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12 Best Water Filters of 2021 – Reviews & Buying Guide

So, you need a water filter but you don’t know what sort of water filter. 

You know you can’t keep buying the bottled stuff - I mean, it’s awful for the environment and you’ve begun dreaming of the Pacific Garbage Patch, but it's also really awful for your wallet in the long term.

Or perhaps you need to upgrade from that ancient filter pitcher that has served you well, but that your family now seems to drink down in literally seconds and constantly leave empty.

Whatever your reason for researching the best water filters on the market, if you’re trying to work out which top water filter is best for your needs you probably already know how useful they are. 

Filtered water means water with improved taste, yes, but it can also be a necessity if you live in an area with an outdated municipal water system or regularly use water from a well or a natural water source.

I’ve got you covered for all scenarios - from drinking straight from a stream on hikes, to keeping a big family or even a multi-family building in crystal clear, healthy, uncontaminated water for years on end. 

Every type of water filter varies in terms of what it removes from your water, how much water it can handle filtering, and its price point so at the end of this article I’ll spend some time delving deep into the details of the various styles of filter available and the pros and cons of each. 

Basically, though, the filters on this list represent the best option for each style of water filter so by reading through and comparing them you’re getting a great overview of the possibilities of water filters as a broader category. 

That should make it a lot easier to narrow things down and choose the exact type of filter for your needs.

1. APEC Water Systems ROES-50 Essence Series - Best Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

This is an under sink reverse osmosis filter system. That means you fit it (or pay someone to fit it) under your sink so that your cold water line feeds directly into the filter. Once it’s installed, the APEC ROES-50 filters all the water that comes out of your cold faucet so that it’s fresh, clean and ready for drinking, cooking, rinsing vegetables and cleaning.

APEC Water Systems ROES-50 Essence Series

Pros

  • Reverse osmosis systems are really thorough, dealing with everything from chlorine to heavy metals
  • This is a really affordable option
  • Includes a remineralization process
  • A trusted USA-based brand

Cons

  • The mineral stripping may cause concern for some
  • Fitting the system may be a little tough if you aren’t handy

This high-quality, US made system removes an amazing 99.9% of contaminants as various as chlorine, taste, odor, VOCs, as well as toxic fluoride, arsenic, lead, nitrates, and heavy metals. In total, the APEC promises to deal with over 1000 common (and uncommon) water adulterating substances. 

The WQA approved system works on both municipal water and well water, with a two carbon block and one sediment pre-filters and a top of the range reverse osmosis membrane, so whatever your water source you can rely on it.

As with all reverse osmosis (RO) filter systems, the APEC almost works too well! The membrane that does all the legwork in the filter is so fine that not even mineral molecules can get through it. As all the healthy minerals - calcium and magnesium in particular - are stripped from the water by the RO process they have to be added in through a remineralization process.

This is a really solid system at an incredible price. It’s easy enough to install if you have some know-how, maintenance is not too much of a concern (you have to change the carbon filters every 6-12 months, and same with the mineral packs) and it should hold up to regular use by a family.

Bottom Line

If you have a large, thirsty family who you want to keep safe from toxins, but you can’t quite afford a whole house filter, then this under-sink filter from APEC is the answer you’ve been looking for!


2. PUR PFM400H - Best Faucet Filter System

A faucet water filter system is a great option if you want filtered water on tap (I mean, the filter is literally on your tap) but don’t want the faff of an under sink system.

PUR PFM400H

Pros

  • Extremely good value
  • The easiest faucet/sink filter system there is to install
  • Removes 70+ contaminants, including lead
  • Various mounts available
  • Filter change indicator light, so you know when you need to insert a new filter cartridge

Cons

  • Visible on the faucet, somewhat bulky
  • Some upkeep, including battery changes

As with all systems that deliver filtered water straight to the faucet, these filters make it super easy to not only drink beautifully filtered, clean, clear water but also cook, clean and selectively wash with it. You don’t get all that with a filter jug or gravity filter, no matter its size. 

The simplicity of this system comes partially from how easy it is to install. It mounts to most faucets with no tools (or DIY knowledge) necessary. You do need to change the internal filter once every two to three months, but that’s also a really easy job and takes only a couple of minutes, again, no tools needed, and there’s an indicator light that lets you know exactly when you need to get a new filter cartridge in. Unusually for a filter, you’ll also need to change a battery now and then. 

