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WATER. Literally the stuff of life! We all gotta drink it, and we want it to be clean and pure! But have you ever tried to choose a water filter? There are A LOT of options and it’s overwhelming. Good news! I’ve created a water filter comparison for you! But first let’s start with some basics.
Why do I need a water filter? Can’t I just drink my tap water?
Yes, you can drink your tap water, but to be perfectly honest, the quality of tap water varies quite a bit from place to place. Have you ever traveled to another city, taken a swig of tap water, and scrunched up your nose thinking ‘Wow, this tastes funny’? It tastes funny for a reason! It likely has a different mixture of chemicals and salts within the water, and it may be better or worse quality than your home tap water.
Now, wastewater treatment plants do the best that they can to deliver clean water to all of their customers, however, there are MANY chemicals that they can’t remove (either they can’t remove them very well, or they can’t remove them at all). This is partly because as a society, we generate more new chemicals (pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, etc) than the treatment plants can keep up with. Their systems are not equipped to keep up with all these chemicals and they are VERY expensive to upgrade.
{I will also add here that well water can also have problems, and again, the quality of well water varies enormously around the country.}
So, filtering your own water ensures that a variety of impurities are filtered out, regardless of your tap water quality. Clean water is important for everyone, but like most things within this realm, it’s especially important for children and pregnant women to have clean drinking water.
What types of things might be in my water?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of potential water contaminants including metals, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disrupting chemicals, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and even harmful bacteria or microorganisms. Many of the chemicals have very obscure and difficult to pronounce names! I will not bore you with them.
How do I choose a water filter???
This is a tough question, so I did the heavy lifting for you and dug around on the websites of ~25 of the most popular water filtration companies to get the scoop! Read on!
What did I look for?
First, I found companies that were transparent about what contaminants the water filter *actually* filtered out. This way I could make side-by-side comparisons of filtration systems in an objective way. I did NOT include companies that made vague statements like “filters out 20 common water impurities!”…that just wasn’t going to cut it! I quickly learned that many companies don’t provide an actual list, so I could only compare a few brands.
What else did I consider?
I looked at everyone’s favorite factor…cost! It’s important to have an idea of the costs associated with each filtration system. Speaking of cost, I didn’t include under-sink or whole-house filtration systems in this post due to the high cost. Some of these were very expensive and I wanted to be inclusive to renters who likely can’t mess with their plumbing. If you are interested in other options, drop me a comment and I’ll work on a separate post for that.
I also thought about how much effort it would be to maintain the filtration system (like changing the filters…which I tend to forget about) and how much waste a system would create. Some options generate 6 used-up plastic filters each year that would end up in a landfill!!! That didn’t seem ideal from a plastic-waste standpoint OR from an ease of maintenance standpoint.
Here’s what I found
Let’s start with what surprised me most. The popular pitcher filters, from both Brita and Pur, filter out *very* few things. How few? I’m talking 15 or less contaminants from your water. I was totally appalled by this, because I had always assumed that these filters were…better?? They are honestly not at all worth the money, as you will see in the price comparisons I put together.
The second most surprising thing: the cost over a 5-year period. I was startled to see that some of the worst filters I looked at were still pretty expensive over the course of 5 years (pitcher filters, I’m looking at you). Considering how little they do for your water (albeit they are better than nothing!), they turned out to be just a little cheaper than some of the much nicer/better options.
Here are the nuts and bolts comparisons:
Luckily, there was a CLEAR winner in my water filter comparison, and that was the Berkey water filter system. These sit on your counter top, they’re stainless steel (least amount of plastic), the filters last for 5 years (lowest maintenance), AND it filters out the most chemicals (most effective). So many wins! The only downside is the upfront cost. The “Travel” Berkey is ~$230 and the family-sized larger version is ~$260. However, this is still >$100 cheaper than some of the other options *that filter out fewer things* if you consider a 5-year period!!!
My runner up recommendation is the Brita faucet complete, which filters out a decent amount of stuff (although way less than the Berkey), and is a reasonable price over 5 years.
Top 3 Tips for choosing a filtration system
1) See if you can find an actual list of contaminants that get filtered out. If the company doesn’t provide a list, then I would pass on that filter! Transparency is important!
2) Look to see how much $$$ replacement filters cost, and how long they last. Weigh this against how often you want to be thinking about your filter. Some folks are really good about remembering this kind of thing. I am not one of them.
3) If decreasing plastic waste is important to you, consider durability and materials (plastic vs stainless steel). You could also consider a more permanent/integrated water filter like whole house filtration systems, as well as under sink systems. These are a permanent solutions, but are only a good idea if 1) you own your own home and 2) you aren’t moving any time soon 3) you are willing to invest the money.
Interested in seeing the detailed list of chemicals that each system filters out? Contact me via my contact form and I will send you the full spreadsheet of chemicals.
UPDATE: I personally purchased the Travel Berkey and LOVE IT! My only regret is that I didn’t get the bigger size! I think the family size is just fine for 2 people if you drink a lot of water and/or want to use some of the filtered water for cooking too!
Happy water filtering everyone!!