There are many different factors to consider when choosing the best water filter for your home. One thing to consider is the different types of contaminants you want to filter out. To do this, you will want to identify the most prominent contaminants in your local supply. Just as the water quality in your home depends on where you live, choosing the best filter depends on what you need it to do.
To understand better what you need, you can test your water first. Here are the main methods you can use to check the contents of your drinking water.
Sensorial Evaluation of Water
Before you apply the different methods, our senses are your first allies. Keep in mind this is a subjective test that cannot pass as science.
Your senses, can put you on the right path of water testing. After all, you are probably here because you have had it with your water’s foul smell, taste, and looks. You are searching for the best filtration solutions.
Before you begin your quest to find the best filter for your problem, here is how to use your senses. Let’s make sense of what is going on with the water you drink!
Fill a clear glass with water and hold it into the light. Here are some signs and symptoms that your water may contain harmful elements.
- If cloudy, features a white-ish overall color, or presents white floating particles. This means that it may have chlorine in it or contain excess hard minerals. The differential diagnosis, in this case, is the smell. You cannot mistake the smell of chlorine in water for anything else.
- In case the water shows red, brown, or orange particles, you deal with rust. It may come from excess iron in water or the pipes, plumbing, or fixtures. This could also be corrosion due to acidic water, chlorine treatments, and other sources.
- Look at the color. Notice if it is brown or murky even after you allow it to run for a while. It is a sign of more severe contamination. It may come from a polluted source or decaying pipes and plumbing.
- Black floating particles indicates excess chlorine that attacks the pipes and hoses. This makes your pipes frail causing parts to break off and flow into the water.
- Large mineral particles at the bottom of the glass are a sign you have hard water. This calls for a pH level test. Hardness minerals contain calcium and magnesium. Water hardness affects around 8 out of 10 American households.
Another way to test your water is by using your sense of smell. Fill a glass from the tap and take it to another room. This trick allows you to separate the smell of your water from all the odors coming from the drain.
- A bleach-like odor indicates chlorine. This is usually in combination with a white or merky appearance.
- If your water smells like sulfur (rotten eggs like), you have bacteria somewhere along the pipes, plumbing, or fixtures;
- A metallic odor may indicate the presence of rust and iron.
- If your water smells like a swamp (a musty, earthy odor), this is a sign of organic decomposition.
Always perform the odor test in another room. For a more accurate impression, take some time in between two tests. You can let the water sit in the glass in another room and smell it again. The chlorine odor dissipates in time and contact with fresh air.
If the odor does not come from the water then you can check your sink and faucets.
Your sense of taste will give you a general idea of the contaminants present in your water. However you can only taste water that you think passes in terms of smell and appearance.
- A metallic taste may indicate the presence of excess hardness minerals, rust, or low pH levels;
- The bleach-like taste comes from chlorine;
- Salty flavors may mean that there are chlorine ions or sulfates in the water. This is most likely caused by an industrial or irrigation drainage problem;
Unfortunately, you cannot solely rely on your senses. Most contaminants have no color, odor, or taste. For this reason, you can look into the following methods of water testing.
Point of Entry Water Systems – What You Need to Know
There are many different types of filters on the market. They can each be categorized by different characteristics, such as size and purpose. One of the factors we can consider when choosing a filter is their point of entry.
Point-of-Entry (POE) water filter systems are installed near your home’s main water supply. They work best for houses because they need plenty of space. These units filter all the water entering your home before it reaches the faucets.
You can then use the filtered water for drinking, bathing, washing, cooking, and cleaning, and so on. They are installed before your water heater. This means it can deliver clean water hot and cold to every fixture in the house.
As mentioned above, these units require plenty of space. At a large size, these filters come at a high price but with many benefits. For starters, POE systems are capable of filtering thousands of gallons of water per day. They come in wall-mountable units or massive casings and tanks combinations.
Aside from a high performance rate, these filters also require little maintenance. For some units, you will need to replace your cartridge just once a year. The actual installation may need a professional plumber.
