So far there are two methods shown... this first is obviously a quick'n'dirty method rather than anything meant for permanency. The second method could probably have gone for years without anything going wrong.

Reverse Osmosis Unit in a Rental Kitchen
(so you can easily restore it when you move out)

Why install such a gizmo anyway?

Most tap water isn't ideal for coffee flavor, much less for the healt of coffee makers. (See Jim Shulman's Insanely Long Water FAQ describing ideal water, and the mechanisms of boiler scale.)

Some people who have calcium (or magnesium) in their water, run vinegar through their machines every 6 months or so. Others use citric acid. Yet others don't even think about minerals, and just buy another $15 coffee maker to replace their clogged one (or for espresso machines, perform periodic chemical descalings, or even the occasional complete teardown, mechanical descaling, and rebuild.

Our water here first appeared just awful. I used a black saucepan for boiling water for french press coffee (all our regular stuff was still hidden away in boxes, labelled only with the cryptic scribblings of the packers, which, when decipherable, bore no resemblance to the actual contents), and just boiling a few pans of water coated the inside with a wash of white and specks of rust. I later ran across our single remaining water hardness test strip that told me the hardness was only around 15 grains per gallon or about 225 ppm. Wow. Sure coulda fooled me! I'll start keeping an eye out on eBay for a reasonably priced TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter.

A water softener would transform that coating into something soluble and easily wash-offable, and keep the coffee machines from clogging, but that wouldn't help the humidifier any. Even with softened water, the salts build up to heavy crusts every couple of weeks. Feeding it RO water will mean cleaning should be an annual requirement, if that.

So now that my excuse... er, rationalization... that is, reasoning for buying this wonderful indispensable marvel of technology is clear, let's get on with the installation.

The "Unit"

I put unit in quotes, because it's really more of an assembly of many parts than a single unit, though it was mostly assembled when delivered by the man in Brown.

I forgot to shoot the "back" view, showing the auto shutoff valve, but here's the "front" as it's ready to check for fit under the sink:

unit on floor 
next to under-sink

Now that we know how it'll fit, let's see what we need for bits and pieces and fittings and such. Supplied with the unit is a saddle valve. It's very simple. You just clamp it on a section of the copper pipe, and turn down the T-handle to puncture the copper with the protruding needle. The "saddle" is a piece of rubber that seals the whole thing.
Well... first, this IS a rental. Do I want to go putting holes in pipes? Second, the only copper is way up there at the faucet. It'd put me in the neighborhood of pretzel land, and even if it was my own house, I doubt if I'd want to go that way. So... what is there at the logical place to put a tee?

cold water supply

Ok, so compression fitting. Shouldn't be too tough to find a tee that'll just go in there, right? Hmmm... maybe tougher than you'd think. Plumbing projects almost always have multiple solutions. You can always do it the "right way" with adapaters, extensions, reducers, etc. My usual method is to go scan the fitting aisle, then stand there with a kind of studious, thoughtful, blank stare on my face as various fittings align and connect themselves in my mental construct. One by one, the assemblies get shot out of said mental picture like a clay pigeon out of the sky until one appears with a "This could work" caption.
This particular grouping of parts connected themselves mentally with a caption that this would be the easiest way to go. I'm not entirely sure that was accurate, but anyway, this is what I ended up bringing home:

back from the hardware store
Watts A-291 Watts PL-3008

So after a bit of cut'n'pasting, the bits end up looking like this:
plumbing run with new John Guest outlet

(the original is now sitting in a drawer waiting to be reinstalled when we move out)
and then the new assembly put into context:

plumbing run where it goes

Tip the unit back and under the garbage disposal where it'll go, and stick the tank in front.

unit behind disposal
tank set in

Now start measuring how long each tube will need to be. I'll need one from the new water supply fitting to the sediment filter inlet, one from the De-Ionizer to the tank, and one from the "polishing" filter to the new faucet. Um... faucet?

Well... it might be possible to get in there and reach up to the sink, but at this point it's still a lot easier to take it all back out. I mount the faucet into the existing sprayer hole. Shoulda done that first, actually. The hard part was scrounging up a big enough backing plate.

RO faucet
Ok, NOW I can put it back in, cut the tubing to length, insert tubes into their respective fittings, and pressurize the system to see how many leaks I have. Usually I carry a more positive attitude, but hey... Mickey lives under that sink now.

I have four leaks, two of which were pre-existing. One is the packing nut on the cold water supply valve. Every time I turn it on or off, I get a puddle. A bit of wrench, and that one's fixed. There's also a leak in the drain pipe where the horizontal run from the disposal meets the trap. (Pink cup is sitting under it two photos up) Another nearly effortless fix of less than a quarter turn on the nut. Then there's a very slow leak at the brass discharge valve. Brass ferrule for plastic tubing? That seems a bit incongruous, so I get the plastic ferrule from the saddle valve and use that. Leak number three is dried up. Finally, I have one at the 1 micron filter outlet that leaks at about two drips per second. It's not coming from where the tube enters the fitting, or where the fitting enters the filter housing, but at the seam in the fitting itself. I'm not going to make the 26 mile drive to Home Depot for a $2 part, so I guess it'll wait for the next grocery trip.

leak at outlet of 1 micron filter

A plastic cup under the fitting will serve for the present. I open the supply valve, adjust the discharge rate, open the faucet and wait. The instructions say to wait 15 minutes. I probably came close to that. Then open the valve on the tank and wait... and vacuum up the water... and wait... and vacuum up more water. It takes over two hours for the tank to fill, during which time I seem to remember to empty the drip cup just after it's overflowed.

Failing a TDS meter, the proof is in the boiling. Here's the result of boiling off 250ml (a cup) of each kind of water.

scaled pan clean pan

And after the new fitting is in, and there are no more leaks... it doesn't really take up that much room. Notice that the sediment filter is already taking on a rust hue.


I suppose I should add the footnote that I haven't decided yet what to do with the discharge tube. The drainpipe goes to a T inside the wall which continues straight on to a cleanout on the exterior of the house. I think there may be just enough room to be able to snake that 1/4" tube out alongside the drain pipe. This is Arizona, and the thought of letting 4 gallons of discharge water go down the drain for every gallon of RO water seems an awful waste. That "waste" would be much better used watering whatever it is I'm going to plant out there.
Footnote 2: I should probably put another clamp on the 1/8" MIP going into the 3/8" tube (the supply fitting). Basically, I just screwed the fitting into the tubing. It's a tight fit, and watertight for now, but I don't know how long that'll last.

Now that we own the place (this is the Show Low roastery), we'll do it up right.

Here's an excerpt from a sort of "blog" I keep:

I'm not sure of the exact date I installed the reverse osmosis unit, but it was obviously after the 9th [of Sept, 2004], 'cause I see the tank in the above photos. I'm going to guess it was within the 7 days following that, so ignore the dates on these photos. Sometimes it takes me a while to take pictures. If you want more detail, click on the right (or maybe lower) photo for the humongo version. Note the tee fitting inserted into the line to the cold water faucet. Real plumber stuff instead of the mickey mouse way I did it at Whiteriver. (at http://twoloonscoffee.com/cleanwater if you haven't seen that before) Also note that the undersink space in the roastery is a bit smaller than the Whiteriver undersink. I couldn't fit both tank and filters under there, so the tank had to go in the next cabinet over.

The water here has practically no iron at all, and a moderate amount of hardness (determined via the look-in-the-bottom-of-the-pan method), so the progression of discoloration is basically at a halt here.

Another "rental" method... check back soon...

home about us order

Two Loons Coffee, 2004, 2006 © all rights reserved