In my mind, there’s nothing better on the market than the PUR PFM400H in terms of functionality balanced with affordability. This filter removes up to 70 contaminants, including lead and mercury, and it costs about an eighth as much as even the most affordable under sink filter. You can also unclip it from your faucet when you’re not using it, and because of its unobtrusive mechanism you can  take it with you not only to a new home but also to holiday homes or on other short trips.

Bottom Line

If you want something no-faff, easy to use and extremely affordable then definitely go for the PUR faucet system. It makes something that can be really complicated incredibly easy.


3. Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher - Best for Family of Three

Unless the water in your home is so contaminated it’s a danger to wash and cook with (rare if you live in the US or Europe) then for a family of just two or three, I would recommend a really high quality filter jug over and expensive and hard to fit water filter system.

Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher

Pros

  • Extremely good value given its lifetime guarantee
  • Gets rid of a huge number of contaminants, including lead and copper
  • NSF certified
  • Easy to use
  • Can be stored in the fridge for chilled drinking water

Cons

  • If you want to filter your water for other uses than drinking, then this is not the product for you
  • You need to change the filter regularly

Why? Well, a few reasons. Price, ease of use, and the quality of filter you’ll be able to get without breaking the bank and rerouting your plumbing.

The NSF certified pitcher from Aquagear removes fluoride, lead, chromium 6, chloramines, mercury, and chlorine amongst other contaminants. That’s 20x more than its closest rival. It’s even been tested using Flint, Michigan water, from which it removed a substantial amount of lead and copper. And it does all this without touching the important minerals in your water, like magnesium and calcium, which you and your family need for healthy bones, teeth, and day-to-day functions.

It may seem slightly steep in price for a filter pitcher, but the Aquagear really performs. On top of that, it comes with a guarantee. How long for, you ask. Is it a year? Two years? Ten years? Wait for it…

It comes with a lifetime guarantee. That means that if your Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher ever breaks, as long as you draw breath and Aquagear sells filters, you’ll get a new one for free. Starting to look like pretty good value now, isn’t it?

Bottom Line

If you’re part of a smaller household, and your goal is the freshest, healthiest, most delicious drinking water possible, get yourselves an Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher right this minute!


4. Home Master TMAFC-ERP - Best Under Sink Filter

This bad boy is another reverse osmosis filter, but it’s also the best option if you’re going for something under-sink.

Home Master TMAFC-ERP

Pros

  • Rids your water of over 1000 contaminants, including metals
  • Easy upkeep (filter changes once a year)
  • The non-electric pump keeps water waste to a minimum
  • A hardy, high-quality filter system that should last through many years of heavy family use
  • Excellent remineralization system

Cons

  • RO systems always waste some water
  • As this is a heavy duty, under sink system it is more expensive than some filter system options

The joy of the Home Master is that it sets out to solve the common issues with RO filters. That means that it doesn’t waste nearly as much water as most of its competitors - this thanks to a non-electric pump - and it adds the correct amount of magnesium and calcium back into your reverse osmosis filtered water twice during its 7-stage filtration process, ensuring that you and your family get what you need from your water. 

The Home Master is suitable for use with both municipal and well water, so if you use private well water at home this might be a good option for you. The filters remove up to 99% chlorine, other chemicals, metals, fluoride, TDS, pharmaceuticals and microplastics amongst 1000s of other contaminants.

The modern chrome faucet that comes with the Home Master is easy to use, and will stand out as an obvious clean-water tap in any kitchen. You may need help installing the Home Master if you don’t have a DIY background, but after that upkeep is easy with filter changes only necessary every 2,000 gallons (about once a year) with no wrenches required.

Bottom Line

If you want the complete filtration of an RO system, then go for the Home Master. It’s the only RO filtration system I know of that tries to negate the environmental issues inherent to the process, and it’s also a really high quality filter system in its own right.


5. Brita Stream Cascade Water Filter Pitcher - Best Large Pitcher

Available in three colors and two ergonomic designs, this filter pitcher from Brita is a simple solution to the cold, fresh, filtered water problem.

Brita Stream Cascade Water Filter Pitcher

Pros

  • Great value
  • A couple of innovative design features - the mid-pour filter and the slim body - make this a must-have filter-pitcher
  • Filter change indicator
  • Holds 12 cups of water

Cons

  • Only filters for taste and smell
  • As with all pitcher filters, this is just water for drinking not for other household tasks

The great thing about the Stream Cascade is that it filters as you pour, meaning there’s no waiting for water to filter into your pitcher before you can drink it. That small innovation revolutionizes the filter-pitcher experience, and makes it a much more practical bit of kit.

