Life Force - RV Enthusiast Magazine

Life Force

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Appliances, RV/Motorhome

Water filtration and purification units improve water quality and protect your health
Off-grid camping upgrades logo
photos by Bob Livingston

How much do you know about the drinking water where you live? Odds are, you know enough to purchase bottled water, a filter pitcher, or some other solution to protect yourself and family from the nasties that can sometimes be present in a municipal water system. But what about when you travel by RV? Once you arrive at your destination, you may have no knowledge of the water quality in your area, where it comes from or how it has been treated. That’s probably fine for showers and washing dishes, but there’snary an RVer who will drink water right out of the tap — unless they treat it themselves before it enters through the city water inlet or before filling the storage tank.

Water filtration systems are definitely a step in the right direction, as many can filter out particles one micron (about 70 times smaller than a human hair) or smaller, reduce harmful contaminants like chlorine and lead, and improve the overall taste and smell. What they don’t do is remove or kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause illness.

While all water suppliers in the U.S. are required to uphold certain levels of water quality — which theoretically make tap water safe to drink — violations are still alarmingly common. According to a 2017 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), nearly 77 million Americans got water from systems that violated federal protections in 2015. More than a third of this number relied on systems that did not comply with standards put in place to protect public health. For RVers, these concerns may be compounded by a poorly maintained local water supply at an RV park or campground, and/or a spigot that may not be sanitary. With all this in mind, a system that both filters and purifies the water entering your RV would be a smart investment.

John Sztykiel (“stee kee ill”), former CEO of Spartan Motors (manufacturers of RV and commercial chassis) is obsessed with clean water — and with good reason. When he arrived in Ethiopia about 13 years ago to adopt his daughter, Ana Grace, he was appalled to learn that residents of the country had very limited access to clean, safe drinking water. Retiring from Spartan after 30 years of service, he and his wife, Joni, made it a mission to develop a water purification system that could solve the world’s water problems. That’s a pretty lofty goal by anyone’s measure, but Sztykiel and his company, No Dirty Earth, has been working on developing high-quality water filtration systems under the No Dirty Water (NDW) brand. NDW’s philosophy is to keep water filtration inexpensive and accessible for everyone, while giving its customers the best possible product. “Anything in a mobile environment, it has to be built to last,” said Sztykiel. “But in addition to that, we want people to be able to repair the system themselves, using as many standard parts as possible. Our systems use standard plumbing pieces — you can find replacement parts at the local hardware store.”

The No Dirty Water Solo filtration system
The No Dirty Water Solo filtration system includes a readily available cannister and the company’s Premium 0.2 filter. Shown is the 5-inch filter/housing; NDW also offers a 10-inch filter housing for the same price.
Premium 0.2 filter and housings
NDW Duo system includes a carbon sediment prefilter, Premium 0.2 filter and housings.
There’s nothing “standard” about the company’s filtration capabilities, however. Though its Solo and Duo filtration systems use readily available housings, the company’s Premium 0.2 filter can, said Sztykiel, remove particles as small as 0.2 microns (hence the name). The Premium 0.2 incorporates proprietary, patented, electroabsorptive media technology, which the company claims is even capable of removing submicron pathogens and inorganic contaminants through electro adhesion and ion exchange. The result is not only a filter that removes particulates, but also biologicals, heavy metals and organic/inorganic chemicals. To remove larger particles first, thereby improving the life and flow capacity of the Premium 0.2 filter, the NDW Duo system incorporates a carbon sediment pre-filter in the same housing type. The Solo filter and housing retails for $74.99, while the Duo is $99.99 — and both prices include filters. A single filter replacement is $29.99, while a two-pack retails for $44.99.

Of particular interest to those who frequently enjoy off-grid camping, No Dirty Earth is planning on releasing its Rugged Water system in May that will incorporate a 12-volt DC-powered pump as well as two filters in a tough, portable housing.

“Rugged Water allows off-grid campers to have access to clean drinking water anytime, anywhere,” said Pierce Fitzpatrick, co-owner of No Dirty Earth. “The 12-volt pump will allow the user to draw from any public or outdoor water source, filter it, then collect it in a container and use it as is.” Because the Rugged Water system will likely be used somewhat infrequently and stored the rest of the time, it will come with the same carbon pre-filter as used in the Duo system, plus the company’s brand new Premium Plus 0.2 filter, which incorporates an antimicrobial element to prevent bacteria growth. The new filter will also be available for use in the Solo and Duo systems.

The Smart Faucet
The Smart Faucet can be placed in any convenient location near the sink. In our installation, the location was predicated on access to the underside in order to tighten the hold-down spacer and fitting for attaching the ¼-inch water line. Make sure there is adequate clearance to swing the main sink faucet without contacting the Smart Faucet.
single sheets of paneling
The kitchen island counter/sink structure is made of single sheets of paneling, and not stout enough for mounting the Arrow-Max 2.0 box. It was obvious that some sort of support structure was needed. We used a piece of bender board and cut it to fit across the end of the island structure. The support board may not be necessary if the island structure is made of thicker material. Once the board was cut to size, holes were drilled in the ends to accommodate the fasteners.

