Selecting the right water filter for a home can be a daunting task. Read on to find out what you need to know to determine which system is right for you and improve your water quality.
Hazardous contaminants are becoming increasingly common in tap water. They can be chemical elements like lead, arsenic, radon, nitrates, or organic, like E. Coli bacteria. An alternative to tap water is bottled water, which, although advertised as natural and safe, is actually less regulated by the Department of Water than the municipal tap water supply. What is more, some of the new pollutants are not regulated and can be legally present in your drinking water.
Home water filtering technologies have been around for some time now, and they are constantly improving, removing more and more contaminants with each generation. They have become easy to install and simple to maintain.
Removing chemicals and sediments from your tap water became convenient as turning the tap on. They range from simple and inexpensive pitchers to whole-house systems. They have also become fitted with sensors that indicate malfunction or signal for replacement of the cartridge.
What To Look For In Water Filter
Before choosing the right water filter option for your family’s needs, it’s important to determine what contaminants are polluting your water supply so you can tackle the problem in the most efficient way. Manufacturers list the contaminants that their product removes, and usually, those which they do not, so read the manuals and ratings carefully.
Buy only water filter products that are certified by an official water testing agency. Consider your need. Try to weigh how much water you spend and how much effort are you ready to put into the water filtering. For example, if your household uses several gallons a day, a pitcher-style filter would need constant refilling, etc.
Types of Water Filters
They are usually equipped with a carbon filter that removes lead and chlorine, mercury, and disinfection byproducts but also improves the taste. They are convenient, as they can be kept in refrigerators and come in various styles and sizes.
There is a wide range of models, so choose wisely, and the price is usually determined by the quality. On the other hand, depending on the model, these might require frequent cartridge changes. And as a result, if the cartridges are changed regularly, these filters may turn the annual cost of faucet-mounted filters, which are considered better and faster options.
A pitcher-style water filter is ideal for one or two people.
Relatively inexpensive and easy to install, these filters are ideal for filtering cooking and drinking water. Another convenient feature is that they can be pivoted to an “on” or “off” position, allowing to switch between filtered and non-filtered water.
This type typically uses activated carbon filters which successfully remove a wide range of contaminants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but less effectively components like arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate and perchlorate.
The downside is the slower water flow and that they don’t fit all the faucets. Filter cartridges must be changed more often than with countertop or under-sink filters.
They were sitting on a counter with a line connecting it to the faucet. Like faucet-mounted types, they allow for switching between filtered and non-filtered water and are ideal for kitchen applications. They can filter large amounts of water without plumbing modifications and need relatively infrequent cartridge changes.
These models use a wide array of filtering technologies, including activated carbon and reverse osmosis. However, they can be much more expensive than pitchers and faucet-mounted filters.
Unlike countertop systems, these require fixed installation and sometimes plumbing modifications. The good sides are that they don’t cramp the counter area, being hidden under the sink, and like countertops, they can also filter large amounts of water and don’t require a lot of maintenance.
These models use a wide array of filtering technologies, including activated carbon and reverse osmosis. They are ideal for kitchen use.
These systems require plumbing changes, but not at the sink or faucet. They are an inexpensive way to remove sediments, rust and chlorine, but not typically other contaminants like cysts, metals and volatile organic compounds. They have a long cartridge life.
The Latest Water Filtering Technologies
Distillers are the least practical and least effective water improving methods. They consume a lot of electricity, generate excess heat and need regular cleaning.
Basically, they heat water in order to vaporize it and collect the condensed steam. They remove heavy metals, sediments, bacteria and viruses, and fluoride but cannot remove chlorine, trihalomethanes or volatile organic compounds.
Reverse-osmosis units push consist of a semipermeable membrane that filters particles larger than water molecules. This process can remove many impurities not removed by activated carbon, like arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrates and perchlorate.
In a recent conversation with highly-rated suppliers of reverse osmosis filter systems, I discovered that many units include an activated carbon component that removes the other contaminants. Price/quality considered, these compound systems are the most effective water filters for house applications.
However, it’s advised that they are used for drinking and cooking water only, as they waste 4 or 9 times more water than they produce.
Carbon filters utilize activated carbon which bonds with contaminants in the water, neutralizing them in the process. They effectively remove lead, PCBs, chlorine byproducts (chloramines and trihalomethanes), certain parasites, radon, pesticides and herbicides, the gasoline additive MTBE, the dry-cleaning solvent trichloroethylene, some volatile organic compounds, some levels of bacteria (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia) and a small number of pharmaceuticals.
Their effectiveness can vary depending on the type and how fast water flows through the filter. The subtypes are carbon block filters and granulated active carbon filters.
Ultraviolet light (UV), like distillation, cannot be considered a filtering method. What it does is disinfect water by using UV light to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. As they cannot remove chemical contaminants, experts advise using them in conjunction with activated carbon filters. They usually come as countertop units.
No water filtering system can remove all contaminants, as the list of potentially hazardous chemicals is growing. I have tried to summarize the most common filter types, technologies they use and contaminants they are designed to absorb. Not every filter of the same type will be as efficient as another, but I hope that you can make a difference and consider the good and bad sides of every system. The most important thing is that you know your water and choose the filter unit accordingly.
Having a water filter is something every household should consider. Finding the best water filter for your home might take a bit of research, but it is well worth it, as having clean water to drink is critical to your good health.