The design of the Brita is also slim and space efficient, so it can be stored in the door of your refrigerator rather than taking up space on a shelf. 

Compatible with most Brita filters, the Stream Cascade is mostly a taste and odor filter. That means that it removes strange smells and flavors from your water, including chlorine. Filters need to be changed every two months or 40 gallons, and there’s an indicator light that will tell you when filter change time is coming up.

Switching to a Brita filter saves up to a whopping 1,800 plastic water bottles a year. That’s an awful lot of potential Pacific Garbage Patch trash you’re not putting out into the world!

Bottom Line

If access to delicious, ice cold water that has been filtered for flavor is what you and your family are looking for, then look no further. Grab yourself a Brita Cascade Water Filter Pitcher.


6. Aquasana Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons - Best Whole House Filter

Okay, so you’re not messing around. You want a whole house (or point of entry) filter system. It’s not cheap, but if you’re going to commit to a POE system I would recommend the Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons from Aquasana.

Aquasana Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons

Pros

  • Designed to last at least a decade
  • Designed for heavy, family use
  • Removes pretty much everything at-home filters can remove, including heavy metals, while leaving all those lovely minerals where they should be
  • Add-ons include water softener and UV filter

Cons

  • This is an expensive system, though it lasts a long time so it is also good value
  • Must be plumbed in
  • Maybe not worth it for a small household

When plumbed into your mains water supply where it enters your home, the Rhino filters 97% of chlorine from all the water coming into your home. It also reduces VOCS, pesticides, lead and heavy metals. That means you’re getting filtered, decontaminated water out of every faucet and showerhead in your house. Even the toilet will flush with filtered water once you have one of these babies installed!

The NSF certified Rhino is designed to last either ten years or 1,000,000 gallons of water, though some filter cartridges will need to be changed sooner. Luckily, that’s easy, as you just change the entire tank. 

This filter system is designed for busy, high-traffic households. It promises that water pressure will be maintained no matter how many showers are taken in your home per day, and it includes a 10-year limited warranty because even with near-constant use it really should last that long.

Bottom Line

If you have a large family and use a whole lot of water, then this Aquasana Rhino is what you need. It’s a big outgoing initially, but remember that cost sets you up for at least a decade (apart from some upkeep).


7. Big Berkey Gravity Fed - Best Countertop Filter

Countertop filters can be used day-to-day to provide drinking water for a mid-sized household, but they’re also designed to work in emergency situations in which the water you’re filtering may not have come from a tap at all.

Big Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter

Pros

  • Given its extremely long life, this is a good value system
  • Can be used almost anywhere, on almost any water
  • NCML tested
  • Carbon filters last 6,000 gallons
  • Gets rid of everything from water-borne viruses to heavy metals and pharmaceuticals

Cons

  • If you just want filtered water for consumption at home, a high-quality pitcher filter may be a better shout as it fits in the fridge
  • Not the most attractive thing to have sat on the counter

The Big Berkey has pretty much everything covered purification-wise. It rids water of bacteria and pathogens (the sort of thing you might find in river water, for example, or water that has been standing around for a while after you filled vessels before the municipal supply was cut off) but it also deals with chlorine, heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. 

The carbon filters this gravity fed system uses last up to 6,000 gallons before they need changing, and the whole thing is extremely economical because it uses no electricity and does not need to be plumbed or plugged in. 

Although this countertop filter is not NSF certified, the Big Berkey is third-party tested - in fact it has been through NCML Extreme Testing to ensure that it effectively purifies water of a broad range of contaminants. 

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking for a countertop filter to keep "just in case" you want to take one on trips with you regularly, or you plan to use one at home for your regular drinking water, you can’t go wrong with a Big Berkey.


8. Lifestraw Go Water Filter Bottle - Best Portable Filter

The Go Water filter bottle is available in a variety of colors and styles, but looking good is certainly not its main purpose.

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

Pros

  • Amazing technology removes chemicals, bacteria and microplastics
  • Very affordable and super hard wearing
  • Drink water from almost any water source
  • BPA free
  • Available in multiple sizes and colors

Cons

  • Only designed for personal use
  • You do have to change the carbon filters quarterly

Using Lifestraw technology that has helped millions of people living in water scarcity worldwide, this water bottle allows you to drink out of pretty much any water source. That means if you’re hiking, camping or otherwise enjoying the outdoors you can scoop up water and drink it right away. That means carrying less water, and wasting less plastic!

