The Complete Beginners Guide to Water Filters

The perfect guide for anyone trying to wade through the process of buying a water filter. This guide has everything you need to know. Click to read more or PIN to save for later.

If you’re like most people, you want to drink clean water but aren’t sure where to start. Or, perhaps you’ve looked into all the different types of water filters and found yourself totally confused. There’s a good reason for this! The information available is complex, sometimes misleading or conflicting and there’s so much to digest. Until now.

You don’t need to become a water quality expert to choose the best water filter. We’ve put together the basics on what you need to know.

Welcome to the Complete Beginners Water Filter Guide. You’ll learn why it’s important to drink filtered water, important considerations for choosing a water filter, and our top picks in our 2016 Water Filter Guide.

In this Guide, we’ll cover the following:

Let’s start with why it’s important to drink filtered water.

Tap Water Contaminants – It’s a Long List


If you think about it, your water department has a big job. Hundreds of contaminants end up in your water supply including:

  • Agriculture pesticides & fertilizers
  • Industrial pollutants
  • Urban runoff chemicals
    • Car emissions
    • Road surfaces
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Personal Care Products
    • Flame Retardants
  • Water treatment chemicals & their byproducts

It’s an overwhelming list especially since well-respected research has linked many of these contaminants to cancer, liver, kidney and nervous system problems.

So, it’s important to understand some of the shortcomings in the system that provides your drinking water. Here are our top 5 concerns about tap water and why it’s important to use water filters.


1. EPA Standards aren’t Stringent Enough


Did you know that the EPA sets two levels for water departments?

You are probably wondering how this works.

The EPA sets two measures; one standard is enforceable while the other is not.

  • The unenforceable standard is the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG). The EPA sets the MCLG at a level where they expect no adverse health effects
  • The enforceable standard is simply called the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – this is often set higher than the goal

Think of the MCLG as considering your health and the MCL as considering your health and the costs of removing contaminants.

As a result, your tap water may have unhealthy levels of contaminants (exceeding MCLG), but still be meeting the enforceable standards (meeting MCL).

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?

Your water is not meeting the EPA experts’ standards for good health because the EPA also factored in the cost of meeting those safety levels.

To get an understanding of how this works, consider arsenic standards. The EPA classifies arsenic as a known human carcinogen. Its MCLG is 0.00 meaning that to avoid any adverse health effects, water should not contain any arsenic. However, arsenic’s MCL or enforceable level is 0.01 which allows water supplies to contain arsenic and meet standards.

You’re probably not on board with drinking arsenic–didn’t think so.


2. The EPA doesn’t Regulate ALL Pollutants (Not Even Close)


The EPA does not regulate all pollutants. In fact, a 2009 study detected 316 contaminants and a whopping 202 of those contaminants had no safety standards. About 132 million people in the US had unregulated pollutants in their tap water according to the study.

Admit it. You’d rather have safety standards for more contaminants.

You’d like to think that the EPA has selected the most dangerous contaminants to regulate, but there’s a constant stream of new chemicals being developed and an understaffed/underfunded agency trying to keep up.

The EPA is only regulating 1/3 of contaminants. Does that seem like enough to you?


3. Your Water Department isn’t Perfect


It’s possible that your water department is failing on certain regulatory standards.

People make mistakes. Processes fail. Equipment malfunctions. When these mistakes occur, they can negatively affect many people.

For example, from 2004-2009, the Environmental Working Group reports that water departments serving 53 million people failed to meet the goal for Trihalomethanes, a likely carcinogen, according to the EPA.

That’s a lot of imperfection.


4. Bad Stuff Can Happen Between the Water Plant and your Sink


Your water gathers contaminants between the water plant and your house, so even if you’re convinced that your water department is doing a perfect job, your tap water can be contaminated by the pipes that lead to your house or the pipes inside your home. This is precisely what happened in Flint MI and many other cities as well. Lead leached from the pipes and contaminated the water.

