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The Best Water Filters Of 2016

by Justin Thomas •

The Best Water Filters

In A Nutshell

I’ve been reviewing water filters for about 12 years. During that time, I’ve become convinced that gravity-fed filters are the best filter you can buy for under $500.

I recommend ProPur or Big Berkey filters. These filters use a combination of ceramic and carbon block filtration. Overall, they are the least expensive type of filters to maintain.

If you are able to spend $2000 to $3000, whole house filters are the way to go. In the long run, they are an inexpensive, hassle-free option. I recommend Pure Effect Filters — these are made in the USA by a family-run company with an excellent track record.

The Details

Typically, you want to remove these contaminants from your water:

  1. Toxic metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminium, 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 use municipal water, 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 odour), 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

BerkeyHome
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.

Berkey filter range in price from $260 to $3380. They are available from Amazon.

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 100

  1. Ann

    Have you heard of kitchen defender or the urban defender full house filter?the first is a three level filteration.
    When the owner claims that the filters use NSF certified technologies, is that enough or should the filter itself be certified?

  2. Amy

    Hi, I’ve just purchased a counter top water filter by Pristine Hydro. Any experience with this system?

  3. Donna

    I’m considering the Alexapure Pro water filter. It’s between the Berkey and the Alexapure. Do you have an idea which one is better? Would like to purchase ASAP :).

    1. Jeff

      I’ve had an Alexapure Pro unit for three weeks now and i like it very much. After my Waterwise 8800 distiller “died” after nine years, I was going to buy a Berkey but upon researching went with the Alexapure Pro because it’s lab results are quite impressive AND it only uses one filter as opposed to the Berkey which requires a separate filter for fluoride removal. Also, if you buy it from Alex Jones’ website it’s $80 cheaper than the Berkey and they have free shipping! You won’t go wrong with the Alexapure Pro, imho.

  4. Christopher

    Hello love the reviews and your blog.was wondering how do you like the pure effects countertop water filter? Do you own one yourself? How long do the filters last for and have you tested the water before and after filtering?
    Thank you

    1. master

      Water generators do produce good quality water (see this unit for example). They work if you have the right humidity and air temperature. You can expect to pay $1500 to $3000 for a residential unit. Also, they do consume some electricity each day.

  5. Erin mill

    Hi Lawrence can you please send me the link for the UK supplier ?

    I’m in Portsmouth UK and would like to order one to here.

  6. Lawrence För

    This one is a good article. I wanted to let people here know that you should only buy Berkey Filters from the main sellers and official sellers.. Seems like a lot of people is getting this knock offs and fake products from untrusted Ebay sellers and unofficial shops. There are many cheap knock offs on the market now and this is a expensive product and not a good thing to get some cheap knock off instead of the real deal..
    We live in London and we own a Berkey from the main shop here in London. Berkey Waterfilters UK (They are based in London) They are good and with a next day delivery service for free + and lifetime warranty.
    I can not give any info on the other filters mentioned here as we are happy with our Berkey Water filter.
    Only hassle is that it,s not possible to see the water level in the tank. Unless buying some extra part that was too expensive i think. But maybe later.

    Thanks

  7. David

    I have a Brita pitcher and it is awful. There are visible particles left in the water. I use a paper coffee filter afterwards to remove these. Definitely worth spending the extra money on something better.

  8. Sam Jones

    I like the Berkey system! It removes the harmful contaminants from the water but leaves the minerals in it. The manual refilling might be somehow annoying, but I got used to it and on the brightest side, we didn’t have diseases so far. That’s even a good exercise. Lol Thanks for sharing this post! Keep it up!

  9. Edey Caldwell-Sanders

    Which shower filter removes Thirhalomines in shower water?

    We are moving to Friday Harbor, San Juan Isalnd, Wa.
    There is no fluoride in water however there are Thirhalomines in water report – result of the chlorine used in their water sanitation process.

