October 23, 2018
Choosing a Home Water Filter

Choosing a Home Water Filter

by Berkeley Wellness  

Whether you are simply trying to improve the taste of your water or are trying to remove specific contaminants, a home water filtration system can help you do it. These range in complexity from inexpensive countertop pitchers to costly systems that filter every drop of water entering your home.

All water filters fall into two basic types:

Point-of-entry systems are installed on the main water supply and treat most or all the water entering a house. These include water softeners, which remove calcium and magnesium. There’s no harm in drinking softened water, and it does not cause heart disease. But the softer the water, the more likely it is to leach lead from the pipes.

Point-of-use systems include faucet-mounted filters, faucets with built-in filters, under-the-sink filters, and pitchers.

Which to consider depends largely on what you are trying to remove. For simply making water taste better, a filtering pitcher will do. For lead, arsenic, or other specific contaminants, you may want a permanent installation. Before you buy, be sure you know which contaminants the system will filter out. A good source of information is NSF International, an independent, nonprofit organization that helps develop public health standards and certification programs for various consumer products. NSF tests water filters and certifies that they meet certain standards.

The most effective type of filter is a whole-house (point-of-entry) reverse-osmosis system, which filters out lead and other toxic metals as well as other contaminants. This type of filter can be expensive, however, ranging in price from around $4,000 to $7,000. Under-the-sink reverse-osmosis systems can run from $159 up to $500.

Faucet-mounted systems and faucets with built-in filters can work well against specific contaminants (check the labels and NSF certificates), as do most countertop pitchers, and are a smaller investment. You’ll still have to pay for replacement filters, however.

As an alternative to a water filter, for about $100 to $500 you can get a countertop distiller that will boil water and condense the vapor. Distilling reduces levels of all chemicals in water, including heavy metals such as lead. Some units kill microorganisms. Some also remove chlorination byproducts. Distilled water is tasteless, but there’s no harm in drinking it.

However you choose to treat your water, keep these caveats in mind:

  • Distillers and reverse-osmosis filters remove fluoride. If you use one, make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride, and consider fluoride treatments for children in the household.
  • With any filtration or distilling system, change filters as directed; otherwise you risk increasing contamination.