Have you ever pondered the immense, world-spanning journey your water has taken before it reaches your lips?
It's a doozy. From the sources it springs from, through miles of infrastructure, your tap water can pick up a lot of unpleasant impurities along the way. It's a sobering thought.
But don't worry: We're not here to cause alarm. Instead, we're here to explain what you can do about the nasties in your water, and it all begins with a high-quality water filter.
What are the best water filters around? We're here to break that down in great detail. By the time you're done, you'll understand how a water filter works, and how to choose the best one for your needs.
Clean water is life.
It makes up between 60% and 70% of your body weight and plays a pivotal role in your health and well-being. Your body needs around a third to half a gallon of water every day and you use far more than that around the house. Now think about your own water supply.
Cleaning, cooking, and basic hygiene: All of them require water. All of them interact with your body in some way.
The quality of that water affects the taste of your food and the lifespan of your appliances!
Ensuring that your water quality is above board is about quenching your thirst; change the taste of your water to meet your own personal preferences and needs. That doesn't mean you should be afraid of your own water supply. It just means you should take the opportunity to improve the quality of the water you drink.
Arizona is hot.
The arid state's climate and thriving population demand a lot of clean water from a clean water source. Providing water to residents is a real challenge for authorities, and a range of factors make it more difficult than states with milder climates.
Whether it's water scarcity from climate conditions, the complexities of aging water infrastructure, or the contamination stemming from agriculture and heavy industry, Arizona residents shouldn't take their water supplies for granted.
Local regulations - that vary between cities and regions - make matters more complicated.
Arizona relies heavily on groundwater to supply its population. Yet this reliance comes with its own set of challenges - notably the fact that groundwater is highly vulnerable to contaminants that end up in the drinking water.
And once it's contaminated, it's very difficult to cleanse.
In Arizona, water quality differs from one neighborhood to the next, this is why we suggest getting your water tested every now and then. If you already know you aren’t happy with your water quality, investing in a state-of-the-art water filter is a smart choice.
Think of water filters like applying sunscreen: You won't experience negative consequences from mild exposure to UV ways - but over time, the skin damage adds up. Water filters act as an additional layer of protection for your tap water.
A high-caliber filtration system removes contaminants in your water supply - the kinds of contaminants that may slip through the net at processing facilities. Knowing what kind of filter you need can be a little more complicated. It depends on your budget, the quality of your water and the kind of system you want installed.
Jump to a later section in this article to find out what the best kind of water filter for your home is.
Many water filters claim to be "NSF Certified".
The NSF Standard (National Sanitation Foundation) is set forth by an independent body, the NSF. The Standard evaluates the potential health effects of products that consumers interact with, including water filters.
A product bearing the NSF seal is one that has been tested rigorously and impartially. Attaining certification is a lengthy, comprehensive ordeal: For water filtration systems, it amounts to proving that a water filter is effective at removing dangerous substances from water sources.
So, the NSF seal is more than a seal of approval; it demonstrates reliability and safety.
That's why it's considered the "gold standard" for the North American water filtration industry. It reassures consumers and forces manufacturers to deliver the best products they can.
When comparing water filtration systems, you should always look for NSF certification.
You need to know what's wrong with your water before you can shop for water filters. And, as mentioned, the quality of water in Arizona varies...a lot.
Why? That's a complicated question - but the simplest answer is that every region has its own water challenges. Heavy metals used in industry can permeate water supplies when they're handled irresponsibly.
Dangerous bacteria exist in some regions (and climates) more than others.
Elevated levels of some chemicals, such as chlorine, can make it harder to filter water. Plus, existing contaminants in water supplies can damage infrastructure over time.
A region-based water filter is tailored to the local water supply. Usually, a professional plumbing technician will advise you on the best way to proceed, based on your zip code.
You can use several tricks to find out what's actually in your home's water supply. How much you learn depends on the legwork you're willing to put in; more effort means better accuracy.
Some of the approaches you can use include:
Reaching out to local water authorities
Using online research tools
Using a home water testing kit
Your municipal authorities should publish annual reports on water quality. Those reports will detail the source of your water, explaining how it meets (or falls short of) regulations. However, such reports are typically limited to large areas.