Available in both 22oz and 1l sizes, the bottles are all BPA free and leakproof. Inside them, the carbon filter and microfiltration membrane (the Lifestraw itself) rid your water of bacteria and parasites, microplastics, and chemicals like chlorine, pesticides and herbicides. With a Lifestraw Go you can turn visibly unclean water into a refreshing, safe drink.

The Microfiltration membrane lasts up to 5 years or 1,000 gallons of water. The carbon filter lasts 25 gallons, so should be replaced every three months or so. This amazing filter system has revolutionized on-the-go water filters, and it’s barely more expensive than a regular durable water bottle!

Bottom Line

If you’re the adventurous type and you need something to filter water on the go, I can’t recommend the Lifestraw Go Water Filter Bottle highly enough.


9. ZeroWater ZP-006-4 - Best Small Pitcher

If you’re looking for a really affordable small filter pitcher, then look no further than this offering from ZeroWater.

ZeroWater ZP-006-4

Pros

  • Excellent filter, removes contaminants including metals and suspended solids
  • BPA free, space-saving design
  • Water quality meter included
  • Amazing value

Cons

  • A small pitcher won’t suit everyone
  • Only really suitable to provide drinking water, because if the pitcher design

Perfect for a single person or a couple who want cool, clean, filtered drinking water available at all times, this 6-cup filter includes a 5-stage filter that removes many common contaminants from your drinking water, including lead, heavy metals and suspended solids. In fact, independent testing proved that ZeroWater filters remove up to 2x the level of suspended solids as the current leading pitcher-filter brand. 

The pitcher itself is BPA free, with a space saving design that makes it perfect for keeping in the fridge. As an unusual but genius addition, you get a water quality meter included when you buy a ZeroWater pitcher filter. That means that you can test your water to see how contaminated it is generally, and you can monitor the work of your pitcher filter so you know exactly when it’s time to change the filter in it.

Bottom Line

This pitcher really is incredible value. If you’re looking to do more than just improve the taste and smell of your drinking water, but you only have a small family and don’t want to break the bank, then the ZeroWater ZP-006-4 is the product for you.


10. Fleck 5600SXT - Best Softener for Hard Water

Many people, especially in cities, have to deal with extremely hard water ruining their plumbed appliances, reducing soap efficiency and making washing clothes difficult, and even damaging their skin and hair. That’s where a water softener like the Fleck comes in.

Fleck 5600SXT

Pros

  • Excellent value system
  • Easy to install - either DIY if you have knowledge, or for a plumber or handyman
  • Digitally monitored system
  • Settings for various water hardness

Cons

  • This would usually have to be used in tandem with a filter

Much better value than many similar products, the Fleck nonetheless performs at least as well as any other water softener I’ve encountered.

The softener is suitable for a household of up to six people, and when plumbed into the main water supply it treats all water coming into the home. It can be installed either inside or outside, and unless you have some plumbing experience you will probably want it to be put in by a professional (a quick and easy job).

Suitable for medium to hard water, you can choose the best setting for your home and change it if needed. The system is digitally monitored, so you will always be able to keep up with your water use.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a water softener, the Fleck is absolutely the smart choice. It’s great value, simple to use, and suitable for a large family.


11. Sawyer Products SP131 - Best Mini Filter for Backpackers

When you’re on the road, whether camping, backpacking, or just taking a long hike, you need a reliable lightweight filter. The Sawyer Squeeze is just that.

Sawyer Products SP131

Pros

  • Can be used on natural water sources
  • Easy to use, easy to clean
  • Long life
  • Great value
  • Optional attachments available

Cons

  • Not suitable for municipal water
  • Not really suitable for use inside the home

With a 0.1 micron hollow fiber membrane filter, the Squeeze removes bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics. That means that you can filter water from natural sources like rivers, springs and streams.

The filter can be used again and again, with only cleaning needed between uses. It has a life of 10,000 gallons, which is several years of medium use. The extremely affordable Sawyer Squeeze comes ready to use, with water pouches in multiple sizes included, as well as cleaning materials and a handy bag.

If you want to filter water literally on the go, attachments are available to affix the Squeeze to your hydration pack so you can keep rehydrating as you hike. 

