In recent years, water filtration has become an essential in our households. Now more than ever after the Flint water crisis. For most, bottled water is the go to alternative to tap . But this creates a separate issue on its own. The global plastic pollution we contribute to daily with each plastic bottle we throw away is a growing problem. What can we do?
We need water to survive, not only for ourselves but for our households too. Drinking the recommended water quantity from plastic bottles does more harm than good. This decision comes with both financial and environmental burdens. There is also the question of: can we trust our tap water? The official position is that we can. Facts and reports suggest that the water quality of our nation is shady, at best.
So what can we do to stay safe? The simple answer is to invest in the right filtration systems for our homes. The right system can make all the difference in enhancing our lifestyles.
- Why Do We Need Water Filters?
- How Unsafe is to Drink Tap Water?
- Common Tap Water Contaminants
- How Do These Contaminants Reach Our Drinking Water?
- Chlorine in Drinking Water – What Should You Know About It?
- Elements in Drinking Water that Are Healthy – Should We Remove Them through Water Filtration?
- Is it Better to Drink Tap Water or Filtered Water?
- Is Filtered Water Better than Bottled Water?
- Are Home Water Filters Worth It?
- How Do You Choose the Best Water Filter for Your Needs?
- Sensorial Evaluation of the Water
- The Water Quality Report
- Third-Party Independent Testing
- Home Water Test Kits
- How to Test Water Quality: Summary
- Water Filters’ Sizes and Uses
- How Do Water Filters Work? The Most Common Processes and Technologies
- 8 Common Types of Water Filtration Technologies for Home Use
- 1. Sediment Filtration
- 2. Adsorption
- 3. Reverse Osmosis Filtration (RO)
- 4. Distillation Technology
- 5. Ion Exchange Water Filter Technology (IX)
- 6. Ultraviolet Water Filters (UV)
- 7. Water Ultrafiltration Technology (UF)
- 8. Activated Alumina Water Filtration (AA)
- 8 Common Types of Water Filtration Technologies for Home Use
- The Best Water Filter Types and Technologies to Meet Your Needs and Budget
- How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Contaminants in Your Water
- How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Required Filtration Intensity & Filter Setup
- How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Your Home Type and Water Problems
- How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Budget
- How to Buy a Water Filter: Tech Specs to Consider
- What to Consider Before Purchasing a Water Filter: Summary
- Water Filters’ Maintenance
- 7 Benefits of Using Water Filtration – An Overview
- Water Filtration FAQs
- What is the Difference between Water Filtration and Purification?
- What is a Water Conditioning System?
- What is Water Ionization?
- Do Alkaline Water Filters Work?
- What is the Difference between Charcoal and Activated Charcoal?
- Are Charcoal Water Filters Safe?
- Do Water Filters Remove Valuable Minerals in Water?
- Water Filtration: Bottom Line
Why Do We Need Water Filters?
According to an NRDC report in 2017, all states across the nation have water systems that have contaminants that could harm human health. The studies showed that back in 2015, nearly 80 million Americans drank water from community water systems that violated federal protections under the Safe Drinking Water Act. These 18,000 systems failed to test the water for contaminants and to report contamination to the authorities or the public.
Many contaminants do not fall under the E.P.A.’s regulation and monitoring. This makes the NRDC wonder about the water threats that nobody bothers to investigate. Only around 80,000 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act are reported annually. This leaves officials to wonder about the data that is not in the reports.
We can’t control our local water districts. But what we can do is take authority over the water we use in our own homes. Whether this be the type of water we are drinking, or the type of filters we are using, all of these are ways we can monitor our water quality.
How Unsafe is to Drink Tap Water?
According to the CDC, drinking water in the United States is one of the safest in the world. However, the Flint Water Crisis says otherwise.
You never want to assume that your drinking water is safe. Especially since the CDC itself admits that sometimes, tap water can contain contaminants and waterborne germs like Giardia, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, Hepatitis A, and other harmful microorganisms.
Our tap water receives treatment at the source. However, the quality of your tap water depends on where you live and what source you use. For example, city water is purified before it reaches the tap. But this is not the same for well water. In fact, The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate private wells. This means that more than 40 million Americans have to test and clean their wells on their own.
The E.P.A. enforced its National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. Setting the legal limits of contaminants, pollutants, chemicals, and other toxins/waterborne pathogens in drinking water. However, we cannot always rely on an outdated, decaying infrastructure system.
While the E.P.A. enforced its National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, setting the legal limits of contaminants, pollutants, chemicals, and other toxins/waterborne pathogens in drinking water, we know we are relying on an outdated, decaying infrastructure system.
This system is currently affecting over 80 million people. This brings us to question the safety of our drinking water. New reports shows the different substances in our water. A lot of them, we have never heard of before. All while the E.P.A. takes their time in regulating them. From lead and “forever chemicals” to the much-contested fluoride, bacteria, and fertilizers, our water teems with contaminants.
The safety of our drinking water is of concern. New reports and research shows we drink substances we have never heard of before – and the E.P.A. is slow in regulating them as well. From lead and “forever chemicals” to the much-contested fluoride, bacteria, and fertilizers, our water teems with contaminants that should never be in the proximity of our children.
For this reason, and for many others, home water filters become a necessity. Here, we will dissect what is in your tap water to know how to choose the best filter system for your home.
Common Tap Water Contaminants
According to the E.P.A., water contaminants come in four primary categories. Some may even be present in your water. . However, there are a few things to note about the most common water contaminants. This will give you a better understanding of what to expect from our home water filters.
Find below the way the E.P.A. categorizes the contaminants and pollutants you may find in your tap water.
These contaminants change the physical properties of your water: color, odor, even texture. Among the most common physical pollutants that you can find in your water, we can list:
- Sediment: rust, sand, dust, silt, and other large particles, including some heavy metals;
- Suspended organic material
Chemical contaminants can be either natural or man made. Some of the most prevalent and dangerous water pollutants are chemical contaminants. Most filters on the market are designed to reduce or remove chemicals. Common chemical contaminants include:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs);
- Chlorine and chloramines;
- Salts and silica;
- Human/veterinarian drugs, etc.
This category includes waterborne pathogens and microorganisms:
- Bacteria: E. coli, Legionella, Salmonella, Pseudomonas, Yersinia, etc.
- Viruses: Hepatitis A and E viruses, rotavirus, noroviruses, enteroviruses, etc.
- Parasites: Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Toxoplasma gondii, Schistosoma, etc.
To date – for your peace of mind – there is no proof that the new coronavirus could spread through drinking water.
Radiological contaminants are less common in our water. They are naturally found elements that can produce ionizing radiation. Some of them include:
In our water supply, these contaminants can cause illnesses and other problems. Some of which can include diarrhea, respiratory problems, organ damage, and even death.
