How Long Do RO Membranes Last?

A reverse osmosis (RO) system remains one of the most popular types of water filtration machines. RO systems are excellent for water treatment. If you take solid care of your RO system, it will act as a reliable water filter for quite a while, even in industrial applications.

However, an RO system’s owner needs to understand the features of the system, when to replace the RO membrane, and some tips for proper maintenance and repair.

RO Membrane Lifespan

The RO system membrane, on average, tends to last anywhere between two to five years. The entire RO system, however, can last quite a long time. There’s a caveat, though: The RO system will only last this long is it is properly maintained by the RO system’s owner. Otherwise, too many heavy metals, problems with osmotic pressure or storage tank, and a faulty carbon filter can create some serious issues and dramatically impact the lifespan of both the reverse osmosis system and the RO membrane.

Since the reverse osmosis membrane is a semi-permeable membrane, this means that certain water molecules can pass through due to osmosis. A semi-permeable membrane can be impacted by osmotic pressure, calcium carbonate, chlorine, and other issues with the water purification process. That’s why continuous maintenance and cleanings are highly recommended.

Changing RO Filters

In a reverse osmosis machine, the filters pass through several stages. The first stage is the pre-filter. This helps protect the semi-permeable membrane. It removes dirt, sediment, and other debris that can impact feed water. This pre-filter system should be replaced around every nine months at the latest.

The second stage is the carbon filter which works to remove chlorine and other contaminants that can directly impact the taste or odor of the resulting water. When a membrane is exposed to chlorine, it can be ruined which can raise operating costs incredibly high. This also needs to be replaced every nine months at the latest.

The third stage is the actual reverse osmosis filter. A high-pressure pump pushes healthy water through the membrane and keeps any pollutants on the other side. The molecular weight of the pollutants helps facilitate the reverse osmosis process. Anything that doesn’t pass through the membrane becomes part of a reject stream of water. Due to the high pressure, it’s often recommended that you replace the membrane every two or three years.

Finally, there’s a last carbon filter stage that ensures cleanliness before the ending point of use. In water systems, this removes any lingering odors or tastes. Like the other standard water purification components, this should be replaced around the nine-month mark.

The RO System Cleaning Cycle

Your RO water systems need to be regularly cleaned to maximize efficiency. This is particularly important for industrial applications that are liable to have much larger reverse osmosis systems in place. Irregular cleaning or skipped cleaning can impact feed water. Would you want water from your kitchen sink if you knew that it was full of contaminants? Probably not.

Luckily, many reverse osmosis systems have CIP (clean in place) protocols. These are cleaning procedures that are built into the RO system to ensure that regular cleaning occurs. Of course, there can even be errors within a CIP setup so it’s important to have regular inspections and request repairs as needed. If you go without a cleaning for too long or you notice that your CIP isn’t working, it could lead to further complications with the reverse osmosis process.

If you take care of your reverse osmosis components, they can last for years upon years. Every reverse osmosis integration needs ongoing care and maintenance to succeed. As long as you’re doing that, you’ll be in good shape.

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