Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for Best water purifiers

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated throughout the day, but many areas have tap water that contains harmful contaminants that make it unsafe or just unpleasant to drink. Bottled water is a viable alternative, but keeping your fridge stocked can get pretty expensive. That’s why investing in a water purifier can be such a smart decision for your home.

Not all water purifiers are created equally, though, so it’s important to choose the right one for your water supply. That means knowing what type, storage capacity, and other features would work best for you, which can get pretty confusing.

If you’re wondering which water purifier would be best for your water supply, a comprehensive buying guide that clarifies the most important features in a water filtration system is a great place to start.

water purifier
Depending on the type of filter, water purifiers can remove up to 99% of the contaminants in tap water.

What is a water purifier?

A water purifier removes particles, sediment, chemical contaminants like chlorine and mercury, viruses, cysts (protozoan parasites), and bacteria from water. But while a water purifier can effectively filter contaminants from water, it can also remove minerals that are beneficial to your health such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium.

Fortunately, some purifiers are able to restore healthy minerals to the water after the filtering process, so your drinking water is as good for you as possible.

Municipal water is tap water. Although it is legally required to meet minimal drinking standards, that doesn’t mean it’s as pure as it can be. Many consumers of municipal water find peace of mind by running their home water supply through a water purifier.

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Why should you use a water purifier?

Using a water purifier for your tap water has a number of benefits that make it a worthwhile purchase.

Safety

The main reason most homeowners use a water purifier is to remove potentially harmful toxins and contaminants from their tap water. A purifier can remove a variety of chemical contaminants including arsenic, aluminum, mercury, and pesticides, as well as bacteria and viruses that could make you or your family sick.

Taste

Removing contaminants and bacteria improves water taste, so drinking your daily recommended amount will be more pleasant.

Cost

While bottled water can be healthier and better tasting than tap water, it can get very expensive to keep a steady supply in your fridge. By investing in a water purifier, you’ll save money in the long run by providing your own drinkable water out of the tap.

Eco-friendly

In addition to the expense, the other downside of bottled water is all the plastic bottles that wind up in landfills. Even recycling the bottles uses energy that isn’t necessarily good for the environment. By using a water purifier, you reduce the amount of plastic waste produced by your home. This makes it a much more eco-friendly option.

water purifiers
DID YOU KNOW?
Dirty filters can become a source of water fouling. It might be helpful to use a reminder service on your smartphone to flag you when it’s time to clean or change filters. Purifiers with filter change reminders can be helpful.
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Water purifier features to consider

Filter type

There are four main types of filters used in water purifiers: carbon, ceramic, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light (UV).

Carbon: Carbon water purifiers use activated or block carbon to remove impurities through chemical absorption. Carbon filters can usually filter out particles between 0.5 and 50 microns in size. These are the most common filters found in water purifiers. These are usually freestanding units, such as pitchers or countertop water filters. Notably, however, there are some options that attach directly to a faucet.

A carbon water purifier can improve the taste and odor of your tap water by removing chemical contaminants including chlorine, radon, pesticides, herbicides, benzene, trihalomethane compounds, and other synthetic chemicals. These filters are not as effective at removing heavy metals and inorganic contaminants such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, cadmium, minerals, and salts.

Ceramic: The porous nature of a ceramic filter removes larger particles, such as dirt, debris, and bacteria, as gravity pulls the water through the filter. Ceramic filters are not as effective at removing chemical contaminants as carbon filters are. Thus, they may be paired with other types of filters to completely purify the water. A ceramic water purifier is usually a freestanding unit that sits on a countertop or table.

Reverse osmosis: Reverse osmosis water purifiers are able to filter larger particles and inorganic chemicals like heavy metals, salts, and nitrates from your tap water. These filters are directly connected to the plumbing beneath the sink, so the water is filtered as soon as it emerges from the faucet. Some reverse osmosis water purifiers can store a small amount of purified water for later or emergency use. There is also a line that sends any tainted water straight to the drain.

Ultraviolet light: Some water purifiers use ultraviolet (UV) light to filter harmful contaminants out of tap water. These filters can remove bacteria, viruses, and other illness-causing microorganisms and improve water taste. However, UV filters don’t remove heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, minerals, salts, and other contaminants that carbon and reverse osmosis purifiers can. To be most effective, UV water purifiers are typically used in conjunction with another type of filter. A UV water purifier is attached directly to your home’s plumbing and may require professional installation.

Storage capacity

Freestanding water filter pitchers, also known as countertop water filters, obviously allow you to store purified water for future use, but some purifiers attached to the plumbing also have a storage container.

When you’re shopping for a new water purifier, it’s important to consider the storage capacity offered by the vessel so you can be sure you always have plenty of drinking water on hand.

Pitcher-style water purifiers usually hold 6 to 10 cups of water, while countertop purifiers tend to be larger with as much as 2 gallons or more of storage capacity. Consider the size of your family and how much water you normally drink to determine the best water purifier size for your home.

Flow rate

Flow rate refers to the speed at which water passes through a purifying system. This rate is usually measured in gallons per hour.

Water purifiers with a faster flow rate can provide drinking water for you more quickly. That said, the higher the flow, the harder it is for the purifier to properly clean the water. For this reason, some of the best purifiers have a slower filtration rate.

A purifier with a moderate flow rate of approximately one-half gallon per hour is usually a good choice.

Certifications

If you want to verify the effectiveness of a water purifier, check to see if its ability to remove contaminants has been certified by independent organizations. In particular, keep an eye out for models that have been tested and certified by the Water Quality Association (WQA) or NSF International.

