Most people simply take it for granted that their water is 100% safe and healthy, but they really shouldn’t. Pretty much all municipal water contains one form of contamination or another – this could include pesticides, lead, arsenic, bacteria and even trace amounts of certain pharmaceuticals. If you’re not already filtering your household’s drinking water, you can’t trust that it’s really safe for your family to drink.
That said, if you’re wanting to make the switch to filtered water, you should be congratulated on a wonderful and wise decision. However, knowing you’re ready to install water filters in your home is one thing. Knowing which of the many options out there on the market might be right for you is another.
Here we’ll go over everything you need to know about water filters to make an informed choice that you and your family will be happy with for many years to come.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I NEED IN A WATER FILTER?
Today’s water filters are far from one-size-fits-all. There are filters of all different sizes that are designed for all sorts of home and families. They cover a wide range of price ranges and style,s as well.
For that reason, it’s important that you consider all the variables before you decide on an option. The following are among the most important.
YOUR WATER CONSUMPTION REQUIREMENTS
Start by considering how water is and isn’t used in your household. Do you have a large family or is it just you and your spouse? Do you do a lot of cooking or have a lot of people over socially? Are you mostly interested in having filtered water for drinking and cooking purposes, or do you want to be able to bathe and launder your clothes using filtered water, as well?
If you’re simply hoping to generate enough filtered water to provide a few people with daily drinking water, an option like a faucet water filter, a refrigerator filter or a simple under-the-sink filter will probably be sufficient. There are lots of options available, though, up to and including large water filters that are capable of filtering every drop of water that comes into your home for any purpose.
KNOWN WATER CONTAMINANTS
As touched on above, the average supply of tap water can be pretty heavily contaminated by a variety of substances. However, the exact type of contaminants present can vary drastically from area to area or even from home to home. Not all water filters were designed to deal with the same ones, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with before you buy.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to provide consumers with an annual report that addresses what’s in their water. You can find these reports published on your local government website. You can also take matters into your own hands and elect to test your water yourself.
Once you know what kind of situation you’re dealing with, you can make sure the filter you’re investing in is actually capable of doing the job you need it to do. You may find out that your water isn’t that heavily contaminated at all, meaning almost any water filter will be sufficient for purifying your water and improving its taste or smell.
Alternatively, you may find out your water is very contaminated with a lot of harmful compounds you never would have guessed were there. If that’s the case, don’t panic.
Now that you know about the situation, you can address it. You just may want to consider a more serious solution that purifies the water supply for your entire home (i.e. a whole house water filter).
POINT OF ENTRY (POE) VS POINT OF USE (POU)
Each of the options you’ll have to choose from for water filters for your home will be either point of entry (POE) or point of use (POU). The difference between the two has to do with where and how they’re installed.
POE systems are installed at the point where water enters your home or property, meaning it’s installed at the water main. Any whole house system is going to be a POE filter for that reason.
POU systems, on the other hand, are installed at the point where you actually access the water – usually a single faucet, sink or other connection, like your fridge. POU systems come attached to many benefits. They’re affordable, easy to install, convenient and very good at producing delicious water that’s perfect for drinking.
However, they’re limited as far as the sheer amount of water they can accommodate. For this reason, POU systems are best for households that mostly want to use filtered water for drinking and cooking.
POE systems can handle near limitless quantities of water. They’re also low-maintenance and only need to be replaced every few years. However, they’re generally not as good as POU filters when it comes to generating pristinely filtered water for drinking.
Of course, you can always elect to combine the two! Many consumers like knowing all the bases are covered and choose to install fridge filters or under-the-sink filters to further purify the water that comes through their whole house filter.
BUDGET, QUALITY AND VALUE
You can’t put a price on something like the quality and safety of the water you’re giving your children to drink, but you’ll still need to decide up front how much you’re willing to invest in a filtration solution for your household. Water filters are all over the board when it comes to price range.
Simple systems like carafe-style water pitchers, faucet water filters and refrigerator filters are actually pretty inexpensive, with most costing well less than $100. A system that’s capable of filtering larger amounts of water or that is more sophisticated as far as the technology can cost several hundred dollars or more, depending on what you choose.
At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong choices as far as a water filter for your home. It’s all about figuring out which of the many options out there is right for you, your family and your household’s unique set of needs.
WHAT TYPES OF WATER FILTERS ARE THERE?
