After having heard about potential health issues with public drinking water, you’re starting to think about getting a water filter for your home. But with so many models on the market, where do you start? There are going to be three basic steps to making your filter decision.
Have Your Water Tested
Before you can make any decisions, you really need to know what you are starting off with in your drinking water. Don’t rely on your own sense of taste or smell to judge your water quality. Take a sample of you home drinking water to a certified lab for a proper testing. Filters come in a wide range of capabilities and it makes no sense to try and determine what is right for you until you know exactly what you’re trying to filter out in the first place.
The EPA website maintains a list of labs organized by state where you can have your water tested. Each lab is different so you’ll have to contact them to see how to go about submitting your water sample and what the costs are for the tests. Don’t balk at the price though. The information you gain will be invaluable towards making a better decision later.
Decide on a Filter Size
You can do some thinking on this while you wait for your water test to come back though you will likely want the results in hand before you come to a final conclusion. If your water only needs minimal purifying then you may be happy just having a filter for your drinking water. But if your water has high levels of contaminants, then you may be more comfortable knowing that your laundry and bathing water has been cleaned up a bit as well.
Water filters range from small jugs that you keep in your fridge to big systems that will filter all of the water in your household. Your basic size levels are:
- Jug filters that you fill manually and pour from
- Single faucet units that can be mounted on the faucet
- Single faucet units that are larger, and can be installed under the sink or just sit on the counter
- Whole house systems
The jug filters are great for simple filtering needs when you only want filtered water for occasional drinking or cooking. The single faucet units come in various sizes for different levels of purification but they all provide clean water for just one single faucet in the house. Better if you plan on using your clean water more frequently. A whole house system will give you filtered water for all taps and well as showers and laundry.
Decide on a Filter Process
This is a little trickier and will involve a bit more research. Once you’ve decided how large a system you need, you will need to figure out what type of system (as in the way it processes water). For example, if you only want to filter out chlorine, then you can use a relatively simple filter with a charcoal insert. These can be purchased from the jug level on up to the whole-house size.
Water that is loaded with sediments will need a mechanical filter to sift out the solid materials. These operate as a typical filter that just strains out particles from the water. They come in various pore densities and can be made of different fibers or even solid ceramic.
Reverse Osmosis System
If your problem is excess minerals, than an ion exchange process to soften the water should be part of your considerations. Actually, ion exchange systems can also be used to remove a number of other contaminants as well as just soften water. Well water systems that are not chlorinated may have high bacteria levels, and a filtration system that incorporated a UV light would be a smart idea to eliminate any living organisms from your water.
For your water is more contaminated and you want to remove excess fluoride, heavy metals, sediment and chlorine then you will need a more sophisticated filter (not necessarily a larger filter). Jug filters won’t be enough for this but a good under-sink or counter unit might do, and many house units will handle a large number of contaminants as well. For really thorough water filtration, look for a system that does reverse osmosis. That will remove the most materials from your water (just be prepared for the cost).
Once you know what you want to remove from your water and how large a system you need, you then will want to start looking at actual models and prices. There are going to be a lot of choices open to you so do not rush to buy the first filter that you come across. Weigh their capabilities, cost, size and filter replacement needs before making any choices. You should also talk to a plumber to find out the installation costs if the unit is the type that require professional service.
While it may seem like getting the biggest/best is your goal, be reasonable in your expectations. Your water will always have some levels of impurities in it no matter what you do. Spending several thousand dollars to remove every possible molecule of chlorine may not be that sensible when a much simpler unit will still give you healthy and safe drinking water.