Concerns about the safety of tap water have caused many homeowners to consider a home water filtering system. You have the option to filter your water from the point at which it enters your home, or you can simply start with a filtering water pitcher for drinking water.
Why Filter Your Tap Water?
Tap water in urban areas is often treated for harmful inorganic and biological contaminants before it reaches your home.
However, there are additions to tap water, such as chlorine, that are used to make water safe that can make it unpleasant to drink.
If you are concerned about fluoride treatments in your water you may want to invest in a reverse osmosis water pitcher.
If your drinking water comes from a private well, testing for organic and inorganic contamination is critical for the safety of your family. Many factors, including poorly managed runoff and agricultural contamination can make your drinking water unusable for certain portions of the year.
SEE ALSO: How To Save Water
Types of Filtering Systems
Your home filtration system may include a water softener to address calcium, a manganese filter to reduce the impact of iron, or a UV light to kill bacteria. It's critically important you get your water tested before investing in a filtration system.
Whatever filtration system you choose to invest in, you'll need to consider the following:
- A home filtration system can take up a lot of space, and if you need to get under your kitchen sink or your house every few months to chance the filter, you'll need to establish an easy pathway to get there.
- Purchasing a great system at a terrific price does you no good if the filters aren't available after 18 months because the company has folded. While price points are always a consideration, in this case, brand continuity and brand history both matter.
- Improving the taste and quality of your drinking water can be done with a simple pitcher and some careful monitoring. Invest in a quality pitcher based on your water quality needs and work out from that purchase.
Passive Filtration Vs. Osmosis
Passive filtration is fairly straightforward; you fill the water filter hopper and the water passes through the filter via gravitational force. Sediments and solids are captured in the filter and filtered water is stored in the bottom of the pitcher.
Osmotic filtration requires pressure. A reverse osmosis water pitcher will generally be more expensive than a passive filtration unit, but with this expense you get better control of your filtration process and better quality filters.
It's important to note that any reverse osmosis system requires diligent attention to your filters; because the water is forced through the filter under pressure, clogged filters can prevent water from passing into the pitcher at all.
Over-using an osmotic filter can result in either no water passing through or a ruptured membrane. This means that your drinking water now contains all the old contaminants and bits of the ruptured osmotic filter. Monitor your filters!
Water Filter Media
While reverse osmosis filters water under pressure through a membrane designed to capture contaminants, most gravity fed water filters run water through a filtering media. This filtering media is chemically composed to capture organic and inorganic contaminants.
Activated charcoal is powdered charcoal that has been oxygenated so it acts as a chemical magnet for organic compounds. It also filters out chlorine, which can give tap water an unpleasant taste.
Deionized water is filtered through resin filter beads. These resin beads can be used to create lab-grade quality deionized water which functions as an extremely pure suspension product for testing other chemicals.
Resin filters can also be used as the first step to reduce hardness (an excess of calcium) or softening water. The nice thing about a resin filter is it will soften your water and can prepare it for reverse osmosis. However, resin filtration media can be a home for bacteria growth.
A manganese iron filter media is the most common tool to remove excess iron from your water. Many homes using well water will find their tubs and sinks become stained and laundry can become dull over time because of excess iron in the water.
NSF Certified Ratings
If you're going to invest in any water filtration system, it's important to purchase an NSF certified water filter. NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) was founded in 1944 to improve and confirm sanitation in restaurant tools such as soda fountains.
The best and most consistent water filters rating systems have been certified by the NSF. However, a quality rating doesn't deny the need for testing.
Depending on the age of your home and your plumbing, lead testing may be necessary.
If you've had your lead pipes replaced within your home, or if you know that your municipality has replaced lead pipes with non-reactive materials, your risk is greatly reduced. However, homes built before the mid-1980s may still have lead solder in plumbing fixtures.
How Well Do They Work?
The best water filtration system is the one that's monitored and changed or updated when necessary.
It's very easy to place a water pitcher in your refrigerator and forget about it. Many of the newer models include an LED that will flash and let you know that your filter needs changing, and some filters offer a "solids notification" that will allow you to see just how much has been filtered from your tap water.
