But is it fear mongering?
Is this a ploy by the big brands to scare you and make you buy high priced products? After all, the water purifier market is touted to be a $4.1 billion industry in India by 2024.
Water purifiers are quite expensive. They entail a high maintenance cost. So do you really need to invest in one? Do they really provide health benefits?
This article will answer all your questions related to water purifiers. It will help you to select the best water purifier based on your needs and budget, whether you live in Bengaluru or Ludhiana or anywhere in India.
I am writing this article with first hand experience of using multiple branded and non-branded water purifiers over more than 5 years.I have spoken to many service engineers, both local and from the company. I wanted to share with you what I have learnt over the years to help you avoid the mistakes I made and also help you to select the best water purifier for your needs.
But buying a water purifier in India could be very confusing due to the plethora of choices available in the market. In this guide, we would like to provide criteria to consider before buying a water purifier in India and find a water purifier that fits your budget while keeping your family healthy.
(i) What is total dissolved solids (TDS)?
According to World HealthOrganization (WHO) TDS is defined as:
“Total dissolved solids (TDS) is the term used to describe the inorganic salts and smallamounts of organic matter present in solution in water. The principal constituents are usuallycalcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium cations and carbonate, hydrogencarbonate,chloride, sulfate, and nitrate anions.”
(ii) What is the acceptable TDS limit for drinking water?
Would you believe me if I told that you do NOT need a water purifier.
But only if the water source in your area meets certain requirements.
According to Bureau of Indian Standards, the TDS of potable water is less than or equal to 500.
But according to WHO, TDS levels for drinking water is much stringent.
I would rather follow the stringent range of WHO, better to be safe than be sorry! So I have summarized the water purifier you need depending on the TDS level
Table 1: Quick Water purifier selection guide based on TDS
(iii) But my grandparents used mud pot and copper vessles
Yes of course! But your grand parents also had access to fresh water, populatin was less, and consequently pollution was less. Your grandparents would not have seen lakes catching fire.
This excellent video by LMES clarfies a lot of questions I had on using mud pot and copper vessels. Though it is in Tamil, the video is self explanatory.
It clearly shows how copper vessels and mud pots cannot bring down the TDS of water.
By all means use a copper vessel. However, it cannot remove the pollutants and microorganisms present in the polluted water. It can only enhance the water with Copper ions. Ideally, you can use it to store RO purified water.
One issue I would like to highlight is regarding copper water bottles. I am sure you would have seen green deposits at the bottom of copper vessels. These pertain to copper carbonate. While in a wide bottomed vessel it is easier to clean this, I imagine cleaning this up completely in a copper water bottle might be very difficult. Please bear this in mind
These mud or clay pots help to keep water cool as water evaporates through the pores. Again it might not help to remove the impurities or dissolved solids. Moreover, it will not help to improve the taste of the water.
So unless TDS of water in your area is below 300, and does not have a bad taste, none of the above would help. Water purifier is the best choice available.
5. Electric water purifier buying guide
1. Criteria to keep in mind before you buy water purifier
- Water source
- Water pressure (especially in multi-storyed buildings)
- After sales service
- Storage capacity
- Installation: Free or separately charged
- Annual maintenance cost
- TDS controller
“The water source should be your primary criteria before shortlisting a water purifier. In fact, it will help you to decide if you even need a water purifier in the first place.”
2. What is you water source?
- Municipal water: Total dissolved solids (TDS) of Municipal or Corporation water is usually around 500 or below. However, check the TDS in the water with the help of a TDS meter. If the taste of water is not good, you may go ahead and get a water purifier even if the TDS is around 500. A simple UV water purifier will also help.
- Groundwater/Bore water: If you are one of those people who predominantly use groundwater for drinking purpose, then more often than not, we highly recommend a water purifier. This is because the TDS level in groundwater tends to be high, ranging between 500 to 2,000 or more than 2000 in certain areas.
- Multiple sources: There are a few areas which do not have a reliable supply of groundwater. So they depend on municipal water as well as groundwater, both of which are stored in a sump (underground storage from where water is pumped up to an overhead storage tank). Again, due to the mixing of multiple water sources, we recommend that you use a water purifie
“RO+UV is the most common type of water purifier in the market as it removes dissolved solids as well as kill germs.”
3. Do you need electric or non-electric water purifier?
- Reverse Osmosis (RO): Reverse osmosis is the process by which a membrane separates dissolved particles or contaminants and water, making the water fit for consumption.
- Ultraviolet rays (UV): In the context of water purifier, UV helps to kil harmful germs such as bacteria and virus
- Most water purifiers provide a combination of RO+UV+UF, some provide only RO+UV or only RO or only UF.
- If water TDS level is below 500, generally huge investment in water purifiers is not recommended.
- Simple boiling of water would be sufficient. As RO companies use lot of jargons, consumers are confused and also you would end up spending more money than is required.
(ii) Non-electric water purifiers:
Gravity-based (or) non-electric water purifiers: As the names suggests, these work without electricity. These essentially use gravity to purify water.
Typically they deploy Ultrafiltration (UF) process. UF membrane removes larger suspended particles, bacteria, virus etc.
Some of them use chemicals such as Chlorine or Bromine. So don’t forget to read our in-depth article, Top things about gravity water purifiers you wish you knew to select the most suitable product for your use.
Components founds in water purifier:
Sediment pre-filter: This is generally found outside the main RO unit in a separate encasement. It contains a microfilter or simply a micro spun (usually 5 microns) which acts as the first gateway and removes sediments or dust particles. This means that you need to change the pre-filter periodically. The time period could range from 3 months to 6 months depending on the quality of the water. It also increases the lifespan of the main membrane.