How Do These Contaminants Reach Our Drinking Water?
As we discuss filtration and contaminants, there are a few questions to answer. The first one is : where do these contaminants come from in the first place? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the contamination of ground water can have two possible sources. There are natural sources and those derived from human activity.
Chlorine in Drinking Water – What Should You Know About It?
When it comes to choosing the right filter there are a few factors to consider. At the top of that list, is chlorine. Most treatment plants use chlorine as an agent to disinfect our water. The E.P.A allows this to a certain extent. However, the taste, smell, and color of chlorine in drinking water are unpleasant to most. .
According to the E.P.A and the C.D.C., the safety level of chlorine in drinking water is up to 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L or 4 parts per million (ppm). Anything above this level of safety comes with health concern. The consumption of high concentrations of chlorine correlates with health issues, especially for dialysis patients.
The best way to monitor your chlorine levels is by testing your water. We will discuss this later in this water filtration guide.
Elements in Drinking Water that Are Healthy – Should We Remove Them through Water Filtration?
You have probably heard that some filters strip your water of healthy elements. These elements in drinking water can include Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Zinc, and more. According to the World Health Organization,
In other words, the trace elements in drinking water are good for your health. However, anything that is in excess is also harmful. Some filters put these minerals and trace elements back into the water .
Is it Better to Drink Tap Water or Filtered Water?
The obvious answer is that filtered water is better. But not everyone has access to or feels the need to filter their water. This is especially true in areas that already have provided resources.
Water filtration is highly recommended. Especially in areas that rely on well water or other outdated sources
Filtering your water should be part of your daily routine. Even if contamination is not an issue in your area. Elements such as chlorine and fluoride are not always filtered out by local suppliers.
Is Filtered Water Better than Bottled Water?
Bottled water is a $200 billion industry . These companies continually promise people clean, safe water on the go. However, recent studies showed that there is little (if any) difference between tap and bottled water.
Generally, filters deliver cleaner and safer 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 should invest in a filtration system for your entire home. This section will include how they work and how to choose the best one.
What’s really in your drinking water?
Besides nutritious elements, your water can contain a wide range of contaminants. This can range from heavy metals to radiological pollutants. Your water – as it comes from the treatment plant – can also feature by-products of chlorination, some amounts of pesticides, toxins, and pollutants, as a result of groundwater contamination. However, if the water coming to your tap travels through an older infrastructure, it can also pick up the lead and other dangerous contaminants, thus posing serious health threats.
What is a water table?
The water table is the level below where the ground saturates with water. The table marks the border between the available water in the ground (aquifers or water pockets) and the dry surface. The table forms when rain and other sources from the Earth’s surface infiltrate through the soil and accumulates as groundwater.
Is chlorine in drinking water dangerous?
Treatment plants use chlorination to disinfect the water and remove bacteria and other waterborne pathogens.While this decreases the contaminants in your water, it also decreases the quality. High levels of chlorine in drinking water lead to a specific smell, taste, and color. Most filtration solutions present on the market today contain filtering technologies that remove the chlorine in your drinking water.
Should We Filter Out All Elements in Drinking Water?
Most elements in drinking water are healthy minerals and micronutrients. The most common ones are calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. But just like all elements, excess levels can lead to complications. This problem can easily be solved by investing in a unit that has a remineralization process.
How Do You Choose the Best Water Filter for Your Needs?
There are many different factors to consider when choosing the best unit 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 should test your water first. Here are the main methods you can use to check the contents of your drinking water.
Sensorial Evaluation of the 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 of 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 should check your sink and faucets.
Your sense of taste will give you a general idea of the contaminants present in your water. However you should 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 should look into the following methods of water testing.
The Water Quality Report
Every year, your water supplier should send you a quality report. This should where your water comes from and what contaminants it contains. As we said, treatment systems sanitize the water before it reaches your home.
Most water treatment plants use chlorine. But the substance became more and more problematic in the past years. Here are a few reasons why:
- It does not kill all microorganisms in your water;
- It gives the water a foul taste and odor;
- It can interact with some of the organic materials in the water. This can lead to the creation of carcinogenic elements.
Another issue with governmental agencies treating the water is that they do not take into account the age and length of the feed lines. In other words, even if your water comes “clean” from the treatment plant, it travels for miles through decades-old pipes, collecting microorganisms, chemicals, and heavy metals. By the time the water reaches your tap, it teems with contaminants leaking from the decaying infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the Flint water crisis was not only an accident. If we are to believe the latest news and reports, cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh are dealing with their water crises because of collapsing infrastructure. Lead in our water is also a national problem.
Even if the E.P.A – via de Lead and Copper Rule – states that there should be zero levels of lead in drinking water, most of our cities rely on pipes and lines. These lines leak lead and other heavy metals into the water passing through.
In short, you should always test your water and ask for your reports.
Third-Party Independent Testing
Without having a thorough analysis of your contaminants, it is challenging to decide what filtration technology to use or what type of water filter to buy.
One of the best methods to get an accurate report of your water quality is through an independent laboratory. NSF International offers a comprehensive list of well water testing labs by state. Once you have decided to take the independent testing route, these steps will bring you closer to choosing the right filter.
Find an Accredited Laboratory
In your search for laboratory near you, make sure you use keywords. Words such as “accredited,” “well water,” “municipal water,” and “independent” will give you the best results.
You should look for an accredited laboratory as a priority. These facilities have been through thorough independent technical evaluations regarding their competency to provide accurate data. Moreover, accredited labs do not usually associate with specific industries or manufacturers.
Collect a Water Sample
After you find a water-testing laboratory near you, collect your sample. Read the instructions on sample collection the facility provides.
- If you want to test your water for copper or lead, you should let the sample sit overnight;
- In some cases, you should deliver a “first draw” sample. It means to collect the first water coming from the tap that day before you let it run.
- To test for bacteria, you will want to let the faucet run before collecting your sample.
After your report comes in you will want to do the following:
- Lead and copper;
- Other heavy metals;
- Volatile Organic Compounds;
- Water hardness;
- Other inorganic minerals;
- Chlorine and chloramines;
- Radium 226/228;
- Gross alpha radiological contaminants;
- Coliform bacteria;
- E. coli and cryptosporidium;
- Hepatitis A and E, etc.
Understanding the Results
Homeowners living in rural or industrial areas and depending on well water might want to test individually for radiological contaminants, PFAS, fertilizers, pesticides, or hormones. Not all labs are capable of performing such tests. Some carry accreditations for radiological water testing, so you should look for them in particular.