Filter change indicator

A water purifier loses its effectiveness when the filter gets old or dirty. But it can be easy to forget when it’s time to change your purifier’s filter. The solution? It may be a good idea to look for a model with some type of filter change indicator.

Some water filter pitchers and other freestanding water filters include stickers you can mark with the appropriate date for changing the filter. The sticker is then fastened to the filter’s exterior.

Other products have a dial that you can set with the proper date.

For the easiest reminder, look for a water purifier with an electronic indicator that flashes a light to let you know when it’s time to change the filter.

You may be wondering what a reverse osmosis system is and whether it would be right for you. A reverse osmosis water filtration system filters water through a semipermeable membrane for superior water cleaning. Compared to other types of filtered water, the water derived from a reverse osmosis system is thought to be safer and more likely to be free of parasites, cysts, and other contaminants.

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What products might you need with your new water purifier?

Here are some suggestions of other products you might be able to use with your water purifier.

Water bottle

Throwaway plastic water bottles are quite wasteful. By purchasing and using reusable water bottles, you do the environment and yourself a service by minimizing waste and expense.

Infusion water bottle

If you’d like to add a fun twist to your regular daily water intake, consider an infusion water bottle. You can add fruit, vegetables, or herbs to the inner basket, and in turn, these additions will contribute a fun kick of flavor to your water.

Bottle brush

If you like reusable water bottles, don’t forget the bottle brush. Use this brush when washing the bottle to make sure all crevices inside the bottle are free of debris and bacteria. If you don’t have a bottle brush, you may be disinclined to make good use of your water bottle investment.

water purifier
Did you know?
Most water purifiers need to have the filter changed every three to six months.
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How much does a water purifier cost?

Water purifier prices vary based on the type of filtering system they contain. The price range is a wide one: you could pay anywhere between $10 and $685 for a water purifier. Here is a breakdown of what to expect at different price levels.

Inexpensive

Carbon water purifiers are usually the most budget-friendly option. These home water filters range in price from $10 to $70.

Mid-range

Ceramic water purifiers are slightly more expensive than carbon water filters. You can usually expect to pay between $80 and $185 for a ceramic water purifier.

Expensive

If you’re looking for a one-stop solution to provide purified water to the whole house, plan to spend a bit more. Reverse osmosis water purifiers are installed on your faucet, so they tend to be more expensive. You could spend anywhere from $100 to $450 for this type of purifier. UV water purifiers are also more expensive. You could pay between $115 and $685 for one of these products.

Consider investing in some water purification tablets as well as a water purifier. The tablets may prove more handy in the event of an emergency or natural disaster than a refillable pitcher or whole-home filtration system.

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Tips

  • If you don’t want to refill a water filter pitcher often, consider a faucet attachment. This type of water filter attaches directly to the water source—your faucet—and filters water before it comes out of the tap. These fixtures are usually quite affordable and easy to install. Notably, you will still have to purchase replacement filters for this type of water purifier.
  • Read the instructions carefully before changing the filter in your water purifier. Some filters must be soaked or rinsed before they are installed. This process is required to remove carbon dust or other contaminants. Note that the directions may also advise you to discard the first few glasses of filtered water for the same reason.
  • The product literature should specify the expected filter life: how many gallons of water the filter can treat or how long the filter will last. For example, some products guarantee filtering for 100 gallons of water. However, there are products that instead specify how long you can expect the filter to last. For example, some Brita filters are stated to have a filter life of about two months.
water purifier
Countertop, pitcher, and faucet-mounted water purifiers are the best option if you rent your home because you can take the purifier with you when you move.

FAQ

Q. How do I know what contaminants are in my water?

A. The contaminants that may be present in your tap water can vary based on where you live. It’s important to determine what contaminants are likely to be found in your particular water filtration system to choose the right purifier. The Environmental Working Group (EWG.org) offers a database that contains water-quality reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Enter your ZIP Code to determine what contaminants pose a risk in your area.

Q. Is bottled water healthier than water that has been filtered through a purifier?

A. Not only is bottled water expensive and an environmental issue due to the plastic bottles, but it also isn’t necessarily any better for you than tap water that has been passed through a purifier. That’s because some bottled water is actually tap water that has been purified, though you can’t be sure it’s been filtered to remove all possible contaminants.

Further, some bottled water is natural spring water that hasn’t been filtered at all, so it may contain toxins or contaminants. Therefore, your odds of drinking purified water are greatest if you know the water has received high-quality purification.

Q. How long will a water purifier last?

A. The lifespan of a water purifier depends on its type and how well you maintain it. Changing the filters regularly is key to keeping your water purifier in good working condition. Carbon and ceramic water purifiers can last as long as 10 years if you care for them properly. Reverse osmosis and UV water purifiers have more working parts, so it’s easier for them to develop problems. However, most home water filtration systems work well for at least five to seven years.

Q. My city has hard water. Is a water purifier the right solution?

A. It can help, but a water purification system is not the only thing you need to cope with hard water. There are more minerals in hard water than soft water—minerals that leave behind a chalky residue such as magnesium and calcium. The buildup can cause clogs in your plumbing hardware and stains on your appliances, including the sink, bathtub, shower, and toilet.

One of the best ways to treat hard water throughout your whole home is a water softener. A water softener works to remove calcium and magnesium from your water supply. In turn, this spares the mechanisms of your sink, toilet, bathtub, and shower from wear and tear caused by mineral deposits.

But a water softener does not remove the broad range of contaminants that a water purifier can handle. If your goal is to remove pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), look for a quality whole-home water purifier to meet your needs.

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