If you’re like most people, you want the very best for your home and your family. This includes consistent, easy access to good quality water to drink, bathe in, and cook with. As modern concerns continue to grow over the quality of tap water, more and more people are looking into getting a water filtration system for their home or business. They’re also right to do so.
The benefits of filtering your water are numerous. Filtration can remove multiple impurities from tap water up, to and including heavy metals like lead or mercury, potentially dangerous microorganisms, and trace pharmaceuticals. It also drastically improves the taste of your water. It’s economical, convenient, and representative of a good investment in your family’s health as well.
However, knowing you’re ready to get serious about improving the quality of your water with a filtration system is simple. Actually making sense of your choices and settling on an option that will meet all of your needs is another. Here we’ll go over everything you need to know about buying, evaluating, and using a water filter today.
Point of Entry vs. Point of Use: What’s the Difference?
If you’ve already spent any amount of time looking into your water filter choices, you’ve probably noticed there are two basic types to consider: point of entry (POE) and point of use (POU). Determining which one is right for you will be your first decision when it comes to evaluating your water needs.
Point of Entry (POE)
POE filtration systems are installed at the point where your water enters your home – at the main water line. (In most homes, that point will usually be located in the garage, although there are exceptions.) The most common placement for a POE water system is just in front of the water heater.
This allows for the seamless delivery of clean, purified water of any temperature to every single tap in the house. You’ll have filtered water not only for drinking but for showering and doing laundry as well. Even your toilets and dishwasher will be powered by purified water. For this reason, point of entry systems are also often called “whole house water filters”
The average POE water system is capable of handling massive volumes of water – up to several thousand gallons each day. They’re also incredibly versatile and can make use of a variety of different media beds and filter cartridges. Last, but certainly not least, POE filters are incredibly low maintenance and only need to be replaced every 5-7 years.
A point of entry system may be right for you if you want a powerful filtration solution that you don’t have to constantly maintain. It’s also the best way to gain continuous access to near limitless supplies of filtered water. However, it may not be for you if you’re looking for the finest, most pristine quality drinking water.
Point of Use (POU)
Like point of entry systems, point of use systems are almost exactly what they sound like. They are systems that are installed at a single water connection. (Common locations are bathroom faucets, underneath kitchen sinks, and so forth.) Some POU systems can be distributed to more than one outlet, but, generally speaking, they are low-volume solutions best suited for light use.
Point of use water filtration systems come in a wide variety of types and styles. There are models designed to fit underneath your counter or sink. There are reverse osmosis systems that sit on your countertop, sediment filters, refrigerator filters, and carbon faucet filters.
The life of your POU filter will depend largely on the type and size of the system. Some need to be replaced every 3-6 months while others can last up to a year or more. Good-quality POU filters are definitely capable of producing high-quality drinking water, but reverse osmosis filters are probably the most effective. They remove up to 99% of all possible water contaminants via advanced hyperfiltration membrane technology.
It’s also worth noting that you only have to choose between POE and POU filtration systems if you truly want only one or the other. Many households and businesses are looking for the best of both worlds and install a combination of both filter types.
For instance, they’ll have a whole house POE system installed and possibly also a POE water softening system to cut down on scale buildup. They’ll then install additional POU reverse osmosis filters in the kitchen so that they have reliable access to extra-pure water for cooking, drinking, and washing up.
Point of Use Filtration: A Closer Look at Your Options
Although point of entry filtration systems definitely have their benefits, they’re not a viable solution for everyone. They are best suited for business owners and homeowners that are ready to make a long-term investment in the quality of their water and need to be able to purify large amounts every single day.
Others don’t own their homes, don’t have it in the budget to spring for a POE system, or really just want access to better water for daily drinking purposes. For that reason, point of use filters are the most common and popular choices. They also come in a number of different options. Let’s take a closer look at some of the possibilities, as well as discuss the pros and cons of each.
Faucet Water Filters
Also sometimes called tap filters, faucet-mounted filters attach externally to your kitchen or bathroom faucet. They work by forcing your water through activated charcoal filters which are capable of reducing the amount of chlorine in your water, as well as drastically improving taste and smell. Some filters can also remove lead.
Faucet water filters are inexpensive and easy to install. (All you do is unscrew your faucet’s aerator and replace it with the filter.) However, they are small, and it can take a while for the water to successfully move through the filter, so they’re somewhat limited when it comes to efficiency. Most are also not capable of removing microorganisms from the water.
Lastly, faucet filters are capable of processing about 100 gallons of water before they need to be replaced.