POE systems are great for removing sediment, rust, chlorine, some bacterias, and hard minerals. This is kept at a standard level so that all the water in your home is okay for use. If you want the cleanest water possible, you could use different filters with your POE unit. For example, you could have a counter top filter for your drinking water.
In the POE category, you will find two main types of filtration systems:
Whole House Water Filters – Features
The most common POE filters are whole house water filter. As the name suggests, these are filters for your entire home. These filters use different methods and processes to filter all the water in your home.
Common to all house filters is the first stage which “screens your water. This is the process of removing sediment and large particles. Aside from this, different filters follow different processes. Some make use of carbon filters to remove chlorine, chemicals, some pollutants, and other small particles.
For maximum filtration, you can use your home filtration systems with additional filtration units. This can include pre-filters, water softeners, and other point-of-use filtration systems.
Water Softeners – Features
Along with brine tanks and other accessories, softeners are also POE systems. Water softeners are units that filter out hardness from waters. They target elements such as calcium and magnesium which are most responsible for producing hard water.
Water softeners filter hard water to make it soft. They use a chemical process of water cleansing ion-exchange based on sodium. This process replaces the hard molecules (usually calcium and magnesium) with sodium chloride. Once the system captures the hardness molecules, it flushes them out down the drain. This also leaves consumers to question how eco-friendly softeners are. The release of saltwater back into the systems is problematic, to say the least. Moreover, they produce plenty of wastewater that goes down the drain instead of going through a reuse cycle.
Conventional water softeners are still the best solution to deal with severe hardness levels. Their main advantage is that they do a great job of softening the water in its entirety. Most importantly, they protect your pipes, plumbing, faucets and fixtures, and appliances.
Such devices need space for installation, a plumbing specialist, and tools. You also need to stock on water softener salts to keep them functioning.
On the other hand, conventional water softeners represent the best solution you have to deal with severe water hardness levels. Their main advantage is that they do a great job of softening the water in its entirety. Most importantly, they protect your pipes, plumbing, faucets and fixtures, and appliances.
Another aspect to consider when softening and filtering water is brackish water.
What is brackish water? In natural environments, brackish water is a mix of freshwater and seawater found in estuaries and brackish fossil aquifers. However, brackish water is also a generic term used to describe water that is more saline than freshwater but less saline that true marine water.
Some people consider the brine water of a salt-based water softener to be brackish water. As we said above, the brine solution usually goes down the drain. One of the best ways to turn brackish (salty) water into freshwater is reverse osmosis.
UV Water Filters – Features
If you ever saw a UV water filter, you know it comes in a sleeve you can install inside the water chamber, or you can mount outside transparent tubes transporting water.
UV filters usually come together with more complex water filters many reverse osmosis systems feature UV disinfection as a bonus. Nevertheless, you can purchase standalone UV filters to install along with your Reverse Osmosis water filter, Carbon Activated whole house water filter, and even water softeners.
UV water filters are not new tech they went through testing, which showed their ability 99.99% of bacteria and viruses present in your city or well tap water. They can remove the following microorganisms successfully:
- Bacilli of dysentery
- Tuberculosis bacilli
- E. coli
- Hepatitis B
The destruction of such living organisms in your water depends on the UV dosage. It is the measure of the energy (expressed in mJ/ cm²) delivered by your UV filter. As you can easily understand, the more dosage the device provides, the more power it produces to purify your water.
Get Familiar with Point of Use Water Filter Systems
You can install Point-of-Use filters at every fixture. The most common applications include filters for your kitchen. This can be either a countertop filter or a filter directly attached to your sink. You will also find uses for filters in the bathroom. POU filters deliver some of the best and cleanest water you can have in your home. Depending on the technology they come with, these filters can remove a variety of contaminants. This can include sediment, chlorine, heavy metals, toxins, bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants.
Not only can POU systems bring clean water to your faucets, but they come with plenty of advantages. They are easy to install, affordable, and practical. Most units fit in the majority of kitchens and can match most standard faucets and fixtures.
