Carbon Water Filtration

Carbon absorption is the most widely sold method for home water treatment because of its ability to improve water by removing disagreeable tastes and odors, including chlorine. Because of these
attributes, carbon filters are very well-suited for homes that use
municipally treated water. Only a few carbon filter systems have been certified for the removal of lead, asbestos, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), cysts, and

There are two types of carbon filter systems, each with advantages and disadvantages: Granular activated carbon and solid block carbon.

Granular Activated Carbon

  • Activated carbon effectively removes many chemicals and gases, and in
    cases it can be effective against microorganisms. However, generally it will
    not affect total dissolved solids, hardness, or heavy metals.
  • Any granular activated carbon filter has three inherent problems.

    1. It can provide a base for the growth of bacteria. When the carbon
    is fresh, virtually all organic impurities (not organic chemicals) and even
    some bacteria are removed. Accumulated impurities, though, can become food
    for bacteria, enabling them to multiply within the filter.
    2. Chemical recontamination of granular activated carbon filters can
    occur in a similar way. If the filter is used beyond the point at which it
    becomes saturated with the impurities it has absorbed, the trapped
    can release from the surface and re-contaminate the water, with even higher
    concentrations of impurities than in the untreated water. This saturation
    point is impossible to predict.
    3. Granular carbon filters are susceptible to channeling. Because the
    carbon grains are held (relatively) loosely in a bed, open paths can result
    from the buildup of impurities in the filter and rapid water movement under
    pressure through the unit. In this situation, contact time between the
    and the water is reduced, and filtration is less effective.

Solid Block Carbon
These are created by compressing very fine pulverized activated carbon with
binding medium and fusing them into a solid block. The intricate maze
developed within the block ensures complete contact with organic impurities
and, therefore, effective removal. Solid block carbon filters avoid the
problems just discussed with granular carbon filters.

Block filters can be fabricated to have such a fine porous structure that
they filter out coliform and associated disease bacteria, pathogenic cysts
such as giardia, and lighter-weight VOCs. Block filters eliminate the
of channeling. Also, they are so dense that they do not allow the growth of
bacteria within the filter.

Excerpted from the Real Goods Solar Living Source Book, edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.Copyright (c) 1999, Real Goods. Reprinted by permsision of Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Real Goods.
Excerpted from Real Goods Solar Living Source Book,edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.


Alex A
Alex A8 months ago

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.8 months ago

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.8 months ago

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Aleksandra K.
Past Member 5 years ago

useful information, thanks!

Ronald N.
Ronald Nichols5 years ago

Carbon filters are great for sulfer well water, totally can't taste it once it's run through, though they don't last very long and need frequent changing. I wish they were recycleable.

Pogle S.
Pogle S5 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thank you so much for this article

Howard C.
.5 years ago

An interesting article, thank you for posting.

Carol P.
Carol P5 years ago

Unfortunately, ingesting activated charcoal, which will happen if you use this sort of filter, will eventually cause pretty severe abdominal pain. I don't doubt that the rise in IBS in recent years could be connected to the rise in use of water filters.