Sawyer have been working for years with people who have scarce access to water, meaning that by using their products you’re making a difference!

Bottom Line

If you want a reliable, reusable filter you can rely on when out in the wild, then get yourself a Sawyer Squeeze!


12. Intex Krystal Clear - Best Pool Filter

This is the pool filter you’ve been looking for! Assuming, that is, you’re looking for a great above ground pool filter. If not, then what are you doing here?

Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump

Pros

  • Very low maintenance, only needs sand replacement every five years
  • 24-hour timer with presets
  • 6-function vale
  • Suitable for most above ground pools

Cons

  • This is a very specific product, only suitable for mid-size above ground pools

This filter uses sand, and a six-function valve means you can also filter, backwash, rinse, recirculate, drain and close the system with ease. A 24-hour timer means that’s all extremely easy to set up and control, with 2 to 12 hour presets built in. And even better - the only maintenance this pump requires is changing the sand every five years. 

That makes the price look pretty amazing, and certainly means this filter is much better value than most filter cartridge pumps, which sometimes need their filters replaced as often as once a fortnight. 

With a flow-rate of 2,100 gallons per hour the Intex Krystal Clear is perfect for most above ground pools. Some people choose to use this filter in tandem with a saltwater chlorination system.

Bottom Line

If you’ve got an above ground pool you want in perfect condition without the annoyance of seemingly constant maintenance, then get yourself an Intex Krystal Clear.


What to Look for When Choosing a Water Filter System

There are a huge variety of filters in this best of list. The obvious differences between them are the type of filter they are - the way they work and what they are supposed to be used for. For example, do they filter all water coming into the house, or just a few liters at a time? Are they designed for heavy use or light?

But before you narrow down that far, you need to think about the details. What are your water filter needs? To find that out, ask yourself some questions.

  • What do you want/need from your water filter?
  • How much water do you need to filter?
  • How long does your filter need to last, and how much maintenance can you handle?
  • Are certifications important?

Let’s look at those questions one at a time.

What do you want from your filter?

In general, water filters tend to focus on removing three types of impurities from your water. Some mix and match, removing multiple or even all these categories of contaminants, while others focus only on one. 

Smell and taste

This is the most basic function a water filter can offer. Smell and taste filters get rid of any off putting odors and flavors in your water, whether that’s an eggy sulphur smell or the chemically taste and scent of chlorine.

It should be noted that these filters sometimes advertise themselves as removing ‘chlorine scents’ or ‘chlorine tastes’ but that doesn’t mean they’re getting rid of all (or most) of the chemicals in your water.

Smell and taste filters are usually cheaper than most other filter options. You will find them in some filter pitchers, and occasionally as under sink or faucet filters. You should go for a smell and taste filter if you know your water supply is safe, and you just want it to be as delicious as possible to make sure you and your family drink (and enjoy) enough H2O every day. 

Chemicals and VOCs

These are a step up from taste and smell filters. Usually, a filter that targets chemicals and VOCs (this includes things like chlorine, herbicides and pesticides). 

The EPA, along with the certification body the NSF, claim that active carbon filters completely or near-completely remove 60-80 chemicals and compounds, effectively reduce another 30, and moderately reduce a further 20+. 

It usually isn’t too much more expensive to purchase a filter system with activated carbon filters when compared with just a taste and smell filter. They’re a great option if you need your water to be decontaminated for safe drinking, cooking and cleaning but aren’t worried about heavy metal or bacteria and viruses. 

So, a smell and taste filter plus an active carbon filter should be suitable for most municipally supplied water, but may not cover all your bases if your home is supplied with well water or if you’re filtering water out in the field while camping, hiking, fishing or doing anything else that might require water collection from natural sources. 

Heavy metals

If you have very old plumbing or use water from a well, heavy metals may be an issue. Although not immediately dangerous, heavy metals can build up in your system and essentially slowly poison you. For that reason, if there’s even a trace of heavy metals (including iron, nickel, copper and manganese) in your water supply it’s in your best interest to invest in filter system that can handle heavy metals.

You have two common options for that. 

A combination of a special activated carbon filter and KDF medium pre-treatment removes heavy metals along with most other contaminants. A KDF or Kinetic Degradation Fluxion filter consists of grains of copper-zinc alloy which reduces or neutralizes contaminants through a process of oxidation-reduction. 

KDF filters can be used alone, or as a pre-treatment. They are most effective used in tandem with other types of filters, including activated carbon, special activated carbon and sediment.

