You’ve decided to buy a water filter. Good decision. The best water purifiers remove most contaminants, providing healthy water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, with a fresh crisp taste and a pleasant odor. With so many options available, you need to start your search by deciding what type of water filter is the best for you.
Water filters come in all varieties of shapes and sizes. You need to decide which is going to be the most practical for your home. Which water filter is going to meet your requirements? What size water filter do you need? Here are the types of water filters that you will choosing from:
I’ll be discussing all of the filter types mentioned in detail. Knowing the pros and cons of each of the water filtration systems available to you is going to help you make the wise choice.
Pitchers with a filter cartridge are the most common type of water filtration method. There are a number of reasons why people buy more water pitcher filters than any other type.
Water pitcher filters are the most affordable. You can buy a reasonably accomplished pitcher filter for under $30, with prices going up to more than $50 for high-end products.
They are incredibly easy to use. You simply fill the pitcher from a faucet and allow the water to flow through the filter. You can keep the pitcher in the refrigerator for chilled, purified drinking water when you want it. You can also leave it on the countertop.
Water pitcher filters require no installation, and you can take them with you when you go on vacation or relocate. They also require very little maintenance. You will be replacing the filter approximately every three to six months, depending on the type of filter and how much water you use. It is this hassle-free attribute that contributes greatly to their popularity.
With all that water pitcher filters have going for them, there are some drawbacks. It really depends on what your expectations are. For odorless, contaminant-free drinking water, with very little effort, a water filter pitcher may be your best option.
Some water pitcher filters provide alkaline water, by removing hard metals and adding soft minerals, like magnesium and potassium.
Water Pitcher Filter Cons
If you want filtered water for more than just drinking, beverages and cooking, a water filter pitcher won’t be your best option. They don’t, for example, provide purified or softened water for washing. You also won’t be protecting appliances, like water heaters, washing machines, and espresso machines from damage caused by hard metal buildup and calcium. They obviously don’t protect the water pipes in your home either.
Not all water filter pitchers offer the most effective filtration. Active carbon, or charcoal filters are pretty much the norm. This removes common contaminants, like chlorine, fluoride, and most toxins.
Though few water filter pitchers remove lead. Many are also less accomplished when it comes to removing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). They don’t kill bacteria and viruses.
Water filter pitchers are slow. Generally, those that offer the best filtration tend to be the slowest. Because the water flow relies on gravity, from an upper reservoir to the pitcher, it can take anything from 30-minutes to over an hour to filter the water. A filter pitcher with a larger capacity will take longer as more water has to flow through the filter.
You have to wait for the water to flow down through the filter before you are able to use it. When the top reservoir is full, water will spill from the top of the pitcher if try to pour water.
Frequent filter changing is a minor, but noticeable, inconvenience. Because pitchers use small filter cartridges, they seldom last much longer than six months. In a busy home, the smaller filters may need to be changed as often as every three months or less.
Choosing the Best Water Filter Pitcher
Since water filter pitchers are relatively inexpensive, you should not base your decision purely on the price. A really cheap water filter pitcher may be okay for some, but they don’t always offer the best filtration and can, sometimes, be inferior when it comes to materials used for their manufacture.
Food Grade Plastics
Most water pitchers are made from plastic. Other materials, like glass or stainless steel are also used, but these will be more expensive. The advantage to using these costly materials is improved durability and they can be more aesthetically pleasing.
When deciding on plastic pitchers, you need make sure that only food grade, BPA-free plastic is used. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of certain plastics. It can also be found in epoxy resins which coat many food containers, like cans.
BPA can be absorbed by the food or liquid inside the container. If your water pitcher is not certified BPA-free, you are at risk of many health disorders:
Filters used for water purifier pitchers vary greatly. Active carbon filtration is the most common. Though other media, like water softeners and remineralization can be beneficial. Removing heavy metals from your water will improve the taste and, possibly, provide several health benefits.
Some minerals, like iron and calcium, will discolor water and leave a residue on your cups, glasses, and appliances.
When looking for the best value for money, consider how long the filters last before they need to be replaced. The lifespan of a water filter is rated by how many gallons the filter can provide before it is no longer effective.
A filter that provides up to 100-gallons can be more cost-effective and practical, compared to one that provides only 60-gallons. You need to compare the cost of replacement filters vs how many gallons of water they are good for.
The speed with which the filter allows water to flow can be important. Again, you have weigh up the pros against the cons. A filter with more complex filtration media will usually take longer to filter the water. However, they will improve the water quality.
Some filters are susceptible to blockages. If you check water filter pitcher reviews, you may come across complaints of some filters that become frustratingly slow after a short period of use. These should be avoided.
Filter Pitcher Design
The general aesthetic of the water filter pitcher may be important to you. There are some really elegant designs. Though, there are more practical considerations too.
A compact water filter pitcher will be easier to fit into your refrigerator or take up less countertop space. This often comes as a compromise. A more compact design usually means a limited capacity. You’ll need to find the balance between conserving space and the amount of purified water you require. Taking into account the time it takes for the water to filter between refills.
