What Water Filter Do I Need For My Home?
by Peter Lombardi
Quality Specialist, Consultant
> 4 min read
The US has some of the safest supplies of drinking water in the world. In 1974, the US Congress passed a Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to place regulations on the national water systems. This act was amended in 1986 and 1996 to further protect drinking water.
Despite the high overall standards, many public supplies contain contaminants. Most drinking water is gathered from natural sources, meaning contamination is possible at any point, even after disinfection at water treatment facilities. Using a water filter in your home is an excellent way to ensure your water is safe.
This guide takes you through what you need to know about purchasing a water filter for your home.
HERE ARE OTHER QUESTIONS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE ABOUT WATER:
How Much Water Need to Filter?
If you just want to get rid of sediment or basic minerals in your glass of water, there are inexpensive filters that can do the job. However, if you want to treat your entire home’s water supply, it will cost significantly more.
Determining how much water and what water sources within your home you wish to filter can help you decide which water filter you need.
There are a few ways of discovering how much water you consume at home. Firstly, if you want a device solely for drinking water, get everyone in the house to track their consumption in a typical week. This can be done through a hydration app or by measuring and taking notes each time they drink.
If you plan on filtering the water supply for the entire household, you’ll have to conduct a water audit.
Many community water suppliers send details of water use along with each bill, giving you exactly the information you need. Alternatively, you can take readings from your water meter. Take note of the water use by reading your meter at 24-hour intervals for a week. Divide the total use figure by 7 to get your daily average.
Once you know how much water needs filtering daily or weekly, you can get a better picture of the type and size of filter you require.
What Contaminants are Present in Water?
Deciding how much water you need to filter depends on the level of contamination of your home water supply. The type of water, household usage, and contamination level are also crucial considerations when deciding what filter to buy.
No filter removes all contaminants, so it’s important that the water filter you buy removes the unwanted materials which makes your drink taste awful and specific to your home’s water supply. All public or community water suppliers are required to produce an annual report that demonstrates the state of their water supply. Contact your water provider to get a copy of the report.
Another way to determine what contaminants are in your water is by testing. This is generally conducted by contacting a state-certified laboratory. You can also buy home water quality test kits that use paper strips to indicate the levels of certain contaminants, such as chlorine, nitrates, pesticides, and lead. They also test the water’s pH.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a database that contains information about how good certain water filters are at removing harmful materials. All you need to do is type in the manufacturer code. Ensure the filter you buy can remove the harmful materials present in your water.
"No filter removes all contaminants, so it’s important that the filter you buy removes the unwanted materials specific to your home’s water supply."
Types of Water Filters
The types of water filters on the market vary. You must choose one to cater to your needs.
Water Filter Pitchers
Water filter pitchers are essentially jugs that take water from your tap and filter it to improve the taste. Although they vary depending on the brand, water filter pitchers are generally inexpensive. Consumer Reports claims that they cost between $30 and $90 per annum. Some come with a lifespan indicator, letting you know when it needs to be changed.
Reputable water filter pitchers are usually effective in removing odors and bad tastes. However, many don’t remove particular nitrates, minerals, bacteria, and viruses present in the water. While these substances aren’t likely to be in your treated water supply, they can be.
Most household filter pitchers only hold around 68 oz. of water. The filtering process is very slow, meaning they aren’t suitable for serving large numbers of people. If you’re in the market for a cheap filter that improves the taste of your tap water, this may be suitable. However, if you want a more sophisticated filtering system to serve a large household, another option is better.
Refrigerator filters work similarly to filter pitchers in that they mechanically filter water through a carbon block wrapped in a thermoplastic polymer material. The main purpose of these filters is to remove bad tastes and smells from the water.
In general, this type of filter comes with particular refrigerators, meaning you may not be able to retrofit one on your current fridge. These filters also work slowly.
Faucet Mounted Filter
These filters are installed as an inline attachment to a regular faucet. They can be turned on and off, allowing you to run filtered or unfiltered water. Faucet mounted filters aerate water and are effective in removing harmful materials, improving the taste.
Faucet mounted filter systems are inexpensive and are readily available in grocery, homeware, and hardware stores. In general, the filter cartridges need changing after treating around 100 gallons of water.
The downside to these filters is that they can slow the water flow in your home, and they are not suitable to attach to all faucets.
Faucet Integrated Filters
The main advantage of using an integrated filter is that you can choose to have filtered water at all times. Water is filtered before it enters the faucet, giving you constant access to clean, fresh water.
The downside to constant filtered water availability is that this type of filter is expensive and requires installation.
Under Sink Filters
Under sink filter systems are installed directly beneath the sink. They use a special pipe to filter and transfer water to a separate faucet. This faucet must be used exclusively to access filtered water.
These systems filter and provide water on demand and come with a high-capacity holding tank capable of treating large amounts of water.
Although these filters can be quite affordable, they sometimes require extra plumbing before installation, increasing the price.
Whole House Water Treatment Systems
If your entire water supply needs filtering, a whole house treatment system may be the best option for you. These filtration systems treat water at the point where the main water line connects with your house. All faucets, showerheads, and appliances are fed by clean, filtered water.
This is perhaps the most comprehensive of all types of water filters. It can effectively treat hard water or water containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Whole-house treatments are usually expensive. They also require installation and professional maintenance. Depending on the existing plumbing in your home, it may need to be modified.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the type of filter you need for your home depends on the level of contamination of your water, what the contaminants are, and how much water you need to filter. Choosing the right filter means buying one that can take care of these issues.
Although your budget will have an influence, safe water should be a priority. An inadequate system can cost you money without removing all the harmful contaminants in your water.
About the Author
Peter is a Los Angeles based water quality specialist, and works as a surveyor for businesses and communities looking to be informed and active about the quality of their water. He shares his expertise with 64 oz. to ensure everything is accurate, and to prevent the spread of misinformation about water contaminants.