Once you’ve determined what you need, want and expect from a water filter, it’s time to start making sense of the different types and styles out there. Here we’ll go over the benefits of each.
FAUCET WATER FILTERS
Faucet filters are among the most popular water filtration solutions and with good reason. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and effective when it comes to providing you with plenty of clean, safe water that’s ideal for drinking, cooking, rinsing produce and so forth. They’re also capable of meeting the needs of the average household.
They work using the same technology most water filters use – a filter that contains activated charcoal. When the water is forced through it, a variety of common contaminants are prevented from passing through, including chlorine, sediment and (in some cases) lead. Most faucet water filters need to be replaced after they’ve processed around 100 gallons of water.
If your household is equipped with a modern, up-to-date fridge, the chances are pretty good that it is capable of filtering and generating good quality drinking water. In that case, a refrigerator filter may be a good fit for your family’s needs.
Most fridge filters can successfully rid your water of unwanted compounds like chlorine and man-made chemicals. There are also quite a few capable of removing heavy metals like lead or mercury.
This type of filter is a good fit for people that love being able to get ready-to-use, filtered drinking water and iceright from their fridge. If you choose an advanced option like GE’s SmartWater filter, fridge filters are even capable of removing pharmaceuticals and other hard to tackle contaminants. However, their small size means they do need to be replaced frequently to avoid clogging.
COUNTERTOP WATER FILTERS
Some families love the convenience, accessibility and efficiency a faucet filter brings to the table, but aren’t so crazy about the limitations as far as water volume. In cases like those, a countertop water filter is often an excellent fit, as they’re capable of processing significantly more water – between 450-1,500 gallons on average. Some are even able to remove more different contaminants than your average faucet filter, with examples including microorganisms, bio-cysts and heavy metals.
Countertop filters are relatively easy to install, as well as affordable on the average budget. You do, however, need at least some available counter space next to the sink where it will be installed, so they may not be the best fit for super small kitchens.
UNDER-THE-SINK WATER FILTERS
This type of filter is very similar to the countertop variety as far as performance, convenience and capacity. However, they fit underneath your sink instead of taking up space on your countertop. All you need to do is make sure there’s adequate room underneath your sink to accommodate the tanks, attachment system and so forth.
REVERSE OSMOSIS FILTERS
If you’re looking for an option that will provide you with the best possible quality when it comes to your drinking water, a reverse osmosis (RO) filter is probably what you want. While most other water filters work by forcing the water through an activated charcoal filter that traps contaminants, RO filters use a semi-permeable membrane instead. Such membranes are capable of removing pretty much anything that might be in your water, as most contaminants consist of molecules that are too big to pass through it.
Even so, it’s worth noting that reverse osmosis filters may be too good at filtering your water. In addition to removing contaminants, they also remove commonly found nutrients like magnesium and calcium, as well. If this is a concern for you, consider purchasing a RO filter that also comes equipped with an additional carbon mineral filter to help replace some of those minerals before consumption.
WHOLE HOUSE FILTERS
As touched on above, this type of filter is installed at your water main, usually just in front of your water heater. Since it’s located at the point your municipal water enters your home, all of it winds up filtered. This includes the water that you bathe in, use for your laundry and count on to fill your toilets.
A whole house filter might be a good choice for you if you’re interested in an effective system that doesn’t require your constant attention. While most other water filters need to be replaced every couple of months, the average whole house filter lasts about 5-7 years. It’s also a good choice for locations with highly contaminated water supplies.
SURVIVAL WATER FILTERS
There are even water filters available for actual survival or emergency purposes. Some work by leveraging the forces of gravity to pull water through an activated charcoal filter, similar to the ones found in other household water filters. Others rely on a pump powered either by batteries or good old-fashioned elbow grease.
While this type of filter wouldn’t be appropriate for your everyday water filtration needs, it is an option worth keeping on hand in case of emergency. Store it along with purifying tablets, emergency rations and extra medical supplies in your tornado cellar, garage or bunker. Survival water filters are also fantastic for taking on camping trips or extended excursions in the woods to ensure you’ll always have access to safe, drinkable water.
Always buy your water filters from solid brands and trusted retailers that place a high premium on concepts like quality, integrity and value. Also, choose water filters certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) whenever possible. You’ll love the difference they make in the taste, smell and quality of your water!