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In many homes, bottled water is a staple on the weekly grocery list. The tap water in many areas just doesn’t taste that good, and may even contain contaminants that make it unsafe to drink. Drinking plenty of water is important to stay healthy and hydrated, though, so buying bottled water often seems like the only solution.
But while bottled water is a convenient alternative to unsafe tap water, it can also be very expensive — especially if you drink as much of it as is recommended.
If you’re tired of spending so much on bottled water, a water filtration system may be the answer. Not only does it deliver safe, tasty drinking water whenever you want it, it can save you significant money over time.
Choosing a water filter system can be a little intimidating, though. There are several different types to consider, and some are better at filtering out certain contaminants than others. Some systems are also easier to use and maintain, and offer features that make them more effective, so it’s important to know what to look for to select the right option for your home.
At BestReviews, we buy all our own products, which means our reviews are completely unbiased.
Our field and expert research allows us to get an even better feel for the top water filtration systems on the market, so we can pass along all the info you need to make an educated shopping decision.
If you’re ready to buy a water filtration system, take a look at the matrix above for our top recommendations.
For general info on how to choose a filter system, continue reading our shopping guide.
Some state or local health departments offer free water testing kits to residents, but you can also purchase them at home improvement stores.
Tap water with a bad taste or odor usually contains contaminants like chlorine and other chemicals. If your home receives its water from a well, it may contain bacteria and parasites, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, due to contamination from sewage and other waste. Your water’s taste and odor may be affected.
Also, if your home was built before 1986, there’s a chance that its pipes contain lead, which can leach into the water. The water’s taste and odor usually aren’t affected, so lead contaminants can be hard to detect.
Visible particles or debris in your tap water are usually the result of rust and sediment that may collect at the bottom of your toilet or dishwasher.
All of these conditions are excellent reasons to install a water filtration system!
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Home Master Artesian, Reverse Osmosis
The Home Master Artesian, Reverse Osmosis System offer step-by-step installation videos online, as well as a detailed instruction manual, to make setting up your system as easy as possible. The high quality fittings feature stainless steel teeth to ensure a tight grip and a specially designed o-ring that prevents leaks so you can trust that the installation is leak-free. If you run into any issues, though, Home Master has a team of certified water specialists to provide free technical support for the entire life of the system.
Some old pipes contain lead, which can leach into the water that comes from your faucets, and cause a variety of health issues. Children are particularly at risk.
Whole-house filters are installed at the main water line that enters your home. They can remove rust and sediment, but usually must be paired with another type of filter to get rid of other contaminants.
Undersink filters are installed beneath the sink, and filter water through a pipe to the system’s own faucet. They can usually remove chemicals, heavy metals, bacteria, and parasites.
Faucet-mounted filters are installed on an existing faucet in the home, so they require no plumbing connections. The contaminants that they filter vary depending on the model, but many can remove chemicals, heavy metals, bacteria, and parasites.
Whole-house filtration systems are effective in removing mineral deposits, as well as any bad taste or odor. However, they don’t work as well in filtering out other contaminants, so you may need to add another type of filter to provide additional filtration.
Activated carbon filters are usually used in under sink systems, and remove impurities and contaminants by catching them in a porous, positively charged, adsorbent filter.
Distillation water filtration systems heat the water to boiling and gather the steam that condenses, so only the contaminants are left behind. However, some contaminants can turn to gas, so they’ll remain in the water even after filtering.
A reverse osmosis system reverses the flow of the water, and passes it through a semipermeable membrane that filters out contaminants. It’s usually considered the most effective filtering system, but it can waste water.
Keep in mind that some filtration system combine multiple types of filters, such as a system with distillation and activated carbon filters.
Because a water filtration system removes bacteria and parasites from your home’s water, you won’t ingest contaminants that may cause intestinal and digestive issues.
To keep your system working properly, it’s important to change the filters when they’re worn out.
Some systems provide filter change alerts, so you don’t have to wonder if you need a new filter. The system will beep or flash a light to let you know when the filter requires changing.
