What is an Ultrafiltration System and How Does It Work?

Posted by
John Woodard on February 07, 2019

An ultrafiltration (UF) water system is an efficient means of removing solids and particulate from your water. Ultrafiltration systems remove all suspended particulate in water on a microscopic level. John Woodard, our Master Water Specialist, answers your frequently asked questions about ultrafiltration.

What is an ultrafiltration system?

Ultrafiltration is a water treatment process that uses a hollow fiber or a sheet membrane to mechanically filter water containing very small particulate. An ultrafiltration drinking water system uses this super fine membrane technology to filter particulate down to 0.025 microns. To help you get an idea just how small that is, the diameter of a human hair is typically about 75-80 microns. This means that an ultrafiltration system works on a micro level, literally taking all suspended solids out of the water.

What is the difference between an ultrafiltration system and a reverse osmosis system?

An ultrafiltration system can filter the most solid particulates in fluids, but it is not able to filter out dissolved particulate like a reverse osmosis system. However, an ultrafiltration system can filter smaller particulate than a microfiltration or standard carbon filter can.

How does an ultrafiltration system work?

Ultrafiltration systems work almost like any other water filtration system. In a sediment filter, water flows through and captures particulate with the porosity of the filter. An ultrafiltration system works in the same way except that it filters anything larger than 0.025 micron, which is much more than your average sediment filter. Typically, we put a carbon filter on the system too to remove bad taste and odor along with suspended solids. 

Two types of ultrafiltration systems

  • Point-of-use: These are typically used for under-the-counter drinking water systems. 
  • Point-of-entry: These are typically used to run water for applications that do not require water filtered as fine. 

The membranes in these different systems are going to be configured differently, but they do the same thing. Both systems mechanically filter particulate down to 0.025 microns under the sink. The water filtered through this system flows to a special tap so that just drinking water, or water that you would use to cook with, is accessible through a specified faucet. You don’t need water filtered down to 0.025 microns to rinse your dishes or wash your hands, so we would run another faucet. The point-of-entry system processes all the water running into your house and is very good at tannin reduction (typically caused by organics - tea leaves, for example, create tannins) and removing colloidal suspension (refers to a solution of highly suspended particulate that won't settle and remains dispersed).

Learn more about how ultrafiltration membranes work or how reverse osmosis works.

What contaminants does an ultrafiltration system filter out?

An ultrafiltration system will get rid of any suspended particulate larger than 0.025 microns. That means it can filter out inorganic solids, viruses, and bacteria because of their size. What an ultrafiltration system can't do is pull out dissolved minerals like a reverse osmosis system can. So, it's really great at filtering anything that's a solid, but not as good at removing dissolved solids. 

What are some practical applications for ultrafiltration systems?

Ultrafiltration systems, like point-of-use drinking water systems, can be applied anywhere you want filtered water. It can provide water filtration for a point-of-use water cooler, such as filtration systems under the counter or even with coffee brewers or some types of ice machines.

How do you install an ultrafiltration system?

Ultrafiltration systems are simple to install. This product simply hooks up to a line in the system so that water flows through the filters and the ultrafiltration membrane. Then, the out-line goes to a faucet. A dedicated faucet is typically best to provide the water from the ultrafiltration system, but it is still simple to install.

How do you know when it’s time to switch the filter in your ultrafiltration system?

Ultrafiltration systems typically come with carbon filters. It is recommended that you don’t leave your filter in place for longer than one year. There is a gallon capacity rating on most filters, so you really don't want to exceed that. Most hollow fiber membranes can last longer than that, depending upon your quality of water. However, you have to keep an eye on it. When your water flow starts to slow down, it may be time to replace the membrane.

What is the Neo-Pure TL3?

The Neo-Pure TL3 ultrafiltration system is a neat package for point-of-use drinking water. It can be hooked up under the sink with a dedicated faucet that can also be connected to run into your refrigerator, ice maker, or through-door dispenser. It can be hooked up to a point-of-use type of product like a water cooler, a chiller, and even a hot tank. These are all great places for the TL3 ultrafiltration system.

The TL3 ultrafiltration drinking water system is a great product for point-of-use filtration. With the membrane getting particulate down to 0.025 microns, it has one of the smallest filtration capabilities in the industry. It's preceded by two carbon filters that remove lead, cysts, mercury, and chlorine taste and odor. The TL3 flows at nearly a gallon a minute, making it the best flow rate in the industry for point-of-use ultrafiltration.

The TL3 ultrafiltration system has a slight lead over its competition in a couple of ways.

  • It filters down to 0.025 microns. A lot of them out there are at 0.5 microns or 0.05 micron.
  • The TL3 has a better flow rate than most average ultrafiltration systems.
  • Most ultrafiltration systems on the market only filter at a flow rate of less than half a gallon per minute. The TL3 will flow nearly at a gallon per minute.
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