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Matter and energy

Activated Carbon Filter Guidelines

Activated carbon filter

AC filters have a limited lifetime. Eventually, the surface of the AC becomes filled with adsorbed pollutants, and no further treatment occurs. ‘’Break-through” takes place when pollutants break through the filter and emerge in the treated water. When it happens, contaminant concentrations in the treated water can possibly be even higher than those in the untreated water. The cartridge then needs to be replaced. Knowing when breakthrough will occur and when to replace the cartridge is thus a major problem with AC treatment.

Unfortunately, unless the pollutants are smelled or tasted, they can be unknowingly consumed. In most cases, break-through can be positively verified only by chemical testing. Frequent chemical testing is impractical and expensive. Some cartridges are sold with predictions about their longevity. But these are generally only crude estimates since they do not consider the characteristics of a specific water source.

The retailer from whom you purchase the treatment device can better estimate a filter’s useful lifetime based on water usage (flow rate) and pollutant concentrations, shown in the chemical analysis. To make the most accurate estimates, you should learn what these amounts are before purchasing the system. If pollutant concentrations increase over time, and without testing done to reveal the change, such estimates may not be very practical or useful.

AC filters can be excellent places for bacteria to grow. A filter saturated with organic contaminants, or one that has not been used for a long time, provides ideal conditions for bacterial growth. A saturated filter supplies the food source for the bacteria. It is still unclear whether bacteria growing on the carbon pose a health threat. Some manufacturers place silver in the AC to prevent bacterial growth. The effectiveness of the silver has not been independently verified. In addition, the silver may contaminate the drinking water.

Matter and energy

Activated Carbon and Air Filters


Activated carbon is carbon that has been treated with oxygen. After the treatment, millions of tiny pores are activated on the carbon’s surface. Amazingly, these pores are so numerous that a single pound of activated carbon may provide 60 to 150 acres of surface area to trap pollutants.

Once carbon has been activated, it can remove a bunch of airborne chemicals, for example, alcohols, organic acids, aldehydes, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and phosgene. It also removes odours, whether they are from humans or animals. It also removes perfumes, other household cleaning chemicals, and is especially good at removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Activated Carbon and Filters

Activated carbon filters will adsorb even a small amount of almost all vapours and they have a large capacity for removing organic molecules like solvents. They can also simultaneously adsorb many different kinds of chemicals, making these filters very efficient. Activated carbon is very durable and non-toxic, so it can work in any temperature or humidity. These make it’s safe for people to handle. As an extra bonus, activated carbon is also relatively affordable.

The trick lies on adsorption – the process by which a gas bonds to the surface of a solid. In this case, the solid is the activated carbon. Air passes through the filter where airborne gases, chemicals, and odours produce chemical reactions with the surface of the carbon, effectively sticking to it. The clean air then flows out of the filter.

Activated carbon filters is analogous to a sponge. The more activated carbon in the filter, the more pollutants it can hold and the longer the filter lasts. The best and the most efficient filters include many pounds of activated carbon to ensure a longer life before the next replacement.

Need some fresh and clean air at home? It’s time to put a good activated carbon filter at your home.