The Best Water Filters For 2014

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In A Nutshell

I’ve been reviewing water filters for about 10 years. During that time, I’ve become convinced that gravity-fed filters are the best choice for almost everyone’s filtering needs. I recommend ProPur filters, which use combination of ceramic and carbon block filtration. Overall, they are the cheapest type of filters to maintain. If you want a faucet-attached filter or a whole house filter, I recommend Pure Effect Filters — these are made in the USA by a family-run company with an excellent track record.

The Details

Here are types of contaminants you want to remove from water:

  1. Toxic metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, etc.)
  2. Additives (Chlorine, Chloramines, Fluoride)
  3. Chlorination By-Products (Trihalomethanes or THMs)
  4. VOCs and other Organic Compounds (Pesticides, Herbicides, Pharmaceuticals, Fuels)
  5. Bacteria and viruses (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.)
  6. Radioactive substances (Radon and Uranium, etc.)

If you get municipal water through a tap, these are the most common contaminants you’ll find:

  • chlorine
  • chloramines
  • fluoride
  • THMs
  • VOCs / organic compounds

If you use well water or other non-municipal water, these are the most common contaminants you’ll find:

  • particulate matter
  • bacteria and viruses
  • VOCs / organic compounds
  • radioactive substances

The Effectiveness Of Different Types Of Water Filters

Pitcher 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. This is because 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 has been heated to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen (or activated) and then granulated. These types of filter 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.

My Overall Rating: Poor

Colin Ingram, author of the The Drinking Water Book rates all pitcher filters no higher than “Acceptable”.

Faucet Filters

Filters that attach to your kitchen faucet are very similar to Pitcher Filters, but 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.

My Overall Rating: Fair

Colin Ingram, author of the The Drinking Water Book rates all faucet filters no higher than “Acceptable”.

Gravity-Fed Drip Filters

king_domes
In my opinion, the best water filters are gravity-fed drip water filters like ProPur (filter’s homepage). These filters are excellent at removing chlorine, chlorination by-products, fluoride, VOCs, pesticides, particulates and pharmaceuticals. ProPur filters use “candle” type filters, which are widely available and can be customized to your specific filtration needs. Their latest filter, the ProOne G 2.0, will remove fluoride — including hydrofluorosilicic acid (few filters remove this contaminant).

In my opinion, ProPur filters have a higher build quality than the more popular Berkey filters. ProPur filters are made out of 100% stainless steel including the spigot. Also, in recent years, the quality of these filter seems to have declined — there are many reports of Berkey filters breaking/leaking after a few months of use (see this page for example).

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.

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.

Another advantage of this filter is that it can be collapsed and taken with you when you go on vacation.

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.

Propur filters range in price from $129 to $299. They are available from Amazon.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Reverse Osmosis Filters

ispring-filter

Reverse Osmosis filters use a membrane which removes many contaminants from water. They is usually paired with a Granulated Activated Charcoal filter to remove chlorine. Most reverse osmosis filters are installed under the sink and have a holding tank. The semipermeable membrane separates many contaminates (which usually have a larger particle size that water) from the water and rejects a large amount of water in the process. The result is a waste of several gallons of water for every gallon filtered and many naturally occurring minerals (including calcium and magnesium) are also removed from the water.

However, they are quite effective filters, in terms of removing contaminants. However, they do not reduce VOCs or pesticides (unless a Carbon Block filter is included). They can take up to an hour to filter one gallon of water and the filters need to be replaced regularly.

If you want to got this route, I recommend the iSpring Reverse Osmosis System, which is quite reliable.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Countertop Distillers

Countertop distillers are effective water purifiers, but they take some time to distill water (for example 5 hours to distill 1 gallon). They also require electricity to run, and they give off some heat and the integrated fans make some noise. Also, most distillers do not remove VOCs (like benzene) because they have a lower boiling point that water. So they will vaporize together with the stream, resulting in a contaminated distillate.

Countertop distiller that get a rating of “Excellent” from Colin Ingram in the The Drinking Water Book are: Megahome Countertop DistillerWaterwise 4000 and Waterwise 8800, Kenmore 34480 and Pure Water Mini-Classic.

Megahome Countertop Water Distiller

DSC01603__98327.1326838325.1280.900

This distiller is sold under many brand names — it’s the most widely distributed distiller in the world. It has many quality components despite being inexpensive. It produces 1 gallon of water in 5 hours. The water is passed through a small granular carbon filter. There’s a sealed connections from the distiller to the water collection container, so there is minimal risk of contamination by air. The unit has a stainless steel boiling chamber that is easily accessible for cleaning.

The Megahome Countertop Distiller is available from Amazon for about $150.

Waterwise 4000 Countertop Distiller

This is a more powerful version of the distiller listed above. It has the same features but produces 1 gallon of distilled water in 4 hours. Also received an “Excellent” rating from Colin Ingram in the The Drinking Water Book.

The Waterwise 4000 is available from Amazon for about $280.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Comments

  1. Shiro says

    What’s your intake about Kangen SD501 water ionizer? I have been researching online and that seems to be the best so far. It does not filter radiation however do you think I can connect 2 machines together to have pure,alkaline and clean water?