Five Things You Don't Want to Hear About Tap Water

You may think that lead pipes are a thing of the past. It’s true that lead water pipes are no longer used today, but many older lead pipes are still in service. And during a repair or change in water chemistry, these pipes can leach lead into tap water.

And, it’s not just lead that could be a problem. Other contaminants can end up in your drinking water as well.

So, as your tap water travels from your water treatment plant into your house, it can pick up contaminants along the way causing unsafe levels of lead and other contaminants.


5. Fluoride Levels May Exceed Healthy Levels


Tap water contains fluoride which can cause adverse health effects. A 2006 study of Fluoride in Drinking Water sponsored by the EPA recommended lowering the MCLG due to concerns about increased bone fracture rates and enamel fluorosis in children 0-8 years old. The committee unanimously recommended that the EPA set fluoride levels lower due to strong health concerns.

The committee also recommended further study about fluoride’s impact on thyroid and brain functioning.

Unfortunately, the MCL and MCLG are still set at 4 mg/L, an unsafe level according to the committee. For a full copy of the report, click here.

Seems hard to believe, right?

A huge study conducted by experts says that the fluoride goal is too high. And, ten years later, the goal still hasn’t been reset?


What Type of Water Filter is Best for You?


Now that you’ve learned about the EPA’s two standards, the burgeoning number of new, unregulated chemicals, the fallibility of your water department, the possibility of unsafe water pipe infrastructure, and the potential of having more fluoride in your water than is healthy, what’s next?

Well, you probably want to know how to get drinking water that you can trust. This next section explains the basics of water filter systems. The last section of the Water Filter Guide provides recommendations.

Water Filter Systems Basics

Almost all drinking water filters use some form of carbon filtration while the best and most effective purifiers use more than one type of filtration media. Why would products have more than one filter type? Because different filter types are effective at removing different types of contaminants.

The most common types of media are carbon and/or activated carbon, ceramic filters, metallic alloy, carbon block resin, and reverse osmosis membranes. Each filter medium has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, carbon filters are excellent at removing a broad range of contaminants but are completely ineffective at removing contaminants like Fluoride.

Water Purifier Product Types Explained – Gravity, Faucet, Counter Top, Under Counter & Whole House

There are many types of water purifiers to choose from. Let’s start with the Point of Use (POU) filter types. The simplest POU filters are Gravity-fed Pitchers or larger dispensers that you fill manually.

Then there are Faucet Filters that attach to your water spout and Counter Top Filters with a free-standing water filter unit that sits next to your sink and attaches to the end of your faucet via hoses. Both faucet and counter top filters have a diverter valve that engages the filter when you want filtered water. All of these filters are easy DIY solutions.

The next level in terms of installation difficulty is Under Counter Filters. These filters attach to your cold water line and provide filtered water to a separate, dedicated drinking water faucet (included with your filter). Under Counter Filters come with and without Reverse Osmosis (RO) filters. The RO filters need a separate holding tank for filtered water as well as a connection to your water waste line. These systems can either be installed by a handy homeowner, or by a plumber. Keep in mind that when you install a separate water faucet, you’ll need a hole cut in your countertop. A plumber can handle this for you.

A Point of Entry (POE) or Whole House System connects directly to your incoming water line and filters all the water to your home. A Whole House Filters has a high water flow rate, so it can’t filter out as many contaminants as a POU system. You’ll need a licensed plumber to install your Whole House Filter.

If you install a Whole House System, you’ll still need drinking water filter. Read How to Select a Whole House Filter for more information on why you need two systems.

Determining Effectiveness

How do you know which products are effective? The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) with the National Science Foundation (NSF) have contaminant reduction standards for drinking water treatment units. When buying your filter, look for these NSF standards:

    • NSF Standard 42-Aesthetic Effects. This standard covers Chlorine, Taste and Odor, and Particulates.
    • NSF Standard 53-Health Effects. This standard applies to hazardous contaminants including microbiological (harmful cysts), chemical (disinfection byproducts, pesticides and herbicides, VOC’s, and MTBE’s), and particulate matter (lead, mercury, etc.).
    • NSF Standard 58-Reverse Osmosis. This standard applies only to RO systems and addresses Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and other hazardous contaminants.
    • NSF Standard 401-Emerging Compounds/Incidental Contaminants. This standard covers up to 15 contaminants found at trace levels in public drinking water. These include certain prescription drugs as well as over the counter pain medications, pesticides, and herbicides not before targeted, and some new chemical compounds used in flame retardants, plastics, and detergents. All good things to remove from your drinking water!