They lack granularity. They're a good place to start - but only as a rough guide.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is another source of data, thanks to its "Safe Drinking Water Information System" (SDWIS) database. Unlike your municipal government, the EPA is likely to be more critical of local water supplies.
If you're keen on deeper insights, then try searching for online water quality tools. These tools, often free for public use, aggregate data from a variety of sources. Many of them allow you to look up your own zip code to get an idea of the water in your area.
However, there's no guarantee and little oversight.
That's why the best way of finding out what's in your water is to test it yourself. Home water testing kits can be bought locally at hardware stores or sourced online.
These kits let you collect samples of tap water to send to a certified lab for analysis. The results will tell you exactly what's in the water you drink every day - and may help you make a decision about installing a water filter.
We've covered the "why" of water filtration so far - but you're not here to read about the problems. You want solutions, and don't worry, we've got them:
We've highlighted our top pick for sink water filters below.
Broadly speaking, though, Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems are some of the best in the industry. In simple terms, they work by pushing water through a semi-permeable membrane, removing up to 99% of the nasty stuff.
Dissolved salts, microparticles, bacteria, heavy metals, and other impurities are all things you don't want to be drinking.
RO systems can be smaller than you think (like under-the-sink RO systems), but the most effective ones are often installed at your water's point of entry. They won't cause your sink water to decline in terms of flavor, either, in case that's on your mind.
A professional technician can walk you through the benefits of an RO water system and install one in a matter of hours.
The magic of RO lies in its simplicity. At the fundamental level, it's basically a high-tech sieve that will remove water contaminants. It does so with the help of high-water pressure and specialized membranes with tiny pores.
Contaminants are removed, effectively cleaning the water. But that's only half of the story - so let's go deeper.
Most RO systems are designed with layers. Each layer acts as another barrier of protection. One of these layers is a carbon filter that catches and removes substances like chlorine from the water. This is because of the intrinsic properties of the base element carbon - it binds to some harmful things in your water.
Then, there's an ion exchange process.
This gets rid of heavy metals, which react to the ions (which have electrical charges). An easier way to think of the ion exchange is to imagine using tiny magnets to pull metals out of the water.
Put everything together, and you've got a comprehensive approach to water filtration. RO systems are champions at removing impurities and contaminants!
Beyond providing clean drinking water, RO systems also improve the taste and odor of your water. They remove substances that can give water a metallic taste or a foul smell. If you've been battling with bad-tasting or smelly water, an RO system could be your ticket to a refreshing glass of water.
While RO systems are effective, they're not the only option out there.
Depending on your water quality, your budget, and your personal choices, you might consider other types of filters like water pitcher filters and water softeners.
A water filter pitcher is a popular choice for its affordability. It's simple - and far simpler than RO - which is what drives down the price. Water filter pitchers use activated carbon to reduce contaminants and improve the taste.
Another even easier option is the faucet-mounted filter. These are cheap, attached to your taps, and filter water straight from them. Obviously, though, they won't do anything about the rest of your water supply, such as the water you use to bathe or shower.
If your water is hard (i.e. high in calcium or magnesium), you might consider a water softener. Water softeners use the ion exchange process we talked about above to swap hard minerals for soft ones. This improves the taste of your water, but also prolongs the life of your home appliances, reducing chalky buildups.
Some people choose higher pH values over lower ones. High-pH water, or alkaline water, is believed by some to neutralize acid in the body. Alkaline filters increase the pH value of water by adding minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
This can direct them away from RO systems, which sometimes strip water of beneficial minerals. So, if you prefer mineral-rich water, you might consider a remineralization filter. Installed alongside an RO system, these filters add minerals like calcium back into your water supply, enhancing its health benefits.
Choosing the right RO water filter can be a challenge - but we promised our top pick, and it's the NSF-Certified Reverse Osmosis filter from EcoWater Systems. But you might still want to consider other options.
