We’ve been reviewing water filters for about 16 years. These best filters we’ve found for most people are:
- ProPur or Big Berkey drip filters. These filters use a combination of ceramic and carbon block filtration. Overall, they are the least expensive type of filters to maintain.
- The Aquagear filter (made in the USA). This filter has been certified by ISO 17025 accredited labs tests to remove lead (97.5%), fluoride (90%), chlorine (99.99%), chromium 6 (99.87%), mercury (99.6%), trihalomethanes (99.99%), DDT (98.8%). The filter comes with a lifetime guarantee that cover manufacturing defects.
- If you are able to spend $400 to $500, “whole house” filters are the way to go. These filters are installed at where municipal water pipes enter your home. In the long run, they are an inexpensive option. I recommend the whole house filter by iSpring.
2The Contaminants You Want To Remove
Typically, you want to remove these contaminants from your water:
- Toxic metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminium, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, etc.)
- Additives (Chlorine, Chloramines, Fluoride)
- Chlorination By-Products (Trihalomethanes or THMs)
- VOCs and other Organic Compounds (Pesticides, Herbicides, Pharmaceuticals, Fuels)
- Bacteria and viruses (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.)
- Radioactive substances (Radon and Uranium, etc.)
If you use municipal water, you will usually find these contaminants:
- THMs (Trihalomethanes)
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
If you use well water, these are the most common contaminants you’ll find:
- Particulate matter (dirt, bits of leaves, etc.)
- Bacteria and viruses
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
- Radioactive substances
The Effectiveness Of Different Types Of Water Filters
Pitcher-style filters such as Brita filters are inexpensive units, making them very popular with consumers. However, in the long term, they are actually one of the most expensive option. The filters cartridges require frequent replacement — the cost for 40 gallons is $7-10 each, or $130-$190 for 750 gallons.
Almost all pitcher-style filters use GAC or “granulated activated carbon” as the filtration medium. Typically, GAC is coconut husks that have been heated to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen and then granulated. These filters do remove some chlorine and hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs odor) — but are not effective at removing VOCs, metals, pesticides or fluoride. Overall, they are not very effective water filters. One exception that I’ve discovered is the Aquagear Water Filter. This filter has been certified by ISO 17025 accredited labs tests to remove lead (97.5%), fluoride (90%), chlorine (99.99%), chromium 6 (99.87%), mercury (99.6%), trihalomethanes (99.99%) and DDT (98.8%). This filter costs about $70 and it’s available on Amazon.
Filters that attach to your kitchen faucet are very similar to Pitcher Filters, but they do filter a little better than the pitcher-style filters. However, they have the same drawbacks — they are expensive to maintain and they do not remove many contaminants. You must replace filters every 100 gallons at $20-$40 each or $140-$180 for 700 gallons.
Colin Ingram, author of the The Drinking Water Book rates all faucet filters no higher than “Acceptable”.
Gravity-Fed Drip Filters
In my opinion, the best water filters are gravity-fed drip water filters. These filters are excellent at removing chlorine, chlorination by-products, fluoride, VOCs, pesticides, particulates and pharmaceuticals. These filters use “candle” type filters, which are widely available and can be customized to your specific filtration needs.
Gravity-fed filters 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. Generally, slow filtration methods tend to be best.
Berkey is best-known drip filter manufacturer. They make good quality filters. You might also consider ProPur filters. Their latest filter, the ProOne G 2.0, will remove fluoride — including hydrofluorosilicic acid (few filters remove this contaminant).
These filters use carbon block filtration, which works by the process of adsorption (different than absorption). In this process, the carbon attracts certain contaminants at the molecular level, and the contaminants become attached to the surface of the carbon. Once the surface of the carbon is full, the filter must be thrown out and replaced. However, the ProPur filters can be periodically scrubbed, and thus reused for years.
These filter are certified to NSF/ANSI standards #42 (test for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates), NSF Standard #53 (tests for Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, VOCs and MTBE) and NSF Standard #61 (tests that toxins aren’t leached into water). They are manufactured in England.
Overall Rating: Excellent