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Cheap RO system install: How it started/How it's going


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I'm sharing this post so that people interested in starting a small distillery will see some of the trials and tribulations of what you're going to have to deal with.

We're that in between size of distillery. The "tween" size. We're looking for a bigger space so we can get bigger equipment. So we bought a cheap RO system that does 50g a day and came with a 3g holding tank. Up to now that's been fine. Now though we've started needing more like 10-15g a day. The system can do it but it does it slowly. So we bought a bigger holding tank. I got all the fittings, plumbed everything up, and installed it. Awesome? No. So let's walk through what I had to deal with. Let's see how it started:


Everything looks great, yes? All prim and proper. And so began the issues. It started out fine. But it would only hold like a gallon before the system stopped. I had an inkling that it was pressure related. The system runs off of mains pressure and does not have an electric pump. Because of that it can't build much pressure.  So I turned the tank on it's side. That reduced the pressure as it didn't have to push up against the water column. It started working again but stopped after another gallon or so. So I took it to the next step:


I did that an now it's working better. It seems to be filling up. I turned it off as I had to leave and didn't want something bad happening when I wasn't there. I'll turn it back on tomorrow AM and see how it holds up over the day.

I'm anticipating that I'm going to get folks saying what I'm doing is a bad idea. I don't disagree. But until I figure something else out that's what we have.

For those thinking about starting a small distillery this is the dumb day to day stuff that you have to deal with.



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Run the output hose into the top of a 55 gallon drum. Then it just steadily streams into the drum. Problem solved.

You will have to mindful of turning it on and off at the right times. Or you can build an automatic shutoff system.

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I am not saying that this is a good or bad idea but I have heard that RO water can recognize sitting in plastic plumbing too long if it is not on a ring, I wonder what liability is with still water over time, like say a weekend. We are recommended to run our labs (RO supply with no return) tap for a few minutes every Monday when coming in from a shut down weekend




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  • 4 months later...

1.  Make sure that the tank you bought is specifically for use with RO water.  Many/most tanks are not.

2.  Assuming that your process requires use of a pressurized storage tank, realize that a full tank will typically hold about 50% of the stated capacity.  So for instance, a 40 gallon tank will hold about 20 gallons of water.  The remainder is the air bladder.

3.  Check your incoming water pressure.  Do you have enough to run the RO system (regardless of the presence of the pressure tank).  What does the pressure gauge on your RO system tell you when the system is running.  You mentioned you bought a "cheap" system, so it may not even have a pressure gauge on it.  If that is the case, add one:  https://www.buckeyehydro.com/pressure-gauges-1/

4.  Assuming you have enough feedwater pressure to run the system, add a permeate pump https://www.buckeyehydro.com/aquatec-permeate-pump/ and high pressure auto shut off valve https://www.buckeyehydro.com/automatic-shut-off-valves/ and turn your tank right side up.

If the fill time is still too long for you, you can put up to a 200 gpd membrane in your system.  There are some details to attend to if you do this, so feel free to give us a call and we can walk through the details.



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We have a similar setup we upgraded.  We run a 40 gallon Pentair RO-Mate tank and an Axeon L1 pumped RO system that has a specific outlet and pressure switch for tank-use.  We get far more tank capacity with the electric pump compared to the passive system we had before.  We went from a 75gpd setup to 300gpd.  Looking to get a larger RO tank with the bigger system now.

Now that we have more capacity, we're looking to just run 3/8 tubing around the facility to have RO on tap (near dump, blending, bottling).  The tank/ro have more pressure compared to the old unit, so it would have no issues with the longer runs.



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