Heavy metals cam also be removed from water with a reverse osmosis filter system. In fact, a reverse osmosis, or RO, system removes everything from your water but the water molecules themselves! That’s because the membrane that your water is forced through at high pressure is so fine water molecules are the only thing that can get through it. 

This has up sides and down sides.

  • Up side - totally pure water!
  • Down side - that means healthy minerals are stripped out too.

All good RO systems should include a remineralization step to deal with this issue, but for some people that adds up to too much in maintenance (both cost and effort wise) or is such an unnatural process they’re not comfortable with it.

Bacteria and viruses

If you’re drinking water from a well or natural water source, you’ll need a filter that can get rid of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. 

RO filters do all this, but they’re not exactly portable and rarely come cheap.

Ceramic filters, which are positively charged to attract bacteria, are a great option. They last a long time, but they don’t get rid of anything but bacteria so usually have to be combined with other filter cartridges.

Microfilter membranes are another excellent option for removing bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. They’ve been used to great success in life saving water filters used in areas suffering from water scarcity, and they also make great personal or portable filter cartridges.

Finally, UV light kills bacteria and viruses. UV filters are often add-ons for whole house systems, and can also be found as pieces of individual equipment for use while camping or travelling. 

Sediment

Often used as a pre-filter, sediment cartridges do just what they say on the tin. They capture sediment, dust and rust to ensure grit-free water for you and your family. Many if not most filter systems include some kind of a sediment filter, though they are most useful for well water and water from natural sources.

How much water do you need to filter?

Water filters and filter systems vary hugely in size, from bottles meant for a single person to point of entry systems intended to service multiple homes.

So, before you make any decisions about the sort of system you need you should think about how much water you and your family use and how much of that water you need to be filtered.

Do you have a larger family and need water filtered for drinking, cooking and cleaning? Then think under-sink or faucet filter systems.

Or if you want your water filtered for brushing your teeth, showers and baths, then maybe investigate whole house or point of entry systems.

And if you only need water for drinking, potential emergencies, or filtering drinking and cooking water while you’re out camping or hiking, then look into gravity fed systems, filter bottles, travel filters or, for home use, filter pitchers. 

There’s no point dropping a whole load of money on the best whole-house RO system available if your whole reason for filtering water is for a couple of big cool glasses of the stuff a day. And it’s even more ridiculous to get yourself a high-performance filter pitcher if you want to wash your clothes in filtered water!

Maintenance

Every water filter will need some upkeep. This usually means changing the filter cartridge or cartridges. Different types of filter (see ‘what do you want from your filter’ above) last different lengths of time - this can be anywhere between three months or five years though most heavy-use filters that include a carbon, sediment or KDF filter require cartridge changes every 6-12 months.

You can usually tell when a filter cartridge is nearing the end of its life because your water runs or pours slower, or smells and tastes less pleasant than it did when your cartridge was new. If you have a filter that deals with chlorine, you can also use chlorine test strips to determine the level in your filtered water. If it’s high, you probably need to change your filter!

If that sounds a bit too seat-of-your-pants you can also get water quality meters, or opt for a filter system with a filter change indicator.

Some filter systems will also need to be installed by someone who knows a bit about plumbing. Usually, this involves connecting the filter to your main water supply pipe or the cold water line under your sink. Depending on the system, this may be easily reversible or you may need to do a patch-up job if you ever move homes or decide to get rid of your filter or move on to a new model. 

Certifications

There are several third-party certifying bodies for filter systems. It’s not always easy to tell when your filter is working, at least not every element of it, so certification can be an important part of choosing the best possible filter system for your needs.

The NSF WQA and ANSI are the three main certifying bodies you’re likely to come across in your water filter search. They offer separate certifications for different contaminants like lead and chlorine, so even if a filter is ‘NSF Certified’ you should look into the specifics of that certification if you need your filter to remove a particular contaminant.

Types of Water Filters

This section isn’t about exactly what contaminants each of these filter types removes, rather about the types of filter themselves. That is, how they work and what their function within (or without) the home is. 

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list but these are the most common water filter types.

1. Under-Sink

Under-sink filters connect to your cold water line and filter every drop of water that pours out of your cold faucet. 

They can be simple, easy to install and small, or they can be multi-stage reverse osmosis filters. Usually, under-sink filters are mid-priced, though some simple models can be very affordable.