Filtration vs. Purification

As mentioned earlier, water filters catch small particles — but a purification system kills bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The two most common purification methods include ozone and LED UV light treatments, both of which are generally claimed to be up to 99.99% effective at removing bacteria, viruses and cysts like cryptosporidium and giardia. Ozone treatments work by oxidizing the organic material in bacterial membranes, which weakens the cell wall and leads to cell rupture, causing immediate death of the cell. As an oxidizing agent, ozone is stronger than chlorine and has a kill rate that is more than three times faster — but as of this writing, ozone purification systems aren’t terribly practical for an RV application. They are installed asa point of entry treatment system — in other words, where the water would enter your RV at city water hookup.

The trouble is (for now, at least), the flow rate required to properly ozonate the water isn’t compatible with the plumbing system of an RV. The benefit of an ozone water-treatment system is an RV application (and there are some that are under development as you read this) will be that, once the ozonated water is introduced to the RV’s plumbing, it will disinfect everything it comes in contact with — the plumbing, the freshwater holding tank, every tap in the RV.

A simpler, more practical way to purify your drinking water in an RV is with an LED UV light system. As water passes through a UV water treatment system, living organisms are exposed to UV light of a specific wavelength that disrupts their DNA, making it impossible for the little critters to function and/or reproduce. UV light purification systems install inside the RV and treat the water before it exits the faucet and goes into your glass. The only caveat with an LED UV light system (and it’s a small one) is that the water must be filtered beforehand, or the UV light may not be able to penetrate the water sufficiently for adequate contact time.

bracket for the ArrowMax 2.0 unit
The bracket for the ArrowMax 2.0 unit was fastened to the support board before installation on the island cabinet wall. This is easily accomplished using the provided screws. With the bracket attached, the support board was bolted in place using a large washer on each bolt. The unit slides on to the mounting bracket, requiring enough space on either side to keep it flat while maneuvering it into place. If there is not enough room to slide the box in place, it can be mounted before attaching the support board.
slide the box in place
There was just enough room to slide the box in place after mounting the support board. There are specific requirements for positioning the unit. It can be mounted to a wall, floor or ceiling, as long as it remains in a horizontal position, with the fittings on top or bottom. It cannot be mounted vertically.
water is sourced from the cold line leading to the existing sink faucet
The water is sourced from the cold line leading to the existing sink faucet. A ½-inch Pex to ¼-inch O.D. tee/shut-off valve is attached after the water line is cut. Make sure city water is shut and/or the demand pump is off before cutting the water line. Forget this step, and you’ll be sopping up water for a while. Use a rag to catch excess water after cutting the line. We were not overly excited with the quality of the tee fitting provided in the kit but installed it anyway for now. While it didn’t leak, we would prefer to use a SeaTech reducing union tee, which has a sterling reputation for reliability. The water lines simply pushed into each side of the supplied tee fitting, but the ¼-inch tubing requires the use of a compression ferrule and wrench for tightening. The SeaTech requires no tools and would be easier if working space was an issue.
An inline prefilter
An inline prefilter was also mounted on the support board using the provided plastic clip. The clip is very rigid, making it difficult to seat the filter. It takes quite a bit of pushing, but once in place, the filter is very secure.

Best of Both Worlds

With all this in mind, it makes sense to use both a high-quality filtration and water purification system. Installing most water filter setups is as simple as mounting the cannisters and connecting a hose to the inlet of the filter (or filters), but what about a purification system? A company called Acuva Technologies Inc. recently introduced its ArrowMAX 2.0 UV-LED Water Purifier with Smart Faucet that seems to meet both demands.

Founded in 2014, Acuva Technologies designs, develops and manufactures advanced UV-LED systems for water, air and surface disinfection applications around the world. The company offers products for both OEM (manufacturer) applications as well as purification systems for boats and RVs — but the ArrowMAX 2.0 system was of particular interest to us because at $549 USD, its cost was roughly one third that of its high-end Arrow 5 product, but with better performance than its entry-level NX-Silver system.

“The flow rate is the true differentiator here,” said Romina Puno, marketing manager for Acuva Technologies. “The Arrow 5 is actually an evolved version of our original UV-LED system design, which was originally intended for marine applications with its rugged aluminum enclosure and stainless-steel interior parts. Inside the Arrow 5 are more high-intensity UVC-LED lights that leverage our patented IntenseBeam technology. As water passes through the Arrow 5 in a serpentine pattern, it is exposed to multiple beams of focused UV energy to deliver the required disinfection at a 5-liter-per-minute flow rate.” Puno noted that the Arrow 5 may still be the best solution for RVers that want to treat more than one tap, or a tap and an icemaker, for example.

