By Rehan Iqbal
No matter where you live or work, the water that you drink won’t be entirely pure and you’ll never know for sure what’s in your drinking water unless you have it tested in a lab. Who’s actually going to do this?
What Type of Reverse Osmosis System Do You Need?
So to ensure that you have high-quality drinking water, a reverse osmosis (RO) water purification system is your safest bet. For those who simply want pure drinking water in their homes an under sink reverse osmosis system is the best way to accomplish this. Though their other situations where pure water is needed and, for this, an under sink reverse osmosis system is not always the best choice. So this review is going to cover a variety of reverse osmosis water purification systems: under sink; counter top and commercial reverse osmosis applications.
Can Reverse Osmosis Protect you from PFAS Water Contamination?
What has really raised concern is that many PFAS have found their way into water supplies. This means that in some areas, these dangerous chemicals can be found in our drinking water. Because of the health risks, many have sought methods to remove PFAS from their drinking water.
Several filtration methods have been identified as competent to deal with this problem. Reverse Osmosis is one of the suggested methods for preventing PFAS contamination in drinking water. A reverse osmosis membrane will remove about 90% of PFAS.
When contaminated feed water passes through a Reverse Osmosismembrane about 20% will remain, with a high concentration of PFAS in the wastewater. This is not ideal, as it is not clear what should be done when disposing of contaminated wastewater. However, it does ensure that the filtered water is safe to drink. Organizations like the EPA are investigating sustainable long term safe solutions to deal with the PFAS problem
Ideally, the solution would be to prevent these harmful chemicals from entering the water supply in the first place. However, since the problem already exists, we need to ensure our water is safe to drink. This necessitates the use of filtration methods in homes, like reverse osmosis filters in affected areas.
Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Filters
The level of filtration and general quality will depend a lot on what you’re prepared to pay. Though you may end paying more than you need to unless you know what you’re getting. So this section of the review is going to help you choose the best under sink reverse osmosis system for your home.
1. SoftPro Green Reverse Osmosis Water System (High-Efficiency, 50 GPD)
The SoftPro Green Reverse Osmosis water filtration system is wonderfully efficient and provides about the best filtration one could hope for. It is a good quality under sink model with pretty easy installation.
If you’re concerned about water wastage, then the SoftPro Green Reverse Osmosis system is bound to delight you. Compared to most other Reverse Osmosis system filters, the SoftPro Green is up to 300 times more efficient. Typically, Reverse Osmosis systems can waste up to 4-gallons of water for every gallon of filtered water. The SoftPro Green system only uses 1-gallon of water to clean the system for every gallon of filtered water produced.
The 5-stage filtration process is also fantastic, removing particles down to 0.001 micron. This means that up to 98% of toxins are removed. More than 1,000 contaminants, including hundreds of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are filtered from the water.
The SoftPro Green Reverse Osmosis water filter provides up to 75 gallons of water per day and should be sufficient for most families. Designed for easy installation in a cabinet below the sink, the system is reasonably compact. While you will need to contend with the storage tank, this is unavoidable with any reverse osmosis water filter. It’s the tank that ensures that you always have healthy pure water on tap when you need it.
The filters are mounted for maximum ergonomics. They don’t require much space and are easy to access for filter replacement. The installation kit includes a faucet. I think it’s great that you have an enormous selection of faucets to choose from. You can select the ideal design to match your kitchen.
The SoftPro Green Reverse Osmosis water filtration system is quite reasonably priced for such a competent and efficient under sink Rerverse Osmosis system filter. In addition to this, you will save a heap of cash over the years, thanks to reduced water loss.
It removes all the nasty contaminants like chemicals, heavy metals, VOCs, and TDS from your drinking water. You end up with perfectly healthy, soft water which is guaranteed to be safe for drinking and food preparation and great for cleaning.
The SoftPro Green Reverse Osmosis system is a great, affordable solution for all your home water requirements.
2. WaterDrop Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System - G3 Tankless Series – WD-G3-W
The WaterDrop G3 Series Reverse Osmosis water filtration system has an amazingly unique design. They’ve done away with the tank to make this one of the most compact under sink Reverse Osmosis system filters on the market. The design is also unique in the way the filters are contained inside a sleek housing which looks great and makes for really easy filter changes.
I’m quite blown away by the tankless design and impressive technology used for this ultramodern Reverse Osmosis system. The compact filtration unit fits snugly under the sink and will have very little effect on available cabinet space. It is beautifully designed with the 7-stage filtration system contained inside a molded plastic filter housing. When you need to replace a filter, it’s blissfully easy. Simply twist to remove the filter, then push the new filter into position and twist to secure it. The filters have clear easily identifiable markings to make it even simpler.
This Reverse Osmosis system is not just about good looks and ergonomic design. It’s a practical, super-efficient Reverse Osmosis water filter with amazing filtration capabilities. Don’t be fooled by the really compact design, this system can deliver up to 400 gallons of water per day, thanks to really good water flow rates. It is also not a big water waster, with a 1:1 water flushing ratio. This means that only 1-gallon of water goes down the drain for every gallon of water consumed.
