Water filtration systems have become a standard fixture in most kitchens today, especially as more and more scientists and health professionals report that most if not all of our drinking water supplies are contaminated with human-made pollutants, including not just municipal systems, but wells, lakes, rives, and glaciers. Unfortunately, bottled water has been shown to have its own host of problems, including serious health and environmental effects. However, while a good water filtration system is the best way to ensure healthy and safe drinking water, it’s not enough to install just any filter in your home. Though the purpose of any water filtration system is to improve the quality and taste of drinking water, there is a wide range of filters available, each with varying costs and effectiveness. The process of planning a kitchen renovation is a perfect time to consider the different water filter options. Some of the most popular filters are explained below to help you choose the best water filter for your home.
Reverse osmosis is one of the most effective filtration methods available today. Even though the process has been known for over 100 years, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the U.S. government developed it as a way for the Marines to desalinate water to make it drinkable. By way of brief explanation, “regular” osmosis occurs when molecules pass through a permeable membrane to equalize the concentration of molecules on both sides. As its name implies, reverse osmosis is when the opposite occurs. Instead of equalizing the concentration of substances on both sides of the membrane, water pressure pushes pure water on one side of a membrane, leaving a concentration of pollutants on the other.
Reverse osmosis typically also employs two carbon filters and/or other pre-filters, which work to remove a wide range of dangerous contaminants, including lead, mercury, and arsenic. Reverse osmosis is also effective at removing virtually all pharmaceutical drugs, coliform bacteria, E. coli, percolate, VOCs, viruses, fluoride, chlorine, chloramines, herbicides, pesticides, cryptosporidium, THMs, and MTBEs. In fact, while typical faucet or counter top filters are 1 stage filters, meaning they have only 1 basic carbon filter, reverse osmosis systems typically offer a 5 stage filtration system. Furthermore, while countertop filters have a 1-5 micron rating, which means contaminates smaller than 1 micron (such as asbestos, insecticides, may not be filter out), a reverse osmosis filter typically holds a micron rating of.0001. While reverse osmosis systems can cost more upfront, their filters only need to be replaced once a year, whereas counter top filters need replacing every couple of months.
Although reverse osmosis effectively removes an impressive array of unhealthy contaminants, it can also remove important minerals that contribute to taste and health of water, including magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Some researchers suggest these important minerals are also found in common foods and are therefore not needed in drinking water. Other health professionals, however, report that long-term intake of de-mineralized water can be unhealthy and can lead to mineral deficiency and/or an unhealthy level of acidity in the body. Additionally, reverse osmosis generally requires between two to three gallons of water to produce one gallon of purified water, which some experts consider wasteful.
Other Popular Water Filters
Other popular filters include water filter pitchers, which are very easy to use and have a low initial cost. Water pitcher filters typically can reduce lead, copper, chlorine, and chlorine by-products. However, while any filter is better than no filter, pitcher filters are probably the least effective filters for their cost, especially considering that filters will need to be replaced every few months. Some pitcher filters may also be slow and prone to clog. Because pitcher filters have such a short life, they may not be practical for a family of four or more who might consume a couple of gallons of water a day.
Filter faucets or filters installed directly on the faucets are also popular because, like pitcher filters, they are very easy to use. Filter faucets are usually easily placed onto the head of a faucet, and they conveniently allow a person to switch from filtered to unfiltered water. Most filter faucets effectively remove lead, pesticides, sediments, and chlorine. However, because they typically use a similar type of filter as a water pitcher, the filter needs replacing often and filtering can be slow.
Another popular type of filter are counter-top water filters, which hook directly to the faucet after the aerator is removed. Counter-top filters provide a level of filtration higher than a water pitcher or filter faucet because it uses a combination of carbon filters and other filters. Counter-top filters are also less likely to clog than a pitcher filter or a filter faucet. They also allow a large amount of water to be filtered without having to alter any plumbing.
Similar to counter-top water filter, under sink filters can filter large amounts of water. However, unlike counter top filters, they don’t take up valuable counter space and instead attach to pipes under the sink. They are also typically more effective than pitcher types of water filters because under sink filters offer a two-step filtering process. However, under sink filters require modification to the plumbing (sometimes by a professional) and drilling a hole through the sink or countertop for the dispenser, which may mean longer installation time than other filters. They also take up room under the sink.
Kitchen renovation can be an exciting and creative time. As you consider which type of water filtration system would work best in your kitchen keep in the mind the following tips. First, you may want to either have your water tested or you may want to refer to your local annual quality report to ensure your water filter is removing contaminants specific to your drinking water supply. Second, your water filter should be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and, third, to ensure the life and quality of your filter, your filter needs to be maintained according to manufacture recommendations.