The world of water filters is confusing to say the least. There are so many options it’s staggering, not just different brands, but different filtration technologies and methods. What do we need to filter anyway? Flouride? Hard water? Pesticides? Anything and everything? It’s nearly impossible for the average busy family to filter (ha, get it?) the absolute storm of options and info available to find what it is they actually need.
Well I’ve been there too, I remember what it was like getting more and more confused and stressed when all I wanted was to give my family safe drinking water. It really shouldn’t be that complicated, isn’t clean water a basic human right!? After months of sorting through the endless products and trying all kinds of different things, I hope I’ve gotten enough experience now to help other families find the water filter they really need, without all the hassle.
Let’s Get Practical
The first thing we need to do is settle on what we really need from our new water filter. There are three common concerns with our home water supply that we need to deal with. The first is solid substances dissolved in the water, like lead or copper. The second is chemicals, like pesticides or fluoride. The third is the hardness of the water. Some water filters can solve all these problems, others can only filter out one or two.
Putting It to the Test
Depending on what you actually need, you could save some money by getting yourself a less capable filter. Although not as powerful, you would only be filtering what you actually need to have removed from your water. I recommend you test your water to find out what chemicals really are in there. If nothing else, it’ll give you peace of mind to know for sure what you’re dealing with. You can get a professional company to do this for you, or you can buy easy-to-use test strips and do it yourself like I did. Some test strips on the market aren’t great, but the ones I bought showed the same results as professional testing I had done a few months later, so I trust them!
Of course, some people need the works, they really do have awful water that needs total filtration. There’s plenty of great products for this case too, don’t worry. Personally, my water falls into this last category. Where I live, I’m surrounded by giant corn fields that get sprayed constantly with God-knows-what. Most of it apparently ends up in my well water, based on the chemical testing we did.
I knew we couldn’t take the unacceptable risk of harming our young children’s development with this nasty water they drink and bathe in. After trying less extreme options like Brita filters, I eventually went all in for the big stainless steel Berkey filter. I definitely believe this is the best home water filtration system overall. This thing is a tank, it filters EVERYTHING. You could even pour pond water in there (Ew) and get clean, pure water if you wanted! The Berkey water filter is the gold standard for water filters, unless you want to go all in for total peace of mind and get yourself a whole house water filtration system, which will filter your bathing water as well and make cooking with filtered water much more convenient.
Water Filter Types
The five basic types of water filters are the water filter pitcher, the faucet water filter, the countertop water filter, the reverse osmosis system, and the whole house water filter. Each type of water filter has its upsides and downsides.
Water Filter Pitchers
This is a pitcher which you fill up from your tap. The water is cleaned as it goes through the filter (usually carbon-based) in the pitcher, so when you pour water from the pitcher, it’s clean. Water filter pitchers are a great option if you just want to improve the quality of your drinking water a bit, maybe just remove that chlorine taste. Most people get the standard Brita pitcher, but I prefer the ZeroWater pitcher instead, since it does a better job filtering solids from the water.
You can get water filter pitchers that truly remove all the chemical junk, but if you really need that much filtration firepower, I believe you’re really better off getting a full heavy-duty countertop water filter at least. The prices end up being comparable, and you’ll get more value and efficiency with the countertop model. However, if your water is already pretty good and you just want to make it taste a bit better, then go ahead and get a water filter pitcher. They’re the cheapest option by far, although the cost of filter replacements definitely adds up over time. If you’re interested in this option, I did a post reviewing the best water filter pitchers as well.
Faucet Water Filters
This kind of filter attaches right onto your faucet so that when you turn the faucet on, the water goes right through the filter into your cup! Sounds pretty convenient and it is, however for some reason you go through filters like crazy with these. They do work, but I’m not a huge fan. Some people swear by them, especially if you don’t have all that much nasty stuff to filter out of you water. If you just want a cheap way to improve the taste of your tap water, these might be the best option for you! I’ve written some more of my thoughts about the best faucet water filters here.
Countertop Water Filters
These are like miniature kegs that sit on your counter by your sink. You fill them up manually with tapwater, and it slowly filters through the heavy-duty technology in the middle of the keg. Use the spigot at the bottom of the keg to pour the resulting filtered water whenever you want.
Countertop water filters can filter much more water at a time than water filter pitchers can. They tend to filter the water much more thoroughly as well, and their filters usually last a good deal longer. This is the right option if you’re really serious about cleaning up your water, not just improving the taste (which a countertop water filter will do perfectly well as well). I feel pretty strongly about which is the best countertop water filter, so I did a pretty in-depth post about it.
Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration Systems
Next up we have the reverse osmosis system. There are various configurations for these, but most typically they are installed underneath your sink, where they filter your water before it comes out of your faucet. These things are serious, they’ll definitely clean your water, if you get a good quality one. On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about pouring dirty water into your countertop filter, or filling up your Brita pitcher, since the reverse osmosis filtration occurs before the water exits the faucet, meaning that whatever comes out of your faucet is already clean and pure. The convenience of this feature is a big selling point to a lot of people, and I can certainly sympathize with having one less chore to do!
On the negative side, reverse osmosis systems can be a bit cranky – as a full-fledged plumbing system they also require some expertise to install in your home. I’ve had some experience with trying to find the best reverse osmosis water filter system, so I wrote a more detailed post about it.
Whole House Water Filtration Systems
Finally, the most professional grade, heavy-duty option is the whole house water filtration system. As the name suggests, when you get one of these installed for your water supply, every faucet, showerhead, etc in your house is going to have pure filtered water pouring out of it, trouble-free. This is by far the most convenient option, once you set it all up. You’ll definitely need someone who knows what they’re doing to install your whole-house filtration system, but once it’s working, you are gonna love it.
There are a few systems that are better than the others, so I wrote another post where I say which I believe are the best whole house water filter systems. A few of our friends have these, and I must say it is pretty nice not having to worry at all about how clean the water is, or having to remember to fill up the countertop water filter like I do at home. However, the countertop water filter is cheaper and really it’s at least as effective as the whole-house filtration system. My Berkey water filter is actually much more powerful than the standard whole house filter! I’ll gladly give up a little convenience for that peace of mind I get from having total protection for my family and myself.
If you suffer from dry skin or hair, you may want to look into water softeners too. You can get some nice combination units that filter and soften your water at the same time. I definitely notice a difference for my skin when I bathe in hard water compared to soft, pure water. Soft water is much gentler on the skin, and a lot healthier as well. Hard water dries your skin out, and makes you look haggard and older. Over a long enough period of time, showering in hard water seems to have long lasting effects, and you start to lose that youthful glow, as your skin gets dry and ashy. Yikes!
Water Filter Care
It’s pretty easy to take care of most water filters. I haven’t had to do a thing for my Berkey in two years, no replacement parts or anything! If you buy a high quality water filter there really isn’t much you’ll have to do. Getting a whole house or reverse osmosis filter installed takes a little time but once it’s installed it’s hassle-free. You just have to replace the filter every 9 months or so and that’s usually pretty easy. Pitchers do need their filters replaced pretty often, that’s the one downside, and the reason I went for a countertop water filter myself.
At the End of the Day
Always remember, whatever water filter you buy is gonna be better for your family’s health than no filter at all! That being said, I definitely found some water filters were a lot better than others. They’re much easier to use, higher quality, and do a better job filtering the gunk out of the water. And that’s what we really care about when you get down to it!