Carafe Water Filters
If you’ve ever personally owned a Brita water pitcher or anything similar, then you’re already familiar with this type of filter. Water is poured into a tank at the top of the carafe and then slowly works its way through an activated charcoal filter similar to those found in faucet filters.
Carafes are inexpensive, but they are best suited to meeting the drinking needs of only one or two people. Some carafe filters are also prone to clogging and require frequent filter changes. Like faucet filters, carafe filters aren’t really capable of removing contaminants like toxic heavy metals, microorganisms, or fluoride from the water. Because of their small volume, they’re really not practical solutions for cooking, either.
Countertop and Under Counter Water Filters
Both countertop and under counter water filters are small systems that sit right next to your kitchen or bathroom sink and connect to the incoming cold water line. Some models are even more compact and can be installed underneath the sink.
This type of filtration system is capable of processing a lot more water than either a carafe or faucet water filter – up to 450-1,500 gallons. They also remove more of the contaminants that are commonly found in tap water, including chlorine, lead, mercury, bio-cysts, and much more. Some select models can also remove microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Both countertop and under counter filters are relatively affordable, as well as easy to install and use. However, they are still strictly point of use filters, so you’ll need more than one if you want purified water from more than one sink.
Reverse Osmosis Filters
Reverse osmosis (RO) filtration systems are generally considered the best possible choice if you’re looking for the highest possible quality when it comes to your drinking water. RO filters work by forcing incoming water through a semi-permeable membrane. Since the majority of the contaminants found in tap water are larger than the water molecules, they are unable to pass through the membrane.
Although RO filters definitely produce the purest, best-tasting water compared to many of the alternatives, they’re not without their drawbacks. To begin with, RO systems do produce waste water, as the retained contaminants do need to be flushed away from the membrane every so often.
It could also be argued that reverse osmosis systems are too good at filtering water. In addition to nasty contaminants you don’t want in your water, they can also filter out beneficial elements you do want. (Calcium and magnesium are good examples.) However, some RO filters do include additional carbon mineral filters that help to replace some of these essential minerals before the water is consumed.
Refrigerator Water Filters
Quite a few modern refrigerators come complete with a built-in water filter that’s capable of eliminating many well-known impurities from water. These include chlorine, volatile organic compounds, and numerous man-made chemicals. Some refrigerator filters can also reduce lead, and a select few (like GE’s SmartWater filter) can eliminate pharmaceuticals as well.
Refrigerator water filters are definitely convenient ways to maintain constant access to not only filtered water but ice as well. However, they are also relatively small, so there are limits to their effectiveness. To begin with, they can clog quickly and need to be replaced frequently.
Shower Water Filters
If you can’t quite see your way clear to installing a whole house water filter at this point in time, you can still upgrade the quality of your shower water with one of these. Shower filters are capable of removing chlorine and chloramines, both of which can damage your hair and skin.
Many people decide to combine a shower filter with a faucet filter or in-line filter to maximize the health benefits associated with filtration.
What to Consider When Choosing a Water Filter
Now that you have a better idea what types of water filters are out there, it’s time to determine which one will best suit your lifestyle. The following are all good points to consider during the selection process.
Sit down and think about your needs, as far as how you need to be able to use your filtered water. If all you want is clean drinking water to serve one or two people’s daily needs, a carafe filter might be fine. However, a larger family or a household that needs to be able to cook with their filtered water as well should upgrade to at least a faucet filter instead.
Contaminants in Your Water
The types of contaminants found in drinking water can vary greatly from region to region or even from house to house. That said, you’ll want to find out what exact impurities are present in yours.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires water companies to issue a consumer confidence report every year that addresses the quality of the water supply in their area. These reports can usually be found on your local government website or in the local newspaper. However, you can also elect to have the water tested yourself. Call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for a list of certified testing labs. Alternatively, you can visit their website for additional information.
Once you’re in the know as to what’s really in your water, you may find that your water isn’t terribly contaminated at all. In that case, you’ll mostly want a filter to improve the taste of your drinking water and remove common impurities like chlorine, in which case a simple faucet filter or in-line filter will be fine. However, if you discover your water is very contaminated with a lot of unsavory elements, you really might want to think about cleaning all of your household’s water via a whole house system after all.
Whatever type of filter you decide is right for you, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a good quality item. Always buy from solid brand names that are well-known for producing good quality products. You’ll also want to make sure your filter is certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for best results.
Last, but not least, always buy your filter of choice from a trusted merchant like Water Filters Fast. You want a company that will stand behind its products, offer you value pricing, and provide you with world class customer service. Get started today!