Have you been considering investing in a water filter for your home? If so, you’re in good company. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that many Americans use water filters to reduce or remove specific contaminants, protect someone in the home who has a compromised immune system or simply improve the taste of the water.
Before you go out and buy a filter, you’ll have some choices to make, as filters use a variety of technologies to achieve their goal and come in several different designs.
Where to Start
Various filters utilize an array of technologies, so some filters are better at removing certain contaminants from water than others. For instance, the Environmental Working Group says that reverse osmosis filters “can remove many contaminants not removed by activated carbon, including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrates and perchlorate.”
According to NSF International, an organization that certifies water filters, choosing the right water filter starts with finding out what’s in your water by talking to your local water utility or authority about obtaining the water quality report (also known as a Consumer Confidence Report) for your water supply. You can then which contaminants in your water need to be removed and compare the options for water treatment.
If you get your water from a well, you’ll need to have your water independently tested. The Water Systems Council provides a list of laboratories that test well water, organized by state.
Types of Filters
These filters are just what they sound like – pitchers or large dispensers that have a filter attached. They generally have an “an activated carbon filter that can remove contaminants and improve taste and odor,” according to the Environmental Working Group. While these are relatively inexpensive, they require that the filter cartridge be replaced regularly, so the cost over the course of the year may well add up to the cost of a faucet or under-sink filter. In addition, some activated carbon filters are more effective than others, so do your research before purchasing one of these systems.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, Brita offers small jug filters for under $10 at that are meant to improve the taste of the water and reduce the amount of cadmium, mercury and copper.
Faucet-mounted filters are also relatively inexpensive, and you can usually install them yourself. Plus, you can switch between filtered and unfiltered water with ease. However, sometimes they don’t work well with certain faucet designs. They also require you to replace the filter cartridge regularly, and the cost can add up over time. They typically use activated carbon filters.
Culligan offers a faucet-mounted filter for around $20 that can be installed without tools. According to Culligan, this model “filters out atrazine, chlorine, lead, lindane, sediment and turbidity while removing bad taste and order.” It’s also certified by NSF International.
As the name implies, these filters sit on the counter but still connect to your faucet. Like with faucet-mounted filters, you can still switch between filtered and unfiltered water. However, these aren’t as easy to install yourself and can sometimes involve modifying the plumbing in your home. Some of these units can be expensive, too, although others are more affordable. The filter cartridge doesn’t need to be changed as frequently as the cartridge on a faucet-mounted or pitcher filter.
These filters use a variety of technologies, such as activated carbon and reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis tends to be more effective than activated carbon, but it doesn’t remove some contaminants, such as chlorine.
Apex makes a countertop water filter that reduces heavy metals and microorganisms in water, in addition to cutting down on the taste and smell of chlorine. It’s available for under $100 and certified by NSF International.
Filters that are mounted underneath your sink tie directly into your water supply line. Their effectiveness varies widely between models, and they’re often more expensive than the types we’ve discussed so far. Under-sink filters also frequently require professional installation and plumbing modifications. However, they’re out of sight and don’t require the filter cartridge to be replaced as often as some other types of filters do.
Consumer Reports, which evaluates and rates water filters and other products, recommends the Multipure Aquaversa below-sink water filter (model MP750SB), which costs around $430.
Maintaining the Filter’s Effectiveness
After you’ve purchased your filter and either installed it yourself or had it installed, you’ll need to maintain it. Generally, water filter units have a filter cartridge that will need to be replaced regularly.
According to NSF International, the filter’s manufacturer will usually specify how often the filter cartridge needs to be changed. Some filters recommend a specific number of months, and others specify how many gallons can be filtered before the cartridge needs to be changed.
However, NSF International warns, “Filter cartridges are not necessarily universal.” Be sure to purchase the correct type and size. If the filter is even a little bit too small, water will be able to go around the edges instead of through the filter.
Have you already purchased a water filter for your home? Tell us how you chose a model in the comments below! And in the meantime, check out these other easy ways to transform your home.
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