Water filter cartridges must be changed regularly (as advised by the manufacturer) to avoid compromising the quality of water. Studies have shown that drinking water from an old filter will expose you to all manner of infections. But with so many brands on the market, it raises the question of whether you can use cartridges from different brands interchangeably.
Are water filter cartridges interchangeable?
Not all water filter cartridges are interchangeable. Traditionally, water filters came in all shapes and sizes. But lots of manufacturers now follow the same standard. For instance, a good chunk of carbon filters on the market adhere to a 10-inch standard. They also typically use the same filtration media (activated carbon). For these reasons, most carbon filters are interchangeable.
Types of Water Filter Cartridges
The best way to know which water filter cartridge is best for your filter is to understand the different technologies uses. Here are the different types of water filter cartridges.
Sediment Filter Cartridge
Nobody wants to take a swig and end up swallowing dirt and sand. A sediment water filter cartridge is designed to filter out dirt, silt, sand, dust, and rust. The sediment water filter cartridge has a size of 1 micron (a micron is one-millionth of a meter).
For this reason, sediment filter cartridges cannot filter out micro-organisms. They are however very effective in filtering anything above one micron. Sediment filter cartridges are usually located in the first stages of a multi-stage filtration system. These cartridges are prone to clogging hence you should regularly change them.
Ceramic Filter Cartridges
Ceramic filter cartridges employ positively charged ions to attract bacteria. When bacteria come into contact with the ceramic, the silver lining releases positively charged metal ions.
The metal ions are responsible for destroying the bacteria found in water. It is worth noting that ceramic filter cartridges are only meant to remove bacteria. For this reason, they can last longer than other filter cartridges.
Reverse Osmosis Filter Cartridges
Reverse osmosis filter cartridges use a dense membrane with a size of 1/10,000th of a micron. As a consequence, these cartridges can filter out very tiny particles. Reverse osmosis filter cartridges can get rid of salts, bacteria, and minerals. Water filtered through reverse osmosis is ideal for laundry, drinking, and bathing. Their main demerit is they can eliminate even some of the useful minerals in the water.
Carbon Filter Cartridges
Activated carbon cartridges are loved by most people because of their affordability. As the name suggests, activated carbon (charcoal) is used as the filtration media. Carbon cartridges are very good at getting rid of chlorine and volatile organic compounds. For this reason, carbon cartridges can get rid of bad tastes and odors from water. Carbon cartridges do not destroy beneficial minerals found in water. Their main demerit is they cannot get rid of salt sediments in the water.
Interchangeable Filter Cartridges
Most water filters are made of carbon. A few decades ago, water filters came in all sizes and shapes. This has since changed because of the rising trend of manufacturing universal filters. About 80% of filter cartridges are nine and three-quarters inches but these are loosely referred to as ten-inch filter cartridges. This makes carbon filters interchangeable.
Interchangeable carbon filter cartridges usually contain burnt coconut shells. The carbon is either cut into grains and fitted in a cartridge or compressed to a carbon block.
Activated carbon filters work by adsorption and not absorption. Absorption involves one material soaking up another or taking in another while adsorption occurs when a material sticks on another as it passes through.
There are two types of granular activated carbon filter systems namely,
- Point of entry filters systems. As the name suggests, this system is installed at a certain point in the house where it filters all the water running through the pipes in the house
- Point of Use filters systems. These systems are placed only where people fetch water. A good example is an under-the-sink filter unit.
Are Water Filter Cartridges Standard?
Recent developments have seen the emergence of standardized water filter cartridges. You can find them in the following dimensions;
- Standard 2.5 inch by 9.75 inch
- Standard 2.4 inch by 20 inch
- Standard 4.5 inch by 9.75 inch
- Standard 4.5 inch by 20 inch
When should I replace my Water Filter Cartridge?
If your water exhibits the following properties, you should change your cartridge.
- Slower flow rate. If you notice a drop in water flow rate, it means that your filter media is clogged up. Large contaminants can block the pore of the filter media making it hard for water to pass through.
- Bad tasting water. If your water has a bad taste you should check your cartridge. It reaches a place where cartridges get filled and cannot absorb contaminants. At this point, you may notice a strange taste in your water. Although this can stem from other sources, it may be time to replace your filter cartridge.
- Smelly water. Another indicator is a strange smell in the water. It may come from other problems but if the smell goes away when you change your cartridge, it was being caused by accumulated contaminants.
To sum it up, not all water filters cartridges are interchangeable. However, most carbon filters are. Most manufactures are now adhering to the ten-inch filter cartridge protocol. This makes it easy to replace your cartridge with another brand. However, it is best to replace your cartridge with one from the same manufacturer whenever possible. Only use a different brand when you have no choice.