  2. Mary says

    Can you tell me about whole home water filtering systems? We have a lot of chlorine in our water and I’m not sure why I should use water pitchers, under the sink filters and shower filters when maybe one filter system will work instead of two or three. I can’t find any independent reviews for whole home water filtering systems on the web. Will you please shed some light on this topic.

    Thank-you in advance,
    Mary

    • master says

      Mary, I don’t have any specific recommendations for whole house filters. However, I’d suggest starting with Puriteam — they have a lot info on whole house filters.

  3. Brett Kuntze says

    I often wonder about those vending machines that fill your 5 gallon bottles with filtered water that costs 39 cents a gallon commonly found in grocery stores . there is also water shops dedicated to fill your bottles, sell bottles, water coolers, etc and they are a bit cheaper like 30 cents a gallon. Are those the best or better than buying your own water filtration system under sink or on countertop? As long as I am still young and able to haul heavy 5 gallon bottles ( I use 3 gallon bottles), am I buying the best drinking water money can buy ? what about water delivery service that costs considerably more, of course?

  4. Sean says

    Not to be a pain, but I don’t think you have deep experience with the Propur versus Berkey filters. I had the Berkey for 7 years and always loved it. I gave the propur a try because of good things I heard on the radio. Well, they turned out to be crap. Filtration was really slow and I had to replace them in like 8 months.

    So, I did some more research and found out that Propur is an ex-Berkey dealer trying to suck away business from Berkey. And, if you look closely at test results from both companies, Berkeys are tested for the life of filter, like 3000 gallons per filter. The propur is a one and done test. In other words, it’s not tested again at different intervals over it’s life of use. That’s shady as heck to me. I want a filter I can rely on at all times, not just when it’s brand new. Even when you look at the comparison chart on Propur’s site, there’s all this bad information about Berkey. It’s obvious they’re going right after their business and not be honest in the process. I stay away from Charlatons like that.

    I did see the black berkey issue you referred too, but from what I can gather that was a batch issue and the filters have been redesigned since, so I think that needs to be pointed out to be fair.

    • master says

      I didn’t say Berkey filters were awful — I just that they made have quality control issues, based on recent customer reviews. It seems that your problem with Propur is that they are competing with Berkley. Propur units have a 100% stainless steel construction, and I’ve found that plastic spigots tend be the first thing to fail. In terms of water cartridges themselves, Propur now produces filters that remove fluoride, which is compelling to me. But I understand Propur doesn’t have a long track record, so I’m willing to be convinced that the filter cartidges have some drawbacks.

  5. Peter Moss says

    The Propur units look very nice and seem to filter out a good long list of contaminants. If I had a bigger kitchen and more counter space I would definitely get one. But since the gravity units need to be placed near an edge (sink, counter), I recently decided to get a Pure Effect water filter instead. I got the 3 stage filter style that attaches to the faucet. It filters everything the Propur does and replacement costs are slightly lower comparably over the long run. It also is endorsed by Debra Lynn Dadd, the queen of nontoxic living.

    If anyone’s interested here’s a link:
    http://www.pureeffectfilters.com/filter-units.html

  6. Andrea says

    Hello, I am looking at getting an under counter system for cottage lake water, after it has been treated by UV filter. I’m particularly nervous about drinking water originating at the lake but also am wondering if RO is the best option (main issue is it also removes the good parts of the water PRO is that it is safe). If it is the best option I will happily go that route, as safety is first. What would you suggest to be certain of safety – and is there a system that achieves this but also keeps in good minerals ? Also, if there is a sensor indicating when filter should be changed that would be ideal. I’ve spent hours and hours on line trying to find out the answer but haven’t lucked upon an article dealing specifically with originating lake water. Any feedback would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

    • says

      Hi, this is Sulia from Paragon Water System. Actually, Paragon have specialized on water treatment for 26 years, we don’t suggest our customer to drink RO filtration Water for long time, since RO machine only produce PURE WATER, then the helpful mineral substance in water will be filtered. However people need intake a balanced amount of beneficial mineral substance from the drinking water everyday.

      We prefer to suggest customer choose the American patented high-tech KDF process media, it can reduce chlorine, heavy metal, Hydrogen sulfide, bacteriostati, meanwhile it will not filtered the helpful mineral substance such as K, Zn… Anyways, it’s up to you.

      Best regards,
      Sulia Li
      Tel: (+86)21-62670111-255
      Fax:(+86)21-52125233
      Phone: +86-18916628037
      Skype: sulia-mm
      http://www.paragonwaterexport.com.cn
      Add:20F,No.188 Wujiang Rd, Shanghai, China,200041

  7. Gregg says

    Is there a good countertop reverse osmosis filter out there that does not need to be hooked up to a faucet? I live in area that uses ground water and is rock hard with calcium, in addition to possible agricultural chemicals.

    Would love to not have to crawl under sink to replace filters or have cords and hoses running across the counter.

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