The ¼-inch water line
cutting the ¼-inch water line
The ¼-inch water line from the tee fitting was cut to size after routing in such a way to protect it from being jostled by stored items inside the cabinet. Only use a parallel jaw cutter to ensure the end of the tubing is straight and not squashed. The ¼-inch water line is pushed into the filter without the need for tools. Just make sure the flow direction is maintained (marked on the filter) and there is enough room when routing to avoid crimping the tubing.
mounting the inline filter
There’s no specification for mounting the inline filter. Here, it’s mounted in such a way to prevent the ArrowMax 2.0 unit from sliding off its bracket. Again, consider interference from stored items when making decisions where to mount the components. A section of ¼-inch water line is cut and run from the filter outlet to the inlet on the box. No tools are required.
a ¾-inch hole must be drilled into the counter top
Once the location for mounting the faucet is determined, a ¾-inch hole must be drilled into the counter top. It goes without saying that you only get one shot at this. The counter top for this project is 1-inch thick, which presented an issue when mounting the Smart Faucet.
The Smart Faucet rod and wire
The Smart Faucet rod and wire that plugs into the ArrowMax 2.0 is routed through the hole in the counter top. It takes two people to complete this step: one to hold the faucet in place while the other person tightens the plastic threaded fastener. An O-ring in the faucet base prevents water on the counter from leaking into the cabinet.
By comparison, the ArrowMAX 2.0 features a polymer housing and a different reactor design, which reduces cost but not effectiveness, according to Puno. “The ArrowMax has a more compact reactor design and the water flows in a U-shape through the reactor,” she said. “It features our patented IntenseBeam technology as well. Inside the polymer enclosure is our stainless-steel UV water disinfection module. Both the Eco-NX and ArrowMAX systems are also certified against NSF/ANSI 372 Standards, meaning the systems are lead-free.”

For smaller RVs, or those with only one source from which drinking water would be pulled, the ArrowMAX 2.0 would seem to fill a void in the RV market. “We definitely received feedback for a more compact and lower-cost system,” said Puno. “When we released our first Arrow system in 2016, UVC-LEDs were a very new and expensive technology. In recent years, they have come down in price and have become more powerful. This means we are now able to deliver higher levels of disinfection with fewer UVC-LEDs. This ultimately means more powerful and compact UV-LED water disinfection system designs.”

Smart Faucet was an early production model
Since this Smart Faucet was an early production model, the rod provided was too short to get through the 1-inch counter top and provide enough threads for connecting the ¼-inch water line. Normally, the wire will go through the spacer before tightening the plastic fastener, but in this case, we had to cut the spacer to expose the correct number of threads to connect the water line. While it worked fine, we’re told the threaded rod in subsequent kits will be long enough to accommodate counter tops up to 1½ inches.
A flow restrictor
A flow restrictor was placed in the ¼-inch water line from the unit outlet to the Smart Faucet. The restrictor can be placed in a convenient location in the line and requires no tools for connecting the water line at each end. Here, it’s placed near the unit; flow direction is marked on the body of the restrictor. Connecting the power was the last step and a hole was cut in the side of the island structure to route the cable for plugging into the 120-volt AC outlet on the other side. The power adapter is used to provide 12-volt DC service to the unit. We selected the 120-volt AC model because there was no 12-volt DC service in the island structure and the fifth-wheel is equipped with an inverter as part of a solar system, so power will be available when unhooked.
To put the ArrowMAX 2.0 to the test, we installed the system in a fifth-whee trailer with a kitchen island. The kit includes the UV-LED disinfection system, plus the Smart Faucet, which as its name suggests incorporates certain “smart” features. A self-cleaning function activates every 12 hours with a UV burst that ensures all water within the UV-LED unit is sanitized. The system is activated the moment you turn on the faucet, which saves energy compared to older UV-lamp systems that had to remain on to be effective. The base of the faucet also has a blue LED ring light that illuminates to let the user know the system is operating.

Also included is a composite inline 5-micron prefilter, which is useful if you don’t already have a filter system where the water supply enters the RV (or even if you do). The standard filter provided is said to be good for approximately 2,000 gallons and removes chlorine and organic molecules while improving odor and taste. An advanced 5-micron prefilter (a $50 upcharge) is also available, which according to Acuva can filter 5,000 gallons and removes lead, heavy metals, 99% of chorine, chromium-6, mercury and other contaminants, as well as turbidity (cloudiness), unpleasant odor and taste. The kit also includes mounting hardware, necessary plumbing and a power supply for connecting to 120-volt AC service, or it can be hard-wired to a 12-volt DC source.

ring light
The Smart Faucet has a ring light built into the base, which informs the user when the unit is active and water is being treated. This works in concert with the logo light in the unit itself. There’s no light when the system is idle and a green light signifies the system is undergoing self-cleaning. The valve on the Smart Faucet works smoothly and water flow is pretty decent, considering pressure is restricted on purpose. With clean, great-tasting water out of tap, we can finally say “goodbye” to bottled water.
The kit we installed was one of the first on the market, so it did require a few modifications, bringing total install time to about four hours. It’s expected that the production version will cut about an hour off that time on most RV applications.

With a good filtration and purification system onboard your RV, you’ll have one less thing to worry about as you travel to new destinations.

Sources:

Acuva Technologies, Inc.
(800) 980-8810
acuvatech.com

No Dirty Earth LLC
(574) 383-9277
nodirtyearth.com

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