Having clean drinking water in your house is important and you shouldn't have to buy gallons of bottled water to get it. There are plenty of refrigerators that come with water filters and dispensers, so if you have one of those models you don't necessarily need a water filter beyond it. If, however, you don't have a fridge with a water dispenser, consider the options for getting filtered water at your house. There are 6 ways to achieve this - carafes, faucet mounted filters, countertop models, undersink systems, reverse osmosis filters, and whole house systems that cost the most. Why do you need a water filter in the first place? Keep reading below to find out why and how to get clean drinking water if your water is contaminated.
You should find out what is in your tap water at home. I get a yearly report from the city I live in that is a general readout of contaminants found in the drinking water sources. The Consumer Confidence Report, as it is called, is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Homeowners that rely on a private well to supply their water need to get their water tested independently. You might be surprised to find out that your city fails in several areas of water quality based on federal guidelines. Our city in Oregon had higher levels of lead than were considered safe and even traces of chlorine. Buying a water filter for your home is one way to fight off the low quality of water that may be entering your home through the pipes. Some filters are better than others at removing contaminants so you should investigate each type to find out which one fits your needs best. A carafe is the cheapest way to go with most costing between $15 and $50. They are great for filtering out small amounts of drinking water and require little effort on your part. The drawbacks to carafes are that they are slow, don't remove bad tastes, and can clog. Filter replacements can really eat up your cash as many require $50 to $100 a year in cartridge replacements. If you need to process even more water on a daily basis than a carafe will do, the next logical option is a faucet mounted filter system that is easy to install and lets you quickly go from unfiltered to filtered water. You will find the flow of water from the faucet is slowed down, but you will get clean drinking and cooking water. Be sure to make sure you faucet style/type will fit the filter you buy (not all fit). Price on these are $20 to $60 and filters cost about $40 to $90/year to replace. A countertop water filter works best for those requiring lots of water to be filtered daily. The cost is anywhere from $50 to $300 and filter replacements will run you $20 to $175 a year. Countertop models don't clog as often as the faucet mounted or carafe styles and you can install them without any kind of plumbing modification. The unit will sit on your countertop which some people find "ugly" looking. If you don't like the clutter of a countertop model, go with the undersink water filters that do require plumbing work, but go in your cabinet and are out of sight. You will have to have a whole drilled through the countertop or sink area to accommodate the dispenser tube. Prices on these units go from $55 to $350. The reverse osmosis system is probably the top rated unit for removing things in your water supply, but the method is slow and creates lots of waste water just to get 1 gallon of filtered water. It will take up much more cabinet space than the undersink style as well and costs start at $160 and work up to almost $500. Yearly fees to maintain these can run up to $100 or more. Whole house filters are not nearly as expensive as you might think ($50) but it's the plumbing work required to set them up that might cost a lot. Yearly filter costs are very reasonable at about $25 but they are not as reliable at removing lead, chlorine, and bad tastes as other types. Some units have a filter life indicator light that comes on which really helps you to stay on top of replacements. If the unit you purchase doesn't have this option, you will need to estimate your monthly usage in water (gallons) and then switch out the filter/cartridge per the manufacturers usage guidelines. We found reviews online at Waterfiltercomparisons.com comparing the top water filter brands like Pur, Culligan, Kenmore, GE, EverPure, Aqua Pure, Brita, Shaklee, Whirlpool, and Aquasana. Consumer Reports (CR) also did a report on 27 of the leading water filter products on the market in 2007 which tested them for lead removal, chloroform removal, flow rate, clogging, bad-taste removal, and if they had filter-life indicators. Other reviews are done by Good Housekeeping, Health magazine, and Mother Earth News. If you are considering getting a whole house unit installed, check out the best site we could find for ratings and comparisons HERE. If you think bottled water is better for you or cheaper, consider that many bottled water companies just take tap water and filter it before putting it in their plastic bottles that end up in landfills contaminating the earth. See the "top picks" below in each category. See the entire list of top rated water filter systems on Amazon here.
Carafe Water Filter:
If removing contaminants is what you are all about, the Pur Ultimate CR-900 ($25) does the best in these pitcher type water filters. However, it does clog more often than the Brita or Skaklee which means you will have problems down the road. Unfortunately none of the carafe water filters that we found tests on did much better than the others. All products in tests did not do very well at removing foul tastes which is one reason many people don't like drinking tap water to begin with. The Brita AquaLux did a less than average job of removing lead from the water so don't go with this model if you have traces of lead showing up in your tap water. Filters need to be changed every 40 gallons or so and cost about $10/change. Home Depot carries Pur products and you can find them online at Amazon as well.
Top Rated Faucet Mounted Filters:
For a family of 4 often a carafe/pitcher filter just doesn't provide enough water for drinking and therefore a faucet mounted unit is called for. The Pur 3 Stage Faucet Mount - Horizontal FM9400 ($40) does a better job than the GE Smartwater and Brita Disposable in almost all areas per testers. The filter replacement costs are higher than the other models in this category, but you will get cleaner water. It attached directly to your faucet and has an electronic indicator light telling you when the filter is almost done. Removes lead, chloroform and off-tastes. Replacement filters on this model are about $15 and should be changed about every 2-3 months (depending on usage). RECOMMENDED - Amazon carries the top rated Culligan FM-15A Faucet Filter.
Countertop Water Filters:
If you require larger quantities of water to be filtered then the countertop models are a good choice. The Kenmore 34551 ($50) is cheap to operate since filter costs run only $20/year and it scored better than all the others on the Consumer Reports survey giving it the 'best buy' award. It was excellent at removing foul tastes and chloroform and it didn't clog that easily. Water flow remained good with the filter in place and lead removal was very good. Sears carries Kenmore products.
Best Undersink Water Filters:
Once again Kenmore is a good "value" buy for an undersink water filter. The Kenmore 38454 available at Sears sells for $55 and yearly costs for filters is very reasonable at around $35. Although the Aqua Pure ($350) rated as high, it is way more expensive and slows the flow of water (which Kenmore doesn't). The one drawback to the 38454 is that it doesn't remove lead in water as well as others in this category. If lead is an issue, go with the Kenmore 38460 which also gets great praise in reviews from experts and homeowners alike.
These filter types will require some plumbing changes and potential changes to your countertop or sink area to accommodate them. At $160 the Whirlpool Gold WHER25 gets top rated by several sources and the ever important 'best buy' cudos from Consumer Reports. All reverse osmosis water filters definitely slow the flow of water although as a whole, these units clean better than any other group. The GE Profile SmartWater PXRQ15F ($260) gets good scores too and requires about $100/year in filter replacements. The GE was available at Home Depot and the Whirlpool was in Lowes stores. We had heard great things about Culligan water filters and they did well when compared to the GE and Whirlpool, but at $900 (Culligan Good Water Machine AC30) it's hard to swallow.
Whole House Water Filters:
We are not going to recommend any whole house water filters, although we will say a few words on price. Some websites we went to say the cost to install their systems is in the $1000's. We know that you can get a whole house filter for much less. You are better off getting multiple undersink filters installed in various rooms if you are that concerned and pay maybe $300 to $400 than go and pay $1000's to a company that is preying upon your concern with contaminants and taking advantage of you. GE, Kenmore, and Whirlpool all make whole house filters that are reasonably priced.