Finding the right water filter system for your home is not the easiest item to shop for. Most of the top filtration system brands offer a similar product so determining which brand offers the highest quality with the best price is what we’re here to do for you.
The Ultimate Water Filtration Guide For Your Home
What we look for in a quality water filtration system for the home!
Water is a vital resource for all life on Earth – especially for the people who work in hot conditions. Naturally, these individuals need to drink up to 16 liters of water per day to help control their body temperature and stay well hydrated.
Now, there are many people who want to start drinking more water. However, bringing a plastic water bottle around might be inconvenient for some folks, and drinking unfiltered tap water can lead to serious health issues.
A high-quality water filter is an important part of a healthy home. If you happen to be using a filter in your household, kudos to you! We don’t mean to seem inquisitive but are you one hundred per cent sure that your filter is effectively removing dangerous contaminants from your water supply? Think about it for a second.
Here’s the sad truth: some water filters are designed to only remove certain types of contaminants and are ineffective at eliminating others. For this reason, it’s important to install a filtration system that is capable of safeguarding you and your family from all toxic substances that may be present in your drinking water.
In this guide, you’ll learn all you need to know about water filtration, specifically the benefits of using a water filter, the different technologies used in water filtration, and how to choose the best water filter for your home.
10 Reasons Why You Should Filter Your Water
Before we jump into the more technical aspects of water filters, let’s kick things off by briefly discussing why you should filter your water before drinking it.
- Better Taste and Smell – There are several reasons why water can have a bad taste, whether it comes from a well or the municipality. The good news is that most of the water filters we will present in this guide are capable of removing chlorine, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and bacterial contaminants; thus, providing better-tasting and better-smelling drinking water.
- Healthier Water – Drinking and using filtered water for cooking will improve the health of you and your family. Water filters help remove all the chemicals, bacteria and other unwanted substances from your drinking water, so you can prepare healthier meals. Yum!
- Great for Children – Children are especially susceptible to nitrate/nitrite poisoning. These compounds can leach into the municipal water source, then right into your home. A total nightmare, indeed.
- Environmentally Friendly – Filtering your water is more environmentally friendly than buying bottled water. Bottled water comes in plastic containers that might end up polluting the environment in the long run.
- Plastic-Free – Another major concern about drinking bottled water is the quality of the plastic. Some bottled are made from plastic that contains bisphenol A (BPA), a component that can cause a host of health problems.
- Economical – While you may consider buying a water filter as a big investment, you will actually end up saving money over time. You can quote us on that.
- Bye, Bye Toxins – According to some experts, there may be more than 2100 known toxins in a water source. But thankfully, using a water filter can reduce the risk of ingesting these harmful substances.
- No Chlorine – Chlorine is widely used to disinfect water, even though drinking it is linked to several illnesses. Water filters help block out this chemical, providing better-tasting, salt-free water.
- Better-Looking Skin and Hair – Filtered water can cause your hair and skin to look and feel better and healthier than ever before.
- No Chemical – Believe it or not, there might be many different chemicals in your drinking water. But with the help of a water filter, you can remove these harmful chemicals and protect yourself from any danger they might cause.
The Hard Facts About Your Water Sources and How a Water Filter Can Help
Water is supplied to your home from a municipal feed after being treated at a purification facility on the outskirts of town. Chances are, you pass by this station while traveling from work every day, thinking about the clean, fresh water flowing gracefully from your tap. Well, not to spoil your moment, but… the water coming through your faucet might not be as clean as you may think.
The truth is, even though your tap water is often filtered at a water treatment station, it may contain certain unwanted chemicals and particles when it reaches your home. This happens in every city, both large and small.
As a general rule, the authorities check the water quality as soon as it is filtered, and before it enters the municipal service lines. The test results are usually satisfying and well above standard, but one important thing that the authorities fail to consider is the aging, corrosive pipes that the water passes through before reaching your household.
In many cases, water treatment facilities are located in the outlying areas of your town or city. Because of this, the water must be transported over long distances, through municipal pipes, to get to your home. Since these pipes are normally decades old, the filtered water traveling through them becomes contaminated with almost everything it comes in contact with – from rust particles to dust, dirt, and debris. These old service lines then make it easier to transport these unhealthy pollutants along with certain destructive microorganisms. When the water reaches your faucet, it may have an unusual color or taste, and might be contaminated.
