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What is the difference between a structured matrix purifier and a reverse osmosis purifier?

With so many different water purifiers on the market, it can be tricky to understand the pros, cons and differences between them all. So, let's dive into the difference between two popular types of water purifiers: reverse osmosis and structured matrix.

While both are effective at removing impurities from water, they differ in their approach and effectiveness depending on the specific contaminants present in the water.

What contaminants are removed?

In a nutshell, when it comes to contaminants in the water, the structured matrix purifiers (such as the General Ecology Seagull range of purifiers) remove cysts, bacteria, heavy metals, sediments, odours, pesticides, and chlorine and other chemicals (full list here), while the reverse osmosis purifiers only remove pesticides, sediment and some cysts.

Do water purifiers strip away beneficial minerals?

The removal of beneficial minerals is a concern to many people weighing up whether to buy a purifier or not. The good news is that the structured matrix purifiers do not remove beneficial minerals.

Reverse Osmosis purifiers do remove beneficial minerals, although some of the more complex and expensive models have a system for returning minerals to the water after purification.

Do water purifiers desalinate the water?

The structured matrix purifier will not desalinate water. A reverse osmosis filter will desalinate water.

How does a water purifier purify the water?

Structured matrix purifiers use a series of mechanisms that work together to remove different contaminants.

(1) Ultrafine Submicron Microfiltration, (2) Molecular Capture and Broad Spectrum Adsorption (3) Electrochemical Separations - to provide uniform flow and reliability and to prevent channelling

The first mechanism physically strains strains bacteria, Giardia, Cryptosporidia and other larger organisms and particulate matter from the influent water, much like a window screen keeps flies from entering a house. It strains it down to 0.1 microns. For scale comparison, a hair is 70 microns.

​The second mechanism is an integration of pharmaceutical grade, high-quality *adsorption and molecular sieving materials into the microstructure for high efficiency in removing trichloroethylene, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, herbicides and many other chemical contaminants.

​The third mechanism consists of negative and positive electro-attractive forces, which are permanently induced into the matrix to attract even smaller particles that cannot be removed by microfiltration alone.

Reverse osmosis purifiers use a semi-permeable membrane to remove impurities from water. The membrane allows water molecules to pass through while blocking larger molecules and particles, such as dissolved solids and bacteria. Reverse osmosis purifiers are effective at removing dissolved solids, including minerals and salts, from water.

They are not as effective at eliminating other types of contaminants, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), chemicals and certain types of bacteria. The removal of all minerals is not desirable as some minerals are essential to health.

How much water is wasted and how much maintenance is required?

In normal operation, the reverse osmosis purifier will use more water than it filters. For the average reverse osmosis filter, each litre of filtered water requires around 4 litres of water in total. This is because contaminants are collected as the water passes through the membrane and the purified water is filtered through. These contaminants are then washed away by the extra litres of water, leading to a 1:4 ratio of purified water versus wastewater.

In terms of water wastage, structured matrix purifiers are the clear winners because they do not waste any water.

How much maintenance does a purifier require?

Maintenance for a reverse osmosis purifier consists of regularly changing the pre and post-filters, replacing the pre-filters every 6-12 months and the post-filters every 1-2 years. The entire system should be sanitised with each filter replacement or at least a couple of times a year. Membranes must also be replaced, although these will usually last 2-5 years if the pre-filters are replaced regularly.

Again, the structured matrix purifiers come out on top here because they require no maintenance other than replacing the filter when needed, every 1-2 years, depending on source water quality.

Overall, the choice between a structured matrix purifier and a reverse osmosis purifier will depend on the specific impurities present in the water, the level of purity desired, the level of maintenance you are prepared to undertake, and the level of concern you have about water wastage.

In general, reverse osmosis purifiers are more effective at removing dissolved solids, but require more maintenance and waste more water, while structured matrix purifiers are more effective at removing a very wide range of chemical, bacterial, cyst, heavy metal and other types of contaminants, require little maintenance and waste no water.


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