A great advantage of the tankless design is that there is no chance of bacteria or viruses propagating inside the tank. In fact, the NSF 58 and 372 certified filtration system is one of the very best. TDS are reduced by 91.9% and there is an LED numeric indicator on the filter, telling you exactly what percentage of TDS have been removed from the water.
Another cool tech gadget is the water filter status indicator built into the elegant faucet. The base of the faucet has an LED light which is blue when the filters are fine. If the base of your faucet glows orange, it means you will need to replace the filters soon. When it turns red, you are reminded that the filters need immediate replacement.
For its modern, high-tech design, the WaterDrop G3 Tankless Reverse Osmosis water filtration system definitely earns top marks. Not only is this a smart and beautiful water filter, it provides about best water quality that is obtainable, using a state of the art reverse osmosis membrane.
3. US Water Systems All American 6 Stage Alkaline Reverse Osmosis System
It’s clear by the brand name that US water systems is proudly American, boasting that their Reverse Osmosis water systems are 100% US made. There are many Reverse Osmosis water filters that are assembled in the USA, but the components are usually imported and may not be of the highest quality standards.
This is not to say that the US Water Systems 6 stage alkaline reverse osmosis filter is necessarily superior to other brands. It does, however, provide a great deal of reassurance and a sense of patriotic pride. We can be certain that US water systems implement the greatest levels of quality control, something that not all foreign manufacturers adhere to. Furthermore, we can rest assured that these water filters meet all US health standards, which are generally higher than in many other countries.
When we look at the US water systems 6 stage Reverse Osmosis system, it’s clear that no compromise has been made on quality. This is clearly a well-made product using top-quality BPA plastic and durable metal components. It is a large capacity reverse osmosis water filtration system with two size options – 50 GPD and 100 GPD. It fits quite easily under the kitchen sink, connected to the cold water line, and supplies a dedicated faucet which is supplied with the kit.
The sophisticated 6-stage Reverse Osmosis filtration system takes care of all the usual suspects – chemicals, organic contaminants, and toxins. It also increases the PH, making for healthy alkaline water. The 12” inline alkaline filter, or “Livation Hydration Technology Chamber”, is quite remarkable. It utilizes 6 different filtration media in one filter cartridge, including far infrared balls which emit minerals. The end result is water with increased health benefits, beyond mere filtration of harmful contaminants. The mineralized, low PH water has a great oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) of 100mV to 200mV. Molecular hydrogen is also added, further increasing its antioxidant potential.
We expect clean, great tasting, pure water from a reverse osmosis system. The US Water Systems 6 stage Reverse Osmosis alkaline filtration system obviously delivers on these expectations. Though this is far more than a high-level water filter, it uses advanced media to increase the PH and antioxidant properties of the water. It provides water that is arguably the healthiest in the world. Not to mention that this is a superbly well-made product of the highest quality standard.
4. OptimH2O® Reverse Osmosis + Claryum
An elegantly designed, high quality under sink reverse osmosis filtration system is what you can expect when you buy the OptimH20 RO & Claryum filter. It comes as an easy to install kit with all you need, including a top-quality faucet in a beautiful selection of finishes.
Apart from a highly advanced reverse osmosis membrane, the OptimumH2O system includes some pretty amazing filtration methods, turning ordinary tap water into a super-healthy beverage. I’m not exactly sure what magic lies behind their Claryum technology, but it is claimed to be 15 times more effective at removing contaminants than leading water filter pitchers. It also includes a remineralization stage to further improve the good health of your drinking water.
Quality and filtration efficacy is assured, with a long list of industry certifications, including ANSI/NSF 42, 53, 58, and 401. You can be sure this Reverse Osmosis water filter can rival or exceed any of the best. It is rated for the removal of 88 contaminants with pretty impressive results for many toxins:
These are some of the best filtration statistics you’ll find for these harmful contaminants.
The waterflow is not that impressive when compared to most other under sink Reverse Osmosis systems, which is a bit of a disappointment in an otherwise very impressive product. It has a specified daily production rate of 13.32 gallons at an operating pressure of 40 to 100 psi.
Replacement filters are not very expensive, which is refreshing, and they should last for about 6 to 12 months, depending on the type of filter. Removing and refitting filters is about as easy and hassle-free as it gets.
This is an economical and practical under sink reverse osmosis water filter with some amazing capabilities. The general quality is outstanding, and the filtration capabilities are among the best you’ll find.
5. Home Master TMAFC
In some respects, the Home Master TMAFC could be the ultimate under sink Reverse Osmosis system. Though if you’re going for the full package which includes a non-electric permeate pump, it’s going to become quite expensive. Then again, if you want the best of the best, you have to be prepared to pay for this.
The 7 stage reverse osmosis process used for the Home Master TMAFC is quite unique. Generally, remineralization is done as the sixth and final stage - as the water flows to the faucet.