Another major reason why a water filter is important is the process that the municipal authorities uses to treat the water. Chlorination is a commonly used method of water purification. While the chemical certainly destroys some harmful microorganisms found, it often gives the water a different taste. Beyond that, at times chlorine can react to the organic matter in the water, which then forms unhealthy carcinogenic compounds, according to recent studies.
That’s not all. Filtering water is probably the most effective way to repel pathogenic organisms such as bacteria, parasites, fungi, etc. In fact, the most threatening parasite that can be found in any water supply is Cryptosporidium. Not only can this pathogen withstand the effects of chlorine, but if it enters your body, it can cause dehydration, weight loss, and severe diarrhea. Affected persons can show signs of sickness, lasting as long as six weeks.
Lastly, your water supply can be exposed to pesticides, heavy metals, and chemicals. Before the 1940s and the 1950s, almost every pesticide consisted of heavy metals. Worst of all, these pesticides normally take a long time to break down. They can often be found in soil, particularly in areas through which the municipal service lines run. Once these pesticides seep into the service lines, they can easily enter your home.
Lead can also be found in distribution systems and household plumbing, and can easily make its way into your home. While lead and any other chemicals in your water source can be destructive to your health, a water filter can remove these toxic agents and protect you and your family from any dangers they might pose.
How Water Filters Work
There are four types of water filters that are used in most households across the United States, each of which works in a specific manner. Let’s find out how these popular filtration systems actually work.
- Activated Carbon
Activated carbon water filters are the most popular water filters in the US, thanks to their low cost, small size, and ease of use. They operate using adsorption, which is a process in which a gas, liquid, or solid adheres to the surface of another solid or a liquid, but does not penetrate it. As soon as the water flows through the filter, the contaminants drift towards to the spongy surface on the carbon, filling up the deep pores on the filter.Although the charcoal filter surely does a great job of blocking out most pollutants, it cannot remove limescale. Also, charcoal does not attract some other contaminants like sodium, nitrates, fluoride, and microbes. Hence, they might still be present in the water. Another drawback of an activated carbon filter is that over time the pores in the charcoal will become clogged, preventing the filter from working at its peak performance. For this reason, the filter will need to be changed occasionally.
Water filters that use distillation boil the water, then trap the vapor produced during the process. As soon as the steam turns to vapor, the liquid is stored in a different container. But unfortunately, most popular contaminants can withstand high temperatures, and therefore, won’t be destroyed during the distillation process. As a result, the liquid formed from the condensation process will carry the said contaminants into the second tank.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO)
The RO filtering system uses no less than five filters. The first filter removes any dust, rust, debris, dirt, and other agents that might damage the RO membrane. The carbon filter prevents dangerous chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride from entering your home. The third filter, which is also carbon-based, has a porous bed that captures smaller particles and ensures that the water is free of contaminants as it approaches the membrane. The reverse membrane filter blocks 95 – 99% of contaminants, depending on their molecular weight, ionic charge, and size. Filter number five verifies that viruses, bacteria, chlorine residue, and any unpleasant tastes or odors are removed. Certain systems will also come with a UV light as well as custom-built filters that will increase the pH of the water
- Ion Exchange (Salt Based Water Softener)
The zeolite beads that are found in the ion exchange filters contain a lot of sodium ions. As the hard water moves through the filter, the sodium ions attract the calcium and magnesium ions and release the sodium ions in exchange. Calcium and Magnesium are two primary components that can be found in limescale. Without these two elements, the water will be softer and have a better taste. But in spite of that, the sodium released into the water will cause it to have a salty taste. Honestly, some people might not like this new-found taste. Plus, it might be unhealthy for people with dietary restrictions.
How to Find the Right Water Filter for Your Home
There is a number of different filters to choose from, each of which can get rid of many of the contaminants plaguing your water. But please note that most types of filters are good at blocking out specific categories of contaminants but are somewhat ineffective at eliminating others.
In order to determine if your existing filter is providing the best water quality, you can either do it yourself or hire an expert. Assuming that you’re willing to give it a shot, we’ve prepared a quick guide to teach you how to achieve the desired results.
