Home water filters can be an
investment in your health
The water supply in the United States is generally among the
safest in the world, but the water quality in some areas is definitely more
questionable than in others. Even worse, we're finding out about some of these
issues after we've already been drinking what we assumed was safe water.
If you know your water quality is poor, are not sure about the
quality of your water, or just find that you have to hold your nose every time
you take a drink, a home water filter may be just the ticket to improving water
purity. However, be aware that if your water is really bad, especially if it
has high levels of lead, a water filter may not be able to completely remove
all contaminants. Still, for most people, one of the following water filters
will be sufficient.
Types of Water Filters
These carafe-style units are the simplest type of water -filtration system. They are filled from the tap, and the water is purified via a filter situated inside the pitcher. In gravity-fed systems it usually takes 10 to 30 minutes to filter the water; although our Best Reviewed water pitcher, the Clear2O CWS100A, is an exception -- its design immediately forces water through the filter. Pitchers are a good choice to filter small amounts of water exclusively for drinking, but they have to be refilled often if you drink a lot of water or have a large family.
Easy to install and move (no hole-drilling required), these are attached to the faucet. That means they jut out from the fixture, but do not take up counter space. They also feature diverters that allow you to choose between filtered and tap water. The main drawback to these types of filter is that they can slow the flow rate of your water down to frustrating levels.
As the name implies, these units sit on the countertop and filter water as you use it. The filter itself is the countertop part: when you turn on the water and divert it to the filter, it forces the water through a carbon block filter encased in a unit that sits beside the sink. They have their own, dedicated spouts and a diverter valve so that you can switch easily between filtered water and tap water. Countertop water filters can easily be removed and moved around; as with faucet-mounted filters, no drilling is required.
This type of filter usually has multi-stage filters to remove more and smaller particulates, as well as chemicals and inorganic compounds, than either of the above two types. They are permanently mounted and may require at least a basic level of do-it-yourself skill to install, since you usually have to drill a hole for the filter faucet. Some give you the option to switch between filtered and unfiltered water, some filter all the water that comes out of the tap.
RO systems are also under-sink water filters, but they have ultra-permeable membranes to remove 90 to 99 percent of all contaminants, so they're considered true water purifiers, rather than just water filters. The downsides to RO are that it also removes beneficial chemicals from the water and that it creates waste water: a 3:1 ratio is common. This water is not truly "wasted" in that it goes back into the community water supply, but you still have to pay for the water you discard. There is also some disagreement as to whether it's less healthy to drink water with beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium removed; some experts say that most Americans get enough minerals and nutrients in their everyday diet to make up for it. Some companies sell RO systems that include a process to add some of those beneficial minerals back in, but those usually add $50 or more to the price.
Finding The Best Water Filters
Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2017
Contributors to Walmart.com, As of March 2017
It can be difficult to determine the best water filters. Those
that do very well in professional tests often get low ratings from actual
users. Part of the problem is that water "taste" is highly
subjective. The same filtered water that hundreds of people say is the best
they've ever drank may cause an equal number to gag.
That's not the water filter's fault, but those unhappy reviewers will bring
down even a decent water filter's reviews to sub-dismal levels. We also saw
many low ratings because a specific water filter does not filter out
contaminants that it was not designed to filter. We've taken a close look at
the reasons why a water filter is low-rated; if there are legitimate complaints,
such as ongoing durability or performance issues, we take them seriously. If
it's because of taste issues (unless there are an overwhelming number of those
comments) or because the consumer thought the water filter was supposed to do
more than the manufacturer claimed, we discard those complaints.
addition to user reviews, to find the best water filters we looked at expert
tests conducted by ConsumerReports.org, TheSweethome.com and YourBestDigs.com,
along with posted results from consumers who tested their own water both before
and after installation of a water filter. Owner reviews are also valuable for
real-world insight into how easy the water filter was to install, use, and
replace the filters on, and how much it cost to maintain. The result of our
research is our recommendations for the water filters that
will improve the quality of your water, are easy to use and
maintain, and that won't cost an arm and a leg in long-term ownership.