There are a lot of misleading claims about water filters. Many filters are marketed with general statements like “improves taste and odor”. But filter manufacturers don’t mention the specific amount of pesticides or chloramines removed, for example. Government websites also tend to leave out important data on water contaminants — it’s not in their interest to point out the problems with municipal water. We’ve found the best reviews of water filters comes from independent experts.
The best books on water purification I’ve found are The Drinking Water Book by Colin Ingram and Don’t Drink The Water by Lono A’o. Ingram suggests that one should first discover which pollutant are in your local water supply. You can then customize your filtration by selecting filters that target those specific pollutants. For example, if are you in a region of the U.S. where radon and uranium is commonly found in the groundwater, choose specific filters to remove those radioactive pollutants.
There are many sources of water contamination (see the graphic below), and sophisticated water purification is simply not possible on the massive scale that municipalities have to deal with.
Here’s the list of types of contaminants you want to remove from municipal tap water:
- Organic compounds (Pesticides, Herbicides, Pharmaceuticals, Fuels, etc.)
- Toxic metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, etc.)
- Bacterial and viruses (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.)
- Radioactive substances (Radon and Uranium, etc.)
- Additives (Chlorine and Chloramines, Fluoride, etc.)
Ingram’s book also contains a comprehensive collection of water filter reviews. He rates filter from “Acceptable” to “Excellent++”. Here are the ratings:
- Pitcher Filters (Acceptable)
- Faucet Filters (Acceptable)
- Countertop Filters (Good)
- Under-Sink Filters (Good to Very Good)
- Reverse Osmosis Countertop Purifiers (Good to Very Good)
- Reverse Osmosis Under-Sink Purifiers (Good to Very Good)
- Countertop Distillers (Excellent to Excellent++)
- Whole House Filters (no clear answer, but appears to be mostly “Very Good”)
Notably, all the pitcher-style filters and faucet-mounted filters get a rating of “Acceptable” (the lowest rating).
Countertop Water Filters
There are dozens of brands of countertop filters, and many are made to high manufacturing standards. However, the cost of replacement filters can be high. So countertop filters with standard 10-inch cartridges are recommended. Ingram says: “The availability of a wide variety of standard cartridges allows consumers to customize a water purifier for specific water conditions and to purchase cartridges from a competitive array of suppliers.”
Puriteam filters are available on their website.
You can purchase others at Amazon.
Under-Sink Water Filters
Under-sink filters tend to tend to have space for two or three different filter types, which is important if you want throughout filtration. Look for those filters that accept standard 10-inch cartridges.
Based on our research, the best performing water filters for your money are:
- The PurHome UCT by Puriteam ($299)
- The Triple Undersink Filter ($199) and the Enhanced Performance Filter by Pure Water Products (starts at $300)
Countertop Reverse Osmosis Purifiers
Countertop reverse-osmosis filters are full-size, multistage systems with performance that approaches or equals that of under-sink reverse osmosis units. Recommend models are Reverse Osmosis Filter by Pure Water Products and TGI CT-445 by Topway Global Inc. These filters have four stages: a sediment filter, a granular carbon filter, an reverse osmosis membrane, and a final granular carbon stage.
Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis Purifiers
There are hundreds of brands of under-sink reverse osmosis systems. Under-sink units generally perform better than counter-top reverse osmosis units, because they employ booster pumps and allow the reverse osmosis membrane to function optimally.
Gravity-Fed Drip Filters
If you are looking good filtration on a budget, I recommend a gravity-fed drip water filter system like British Berkefeld. These filters range in price from $200 – $250. They require no electricity to operate — water is filtered as it drips from the upper chamber to the lower chamber. Because the water is filtered slowly, the filtration is much more effective than a faucet-mounted filter. Berkefelds use “candle” type filters, which are widely available and can be customized to your specific filtration needs. Another advantage of this filter is that it can be collapsed and taken with you when you go on vacation.
Countertop distillers are effective water purifiers, but they take some time to distill water (for example 5 hours to distill 1 gallon). They also give off some heat and the integrated fans make some noise.
Megahome Countertop Water Distiller
This distiller is sold under many brand name, and it’s the most widely distributed distiller in the world. It has many quality components despite being inexpensive. It produces 1 gallon of water in 5 hours. The water is passed through a small granular carbon filter. There’s a sealed connections from the distiller to the water collection container, so there is minimal risk of contamination by air. The unit has a stainless steel boiling chamber that is easily accessible for cleaning.
The Megahome Countertop Distiller is available from Amazon for about $150.
Waterwise 4000 Countertop Distiller
This is a more powerful version of the distiller listed above. It has the same features but produces 1 gallon of distilled water in 4 hours. Also received an “Excellent” rating.
The Waterwise 4000 is available from Amazon for about $280.
Waterwise 8800 Water Distiller
The Waterwise 8800 is an inexpensive high-quality distiller. It produces 1 gallon of water every 4 hours. It received an “Excellent” rating from Ingram.
The Waterwise 8800 is available from Amazon for about $280.
Pure Water Mini-Classic
This rugged distiller is built out of stainless steel. It weighs 24 pounds, the filter housing is also made of stainless steel so there’s no contact with plastic.
The Pure Water Mini-Classic is available from Amazon for about $600.