It is important to note that although these standards cover many contaminants and set up MINIMUM reduction requirements, a product does not have to remove ALL of the contaminants to earn NSF certification. The filter only has to reach the minimum requirement for the contaminants claimed by the manufacturer to receive certification.

You Must Read the Fine Print, Really!

To compare filters you have to look not only for the NSF certification, but you need to check each filter’s Performance Data Sheet to find (1) the number of contaminants removed, and (2) the real level of reduction achieved. So while it is true that ALL CERTIFIED products meet minimum reduction requirements, some will perform better than others at removing contaminants.

This is where we come in.

We can help you make the best choices for you and your family. We’ve already read the performance results and performed the side by side comparisons, so you don’t have to. All you need to know is that all products that are certified to an NSF standard are not created equal, so you aren’t confused by marketing claims. Our Water Filter Guide will make your decisions much easier!

Choosing the Right Filtration Product Type For You

How do you choose the right type of filter? Here’s a quick outline of the options.

Pitchers and Gravity Fed Dispensers:

These filters are not connected to your plumbing, are free-standing and portable.
Pluses:

  • Easy set-up and operation, no installation necessary
  • Great to use at the office, in dorm rooms or in temporary living situations

Minuses:

  • Only filters small amounts at a time
  • Performance varies widely among pitchers; name brand pitchers only filter a handful of contaminants. However, we did find one brand that filtered as well as an installed water filter system.

Faucet Filters:

Faucet filters attach to the end of a standard kitchen or bathroom faucet and use a diverter for filtered water.
Pluses:

  • Easy to install and move, good for renters
  • Low cost

Minuses:

  • Will not work with many specialty faucets such as pull-out sprayers
  • Limited contaminant reduction; all the faucet filters we researched had the same limited performance much like the big name water pitcher filters

Counter Top:

These filters sit on the counter next to the kitchen or bathroom sink and connect via a small hose to the faucet.
Pluses:

  • Easy to install and move, good for renters
  • Easiest way to install a high capability filter

Minuses:

  • Aesthetics may not appeal to everyone
  • Will not work with many specialty faucets such as pull-out sprayers

Under the Counter Filters:

These are plumbed-in systems that connect to your cold water line under your sink and dispense filtered water through a second small faucet rather than the main faucet. You can install yours at your main kitchen sink or at a secondary sink like a wet bar.
Pluses:

  • High capability filter, installs under the sink and out-of-the-way
  • Dedicated drinking water faucet

Minuses:

  • Requires space under the kitchen sink
  • Requires a plumber or someone with basic plumbing skills to install

Reverse Osmosis Filters:

These are plumbed-in systems that connect to your cold water line and dispense filtered water through a second small faucet rather than the main faucet. Can be located at the main kitchen sink or at a secondary sink like a wet bar. Requires more space than just an under the counter filter to accommodate a separate filtered water holding tank.
Pluses:

  • High degree of filtration
  • Dedicated drinking water faucet

Minuses:

  • Cost – more expensive than other water filter systems
  • Space requirement due to separate holding tank

Whole House

These are systems that are plumbed-in through your main water line to reduce chlorine. With the addition of a water softening component, they will also reduce barium and radium typically.
Pluses:

  • Filters all the water coming into your house
  • Can soften hard water

Minuses:

  • Requires a plumber
  • Very limited capacity to remove other contaminants so a drinking water filter solution is typically needed/required

Our 2017 Recommended Water Filter Guide

Here’s our short list of the water filters we recommend. We’ve read the third-party lab reports and researched these products.

