How to Choose the Right Water Filtration System

by Ron & Lisa Beres on March 27, 2014 · 18 comments

How to Choose the Right Water Filtration System

Water filters come in many forms, but they all rely on a limited number of technologies to remove the numerous contaminants typically found in water. Municipal water treatment systems employ several technologies to treat the water so that it’s fit for human consumption; however these disinfection methods come with a steep price tag on health. To protect drinking water from disease-causing organisms or pathogens, chloramines or chlorine is typically used to treat the water. Once either reacts with organic material, disinfection byproducts such as Trihalomethanes, Haloacetic Acids, Bromate and Chlorite are created which can pose health serious risks.

Some people who drink water containing total trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years could experience liver, kidney, or central nervous system problems and increased risk of cancer. ~ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Understanding the types of technologies available to treat water for both biological and chemical contaminants will make it easier for you review the pros and cons of each. You can achieve clean, purified water by installing the appropriate filtration system that removes the toxins of concern from your water.

Here are a few pointers to help narrow down your search:

  • Some filters combine the power of several technologies, while others work with one type of technology.
  • To verify if a filter removes a certain contaminant, check whether it’s certified for that contaminant by a reputable agency such as NSF or the California Department of Public Health.
  • Filters labeled “NSF” may be certified to remove toxins from water but these certifications aren’t all created equal. A filter may be certified to remove a specific contaminant, or in some cases, certification might be for improving water taste; be sure to read the fine print.

7 Water Filtration System Basics

1.) Activated Carbon/Carbon Filters

These vary in effectiveness, but generally carbon filters remove contaminants such as lead, mercury, asbestos, and several other volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Activated carbon chemically bonds with contaminants and removes them from the water – but it also has its limitations. These do not remove inorganic compounds such as fluoride. Additionally, depending on the NSF certification, some are effective at removing chlorine whereas others only remove chlorine taste and odor. Here are the two most common:

Carbon Block

These filters have a larger surface area than that of granulated activated carbon fiber which makes them more effective. This type of filter is made by heating activated carbon into blocks. Keep in mind though, that the speed at which water flows through the filter also determines how effectively filtered it is.

Granulated Activated Carbon

Carbon block filters work better than this type of filter. Granulated Activated Carbon contains tiny grains of activated carbon and they have a small surface area. Their performance is also affected by how fast water flows through them.

2.) UV (ultraviolet)

Ultraviolet light can be used to kill certain microorganisms and bacteria; however, this process can not remove chemical pollutants.

3.) Distillation

This type of filter uses heat to vaporize water and then the steam is condensed back to water. A large number of bacteria are removed this way, as well as chemicals and viruses. Distillation does not remove volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s), chlorine or trihalomethanes.

4.) Mechanical Filters

These work like ceramic filters by removing solid contaminants. In order to clean the water more effectively, they are used in combination with other types of filters.

5.) Reverse Osmosis

This can be effective at removing contaminants such as arsenic, fluoride, nitrates, hexavalent chromium and many other contaminants. In order to filter the contaminants, water is pushed through a semi-permeable membrane where particles larger than water molecules are blocked out.

6.) Deionization

In case you’d prefer a more complex form of filtration, deionization removes electrically charged molecules and iron salts through an ion exchange process. Microorganisms and non-ionic compounds (ie: many VOC’s or trihalomethanes) can not be removed through an ion exchange process.

7.) Ozone

Acc’d to the EPA, Bromate occurs when bromide in the water reacts with the disinfectant, ozone. It is great at killing bacteria and additional microorganisms, but works best when paired with other filtration methods as it is not effective at removing chemical contaminants.

Which System to Choose

When filtering drinking water for your home, you’re basically trying to remove a host of contaminants including microbial forms such as bacteria, parasites and algae, or inorganic contaminants such as copper, brass, aluminum, iron, etc. Untreated water contains a large number of potentially harmful organisms and compounds, all of which require advanced filters to remove.

