Those who are concerned with microorganisms in their drinking water may be interested in installing an ultraviolet (UV) water purification system, also called a UV water filter. The UV water filter works by enclosing a UV lamp in a clear sleeve, typically made of quartz or heavy glass. The water passes by the lamp and is exposed to the UV rays. The UV rays work to destroy microbes that are harmful if consumed by humans, thereby purifying the water.
There are several advantages to using a UV water filter over other water purification systems. First, chemicals are not introduced in the water. Consequently, the taste, color, and pH of the water remain unaltered and there are no cancer-causing bi-products, as there is with chlorine. Second, water that has been treated with UV rays will never damage plumbing or septic tank systems. Third, installation and maintenance is both simple and inexpensive. Fourth, it is one of the most effective ways to kill disease-causing microbes, such as viruses, bacteria, mold, and algae. Fifth, it requires very little energy to run a UV water filter – about the same energy as it would to run a 60 watt light bulb.
The main purpose of a UV water filter is to kill microbes that are found in contaminated water. For example, some viruses, such as the hepatitis virus, the enteric virus, and the virus that causes Legionnaires’ disease, can survive in chlorine-infused water. However, these same viruses are immediately killed when they pass through a UV water purification system.
Maintaining a UV water filter is simple. Once a year, the UV bulb should be replaced to ensure that the system is purifying the water. Although the clear sleeve surrounding the UV bulb should be cleaned a few times each year, it only needs to be replaced if it is broken.
There are also some disadvantages to using a UV water filtration system. For starters, electricity is required to run the UV lamp. In some third world countries, where a UV purification system would be most advantageous, an electrical connection may not be available. Also, when the water passes before the UV lamp, it must be clear and free from any sediment or other molecular contaminants or a film will form and prevent the UV rays from killing the disease-causing microbes. Consequently, in areas where the water is the dirtiest, the water must be pre-filtered. Lastly, if the UV water filter is not working properly because it is dirty or broken, the results could be fatal for those consuming the water. UV rays are unseen by the naked eye, so a more complex hour counter may be installed to calculate when the UV lamp should be replaced, thereby raising the price of the system.