You may have to wait for a few days or weeks for the results to come back. The papers will show the levels of tested contaminants found in your water. Most labs also provide detailed information on what those contaminant levels mean and what to do about them.
Home Water Test Kits
Home testing kits are becoming more common. Many brands provide reliable instruments at affordable prices. In case you cannot afford a fully independent laboratory test, or you cannot find one in your area, you should look for the best home testing kits on the market.
How to Choose a Home Water Test Kit
Here are some factors to consider before buying a home water test kit:
- Your water pH influences quality, so you should start with such a test. Acidic water has a foul taste and contributes to pipes’ corrosion.
- A pH testing kit may help you make the best choices when it comes to buying an ionizer machine, for instance.
- Hard water leads to scale buildups. This can lead to shorter lifespans in your appliances.
- Well water and city water are different. Make sure you buy a testing kit that addresses them separately.
- Some testing kits are efficient in finding heavy metals. Others are more capable of testing for waterborne pathogens. Make sure you are purchasing the right one for your needs.
Most testing kits come with test strips. We recommend testing kits with many different types of test strips. This allows you a broad range of separate tests for chlorine, hardness, bacteria, lead, other heavy metals, fertilizers, etc. A test kit containing only one strip is most likely just pH test.
How to Use the Water Test Kit
Read the instructions carefully. A reliable test kit coming from a reputable manufacturer comes with detailed directions on how to sample the water and use the test strips. You will also learn what temperature the water should have, how long you should wait for the results, and how to interpret them.
How to Manage the Home Water Test Results
The most important step is to compare the color of your strips against the color charts provided by the manufacturer. Pay full attention to the matching of each test strip against its particular color on the chart.
Once you have identified all the contaminants in your water, you can start to develop your plan for action. Many kits come with tips on how to proceed if your water shows dangerous levels of pollutants, chemicals, or toxins.
How to Test Water Quality: Summary
Testing the quality of your water can be a matter of using your senses, requesting an official report, or using at home test kits. Regardless of which method you use, identifying the contaminants in your water is the first step to taking control over your water quality at home.
Armed with all these results, you can compare them and draw conclusions. Once you narrow down your research, you can identify your top contaminants. Then you can pick filter to specifically target those contaminants.
Water Filters’ Sizes and Uses
Once you have a good idea about your water content, you can start to look for the appropriate filter. We don’t recommend buying the first filter you see. There are many different types of filters on the market. You will want to choose one that best deals with your current water issues.
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?
Point of Entry Water Filter Systems
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 and safe 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 safe 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:
1. Whole House Water Filters
The most common POE filters are whole house water filters. 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.
2. Water Softeners
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.This causes health experts to frown upon drinking softened water. But do not fear. A quick fix would be to reuse and refilter waste water from your softeners with the help of additional filters.
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.
3. UV Water Filters
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.
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 and safe water in your home.
1. Under-Sink Water Filters
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 the safety of your cooking and drinking water. They can even enhance your life by delivering fresh mineral water from the tap.
2. Countertop Water Filters
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.
3. Faucet Water Filters
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.
4. Showerhead Water Filters
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.
5. Refrigerator Water Filters
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
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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 healthy 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.
4. Water Distillers
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.
The last criterion to consider before you move forward with your quest for the best filter for your home is the certifications. It is important that filters can perform the way they advertise. Home drinking water treatments are becoming popular. It is difficult to differentiate between manufacturers and advertisements.
Certification is as vital as the results of your water test. How do you know a product will work as they promise? How do you know it won’t do more harm than good? The answer lies with NSF and ANSI certifications.
All products coming with an NSF International mark meet the strictest standards when it comes to public health protection. The same goes for ANSI and products certified by the European Union’s agencies. Before installing any type of filter in your home, read everything about how the manufacturer tested it, and certified it.
Here are some National Science Foundation (NSF) standards you should consider:
- NSF Standard 42 refers to the filter’ aesthetic effects: Filters meeting this standard reduces chlorine. This improves the taste and odor of your drinking water. The rule mostly addresses carbon filtration. It also includes material safety, structural integrity, and aesthetic, non-health-related contaminant reduction performance.
- NSF Standard 53 refers to the filters’ health effects: A NSF 53 water filter has to meet the minimum requirements for the certification of POU/POE filtration systems. An NSF 53 filter removes a long list of health-related contaminants from your water. This can include Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), MTBE, etc.
- NSF Standard 58 refers only to reverse osmosis filters. The standard certifies that the RO filter reduces toxic pollutants, chemicals, bacteria, etc. Certified RO systems decrease the levels of the following contaminants in your water. The list includes TDS, cysts, chromium (trivalent and hexavalent), arsenic, nitrate/nitrite, cadmium, lead, barium, turbidity, fluoride, copper, VOCs, asbestos, radium 226/228, perchlorate, selenium, etc.
- NSF Standard 401 refers to incidental contaminants or emerging compounds. The standard (and thus, the filter) can cover up to 15 contaminants found in water as of late. The standard lists human/veterinarian pharmaceutical drugs (prescription and over-the-counter medication), flame-retardants, pesticides and herbicides, BPA, precursors to commercial detergents, and more. The NSF Standard 401 also applies to RO water filters.
Most filters you will find on the market meet the NSF standards 42 and 53, while others can reach more.
How Do Water Filters Work? The Most Common Processes and Technologies
We can now discuss the most critical aspect of water filtration. How do water filters work? So far, we mentioned adsorption, sediment filtration, reverse osmosis, and distillation, among others. You may have already heard about carbon filtration and other technical terms.
It is important to understand that some technologies can be present in other types of filters. This can range from the smallest water filter straw to the most extensive systems for your entire home. Here, we can discuss the different filtering technologies to choose from.
8 Common Types of Water Filtration Technologies for Home Use
As mentioned, there are many different types of filtering technology. Some are even used in combination with others. Here, we can see the different types of filtering technology and their best applications.
1. Sediment Filtration
This is the most straightforward and basic water treatment. This type of filter is present across industrial, commercial, and residential filtration systems.
A sediment filter consists of a washable screen. These screens are usually made from polypropylene (PP) or pleated polyester with a micron rating that can range from 1 to 100.
You can find standalone sediment water filters as a POE whole home filter. The most frequent application of sediment water filters is in combination with carbon filters or reverse osmosis filters. This pairing provides more efficient filtration. The sediment filter works as a pre-filter to prevent the clogging of carbon filters or reverse osmosis membranes.