By consulting reviews and customer opinions, you can also establish how practical a particular pitcher design is for everyday use. Some are easier to fill or have spouts that prevent spilling. Handle design can also be important, especially on larger, heavier pitchers.
A faucet water filter fits onto a faucet. These devices are quick and easy to install. They are just as easy to remove when you relocate, making them a great option for renters.
A faucet-mounted water filter shares many of the benefits of water filter pitchers. They are relatively inexpensive, with prices ranging from less than $30 up to around $200. The filters are small and easy to replace.
There are several benefits when deciding between a faucet water filter vs water filter pitcher. The most obvious of these would be water permanently on tap. Unlike a pitcher, that needs to be filled, you have clean, filtered water directly from the faucet. You also don’t have to wait for the water to slowly flow through the filter.
A faucet water filter does not require countertop or refrigerator space, thereby reducing clutter.
With these advantages, come some disadvantages.
Faucet Water Filter Cons
Like their pitcher equivalents, faucet water filter have a limited capacity. The filters are not as effective as large multi-stage filtration systems. Generally, these will be active carbon filters, removing contaminants and improving odor.
Some may also utilize media to eliminate toxins, like lead, arsenic, and pesticides. There are also options for remineralization and water softening.
The small filter design means more frequent replacement which can be costly and an inconvenience.
Faucet water filters reduce the water pressure at the faucet. This can be problematic in homes with low water pressure.
The filter adds bulk to the faucet which may interfere with aesthetics. The attached filter can also make it difficult to use the faucet when filling large pots that may not fit easily under the extended faucet filter.
While most faucet water filters have adapters to fit common faucet designs, they may not be compatible with all faucets.
Choosing the Best Faucet Water Filter
You may have price restrictions as to which filter you decide upon. Apart from the cost of the faucet filter kit, you need to consider long term running costs, general quality, and practicality.
Faucet water filters are very similar to those used for pitchers. These are small single cartridges that can utilize a number of filter media for different types of filtration. You will need to check if the filter does everything you expect.
The amount of water that the filter can purify before it needs replacement should be your greatest concern. Frequent filter changing can become costly and an unwanted inconvenience. Just like pitcher filters, these can last anything from 60-gallons (or less) up to more than 100 gallons.
If you have low water pressure in your home, you should consider the flow rate for the filter. A more complex filter, with a greater variety of filter media, may be more effective at removing contaminants, hard metals, and toxins, though these types of filters tend to restrict the flow.
Faucet filter design could be merely about the look. Some designs are more attractive than others.
The dimensions are often the most important consideration. As the length increases, the available space under the faucet will be restricted, making it difficult to fill certain types of containers.
You will need to check if the faucet water filter that you’ve decided upon will actually fit onto the faucet that you’re using.
A whole house water filtration system is permanently installed. It is connected to the main water supply to your home. This means that you have filtered throughout the home and your pipes are less likely to become blocked by sediment or mineral deposits. You will also reduce staining and residue collecting on your fixtures, like sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilets.
A whole house water filter can have numerous stages of filtration. From a basic single-sage sediment filter to complex, multi-stage reverse osmosis filtration systems, there are many options for the homeowner. Depending on your requirements and budget, you can decide to include any of the stages listed here:
A complete RO system, with up to 10-stages can be costly. However, you can buy individual components and customize your whole house water filtration system to include exactly what you need.
While whole house water filters are the most expensive, and may require professional installation, the filters last longer than any other. For large volumes of purified water in the home, whole house water filters are the most cost-effective when considering long-term maintenance.
Filter lifespan depends very much on the type of filter. A UV filter may last a lifetime and active carbon filters can last for more than 10-years. Sediment filters need the most frequent changing. Even these can last a year or more, depending on how many stages of prefiltration are used and the quality of the filter.
Whole House Water Filter Cons
A whole house water filter is expensive when compared to any other type of water filter. They require installation and cannot be easily removed.
These are fairly large filtration systems and require a few feet of space.
Some components may require an electrical supply.
Whole house RO filtration systems increase water consumption.
The filters reduce water flow rate which can be a problem in homes with low water pressure.
Choosing the Best Whole House Water Filter
Given the complexity of the options of you have for a whole house water filtration system, it is a good idea to have your water tested before deciding what type of whole house water filter is going to be your best option.
In some areas, you have abnormally high sediment or rust in old water pipes, making 2-stages of sediment filtration a good investment, as this will reduce the chance of filter blockages. Similarly, a concentration of chemicals, like chlorine, may require additional active carbon filtration.
Many whole house water filter kits are designed for easy DIY installation and include everything you need. Being able to install the system yourself, will save money.
As with any water filter, check on the cost and lifespan of the filters. Sometimes, the filters that appear to be the most expensive can be the best value, as the filters often last much longer.
Another long-term maintenance consideration is the ease with which you can replace the filters.