See why this high-tech brand of water pitchers and containers from the US-based company Propur comes so highly recommended. These pitchers and container water filters are so effective, they remove fluoride, lead, and other hard to remove contaminants. Find out more about these outstanding water filters and why they remove 10-20 times more contaminants than the big brands.

fruit-infused-propur-water-filter-pitcher

Propur Water Pitcher Filter

propur-stand

Propur Gravity Water Filters – Available in multiple sizes

The Propur Promax, Austin Springs and WaterChef counter top water filters are excellent choices. Portable, highly effective, certified to remove 50+ contaminants. See why the Propur PromaxAustin Springs and WaterChef filters are so highly recommended.

Our favorite Counter Top Water Filter is the new Propur Promax. It uses groundbreaking filtration technology that makes this filter as effective as a four stage Reverse Osmosis Filter! There is nothing else like this available. Learn more about the Propur Promax Counter Top Filter.

countertop

Propur Promax Counter Top

Austin Springs Counter Top Excellent Value

Austin Springs Counter Top Excellent Value

 WaterChef Counter Top


WaterChef Counter Top

Propur Promax and Austin Springs under counter water filters tested the best of all the under counter filters certified. See why the Propur Promax and Austin Springs filters are an excellent choice. Looking for a good value? Austin Springs is specially-priced at $94.99, over 50% off the regular price of $199.99.

Our favorite Undercounter Water Filter is the new Propur Promax. It uses groundbreaking filtration technology that makes this filter as effective as a four stage Reverse Osmosis Filter! Plus, it’s so much smaller than a Reverse Osmosis system that you’ll still have space under your kitchen sink for your all natural cleaning products. There is nothing else like this available.

Nothing else on the market compares to this filter.  Learn more about the Propur Promax Under Counter Filter.

 

Propur Promax Under Counter Water Filter System

Propur Promax Under Counter Water Filter System

Austin Springs Under Counter Water Filter System

Austin Springs Under Counter Water Filter System

 

If you’re looking for a Reverse Osmosis & Carbon Water Filter system, Aquasana’s reverse osmosis under counter water filter is in a class by itself. No other reverse osmosis and carbon filter system has three certifications, so you can trust it’s delivering clean water to your tap. It has a 4 stage filtration process and removes fluoride and other hard to remove contaminants. And, it comes with a remineralizer to replace the minerals removed by the RO filter.

With the introduction of the new Propur Promax Under Counter water filter, you no longer need to install these Reverse Osmosis multiple stage filter!  The Propur Promax is as effective as a four-stage filter and it’s less expensive to purchase and maintain. Plus, it’s so much smaller and won’t remove the minerals from your water like a Reverse Osmosis system.

Aquasana Reverse Osmosis & Carbon Water Filter System

Aquasana Reverse Osmosis & Carbon Water Filter System

If you still have questions after reading this Water Filter Guide, contact us. We’re happy to help you select the best water filter for your needs.

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Water Filters

 

The Best Way to Remove Fluoride and Pesticides from Tap Water

Want to remove fluoride? You've got 3 great options. Get the details by clicking to read the article or PIN to save for later.

One of our readers asked about a Fluoride Water Filter. She also wanted this filter to remove pesticides.

“I’m trying to upgrade from our Pur faucet mount and want to remove fluoride from our water with a new filter. But your app [Pure Living Space Water Filter Selector App] is pointing me to reverse osmosis, which I’ve read wastes a ton of water, so I’d like to find an alternative. We’re in farm country, so I want to be sure our filter takes out pesticides. Undersink is preferable, but we’ll do counter if it seems a better choice. I’m also interested in seeing the costs for replacement filters and how many gallons they’re good for. Thanks for your help! S.S.”

Best Way to Remove Fluoride & Pesticides from Drinking Water


Here’s our response about how to find and select the best fluoride water filter.

