Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Water Filters

We have used electric distillers and candle-drip filters in our home. Distilled water is superb for drinking purity and also for wet-cell batteries. Unfortunately it takes a lot of electricity to generate the heat necessary to distill tap water, and if you're rurally located and on a well, if your water is hard or has significant mineral content, the distiller will have to be cleaned regularly.

There are other means of water cleansing. If on a boat you may want a desalination rig. Probably more expensive than a distiller, but I've never looked into desalination. Have never owned a Reverse Osmosis filter either. These pump raw or tap water through a finely permeable membrane for filtration and take little or no energy to run. The filters have a fairly short life though and so must routinely be replaced.

Ceramic filters represent the best value for water filtration. If you have a well, likely you have a canister filter plumbed inline to prevent debris and mineral silt from clogging your pipes and valveworks. If you've got pretty decent pressure, likely you don't have to change the sediment filter too often, unless you have sulfur or other smell/taste issues, then you know how long activated charcoal filters last; not too long...

Always a good idea to pre-filter debris from the water you intend to filter, even in your own home if on a well. With raw water you've collected, pre-filtering is a must. If you intend your ceramic filter to have longest effective life, the cleaner the water is the less often you'll need to clean the filter.

There are camping filters which utilize a hand pump to move water through the ceramic filter. These are fairly compact and the best ones mate to a Nalgene bottle thread so the purified water does not spill or risk contamination. We own MSR Waterworks type filters for personal kits and carry. The MSR uses a side-pump actuator rather than a straight-inline pump like the Katadyn personal units. Easier to hold the MSR in one hand and pump with side motion than the straight pump design. The MSR also threads to Nalgene bottles and the MSR Dromedary bags. Might also work with the newer Camelbak reservoir bags... MSR is a very popular maker of quality backpacking gear. Spare parts and rebuild kits for their filters and cookstoves are widely available wherever backpacking or expedition gear is sold. REI and CampMor plus other web retailers are also an option.

Any pump filter will have an intake tube which draws from your water source. The more you can prefilter this source, the longer you can go before cleaning your filter. You may be able to filter muddy or swamp water, and drink it with confidence; but not more than once or twice before the debris clogs the ceramic filter pores. So, you pre-filter.

If you have a lake or pond out your back door, maybe you rig a pre-filter and install it permanently in the lake with a tubing junction to mate with your filter... Really makes better sense though to have a 2-3 gallon ceramic candle filter unit that will process your water by gravity feed overnite. 5gal buckets are cheap at paint stores, or get used food pkg buckets from a deli or sandwich shop. Rig a series of buckets with toweling, sand, fine mesh screening and pour water through the filter media allowin a clean bucket to catch the strained water. Get the water clean as possible and maybe even boil it if you have Giardia or other organisms present. A cheap crab boil or lobster kettle will do for campfire use or on your cookstove... Once the water is clean, filter it and know you have safe drinking water for sure.

In our home, we have a Katadyn Expedition drip reservoir filter. Cost about $200 from REI and it processes 2.5gal in about 16hrs. We have high purity well water, but like the filter for drinking and cooking. About every year or 9mos the candle filters need cleaning. This is done by removing them from the upper-reservoir and rubbing the accumulated gunk off with a Scotchbrite pad. Doesn't take much rubbing, having several gallons of clean water or running tapwater is a big help. Takes about 15minutes to clean all 3 candle filters and the reservoir.

Replacement filters are available for the Expedition, but we found we could buy a totally new unit (again from REI) almost as cheap as just 3 replacement candles, so we bought another unit.

Lots of ways to move water more effectively than with buckets. A 12v SureFlo RV pump could be used with a garden hose, drawing from a filterhead in your lake/pond and pumping out through an inline canister filter like the $15 Culligan unit, and then into an RV drinking water tank which could be mounted on wheels or on an ATV trailer. Might also use a Waterbed mattress for transport. Not exactly rocket science. There are also jet pumps which will take 115/230volts but if you have a portable inverter and HD battery it may be fine. There are also gasoline operated trash pumps. They can be run clean and used with HD plastic lines to run a lot of water very fast. Then there are ways to setup a hand operated pitcher pump...

In terms of life and death wilderness survival, the Solar Still is a viable option. Plenty of ways to process water and keep your hydration and sanitation levels high. We haven't even touched on rigging a cistern to catch rainwater from gutters, or positioning rain barrels to catch rainwater runoff from your roof, or digging a well. Lots of these topics covered in old Mother Earth News or Backwoods Living, the Dave Duffy publication.

Being able to make raw-water potable and safe for cooking and cleansing your body as well as household cleaning is most critical. Don't overlook all your options for water capture and pre-filtering. Even getting a bunch of old sheets and towels from a resale can do a lot. Just pour your water through ever-finer weaves and finish up with something like a 100 thread count poly-cotton sheat. Having a set of funnels also helps process all sorts of materials and foodstuffs. Hard to have too many funnels in the kitchen or garage/shop...

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