Here's the best way to go about picking an RO water filter:
Get your water tested (or test it yourself)
Look at NSF certifications
Consider the size and location of the filter
Look at maintenance and repair reviews
Consider your budget
Knowing what's coming out of your taps is the first step in choosing a filter. That will tell you what contaminants you need to tackle. As we've explained, you can use a home testing kit to assess your water quality - but having a technician do so (below) will yield far better insights.
Then, look for a filter certified to remove the contaminants found in your water.
Ask yourself next what you want to filter. Do you need a whole-house system that filters everything in your home? Or do you merely require an under-the-sink system for cooking and drinking water?
Don't forget the maintenance requirements, too.
You'll need to replace filters regularly to keep your water clean and prevent the buildup of dirt and grime that can impact your water's flow rate. Plus, the cost of replacement filters (and the ease of changing them) should factor into your thinking.
Finally, you need to compare your wants with what you can afford.
High-quality RO systems aren't cheap - and you get what you pay for. Even so, they'll save you money in the long run. You won't need to buy additional clean water - and you'll extend the life of your home appliances.
It's tricky, but you can install an RO water system on your own if you know your way around some basic plumbing. Alternatively, you can hire a professional for a smooth, hassle-free installation.
Once installed, you'll need to stay on top of maintenance to keep your filtration system running smoothly. Except for the filter, most of the parts won't need to be replaced regularly - it's mostly a matter of periodic monitoring.
Usually, you'll need a new filter every six months to two years (depending on your water) to make sure it's always up to scratch. Keep a log of when you check and replace your filters to make your life easier. Manufacturers generally list their recommendations for filter replacement in a handbook, so you can refer to that if you need more guidance.
In addition to the price tag, there are other, ongoing costs to consider in RO systems, including:
Water filter replacements
Although RO systems, when compared with other types of filters, tend to be more expensive upfront, they can be more cost-effective in the long run. The cost of NOT having a water filter can be even higher - in the form of damaged appliances, shorter life spans on faucets and showerheads, plastic waste, and unnecessary expenses for bottled water.
Water conservation is a hot topic in America's more arid states, where water restrictions and watering days are growing increasingly common. So, here's the rub:
RO water systems aren't the most water-efficient option. They're brilliant at purifying and filtering water, but they also waste a fair amount of it. However, in a broader perspective, RO filters can reduce the use of plastic water bottle waste, lowering your overall ecological footprint. And, depending on the manufacturer, you may also be able to recycle your used water filters, and that reduces landfill waste and your carbon footprint in one go.
We mentioned water softeners in passing, so let's clear up some confusion:
Water softeners and RO systems serve different purposes. They're not interchangeable. A water softener isn't meant to remove contaminants from water; instead, it reduces the water's hardness by replacing the calcium and magnesium in it.
An RO system, meanwhile, filters to remove a diverse mix of contaminants. It can reduce the water's hardness, too, but that's not its primary purpose.
So, if your main concern is hard water, you can probably make do with a water softener. If contaminants are at the front of your mind, an RO system is the way to go.
Professional water evaluation services can provide valuable insight into your water quality. They can identify specific contaminants and their concentrations, helping you choose the most effective water filter for your needs. These services typically involve collecting a water sample from your home and sending it to a lab for analysis. The results will provide a detailed breakdown of the minerals, chemicals, and other substances in your water.
Having Professionals Assess Your Water Quality
A professional service can detect every contaminant under the sun - from the common culprits like lead and chlorine to less pervasive ones such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides. The results can be overwhelming, you'll likely be presented with a laundry list of substances and their relevant concentrations. But don't be alarmed.
Apples contain cyanide and bananas are radioactive. It's the dose that matters: You'd need to eat ten million bananas to soak up a lethal dose of radiation. So don't worry if you see the mere presence of contaminants in your water. It doesn't mean your water is unsafe. Most substances are perfectly fine in small amounts.
The key is to look for substances that exceed the safe limits set by health authorities - and in that regard, a professional service is an ideal advisor.
If you are looking for the best water filter for your home, the first step is to learn more about the water you drink. Having your water tested can be a great start to learning what type of filter is best for your home. At Parker & Sons, we can test your water and help you make an informed decision about next steps.
Voted #1 by consumers, our team of qualified experts is available 24/7. Click here to learn more about our free water evaluations.