Use a Water Quality Test Kit
- Figure Out What You’re Looking For
Our definition of water quality is basically the concentration levels of the various contaminants present in your water. These substances and objects may include heavy metals, chlorine, bacteria, pesticides, viruses, nitrates/nitrites, and hardness – just to name a few. Also note that the pH of the water also affects its quality. Therefore, you should also try to determine its numerical value. Chlorine is ideal for disinfecting water. However, it can change its taste. Additionally, hard water might cause scale buildup, and nitrites/nitrates and pesticides can be harmful to you and your family’s health. Acidic water carries a dreadful taste and can also increase the rate at which your pipes and fixtures corrode.
- Buy a Premium Water Test Kit
These days, you can find a variety of test kits on the market, both online and at a local retailer. Inside these test kits are small strips that change in color depending on the contaminant level of the water you’re testing. It’s a good idea to stick to those kits that come with individual strips for bacteria, pesticides, chlorine, hardness, nitrites/nitrates, heavy metals (lead, in particular), and pH. Avoid those test kits that contain only one strip since they won’t be able determine anything except the pH.
- Read the Instructions on the Test Kit Carefully
All test kits come with a step-by-step instruction manual, but will vary based on the type of kit and the manufacturer. The guide will teach you how to expose the strips to the water before taking a reading, how warm the water should be, and understanding what the colors mean.
- Determine the Water’s Quality
Next, check the color chart to see what the changes (if any) on the test strips indicate. Each strip will have different indicators, so ensure that you compare the correct ones to the chart. Also, the color will determine if the concentration of a particular substance in the water is acceptable or dangerous. If any of the results are at the hazardous levels, don’t fret. Just perform the test once more to reduce the chance of misjudgment by the tester.
Use Your Senses…Literally
Here’s a quick and easy method you can use to get a better idea about the quality of your water: use your senses. Believe it or not, even professional engineers will taste, smell, and visually inspect the water before drawing a conclusion. However, we don’t recommend using this method of testing. Reason being, a test kit will provide more accurate results than simply using your senses – even though it can still provide valuable information.
- Use Your Sense of Smell
Smelling the water can be an effective way to detect different types of contamination. If the water smells like bleach, there’s a high chance that chlorine was used to purify the water at your regional water treatment plant. If it smells like rotten eggs, then there’s likely a strong presence of bacteria in the water. To confirm this, pour water from the tap into a glass and take it to a different room. Wait for about five minutes, then smell it again. If the foul odor is gone, then it’s probably an issue with your drain. In this case, your drain definitely needs cleaning. But if both your hot and cold water have that bad smell, even in different rooms, that means that the contamination may have occurred somewhere along the municipal service line.If the water has a dirt-like or funky smell, it’s likely that an organic matter has decomposed or decayed in your plumbing. Like the situation with rotten-egg scent, pour another glass of water and take it to another room. This will determine if the smell is coming from the water itself or the drain.
- Use Your Sense of Taste
Please read this carefully: If the water tastes foul, don’t swallow it. If it tastes like metal, it can be a result of being expose to too many unwanted minerals or it simply has a low pH level. If it has a strong bleach taste, it’s likely been treated with chlorine. And if it has a salty taste, it could mean that sulfates or chlorine ions are present.
- Use Your Sense of Sight
Visually inspecting the water is also another effective way to detect physical impurities. To do this, fill a glass of tap water and hold it up to a bright light. Observe the liquid carefully and look for any cloudiness or floating particles. If your pipes or fixtures have started to rust, you might see brown, orange, or red particles floating or settled at the bottom of the glass. Black particles can come from your water hoses. Chlorine is powerful enough to weaken and gradually damage the hoses, causing those small black particles to pop up in your drinking water.In general, white particles or cloudiness may indicate an excessive hardness level. This hardness often comes about due to too much calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate in your water.You should also observe the color of the water. Turn on the tap and let it run for about two minutes. This will extract and dispose of any buildup in your fixtures. After that, fill a glass with water. Again, hold the glass up to the light. If the water looks discolored (has a brownish color), it’s probably polluted. Possible reasons for this could include upstream pollution or rusty pipes.You can even check the working status of your pipes and fixtures by using your sense of sight. Once there is a massive build-up of toxic minerals or rust in your pipes, it may leach into your water supply and pollute it. If your water lines are above ground, look for any possible leakages. Also, pay close attention to regions with blue or white sediments. Alternatively, you can observe the water inside the toilet bowl and check for blue stains or rust. If you see any white or blue stains as well as rust particles, there could be a buildup, which can cause your water to become polluted. A temporary fix is to give the pipes a proper cleaning. If that’s not enough, perhaps you’ll have to change them.
