You can never be too safe when it comes to checking the purity of your drinking water. Water filtration is a booming and important industry, and you need to make sure that all possible precautions are taken so that the water you’re drinking is safe.
Using a carbon block filter is one of the most common and effective filtering methods in the industry. With this method, as you might’ve guessed, your water is treated with a solid carbon block before it’s consumed.
In this article, we discuss how carbon block filtering works, its advantages over other filtering systems, and much more.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Carbon Block Water Filter?
Tap water can have a large number of impurities in it. These pollutants can include the presence of salts, chemicals, bacteria, or even heavy metals in the water. There are ways to kill germs by adding decontaminants to the water, but this method might result in a bad taste, and it’s not always completely safe.
This is where carbon block water filters come into the picture. A solid carbon block, made up of what’s called activated carbon, can filter out many of the impurities we might find in our water.
This makes it an excellent material for water filtration. It makes the water much safer for drinking and other uses by effectively removing those impurities and contaminants.
Activated carbon can remove dissolved particles in water as well, which improves the taste and removes odors and other unpleasant flavors.
How Does a Carbon Block Water Filter Work?
Carbon filter technology is one of the most popular methods of filtering water available in the industry today. Due to the many advantages of carbon block filters, they can either be used on their own or in combination with other filters to ensure that you get the highest quality of drinking available.
There are three major processes that carbon blocks can use to filter your water. A carbon block filter cartridge might use one or more of these methods for more efficient filtration.
In mechanical filtration, the carbon particles act like a strainer or sieve for the bigger pollutants present in the water. A pump pushes the water so that it slowly passes through the carbon block while it removes particles of bigger sizes from the water.
Mechanical filtration is the simplest filtration method used for this purpose, and it can filter out particles that are up to half a micron in size.
Before we talk about this process, let’s go over what adsorption is. In adsorption, the particles from a liquid or gas form a superficial monomolecular layer on a solid and bind to it. You can read up on this process by checking out this article on adsorption.
When a carbon filter cartridge uses this method, there are two layers to the filter: an outer wrapping and an inner layer. The water first passes through the outer layer of the filter. This then causes the material in the inner layer to receive a positive charge.
Now, as you know, opposite charges attract. This means that all of the negative ions in the water will become attracted to the outer layer, removing impurities with a negative charge. This is the process known as electrokinetic adsorption.
Besides electrokinetic adsorption, carbon has properties that help it engage in physical adsorption as well. This means that carbon particles can attract other particles and make them stick to each other. This technology is used to make a specially-compressed solid carbon block that can remove the pollutants commonly found in drinking water
The Advantages to Using a Carbon Block Filter
A carbon block water filter has certain qualities that make it a much better pick than other conventional filters or methods of water filtration.
Other methods like reverse osmosis are used for water treatment as well, but a lot of water filter manufacturers and consumers prefer carbon block filters for many reasons. The following are just a few of the benefits that carbon filters can provide.
Removes Many Contaminants
Drinking water needs to be free not only from chemicals and pollutants, but also from dissolved solids and heavy metals.
Carbon blocks have a uniform pore structure between individual granules. This ensures that the contact time between the water and the filter increases, which improves the filtration.
Besides solid carbon block filters, granulated activated carbon is also used for this purpose. Granulated activated carbon, abbreviated as GAC, is made out of activated carbon that has been ground into a fine powder. These carbon particles are then used in a layer or a cartridge to filter water through.
Unlike conventional methods of water filtration, carbon block filters also remove materials like lead, microscopic cysts and parasites, volatile organic chemicals, and other particles. The parasites and cysts commonly found in impure water are known to cause diseases like giardia and cholera.
Customization and Convenience
Another reason why carbon block filters are so useful is that there’s a certain amount of freedom in the manufacturing process. The cartridges used in such filters can be customized according to personal needs.
With granulated activated carbon, there is no room for bacteria to grow within the filter cartridge, making it much safer. For drinking water systems that need to be installed in houses, a carbon water filter is often the most convenient way to ensure high water quality.
The use of carbon in filter designs also has another advantage in the form of size. A carbon filter cartridge is simpler, smaller, and comes in a more compact design, which means that filter systems can be more diverse while offering great performance at the same time.
We can take that to mean that carbon filtration is one of the most optimized methods in water filtering processes.
