As seen in:
Home Master
Artesian, Reverse Osmosis
Watts
2-Stage Undercounter
Aquasana
3-Stage Under Counter
iSpring
5-Stage Reverse Osmosis
APEC Water Systems
USA Top Rated 5-Stage
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Good

Reverse Osmosis system that thoroughly purifies water. Re-introduces precious lost minerals after initial filtration.

A basic, two-stage system that reduces many harmful elements in drinking water.

Includes a pre-filter that helps prevent clogging. Suitable for areas with lots of sediment and silt. Easy to change filters.

Five stages of filtration with a high-rejection membrane that thoroughly cleanses drinking water.

Excellent, thorough filtration system. Overall cost is one cent per bottle of purified water.

Bad

The most expensive system on our shortlist, but it is well worth the extra investment.

Limited filtration prevents the Watts from eliminating arsenic, chrome, and other nitrates. Filters can be difficult to change.

Like the Watts, limited filtration prevents all harmful elements from being eliminated.

For every one gallon of purified water, the iSpring "wastes" two to three gallons. Healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium are not re-introduced.

Does not re-introduce lost minerals as the Tap Master does.

Bottom Line

The absolute best water filtration system you can buy. The golden difference: the Tap Master's ability to re-introduce lost healthy minerals.

A bare bones system that will save you money and protect you from many, but not all, hazardous water elements.

A few more perks than the Watts but still a basic model.

A step up from the Watts and Aquasana with a five-step filtration system. "Wastes" a lot of water in purification process.

We were hard-pressed to find any negative comments about this product from consumers. An excellent filtration system for a decent price.

How we decide
BestReviews is committed to providing comprehensive and trusted reviews for products that matter to consumers. We do the research to help you save time and money.
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Products received from manufacturers
101
Models Considered
43
Hours Spent
1
Experts Interviewed
201
Consumers Consulted

Best Water Filtration Systems

Our review focuses on permanent water filtration systems that can be neatly tucked away under your sink, saving you counter space and providing you with safe drinking water that is literally "on tap." Our five finalists are:

Products we Considered

Home Master
Artesian, Reverse Osmosis
Watts
2-Stage Undercounter
Aquasana
3-Stage Under Counter
iSpring
5-Stage Reverse Osmosis
APEC Water Systems
USA Top Rated 5-Stage

Considerations

Filtering Effectiveness

The best water filtration systems remove hazardous chemicals, parasites, and other impurities while maintaining the highest flow rate possible.

Ease of Use/Maintenance

We take a look at operational costs and how easy/hard each system is to install and maintain.

Features

The majority of under-sink water filters come with a dedicated faucet. Generally, these are chrome or stainless steel, but some offer alternative finishes. Other desirable features include filter-replacement alerts and shut-off valves.

Price

Dozens of models didn't make our top five simply because of durability concerns. You want something that's largely “fit and forget,” not something that leaks or clogs after you install it. High-quality water filtration systems aren't always cheap, we've managed to find quality units that are suitable for all budgets.

Considerations

Filtering Effectiveness

Watts 500313

The Watts 500313 Undercounter Drinking Water System uses two-stage filtering. The first stage is "sediment-filtration," in which only particles under five microns are allowed to pass through. The second stage is “one micron carbon filtration,” in which parasites like giardia and entamoeba cryptosporidium are removed, as well as chlorine, lead, and other volatile organic compounds. While these filtration systems clearly benefit health, it's important to note that the manufacturer quotes a "reduction" of chemicals rather than an “elimination” of them. The Watts system is not capable of reducing nitrates (commonly found in agro chemicals), chrome, and arsenic. Flow rate is a reasonable 0.5 gallons per minute with a water pressure of 40 psi.

Aquasana AQ-5300.55 3-Stage

The Aquasana 3-Stage Under Counter Water Filtration System incorporates filtering elements beyond that of the Watts to further reduce contaminants and increase efficiency. Aquasana adds a pre-filter, designed to reduce sediment that might otherwise clog the second and third stages. This feature is particularly useful in areas with higher-than-average levels of sediment and silt, and is “claimed” to increase flow rate -- although in reality the quoted flow rate of the Aquasana is the same as that of the Watts.

iSpring 75GPD 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System

The iSpring 75GPD Reverse Osmosos Water Filter System provides a whopping five stages of filtration. First, there's the 5-micron filter, a rust and sand filter similar to the Aquasana's pre-filter. Second, there's the Granular Activated Carbon filter, which is effective at reducing chlorine and other elements that affect taste. Third, there's a carbon block filter, which is similar to the technology employed by the Watts and Aquasana. The fourth filter sets the iSpring apart from the other models; it's called a “high-rejection membrane” and it won't allow anything larger than 0.0001 of a micron to pass. The important thing to note here is that where other systems typically say they reduce contaminants, Reverse Osmosis (RO) units like the iSpring actually remove them. An RO unit is the only type of water filtration system certified to remove arsenic, for instance. The iSpring's fifth filter reduces any lingering tastes and odors. One drawback of the iSpring, and any RO system, is that the fine filtering also reduces some beneficial chemicals found in the water. Also, a lot of water is discharged during the filtration process, so in order to get one gallon of pure water, you end up wasting two to three gallons. The iSpring is rated to produce up to 75 gallons of fresh, safe water per day.