Obtain a Water Quality Report
Request a copy of a recent water quality report from your local municipality. These authorities are required to carry out regular water quality tests, so it should be fairly easy for them to provide a copy of the report.
Nevertheless, it’s not a good idea to use this method since the document might not account for the same pipes that the water passes through to get to your home.
Figure Out What You Really Want
Since you now know how polluted your water source is, it’s time to figure out how to address the issues at hand. After seeing the results from the water quality test, do you only want to soften the water? Or do you want to remove all the contaminants that may be present? Or both?
Below, we’ll go through the different types of filters to help you decide on a water filter, specifically one that fits your situation and matches your budget.
And Finally, Making Your Decision
As we stated earlier, some water filters are effective at removing certain types of pollutants, and are ineffective at blocking out others. With that in mind, you’ll have more or fewer options, depending on your water test(s) results, what you’re looking to accomplish, and your budget.
Types of Filters
There are several types of filters that are perfect for certain situations, but will all boil down to your budget. If there are any limescale deposits that you want to remove, there are several filters that you can use. This can be done by using either low-cost filters or those on the more expensive side.
Check out the different budget options below:
- Low-Budget Option – The Ion Exchange Filter
This pocket-friendly filter will get rid of any magnesium and calcium ions in the water by exchanging them for sodium ions. While this process will rectify your limescale issue, your water will taste a bit salty. If your diet doesn’t allow you to consume salt, this option might be suitable for you. Nevertheless, these filters are relatively cheap, require low maintenance, and are efficient at water softening.
- Medium To Bigger-Budget Option – The Electric Water Softener
Electric water softeners don’t even come into contact with your water. Thankfully, these devices fit perfectly onto the pipe and use a salt-free mechanism to soften your water. A major advantage of this type of filter is that it doesn’t affect the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). That being so, you will still reap the benefits of the healthy minerals found in the water.
- Higher-Budget Option – The Whole-House Water Filter System & Softener
As opposed to the two previous options, whole house water filter systems are large and pack enough power to eliminate the harmful chemicals and minerals that are hardening your water. This way, the system can produce enough great-tasting, softened water for your entire household. In addition to removing limescale from your water, whole house water system will make your hair and skin look and feel better.
High Levels of Bacteria
Bacteria and other harmful organisms can pose a great threat to the health of you and your family. If you see that the bacterial concentration of your water is at a hazardous level after running the tests, you urgently need to install a filter that is capable of destroying them. Based on your budget, there is a number of viable options to choose from:
- Low-Budget Option – Water Distillation Filters
Water Distillation filters boil the water, then trap the moisture in separate canister. This is an efficient way to get rid of the bacteria since some of them will be destroyed and removed when the water reaches a high-enough temperature and the moisture is transferred to the next container.
- Medium-Budget Option – The UV filters
UV filters are purposely designed to destroy viruses and bacteria. These filters are usually small and compact, making them easy to install. While they will require electricity to work, these filters will destroy most or all of the bacteria present in your drinking water.
- Big-Budget Option – Reverse Osmosis Filters with UV Light
These big-budget filters eliminate a high number of contaminants through a thorough filtration process. During the initial phase, they use mechanical filters. After that, the chemical filters are used to trap and remove any existing particles. The water then passes through a semi-permeable membrane, and onward to a UV filter. All in all, RO filters produce high-quality water, particularly in taste, look, and odor.
Bad Taste or Odor
Any bad taste or odors present in your water can be difficult to cope with. To solve this problem, there are several solutions you can choose from, no matter how small or large your budget is.
You can choose from the systems below:
- Low-Budget Option – The Activated Carbon Filters
The activated carbon filter was widely used among people living in ancient days. But as time went by, the filter has been improved to solve various water problems existing today. The size and capacity of most modern activated carbon filters varies by model. If your primary aim is to remove bad tastes or odors, this type of filter is an effective and affordable option.