As whole house water filter systems can be bulky, you need to check if you have the space to accommodate the filter. They are usually installed in a garage, shed, or under a roof awning.
If your whole water filter needs an electrical connection, you need it to be close enough to an electrical outlet and consider electrical safety, especially for outdoor installations.
Under sink water filters are similar to whole house water filtration systems. The main difference is the size of the system. Under sink water filters are designed to be more compact so they can fit into a closet under the sink.
These filters generally supply a single faucet at the sink. It is possible to connect additional pipes to appliances, like washing machines and coffee makers. However, this makes the installation more complicated and may spoil the aesthetics of your kitchen as the additional pipes may be visible.
Like whole house water filters, the under sink equivalents can include any number of stages, including RO systems. An under sink RO system adds even more bulk, as it requires a water tank. It also requires additional installation complications to include a drain for wastewater.
While generally cheaper than whole house water filters, under sink filters are more expensive than the other, less sophisticated options.
Under Sink Water Filter Cons
These systems require quite a lot of space under the sink, reducing available closet space.
An under sink water filter requires installation, which may involve drilling into countertops. They are not easily removed.
A comprehensive under sink water filter can be expensive. RO systems will usually be the most expensive and take up more space. They will also increase water consumption.
Choosing the Best Under Sink Water Filter
Since under sink and whole water filters are so similar, deciding what to look for before buying one, is also very much the same. Because of the limited space under the sink, you won’t always have the option for as many stages of filtration.
I’d recommend having your water tested before selecting an under sink water filter. This will help you prioritize your water filtration needs and spend your money more effectively.
The size of the filtration system is going to be important. As the under sink water filter occupies closet space, check the dimension to make sure everything will fit.
Many under sink water filters include a faucet, which can make the installation much easier. You won’t have to join into your existing pipes to supply the faucet at the sink. This will, however, mean that you have two faucets – one for unfiltered water and a separated faucet supplying filtered water.
DIY installation kits can save a lot on installation costs.
As you may have guessed, countertop water filters are fairly compact devices that are placed on a countertop. They require little to no installation and provide a greater volume of filtered water when compared to pitcher filters.
They are not as accomplished as under sink or whole house water filters, but countertop water filters are not permanently installed. They can be removed easily when you relocate.
There are three types of countertop water filters that you may want to consider:
Countertop water filters are not too expensive and very easy to use. The filters are usually larger than those used for pitchers and faucet water filters. This makes them more economical and convenient as the filters last longer.
Countertop Water Filters Cons
These filters seldom offer the same level of filtration as whole house and under sink filters.
Gravity fed filters and water distillers take a long time to filter/purify the water.
The filter can be quite large and cause countertop clutter. They may not always be aesthetically pleasing.
Choosing the Best Countertop Water Filter
Since the filter is on the countertop and always visible, you may want to choose a design that compliments the look of your kitchen. Filters finished in stainless steel and aluminum have a sleek modern appearance and are generally more durable, but usually cost more.
As always, consider filter cost vs lifespan as this is your long-term running expense.
Some of the better refrigerators have built-in filters, providing chilled, healthy water whenever you need it.
If your refrigerator does not have a water purifier, you can always buy one that fits into the refrigerator. These filters work on the same principle as water filter pitchers and gravity fed countertop filter pitchers.
A large reservoir at the top is filled with water from a faucet. The water flows through the filter to the bottom. It will have a spigot, making it easy to pour the water without removing it from the refrigerator.
Refrigerator Water Filter Cons
These are usually quite large, occupying a fair amount of refrigerator space.
You need to remove the filter unit from the refrigerator to fill.
While the filters usually have a better capacity than pitchers, they are not as large as most countertop, under sink, or whole house filters. This means the filters need to be replaced more regularly which could end up costing more.
Choosing the Best Refrigerator Water Filter
There are two main considerations when buying a refrigerator water filter.
The first thing to look at is size vs space. Obviously, a filter with a greater capacity to store filtered water will occupy more refrigerator space.
Since most refrigerator water filters are made from plastic, it’s important to check that only food-grade, BPA-free plastics are used.
As with any water filtration system, check filter cost vs lifespan and make sure they provide the level of filtration you require.
Water filter pitchers, as well as most countertop and refrigerator water filters can be considered portable. You can take them with you on vacation, or just about anywhere that you may require pure healthy water.
While these products are technically portable, you cant take them everywhere. For camping, or even a portable water purifier that you can keep in the car to use whilst traveling, means a product specifically designed for maximum portability.
Some portable water filters, often used for backpacking, allow you to pump water from a river or well and purify it as the water flows through filtration media. You will store the water in a bottle or canteen as you pump it.
You also get portable water filters that consist of a tough plastic pouch that can be easily stored without taking up much space. These are ideal for backpacking.
A portable drinking water bottle with a built-in filter is great for anyone who wants a convenient water filter on the go.
These products may often be designed specially to treat impure water sources like dams and rivers, whilst others may have more benefits, like adjusting the PH or remineralization for healthier alkaline water.