$ – $$

POU (Point-of-Use)– These types of filtration devices introduce water at a single water connection (ie: kitchen sink) and include under-counter (ie: Reverse Osmosis), countertop (ie: Filtration never before available in a pitcher Water Filtration Systemand Berkey) or faucet mounted filters (ie: PUR or Aquasana shower filters).

$$$

POE (Point-of-Entry) – These are installed at the main water line where water enters the home. They are also referred to as Whole House Water Filters because they provide filtered water to all sinks, baths, showers, dishwashers, refrigerators (such as the Ukf8001 filter), washing machines and toilets – basically, the entire house (ie: Rhino whole house water filterWater Filtration System).

No single filter can remove all undesirables from your drinking water but using a filter lowers the risk of infection or long-term exposure to chemical contaminants. In order to get healthy water for your home, you may need to combine two or more filtration systems. Be sure you understand what the filter removes and test your water (if necessary) before purchasing the appropriate filter for optimal health. You can find out what’s in your local water HERE (How 100 US Cities rank for Tap Water Quality).

Don’t Forget…Change Your Filters!

No filter will give you consistently good performance over the long term unless it receives regular maintenance. As contaminants build up, a filter can not only become less effective, but actually can make your water worse by starting to release harmful bacteria or chemicals back into your filtered water.

Photo Credit: Jessie Preza  + Hollingsworth Showroom

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dani March 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm

This is definitely a great write up on all of the different kinds of water filters that are currently on the market, there are so many contaminants in the water, and they all need to be removed, and this can be achieved with a reverse osmosis system. Because most reverse osmosis systems include various filtration types, it is by far the most effective solution. For example, my system has both granular activated carbon, and carbon block filters, the reverse osmosis filter, and a deionization filter.

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Kim March 28, 2014 at 8:21 am

Dani which reverse osmosis system do you use?

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Hannah March 28, 2014 at 10:07 am

We use a Chanson Nano Filtration system which is a modified R/O system that actually keeps the healthy alkaline minerals in the water while filtering out the bad stuff.

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Sandra Keros April 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Living in an apartment in NYC doesn’t really allow me to use my under counter filter so I use a Berkey. The first year I found sediment at the bottom of every filtration and I recently switched to Propur filters. No sediment and water tastes clean. N.B. They even have additional filters to get rid of fluoride too.

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Ron & Lisa April 16, 2014 at 11:31 am

Hi Sandra~
Thanks for your feedback! Just curious…why can’t you use the under sink models in the city? Is this a space issue? Thanks for bringing Propur to our attention. Yes, they appear to be very similar to Berkey and we would definitely advise using the additional fluoride filters!! I noticed these are NSF certified (bingo), which I couldn’t verify w/ Berkey.

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Sandra Keros October 16, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Any model that attaches to the faucet spout requires screw grooves for the filtration attachment. Back then, I had a sprayer and I wasn’t allowed to switch it out (even if I switched it back). Now, in my new place, there’s an Ikea faucet that doesn’t have the screw grooves to attach the countertop attachment. Still using the Berkey! And glad I found this thread because I couldn’t recall what brand of filters I used since they’re due for replacement :).

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parveen kumar April 24, 2015 at 1:30 am

Before buying any water filter and purifier we kept in mind some specifications and technology which is best water purifier for home.

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Best water purifier May 5, 2015 at 10:37 pm

No doubt that it’s a difficult task to choose the right water filtration system but after read your post it will be easiest to select best water purifier.

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Kate Hansen September 21, 2016 at 8:08 am

I am really picky about the water I drink and I hate drinking straight from the tap. I didn’t realize there were so many different types of filtration systems. I think I would like the reverse osmosis system since it would remove contaminants like arsenic, fluoride, and nitrates. Those are probably dangerous in drinking and I wouldn’t want them in me or my family!

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Jane October 24, 2016 at 8:47 am

Hi Ron and Lisa! Thank you for those water filtration system basics. And I will take note of your reminder in the end about changing filters. Great post by the way.

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Ron & Lisa Beres October 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Oh yes, this is all too often overlooked by people and create more harm than good if not changed frequently. Thanks for your feedback!

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Jane October 26, 2016 at 11:39 pm

You’re so awesome guys! Pleasure is mine :)

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