    Thank you!
    Edey

  10. Karen

    Can you compare the Ovopur unit you use with the Berkey and ProPur? Why did you choose Ovopur and why do you feel the need to supplement with the binchotan charcoal? My community’s source of water is from the Santa Rosa Creek and San Simeon Creek aquifers in California and I want to get the best product I can for this area. Thanks!

    1. master

      The Ovopur is an expensive filter that has an aesthetic appeal. Unfortunately, I don’t have any data comparing these filters. I am getting ready to run some independent laboratory test on all these filters. I supplement with charcoal because I do not replace the Ovopur filters very often. Out of those three filter, I would recommend the Berkey filters, since it has the longest track record.

  11. Gloria

    Question: Will the Gravity-Fed Drip Filter, filter well water with water softener? (That is what my apartment complex has so I cannot change it). There is also a sulfur smell when hot water is run – not with cold. Thank you.

  12. R Heise

    Have you ever tested the Tarapur Water Ionizing System? What about Seychelle Water Pitchers?
    Are these hype? Can a water pitcher purify the water to 99.9% and others create alkaline water?
    Then lastly are the claimed benefits of Alkaline Water for real?

  13. Anne

    I have been buying spring water in gallon containers from the grocery store. I the spring water the same as any of this water that has gone through these filters?

  14. Leilani

    Rob,
    I’ve used Zerowater pitcher filtering system for two or three years and my poor-tasting water here in Los Angeles goes from >400 to zero. It tastes wonderful, so much so that when I occasionally drink bottled water I definitely prefer Zerowater.
    Please take a look at Amazon costs for buying filter cartridges in bulk. I buy on subscription so they come on regular basis but I can adjust time frame if needed. They sell 8/$79.99 and if you have Prime the shipping is free.
    Leilani

  15. Sachin Babhale

    We want to purchase drinking water system for our industry and consumption is around 2000 ltrs. per day. please suggest suitable system,

    Regards,

    Sachin Babhale
    Solvay,
    +918460124592

  16. anup

    Dear As we are fast forwarding in the world where water is a precious resource and it is very important to keep it best available for the next generation. As i witnessed some things in the world which were beyond my recognition and hence i am sharing them here. As water is very important for our body, the type of water we drink can actual make a lot many effects and can increase or reduce health risk. As all i can say having an acidic water even after filtration can harm your body. the actual molecule of water is also important as their size and their effectivity can change the body and the blood behaviour. Alkaline and acidity are just two another terms. so choosing water purifier is more important when it come to your life and health.

  17. Phil Cheng

    Hi,

    Have you had any experience or done any test on the Amway eSpring water filter? If yes, what is your feedback regarding the effectiveness of it? I currently am using one because my wife was told how good it is and how it removes contaminants while leaving behind nutrient rich minerals. I’ve been using RO filters all my life and love it and have never had any problems. I am hating the eSpring due to the taste of the water as well as the mineral buildup in my pots and pans as well as my portable water heater.

    Thanks,

    Phil

    Thanks,

    Phil

  18. Kerstin Kovac

    After this post i have bought 1 x Big Berkey from this company in UK
    http://www.berkey-waterfilters.co.uk
    My husband did read reviews for few days about them and also about the Pro Pur and Reverse osmosis waterfilters.
    Our conclusion is that Big Berkey and Pro Pur are the top of the line.
    We don’t think water should be ”messed with” and changed in any way like doing reverse osmomses.
    After we spoke with some salesman in Berkey that told us that Berkey water came out as water should be.
    without all harmful chemicals but still with all good minerals we decided to buy that one.
    We have now used it for 2 months and we are happy with it.
    Thanks for a good post though and great site! Alot of useful information.
    thanks
    Kerstin & Andy (UK)

    1. Greg Stone

      @ Hi Kerstin
      We did the same here. But for your info. If you read more tests online and reviews, Berkey score much higher then this Pro Pur. Pro Put is a Berkey knock off and score not as high as they. But cheaper as well.
      But i agree with u. Berkey are the best and we love ours and they last longest of all filters too..