APEC Water - USA Top Rated 5-Stage

The APEC Water 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis system is similar in many ways to the iSpring. Precise details vary slightly, but this model also contains an RO membrane that removes 1,000 different contaminants. The APEC, like its RO counterparts, also removes bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals. A fair amount of water must be discharged in order to get this pure water, but overall cost is still only about once cent per bottle. Production rate is quoted by the company at 50 gallons per day.

Tap Master TMAFC

The Tap Master is similar in methodology to the iSpring and APEC, but instead of five filtration stages, it uses seven stages of “filtration, purification, and enhancement.” While the Tap Master's removal of contaminants follows similar principles to other RO systems, it also incorporates the re-introduction of calcium and magnesium, two beneficial minerals that other high-rejection membranes throw out. The manufacturer also claims that the flow rate of the Tap Master is twice the speed of comparable RO unites. Our research uncovered a varying flow rate of between 0.5 and 1.0 gallon per minute.

The Tap Master uses a whopping seven stages of filtration, purification, and mineral enhancement.
Considerations

Ease of Use/Maintenance

Whether you want to install the Watts 500313 filter yourself – or indeed any of our top five water filtration systems – is a matter of personal choice and DIY ability. If you have a waste disposal, dishwasher connection, or other hardware beneath your sink, contacting a plumber might be advisable. Once the Watts is installed, the only maintenance you have to worry about is changing the filter elements. These elements last approximately 600 gallons, or 6 months. Several Watts owners told us that they found re-fitting the filters to be a bit of a challenge. Filters that are not re-fitted tightly tend to leak, so precision is required.

Like the Watts, the Aquasana lasts about six months. Because it has three filters, replacing them costs more (around $65, as opposed to $30 for the Watts). The Aquasana's audible performance indicator puts it a cut above the Watts, removing the guesswork as to when it's time to change filters. Changing the Aquasana's filters is considerably easier than changing the Watts' filters, as each unit requires just a quarter turn to take off and put back on.

Installing an RO unit like the iSpring is somewhat more complicated because, in addition to the filter equipment, there is also a water storage tank to deal with. The benefit of this tank is that it acts as a reserve of pre-cleaned water. When you want a glass of clean water, you can get it immediately from the tank rather than waiting for the liquid to run through the filtration process. Filter replacement is a little complicated, as the life of each filter varies by type. Three filters need to be replaced every six months. Another filter needs to be replaced once a year. The all-important membrane needs to be replaced only every 24-36 months. Rather than buying these five filters individually, it's easier to purchase what's known as a "three-year kit," available for around $115.

The installation requirements of the APEC are similar to those of the iSpring, although the owners we surveyed agreed that the APEC's quick-connect fittings make installation a lot easier than some other water filtration models. The filter replacement schedule for this five-stage system is similar to that of the iSpring. Conveniently, the three-year-kit mentioned above for the iSpring also works for the APEC. Overall, the customers we spoke with gave the APEC top ratings for its quality, including its low-maintenance, “fit and forget” aspect.

The Tap Master TMAFC water filter is much like the iSpring and APEC in terms of installation. Some of the owners we surveyed chose to install the system themselves; others hired a professional to do it. Regular maintenance of the Tap Master consists mainly of changing the quick-detach filters. Many owners told us this needs to be done only once a year and costs around $140.

APEC owners give their water filtration system top ratings for its low maintenance, "fit it and forget it" aspect.
Bill
Expert Consultant
Bill
Engineer, Do-It-Yourself Guru

Bill has been a hardware store owner, locksmith, and general home repair guru for over 40 years. His ability to solve problems and repair every item in every situation is a true gift. In his spare time, you may find Bill working in his garden, tending to his perfectly manicured lawn, or riding his bike.

Considerations

Features

Watts 500313

The Watts 500313 Two-Stage water filter is a simple, entry-level product with only the most basic of features. Essentially, all you get with this package is the filter itself and a simple faucet. However, most owners we spoke to told us they were highly satisfied with this product. Two criticisms/cautions we heard from consumers are that the faucet seems a bit “flimsy” and that users should take care to tighten the plastic connections properly so leaks don't occur.

Aquasana AQ-5300.55 3-Stage

Much like the Watts, the Aquasana is a very basic water filtration system. Unlike the Watts, the Aquasana sports a helpful “beeper” to let you know when it's time to change filters. The faucet is a high-quality item that comes in the customer's choice of three different finishes – chrome, brushed nickel, or oil-rubbed bronze. Overall, the Aquasana is another budget water filtration system with many satisfied owners and few critics.

iSpring 75GPD 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System

The manufacturers of the iSpring 75GPD are clearly concerned about quality and have recently made a number of upgrades to their product. In addition to an auto shut-off valve that prevents the tank from overflowing once it is full, the iSpring also features a water detector/flood alarm so that, in the event of a leak, the system turns itself off to prevent water damage. Owner ratings are varied: many love it, but a small percentage have reported leaks and/or concerns about this product's long-term durability.

