When it comes to filtering water throughout your house, you can attack this head-on using many different methods.
Here at Top Ten Water, we’ve investigated the full gamut of water filtration systems so you can determine which makes most sense for your home.
Here’s a glance at the varying water filtration set-ups we’ll be looking at:
- Counter Top (Faucet and Pitcher)
- Reverse Osmosis
- Under Sink
- Water Distillers
- Water Softeners
- Whole House
Types of Water Filtration System
We’ll limit ourselves here to giving you a very brief overview of each of the above methods of purifying and filtering your water.
Read on to see which makes most sense for you…
Counter top water filters can not only eliminate contaminants from your drinking water but also alkalinize that water bringing about even greater health benefits.
While these inexpensive filtration systems are labeled counter top, some are not especially small so make sure you’ve got the room to accommodate the model you have in mind. That said, these are still among the most compact filters so you can get a space-saver.
Counter top filtration can be cleaved into 2 categories:
As the name makes abundantly clear, this filter fits directly onto your faucet.
Efficient and easy to use, they make a common entry point for anyone not certain about committing to a more costly and wider-reaching whole house system.
While faucet filters do a great job of filtration, they won’t purify your water so know what you’re buying up front.
The difference between filtration and purification is significant. A filter can improve water quality by perhaps 20%. Water purification systems, on the other hand, need to remove a minimum of 95% of contaminants simply to earn their name.
If your water source is not contaminated, though, a water filter is more than fit for purpose.
These models have a cartridge filter. Firstly, sediment is removed as it hits a screen. As the remaining water enters an activated carbon block, a process called adsorption removes contaminants. The final stage involves chemical removal. Here, heavy metals, magnesium and calcium are stripped from the water along with any unpleasant odors.
Faucet filters will remove chlorine and microorganisms while also blocking heavy metals and, with no plastic used, make an eco-friendly water filtration solution.
Have you got a small and narrow counter top near the sink?
If so, a pitcher model gives you the option of locating the pitcher elsewhere rather than crowding out your workspace.
Water filter pitchers or jugs are extremely lightweight. They come with a filter cartridge integrated into the upper reservoir and as the unfiltered water runs down through this, it emerges into the lower chamber properly filtered.
Don’t be fooled by their diminutive size, water pitchers are highly effective at simple filtration removing a large chunk of contaminants at a cutthroat price.
Since these pitchers are made from plastic, make sure they’re free from BPA and other contaminants so you don’t end up introducing further health problems in the quest for for a cleaner water supply.
Extremely user-friendly, all you’ll need to do is swap out the filter every couple months.
Inline water filters are also known as under-counter water filters.
Functioning as part of your water supply, this type of filtration is normally added to the supply serving the main cold faucet water in the kitchen. Since they’re often fitted under the sink, this is where the alternative name comes into play.
One key benefit of this type of filtration is that it’s always on so there’s no need to activate it. Turning the tap is all that’s required for it to kick into gear.
Make sure you’ve got a compatible faucet if you’re looking into inline filtration.
Some inline filters can be used in line to the refrigerator so how do these work?
We’ll look at these right now
Many refrigerators comes with water taps but what do you do if your water supply just isn’t up to scratch?
There’s no point getting nicely chilled water if that water is unfit for purpose in the first place so that’s where another type of inline water filter, a refrigerator filter, comes fully to the fore.
Mounted in back of the fridge in line with your water source, a refrigerator filter generally consists of 3 distinct mediums to help treat low quality water:
- Mechanical Filter (Large): This first level of filtration gets rid of sediment and other larger debris along with any rust. Made from fiber or other porous material, the medium will trap bulkier contaminants and prevent them from making their way into the water you drink. Some of these larger filters can also see off some bacteria
- Mechanical Filter (Fine): With all the larger debris removed, bacteria and organic compounds are trapped by a finer secondary filter
- Activated Carob Filter: Arguably the most important component of this type of refrigerator filtration system, are trapped by the porous nooks and crannies in this medium. Chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) all fail to penetrate this final barrier
Do yourself a favor and consider a refrigerator filter if you want water with no chlorine, bacteria or viruses contaminating it.
And remember, while water containing chlorine doesn’t taste great, it could be a far more serious issue than that:
“Published reports have revealed increased risk of colorectal cancers in people exposed to chlorinated drinking water or chemical derivatives of chlorination.” – World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology (1)
These filtration systems come in many different variants so browse our collection of reviews to see which makes most sense in your kitchen.
The process of reverse osmosis can be used to purify water including:
- Waste water
- Tap water
- Salt water
- Brackish water
We should point out off the bat that reverse osmosis, often abbreviated to RO, has a poorly deserved reputation for being wasteful.
It’s true that when used to treat large quantities of sea water packed with salt and sediment, a great deal of water is wasted during the flushing process.
This scenario does not unfold when RO is used in the home, though. Not only is there far less waste but the technology is continually evolving so less water is needed to flush the reverse osmosis membrane.
That said, you can still expect waste of anywhere from 3 to 5 gallons of waste water for every 1 gallon that’s filtered.
A reverse osmosis system works effectively with water of pretty much any pH level. An RO system makes water very slightly more acidic. The result of this lowered pH level along with the minerals removed from the water gives the treated result a distinctive taste that might initially appear strange.
Standard household water pressure is used to force water through a semi-permeable membrane before it passes through a multi-stage filtration system.
If you can’t get used to this change in taste, you could consider remineralization to pop back in what you feel you’re missing.
Installation of RO systems varies from a straightforward DIY job at one end of the scale through to more complex systems that mean you’ll be calling in a contractor.
