Water Filtration Systems

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/flickr 

If you’re looking to choose a water filter system, you may feel overwhelmed by all the different kinds. Narrowing down the list of choices will be a lot easier when you’re informed about your water and the types of filtration systems available. Get the facts here. And don't be shy to contact a plumber to help you decide what filtration system is best for you.

Know Your Water

Find out what is in your water. That’s the most important thing to know before choosing a filtration system. Although you can buy a water testing kit at your local home improvement sore, laboratory tests are the only reliable source of information about exactly which contaminants are present in your water supply. Contact your local health authority for information on state-certified testing labs in your area. Once you know what contaminants you want to filter out of your water, you’ll be better equipped to choose the type of filtration device that will work best for you.

Learn the Potential Contaminants

The contaminants most commonly found in water include:

  • iron
  • manganese
  • sulfur
  • bacteria
  • nitrates

Other possible contaminants include:

  • chlorine
  • fluoride
  • sediment
  • heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and thallium)
  • hydrogen sulfide
  • radon

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is a term you will see in the literature for many products. It refers to the number of particles in the water and its conductivity. TDS meters measure dissolved minerals in water, such as calcium and magnesium.

Compare Filtering Methods

There are a number of methods to remove contaminants from water. The most common are:

  1. filters -- activated carbon, ceramic (utilizing diatomaceous earth) or fiber filters
  2. reverse osmosis
  3. ultraviolet light

The types of water filtration devices include:

  1. refrigerator water filters
  2. whole house water filters
  3. water bottle filters
  4. shower water filters
  5. portable water filters
  6. faucet water filters
  7. undersink water filters
  8. well water filters
  9. countertop water filters
  10. pitcher water filters. 

Some filtration devices include line by-pass options.

How Effective are Water Filtration Systems?

Overall, the filtration systems utilizing activated carbon filters filter the widest variety of contaminants, including the deadly Giardia and cryptosporidium bacteria. Generally, the carbon filters are more effective the longer the water is in contact with the carbon.
Treating water with Ultraviolet light is only effective against living organisms in the water.
Reverse osmosis removes a wide range of contaminants, as well as TDS, by forcing water through a membrane.
The ceramic filters are effective and last longer than carbon filters, but are not as common. Fiber filters -- made of cellulose or rayon -- work well at filtering out sediment.

Cost of Water Filtration Systems

Pitchers and faucet water filter systems cost $10 to $275 and up.

Reverse osmosis systems cost $150 - $500 or more.

Undersink and countertop systems range from $50 - $400 and up.

Whole house systems cost from $400 to thousands of dollars.

Review the Performance Data Sheet

Before you make your final decision on the type of water filtering device that will work for you, make sure to review the product's Performance Data Sheet. The PDS lists which contaminants the product is certified to remove. Also, you may want to factor in the cost for replacement filters and review the company's warranty and replacement policies.

Updated September 27, 2017.

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