APEC Water - USA Top Rated 5-Stage

For some consumers, the fact that the APEC Water 5-Stage filter is made in the USA is definitely a desirable feature. Positive consumer comments relating to build quality are a testament to the high standards of this manufacturer. Like the iSpring, the APEC features an automatic shut-off tank for safety. Furthermore, the users we surveyed told us that this unit runs noiselessly – a nice feature to have in the kitchen. We really like the fact that the APEC's quality is backed by in-house Water Quality Association specialists who provide free, lifetime support to APEC owners.

Tap Master TMAFC

One of the Tap Master's standout features is the fact that it re-introduces important minerals like calcium and magnesium back into the water. The manufacturer claims that this process extends the life of the unit, as other RO systems produce slightly acidic water that actually attacks various parts of the equipment. Although we suspect that this feature is only relevant in the very long term, it does underline the attention this manufacturer pays to the detail of its equipment. A small number of owners we talked to told us they received defective units, but overall, this product garners high ratings and enthusiastic reviews from most of the people who buy it.

One of the Tap Master's standout features is the fact that it re-introduces important minerals like calcium and magnesium back into the water.
Considerations

Price

Watts 500313

The Watts 500313 Two-Stage water filter sells for $90. For this small amount, you get a basic water filtration system that will remove quite a few bacteria from your drinking water and also drastically reduce the amount of harmful chemicals you take in. Granted, this two-stage model doesn't compete with RO systems, but many owners are happy enough with a simpler system. While a few of the owners we surveyed were less than complimentary about the quality of the Watts, its overall rating is generally a good one.

Aquasana AQ-5300.55 3-Stage

The Aquasana AQ-5300.55 water filtration system sells for $141. This product's three-stage design doesn't necessarily remove more harmful particles than the Watts, but its pre-filtering aspect does theoretically make the second and third stages less prone to clogging. Thoughtful touches like the easy-twist, filter-changing mechanism make maintenance a little easier, and comments like, “Water tastes great!” are common – although some users told us they get impatient waiting for their water to filter through.

iSpring 75GPD 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System

iSpring's 75GPD 5-Stage water filter is currently on offer for $159. Prospective buyers should bear in mind that the iSpring is an RO system – a significant leap up in quality from the Watts and Aquasana. A few owners question this model's component quality, noting that leaks do occur occasionally. Given its overall performance and mid-level price, however, the iSpring is a very popular model, receiving owner accolades such as “Fantastic value!” and “Best filter ever!”

APEC Water - USA Top Rated 5-Stage

For a cost of $184, the APEC is a good deal. Comments about this product's construction quality and support are consistently positive. As we researched this product, we had difficulty locating anyone who had a bad word to say about the APEC. The fact that this product is American-made is an additional selling point for some consumers.

Tap Master TMAFC

At $287, the Tap Master TMAFC costs considerably more than any other water filtration system on our shortlist. Whether you think this system is worth the investment depends on your budget and your feelings about safe, clean water. The vast majority of owners we surveyed gave the Tap Master tremendous praise. One mother called it “a must for children on powdered formula.” This is, without doubt, an excellent unit, but it is also a more expensive purchase that people on a budget will want to seriously consider beforehand.

As we researched the APEC, we had difficulty finding anyone who had a bad word to say about the product.

Best of the Best

The clear winner of our “Best of the Best” award is the Tap Master TMAFC. The Tap Master is the most thorough water purification system on our shortlist. It uses seven different filters to rid your drinking water of various types of particles, debris, and contaminants. Due to the nature of this thorough filtration system, beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium are inadvertently filtered out of the water in the first stages of Tap Master filtration. Unlike its rivals, however, the Tap Master uses technology to re-introduce those minerals back into the drinking water. The result is the best of both worlds: water that is free of harmful contaminants, yet rich in healthy minerals.

Tap Master has clearly put a lot of thought into the quality of this model's equipment and the mechanics of its fitting system. Owners consistently give this system high ratings, and they tell us that the manufacturer's technical support system is very helpful as well. Some satisfied customers have gone so far as to compare the taste of Tap Master water to Evian bottled water. While this filtration system is certainly not a budget option, it definitely delivers cleaner, safer drinking water than any other model on our shortlist.
Best of the Best
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Some satisfied Tap Master customers have compared the taste of Tap Master water to Evian bottled water.

Best Bang for your Buck

If you're looking for a water filtration system that removes the maximum number of contaminants for the minimum number of dollars, the APEC Water Five-Stage filter is your best best. APEC beats out the Watts and Aquasana in terms of actual contaminant removal, and it equals the contaminant removal of the iSpring and Tap Master – the latter is only better because of its re-introduction of specific healthy minerals. In terms of build quality, user feedback is almost universally positive, with comments like “Wonderful RO system,” “Ice is crystal clear,” and “Excellent!” underlining how people feel about it. Being “Made in America” doesn't always mean outstanding workmanship, but in the case of the APEC, it definitely does.
Best Bang for your Buck
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The APEC Five-Stage removes the maximum number of contaminants for the minimum number of dollars.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Jess
    Jess
    Researcher
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Ben
    Ben
    Operations