Here are some of the most available POU filters you can rely on to have clean water in your home.
Under-Sink Systems – Features
Most under-sink filters feature reverse osmosis technology. They usually also feature multiple stages of filtration. Most filters also include a re-mineralization step that delivers mineral water to your tap. They are convenient in terms of space, price, ease installation, maintenance, performance, and durability.
However, you need to know that some are sizeable enough for you to make a special room for them under your sink. Some users also install them in adjacent kitchen cabinets or mount them on the kitchen wall.
Since most filters use reverse osmosis technology, you need to consider the following:
- The wastewater vs. the clean water ratio – If this ratio is anything other than 1:1, you may need to look into your unit. This means that the system consumes plenty of water to deliver a gallon of filtered water.This could cause an environmental or budgeting issue.
- Installation – Some units require help from plumbers or professionals. This could be to help with installation, maintenance, or repairs.
- Calculate the costs of replacing the filters – Most under-sink filters have long filter lives. But you still need to replace the filters once or twice a year. Keep in mind that not all filters are cheap.
Under-sink water filters are among the most popular systems available on the market. They ensure water used for cooking and drinking water. They can even enhance your life by delivering fresh mineral water from the tap.
Countertop Water Filters – Features
If you do not have enough space to install a filter under your sink, a countertop filter is another great option. These devices solve a single issue: cleaning the water you use for drinking and cooking.
Most models fit standard faucets. There are also some manufacturers that include matching taps in the package. Countertop water filters usually use sediment filtration and carbon filtration. This makes it so that the filter is able to remove dust, dirt, silt, rust, some chemicals, pollutants, and heavy metals from your water. They also improve the taste and odor of your drinking water
Other benefits include ease of installation, ease of operation, and filtration performance, all at generally lower prices. The filter replacement is also very straightforward. You may need to replace the filters monthly or a few times a year, depending on the brand and model.
Faucet Water Filters – Features
Under-sink filters and countertop filters are not always the ideal choice. Especially for renters or those without the space or budget. If this applies to you, another great alternative is a faucet filter. You can install and use them in the same minute. You can also take them with you when you move out.
These filters require low maintenance, have great filtration capacity, and moderate filter life. They are also eco-friendly, as they do not consume more water than they produce. Their technology stands on the shoulders of sediment filtration and adsorption.
Most faucet filters can deal with a handful of problems and contaminants. They are able to solve the issue of lousy water taste, color, and smell.
When choosing a faucet filter, you will also want to look for models that do not interfere with your water pressure and flow.
Showerhead Water Filters – Features
We have covered the different ways to filter your drinking water. But how often do you consider the water that you shower with? Shower filters are a great way to avoid soaking in hardness minerals, bacteria, chlorine, and chloramines.
The best shower head filters can remove a handful of contaminants. This can reduce the impact of chlorine on your skin. It can even add some beneficial elements. This can include smoother skin, hair, and stronger nails.
Most shower filters are easy to install and require little maintenance. There are many different types of shower filters on the market. Different features target different issues. Some are meant to improve the quality and hardness of your water. Some are meant to filter out chlorine. And others are just meant to turn your bathing experience into a spa-like one. With all these options to choose from, we’re sure you will find the right one for your shower needs.
Refrigerator Water Filters – Features
Another specific type of water filters are refrigerator water filters. As the name suggests, they go inside your fridge and deliver fresh drinking water. The only issue is that you have to match the filter with your refrigerator perfectly. Most types are specific or OEM. Bou will also find models that go with a wide variety of refrigerator brands.
Newer refrigerator water filters use adsorption technology for filtration. This can quickly solve problems with taste and odor. They can also reduce chlorine and a handful of other contaminants.
Portable Water Filters: The Helpful Benefits & Features
You can also enjoy the taste of clean drinking water on the go. Portable water filters are great for outdoor activities and long road trips. There are many different types of portable filters on the market. Each with their own purpose and different methods. Here are some of the most popular:
RV Water Filters and Softeners
These type of filters do a great job at filtering chlorine, pollutants, sediment, metals, and other contaminants. Most RV water filters use adsorption technology or reverse osmosis technology and work just the same as a home filter. You can also find RV water softeners to go with your filter.
