How do I Choose the Best Drinking Water Filtration System?

J.S. Metzker Erdemir

Choosing a drinking water filtration system for your home can be a daunting task, especially when you consider the range of products available. To find the system that will work best for you, you should first have your water tested to see what you need. Heavy metals, chemicals, and biological contaminants should all be filtered from drinking water to keep it safe for your family. The size, cost, and amount of maintenance of the system are also important considerations.

Water filters are sometimes built into a pitcher.
Water filters are sometimes built into a pitcher.

Activated carbon filters can remove most chemicals like nitrites, chlorine, and sulfur through a process of adsorption in which the unwanted chemical molecules adhere to the carbon’s porous surface. Many types of activated carbon filters are paired with a ceramic filter that removes microbiological contaminants that can make you ill, such as giardia and coliform bacteria.

Reverse osmosis water filters force water through semi-porous membranes to remove impurities from the water.
Reverse osmosis water filters force water through semi-porous membranes to remove impurities from the water.

Carbon and ceramic filters are usually the least expensive type of drinking water filtration system. Some types attach directly to the faucet, while others come with a jug below the filter. Other carbon and ceramic filters are fitted to the water main that comes into the house. This type of filter must be changed or cleaned regularly because the carbon becomes impregnated with contaminants and bacteria collect on the ceramic component.

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Charcoal water filters with a micron rating of one or below prevents parasite, Giardia, from entering the drinking water.
Charcoal water filters with a micron rating of one or below prevents parasite, Giardia, from entering the drinking water.

Reverse osmosis water filters force water through a semiporous membrane that removes most chemicals, and some heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury. They can also filter out some of the lime, calcium, and magnesium that make water hard. Reverse osmosis systems are often paired with carbon and ceramic filters to take out chlorine and biological contaminants.

Reverse osmosis water filters remove most harmful chemicals.
Reverse osmosis water filters remove most harmful chemicals.

A reverse osmosis drinking water filtration system is usually more expensive than a carbon filter, and it creates a lot of contaminated waste water which goes down the drain and enters the groundwater. A reverse osmosis filter can be fitted under the kitchen sink, and there are larger systems that filter the home’s entire water supply. The membrane must be changed regularly to prevent buildup of bacteria and other contaminants.

Some people use a small carbon water filtration system that can further purify municipal water that comes from the tap.
Some people use a small carbon water filtration system that can further purify municipal water that comes from the tap.

A steam distillation drinking water filtration system boils the water and stores the steam in a tank, leaving all the chemicals and heavy metals behind and killing all the biological contaminants. Paired with a carbon filter, these systems completely remove all the same contaminants as carbon and reverse osmosis systems, as well as radioactivity. Steam distillers cost more than most carbon systems, but less than most reverse osmosis systems. Their effectiveness does not decrease over time, though their tanks require regular cleaning.

Have water tested to determine what type of filtration system is needed.
Have water tested to determine what type of filtration system is needed.

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