How Sediment Filter Works
Imagine a flour sifter. When water passes through a sediment filter with a 5 microns rating, it will sift all particles of 5-microns or larger. This leaves water containing contaminants smaller than 5 microns will flow through the screen and reach your tap.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Sediment Water Filters
|Affordable||Does not remove chemicals, toxins, or other contaminants smaller than 1 micron|
|Easy to use and replace||It has to join another (more complex) water filtration system for clean & safe water|
|Efficient against large particles|
|A broad range of microns rating|
|Pairs well with other types of filtration technologies|
You may know adsorption – in the context of water filter systems – as carbon filtration. However, adsorption is the process/technology used for the carbon filtration of water.
Adsorption is by far the most common filter technology on the market today. You will find large home units using this technology. These filters usually go together with carafe-size or even pencil-size water filters in the shape of filter water pitchers and filtered water bottles.
How Adsorption Water Filters Work
Imagine a sponge. Adsorption is the consequence of surface energy. As the water comes through the pipes, it meets the adsorption filters. The filtration occurs as the atoms, the gas ions, or molecules of a liquid or dissolved solid adhere to the adsorbing surface and cannot move forward to reach your tap. All the contaminants in water various micron sizes remain as a film on the surface of the adsorbent medium.
When it comes to adsorption water filtering, you can get one of two principal water filters: Activated Carbon Block filtration (ACB) and Granular Activated Carbon filtration (GAC). In commercial filters, you will meet this filtering process as Activated Carbon (AC), but you should know the differences between the two carbon water filters.
2.1 Activated Carbon Block Water Filters (ACB)
One of the most straightforward types of carbon filters, ACB filters consist of a fine carbon powder and a binding agent holding it together and making it stay static.
The powder features high porosity, resulting in a larger adsorbing area that can block a large number of particles, preventing water from channeling as well. The pore size of ACB filters is tiny, making them able to block small-sized contaminants. It also has high bacterial resistance.
ACB filters adsorb the contaminants and impurities in the water that have sizes larger than the filter’s pores. ACB filter systems also feature positively-charged carbon molecules that attract all negatively charged chemicals in the water. This way, with active carbon block filters, you can remove chlorine, and the bad odor & taste in your water.
ACB filters are efficient in the removal and reduction of contaminants such as chlorine, bad taste and smell, VOCs, some chemicals, and cysts.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Activated Carbon Block Filters (ACB)
|Efficient in removing bad taste and odors in the water||For increased efficiency, they require a sediment filter for pre-filtration|
|Efficient in removing chlorine||Can not remove health-hazardous contaminants such as viruses|
|Versatile and customizable for a wide range of water filters designs and applications||Can not remove excess dissolved solids, minerals, and other smaller contaminants|
|Do not filter out essential minerals in the water|
|Easy to use in pair with other water filtration technologies and systems|
|Eco-friendly water filtration|
|Long filter life|
|Do not alter water flow rates|
|Resilient to bacterial growth|
You can find ACB block filters in residential or commercial areas. Common applications include whole house filters, as the first-stage filtration in reverse osmosis water filters. Smaller applications include countertop water filters and more.
2.2 Granular Activated Carbon Water Filters (GAC)
Granular Activated Carbon water filters (GAC) perform the same functions as Activated Carbon Blocks (ACB). However, their construction is different. They contain loose carbon granules larger in size than the powder you encounter in ACB filters. This difference results in weaker contaminant removal but higher filtration rates.
You will find GAC filters as part of more complex water filters. They usually come in the shape of pre-filters or first-stage filtration . This is because of their ability to remove large contaminant particles.
They also remove bad odor and taste in water, along with chlorine reduction. One of the best things about CAC filters is that they allow high water flow rates. You will find them in POE applications likehome filtration units or reverse osmosis under-sink water filters.
They absorb all the contaminants in the water whose particles are bigger than their pores. The positive-negative attraction is present here as well. It makes the GAC water filter some of the best solutions when it comes to eliminating chlorine, bad taste, color, and smells in your water.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Granular Activated Carbon Water Filters (GAC)
|Excellent water filtration capabilities and flow rates||Do not remove viruses|
|Affordable||Do not remove excess dissolved solids or minerals|
|Very effective against chlorine, lousy water taste, and smell||Cannot remove water contaminants of small sizes|
|Long filter life||The loose carbon granules can lead to water channeling|
|Pairs well with other water filtration technologies and applications|
|Widely available in various types of water filters|
|Eco-friendly water filtration technology|
|Does not remove essential minerals in the water|
|Good filtration capabilities against most common water pollutants|
Some of the most common applications of Granular Activated Carbon water filters are:
- Whole house water filters;
- Countertop water filters;
- Water filter pitchers;
- Refrigerator water filters;
- Faucet water filters;
- Filtered water bottles.
Keep in mind that most GAC filters come in a combination of multi-stage water filters featuring other filtration technologies.
3. Reverse Osmosis Filtration (RO)
Reverse Osmosis is a filtration system based on semi-permeable membranes. RO membranes split the water into two streams. One stream contains all the contaminants that cannot pass through the membrane. The other is the clean, safe water you get on your tap.
Reverse osmosis is one of the most efficient filtration systems. It is capable of removing up to 99.9% of all water contaminants.
How do Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Work?
Reverse osmosis is a process based on water pressure. The RO system forces the water flowing in your pipes to pass through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane turns the concentrated solution (as it contains contaminants) into a less concentrated one (lacking contaminants). The main advantage of RO systems is that their membranes can block particles that are as small as 0.0001 microns.
While these units are highly effective in removing bacteria, you cannot rely on them alone. RO filters alone are not able to remove most VOCs, some pesticides, some solvents, and chlorine.
The pollutants in your water adhere to the surface of the membrane. The RO system flushes away in the drain the stream of contaminated water to preserve the efficiency and lifespan of the RO filter.
The system also usually comes with a tank to store the filtered clean water for later use. This is the reason behind its slow filtration rate.
One of the problems with reverse osmosis filters was their environmental burden and high operational costs. It is not efficient to consume 4 gallons of water to obtain 1 gallon of clean, water and pour the rest down the drain.
Another issue of the past were health concerns regarding reverse osmosis filters. They remove essential minerals from the water, leaving it dull, with no nutritional value, and flat-tasting.
Now, the best reverse osmosis filters feature multiple stages of filtration, feature wastewater-to-filtered-water ratios of 1:1, and come with additional re-mineralization steps. In other words, modern reverse osmosis systems put back the essential minerals in the water, making it mineral and healthy while still maintaining eco-friendly operations.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Reverse Osmosis Water Filters (RO)
|Offers the most efficient water filtration against most water contaminants||It does not remove chlorine, some VOCs, some pesticides, etc.|
|Produces the cleanest water of all POU water filtration systems||May interfere with the water flow rate in your home|
|Lowers the TDS value in your water||Requires maintenance|
|Long lifespan of the membranes||Expensive|
|Modern RO water filters re-mineralize the water with balanced levels of healthy minerals for human nutrition|
|Moderate to low environmental impact|
|Available for a wide range of industrial, commercial, and residential applications|
RO filters are the answer to the question, “how do I filter well water?” Moreover, the technology is available most commonly in under-sink filters.
