Types of Water Filters and Systems

    Published: August 18, 2016

    7 Types of Water Filters

    With so many types of water filters available, it’s easy to get confused. How does a tap filter differ from a countertop system? What’s the difference between POE and POU? Is one system better than another?

    At the moment, eight types of water filter dominate the market, and yes, some are definitely of higher quality and efficiency than others. Here’s a quick overview of your options, with explanations of each systems advantages and drawbacks.

    1. Tap Filters

    Also called faucet-mounted filtration systems, tap filters attach directly to your faucet. They’re inexpensive and easy to install, as you simply unscrew the faucet aerator and screw on the filter it its place.

    Tap filters rely on activated charcoal filters, which reduce chlorine, taste, and odors. Some also reduce lead. Unfortunately, their size, coupled with the speed with which water moves through the filter, limits their efficiency. They do nothing to prevent the spread of microorganisms, and each filter can only process about 100 gallons before needed a replacement.

    1. Carafe Filters

    While tap filters have limited use, they’re still a better choice than refrigerator carafe filters. While cheap, a carafe filter can only serve the drinking needs of one or two people. Cooking with water from the carafe is simply impractical, as the pitcher holds only a few cups of water, and filtering is a slow process.

    Prone to clogging and requiring frequent filter changes, carafe filters are of limited use. Like tap filters, carafe filters use activated carbon, meaning they cannot filter heavy metals, fluoride, or microorganisms. In fact, as the filter sits soaking in the carafe water, microorganisms can actually colonize the filtration media.

    1. Countertop and Undercounter Filters

    Countertop and undercounter filtration systems connect to your incoming cold water line to provide cleaner, safer water for cooking and drinking. As the names imply, some are small systems that sit right next to the sink, while others are compact and installed in cabinetry beneath the sink.

    Countertop and undercounter systems can process significantly more water than carafes or tap filters, with filters capable of handling between 450 to 1,500 gallons. In addition to removing chlorine, they reduce lead, mercury, cysts, and a wide range of other contaminants. While most do not reduce microorganisms, the Pelican 3-Stage Drinking Water Purification System uses a specialized filter to reduce bacteria as well.

    Easy to install and convenient to use, countertop and undercounter filters do have one drawback. They are point of use, or POS filters, meaning filtration occurs only in one location—usually the kitchen.

    1. Reverse Osmosis Drinking Filters

    A point of use reverse osmosis (RO) filter uses incoming water pressure to push water through a semi-permeable membrane. Because most dissolved solids and contaminants are larger than water molecules, they are filtered out by the membrane.

    RO filters provide very pure drinking water, but the system is not without its drawbacks. RO filters generate wastewater, as contaminants must be periodically flushed off the membrane. Because the system depends on water pressure, faucet flow may be slow. And as RO filters reduce dissolved solids so effectively, they filter out minerals important to health, such as calcium and magnesium.

    Advances in RO technology are addressing these issues. The Pelican Pro 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis system provides 30 percent more faucet flow than traditional RO systems, and uses a carbon mineral filter to add essential minerals back into water before consumption.

    1. Refrigerator Filters

    Many refrigerators now come with built-in water filters that reduce chlorine, volatile organic compounds, and a range of man-made chemicals. Some also reduce lead.

    We’ve discussed the limitations of refrigerator filters in the past. The small size of their filters reduces effectiveness, and the filters clog up quickly, requiring frequent replacements. Like the different types of water filter discussed above, fridge filters are point of use only. For whole house filtration, you need a point of entry system.

    1. Point of Entry Filtration Systems

    Whole house filtration systems filter water just before it enters a building’s plumbing, so you get cleaner, safer water from every faucet and showerhead in the house. Point of entry filtration systems reduce sediment, chemicals, chlorine, and debris before it has a chance to negatively impact your health—or your plumbing. Systems with ultraviolet light protection also prevent the growth and replication of waterborne microorganisms.

    If you have hard water problems, a whole house filtration system can work in tandem with a water softening system. Maintenance is easy—just change filtration media as recommended by the manufacturer.

    Whole house filtration costs more than point of use systems, but not as much as you might expect. Prices start at $839, making such systems an affordable investment in your health and water quality.

    1. Shower Filters

    If a whole house filter isn’t an option for you, you can still enjoy chlorine-free bathing with an attachable shower filter. The filter reduces chlorines and chloramines, which damage skin and hair. Combining a showerhead filter with a point of entry drinking water system allows you to get the best out of your water whether you’re bathing, cooking, or drinking.