- Medium-Budget Option – Ozone Water Filters
Ozone water filters can remove nearly all of the impurities found in water sources today. In fact, these filters will remove any foul tastes and odors your water has. Be careful not to use too much ozone as the water might adopt a slight ozone scent and taste.
- Bigger-Budget Option – Reverse Osmosis Systems
RO systems are some of the most versatile water filters available for purchase. This model uses more than one filter to purify the water, which significantly increases the overall quality of the water in terms of taste and smell.
Key Considerations Before Purchasing
Size and Location
By this time, you must be able to tell how clean or how polluted your water is, your reasons for purchasing water filtering system, and which types are ideal for different situations. The first thing to consider before making your purchasing is how much space is required for the system and where you’d want to install it.
Water filters often come in three different sizes. Here’s a brief run-down of each category:
- Small (Under Counter Water Filter Systems)
These filters normally require a small space and won’t affect your daily routines. Among the small-sized filters are: ion exchange filters, some RO systems, electronic water filters, and activated carbon filters.
- Medium Size Water Filter Systems
Medium-sized filters will occupy a moderate amount of storage space, so you should definitely keep that in mind before making your purchase. You may need to shift some things around or from one area to another to create ample space for the device to fit comfortably. Here’s a list of filters belonging to this category: ozone filters, some ion exchange filters, most reverse osmosis systems, and some higher-capacity distillation filters.
- Large (Whole House Systems & Water Softeners)
As expected, these filters require a large amount of space. Hence, there should be enough room in (or outside) of your home to accommodate them. Some units are too large to fit in close spaces inside your home, and will therefore require you to place them in an outdoor shed or a basement. Included in this size category are: de ionization units, whole-house water softening systems, and multi-layer whole-house filters.
Congrats for making it this far! You now have most of the information you need to make an informed buying decision. There are still some things that you should consider before purchasing a water filter for your home or workplace. Another important thing to point out is that oftentimes most people won’t have only one complaint about their water. That is why it’s vital to learn the basics of how water filters work, so you can determine whether or not a certain system is the right one for you.
Filter Types and Technologies
Another key consideration is the type of filter and the technologies behind them. Having an idea of the type of filter you need and the technologies they use gives you a clearer picture of what you’ll be purchasing.
Activated Carbon Filters
Activated carbon filters go way back to ancient Egyptian days. This filtration system uses adsorption, which is a process in which contaminants adhere to the surface of these carbon granules or get caught in the small pores of the activated carbon. Carbon filters are used everywhere, simply because of their low cost and high efficiency. These filters can effectively remove chlorine, sediment, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), as well as bad odors and tastes.
Granulated activated (GAC) filters and powdered block filters are two different types of carbon filters used for water filtration. Normally, carbon block filters are more effective, thanks to their wider adsorption surfaces. Some variants also have extra layers in between the carbon, which improve the overall filtration process. Other models have layers of silver that prevent the growth of bacteria. Some manufacturers even add silver to the carbon to give it bacteriostatic qualities.
GAC filters usually come in different sizes – for different purposes. This type of filter contains loose granules of charcoal, while carbon block activated carbon filters use solid blocks of compressed carbon. What gives the carbon block filters an edge over the GAC filters is their larger surface area, which helps to remove more contaminants.
All carbon filters have similar features. But over time, they become less efficient. Changing them will be necessary for keeping them in tip-top shape. Well, you’ll have to replace them even if they’re not used for a long while.
Colonies of bacteria can start growing in the filter if it’s not used occasionally, and even if it’s infused with silver. All things considered, always be mindful of the lifespan of the filter and change them regularly.
- Effective at removing awful tastes and smells, chlorine, and sediment
- No water softening
- Bacteria may develop and accumulate over time
Ion Exchange Filters
De-ionization and water softening are two of the most common processes that involve ion exchange. De-ionization filters work by exchanging either hydrogen ions for cations or hydroxyl ions for anions. Once the metallic ions move into the filter, the hydrogen ions are released and replace the metallic ions, which then get caught in the beads. An exchange then occurs between the anions that were initially in the water and the hydroxyl ions. After that, the hydrogen and hydroxyl combine to produce mineral-free water.