If regular monitoring is a challenge with your schedule, consider purchasing a filtration system that will just shut down when it needs to be changed. This may be disruptive, but it will make sure your water filtration requirements are always up to date.
Depending on your flavor and temperature preference, a countertop filtering system can provide you with easy access to water for other applications, such as brewing coffee or tea.
Types Of Water
Tap - City & Well
Tap water quality is highly dependent on your water source. As stated above, if your drinking water comes from a well, testing is critical to confirm you're not at risk of bacterial contamination.
Well water can also have an extremely high mineral content. If your tap water comes from an urban water processing plant, you should at least be notified of any known contaminants.
Depending on the age of your home and plumbing, you may be at risk for lead exposure once the water enters your pipes. Point of entry testing from your exterior water source and point of use testing at the tap are necessary to ensure your water safety.
Water that has been filtered through reverse osmosis is generally very low in contaminants. While reverse osmosis filters are more expensive than standard gravitational filters, this filtration process will clean out up to 90% of contaminants found in unfiltered tap water.
Distilled water is purified by heat. The minerals in tap water have a much higher boiling point than plain water. Thus, by boiling water, capturing the steam and condensing it back to water, the minerals are left behind and the water is more pure.
Deionized water is the purest form of filtered water available. It's generally used in laboratory settings. Because it's very low in minerals such as iron or calcium, it's ideal for cleaning industrial machinery.
The deionization process changes the charge of water, so once water is deionized, it needs to be used quickly. The purification process for deionizing water is fairly expensive and is generally out of reach of most homeowners.
It's important to note that many of the contaminants we're trying to filter out of our tap water can actually help reduce organic contamination. You may find the taste of chlorine in water bothersome, but it cuts down on bacterial overgrowth.
A water filter is not a water purifier; in fact, it can be quite the opposite.
While chlorine and fluoride may be of concern, certain bacterial contaminants can cause lifelong harm when allowed to grow in your water pitcher. Carefully monitor the condition of your filter and pay attention to taste and odor.
If you notice any astringent or musty odor or flavor, you may need to discard your filter and begin again.
Recent news reports regarding lead poisoning from local water sources have caused a great deal of concern.
What water filters remove lead? While it may be tempting to rely solely on the manufacturer's reporting, lead contamination is far too dangerous to risk.
Your water should be tested both at POE (point of entry) into your home and POU (point of use) at your tap to make absolutely certain that lead contamination is not a risk and that your filtration system, whatever you choose to use, is truly protecting you and your family.
A regular habit of water and water filter testing is critical if your home is affected by dangerous contaminants such as lead or arsenic. Lead leaches into drinking water from old pipes or pipes connected with lead solder. If your home was built before 1986, your water should be tested for lead.
It's important to note that the lead that leaches from solder is most prevalent in hot water; when collecting water for cooking or drinking, you can reduce your risk by using cool tap water. But again, never rely on that.
Using a plastic water pitcher can greatly reduce the weight of your drinking water vessel and make it easier for all family members, big and small, to handle. However, some plastics have been found to be unsafe over time.
Nearly all water pitchers on the market are BPA-free. BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a compound that adds flexibility to plastics to reduce the risk of breakage and keep clear plastics from growing cloudy over time. However, most Bisphenol A in plastics manufacturing has been replaced with Bisphenol B.
If plastics contamination is a concern, you may want to invest in a portable filtering attachment that can be mounted to a non-reactive container such as a glass pitcher for worry-free water filtration. Other non-reactive water containers include clay or stainless steel.
Bottled water consumes a great deal of virgin plastic. This water is also expensive to purchase and can be awkward to transport. Whether you're at risk of dangerous contaminants or just tired of the taste of chlorine, you may be able to protect your household with an NSF rated water filtration system.
A simple pitcher system can improve the taste of your drinking water and encourage you and your family to drink more water, always a healthy choice.
If your filtration needs are more extreme, be sure to purchase a system from an established manufacturer, and allow for easy access to filter changes.
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments with your questions, thoughts and experiences with home water filtration.