With this Reverse Osmosis system, there are 2 remineralization stages, the first stage is before the water enters the tank and the seventh (final) stage is the standard (after tank) remineralization stage. The reason for this is to protect the rubber bladder inside the tank. One of the biggest reasons why an Reverse Osmosis system needs to be replaced is because of tank degradation. By adjusting the PH before the water enters the tank, the harmful effects of acidic water on the tank components is averted. So the system should outlive even the best that many other brands have to offer.
Another great and innovative feature of this reverse osmosis system are the modular filters. Generally, an Reverse Osomosis system has a filter housing and you replace the cartridges when they’re done. This can be ahassle and, over time, leaks can develop where the housing screws into the top casing. This can result in maintenance issues as the system ages. The Home Master TMAFC utilizes all-in-one filter cartridges that include the housing – the whole filter unit is disposable. Now you may think that this is going push up your costs, these filters have to be more expensive.
But here’s the remarkable thing about these filters, they only need to be replaced after 2000 gallons. So it isn’t really that expensive and your maintenance time is reduced because you’ll hardly ever be replacing filters. These full contact remineralization filters are said to be far superior to standard filters and the catalytic carbon filters are probably the best at removing chloramines which is more stubborn than chlorine. Most Reverse Osmosis filters are developed to effectively remove chlorine, however, chloramine is becoming the more widely used disinfectant and needs a higher level of carbon filtration.
If you go for the whole hog and pay extra for the complete Reverse Osmosis kit which includes the non-electric permeate pump, you’ll have the added benefit of constant pressure – there’s no back pressure. In addition to this, there’s a massive water saving when it comes to the water loss through the waste water drainage. Without this pump, you’re looking at a water wastage ratio of 1:4, if you have the pump this becomes 1:1.
Naturally, this is a high-quality Reverse Osmosis system. For the price, one would expect it to be. Like most of the best under sink reverse osmosis kits, it’s designed for easy DIY installation and it’s reasonably compact, despite the extra filtration that it provides, measuring 20 X 16 X 13 inches. It also delivers 75 GPD, which is more than the standard 50 for many other systems. It’s a US made product and carries an incredible 5-year warranty.For added peace of mind, their customer care is reputed to be excellent.
6. Thunder 1000C Reverse Osmosis System
One can’t help but be impressed with the Crystal Quest Thunder 1000C Reverse Osmosis System. It has an incredible 12 stage filtration process, contained in 5 filter cartridges.
Naturally, it has the usual sediment filter (or prefilter) and several highly effective carbon filters. It also has one of the best semi-permeable membrane Reverse Osmosis filter, which removes particles down to 0.0001 micron. Along with this, the Thunder 1000C includes some really advanced filters, like the UF membrane and Eagle Redox Alloy (KDF media).
With filtration of this caliber, up to 99.9% of harmful contaminants are removed from your drinking water. That’s about as good as it gets. With only periodic maintenance (replacing filter cartridges), the Thunder 1000C Reverse Osmosis filter will supply you with exceptional purified water for many years.
The entire system appears to be excellent quality, from the metal storage tank to food-grade plastic filter cartridges. The filters fit neatly onto a single mounting bracket and a top-quality, extremely elegant faucet is supplied with the kit.
This is a pretty big under sink reverse osmosis filter, capable of supplying up a 100 gallons of purified water. Despite it’s size and capacity, the clever design keeps the Thunder 1000C compact. It will easily fit into a cabinet under the sink.
I think anyone would be mighty impressed with the filtration capabilities of the Thunder 1000C Reverse Osmosis filter. No one can argue that 99.9% contaminant removal is not one of the best. This is a really good quality unit, providing some of the safest, best tasting water you’ll find on the planet.
7. Springwell Reverse Osmosis Drinking System 75 Gallons Per Day
The Springwell 75-gallon Reverse Osmosis water filtration system is a compact point of use, or under sink, unit. It is well-designed and compact, with easy access to the filters for hassle-free filter maintenance. Quality is outstanding. To this end, you get a lifetime warranty on the tank and valves.
The system does not include any fancy stuff, like PH control or mineralization. Instead it is good basic value, with all the filtration you need for pure, healthy drinking water. This makes it quite easy on your budget, both in the purchase price and maintenance costs.
It includes Four stages of filtration:
The end result is crystal clear, healthy water with no unwanted contaminants. Water that looks and tastes great.
A classic design faucet is included, and this is an easy unit to install. It is quite compact and has a sufficient capacity for most family homes – 75 gallons. The Springwell Reverse Osmosis drinking water system is not expensive to maintain. You can expect to replace stage 1,2, and 4 filters about every 6 months. The stage 3 reverse osmosis filter should only need to be replaced every 24 months. Of course, these filter replacement intervals will vary depending on your water consumption.
For a budget friendly and very competent Reverse Osmosis water filter, you can’t do much better than the Springwell 75 gallon system. It’s large enough to contend with your water demand yet compact enough to easily fit under your sink. It is super easy and inexpensive to maintain.
8. Pentair FreshPoint 5-Stage Undercounter Reverse Osmosis System with Monitor
As a brand, I think Pentair needs no introduction. This a company that manufacturers a wide range of technologies to exactingly high standards. The Pentair FreshPoint 5-stage reverse osmosis water filtration system certainly displays some amazing water purification technology.