2. Faucet

Essentially, these are less-invasive and less complicated than under-sink filters but they do the same job. The best faucet filters snap easily onto your faucet and can be removed just as easily. 

They tend to be taste and smell filters or taste and smell plus chemicals and VOCs and sometimes heavy metals. 

A lot of faucet filters are very affordable, but because they’re quite small you will need to change filter cartridges quite often. 

3. Whole House

Whole house filters are the ultimate in at-home filtration. Like under-sink filters, some are reverse osmosis systems while others are combinations of sediment, activated carbon and KDF.

These filters have to be plumbed in to your mains water supply, either outside or inside your home. They filter all the water coming into your home’s pipes, so you get filtered water from every faucet and showerhead in your property. You also get filtered water in all your plumbed appliances, which in some cases can help your white goods last longer and improve the effectiveness of your washing machine. 

Whole house filters sometimes offer add-ons like water softeners and UV antibacterial filters.

4. Gravity (Countertop and Travel)

Gravity filters use… well… you can work it out. It’s gravity!

Water is poured into an upper chamber and flows down through one or more filters into a lower chamber, at which point it is ready for use. 

Usually, gravity filters use activated carbon and/or ceramic filters. 

These filters were designed for use in emergencies, or camping/living an outdoors lifestyle, but larger gravity filters can also be used in the home as countertop systems. They tend to have a spigot which also works through gravity, so you can get easy access to your filtered water. 

5. Filter Pitcher

These are probably one of the first types of filter that springs to mind when you hear about an at-home water filter. 

Available in a variety of sizes, usually between 6-12 cups, filter pitchers are often just taste and smell filters. Some, however, offer much more filtration power, including heavy metal and chemical and VOC filter cartridges. 

Filter pitchers used to have the annoying reputation of being slow to fill through their filters, and awkward to fit in the fridge. But these days things have changed! Many filter pitchers have either fast-flow filters or filter as you pour, and almost all of them are designed to save space in the fridge by fitting comfortably in its door.

If you primarily want a water filter so that you have access to tasty, cool, healthy water for drinking then a filter pitcher is a great (and usually great value) choice. 

6. Mini Filter and Filter Bottle

I’m lumping these in together because they’re both generally for personal use when drinking from natural water sources. Both also usually use a microfilter membrane, often combined with an active carbon filter. 

A mini filter can be used to quickly filter water into a bottle or hydration pack, whereas a filter bottle like a LifeStraw Go is made to be filled with contaminated water which you then suck through a filter.

If you just need a filter for hiking and camping, a mini filter or filter bottle are fantastic, great value, long-lasting options. 

7. Pool Filter

Pool filters are essentially large sediment filters. The longest lasting variety use sand, but in all pool filters a pump pulls water through the filter media, whether that is sand or a membrane. The filter captures dirt, dust and anything else floating in your pool (though you have to skim larger debris or else your filter will get clogged).

Pool filters are obviously not made to filter water for drinking! I hope I don’t need to tell you not to drink pool water… but for a safe pool to swim in, a good pool filter is usually combined with salt or chlorine water treatments.

Final Thoughts

Of course, the filter you need depends entirely on your circumstances. I can’t choose the best filter system for your lifestyle and more than you can choose the best one for mine. Everyone needs to think about the questions I outlined above and make their own decisions.

That being said, there are a few particularly impressive filter systems on this best-of list.

The LifeStraw Go is fantastic for its long life, affordable price and pure practicality. I have one, and I have used it on camping trips, hikes and travels around the world. Plus, there’s the bonus of LifeStraw doing so much life-saving work for people who live with water scarcity.

At completely the other end of the spectrum, the Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons is a fantastic whole-house system. It removes every contaminant you might possibly want out of your water system, leaving the life-giving minerals you and your family need intact. Obviously, a system like this is a big expense, especially if you include the useful add-ons like the UV filter and water softener, but it will last literally decades with minimal upkeep needed.

Finally, as far as pitchers go you won’t find better than the Aquagear. It filters 20x more contaminants than its closest rival, and still fits in your refrigerator with ease! 

The price of the Aquagear may initially seem off putting, but one of the biggest draws of this filter is its lifetime guarantee - that means if it ever breaks, you get a new one straight from the manufacturers for free.

These are my three personal favorites, but every one of the filters on this list would be a fantastic choice. Just remember that choosing a filter to keep you and your family hydrated and happy is a big decision, so take your time and consider every element before you hit "purchase".


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