Low Cost and Eco-Friendly
Environmental concerns are also a major problem when it comes to water filters, and carbon fines are the top of the list. Carbon fines, or carbon dust, is a water contaminant. This is not a problem with carbon block filters though, as there is no need for backwashing or flushing.
This means that granulated activated carbon filtration processes are safe for the environment as well, and do not create a health concern because of the danger of carbon fines in the water.
Carbon block technology also only uses organic compounds, which ensures that there are no harmful effects on the environment.
Additionally, the cost of carbon is low while availability is high. This means that carbon filters can be set up more easily and inexpensively than reverse osmosis systems, which need more upfront capital and are more complicated to set up and maintain.
How Do Carbon Block Filters Compare to Other Methods?
The most important factor when it comes to filtering water is to ensure a high water quality with very low levels of contamination. For this reason, carbon filters, though they’re reliable and effective, are often used with other forms of filtration technology, like reverse osmosis systems.
This means that the most effective water filters won’t have just one solid block of carbon, or even a mix of carbon filters, but will also include systems like reverse osmosis or ion exchange to filter out contaminants that carbon can’t.
Granulated Activated Carbon
Granulated activated carbon (GAC) filters are most useful for removing unnatural tastes and odors from the water. While GAC filters can purify water faster than carbon block filters do, they do not remove as many contaminants, as many germs can slip past the more loosely-packed carbon particles.
Carbon block filters are more densely-packed and work more slowly, but they filter out a lot more of the contaminants that can potentially harm your health.
In reverse osmosis, water is pushed through a semipermeable membrane that’s used to remove inorganic dissolved materials, bacteria, viruses, and more. The problem with reverse osmosis systems is that even though they can be quite effective, they are extremely slow and can cause a lot of water to go to waste.
The time-consuming and wasteful nature of reverse osmosis makes it suitable for use only when you need a very strong filtering system. You can learn more about this process by checking out this article on reverse osmosis.
Distillation is another process for purifying water. This method does not use any carbon filters, but simply removes impurities by turning water into steam and back into water again. This ensures that all impurities are left behind.
Distilled water can have a flatter taste than regular tap water, as it won’t contain any of the minerals that we’re used to finding in our water. Some people even claim that drinking distilled water can leech minerals from your own body when ingested.
Distilled water probably isn’t too harmful because we meet most of our nutritional needs through the food we eat, but you may not want to drink it long term.
Besides this, distillation can also take up a lot of time, power, and space, which does not make it workable for use in many home water purification systems.
What Are Carbon Filters Made Of?
There are a lot of parameters that need to be taken into consideration when designing a solid carbon block filter.
This means that the raw materials have to be selected based on the right properties, the design has to be finalized on the basis of what it’s going to filter out, and the porosity and surface area of the material used has to be just right to ensure that the filter can work properly.
The Carbon Element
Carbon is one of the most plentiful materials on the planet. We are all carbon-based lifeforms, which means that a large part of our bodies is made out of carbon. 18.5% of the human body mass is made out of carbon.
Carbon can be found in a lot of natural sources, but the most common ones are coal, wood, and nutshells. All of these materials can be used to make a solid carbon block, but not all forms of carbon are made equal.
The carbon found in wood is much more suitable for making a solid block than the carbon found in coal, which is better for making granulated activated carbon.
Even though coal-based carbon is easily available and inexpensive, it can have pollutants in the layers that can leak into the water. This defeats the purpose of using it for a solid carbon block.
Like carbon, impurities present in the water also come in different types, and there’s a wide range of contaminants that can harm you. Wood-based carbon can more easily filter out some of these impurities.
The disadvantage to using these types of wood-based filters is that it takes trees years to grow and produce enough bark. This means that it’s not very practical to depend on wood-based carbon for carbon block filtration, even though it’s a good way to get clean water.
Coconut Shell Carbon
The most common type of carbon used in carbon block filter systems is coconut shell carbon. Nutshells like these have larger surface areas, have more pores, and are easier to get.
Among the options available today, coconut shell carbon comes with a lot of great advantages that make it an excellent option for removing contaminants from water.
The granules of carbon present in coconut shells have a higher level of porosity, which means that smaller materials can be adsorbed. This reduces the levels of contaminants present in drinking water.
Besides pore size, thickness, and larger surface areas, coconut shell carbon has some more advantages that make it a good fit for solid carbon block filtering systems.