The 5 stages of water filtration provides incredible results. You’re assured that the water is free of just about all harmful contaminants, like chlorine, lead, arsenic, volatile organic chemicals, and more. As a result, this water filtration system has received a bunch of industry accreditations: NSF/ANSI 42, 53, and 58, as well as CSA B483.1. This is definitely amongst the top water filters for maximum removal of harmful toxins from your drinking water.
The system utilizes multiple carbon block filters to remove harmful chemicals and improve both the taste and odor of the water. Though it’s the diamond flow technology filter that deserves particular mention. Not only is this a high-quality Carbon block filter, but is also includes a ploy spun shell, which reduces sediment from clogging the carbon filter. This prolongs filter life and saves money on unnecessary filter replacement.
The system comes in the form of an easy installation kit. It includes an amazing faucet which not only looks fantastic but includes really useful technology. The anti-gap faucet cleverly prevents contaminated water from flowing back into the filtered water if the drain is blocked. All the filters are color coded for easy identification, making maintenance really easy. The high-quality Reverse Osmosis membrane also reduces water wastage. An all-round money saver.
There are several models to choose from, providing up to 75-gallons of clean filtered water per day. A booster pump is also available for selected models. The whole unit is quite compact, and you should have no problem installing it in a cabinet below your sink.
The Pentair FreshPoint 5-stage Reverse Osmosis system offers you a complete solution for healthy water on tap. It utilizes incredibly advanced technology that will save you money and protect the environment by reducing water wastage.
Counter-Top Reverse Osmosis Filters
1. AquaTru Countertop Reverse Osmosis Filter 4 Stage
The AquaTru countertop reverse osmosis unit is more versatile than most as it has a water storage tank, so you always have pure drinking water on tap. This, to my mind, is its biggest advantage.
Despite having water storage, this Reverse Osmosis unit doesn’t take up much counter space, a really pleasant surprise. The entire thing is 14” tall, with a width of 12” and its 14” deep. It has a clean crisp design which is thoroughly modern and ergonomic. There’s a digital display that tells what’s going on with the Reverse Osmosis filtration system.
The water storage tank fills up to about two-thirds of its capacity and then waits until it’s nearly empty before refilling, this means that the water doesn’t stand too long and I suppose it won’t collect any unwanted elements during this time. It takes about 12-15 minutes to purify a gallon of water when refilling. The 4 stage Reverse Osmosis filtration is excellent, here are some of the official stats for the removal of harmful contaminants: chlorine – 96.6%; lead – 99.1%; chromium – 97.2%; fluoride – 93.5% and copper – 95.2%. This is pretty good but not quite the up to 99% that some others claim, though I’m more inclined to accept stats given like this than when they make the claim of “up to”. They provide a full chart of all the filtration capacity specs of this Reverse Osmosis system on their website and on Amazon.
I like the inverted filter housing setup, it seems much easier to change the filters. Most RO systems have filter housings that hang, whereas these stand on a base. As is to be expected from a counter top reverse osmosis system, there’s virtually no installation and anyone should be able to set it up in a matter of minutes.
The AquaTru countertop Reverse Osmosis system is a good looking compact unit that gives you pure drinking water instantly. There’s no need to fill bottles and jugs to store your drinking water. I have some concerns about plastic storage, given all the hype about BPA and BPS contamination from plastic. However, I’ve been reassured that the plastic used for this Reverse Osmosis system’s water storage is Tritan and is deemed to be food safe, so this should alleviate any fears that you may have about this.
2. Frizzlife WA99 Reverse Osmosis Countertop Water Filtration System
The Fizzlife WA99 countertop Reverse Osmosis water filtration system is an extremely elegant modern device that won’t add unwanted clutter to your kitchen countertop. The sleek design incorporates fantastic technology, which includes an LCD screen and digital reminders for filter replacement.
This must be just about the most efficient Reverse Osmosis water filter, with a 5:1 water wastage ratio. You will lose only one gallon of water for every 5 gallons of filtered water used. This is thanks to a really smart circular multi-filtration process. Water is recycled and is used the next time filtration is required.
On the front of the machine, LED bars let you know the status of the four filter cartridges. There is no guesswork involved when determining filter replacement intervals. This means maximum filtration efficiency without wasting money by replacing the filters sooner than needed. It also has a reminder when to fill the water tank. You can select your cup size (150ml, 250ml, or 330ml). This means it will only dispense the amount of water for the cup size selected. You can also select continuous water flow. The cup size is displayed on the LCD screen.
Despite it’s compact size, the Frizzlife WA99 countertop Reverse Osmosis filter offers exceptional filtration, up to 99.99% contaminant removal. The high-grade Reverse Osmosis membrane has particulate removal capacity down to 0.0001 micron. That’s as good as any of the best reverse osmosis filters. It’s also really easy to replace the filters, an easy to use twisting tool is supplied with the unit. It shouldn’t take longer than 3 seconds to replace a filter cartridge.
