If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re concerned about the quality of your drinking water. Unfortunately, it’s a good concern to have. Little scares (and bigger ones) regarding water quality seem to have been popping up a lot in recent years, from water bottles containing BPA to traces of pharmecutecal drugs in your tap water, it can be easy to feel like what you’re drinking isn’t safe. Even buying BPA free bottled water doesn’t necessarily mean the water quality is going to be any better than what comes from your tap. So how can you ensure that you’re getting the cleanest, healthiest water for your family? This quick summary of what kinds of water filtration systems are out there and how they work should help you decide the best option for your home.
The Water Filtration Pitcher
If you want to start filtering your own water, purchasing a water filtration pitcher like this Vista Filter from DuPont has far and away the fastest and least expensive start-up. You just buy the jug, pour some water into the compartment on top, and within a few seconds or minutes (depending on your model and how quickly it filters), you get fresh, clean water with 90-99% of the most common harmful particles in water (most notably lead and mercury) removed. Your water will taste better and smell better, and because water filtration jugs are typically designed to fit in your refrigerator, it’s an easy way to make sure you always have cold, clean water on hand.
But water filtration jugs aren’t without their drawbacks, most notably in the expense of buying new filters once you’ve worn out the ones that come with the pitcher. Most filters have tolerably long lifespans (this Mirage Filter can filter up to 40 gallons before it needs to be changed), but replacement filters can often be almost as expensive as purchasing an entirely new pitcher. The other major drawback is that they take up valuable space in your refrigerator; even models that fit in the shelves on the door. Some users also complain about how long the water takes to filter, but this varies widely depending on the brand and capacity of your particular water filtration pitcher.
Faucet-Mounted Water Filter
A common alternative to a water filtration pitcher, faucet-mounted water filters are about the same in terms of ease of installation, but have a slightly higher start up cost. These little gadgets install directly onto the main tap of your kitchen faucet and redirect drinking water through a filter either at the touch of a button or by turning the filter. Most, like this Electric Filter, have easy to read digital displays that let you know when the filter needs to be replaced (about every 200 gallons). Unlike most water pitchers, faucet mount water filters are able to remove microbial particles (like giardia) from your water. This type of filter is convenient, as it’s attached directly to your tap, but because it’s attached directly to your tap, it can look and feel a little bulky, and replacement filters can be pricey (though they need to be replaced much less often than with pitcher filters).
Refrigerator With Water Dispenser
At the far opposite end of the spectrum for start up ease and expense are refrigerators with built in water filtration systems and dispensers like this Side By Side from Fagor. These are incredibly convenient, as they take up no extra space in your kitchen, can filter significantly more water between filter changes, and produce chilled water and ice that’s meant specifically for drinking. The drawback, of course, is that if you don’t happen to be in the market for a new refrigerator, this probably isn’t the right choice. Also, the inside of your ice and water dispenser should be cleaned regularly (to ensure your water is still clean once it gets to your glass), and you should make sure you know where the filter is and how (and how often) you need to change it as well as how much the filters cost.
Under The Sink Water Filter
This is perhaps my personal favorite combination of aesthetics and cost effectiveness – a single, small filter that’s installed underneath your sink and attaches to a separate drinking water dispenser. This allows you to get your drinking water from a separate, high quality tap that matches your main kitchen faucet, like this lovely Aquasuite Drinking Tap from Moen. This saves you from the bulky look of the faucet-mounted type, while taking up only a small amount of space in the cabinet under your sink. DuPont’s 3 Stage Filtration System is ideal for areas with unreliable municipal water systems (especially places that see frequent flooding or hurricane damage), and even their One-Stage Filtration can dramatically improve the taste and smell of your water. The filters are more expensive than for other types of water filtration systems, but they last for much longer – about 1,000 gallons – and unlike whole home water filtration systems, you won’t wear out the filters with water you aren’t drinking. Some models can be mounted Above Counter (though this has a slightly less streamlined look), but almost all types can be combined with a point of use water heater, which can make the tap double as a (filtered) Hot Water Dispenser, which is great for coffee and tea drinkers.
Whole Home Water Filtration System
You can also install water filters that will service your entire house. These Whole House Water Filtration Systems install directly to your main water line, between your water meter and your water heater, and remove a wide range of sediment from your water. Not only does this result in cleaner, healthier drinking water, but it helps prevent the buildup of sediment in your plumbing and appliances that use water (from preventing hard water buildup on your shower head to keeping your dishwasher and washing machine in better condition for longer), which can extend their usable life. Using a whole home water filtration system can also mean more pleasant showers, with water that’s better for your skin. This is an excellent choice if you live in an area with water that has a very high mineral content, but not so good if you’re primarily concerned with the quality of your drinking water. After all, these filters have a capacity of up to 30,000 gallons, but most of that will go to showers, toilet flushes, and so on, while a point of use water filter will give you a more thorough filtration aimed specifically at improving drinkability.
What kind of water filtration system you choose ultimately depends quite a bit on how you’ll use it – how much water you drink how often, as well as the quality of your municipal or well water. But remember that it’s important to factor in the long term cost of replacement filters as well as the start up cost of the water filter itself. What might seem like a money-saving option might have hidden costs that add up faster than you think! Do you have any kind of water filtration system in your home already? Do you want something simple for your morning coffee, or a more comprehensive system to improve the overall quality of your drinking water?
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