Activated carbon filter: This further purifies the water by removing chlorine, and also removes odour from water by trapping organic compounds and other volatile substances.
RO/UF membrane: The water so far has been pre-treated and now enters the most important part of the RO filter, the RO membrane. This is where the main action takes place. The membrane separates dissolved particles, ions, and some minerals allowing only pure water to pass through. It is debatable whether RO removes metals such as lead, arsenic, etc. But more importantly, RO removes essential minerals. Hence, ROs have additional cartridges. They add back minerals thus making it potable.
UV Filter: This is not really a filter but a UV lamp that kills harmful bacteria and virus in the water. It does not remove dissolved solids. Water needs to be purified before the UV lamp treats it. For this reason, it is always found after the RO membrane.
TDS Controller: This is a mechanical device that allows mixing of minerals as the RO water is stripped of essential minerals. You may be little surprised to know that the minerals come from tap water. So there is a slight mixing of tap water with RO water to restore the minerals. Weird? Yes, but these days there are additional cartridges to add back minerals.
Many RO devices are pre-fitted with TDS controller but some may not have. Check if this is available in the water purifier you choose. Do remember to backflush this once in few days. For more information on how to backflush, watch this video.
Post carbon-filter: This further enhances the taste of the water and removes any odour if present.
Image Source: http://upwatersystem.com/
The red dotted line above encompassing stage 2 to stage 8 is usually found enclosed in the main body of the water purifier. Whereas the stage 1, pre-filter is outside the main unit. This is just an illustration and it is not necessary that all cartridges will be present. For instance, if you selected only RO purifier, UV unit will not be present. However, sediment filter and pre-carbon filter are almost always present in all units.
Storage tank: This is where the final treated water is stored. There are water purifiers without storage tank also but generally not recommended. In case there is a power failure, it may not be effective. Various devices have different tank sizes. The most common being 7,8 or 9L but it is not uncommon to find heavier tanks. Do keep in mind, larger the storage tank size, heavier the unit would become. Moreover, it would occupy more space.
Other cartridges: As you read above in the TDS controller part, there is slight mixing of tap water with RO water to restore minerals. However, nowadays it is common to find an extra cartridge (usually between RO and UV cartridges) to add back essential minerals. Look for the term Mineralizer in the description of the product. Read this to know more about the difference between TDS controller and Mineralizer.
Non-essential features (Read as higher cost):
Display unit: Some advanced water purifiers are fitted with LED display units that shows time, the life of important filters, error in various components, auto flush to cleanse the membrane.
Smart touch enabled: This lets the user control the water purifier from a smartphone-operated through Bluetooth technology.
Hot water: Some devices have the provision to dispense hot water. Though generally, they recommend not to heat RO water or rather it is not necessary to heat RO water. Yet, there are few brands which have this provision.
Pro Tips before installation:
- Foremost thing is to be aware of the area available in the kitchen and availability of power outlet. If possible, a place for impure water outlet. If there is already a provision to take the pipe out through a window that will be great. Else, you can collect the impure water in a container and dispose it. This could be painful at times.
- What to expect when you call a company for a demo? A demo simply means the person will check the TDS of the water, nothing more nothing less. Gone are the days when Eureka Forbes executive would come unannounced on a Sunday morning and will give a full demo. (Remember the old days when they used to demo vacuum cleaners!). However, it is essential that you call for a demo, not only to check the TDS but also ask them various questions. Hope this article helps you to ask meaningful questions.
- Questions to ask include:
- Installation cost – usually free whether bought online or offline
- Maintenance cost per year – especially after the first year
- Warranty – Make a note of components that are covered by warranty and the time period? Some components are covered for 6 months, while others for 12 months
- Availability of EMI – tricky to get offline, easier to get online
- Whether a booster pump is needed if pressure is low
- Number of free services – usually they provide 2 or 3 free services in the first year
- Time to change the pre-filter – Kent pre-filters last a good 3 to 6 months
- Check the range of ppm that the membrane would be able to handle. Most water purifiers are able to handle a TDS of 1000 or even 1500 very well. Most companies use their proprietary membrane. If the TDS of the source water is above 2000, do discuss this with the executive who comes for the demo. There are additional types of equipment they might suggest to bring down the TDS.
Pro Tips after installation:
- Many things can go wrong with usage. So keep the bill and customer care number handy.
- For instance, I have seen water leaking from one of the pipes. Wear and tear nicked the pipe. The service guy rectified by removing the torn portion. In another instance, water was spurting out like a jet flow. I had no idea what went wrong. It turned out the casing which house the main membrane had cracked. So had to replace it. It cost around Rs 550/-.
- It is important to back flush the valve in the TDS controller. How do you do this? The switch valve is usually pointing downwards in the normal course. You twist it to one side (in my home, it is towards the right), and you will notice that the water in the outlet pipe flows with increased speed. Do note that while this is on, the normal RO process will stop. Hence, you will not find water filling the storage tank. It is advisable to do this once in a few days and for 15 mins each time. This ensures a good life for the membrane.
- If you use multiple sources of water, do not mix both. It will affect the life of the membrane. For instance, municipal source generally has lower TDS than bore water. Alternating between the two would affect the life of the membrane.
- It is a good idea to change the entire pipe set periodically. Look for change in colour of the outlet pipe. If it is brown or black in colour, it is time to change it.
To select the water purifier for your need, we have handpicked the best water purifiers in a separate article, Guide to best RO water purifiers in India. Do check it out after you have read this post!
Do let us know if we have missed anything. Please also give feedback in the comments section. Thanks.