As you probably know, Fluoride is among a group of contaminants that is difficult to remove. Most water filters do not remove Fluoride. In fact, most water filters, especially the name brand water pitchers, only remove a handful of contaminants. If you want to drink the cleanest water, you need to look beyond the big box store brands.

Let’s take a look at several good options to remove fluoride and pesticides.


Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Carbon Water Filter System


Your first option is the Aquasana Reverse Osmosis & Carbon Filter system. A carbon filter alone will not remove fluoride and some other tough to remove contaminants, so you need the RO filter as well. We use this Aquasana system in our home. It’s one of the few that has three NSF certifications.

You may have read on our website that we only recommend water filters that have been tested by a certified third-party lab. This RO and Carbon Water Filter System passes that test with high marks. Remember to always read and compare the test results because even certified water filters perform at different levels.

The Aquasana RO system’s performance is impressive in terms of the % of contaminants removed, especially the % of fluoride it reduces. It compares favorably to other systems that may only reduce 50-70%. See the test results for this Aquasana water filter system.

It’s true that an RO system does waste some water, the equivalent of a couple of extra toilet flushes a day. The other concern many people raise is that an RO system strips out the good water minerals. However, with the Aquasana RO system, it has an added feature that remineralizes your water making that issue less of a concern to most people.

The annual cost of maintaining the RO system averages $177.


Propur Container Filters Remove Fluoride


Since you’re concerned about wasted water, you could choose one of the Propur container filters. These containers sit on your counter top. Just like a water filter pitcher, you fill the container with water and let gravity pull the water through the filter. The Propur container filters come in a variety of sizes from the Propur Water Pitcher Filter to the Propur Stainless Steel Water Filter Containers that range from 55 oz. to 4 gallons.

This is the only proven gravity filter we found that removes fluoride. Although Propur doesn’t have NSF certification, Propur’s filters were tested by a certified lab. They share their results on their site–not all water filter manufacturers choose to publish their test results. See the test results for the Propur Water Filter Containers.

We use the water filter pitcher when we travel and at the office. The only drawback is that it is slow! On the other hand, it’s removing as many contaminants as an RO/Carbon Filter, so it’s all a trade-off.

The other nice feature is that the Propur filter does not strip out healthy water minerals. Each filter lasts up to 6 months, so the annual filter cost is $80.


Propur ProMax Counter Top & Under Counter Water Filters Remove Fluoride – NEW Products!


Recently, Propur released an advanced filter that removes Fluoride and over 200 other contaminants. And, this filter exceeds expectations. It makes the RO and carbon filter systems obsolete.

The Propur ProMax Counter Top Water Filter attaches to any standard faucet without a pull-out sprayer. The Propur ProMax Under Counter Water Filter system installs under the counter taking up a fraction of the space that an RO system would occupy. The filter does not waste water, does not need electricity, and does not remove healthy water minerals.

These water filters reduce/remove a broad range of over 200 contaminants including VOCs, lead, fluoride, heavy metals, pesticides, SVCs, disinfectants, inorganic non-metallics, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, PFOA, PFOS, and micro-organisms.

Tested by a certified third-party lab to meet NSF 42, NSF 53, and NSF P231 standards. See the third-party lab results on this Propur ProMax Water Filter System.

The filters last about 9 months depending on usage, so the annual filter cost is $80.


Have a question for us? Contact us and Ask Pure Living Space. We’ll help research and provide answers.

How to Know if You’re Buying the Best Water Filter

How to Know if You're Buying the Best Water Filter 


Find the Best Water Filter


You’d like to buy the best water filter, but you’ve got concerns. So many things could go wrong. You could buy an inferior product or pay too much.

You also have questions. Which type of filter should you choose? And, once you’ve chosen the type, which brand performs the best?

You’ve visited so many sites. It’s unclear whose advice you can trust. When you read the fine print, you realize that many water filter manufacturers create sites that look like independent sites, but are really biased.

It’s no wonder their brand seems to come out on top in the side-by-side reviews!

So, how do you know if you’re buying the best water filter?