Some water filtration systems have a water or flood detector feature that detects leaks. If water builds up around the equipment, the system automatically shuts down to avoid any damage.
When you change the filtration system’s filters, make sure to use only certified filter cartridges for the system, or all of the impurities and contaminants may not be removed.
Some filtration systems cover the entire house, so all of the water that comes out of faucets in your home, including in the shower or bath, is filtered.
Whole house systems are typically used to remove unpleasant tastes and smells, and usually must be combined with another type of filter to remove other contaminants.
Other water filtration systems, like faucet and under-sink filters, target a specific faucet, so only water from that location is filtered. This type of system works best if you’re primarily concerned about filtering your drinking water.
To ensure that the water filtration system you choose is effective, make sure that it’s certified by NSF International, an independent testing organization. If the system has the NSF seal, it’s been tested to verify that it actually removes the contaminants that it’s supposed to, so you can trust the product to work.
According to EPA requirements, all U.S. community water systems must report on the quality of their drinking water each year. In these reports, the systems must disclose where the water comes from, what contaminants are present, and what the possible health risks are.
All water filtration systems feature one or more filters that require replacement periodically. However, some filters are easier to change the others, which makes maintaining the system easier.
Look for a system with filters that you simply twist off and on — they’re usually the easiest to replace.
Keep in mind that reverse osmosis systems also have a membrane that must be replaced every two to three years.
While reverse osmosis filtration systems are extremely effective, they can waste some water.
Water filtration systems vary in price based on the type and what features it offers, but you can typically expect to spend between $90 and $500.
The most common difference in price is based on the number of filtering stages in the system:
For a basic two stage filter system, you’ll usually pay between $90 and $130.
For a three stage filter system, you’ll usually pay between $140 and $170.
For a four stage filter system you’ll usually pay between $175 and $190.
For a five stage filter system, you’ll usually pay between $190 and $220.
For a six stage filter system, you’ll usually pay between $225 and $270.
For a seven stage filter system, you’ll usually pay between $275 and $500.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
APEC Water Systems USA Top Rated 5-Stage
The APEC Water 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis system 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 one cent per bottle. Production rate is quoted by the company at 50 gallons per day.
Before choosing a water filtration system, it’s a good idea to find out what contaminants are present in your home’s water. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) puts out annual water quality reports for cities and municipalities throughout the U.S., so you can check which impurities have been found in your water.
With a reverse osmosis system, you don’t want too much water pressure on the membrane, or it could be damaged. Try to keep the water pressure at a moderate level to avoid cracks in the membrane.
The filters in your water filtration system wear out over time, so it’s important to change them regularly to keep your water clean. Check the manufacturer's’ instructions to see how often they should be changed or if the system will alert you when it’s time for a new filter.
When you do change the filtration system’s filters, make sure to use only certified filter cartridges for the system, or all of the impurities and contaminants may not be removed.
When you’re choosing a reusable water bottle to fill with water from your filtration system, make sure that it's not made of hard plastic or aluminium. Opt for a BPA-free plastic or stainless steel style instead.
Q. How can I determine what contaminants are in my tap water?
A. In addition to the EPA’s annual water quality report, the Environmental Working Group has put together a National Drinking Water Database that allows you to identify the contaminants in your tap water. You can also have your tap water tested by an EPA-certified lab in your state to be even more specific.
Q. What’s the difference between point of entry (POE) and point of use (POU) water filter systems?
A. A POE system filters all of the water that enters your home, which means water from every faucet is filtered. A POU system filters water on a particular water source, such as your kitchen faucet. If you want all of your drinking, bathing, and washing water filtered, you’ll need a POE system. If you’re only concerned about your drinking water, a POU system is usually sufficient.
Q. How often does a water filtration system’s filter cartridge need be changed?
A. The lifespan of a filter cartridge depends on the system and what contaminants are being filtered out. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on filter replacement or pay attention to alerts from the system itself.
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Sous Vide Precision Cooker
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.