Water Filter Pitchers
You can also lessen the use of plastic bottles by using water filter pitchers. New filtration technologies allow for more options when choosing filter pitchers. Some of the most popular options support mineral, alkaline, or contaminant-free water.Some models can remove heavy metals and harsh chemicals from water. While others can only chlorine or sediment.
The best water filter pitchers feature advanced adsorption filtration, long filter lives, generous volumes, affordable replacement filters, and low prices. Some are even capable of making your water mineral. The greatest benefit is that one water filter pitcher can replace hundreds or thousands of plastic bottles a year.
Filtered Water Containers
While on the topic of portability, there is also the option of filtered water containers.
You can carry such filters in your purse or backpack and take them everywhere. Most filtered water containers and outdoor accessories can remove some harsh chemicals, heavy metals, toxins, bacteria, and viruses. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Filtered water bottles: Take with you all the latest filtering technologies on the go.
- Alkaline filtered water bottles: Modify your water on the go. Adjust pH levels and add good minerals into the water.
- Backpacking water filters: Great for sightseeing trips, camping, hiking, preparedness, survival, etc.
- Gravity Water Filters: These filters remove some of the most dangerous water pollutants and contaminants. They make excellent choices for outdoor, preparedness, and survival enthusiasts.
Of course, you can keep a few portable water filters and accessories around the house just in case. They are a great fix, but they will not cover the needs of an entire family living in a large house.
Distillation is one of the oldest forms of filtration. Water distillers have different methods of filtration. Generally, they all use high volumes of heat to kill bacteria. However, some can only treat small volumes of water and most take time to process. Nevertheless, they do a great job of removing chemicals, toxins, or bacteria from your drinking water. They also come in different sizes for your convenience.
7 Benefits of Using Water Filtration – An Overview
Before we wrap up this guide on how water filters work and how to choose the best one for your needs, let’s resume why using a filter is an excellent idea!
1. Improved Taste and Odor
Even if you enjoy city water, it can still have a bad taste and smell from time to time. Most filters on the market are capable of clearing your water of the contaminants that make your water unpleasant to drink. You can always rely on carbon filters or reverse osmosis filters to do a great job. Water filtration can deal with the most prevalent and evident water problems. This leads to almost immediate positive effects when it comes to water qualities.
2. You Protect the Environment
It is more environmentally friendly to drink filtered tap water than buying plastic bottled water. Instead of using plastic bottles on the go, you can always carry a filtered water bottle with you at work, at the gym, or wherever you go.
3. Save Money in the Long Run
Some filters come with hefty investment prices. Most whole house water filters, RO filters, and water softeners are expensive. However, if you think long-term, you will soon realize that water filters save you plenty of money.
4. Suitable for Children, Elders
Children and elders are vulnerable to contaminants. Lead in the water has already made its victims and effects known. While bacteria and viruses in tap water affect us all.
5. Good for Pets
Our pets are our family members. If you would not drink contaminated water. Animals are even more susceptible to organ damages, hormonal imbalances, and poisoning than humans are.
6. Better Looking Skin and Hair
Softened and filtered water are not only good for you, but they come with many benefits. For bathing, a whole house water filter can eliminate impurities from the supply. As a result, you can see softer skin, less frizzy hair, and stronger nails. You will also notice the difference soon enough if you install a shower head filter, for instance.
Water Filtration FAQs
Before we conclude this guide, let’s take a look at some filtration and treatment issues that might interest you. People ask us plenty of questions regarding the use and benefits of water filters and are curious about the alternatives they have to condition and treat their water. In the following section, you will find answers to the frequently asked questions we received from our readers.
Practical Questions to Ask Before You Consider Any Water Filter
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want my future water filter to treat all the water in my house? Or do I just want one for drinking water?
- Where do I put this new filter? Does it fit in my available space? And, do I have to find a new solution and a place for it?