Similarly, in water softening systems, the sodium ions in the beads are exchanged with the calcium and magnesium ions. The salt is exchanged for the minerals, which helps soften the water.
- Impressive water softening
- Remove metals from water
- Usually large in size
- Water might have a salty taste
Distillation is among the simplest water filtration methods that exist today. When the water starts to boil, the vapor is trapped in a different container. The heat destroys some of contaminants in the first container, while some are unintended transported to the other tank.
- Small and compact
- Some contaminants are not filtered
- Valuable minerals are lost
In this method, multiple filters are used to eliminate the unwanted objects and chemicals from your water. Generally, the first filter is the mechanical filter. The second and third filters are carbon-based. The fourth is the semi-permeable membrane, and the fifth is the chemical filter. Other filters may include a UV filter, and a re-mineralization filter. In this method, multiple filters are used to eliminate the unwanted objects and chemicals from your water. Generally, the mechanical filter comes first. Filter number two and three are carbon-based filters. The semi-permeable membrane is the fourth filter, and the chemical filter, the fifth. Other filters may include a remineralization filter and a UV filter.
- Removes 95 to 99% of drinking water contaminants
- Produce large quantities of clean water every day
- Water has a bland taste if not re-mineralized
- Water wastage
If your water has a high level of bacteria, UV filters can be very efficient at removing them. The filter will destroy most viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic organisms. However, it won’t remove anything in addition to those mentioned above.
- Kills bacteria and viruses
- Doesn’t affect minerals or chemicals
- Uses electrical power
Where to Install Your Water Filter: Best Mounting Options
Deciding where to install your water filter can be a tough task, despite how easy it might sound. To save you the trouble, here are several different options you can explore:
- Under-sink – Under-sink water filters are among most common options when it comes on to mounting your filtration unit. Hiding them under your kitchen cabinet can safeguard them from sticky fingers and prying eyes.
- Faucet Mounted – You can install these filters directly onto the faucet. However, you will need to detach the aerator on the faucet, then connect the faucet to the existing filter.
- Under-counter Installation – This option is ideal for smaller-sized water filters, though on a countertop might not be a good place to install your filter. But despite that, sometimes it’s helpful to keep it in close reach.
- Pitchers or Dispensers – A great benefit of using the type of filter is the fact that you can literally place them wherever you desire.
How To Maintain Your Water Filter
So, you’ve finally explored your options and purchased your own water filter. So, what now? Well, you need to keep it in good condition, if you want it to last longer. But how can you achieve this?
- Replace the filters – Regardless of the type of filter you purchase, it will need to be replaced sooner or later. Most manufacturers make a note of their filters’ expected life span in the product description and in the instruction guide.
- Change the bulb – Perhaps you have a basic UV filter, or a RO system with a UV filter. If so, the bulbs will need to be changed occasionally. The filter system might even notify you if the bulb has stopped working. Alternatively, you can check if it’s functioning properly on some units.
- Change the beads – If you purchased an ion exchange filter such as a de-ionizer filter system or a water softener, you will need to change the beads now and again. The beads come with a finite amount of charge, so they will become ineffective as soon as the charge is used up.
Wait, Do Water Filters Conserve Valuable Minerals?
There are some water filters that will remove some healthy minerals found in water, while some won’t. RO systems will get rid of up to 99% of drinking water contaminants, including useful minerals. A UV filter can only remove bacteria, and will often leave behind other unwanted elements in the water. All in all, each filtration system has their own unique benefits and limitations.
Water filters are undoubtedly an essential requirement in society today. Whether your drinking water comes from a municipal feed, a river, or a well, there’s always a way to improve its quality. At first, purchasing a water filter might seem like you’re spending a small fortune. But when all’s said and done, using these systems will prove to be cost-effective. For one, buying bottled water will be a thing of the past. Secondly, you’ll save big bucks after cutting back on those regular (and expensive) doctor visits. All you have to do is make sure you change the filters every now and then.
In addition to providing clean, fresh water for you and your family, water filters soften your water so your skin and hair look and feel healthier and more radiant.
Water filters are also important especially if you have children. Kids are more likely to be affected by health-related threats like bacteria, viruses, nitrate/nitrate poisoning. But thank heavens, a good water filtration system will help protect them from all those evil culprits.