You first decide which type of filter is right for you based on your needs. You might want something portable or you might want to remove fluoride or radium. Not all filter types remove all contaminants.

Then you need to find water filters that have been independently tested and certified by a trusted party. And, finally, you need to read the trusted third-party testing results so you can compare performance. For example, one filter might remove 50% of arsenic, and another might remove 99% of arsenic. You’d probably prefer to buy the one that performs at the 99% level.

But wait, that’s a lot of work, right?

Well, we’ve already done that work for you. We built a simple app that you can use to select the right type of filter. And, then we found all the water filters that were tested and certified by independent third-party testers.

Why is testing important? Many water filter manufacturers make claims of being the best, but not all take the next step to prove their filter’s performance. If a manufacturer really believes in their product, they get it tested and certified by NSF. And, they make those test results available on their website for your review. If their product is not tested and performance results aren’t available, you’ve got to ask yourself why.

Next, we read all the performance reports and selected the top performers. Finally, we looked at pricing and selected the best values according to three-year cost of ownership!

What does that mean for you? You don’t have to worry. You know you’ve selected the best performing and best value water filter for you!

Time to get started.


Three Steps to Picking the Right Water Filter System


It’s easy. All you have to do is:

  • Read a few paragraphs (one down, only a couple more to go)
  • Answer a few simple questions
  • Make your product choice

1.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you want a portable or installed water filter? If you’re moving soon or renting, you may want to consider portability.
  • Do you have a standard, non-pull out faucet in the room where you want your water filter? If you have a pull-out sprayer, your faucet is non-standard.
  • Do you need instant gratification or are you OK waiting for a gravity filter? A gravity filter simply means that you wait for gravity to pull the water through the filter. Pitchers and containers are gravity filters.
  • Are you OK with installing under your sink? You’ll need space under your sink and maybe a plumber. How much space? A reverse osmosis system will take up roughly half of your under sink space while the under counter systems without reverse osmosis need roughly a quarter of your space. It’s not a big job for the plumber so plan on one hour to two hours at most.
  • Do you want to remove the most contaminants possible including Arsenic, Fluoride, Nitrate and Nitrite, Barium, Selenium, and Radium? These contaminants are typically the hardest to remove.

2.  Next, use our Water Filter Selector App to find which type of water filter is right for you. It takes only minutes and will help you decide what type of water filter to buy – reverse osmosis with carbon water filter, under counter carbon water filter, counter top water filter, faucet water filter or water pitcher filter.

Start here.

How to Select a Water Filter - Use our App!

 

Done? Great, now you know which type of water filter you need.

 


3.  Finally, Choose Your Brand & Buy One!

Why Buy From Pure Living Space?

Pure Living Space offers excellent customer service and honest, unbiased product reviews. Our products are hand-picked based on product research and third-party testing results. We only pick the best. You have our guarantee.

See why this high-tech brand of water pitchers and containers from the US-based company Propur comes so highly recommended. These pitcher and container water filters are so effective, they remove fluoride and other hard to remove contaminants. Find out more about these outstanding pitchers and why they remove 10 times more contaminants than the big brands.

Austin Springs and WaterChef counter top water filters are both excellent choices. Portable, highly effective, certified to remove 50+ contaminants. See why the Austin Springs and WaterChef filters are so highly recommended. Both carry the important NSF certifications so you know you’re getting the cleanest water. The Austin Springs’ counter top water filter is an especially good value at today’s sale price of $59.99.

Austin Springs and WaterChef under counter water filters tested the best of all the under counter filters certified. See why the Austin Springs and WaterChef filters are an excellent choice. Austin Springs is an especially good value at the current sales price of $99.99 or 50% off the regular price of $199.99.

Aquasana’s reverse osmosis under counter water filter is in a class by itself. No other reverse osmosis and carbon filter system has three certifications, so you can trust it’s delivering clean water to your tap. It has a 4 stage filtration process and removes fluoride and other hard to remove contaminants. Learn more.

Have questions? Contact us. We’ve help many people select the best water filters.


Know somebody who you could help by sharing?