Aquatic Life Power Deluxe reverse osmosis: the very long review
The Aquatic Life Power Deluxe Reverse Osmosis unit has been available for nearly four years and I have been using one for the better part of that time. I’ve been using the automated water purification device for so long I almost forget that I often forget that it is a non-standard reverse osmosis unit. With a booster pump for efficiency, built in water level valves and self flushing features, over the last few years I’ve come to regard the Aquatic Life Power Deluxe less as a machine and more as a self regulating source of clean water.
When it was first released, the Power Deluxe R.O. was the only water purifier of it’s kind with a fully loaded deck of stages and features. Built in shut off switches, automatic flushing of the membrane, a built in booster pump, top loading canisters, a simple status indicator and all of the inlet and outlet tubing being outfitted with quick disconnect fittings and all located in one corner of the unit. The coup-de-grace for the Aquatic Life Power Deluxe R.O. is a polished enclosure to contain it all so that the water purifier is equally suited to being in plain sight as it is to being hidden.
I have the opportunity to review a lot of products and depending on their function, the review process can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months. However, for something as long-lived as an R.O. unit, I felt it was important to get medievally slow on the evaluation process so that all of the components could have ample time to fail or at least wear. Furthermore, there is still no other consumer R.O. in the aquarium hobby with the feature set of the Power Deluxe and I really wanted to test the unit through seasons of warm and cold water, since R.O. production efficiency is highly dependent on the temperature of the water.
I first received the Power Deluxe R.O. from Aquatic Life in June of 2009, as a free review unit. In that time I have produced close to ten thousand of gallons of water, changed out all the cartridges numerous times, and I have replaced the membrane twice. The unit is plumbed with a mechanical float valve which has activated the automatic shut off valve innumerable times since the unit was first installed. The booster pump is still boosting the pressure with every activation of the float valve and since it sits inside the enclosure, I often forget that the Power Deluxe even has one.
I remember a time when building a feature rich, high performance and efficient reverse osmosis water purifier was an involved process; one that I enjoyed but also one which required lots of parts, lots of connections and definitely a couple leaks that needed to be sealed. Between the flush valve, the shut off valve, booster pump, more canisters than you really need and dual membrane housings, there was a lot that could go wrong and the end product looked like something that Tim the Toolman would have built (hugh hugh hugh). As much as I like building all kinds of reef equipment, the custom R.O. is not always the most reliable and I jumped at the opportunity to try out the hot-rod Power Deluxe R.O. From Aquatic Life which already had the feature set I was looking for.
The only time that the Power Deluxe is intimidating is when it is first pulled right out of the box. When the Power Deluxe first started shipping to customers, it was a plug and play device with no assembly required besides inserting the inlet and outlet hoses. Aquatic Life discovered that in cold weather, some of the internal water fittings tended to break in shipping and a fix was produced which consisted of leaving a few hoses disconnected. So now when the Power Deluxe is ready to install, a few well labeled hoses must be manually connected. The actual connection of those hoses is straightforward but seeing all the internals of the R.O. packed inside the housing like a water-cooled gaming computer is somewhat daunting. Once these hoses are connected, the Power Deluxe is ready to produce sweet and pure reverse osmosis water.
The maintenance of the AquaticLife Power Deluxe R.O. could not be any easier. Since the unit includes a flush valve which automatically washes away deposits that tend to accumulate in the reverse osmosis membrane, keeping the membrane in peak working order is a thoughtless process. Furthermore, if you’ve changed out the cartridges on all the other RO units using bottom loading canisters, you’ll be familiar with the awkwardness that comes with simultaneously twisting and holding up the heavy water-filled canisters. Unless outfitted with a bleed valve (few R.O.s are), the canisters will be full of water and you’ll likely spill some of it while removing the canister. With the top loading canisters of the Power Deluxe R.O., you can easily twist off the caps of the canisters, pull out the spent cartridge, replace it with a fresh one and the whole process is easy enough that a monkey could be trained to do it.
The one real caveat for the excellent user experience of owning a Power Deluxe is the replacement of the R.O. membrane. Replacing membranes can be difficult on many reverse osmosis units since the cartridge is tightly fitting and deep inside the canister. Where the Power Deluxe poses an additional challenge is in accessibility of the enclosed membrane housing. Before you can get to the membrane housing you have to take apart the enclosure of the whole R.O. unit, which involves undoing the four screws and then carefully opening the box.
You need to be careful when removing the face of the R.O. unit housing since there is some wiring connecting the electronics to the status display on the front of the Power Deluxe. Once the unit is opened, at least one of the membrane housing needs to have it’s hoses disconnected in order to unscrew and open it and in my case I opted to disconnect the whole thing. At this point the membrane is replaced from the housing, the hoses can be reconnected and the face can be put back on and left alone for another two to three years of average use until the the membrane once again needs to be replaced.
The AquaticLife Power deluxe RO has a handful of other nice features which add value to the unit. The housing of the Power Deluxe has a ‘hook’ of sorts which catches on an included bracket. The bracket can be mounted on a wall and then the power Deluxe can be hung from this bracket and removed just like you would with a painting, albeit a much heavier painting. There is a water sensor built into the housing of the Power Deluxe which shuts off power to all electronics if a leak is detected, although I have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing this fail-safe feature.
I guess it also doesn’t go without saying that the Power Deluxe is a standard four stage design with a mechanical and chemical prefilter and deionizing post-filter. There are only two features that the Power Deluxe is missing; a pressure gauge to indicate when the membrane is starting to clog and a TDS meter. A $20 TDS meter is easy enough to add to the source and purified water houses and although it is not practical to add a pressure gauge to the Power Deluxe, the automated backwashing of the membrane should prevent any significant clogging of the R.O. membrane itself.
Aquarium stores with an intermediate need for water supply, between 300 to 600 gallons, should consider the reduced cost and redundancy that comes from piggy backing three or more of these units as opposed to one single large commercial R.O. which are very large, expensive and hard to service. The unit is so efficient and streamlined for and I have grown to like the Power Deluxe model of the AquaticLife reverse osmosis unit so much that I could hardly see using anything else to provide a steady, trouble and thought free source of pure water for my aquariums.
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