While reverse osmosis systems differ substantially from model to model, the best examples have up to 7 stages of filtration:
- Stage 1: The initial filter stops silt and dust along with other larger particles
- Stage 2: A primary carbon filter gets rid of bad tastes and smells while also eliminating chlorine
- Stage 3: If there’s a secondary carbon filter in place, this serves to remove any remaining odors and unpleasant tastes along with residual chlorine
- Stage 4: Reverse osmosis occurs here with a fine filter removing at least 95% of the remaining impurities like fluoride
- Stage 5: A polishing carbon filter at this stage stops the water in your reservoir from becoming stale
- Stage 6: The water is alkalized at this stage. Calcium and magnesium help to adjust the pH so it’s 7 or above
- Stage 7: UV rays at the seventh stage exterminate all germs and any remaining bacteria
Often 5 stages of filtration are enough so don’t panic if the model you’re looking at doesn’t come with the full 7 we’ve listed out.
By removing fully 99% of all contaminants, reverse osmosis can purify almost any source of water and it’s often considered overkill in the home.
There’s also the issue of the minerals being stripped away which is not to everyone’s taste.
If, though, you’re looking for completely safe and totally pure drinking water, the RO method is unimpeachable. You’ll enjoy the added bonus of removing dissolved solids from your water.
Maybe you’ve got hard water in your home and you’d like to improve the quality of the water you wash with cheaply and directly.
Hard water can dry out your skin and dull your hair
Fortunately, showerhead filters do a sterling job of solving this problem without too much outlay required.
Shower filters in general comes in 3 main variants:
- Showerhead filters
- Inline Shower Filters
- Inline and Showerhead Filters
The dedicated showerhead filters we’re talking about here look pretty much like a standard showerhead but with a little extra bulk.
Filter cartridges can be multi-level carbon filters, KDF (kinetic degradation fluxion) filters or vitamin C filters.
Depending on the type of filter, water can be pushed through as many as 12 different mediums.
If you’re using a whole house water filtration system, a showerhead filter is obviously unnecessary.
If, however, you don’t have one of these more robust systems in place, showerhead filters can make an affordable and effective approach to softening the water you bathe in.
The core purpose of an under sink water filter is to deliver water intended for cooking and drinking.
When you’re hunting for one of these models, more stages of filtration will naturally lead to purer water.
The purity of water is expressed in terms of TDS (total dissolved solids). The size of the filter is measured in terms of the size in microns of the contaminants it can screen.
Many under sink filters will feature the finest grade of filtration, reverse osmosis as outlined above. Short of using a water distiller – we’ll glance at those directly below – RO gets your water as pure as possible.
Under sink water filters vary dramatically in terms of size so make sure you take the space you have available into account before committing to purchase.
Using a water distiller is the arguably the most effective way to remove all contaminants along with all minerals from the water in your home.
The first thing you should look out for with one of these models is a tank constructed from sterile materials. While plastic tanks might be safe and free of BPA and other contaminants, they won’t be anywhere near as easy to clean as glass or stainless steel.
While the end result is exceptional, water distillers operate in a super-simple fashion. A distiller converts water into steam which is condensed back into water. This means you’ll need to give it a little time but the results are worthwhile.
If time is of the essence, pay close attention to the flow rate of the distillers you’re looking into. We’ll break that down for you so it’s clear to see in all the water distillers we review.
One piece of advice we give is always constant: buy the best product you can afford without overextending yourself. With water distillers in particular, the proximity of water and electricity means you shouldn’t stint looking for a cheap model since it will at best let you down and in the worst scenario cause an unpleasant accident.
Hard water is high in mineral content and presents a number of problems.
As well as impairing the taste of your water, minerals in the water supply lead to a build-up of scale which causes your pipework and appliances to deteriorate. Laundry is affected as well as the way in which detergent and soap reacts.
Water softeners are jumbo-sized tanks that look benign but serve to effectively remove all these damaging minerals giving you a superior drinking supply while also speeding up the time it takes your water to heat and delivering the other benefits outlined above.
The traditional water softener is salt-based. These systems used a process called ion exchange to replace hard water minerals with sodium. This can impact the taste of your water so you might consider using a water filter in tandem with a softener.
Salt-based water softeners are highly effective, especially when mineral levels are elevated, but you’ll need to regularly replenish the salt meaning they’re relatively high maintenance.
A salt-free water softener is also known as a water conditioner.
Rather than completely eliminating minerals, a process known as crystallization prevents them from sticking to the surface of pipework and other materials.
Lower maintenance and environmentally-friendly, this type of water softener is sadly not as effective as a traditional salt-based system.
As the name makes plain, a whole house water filtration system ensures that water throughout your home is devoid of impurities.
Standard whole house systems need filters swapping out every 6 months or so.
With a heavy-duty system, you can expect from 5 to 10 years of set-and-forget usage. This type of system is sometimes referred to as a carbon tank model.
When you’re looking at the capacity of whole house water filters, the number expressed relates not to the size of the unit but to how many gallons of water can be treated. That said, the larger this number, the larger the system. The larger systems can deal with up to 1 million gallons of water.
Think closely about the amount of space you’ll need for this type of system and make certain you’ve got room to accommodate the tanks.
The flow rate of these systems generally ranges from 15 GPM (gallons per minute) through to 20 GPM and above. The higher the flow rate, the greater the chance of steady water pressure at all times.
The majority of whole house water filter systems can filter down to a size of 5 microns. If you’re looking for purer water then look at a reverse osmosis system as outlined above.
Don’t panic, though. A whole house water is capable of eliminating all types of contaminants including chlorine so check out the comprehensive selection of models we review and decide if this is the most appropriate solution for filtering the water in your home.