Clearsource premium two-canister RV-specific system, tucked into a stout housing, removes much of the bad stuff while streamlining the process
Water is the lifeblood of any motorhome. Without this precious resource, it would be impossible to offer self-containment, and even though most owners take water for granted, and love the convenience, it can lead to acrimonious feelings. While water seems to be fairly unobtrusive, underlying factors can lead to bad taste, odor and even system failures, not to mention serious human illnesses.
Outside of water softeners to control total dissolved solids, many owners resort to filtering water that is fed via an RV park site hookup or when filling the onboard tank. Most common are 10-inch canisters that use replaceable filters. Shade-tree mechanics typically resort to Rube Goldberg-style “engineering” when it comes to building suitable supports for these canisters. It’s not unusual to find milk crates and buckets modified to hold the canisters upright; they work, but Clearsource, a Southern California company that specializes in water filtration, has turned this process into an art form.
The company builds and markets premium water systems designed specifically for RVs. Single filter systems for RVs are helpful, but the use of two cartridges offers much more protection. Handling two connected filters can be cumbersome, which encouraged Clearsource to house them in a stout chassis that’s figuratively bulletproof, and to complement the system with high-end fittings and solid canisters.
Two oversize 10-inch canisters are mounted in a powder-coated, 15-inch tall by 14¼-inch wide by 7½-inch high metal chassis that exudes strength, which makes it somewhat bulky and seemingly heavy to manage. There’s no flex to the chassis and it can be positioned on the ground with total stability. After only a few uses, and transferring from the storage compartment to the ground, it became apparent that this heavy-duty system will undoubtedly last as along as the motorhome, and was actually easier to handle than expected.
The anatomy of the Clearsource system is impressive. Stainless-steel fittings mate the two canisters and offer corrosive-resistance connections to the water hoses. Buttress threads and large O-rings offer a leak-free environment for the canisters, which can be tightened and removed with the provided plastic wrench. It’s not necessary to over tighten the canisters, and the filters must be seated properly to prevent leaks.
Two high-quality filter cartridges are preinstalled in the system, which can be ordered directly from the company and shipped in rugged boxes. The leading filter is formed by a thermal bond process without using adhesives or binders. It’s designed to remove sediment down to 5.0 microns. A four-layer structure does a good job of retaining particles, and after a short while it was evident (upon a visual inspection) that this media removes a large amount of unwanted contaminants, like silt and sediment. The filters are made of 100 percent polypropylene that meets FDA CFR Title 21 requirements for use with food and pharmaceuticals. The second stage filter employs acid-washed coconut-based activated carbon. High purity coconut shells and the 0.5 micron rating assure that pesticides, cryptosporidium and giardia cysts will be removed from the water, according to the company.
The filter combination makes it possible to drink water from the tap, with reasonably good taste and sans odor; ultimate purification will require a separate system designed for controlling contaminated water that can lead to serious illnesses. Products to achieve this level of purification are available in the marketplace, and the water typically flows through an independent spigot, rather than supplying the entire house, which would not be practical.
Clearsource rates its filters to produce 2,000 gallons of water before needing replacement, so the filters can be used effectively for the entire water system. Under normal conditions, with typical use of a motorhome, that should provide coverage of up to a year before replacing the filters. Full-timers, like ourselves, will likely replace filters every two or three months, although we found them to last quite a bit longer. Replacement filter packs sell for $29.95.
Longer use of the filters may lead to a reduction in pressure, which is tested at the factory at 40 psi; flow rate is 6 gallons per minute. To test pressure consistency, we ran the filters for six months, which far exceeds recommendations, and experienced no significant drop in water pressure.
Storing the filters between trips is very simple. Non-use for up to two weeks requires no maintenance. We drained the water before storing the system in an outside compartment to prevent sloshing during travel. This was accomplished by turning the chassis on its side and allowing the water to flow out of the fittings. If the filters will be unused for a month or longer, the canisters should be drained and the filters placed in dry storage. Once water is reintroduced, the filters will reactivate. Those who prefer to sanitize the canisters after long storage can use cleaning tablets sold for hydration bladders popular with hikers and bicyclists.
Owners concerned with possible theft can run a cable through the chassis and lock it to a logical place on the motorhome frame.
Although the hose fittings on the original test system were fixed and worked well, the company now provides improved rotating counterparts that make hookup even easier. It also improved the washers to prevent them from falling out when the hoses were removed. Quick-connect couplings speed up the hookup process and owners should use quality fittings to prevent unintentional disconnections.
The external system is on the pricey side ($275), but the versatility is unsurpassed when it comes to water filtering and conditioning. For example, we spend time in RV parks located in the Midwest, where the water has a high concentration of iron. Consequently, “rust” staining makes a mess of the sinks, shower stall and toilet. Clearsource offers a rust-inhibiting filter that does a commendable job of reducing staining. We tested this filter over a period of one month and experienced virtually no staining. Previous visits to the area resulted in a toilet replacement and sustained scrubbing (think hard work) with products designed to remove “rust” staining. The rust-inhibiting media temporarily replaced the sediment filter while we were hooked up to the iron-heavy water. This filter sells for $19.95.
As an external system, the Clearsource filters and chassis can be placed virtually anywhere outside the motorhome. It’s always best to locate the filters out of the sun, which can be accomplished easily by scooting the system under the motorhome. It should not be used inside a compartment since a burst hose or bad gasket can lead to water damage.
Owners who have room in their utility compartment can consider the company’s onboard system that’s designed to be mounted on a wall. Using an equally stout chassis, albeit much smaller and lighter, kits are available in two- or three-filter arrangements. The two-canister onboard system uses the same filters that are packaged with the external chassis; the three-canister product comes with an additional 0.2-micron filter that provides another layer of water cleaning. Those who have the room for three canisters can integrate a rust-inhibiting or other type of filter into the system, depending on conditions. A sulfur-reducing filter is available for $19.95 and a deionizing product that reduces dissolved solids to almost zero sells for $39.95. Deionizing filters have limited capacity, and are really designed to prevent water spotting when washing a vehicle. Two-stage onboard systems sell for $275 and the three-filter configuration has a $350 price tag.
Owners who appreciate high-quality products will enjoy using the Clearsource filter system. In most cases, bottled drinking water can be removed from the grocery list, and those who gloated over their homemade filter supports will have no problem making the switch. Sorry, Rube.