As effective as it is good looking, the Fizzlife WA99 countertop Reverse Osmosis filter is exceptional. It is also quite expensive. With that said, quality and technology of this caliber is not easy to come by. One would expect to pay a little extra for a machine like this. It is pretty much in a class of its own.
3. Rkin Zero Installation Purifier Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Filter
Another incredibly beautiful countertop Reverse Osmosis water filter, the Rkin Zero certainly has the wow factor. Like any countertop filter, you are a little restricted by the use of a water reservoir instead of being connected directly to the main water supply.
For many, a countertop filtration system is the best, especially for apartments, condos, and RVs with limited space. They are also great for rented homes; you can take the filter system with you when you relocate. Because there is no installation involved, it’s much simpler and you don’t have to worry about leaky diverter valves and hoses that can become problematic over time.
The four stages of filtration ensure excellent water purity. It includes the expected 5 micro sediment filter, high-quality reverse osmosis membrane filter, as well as a highly effective carbon block filter and a post filtration stage.
The bottom tank holds 1-gallon of water, this is sent through the filter by a super-quiet electric pump to the top tank. The whole process takes about 15-minutes, after which you have half a gallon wonderfully pure drinking water ready for use. It’s a simple procedure that happens at the touch of a single button.
There is no need for any type of electronic warning system to fill the tank because both tanks are translucent so you can see at a glance, how much filtered water you have at any time. In fact, there are no electronic gadgets or screens, just a fashionably elegant, brushed aluminum panel with an elegant waterspout.
Using an NSF/ANSI 58 certified Reverse Osmosis membrane, you’re assured of the highest quality purified water. Up to 99% of all contaminants are removed. You have two final stage filtration options to choose from. The AlcaPure edition controls the PH to provide alkaline water. Alternatively, you can opt for the OnliPure Edition for zero TDS water.
The clean modern design of the Rkin Zero reverse osmosis water filter is wonderfully refreshing. It has all the benefits of a top-quality countertop filtration system, albeit a little pricey. For stunning design and great filtration, I believe many will find it to be worth every penny.
Portable Reverse Osmosis Filter
1. Crystal Quest Portable Reverse Osmosis System
The Crystal Quest portable reverse osmosis system is really affordable yet offers exceptional water filtration. Little wonder it’s a best seller. The design is really simple and uncomplicated. Three filter cartridges are neatly clustered together with a hose that connects easily to a faucet. It has a flexible drain line and a built-in faucet that supplies the filtered water.
Inexpensive does not means second best. The compact 3 filter cartridges utilize a variety of filtration media, providing an incredible 10 stage revers osmosis filtration process. This includes granulated activated carbon (GAC), Eagle Redox Alloy Media, and an incredible Reverse Osmosis membrane that removes particles down to 0.0001 micron. You’re assured that harmful contaminants, like chemicals, lead, mercury, and chlorine will be a thing of the past.
With an easy setup, requiring no tools or electrical connection, the Crystal Quest filtration system is ideal for a vacation home or rented accommodation. It is as easy to remove as it is to connect to your water supply, taking only a few seconds to connect or disconnect. It supplies a very impressive 50 gallons per minute (GPM) with a supply pressure of 40 psi – 60 psi.
I suppose the Crystal Quest portable Reverse Osmosis system is not the most elegant. There is no sleek and sophisticated filter housing. It is, none the less very practical and utilitarian in its design. This approach makes in much cheaper to manufacture, without compromising on the stuff that really counts, like the food grade high-quality filter cartridges. You’re paying for the essentials, no fancy extras. That’s good old-fashioned value for money.
A wonderfully practical and affordable solution for portable revere osmosis water filtration on the go has made this Crystal Quest model incredibly popular. It’s not going to win any awards for style and design, but it will impress anyone looking for a budget-friendly, easy to use portable reverse osmosis water filtration system. I know many folks can appreciate this.
NSF Certifications for Reverse Osmosis Systems
When shopping around for reverse osmosis systems, it’s not easy to determine how effective the filters actually are. Manufactures all want you to believe that their product is the best. The only way to know for certain that the filtration system actually does what is promised is to look for independent certification.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) tests water filters to determine their efficacy. There are different NSF certifications for the types of contaminants in water and the filtration methods used to remove these contaminants. For example, chlorine removal will have its own NSF certification, designated by a number following the letters NSF and/or ANSI.
Most reverse osmosis systems utilize many stages of filtration, and some include water conditioners as well. This means that apart from the reverse osmosis membrane, the system will include cartridges with various types of filtration media, like activated carbon and water conditioning media. They may also utilize ultraviolet light to kill bacteria.
Since these systems are varied, with different types of filtration media, it’s a good idea to understand what the various types of NSF certifications mean. Here is a list of typical certifications that you may encounter when comparing different reverse osmosis filtration systems.
Generally, you should expect at least an NSF/ANSI 58 certification when buying a revers osmosis filter. This means that it has been tested and uses a genuine Reverse Osmosis membrane. If you have more specific water filtration and/or softening requirements, the other NSF certifications can be helpful in determining what type of filtration media is used.