4. Distillation Technology
Distillation works through the process of condensation. A distiller boils the water. It then captures the cooled and condensed vapors and transfers the purified water into a separate compartment.
How Water Distillers Work
Distillation is a very simple process. Distillers use electricity to heat up the unit. The water then starts to evaporate. The distiller collects the steam and condenses it into liquid form. The distillation technology discards contaminants together with the essential minerals.
Water distillers work well against most contaminants. However, some pollutants reach the boiling point before the water. This allows them to remain in the distilled compartment. This applies to the case of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Their boiling point is lower than 212 F (100℃). This means that they will vaporize and condense faster than water. So they will end up in the distilled water compartment.
The entire distillation process is relatively slow. It produces limited volumes of filtered water at a time. While most applications are industrial, you can find a wide range of distillation machines for residential use. Their performance and output capacity may vary depending on the size of the unit.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Water Distillation
|Excellent water purification capacity||Time-consuming with low output|
|Removes bacteria, most water contaminants, and dissolved solids from the water||Removes essential minerals from the water without putting them back as RO systems do|
|You don’t have to replace filter cartridges||The water tastes flat|
|Affordable||Cannot remove any contaminant with a boiling point lower than 212℉ (100℃)|
|Present in commercial water distillers||Requires careful maintenance|
Many people wonder if it is safe to drink distilled water. The simple answer is yes. But as the chart presents above, you will want to be aware of the taste. Distillers do not usually support re-mineralization features. This can leave your water with a flat taste.
5. Ion Exchange Water Filter Technology (IX)
Ion-Exchange filtration is present in softeners – as commercial IX technology goes. The process allows the capture and replacement of positively charged hardness minerals (calcium and magnesium ions) in the water with sodium ions.
The IX filtration technology is capable of exchanging both positively charged ions (cations) and negatively charged ions (anions). It means that in some industrial settings, the IX process can remove fluoride, nitrate, arsenic, sulfate, and others, as they represent negatively charged ions.
How Ion Exchange Works
When it comes to water softening, you have an ion-exchange resin with positively charged sodium ions that captures the ions responsible for harness and limescale buildup. In exchange for these ions, the resin bed releases sodium into the water.
The resin bed in a softener has a limited lifespan. For this reason, it has to go through a process of regeneration that restores the initial efficient conditions of the IX resin. The restoration works by using softener salts. These salts usually contain sodium chloride solution and Hydrochloric acid.
Ion-exchanging filtration can remove some contaminants in the. But it is not the same thing as filtration alone. In your home, IX technology is present only in conventional water softeners.
Keep in mind that if you have contaminated water, you should always pair a softener with whole house filters. Activated carbon technology and RO filters are also good alternatives. Keep in mind that softeners cannot remove organic contaminants, waterborne pathogens, and other common pollutants.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Ion-Exchange Water Filtration (IX)
|The best solution against hard water||Cannot remove sediment, organic contaminants, microorganisms, and other health-hazardous water pollutants|
|Effective against most dissolved inorganics contaminants||Massive units for home water softening|
|Moderate to high maintenance|
|Moderate to high operational costs|
|High environmental impact|
When it comes to the best water softeners on the market, you should know that they do a terrific job as POE devices.
You will want to make sure you check our guide on more modern water treatment techniques against hardness. You can also find information regarding conventional softeners, electronic water descalers, or Template Assisted Technology.
6. Ultraviolet Water Filters (UV)
UV filters usually come with more complex filters. Many reverse osmosis systems feature UV disinfection as a bonus. You can also purchase standalone UV filters to install along with your Reverse Osmosis filter, Carbon Activated whole house filter, and even water softeners.
UV filters have the ability to kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses present in your city or well tap water. They can remove the following microorganisms:
How UV Water Filters Work
A UV filter usually consists of a system encased in a chamber. The UV lamp (mercury vapors) lies in a glass quartz sleeve. It emits UV-C radiation to kill microorganisms by penetrating the transparent glass sleeve, reaching the water, and disinfecting it.
Since water and electricity do not work well together, it is crucial to have the system encased in a quartz glass container. Usually, O-rings hold together the entire device.
UV filters are point-of-entry devices. It means you should install them on your lines before the water enters your home. You find some UV filters as POU devices or some coming directly with a reverse osmosis system.
This sterilization process provided by UV filters does not add or remove particles from your water. It does not change your water from a chemical point of view – as reverse osmosis systems do. The UV radiation at the 254 – 256 nm wavelength disrupts cells’ DNA.
A UV filter’s efficiency depends on the water flow in your home. The correct exposure to UV radiation, while it travels through the pipes, renders the system more or less efficient.In short, you need to make sure the flow rate in your home allows the UV filter to contact the water long enough. That way the radiation kills microorganisms.. Most UV systems operate efficiently with typical household pressures and flow rates.
Advantages and Disadvantages of UV Water Filters (UV)
|They do not interact directly with the water||Do not remove anything else from the water except for microorganisms|
|Easy to install with current water filtration systems||Tend to heat the water|
|The quickest and most reliable method to remove microorganisms in the water|
|Low operational costs and maintenance|
|Low energy consumption|
|One of the best water filtration solutions for well water when paired with other water filters|
|One of the best lines of defense against natural disasters resulting in flooding and bacterial/viral spreading through water|
The most critical aspect you need to understand is that UV filters cannot remove different types of contaminants . Since tap water can contain plenty of pollutants, you need to use a UV filter with another filter. This can be a reverse osmosis filter or another type of filtration system.
7. Water Ultrafiltration Technology (UF)
Ultra filtration technology works more or less like reverse osmosis. It uses hydrostatic pressure to push the water through a semipermeable UF membrane made of a hollow fiber. The membrane’s pores range in size between 0.01 and 0.5 microns. This way, UF filtration technology is capable of removing most contaminants and pollutants – with some caveats.
How Does Water Ultrafiltration Work
As the water flows against the hollow fiber medium, it leaves behind all impurities larger than 0.01 to 0.02 microns. One of the essential aspects of UF technology is that the membrane has high resilience against chlorine. For this reason, a UF filter does not require a supplemental AC system to act as a pre-filter.