The amount of inorganic ash present in coconut shells is very low, which means that the amount of impurities present in the material is also low. Effectively, this makes it a much purer form of carbon as well, which in turn leads to better quality control and protection.
A carbon cartridge made from coconut shell carbon comes with a lot of benefits for water filter technology and addresses environmental issues as well.
Whatever the type of material used in the making of these filters, the kind of performance they can churn out is one of the most important aspects of the industry.
The physical design of a carbon block filter can have a major impact on how well it functions. Flow rate and purification standards are greatly affected by the way a water filter is built.
The most important factors when it comes to the shape of a filter is the diameter of the cylinder (for gauging the total volume of the water it can hold and the pressure it can undergo) and the length.
The length of the cylinder is important because it decides how much time the water has to interact with the filter. If the contact time between the carbon block layer and the water is too little, it can cause some impurities to slip by, making the water unfit for consumption.
Other important things to keep in mind are the caps on both ends of the filter. These are there to ensure that external impurities outside the water filter do not get mixed in with the water being filtered. An inner layer is also applied to the cylinder to ensure that carbon dust does not enter the water.
What Determines a Carbon Filter’s Effectiveness?
The performance and effectiveness of a carbon block filter is determined by its surface area, its porosity, and the size and type of harmful contaminants it can filter out of water. Another important parameter is the flow rate and output of the filter.
If a water filter could remove most impurities from water and do it in a sustainable way, but take hours just to filter a liter of water, it would not be very wise to use that material. Luckily, carbon can filter water pretty quickly.
The pore size of a material is a measure of what kind of particles it can filter out. If a carbon filter can remove impurities of smaller sizes, it can effectively remove bigger impurities as well. This is what decides the quality of the material used in the filter.
But the contaminants in your water might sometimes not be completely removed. In these cases, there’s still an acceptable level that manufacturers must strictly adhere to. A good balance of effectiveness and flow rate is what makes a carbon block filter a good fit.
How Are Carbon Block Filters Certified Safe?
Now that you understand the different types of materials used in carbon-based water filtration products, let’s talk about how it’s decided that a particular carbon filter is safe for mass use.
Laboratory testing is done by certified companies who test different types of water and filters, ensuring that the water is pure enough to consume.
Performance of a good carbon filter is evaluated by NSF International, an American agency that addresses testing, inspection, and certification of public health standards. You can learn more about them by checking out the official NSF website.
NSF International has a comprehensive testing method which they use to figure out how pure a water sample is. It’s not just about the amount of impurities in the water before and after filtration. Several other tests go into making sure that the water you’re drinking is completely safe for consumption.
The temperature of the water, minerals like magnesium and calcium, and the acidity or basic nature of the water are some of the other factors that are taken into consideration.
Environmental Protection Agency
The level of acceptable contaminants in water that can be safe for consumption is called the MCL, which stands for maximum contaminant level. This system was developed by the EPA in the United States, or the Environmental Protection Agency, and you can learn more about the agency by visiting the official EPA website.
The amount of impurities present in water for it to be considered safe for drinking and use should always fall below the MCL. Anything above this level could potentially be harmful to your health.
Besides the factors and parameters mentioned above, there are a few other things that are taken into consideration when figuring out if a new technology or filter passes the test. There’s even a test to see if the materials used in the filtration system itself will add its own impurities to the water.
Another thing that these agencies test for and provide certification for is that the production process remains the same. Every filter has to be made in exactly the same way to ensure that they produce consistent and safe results.
Manufacturers must test and certify that the materials used to make the outside of a water filter can withstand the pressure applied on the inside. The text written on a water filter also needs to be extremely accurate to ensure that customers know exactly what they’re paying for and how to use it.
In this article, we learned all about carbon block water filters and how they’re used. We discussed the various benefits that carbon block filters provide over other filtering methods, like distillation and reverse osmosis.
The many advantages to using carbon block water filters, like their low cost, their compact design, their eco-friendly nature, and their easy customizability, make them an extremely popular choice in the water filtering world.
Clean drinking water is one of the most important aspects of a healthy life. We hope that this article has helped you to better understand carbon block filters and why they’re such a great option. If you’re interested in such topics, please feel free to check out our other articles as well!
Now go out and get yourself a carbon block water filter!