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Comparing Water Filters: What’s Right for Your Home

Anyone who has even briefly considered purchasing a water treatment system knows there are a huge variety of systems available on the market with a number of different recommended applications. It may be confusing to know which system will be best for your home and your particular needs, especially when budget matters limit your choices. To help you navigate the somewhat complicated world of home water filtration and make the best choice for your needs, here is a brief guide to some of the most common types of water filters with an overview of their particular advantages, drawbacks, and specifications.

 

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Pitcher Filtration Systems

 

Pitcher water filters are typically the lowest cost and most widely available water treatment systems. They generally use an activated carbon filter media to target chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead, and other chemical contaminants. Two of the primary advantages of a pitcher filter are its ease of installation and its portability, making it an ideal system for apartment dwellers, frequent travelers, or others who need a quick and easy source of filtered water without any required modifications to the home’s plumbing system. Some of the disadvantages are the relatively frequent filter replacement times (filters are typically replaced every two months for most brands) and the small size of the filter media, which limits the number and percentage of contaminants a pitcher filter can remove.

Faucet-Mounted / Countertop Filters

After pitcher filters, faucet-mounted and/or countertop water filters are generally the next lowest in price, although the brand name and size of the filter can greatly influence the price of the unit. Similar to pitcher filters, countertop and faucet-mount filters typically use activated carbon for chemical contaminant removal. Some, but not all countertop water filters, utilize additional filter media for the targeting of specific contaminants like lead, heavy metals, or fluoride. The filter media used in countertop and faucet-mounted filters is typically larger than in pitcher filters, allowing for greater contaminant removal and higher quality filtration. Some systems may require minor plumbing modifications for installation, but these systems are usually quite simple to install and still relatively portable. While cartridges for countertop filters typically have a longer replacement frequency, some brands still may recommend filter replacements as frequently as every two months.

Refrigerator Filters
Refrigerator filters are typically low in cost and have the specific advantage of providing cool filtered water and ice straight from the refrigerator door. The installation usually requires some sort of cut into the water line running to the refrigerator, but most new refrigerator models already provide a filtration option built into their units. Refrigerator filters generally used activated carbon filter media to target chlorine, VOCs, and other chemicals, and offer contaminant removal levels similar to mid-range countertop water filters. They are ideal for homeowners who have a water line for providing cool water and ice from their refrigerator, and are a simple solution for quick, filtered water with no space taken up on the countertop or kitchen faucet.
Under-sink and Inline Filter
Under-sink and inline filters are generally the most expensive systems in the drinking water filter category and also involve the most complicated installation, but they usually provide higher quality filtration and have the added bonus of taking up no room on the countertop or in the refrigerator. Under-sink filters can be constructed from a wide variety of filtration media and also include reverse osmosis treatment systems. Filters made solely with ceramic or carbon elements are designed primarily for chlorine, heavy metal, and chemical removal, while reverse osmosis treatment systems attack hard water minerals, totally dissolved solids (TDS), bacteria, and viruses. Most reverse osmosis systems will also include a carbon post-filter for the removal of chlorine from the water. Under-sink filtration systems typically require the installation of an additional dedicated filter faucet on the counter-top, while inline systems provide filtered water directly to the standard kitchen faucet line. Replacement filter costs are similar to those for higher-end countertop filtration units. Besides greater initial cost and installation, the primary drawback to non-carbon based treatment systems is the amount of wastewater produced. A typical reverse osmosis system will waste 2-3 gallons of water for every gallon of purified water it produces.
Shower Filters
Shower filters are a newer innovation in filtration technology that many people may not consider when purchasing home filtration products. They can vary widely in price, depending on the brand and model of the system, but are generally less than $100. Most shower filters use a carbon filtration media for chlorine and chemical reduction in addition to KDF or some other type of media designed for heavy metal reduction. Most shower filters are simple to install and relatively portable, requiring little modification to the household plumbing. Because they must filter hot water and at a relatively high speed, shower filters are generally not as effective in contaminant reduction levels as drinking water filters, but they provide a simple filtration solution for those who cannot or do not wish to purchase a whole house treatment system but still desire filtered water in the shower for healthier skin and hair.
Whole House Water Filters
Whole house water filters are typically the largest filtration units that can be purchased for residential properties. They are installed at the point of the water’s entry into the house and treat water reaching every outlet. Prices vary according to the brand and overall lifetime of the unit, but whole house water filters are generally quite high in price and require installation by a licensed professional. They can use a variety of filtration media and most use several different stages of filtration for greater levels of contaminant removal. Whole house water filters are typically designed to remove chlorine, VOCs, heavy metals, other chemicals, and sometimes hard water minerals from water. They are generally quite efficient and effective and have the advantage of treating all of the water in the house from one point. The primary disadvantages of a whole house unit are the high price, installation requirements, and the possibility of water contaminants being reintroduced into the water after is has already been treated. The units are usually quite large and are best purchased by homeowners or other long-term residents of a property.
Water Softeners
As opposed to the systems above, water softeners are generally designed for the protection of household plumbing and appliances rather than the production of healthier drinking water. Traditional water softeners use a salt-based resin to attract hard water minerals like iron, calcium, and manganese and remove them from the household water supply before they can cause scaling and hard water buildup. Water softening units range in price but typically cost somewhere between $500.00 and $1000.00 for the initial unit. After the initial cost, the system is relatively inexpensive to maintain with regular salt replacement. Some of the primary drawbacks of a water softening system are the addition of salt to the household water and a somewhat costly installation process. Because water softeners do not remove any chemical contaminants from the water, they are occasionally used in conjunction with a whole house filter or other drinking water filter for the removal of chlorine and other chemicals. Water softeners are difficult to move and are generally recommended for stable homeowners with a high level of hard water minerals in their water.

While each of the above water treatment systems includes both advantages and drawbacks, any one of the filters (or a combination of more than one) will help produce cleaner, purer water for a healthier home environment.

 

 

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Comparing Water Filters: What’s Right for Your Home:  Created on September 12th, 2010.  Last Modified on March 11th, 2014

 

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About Rose Baron

Rose Baron is a freelance writer for AllFilters.com, an online home filtration store. She has more than seven years of experience writing, researching, and working in the home filtration industry with a specialty in home water treatment and has contributed several articles to major industry publications.

 

 

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