DRINKING WATER FILTERS
Drinking water filters are popular due to their affordability and easy installation, though choosing the best system can be tough. To help, we’ve created this guide with everything you need to know about drinking water filtration systems.
What is a Drinking Water Filter?
Drinking water filters remove contaminants from tap water to improve its quality, safety, and taste. Drinking water filtration systems may use one or more methods to remove different types of contaminants including mechanical filters, activated carbon, ion exchange, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light. Often, contaminants may be able to pass through one of these methods so multiple stages of filtration are needed. By using a combination of filtration methods, drinking water filters are more effective in removing contaminants.
Buyer’s Guide for Drinking Water Filters
Beyond product reviews, there’s a lot more you should look into when choosing a drinking water filter. We’ve included everything you need to make an informed decision including what these systems are, types of systems, and the important factors you should consider when choosing the best drinking water filtration system for your home.
When Do You Need a Drinking Water Filter?
The main purpose of a drinking water filter is to improve the quality, taste, and safety of your tap water — so if any of these are a concern to you, a drinking water filter can help.
Regarding quality and taste, a water filter can help address issues with an off-color, unpleasant odor, and poor taste that are likely related to the presence of contaminants. Contaminants do more than just impact how your water looks, smells, and tastes — they can also make water unsafe to drink which is the primary reason most people invest in a filter.
While your city will filter water at a treatment plant, some contaminants may still be present and clean water can also be recontaminated while traveling through pipes. A drinking water filtration system is an extra measure you can take to further remove contaminants and reduce the risk of negative health effects from your tap water. If you rely on well water instead of city water, a drinking water filter is a must because the water is otherwise untreated and could be contaminated.
Drinking water filters come in several varieties based on the filtration methods they use and part of the home they provide filtered water for. This flexibility makes it easy to pick a system suited to your home’s needs. You can also start off small and upgrade to a more comprehensive solution later.
What Type of Drinking Water Filters are There?
Reverse Osmosis is effective at reducing up to 99% of contaminants in water, and it’s the only method proven to effectively remove fluoride. In fact, reverse osmosis is often considered the most effective filtration method overall.
Under Sink water filters offer a great mix of performance, affordability, easy installation, and simple maintenance. Learn about the benefits of these systems, the types available, and top selections.
Faucet Attach water filters are a popular choice because of their compact form factor, easy installation, and entry-level price point relative to other options. Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of these filters.
Direct Connect water filters – also known as Main Faucet Filters – are gaining popularity because of their high performance and easy installation. Check out our recommendations so you can make the best choice for your home.
Pitcher & Dispensers
Water filter pitchers and dispensers are two popular options because of their low cost, ease of use, portability, and lack of required installation. But not all options are equally good. We’ll help you make the best selection.
Types of Drinking Water Filtrations Methods
Drinking water filtration systems use different types of filtration methods are used. Here’s an overview of the different filtration methods:
Mechanical filters use a physical barrier such as a mesh to prevent sediment from passing through. They’re good for catching dirt and waste, but won’t prevent chemical contaminants from passing through.
Activated carbon is the most common type of drinking water filter, and many systems use it as their main filtration method. Activated carbon is a highly porous substance created from the char of materials like wood, coal, and coconut shells. As water passes through, contaminants stick to the activated carbon which prevents them from flowing further into the system.
Ion exchange addresses minerals that result in hard water such as calcium and magnesium. During the process, the ions of hard water minerals are replaced with harmless sodium ions to soften or condition the water
Reverse osmosis is considered to be the most powerful filtration method and works by pushing highly pressurized water through a semipermeable membrane. During the process, contaminants are left behind while filtered water passes through.
Ultraviolet light (UV) filters work by emitting various frequencies of light that are absorbed by bacteria and viruses — killing them in the process.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Drinking Water Filter for Your Home
If you’ve decided to invest in a drinking water filtration system, the next step is choosing the right option. When doing so, there are a few factors to consider such as the certifications, size, filter capacity, maintenance, and water flow rate.
Certifications are important when it comes to providing your family with healthy drinking water, as without certifications, you won’t be able to verify the effectiveness of the filter you’re looking at.
It’s highly recommended that you select a water filter that’s effectivness is certified by a third-party organization like the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), or Water Quality Association (WQA). These groups are responsible for verifying that the drinking water filter complys with standards for contaminant removal. The two standards most commonly used for measuring drinking water contaminant removal are Standard 42 for Aesthetic Effects (including taste and odor) and Standard 53 for Health Effects.
Size or the overall footprint of the system is another key component of choosing the right water filter for your family. The space you have may influence the type of drinking water filter you can select. For example, individuals with minimal countertop space may not be able to choose a dispenser and may instead have to go for a pitcher, under sink system, or whole house filter. Consider the space you have available and eliminate options that won’t work due to limitations. On the other hand, some filters may be ideal if you have extra unused space such as an empty cabinet below the sink or open area where your main water line is located.
