Out of sight, but peace of mind

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am

The last thing you want is your kitchen looking like a laboratory, with ugly water filtration systems blighting the bench top and taking up valuable space.

One solution is to hide it under the counter with a reverse osmosis system.

The procedure works by separating contaminants, forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane.

The system is typically stored under the sink and can also be connected to the fridge icemaker, coffee maker and any other appliance requiring drinkable water.

Life Solutions managing director Blake Ireland says the market has grown since he started 10 years ago when there were only a handful of customers in Hong Kong. There are now a few thousand residential clients and the system is also popular in the corporate market.

'The demand is growing due to pollution and environmental issues surrounding the transportation of bottled water,' Ireland says.

'The cost of bottled water is ridiculous and very little is better than what comes out of the tap. People are researching more about filtration because they don't want to use bottled water at home.'

Life Solutions also provides dispensers without the need for unsightly plastic bottles. 'Storing bottles takes up valuable space in the home and you also have security issues of the bottles being delivered and collected,' Ireland explains.

The initial fee includes the purchase of equipment, including installation, maintenance and replacement filters every four months. This usually comes to between HK$7,500 and HK$8,500 for a family of six to eight people.

After the first year, there is also an annual flat fee of about HK$2,200 for labour, warranty and changing the filters. Ireland says they can re-install the unit if you decide to move house.

In contrast to other filtration methods, such as carbon or ultraviolet filters, reverse osmosis uses a membrane which acts as a physical barrier to 98 per cent of all unwanted molecules.

These are blocked and discarded, while the ultra-pure water continues on for use or further treatment.

There are some drawbacks in that the process is relatively slow and requires a storage tank.

It also requires a connection to drain the waste water.

Reverse osmosis is used by many bottled water companies to remove heavy metals, chlorine, bacteria, viruses and fluoride.

Ireland says the more common carbon filters sold in retail stores only filter out chlorine and this improves the taste of water, but little else.

However, these filters often become a problem because most people do not know how to maintain them properly.

'The recommendations from the manufacturers apply to the countries in which they have been tested, for example Germany,' he says.

'So when it comes to Hong Kong, the water here is of a different quality. This means, in all cases, you are changing the filter way too late.' In many cases, the water quality can end up being worse than it was originally.