There are countless Reverse Osmosis system brands, each advertising the very best water purification. It’s understandable that you may feel a little bewildered by the barrage of information. With prices reaching $1000 or more for a high-end reverse osmosis water purification system, you want to have your ducks in a row before buying one. This reverse osmosis buying guide is intended to present you with the facts, so you can buy with confidence.
In order to know what you’re buying, it’s important to understand reverse osmosis. So I’ll be addressing those frequently asked questions about reverse osmosis. Here’s a basic list of what you can expect to find in our Complete Buying Guide on Reverse Osmosis Water Filters.
You may have more questions than the ones that I’ve listed. Though this is just a general overview of what this reverse osmosis buying guide is all about. You’ll be getting a lot of valuable information. In answering these questions, I’ll also be discussing Reverse Osmosis filter stages. This is something that seems to confuse a lot of people. Some reverse osmosis systems are advertised as being 3-stage Reverse Osmosis systems, while others claim an incredible 7-stages. If you’re wondering what this is all about, you won’t be by the time you’re done reading our buying guide on reverse osmosis water filters.
What is Reverse Osmosis Filter System?
Since there are so many water filter options, let’s start with distinguishing Reverse Osmosis systems and why it works so well.
Reverse osmosis uses osmosis which is a process whereby pressure moves water through a membrane filter to remove impurities. So the main distinction between Reverse Osmosis water purifiers and any other type, is that it uses the municipal water pressure, or a pump for low pressure water supplies, to move the water through a dense filter. The osmosis principle is then reversed to dump waste water, containing the contaminants, into the drain.
A typical Reverse Osmosis filter consists of several layers of polymer materials, capable of particulate removal up to 0.001 microns. These membrane filters are capable of removing chemicals (like chlorine and fluoride), as well as organic matter and salts from the water.
This is not a new principle. In fact, the basis of osmosis was first discovered in the 1700s. The University of California, Los Angles (UCLA) saw the potential for Reverse Osmosis as a method of desalination. In 1950 they began research into using Reverse Osmosis to remove salts from sea water. By the late 1970s, many municipalities started using reverse osmosis systems to purify their bulk water supplies.
How Does a Reverse Osmosis Filtration System Work?
A basic 3-stage Reverse Osmosis system has a water inlet that is connected to a series of filters. Shut off valves in the system allow for water to bypass certain filtration stages when necessary.
The first stage of any reverse osmosis system, is the pre-filter. This removes larger particles that could restrict the fine membrane Reverse Osmosis filter.
The second stage utilizes an active carbon filter which is used to remove harmful chemicals (like chlorine) that could damage the RO system.
This is followed by the Reverse Osmosis membrane filter which removes the fine contaminants in the water. The purified water is contained in a storage tank, ready for use at any time. The tank has an outlet that can supply a single faucet, or it can be connected to the whole house water supply.
Most RO systems have a waste water drain that dispels the contaminated water from the Reverse Osmosis filter.
This is the most basic type of reverse osmosis water purification system, referred to as a 3-stage Reverse Osmosis system. This system could use 3 individual filter cartridges (one for each stage) or a single 3-in-1 filter cartridge. Either filter type can be just as effective.
Many RO systems have more than just the three basic stages, with some advertised as 7-stage Reverse Osmosis systems. To clarify this, I’ll list all seven possible stages for a reverse osmosis system.
7 Stage Reverse Osmosis System
- 1Pre-filter removes sand, silt and other particles that can block the Reverse Osmosis system
- 2Carbon filter removes chemicals and VOCs
- 3Second Carbon filter for additional removal of chemicals and lime
- 4RO filter removes fine particles, metals and salts from the water
- 5Post storage carbon filters remove any contaminants that may have collected in the storage tank
- 6UV filter to removes bacteria from the water
- 7Remineralization replaces essential minerals lost during the filtration process and softens the water by adjusting the PH
These stages may not be exactly the same for all reverse osmosis systems. Some may use two Reverse Osmosis filters, and only one carbon filter. The remineralization stage may not always adjust the PH to soften the water.
Do you Need a Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System?
Most of us rely on a municipal water supply and we trust that this water is safe for drinking. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of the water supplied by municipalities. EPA regulations stipulate that all bulk water suppliers regularly test their water and make this information available to the users.
While municipal water may be deemed safe for use, many will add chemicals to disinfect the water, like chlorine. The use of Fluoride has been prohibited in some areas, but not all. So there may be chemicals in the water that can have adverse health implications. Even with regulations, there is no guarantee that the pipes delivering the water to your home are safe. In some older neighborhoods, lead pipes could still be used. Older galvanized pipes could contain rust and other contaminants that can enter the water supply in any number of ways. You can always use a test kit to determine what the water quality is at your faucet.
Private wells are not subject to any type of regulation. If your water is supplied from a well, you will not know what is in your water, unless you have it tested. Private laboratories or the CDC will test your private water supply for you.
Apart from the obvious health concerns, contaminants in the water can lead to blockages in your water pipes and may damage some appliances like water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers.
In most cases it is preferable to filter the water that you drink, use for bathing, or general cleaning. A water filter pitcher is probably the cheapest way to ensure that your drinking water is safe. Though they are not the best.