Ultrafiltration technology is efficient against microorganisms. In comparison to reverse osmosis filtration, it does not block essential minerals in the water. Keep in mind that for a UF system to work efficiently, it needs to treat water that contains low levels of total dissolved solids (TDS).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Ultrafiltration (UF)
|Excellent filtering capacity of contaminants down to 0.01 microns||Does not remove chlorine, bad taste & odor in your water|
|Efficient in removing most waterborne pathogens||Does not remove large dissolved solids like fluoride, salts, and more|
|Keeps the essential minerals in the water||Not efficient against cysts or VOCs|
|Resistant against chlorine and other chemicals|
|Does not affect the water flow rate|
|Easy installation and low maintenance|
If you want clean and safe drinking water, it is best to pair UF techs with other filtration systems. This can include carbon filtration (AC), sediment screens, and reverse osmosis.
8. Activated Alumina Water Filtration (AA)
Activated Alumina (AA) filtration is mostly standard in industrial settings – namely, your city’s treatment plant. It is a rather niche filter technology, as the highly adsorptive porous aluminum oxide (bauxite) filter can only remove fluoride, arsenic, selenium, and thallium in water. For this reason, you will find commercial fluoride filters using AA filtration.
Despite widespread concern and some myths, the aluminum in the activated alumina filter does not leach into the water, so you should not worry about filtering water of fluoride and drinking aluminum instead.
How Activated Alumina Water Filters Work
The activated alumina goes through a process of initialization before anything else. This process consists of the backwashing and the chemical treatment of the activated alumina filter.
The tap water coming to your tap through your pipes encounters the activated alumina medium. This filter then absorbs the fluoride, arsenic, selenium, and thallium onto the filter’ surface.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Activated Alumina Water Filtration (AA)
|Efficient in removing 99% of fluoride in your water||Cannot remove most water contaminants|
|Also performant in removing arsenic, selenium, and thallium from the water||Requires constant maintenance and regeneration|
|The filter can regenerate|
If you want to remove fluoride from your water, you can opt for a fluoride filter using AA filtration. However, it is best to pair your AA filter with another filter if you are dealing with other contaminants. Consider this option if you are dealing with the following: chlorine, VOCs, heavy metals and chemicals. It is best to pair AA filtration sediment, reverse osmosis, and even ion exchange filters.
The Best Water Filter Types and Technologies to Meet Your Needs and Budget
Choosing the best water filter for your home is not the easiest choice.Below is a series of tables and guides we hope will help you make the smartest choice!
How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Contaminants in Your Water
Before you get the best water filter to target a specific contaminant, it is important to read all the details. Do not forget to read the manufacturer’s specifications. Here. you will find all information regarding the type of filtration technology, certifications, and users’ reviews.
|CONTAMINANT||WATER FILTER TECHNOLOGY|
|Chlorine and chloramines||Absorption – ACB and GAC|
|Sediment and particles||Absorption – ACB and GAC | Reverse Osmosis | UF|
|Lead||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation|
|Bacteria and viruses||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation | UV | UF|
|Radiological elements||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation|
|Pesticides||Absorption – ACB and GAC | Reverse Osmosis | Distillation|
|Hardness minerals (calcium & magnesium)||Ion-Exchange | TAC|
|Nitrate and nitrites||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation|
|Fluoride||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation | AA|
|VOCs||Absorption – ACB and GAC | Reverse Osmosis | UF|
|Heavy Metals||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation | UF|
|Arsenic||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation | AA|
|Sulfate||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation | Ion-Exchange|
|Selenium||Reverse Osmosis | Distillation | AA|
When choosing the best unit for your home, you will also need to take into consideration the filters’ setup, the order of installation, and the intensity of filtration.
How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Required Filtration Intensity & Filter Setup
Aside from the different filtration methods, you will also want to consider the technical details. Moreover, you may need to look into how to use and install your unit. This process will vary. Different systems can range from basic setup and filtration intensity to complex, multi-stage structures, and high power.
For this reason, we will continue our presentation on how to choose the best water filter for your home. But this time, we will focus on the following: filters’ sizes, setup, and intensity of filtration.
As mentioned, most filter systems split into two main categories: Point-of-Entry filters and Point-of-Use filters. Current technology allows us to install some filters as either POE or POU.
Here is a more straightforward way to categorize the most popular filters on the market today.
Basic Setup & Small/Medium-Sized Water Filters and Water Treatments
- Carbon-based water filter pitchers;
- AC faucet water filters;
- Carbon-based single-stage countertop water filters;
- AC single-stage under sink water filters;
- Water distillers;
- Fluoride water filters;
- Filtered water bottles;
- UV filters;
- Water descalers;
Advanced Water Filters and Water Treatments
- Multi-stage carbon-based countertop water filters;
- Multi-stages RO under sink water filtration systems;
- Multi-stage AC whole house water filters;
- Multi-stages RO whole house water filters;
- Water softeners;
Complex Setups for Severe Water Contamination Problems
- Add a Sediment filter + Activated Carbon Block (ACB) + Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter
- Start with Sediment filter + ACB filter + RO filter + Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter
- Install a Sediment filter + GAC filter + ACB filter + RO filter
- Try a Sediment filter + GAC filter + ACB filter + RO filter + Ultraviolet (UV) filter
Water Filters’ Mounting and Installation
- Wall-Mounted/Floor Mounted Water Filters – These filters are usually the POE type. They need a free wall or a large free surface in your house for installation. In this category, you will most likely find whole house filters and water softeners. Some reverse osmosis filters are large enough to need a special place in the kitchen. Some countertop filters can also stay on a wall in the kitchen, but they do not need much space.
- Under-Sink Water Filters – It all depends on how much space you have under your sink. Some RO under-sink filters have compact designs. Others are large and bulky. Under-sink water filters, no matter their technology, are the obvious choice due to their low installation requirements.
- On-the-Counter Water Filters – This is another great option if you do not have room under the sink. The important thing to remember is to make sure your new filter matches your faucet.
- Fixture-Mounted Water Filters – These filters come in different forms and types of units. Common applications include kitchen faucet filter or a showerhead filter. Make sure to read the instructions carefully as mounting may be required.
- Unit-Mounted Water Filters – Here, you will find fridge water filters and sometimes water cooler dispensers. Thes units usually come with incorporated water filters.
- Pitchers and Dispensers – From water filter pitchers to filtered water bottles or even gravity filters for outdoor enthusiasts, you have a broad range of products that go wherever you go.
Now let’s see some popular setups and installations depending on the contamination and issues you may have in your home!
|WATER PROBLEM||REQUIRED FILTRATION INTENSITY||FILTERS’ INSTALLATION & SETUP ORDER|
|Municipally treated water that is soft and of good quality||Low / Moderate||Sediment filter -> ACB/GAC filter|
|Municipally treated water that is soft and of low quality||High||Sediment filter -> UF filter -> ACB/GAC filter|
|Municipally treated water that is hard and of good quality||Low / Moderate||Sediment filter -> Water Descaler|
|Municipally treated water that is hard and of low quality||High||Sediment filter -> Water softener -> ACB/GAC filter|
|Private well water that is soft and of good quality||Low / Moderate||Sediment filter -> POE UV filter -> POU RO water filter|
|Private well water that is hard and of low quality||Hight||Sediment filter -> UF filter -> POE UV filter -> POU RO filter|
How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Your Home Type and Water Problems
You may live in a small home in the country. Some live in large houses in the suburbs, while others rent city apartments. Your contamination problems can range from mild to severe.