      1. Peter Downing

        Hi @GREG STONE . Please be aware to NOT buy on Amazon!¨ We placed an order last month and thought we are buying Big Berkey but they sent us some knock off type called British Berkeyfield.
        Also they are much more expensive on Amazon. They cost 30% more on Amazon.
        They are much cheaper to buy from the Berkey UK shop and they are Original too.

        We were able to return our fake Berkey and we have now Original Berkey and really happy with it. We even use the water for cooking and everything. :)
        They sell them for 239 GBP at http://www.berkey-waterfilters.co.uk
        But the one on Amazon cost 269 GBP + Shipping. :/

        Great post by the way and detailed and good info about todays waterfilters.

        But as i say it seems to be few types out there that is a Berkey knock offs.

  19. Jo

    Hello, thank you for the great article.

    We are in the process of getting rid of the RO that we inherited from the previous home owner and find that gravity-fed drip filters very tempting. I heard that they won’t work on soft water, is that true? ( we live in an area with very hard water and have to use water softener so now the water is very soft)

    Thank you in advance!
    Jo

    1. master

      Thanks for the feedback. Gravity-fed drip filters do indeed work with soft water. They will work with any type of water, including questionable water from streams.

  20. Val

    Thanks BloomWorld,
    I am aware what kind of impurities activated carbon can block/remove. However, because of hypothyroid I am more concern about fluoride in the water. To get this chemical out I want to supplement Ovopur filter and Japanese binchotan charcoal also with bone char. One way would be to buy on amazon 100% organic hemp pouch filters for coffee, fill with bone char, put on a bottom of Ovopur and let it do the work overnight. Is this going to work? Does anyone have experience with bulk Bone Char from BuyActivatedCarbon.com? How small 20×60 mesh is? Please enlighten me on this subject.

    1. master

      Val,

      The bone char needs a satchel with fine mesh, otherwise some of the char will slip though. I’m on vacation and I don’t have the exact details with me — sorry.

      Justin

          1. Carola

            Hi, I was wondering if you use bone char in a cotton muslin bag, how often should you change it? I was thinking about every six weeks or so ? Thanks

  21. BloomWorld

    Charcoal is carbon when it is treated with oxygen, it works as activated carbon. This process removes tiny pores of the charcoal which adsorbs the chemical impurities. It is basically used in the water purifiers to remove chemical impurities like chlorine.and other carbon based chemicals.When the water is passed through the activated carbon, it blocks the chemicals from moving further thus resulting in water free from carbon related chemicals.

  22. Val

    Your website was the most helpful in making decision what kind of water filtration system would be most beneficial for me. I read a lot then went ahead and bought Overpur and Japanese binchotan charcoal from your recommended source.
    Do you mind sharing test results with bulk Bone Char from BuyActivatedCarbon.com? I assume you bought 20×60 mesh (kind of small size). How do you use it and what kind of small satchel do you use (any source) to let Brimac sit overnight in water dispenser Overpur?

    Thanks for sharing your expertise and knowledge,

    California, Santa Barbara

  23. curt

    Any experience or thoughts on putting binchotan charcoal sticks in the bottom half of a berkey filter?

    I was hoping to improve taste a bit by mineralizing the water.

    Also would be interested if you had a source for legit binchotan.

    1. master

      You could certainly put binchotan in the bottom half of the Berkey filter, to get extra filtration and mineralization of the water.

      I use this binchotan brand Gingatrading.

  24. Esther

    Hi! I am looking for a water purifying system for my home. I was offered the filter Fresca Pure 3000, or 5000, from Royal Prestige. These are not cheap, but they claim longevity and 99% effectiveness in cleaning the water. They also have an under the cabinet version (the 5,000 model) which is over $1,120! ouch! With the purchase they are offering the shower system as well, as a bonus.

    What do you think about these filters? Are there filters out there with the same capabilities at a lower price?

    Best,
    Esther

    1. master

      Esther,

      I haven’t tried the brand you mentioned. I’d ask for their NSF Certifications on the filters.

      Generally, a whole filter will cost from $1000 to $3000. An under-sink filter should cost less than that.

      Justin

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