Water purification pitchers seldom offer a high level of filtration. They are also inconvenient, in that they hold a limited amount of water. When you refill the water pitcher, it takes a long time for the water to trickle through the filter. This is not ideal for a busy home where a lot of water is used. They are only suitable for drinking water and can’t supply your shower, bathtub, or washing machine.
Depending on the type of filters, and how many stages it uses, a reverse osmosis water filtration system will offer the following benefits:
In the end, reverse osmosis water filters are considered to be the best method of supplying pure, healthy water to your home.
Which Reverse Osmosis System Should You Buy?
Before buying a reverse osmosis system, you should assess your needs and, of course, your budget. When it comes to price, there could be a need to compromise. You may not be able to afford the ideal Reverse Osmosis system for your home. Though, by understanding what is important, you’ll know how to maximize your dollar when buying an RO system.
I’ve listed the stages of reverse osmosis, and this will affect the price. While multiple stages are great, you will usually pay more for reverse osmosis systems with more than three stages. If your budget is limited, rather opt for good quality 3-stage Reverse Osmosis filter. If a 7-stage Reverse Osmosis system seems to be unbelievably cheap, you have to ask yourself why. In my experience, the price you pay is always related to the general quality of the product.
It is all about what type of RO system is going to meet both your needs and budget. You also need to look at how the Reverse Osmosis system is installed. Some reverse osmosis systems are easy to install and remove. If you are renting, or don’t intend staying at the same place for too long, you want an RO system that doesn’t require any changes to the existing infrastructure.
A whole house Reverse Osmosis system is connected to the main water supply and will require changes to the plumbing in your home. Once installed, these RO systems are not easily removed. You should view these systems as a permanent installation.
Under sink reverse osmosis systems are aesthetically pleasing, in that the filters and tank are installed inside a cabinet and hidden from sight. Though these systems may require drilling through a countertop and will require a certain amount of alteration to the existing plumbing.
Above counter Reverse Osmosis filters are often the easiest to install. Some will come complete with universal kits that allow them to be connected directly to a faucet. This means no drilling or cutting. They can be removed easily and are generally quite portable. This may have some restrictions, like a smaller water tank or no water tank at all.
This may result in a restricted water flow with lower pressure. Though, in most cases, this will not be an inconvenience. It will depend on the water pressure supplied to your home.
Take a good look at the filters. Some are really easy to remove and refit. You will be changing your filters fairly regularly. So, filters that are easier to remove and refit, will be much more convenient. The price of the filters, and the expected lifespan, is also important. The best way to determine what your RO system is going to cost to run, would be to read reverse osmosis reviews on a trusted review site. A filter that is more expensive, but lasts longer, may be cheaper in the long run. It’s also a lot less hassle if you only need to change your filters once a year, instead of every three months. A warning light that notifies you when to change the filters is nice to have.
How much water is wasted can be an important factor, especially if you’re paying high water bills. Some RO systems use a lot of water to flush the system after every use. Others waste little or no water during the reverse osmosis process.
If you have low water pressure, like well water supplied form a gravity fed tank, you’ll probably need a reverse osmosis system with a booster pump. These pumps will increase the water pressure every time the Reverse Osmosis system is used. One consideration, is that these pumps can be quite noisy. Many under sink Reverse Osmosis systems, with a booster pump, are designed not to cause an inconvenience. This means using a booster pump that is relatively quiet.
RO systems can have no controls, some can be quite advanced. An automatic maintenance cycle can be a great advantage. Most RO systems will need to be completely flushed with clean water periodically. This keeps the tank and pipes in good condition and removes unwanted impurities that can collect in the system.
Some will do this automatically, others will require you to run a maintenance cycle when required. Generally, RO systems that don’t have an automated system, will have a warning light to inform you when you should run this maintenance cycle
Advanced reverse osmosis systems, that adjust the water PH, can have a number of settings for the alkaline quality of the water. The way this is done, can be quite confusing. Easy to follow PH guides on a touch panel are great. They allow you to adjust the perfect PH for varying applications, like washing, tea or coffee, cooking, and drinking. As one would expect, advanced electronic controls will be reserved for the more expensive reverse osmosis systems.
How to Install a Reverse Osmosis System
When considering the installation of an RO system, there are three types, with varying levels of installation ease:
There is no universal guide to installing a reverse osmosis system, so you will always need to consult the instruction manual for detailed instructions. Most Reverse Osmosis systems are designed for easy DIY installation. Push lock fittings with color coding make things much easier.
I’ll provide some installation tips for each type of RO system.
Installing a Whole House Reverse Osmosis System
Finding the best place to install your whole house Reverse Osmosis system is important. It needs to be connected to the main water supply to your home. This means that you will need to redirect the pipe that supplies your home through the RO system.
While you want the most convenient position for your whole house filtration system, with the least amount of extra plumbing, your system needs to be protected and you want easy access to the filters. A sheltered position, that doesn’t receive any direct sun is going to protect your RO system and prevent it from deterioration over time. If your Reverse Osmosis system requires an electrical connection, it needs be sheltered from direct exposure to rain or snow. A garage is often the ideal place for an RO system if it is close enough to the main water supply.
