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What is Carbon Filtration?
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Plumbing 07/30/18

What is Carbon Filtration?

Carbon filtration systems are the most effective method of removing contaminants from your homes water supply. Because carbon can absorb large amounts of volatile organic chemicals (VOC), it is the perfect solution for homeowners looking for clean, pure, fresh water from every tap.

Most customers only think of drinking water when it comes to water filtration, but the same water filled with contaminants is used to wash clothing, showers and bathing, brushing teeth, cleaning, and cooking. A whole house carbon filtration system will deliver safe water for all homeowners’ purposes.

Activated carbon works by absorption. Polluted molecules in the water get trapped by the active carbon pore structure. Activated charcoal carbon particles provide a large surface area that enables them to capture large amounts of (VOC’s) and organic chemicals, while improving taste and removing odor. (video link shows how the carbon filter system works)

What is in Your Water?

San Diego has the 9th worst water quality in the nation. We import 80 percent of our water from a few different sources including the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the Colorado River, the State Water Project in Northern California, and local supply and conservation.

The imported water supply goes through a “cleaning” process in various water treatment plants. Water purification from the groundwater sources goes through several processes to ensure the delivery of safe drinking water. Treatment facility activities include coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation to remove heavy particles. After water purification, the water is filtered to remove smaller particles that are known to be harmful. Carbon filtration is the most effective method of removing the chlorine and other particles that remain after these processes.

A common question homeowners have is, “Does a water filter remove lead?” Read more on this topic to learn about a water filtration system and different filters that do remove lead.

Coagulation, Flocculation, and Sedimentation Because the water San Diego uses come from sources that include VOC’s and other particles, treatment to remove these are performed to get the water safe for use.

Coagulation and flocculation are the first steps in this process. Chemicals are added to the water to form a positive charge. This neutralizes the negative charge of dirt and other particles, binding them to form larger particles called floc.

Sedimentation happens as the large floc settles to the bottom of the water. Once the floc has settled, the clean water passes through several water filters including sand, charcoal, and gravel, removing dissolved particles and dust, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals. These different water filters can be considered various types of a sediment filter.

The drinking water is then disinfected; some sources treat by ozone, but most treat the water by adding chlorine and ammonia, which forms chloramines. Although it is technically “safe” to drink meeting EPA requirements, the water is full of VOC’s and chloramines.

Whole House Activated Carbon Filtration

How do water filtration systems work? Applying this question to our topic on carbon filtration, whole house carbon filtration systems flush the homes water supply through active charcoal carbon. The carbon filter is hooked up to the incoming water and can be set to filter on its own. The system is self-cleaning, set to an automatic timer when installed, and requires zero maintenance from the homeowner.

Water is filled into the tank with the activated carbon. The carbon “scrubs” the water supply for the appropriate amount of time, and then the water is delivered to the home’s supply.

Whole house water filtration is simple, easy to maintain, and one of the best investments a homeowner can make. With a whole home carbon filtration system, homeowners can drink water from any tap, getting bottle quality water. The savings on purchasing water bottles or water delivery services will pay for the system in a couple of years (or less) depending on how much water families consume, and will last well over 10 years.

So, what are water filtration systems? A whole home water filtration system using granulated activated carbon helps to minimize the sediment that adds to water supply lines corrosion and wear and tear. It does not soften the water, but it removes some of the impurities from the water being delivered from the city.

Sediment and heavy minerals in the water are some of the main culprits in leaking faucets, worn toilet seals, burst angle stops, and leaking water heaters. Sediment and the minerals in the water eat away at these fixtures and pipes and cause them to fail before they should. It is one step in a home’s plumbing maintenance program.

Hard Water

In addition to bad tasting water and chemicals, San Diego has what is known as hard water. Water becomes hard at 7 to 8 grains of hardness per million. San Diego water is measured at 20 grains of hardness.  

Hard water corrodes a homes plumbing systems and pipes, creates sediment in water heaters that can cause leaks, makes it so homeowners have to use more soap and laundry detergent for cleaning, and creates those frustrating spots on shower doors and freshly washed glassware.

Water Softeners

One option many San Diego homeowners choose when designing the highest quality of water for their home is a water softener. The only way to soften hard water is by removing calcium and magnesium through a sodium ion exchange water softener.

Many companies advertise water conditioning systems, but they are not the same. Water conditioning systems do not remove the magnesium or calcium; the molecules simply become altered through various methods. A water softener can only be called a softening system if it is designed to remove those minerals.

A common misconception about sodium ion water softeners is that the water contains large amounts of sodium. In fact, the brine tank is used as a regeneration for the softner, and does not go directly into the homes water source. The Mayo Clinic published a study that sodium based water softeners allow less sodium into the water than a slice of bread.

Homeowners are left with soft water that is great for their homes plumbing system and skin. As an added bonus, there will be less waste in detergents and soap use, as water that has been softened allows smaller amount of soaps and detergents to be used with greater effectiveness.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

A sodium ion exchange water softener works in 4 steps.

Step 1: Resin Tank

In step one, the water is back washed into the resin tank. It is filled with millions of bead-like molecules that have divers. The water goes in and is essentially scrubbed by the beads, leaving the magnesium and calcium attached to the divers.

Step 2: Brine Tank

The brine tank flushes the water and goes back into the resin tank where the beads are regenerated for the next round.

Step 3: Rapid Rinse

The water goes through a rapid rinse cycle removing any trace sodium, and is then delivered into the homes water system.

Ste 4: Regeneration

The process is repeated, and the ions are regenerated in the resin tank.

Activated carbon filtration systems plus water softening creates the best possible quality of water (including taste and odor) for a home. Together, they protect the homes plumbing lines and fixtures, deliver unparalleled taste and freshness, and leave skin and glassware clean and free of San Diego’s hard water.

Bill Howe Plumbing water treatment specialists recommend this combination for the ultimate in home tap water. Call 1-800 Bill Howe (245-5469) today for a free estimate on whole house carbon filtration and a water softener.


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Very Satisfied. Michael is always on time, Michael has been doing all of the plumbing related to our remodel. He always does exactly what he commits to do within the estimated cost. He keeps me informed if any wrinkles pop up, and his plumbing skills are excellent as we have had no problems or issues arise after he has left. Very professional! Highly recommend.

August 2019


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We had other companies come out for estimates on what was considered a major job with jackhammers and replacing cast iron pipes under the house… having been stung before, we wanted another estimate just to make sure we were making an informed decision. The prior estimates went up to $21,000!
Bill Howe sent us an amazing veteran plumber, Dashawn and his co- worker Anthony. Dashawn did a thorough check of the problem, explained what he thought was needed … he did a final check and we were able to see for ourselves what was the problem. He recommended a complete cleaning to de-scale the pipes, and not the major work we dreaded. Thanks to his solid analysis and patience in making sure we saw what he saw, the issue was resolved completely, and saved us thousands of unnecessary work. None of the other estimates included the cleaning; only the major repairs. Thanks to Dashawn’s knowledge, professionalism and honesty, we’re Bill Howe customers.

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Cory was our technician on this job. We had a time sensitive repair issue and Bill Howe understood and assisted with getting the job done quickly.
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