You may also want to remove the bad taste and odor of your water or get rid of limescale once and for all. Find your filtration system in the table below!
|Water Problem||Mild Contamination||Moderate Contamination||Severe Contamination|
|Chlorine and chloramines in small homes in the city||Water filter pitcher||Countertop water filter/Faucet water filter||ACB/GAC Countertop water filter + Distiller|
|Chlorine and chloramines in large homes||Water filter pitcher||Countertop water filter/Faucet water filter||ACB/GAC Whole house water filter + Under-sink RO water filter|
|Bad water taste and smell in small homes||Water filter pitcher||Faucet water filter||ACB/GAC Countertop water filter|
|Bad water taste and smell in large homes||Faucet water filter||Countertop water filter||ACB/GAC whole house water filter|
|Well water||Whole house water filter||Whole house water filter + RO under-sink water filter||ACB/GAC Whole house water filter + RO under-sink water filter + UV filter|
|Sediment and particles in small homes||Sediment filter/Faucet filter||Water filter pitcher/Countertop water filter||Under-sink RO water filter|
|Sediment and particles in large homes||Sediment filter/Faucet filter||Countertop water filter/Under-sink RO water filter||ACB/GAC Whole house water filter + RO under-sink water filter|
|Lead in small homes||Countertop water filter||Water distiller||Under-sink RO water filter|
|Lead in large homes||Countertop water filter/Water distiller||RO under-sink water filter + Water Distiller||ACB/GAC Whole house water filter + RO under-sink water filter + Water Distiller|
|Bacteria and viruses||Water Distiller||RO Under-Sink Water Filter||RO Under-Sink Water Filter + UV filter|
|Radiological elements||Water Distiller||RO Under-Sink Water Filter||RO Under-Sink Water Filter + Water Distiller|
|Pesticides in small homes||Countertop water filter/Water distiller||RO Under-Sink Water Filter||RO Under-Sink Water Filter + Water Distiller|
|Pesticides in large homes||Countertop water filters/Water distiller||RO Under-Sink Water Filter||ACB/GAC Whole house water filter + RO under-sink water filter|
|Hard water in small homes||Electronic water descaler||RV water softener||TAC technology|
|Hard water in large homes||Electronic water descaler||TAC System||Whole house water softener|
|Nitrate and nitrites||Water distiller||RO Under-Sink Water Filter||ACB/GAC water filter + RO under-sink water filter|
|Fluoride||Fluoride Water Filter||Water Distiller||RO under-sink water filter|
|VOCs||Countertop water filter/Water filter pitcher/Faucet water filter||RO under-sink water filter||ACB/GAC water filter + RO under-sink water filter|
|Heavy Metals||Countertop water filter/Water filter pitcher/Water distiller||RO under-sink water filter||RO under-sink water filter + Water distiller|
|Arsenic||Fluoride water filters (AA-based)||Water Distiller||RO under-sink water filter|
|Sulfate||Water Distiller||RO under-sink water filter||RO under-sink water filter + Water Softener|
|Selenium||Fluoride water filters (AA-based)||Water Distiller||RO under-sink water filter|
How to Choose the Best Water Filter: Budget
Budget is always an issue when it comes to choosing necessities for your home. This is no exception when picking the best water filter. There are a variety of different units at different prices. But you will also want to consider the fact that filters at different price ranges generally have different capabilities. Here’s a look:
- Low budget water filters are usually the ones you find in the “basic” category. They include faucet filters, water filter pitchers, some countertop filters, and many of the portable water filters.
- Medium budget filtration systems are medium-to-complex devices. They include distillers, fluoride water filters, TAC softeners, water descalers, and some UV water filters.
- High budget systems include multi-stage filtration systems. These usually sport combined filtration technologies. In this category, you will find whole house water filters, reverse osmosis filters, water softeners, and some high-end distillers and water ionizers.
Let’s take a look at a few solutions to your contamination problem. We will also mention products that may best fit your budget!
|Water Problem||Low Budget||Medium Budget||High Budget|
|Bad water odor and taste||ACB/GAC faucet water filter or|
ACB/GAC water filter pitcher
|ACB/GAC countertop water filter||ACB/GAC whole house water filter|
|Chlorine||ACB/GAC faucet water filter or|
ACB/GAC water filter pitcher
|ACB/GAC countertop water filter or Water distiller||ACB/GAC whole house water filter|
|Hard water and limescale||Water descaler||TAC technology||Whole house water softener|
|Bacteria and other waterborne pathogens||Water distiller||UV water filter||RO Under-sink water filter + UV filter|
|Lead||Water distiller||RO Under-sink water filter||ACB/GAC whole house water filter|
|Fluoride||AA fluoride water filter||Water distiller||RO Under-sink water filter|
We hope we offered you enough information to help you make the best choice! If you need specialized setups and installation information to meet the particularities of your home, make sure you discuss it with a professional plumber. Moreover, you can read our guides on the best water filters to get the best products and devices for your requirements!
How to Buy a Water Filter: Tech Specs to Consider
The quest to find the best filter on the market is not over. Before you buy any type of water filter, you also want to look into the tech specs and additional features.
Measured in gallons per minute (GPM), the average flow rate of a home is around 10-15 GPM. Some filtration technologies and products will likely lower the flow rate in your home. Reverse osmosis filters, some ACB/GAC water filters, and even some water softeners may have an impact on the flow rate of your home.
Our advice is to look for the filtration system that has a minimal effect on the flow rate. If you need a specific filtration system or combination of filters (especially if you live in a large house and need to satisfy the needs of a large family), you should talk to a plumber.
Filter Life and Capacity
These are key features to look for in any filtration unit, no matter its type or technology. The filter life and capacity of a unit tells you how often you need to replace the filter.This is usually measured in gallons or months/years Whole house water filters can clean hundreds and thousands of gallons of water before you need to replace their filters. Some ACB/CAG or reverse osmosis filters have lifespans of 3-5 years before they require any intervention from your part.
On the other hand, smaller sized filters – like water filter pitchers, countertop filters, faucet filters, and portable water filters have lower or even short lifespans. Some can filter hundreds of gallons before they need replacement, others last for a few tens of gallons.
