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Written by: Donavan Jones on August 23, 2018
The Definitive Guide To Reverse Osmosis System Maintenance – Learn How to Drain, Clean & Service Your System
Reverse osmosis is one of the most popular ways to treat your water. That’s why it is very important for you to perform regular reverse osmosis system maintenance on your system to ensure that it’s running at its peak performance.
Why is that?
That’s because reverse osmosis systems are capable of removing up to 99% of the contaminants floating in your water.
Table Of Contents:
- Reverse Osmosis System Maintenance 101
- How Often Do I Need To Change My RO Filters
- What Happens If I Forget To Change The Filters
- Replacing The Standard Filters
- Do I Need To Clean My RO System
- How Long Should My RO System Last (Lifespan)
- Will A Water Softener Damage My RO System
Reverse Osmosis System Maintenance 101
Its time to learn how to maintain your reverse osmosis system the right way. Below, you will find some basic maintenance information that applies to almost all RO units. The guide will help you to protect your system from contamination when maintaining the system.
How Often Do I Need To Change My RO Filters
For the best results from your reverse osmosis system, routine maintenance is a must. Reverse osmosis systems vary in how many filters they have. RO systems can have three, four, or five-filter stages.
- Sediment Filter – This pre-filter needs to be changed every 12 months. If not properly maintained or changed on schedule, the pre-filter can become clogged or fouled. A damaged pre-filter can no longer protect the RO membrane from damage.
- Carbon Filter – The next phase is generally the carbon filter which is designed to remove chlorine and other taste or odor contaminants. If this filter is damaged it can ruin the RO membrane as chlorine is no longer being removed. The carbon filter should be replaced every 12 months.
- Reverse Osmosis Membrane – This is the reverse osmosis stage. Reverse osmosis (RO) is a separation process that uses pressure to force water through a membrane. The membrane retains the contaminate on one side and allows water to pass through to the other side. Water passes through the RO membrane at about 35 pounds per square inch (psi). That’s about two drops per second. The contaminants that were rejected by the RO membrane are piped down the drain. RO membranes should be replaced every 2 years.
- Polishing Filter – A carbon filter stage is typically added to “polish” off the water at the end of the cycle. This stage removes any remaining taste or odor to create pure drinking water. The carbon filter should be changed every 12 months.
The filters and RO membranes lifespan will vary based on the feed water supply and household usage.
What Happens If I Forget To Change The Filters
If you forget to change your filters, over time your systems will begin to produce less and less water, ultimately not producing water at all. Decreased in water production is a strong indicator that you have reached the end of the filter and membrane useful lifespan.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to set a reminder for yourself so you can change the filters and membrane on time.
How to Change Reverse Osmosis Filters & Membrane
The following filter and membrane replacement instructions are for most standard reverse osmosis systems. It’s very important to ensure that when changing any filter or membrane on your drinking water system, you are using appropriate sanitation and service procedures. The following step by step guide will help to ensure those sanitation and service procedures are met.
- Make sure you are using the proper filter cartridges for the replacement
- The filter cartridges should remain in the original packaging until you are ready to install them into your reverse osmosis system
- Wash your hands before performing the replacement service. This will prevent the introduction of bacteria to the system
- An RO system service kit can help make the filter replacement simpler and keep your system at peak performance.
Replacing The Standard Filters
Most reverse osmosis systems usually have 2-3 vertical filters.
- Step 1. Turn off the feed water supply line valve to the reverse osmosis system.
- Step 2. Close the ball valve on the reverse osmosis storage tank. This is usually done by turning the blue ball valve on top of the tank a 1/4 turn clockwise.
- Step 3. If you have a line going to your refrigerator or ice maker from your reverse osmosis system, turn off the ball valve on the line going to your ice maker.
- Step 4. Open the RO faucet and allow the pressure in the system bleed off.
- Step 5. Place a shallow tray or pan under the filter housing to catch any water that may spill during the filter changing process.
- Step 6. Unscrew the vertical filter housing from the cap and remove the used filter cartridge. If you are having problems removing the filter housing, a special filter housing wrench may be needed.