As a prospective buyer, you will want to take into account your particular living situation’s water demands. Filter capacity refers to how much water the system can filter before the filter needs to be replaced.
A family of 1-2 people typically can have their water needs satisfied by a filter with a lower capacity, while a family of 3-4 should opt for a water filter with a higher capacity. Choosing a system with the right filter capacity is important, because a small home that opts for a system with a larger system than they need is essentially wasting money. On the other hand, a large home that opts for a small system will find they’ll need more frequent replacements and maintenance.
It’s important to note that filter capacity can be affected by the severity of contaminants. If a filter is graded for 500 gallons of water, that filter should be expected to filter water effectively and safely over that amount of use. However, if that water has a high concentration of contaminants, it’s going to work harder and effectiveness will wane over time. Before purchasing a water filter, be sure to have your water tested to determine which contaminants are present in your tap water. This will help you decide what certifications you’ll need (to remove the right contaminants), and how those contaminants will affect the filter capacity you should aim for.
Price is an important component of any purchasing decision, and with a water filter the difference between options can be thousands of dollars. Drinking water filters include several options but from a price perspective — countertop water filters tend to be more affordable than more advanced systems like whole house and under sink filters.
The installation and maintenance component of the water filter purchase decision is also a cost component of the purchase decision. If you’re comparing options and some require a plumber (such as for the installation of a new faucet), the amount you’ll spend on their services should be included as well. Regarding maintenance, more frequent filter replacements means spending more money to maintain the system. In general, the annual cost of ownership of water filters will range from roughly $40 to $200.
Are you looking for something that’s easy to set up in a few minutes, do you consider yourself skilled enough to handle a slightly more complex installation, or are you willing to hire a professional?
Pitcher and dispenser filters require no installation, while under sink and whole house systems are a bit more complex. Depending on what type of filter you’re looking at, the installation process will vary and you’ll need to determine if you’ll be installing it or need to hire a professional. Since hiring a professional adds to the cost, it may push some options out of your budget. Before buying a filter, research the installation process to determine if its something you can do on your own or can afford to outsource.
Systems contain one or more filters that must be replaced regularly to remain effective. If filters are not replaced in a timely manner, they will not be able to remove contaminants as intended and in some cases the filters can become a site for contaminants to grow which makes tap water more dangerous to your health. Furthermore, using old filters may also make your system work harder which can reduce it’s lifespan.
To maintain the effectiveness and lifespan of your drinking water filter, you’ll need to replace filters according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. Systems may contain several filters that each have a different replacement schedule. Some filters will need frequent filter swaps every few months, while others can last for a year or longer (depending on usage). Keeping track of this can be difficult, so some brands offer programs that will handle this for you and automatically send you a replacement filter when it’s time to do a swap.
The complexity of the process is also important to consider, as some systems have a replacement process that takes a few minutes, while others can take much longer to replace. You may be able to do the replacement yourself, or require a professional to do this which may be inconvenient and expensive.
Water Flow Rate
With respect to water filters, flow rate refers to how quickly the system can filter water. A fast flow rate means water is filtered almost immediately as it comes in, while a slow flow rate means the filter will take a while to process and dispense filtered water.
Each drinking water filter system will have a unique flow rate. The dynamics of the filtration system including the aforementioned capacity will affect the flow rate. Typically, gravity-based pitcher filters have a slower flow rate whereas systems that use power or pressure to force water through the filter will have a faster flow rate. A flow rate of .5 gallons per minute is considered slow whereas a flow rate of 7 gallons per minute or more is considered desirable.
Flow rate can be important if you don’t want to spend time waiting for water to filter, in which case, we highly recommend avoiding gravity-based pitchers. Flow rate can also be an indication of when a water filtration system might need the filter replaced. If you notice your system is taking longer than usual to filter water, it may be because the filter has reached the end of its lifespan, is no longer functioning efficiently and needs to be replaced.
Consumers looking to purchase the best drinking water filter system for their family have everything they need at their fingertips to make an informed purchasing decision right here.
We’ve included a water filter comparison chart for ease of use and multiple water filter reviews. We have explained what a drinking water filter system is and the types to choose from. From there, we’ve detailed how to know when it’s time to purchase a water filter and how to do so. We’ve covered installation, maintenance, and frequently asked questions. Anyone who reviews this buyer’s guide in its completion should be able to choose the best drinking water filter system for their family’s needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Water Softener vs. Conditioner: Which is Best?
Water Softener vs. Conditioner: Which is Best?
How To Read Your Water Quality Report
6 Benefits of Filtered Water for Your Health and Home
Get expert advice choosing a water filter
*Product performance claims and prices were taken from publicly available information on Amazon, are accurate as of 9/1/2022, and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Cost per gallon is calculated as replacement filter price/capacity. Not all contaminants will be listed in charts. If you find information that is inaccurate, please send the correct info with supporting documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will address any errors. As an Amazon Associate, Water Filter Comparisons receives a commission on purchases made through our Amazon links.