As we have mentioned, few commercial filters are coming with only one stage of filtration. Even water filter pitchers can sport 2-3 filtration technologies and stages. The best water filters on the market come with combination technologies and multiple filtration steps. The more screens, mediums, and membranes your water passes by, the cleaner it will be. Remember that the more complex and advanced a filtration system is, the more money it may cost.
We mentioned above that a sediment filter could remove particles larger than 5 microns. On the other hand, reverse osmosis systems remove particles that are as small as 0.0001 microns. UF units eliminate contaminants ranging between 0.01 and 0.5 microns. Before you buy a water filter, make sure you read its tech specs and understand what to expect from it when it comes to contaminant removal.
Filtering the water in your home saves the planet from thousands of plastic bottles a year. Still, the conversation about the eco-friendliness of water filters is a bit longer. Some filtration technologies waste water to make clean water. Conventional water softeners and some reverse osmosis filters are not as eco-friendly as you might think. Look for the tech specs and watch out for the following:
- Wastewater vs. clean water ratio in RO systems. Ideally, 1:1 is the best, but 3:1 works as well. The best thing about RO systems’ wastewater is that you can collect it. You can then use it for washing the car, the yard, and even tools.
- Quantity of brine flushed by the water softeners. In some cases, you can also collect this water for a carwash, building exterior wash, and similar activities.
- Look for water filter pitchers made of glass instead of plastic;
- Look for units whose filters are recyclable or compostable.
Tools and Accessories
Like most home appliances, there are additional tools and accessories you can buy in order to enhance performance. A water softener or a whole house water filter usually includes a bypass valve and some installation tools. You can even find that some reverse osmosis filters integrate with UV filters, and most water filter pitchers coming with extra replacement filters.
Before you buy any water filtration product, read the description carefully. Make sure you already have the tools available. It’s best to lay out all tools and parts in order to make sure that your unit is complete.
You always want to check the warranty and return policies for your unit. This not only applies to water filters but also for any appliance for your home. Some manufacturers offer 5 years, 10 years, or lifetime warranty for their products. Of course, the more extended the warranty, the better for you.
Units such as whole house filters, water softeners, and reverse osmosis filters generally have generous warranties because of their price range. Basic filtration devices (countertop, faucet, pitchers, etc.) have warranty policies ranging from 1 month to 1 year.
What to Consider Before Purchasing a Water Filter: Summary
Now that we have covered the basics, here are some additional points to keep in mind before you buy any type of water filter:
- Your drinking water source: municipal or well water;
- The water quality in your home as it results from testing;
- Water filtration technology most capable to deal with the most prevalent water contaminants in your home;
- The installation of a water filter as point of entry or point of use, depending on your needs;
- Type of water filter that is best for your home depending on the device’s size and functionality;
- Tech specs and features of the water filter in accordance with what you need it to do;
- The environmental impact of the water filter – mild with the environment and capable of reducing the use of plastic bottled water;
- Warranty and maintenance.
Water Filters’ Maintenance
You bought a water filter. Now what? The hardest part is over but there is still one important aspect to remember: maintenance. Without proper maintenance, your filter becomes more susceptible to needing repairs down the road. And over time, repair costs add up. Here are some factors to consider for maintaining your unit:
How Long Does a Water Filter Last?
A water filter can last from 1 month to 5 years. It all depends on the type of filtration technology you use, its size, tech specs, and the quantity of water it filters. Most manufacturers specify the life expectancy of their filters. You can usually find this in months/years, gallons, or both.
However, recommended filter replacement times are just that- recommendations. This means that you will want to adjust this increment to your lifestyle. If your family uses more than 100 gallons of water/person/day, you will replace the filters more frequently. Reverse osmosis filters and whole home filters usually have longer life expectancy.
The good news is that modern filters – like water filter pitchers or countertop filters – also display the time before you need to make the next filter replacement. Some use electronic digital displays, others just simple mechanical displays you need to set on your own. Regardless, you have to change the filter, the ion-exchange medium, or the AA beads medium when the time comes. Otherwise, you will have some problems.
What Happens If You Don’t Change the Water Filter?
As you use your filter, it wears out. As the system loses its capacity to filter the water efficiently, you will first notice that your water starts to smell and taste bad again. You may also see impurities in the water, channeled by the filter overloaded with sediment, pollutants, and contaminants.
If the water starts to smell bad, imagine what goes on inside the filter. It is now susceptible to bacterial growth, clogging, and malfunctions. Smaller filters are easy to handle because you can replace the entire filter. However, under no circumstance should you ignore such issues when it comes to whole house filters, reverse osmosis filters or water softeners. The damages may be worth thousands of dollars in repairs and replacements.
Can Bacteria Grow in Water Filters?
In some water filters, bacteria can grow and affect the quality and performance of your filter. Faucet filters are susceptible to bacterial growth. While some of them can remove lead and chlorine from your water, their small size makes them an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.
Whole house water filters, reverse osmosis filters, and many countertop water filters are resilient to bacterial growth. Carbon filters are also effective in blocking the development of bacteria colonies inside the filter.
How do You Change a Water Filter Cartridge in a Whole House Water Filter?
Usually, water filters come in cartridges that you can replace when the time comes. They feature O-Rings you need to remove carefully. To change your cartridge you will need to prepare the following:
- Necessary tools
- Teflon tape to avoid leaks
- A bucket to collect the water left in the system
- A lot of patience.
Before you start, you will want to secure your area. Make sure you turn off the water flow in the entire house – here is where the bypass valve comes in handy. Keep in mind to dispose correctly of the old water filter after you replaced it. Some manufacturers and even retailers collect used filters for recycling or proper disposal.
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. Safer, Healthier Water
Drinking unfiltered water is a national public health issue, so it is better to consider your options. Imagine how your cooking, bathing, and drinking water will be without chemicals, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, rust, and everything else we have talked about in this article. Allow your body to cleanse and use filtered (even mineral) water for your daily needs! Filters maintain the water you use, cook with, and drink at safer levels than those accepted by treatment plants or the authorities.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Suitable for Children, Elders, and People with Health Issues
Children, elders, and those with health issues 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.
6. Good for Pets
Our pets are our family members. If you would not drink contaminated water, you shouldn’t give it to your pets either. Animals are even more susceptible to organ damages, hormonal imbalances, and poisoning than humans are.
7. Better Looking Skin and Hair
Softened and filtered water are not only good for your health, 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.
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 and make it healthier. 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 should 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 Safe?
Yes, they are. Even if you may find some carbon powder or granules in your water, they are safe for human 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 softeners that remove calcium and magnesium from the water, making it soft.
Water distillers also remove the healthy 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 healthy minerals and elements from your water.
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!