Before you install the system, calculate the pipes and fittings that you will need and make sure you have everything. You will need to shut off the main water supply before installing the Reverse Osmosis system. So you don’t want to find out, once you’ve started, that you need to rush off to the hardware store for additional fixtures. You should do as much drilling and mounting as possible before you shut off the water supply. This will minimize downtime in your home when there is no water.
Mount your filters in a position that is easy to access. You’ll appreciate this later when you need to replace the filters. Follow your instructions closely and install the pipes as recommended by the manufacturer.
Installing an Under Sink Reverse Osmosis System
Under sink Reverse Osmosis systems require the most planning because the space inside an under sink cabinet is limited. These systems usually have easy to follow instructions and kits to make it easier to install and understand. So the most important part is pre-planning your installation.
Take note of where you mount the filters, you want these to be of least obstruction in the cabinet, but easy to access when the filters need replacing. To one side of the cabinet, close to the door opening is usually the best position for the filters. The tank is usually quite large and you will probably want to install it at the back of the cabinet, out of the way. You won’t need to perform regular maintenance on the tank, so access to it is not that important.
When installing the PVC pipes that are supplied with the Reverse Osmosis system, make sure you keep them out of the way. Pipes that are obstructing normal use of the cabinet can be easily snagged and damaged. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions throughout the process.
Installing a Coutertop Reverse Osmosis System
There is no real complications to installing a countertop Reverse Osmosis system. You may have to drill holes for the filter rail, but this should be all the DIY skills need. You should have an adapter that directs water from the faucet to the RO system and a return pipe to the faucet.
These reverse osmosis systems may vary slightly, but the instruction manual should give a clear guide to the installation process.
Maintaining a Reverse Osmosis System
Basic maintenance of an Reverse Osmosis system is quite simple. You need to replace your filters as directed. This can be anything from three months to a year. It will depend on the amount of water that you use and the type of filter.
If your RO system requires that you run a maintenance flush cycle, you will need to do this in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Long term maintenance will entail replacing seals and plastic fittings. Though most quality RO systems will function perfectly for many years before this becomes necessary.
How Much Does a Reverse Osmosis System Cost?
A reverse osmosis system can cost as little as $120 (perhaps even less), while others can reach well over $1,000. If we’re talking about a whole house Reverse Osmosis system, installed by a professional, you’ll be looking at paying over a grand for a high-end system.
On the cheap end of the price range, (under $200), you can get some great quality reverse osmosis filters. These will usually be 3-stage Reverse Osmosis systems. Some have a faucet included in the kit and this will cost extra. If you’re wanting to spend $120 - $150 on an RO system, choose one that does not include a faucet. At this price, you will get an inferior faucet and the filter cartridges, as well as the pipes and fitting, are also likely to be second best. At the low end of the price spectrum, keep things basic.
The size of the RO system has a big impact on the price. Some reverse osmosis filters have 70-gallon tanks or bigger. These systems are not only bulky, they’re going to cost more. While it’s a good idea to match the gallon capacity to your needs, know that you’ll be paying more for a larger system.
Additional stages, especially UV filtration and remineralization, will be more expensive. Automation and fancy electronics also come at cost.
When considering your reverse osmosis costs, look carefully at how much the filters cost and how long they last. When you buy your reverse osmosis system, it’s a once off expense. Your filter cost is going to affect your budget for years to come. Sometimes, spending a few dollars more today, can save a lot more over time.
Why a Counter-Top Reverse Osmosis Filtration System?
If you’re renting a house or apartment, an under sink reverse osmosis system is probably out of the question. These Reverse Osmosis units require that you drill into the counter and install a separate faucet, you also need to make modifications to the existing plumbing. Most rental lease agreements prohibit these types of modifications. What about when you go on vacation? If you’re going to rent a vacation home or own an RV, it would be beneficial to have a portable RO system that you can take with you and is quick to install and remove.
For all these situations, a counter top reverse osmosis system provides the answer. You’ll install a counter top Reverse Osmosis syem in minutes. They have an adapter that connects to any standard faucet with a valve that you turn to redirect the water to the RO system. These are compact units that fit neatly onto any counter top and occupy minimal space. So a counter top Reverse Osmosis system is a very practical way to have pure drinking water wherever you go. It’s quick, simple and practical.
However, there are some limitations to using a counter top reverse osmosis system. For one thing, most don’t have a storage tank and you have to switch over the water supply manually. It’s a very simple procedure to turn the valve and direct the water to the Reverse Osmosis system filters, but you have to collect and store the water when you do this. This means storing your purified drinking water in bottles and jugs. You also can’t turn on the faucet to rinse your fruit and vegetables over the sink, like you can with a permanently installed Reverse Osmosis faucet. Some will have a storage tank with a built-in tap at the tank. Though these will obviously occupy more space and can be quite expensive.
When it comes to your routine maintenance, there’s a slight drawback in that the pre-filters used in counter top Reverse Osmosis systems are usually smaller. This means replacing these filters more regularly.
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