small particulate matter and microbial contaminants. Water and wastewater treatment will remain the largest markets for membrane-based systems, according to the study, accounting for about half of overall demand. Growth in the water treatment market will be fueled by an emphasis on reducing contaminants in the water feed stream while minimizing the introduction of chemicals.
More than half of all new homes in the U.S. and Canada are being built in rural areas without municipal water and sewage infrastructure, leaving them especially vulnerable to biological contamination from source groundwater and surface water used for drinking. Hollow fiber UF offers water treatment dealers a unique opportunity to serve the needs of homeowners and builders in these areas.
Homes that are supplied with municipally treated water face a different threat to water quality as potential contamination to the delivery systems increases as the infrastructure ages and grows. The infrastructure in the eastern part of the U.S. and many parts of Canada is in such a state of decay that contamination of centrally treated water as it travels to homes grows more probable every day. In many geographical regions of North America, new home construction is growing at almost unchecked rates, and water supplies, which are becoming scarcer, are also becoming more contaminated.
Until recently, the only way to protect an entire home from waterborne contaminants was whole-house RO. Now, there is an alternative, as Aquest, Inc. has introduced a UF product called Aquacore. Similar to RO, the Aquacore UF system operates on available water pressure and requires no chemicals to deliver high-quality drinking water. UF membrane technology is the same technology used in industrial-grade applications and has been proven effective in water treatment plants worldwide for several years.
Unlike RO, Aquacore UF leaves dissolved minerals intact and, with typical flow through processing of up to 11 gal per minute, needs no storage tank. While typical RO systems send 50% or more of the incoming water down the drain, Aquacore has 98% efficiency and plays very favorably in areas of restricted water usage. Built around a patented multi-bore hollow fiber membrane with hundreds of fibers containing billions of pores, Aquacore UF screens turbidity and pathogens while allowing water to flow through with minimum pressure drop. Aquacore hollow fiber membranes deliver pathogen-free water at a nominal porosity level of 0.02 microns. The membrane’s life expectancy is at least five years; however, source water conditions including turbidity, particle size, and pressure, as well as volume of water used, can all affect filter membrane life.
The inside-out filtration process of Aquacore UF channels water through the capillaries trapping impurities on the inside walls. The impurities are removed from the capillaries during a high-velocity (power wash) forward-flushing process. The inside-out process of the Aquacore assures regular, proactive cleansing and optimizes membrane life. A typical installation includes a sediment pre-filter and optional GAC post-filter for taste and odor control.
While RO membranes have the smallest pores and thus achieve a high level of purification, practical limitations often restrict RO growth to point-of-use applications. On the other hand, UF growth will come from expanding applications in the point-of-entry sector with a focus on upscale builders and homeowners who prefer a whole-house approach to multiple-contaminant, chemical-free water treatment.
Smart Water-Wise Control
Although a new player among the “green” products, Aquacore scores highly by using as little as 2 gal per day to keep the module performing optimally. An easy-to-program meter/controller determines when to flush the module and how much water to use in the process. Its smart microprocessor technology is very accurate in initiating flushing only as needed. A flush cycle is triggered only after a preset number of gallons have passed though the membrane. The number of gallons between flushes and the duration of each flush are determined by the quality of the source water. The controller senses when water is being used and automatically delays the flush cycle until household water flow ceases. The controller also senses when water has not been used in a 24-hour period and initiates a brief maintenance flush that keeps the system fresh while using minimal water.
The average installation begins with a standard 50-micron (or lower) fibrous pre-filter cartridge plumbed to the source of water into the home, thus protecting the membrane from blockage by large particles. The UF module follows the pre-filter and is typically attached to the same wall-mounted board. The flush port is connected to drain, and the meter/control is connected to the permeate port to complete the assembly. The only two structural requirements for installation are access to drain and a 110VAC power source. Finally, for reducing tastes and odors or organic chemicals (including chlorine and its byproducts), an optional GAC carbon post-filter is recommended. With 1-in. fittings at the inlet and outlet, the Aquacore system meets all plumbing codes.
Indoor Water Quality
The “Green Building” and “Healthy Home” movements place great importance on home water conservation, but the issue of water quality is also of growing concern to both builders and homeowners in every part of the U.S. While indoor air quality has been important to green builders for some time, indoor water quality is gaining the same kind of attention. UF provides biologically safe water without wasting water. A “green” whole-house water treatment system like Aquacore delivers a continuous supply of healthy water to every household tap, making it a must-have environmental protection system for today’s healthy home.