What type of water filter is right for you?
Sep 12, 2018 02:11 PM EDT | By Staff Reporter
What type of water filter is right for you?
Water filtration systems have never been more popular. A combination of better knowledge of health benefits of pure water, increased concern over contamination of municipal supplies and growing awareness of the environmental impact of plastic bottles have led to the current surge in demand.
As is invariably the case with market forces, increased demand has led to a wider choice of suppliers, more investment into R&D and therefore a broader range of filtration technologies to choose from. Choice is a good thing for consumers, as it puts the power in their hands over suppliers. However, too much choice can bring complications when it comes to deciding which option is good for you and your household.
Here, we take a look at some of the most popular types of domestic water filtration system to help you decide which one is going to be right for you.
What contaminants do you need to filter out?
With the Flint water crisis still fresh in people's minds, heavy metal is one of the most important and commonly discussed contaminants. In the case of Flint, the metal in question was lead, a neurotoxin that has been connected with brain damage, cancer, heart disease and reproductive problems. Mercury is another heavy metal that can be extremely hazardous to health, even in the smallest doses.
Radioactive contamination has also hit the headlines, following reports that around 170 million Americans are exposed to tap water that contains carcinogenic elements such as radium, strontium, uranium and radon. Even at legal limits, these increase the risk of birth defects and cancer, but in locations across the US, they have been detected at levels that are higher than those permitted by the EPA. The worst affected states are Texas, Florida and California.
In addition, there are numerous other contaminants, both natural and man-made, that can enter the municipal supply. Typically, these are introduced via run-off and can include chemicals from factories and industrial operations, as well as human and animal waste.
Not all contaminants in water are there by accident. Municipal water companies add chlorine to the supplies to cleanse it, and, of course, small levels of chlorine are safer to ingest than the bacteria they remove. However, when the water has reached your home, the chlorine has done its job, and it is certainly better to avoid drinking or washing in it if at all possible.
Perhaps the most controversial contaminant is fluoride, however. It is added to water supplies to reduce the risk of tooth decay, and experts have spent the past 50 years debating whether it does more harm or good without reaching a consensus. The decision on whether to filter out fluoride is a personal one, so it is worth keeping in mind that a Berkey water filter is one of the few big name brands that filters out fluoride in addition to other contaminants.
Types of filter
Now that we have a concept of what we are filtering, we can take an objective view of how we can filter it well. Let's look at three of the most popular options available.
1) Activated carbon filters
An activated carbon filter is plumbed directly into the water supply. It is the ultimate "set it and forget it" solution, delivering filtered water to every faucet in the home. For convenience, these are hard to beat, but an activated carbon filter does require professional assistance to install, meaning more hassle and cost. The bigger concern, though, is that this type of filter is less effective when it comes to removing arsenic, and it will not filter out fluoride at all.
2) Gravity filters
These are the large, stand-alone filters of which the Berkey model mentioned earlier is a prime example. Householders like them because they are hassle-free - they don't have to be plumbed into the water supply, or plugged into the electric, and are available in a range of sizes. A gravity filter is probably the most effective at removing contaminants, too. Of course, they do need to be refilled, so are not as convenient as the inline versions in that respect - however, if you choose a large capacity one and remember to keep it topped up, that is really a minor quibble.
3) Reverse osmosis filters
The very phrase reverse osmosis hyper filtration sounds so much like Star Trek technobabble that it just has to be good. In some respects, it is - this is a process that will definitely remove all contaminants leaving you with pure water. The problem is, it also filters out those essential minerals that your body needs - these are left untouched by activated carbon and gravity filters.
Each of these filtration types has its benefits, but the optimal all-rounder for those who want minimal inconvenience and maximum effectiveness remains the gravity filter. Little wonder they are becoming such a common sight.