- Do I have to call experts for installation? Can I install it myself? Do I have the tools and patience available to do it myself?
- How long will I stay in this home? Can I take the filter with me if I move to another place?
- Do I want a portable unit?
What is the Difference between Water Filtration and Purification?
You will not likely find 100% pure water anywhere, not even in a bottle. However, you can find and make pure water at home by using certain types of filters. The most efficient purifiers are those capable of removing not only large particles but also microorganisms, viruses, bacteria, salts, chemicals, etc.
Among the best water filters that can clean your drinking water are reverse osmosis filters, distillers, and UV filters with the amendment that they only work against waterborne pathogens. Water filtration is a significant part of a purification process.
What is a Water Conditioning System?
Water conditioning and filtration are not the same things. For this reason, we talked about water conditioners only in passing. You can include in the water conditioning category the electronic water descalers and Template Assisted Crystallization System as alternatives to salt-based water softeners.
Moreover, water ionizers are devices able to change the pH levels in your water. Nevertheless, water descalers, TAC systems, alkaline water machines, and other similar devices do not filter water to the same capacity as ACB/GAC filters, RO filters, UF or AA filters do. When it comes to filtration vs. conditioning, you know that conditioners do not remove pollutants as you would expect them.
What is Water Ionization?
Water ionization ( electrolysis) is the process of separating water from the alkaline minerals in it by changing the water’s molecular structure. Water ionizers achieve electrolysis with the help of electrical current and metal plates. A water ionizer (an alkaline machine) produces ionized alkaline water for drinking (with high antioxidant potential) and ionized acidic water (for external uses). Do not mistake ionization for filtration. Most alkaline machines also contain a filtration stage.
Do Alkaline Water Filters Work?
We mentioned above, ionization (alkalization) is not filtration per se. However, most alkaline machines employ carbon filtration to cleanse the water before they increase/decrease the pH. Alkaline water filters go a great job in allowing you to change the pH of your water. Some machines offer a broad range of possibilities where you can select your pH level from 2 to 13.
What is the Difference between Charcoal and Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal or activated carbon when it comes to filters contains charcoal, among other things. The carbon in the filters go through a technological process (production at high temperatures) that confers its curative properties.
Activated charcoal is more porous and more absorbent than regular charcoal. While we use regular charcoal for arts, cooking, or odor removal, activated charcoal found its place in medicine and filtration systems, to name just a few applications.
Are Charcoal Water Filters Good?
Yes, they are. Even if you may find some carbon powder or granules in your water, they are good for consumption. As we said before, activated charcoal filters are resilient to bacterial growth.
Do Water Filters Remove Valuable Minerals in Water?
Some do, some don’t. The problem with water filtration versus minerals and other elements in water is when the latter are in excess. This makes your water hard. For this reason, we have conventional softener that remove calcium and magnesium from the water, making it soft.
Water distillers also remove the good minerals in your water. Unfortunately, these systems do not put back the substances you need for balanced nutrition.
The most popular filters activated carbon ones do not remove good minerals and elements from your water.
Is Filtered Water Better than Bottled Water?
Generally, filters deliver cleaner water than bottles do. This can be done in the comfort of your homes. You can enjoy clean water without having to spend money regularly on bottled water. This will also lessen your plastic footprint by lessening plastic bottle pollution.
Are Home Water Filters Worth It?
For most, whole house water filter seems excessive and expensive. But that is only at surface level. There are many factors that make a home filtration unit a great investment. There are also many different choices in terms of size, price, and filter type. You may even get portable filter units for your RV or your backpacking adventures.
Here we will be discussing all the reasons why you can invest in a filtration system for your entire home. This section will include how they work and how to choose the best one.
Water Filtration: Bottom Line
We hope this ultimate guide on water filtration and how it works has helped you find the best solutions for your needs. The market offers plenty of options when it comes to the best options in terms of budget, sizes, installation, contaminant levels, and so on.It is all a matter of choosing the best filter for your household to support your lifestyle. In case you have any more questions, feel free to ask us questions and request details!