- Step 7. Carefully remove the O-rings and place them on a clean surface. Whip the O-rings clean with a soft towel and visually inspect for any nicks, cuts, or abrasions that may cause the O-rings to improperly seat in the filter housing. If the O-ring appears damages, replace the O-ring.
- Step 8. Rinse out the disconnected filter housing using warm water and a small amount of liquid soap. Be certain that all soap is thoroughly rinsed out of the filter housing before inserting the new filter and reattaching.
- Step 9. Lightly lubricate the O-ring with a silicone lubricant. Insert the O-ring into the filter housing’s O-ring groove. It’s important to be sure the O-ring is properly seated into the groove as it provides a watertight seal between the filter housing and the filter housing cap.
- Step 10. Measure the new filter to be sure it is the proper length. Remove the new filter from the plastic or paper packaging.
- Step 11. Place the filter in the correct filter housing and carefully screw the filter housing back on to the filter housing cap, hand tight only.
- Step 12. Turn the incoming water supply valve on and check the system for leaks.
- Step 13. Turn on the reverse osmosis faucet. Within a couple of minutes, you should get a small stream of water or a very fast drip, which means your new filters are working properly.
- Step 14. Let several gallons of water run through the RO system and out of the RO faucet with the storage tank valve still closed.
- Step 15. Turn off the faucet and open the storage tank ball valve by turning the blue valve 1/4 turn counter-clockwise so that the blue handle is parallel with the tubing connected to the storage tank.
- Step 16. If the storage tank is empty, it may take several hours for the tank to fill completely. You may hear water running while the tank is filling.
- Step 17. If applicable, open the refrigerator or ice maker line, AFTER the tank is completely filled.
- Step 18. Your system is now ready for use.
Do I Need To Clean My RO System
A reverse osmosis system should be sanitized at least once a year. A good time to complete the sanitization process is during filter change since most filters need to be replaced once a year.
Before you begin, you’ll want to read the instruction manual for specific details on how to sanitize your system. The following is the general process of how you can sanitize/clean your system.
- 1. Shut off the main valve completely
- 2. Dispense all of the water from your RO faucet
- 3. Remove the sediment and carbon filters from their housing
- 4. Remove the RO membrane from its housing
- 5. Keep the filters out of their housing, but screw the housing back in place
- 6. Pour about 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide into stage one housing
- 7. Reattach all of the connections
- 8. Turn the main valve back on
- 9. Allow the system to run (without the filters, the storage tank will refill rapidly)
- 10. Let the system run for at least through 2 cycles
- 11. Shut off the main valve again
- 12. Install the new filters
- 13. Let the tank fill back up and drain one more time
At this point, your reverse osmosis system should be ready for use! Repeat this process at least once a year.
How Long Should My RO System Last (Lifespan)
If your reverse osmosis system is serviced and maintained as the parts wear out, the system can last for many years, 10 to 15 years is very possible. You need to make sure to follow the membrane filter schedule and sterilize/clean the system at least once a year.
Will A Water Softener Damage My RO System
No, a water softener and an RO system are actually a great combination. The water softener will soften the water throughout the house and the RO system will remove 98% of all sodium in the water. This water treatment duo makes great-tasting drinking water.
Since calcium and magnesium, the minerals that make your water hard, are difficult for an RO membrane to remove, the water softener acts as a protective barrier for the RO system. This protection keeps the RO system from fouling and can extend the lifespan of the RO membrane.
Reverse osmosis system maintenance will extend the lifespan of your RO system. In fact, we have seen many of your our reverse osmosis systems that we installed 10 years ago still working today. The filters include the sediment filter, carbon filter, reverse osmosis membrane, and polish filter. Failure to change out these filters per their replacement schedule can not only damage the system but will also decrease the water production. If you notice a decrease in water flow from your RO faucet, that may be an indicator that your filters have reached the end of their lifespan. If you have questions about this guide or you need help with the reverse osmosis system maintenance process, please contact us today so you can continue enjoying pure water for many years to come.
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