Introduction to Water Filters

What Are Water Filters?

Water is humanity’s most precious resource, and its most limited. Clean water is non-renewable, and when water is used or polluted it must be treated to remove impurities before it can be used again. Clean water is far from a guarantee — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 780 million people around the world don’t have access to a source of filtered water.

If you live in the United States you have access to many amenities, including filtered drinking water. Water filters remove impurities and contaminants from public drinking water so you and your family can more safely drink the water that comes out of your tap.

Water utilities install large-scale water filtration systems in their water treatment facilities to meet quality standards, but the aging water infrastructure in the United States coupled with pollution and contaminants seeping into the ground contribute to a worsening water quality situation. In 2017, the U.S. received a D rating for its aging water infrastructure on the Infrastructure Report Card compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The causes of the low rating included:

  • In the United States about 240,000 water main breaks occur every year
  • The majority of the pipes in our water infrastructure is nearing the end of its lifecycle, and an estimated $1 trillion is necessary to replace and maintain these pipes
  • 80% of America’s public drinking water is drawn from surface water, which is especially susceptible to pollution from industrial sources and stormwater

An in-depth investigation in 2017 found that nearly 20% of American citizens were exposed to unsafe drinking water in their home in the last decade. In order to treat their home’s tap water for contaminants and issues with smell or taste, many homeowners choose to install water filters specifically designed for in-home use.

Young boy water drinking from a sink

How Does a Water Filter Work?

What does a water filter remove? Depending on the type of water filter you use, the filter removes various impurities that have dissolved into your drinking water. Water is an incredibly solvent, meaning it attracts and dissolves all types of molecules. This attribute of water is helpful for many uses, but also makes obtaining pure water extremely difficult.

What is a water filter made of? A water filtration system usually contains multiple filters and treatment stages within replaceable cartridges. These will be housed in a larger system complete with a water storage tank, valves, and tubing to connect the water filter to your drinking faucet or home water supply.

The specific filters and cartridges within a water filter determine what contaminants or impurities they target. No water filtration system can remove all types of impurities, which is why many families choose a combination of water filter systems to drink virtually pure water.

There are two main types of water filtration methods:

  • Physical filtration — This type of water filtration removes large particles by passing the water through a porous filter with very small holes. By doing this, the water filter removes sand, silt, sediment, and other large particles.
  • Chemical filtration — Also called “active filtration,” this type of filtration involves activating a filtering media chemically so that it attracts and traps certain impurities as they pass through the filter. Types of chemical filters include granular activated carbon (GAC) filters and ion exchange filters.

Many water filtration systems utilize both physical and chemical filtration to treat your water. For example, a FreshPoint reverse osmosis system contains both a sediment filter and a reverse osmosis membrane to effectively treat your drinking water.

Water Filter Types

What Types of Water Filters Exist for the Home?

As we pointed out above, all water filters use either physical filtration, chemical filtration, or a combination of filtration methods to remove contaminants and impurities from your drinking water. Beyond this distinction, there are several categories of water filters based on where they are installed and what overall purpose they serve. The basic types of home water filtration systems are:

Whole House Water Filter Types

Whole home water filter system

Whole house water filter systems do just what their name implies — they filter the water that enters your home before it makes it way to different rooms. So, if you install a whole house system to address chlorine, chloramines, and other contaminants you'll enjoy cleaner, spring-like water from every tap in the house.

Whole house water filters vary based on the size of your home and the amount of water treatment you desire.

  • Whole House Water Filter System — The most basic whole house system is low-maintenance, eco-friendly, and contains three distinct filters to treat your home’s water: Granular Activated Carbon media to address chlorine, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and other chemicals; a sediment filter to reduce sand, sediment, silt, and debris; and a Pelican media guard that prevents and reduces bacteria and algae growth.
  • Whole House Water Filter With UV Protection — This whole house system adds a Viqua UV Max System to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria like E. Coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia. Never worry about boil water alerts again!
  • Water Softener & Whole House Water Filter Combo — This whole system combines a comprehensive filtration system with our salt-free technology to eliminate the negative effects of hard water like scaling, mineral buildup, and soap scum.

Tap & Drinking Water Filter Types

Countertop water filter

Drinking water filters are installed underneath your kitchen sink to filter and treat the water you drink and use to cook and prepare meals. These systems are smaller and typically more affordable than whole-house systems since they are filtering a smaller quantity of water.

We offer a wide variety of drinking water filters based on what contaminants and water quality issues you need to address. Some of our most popular tap and drinking water filter types are:

  • FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis 5-Stage — Reverse osmosis is one of the most trusted and effective water filtration methods available. Your drinking water is forced through a semipermeable membrane to filter many prevalent contaminants, including lead, fluoride, cysts, arsenic, hexavalent and trivalent chromium, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
  • Countertop Drinking Filter System — This state-of-the-art, cost-effective system deals with many common contaminants in water, such as chlorine and lead, as well as chloramines, cysts, THMs, PFOA & PFOS. The system is easy to install and allows for great convenience and flexibility.
  • Drinking Water Purification System — Install this cutting-edge filtration system under your sink to l reduce chlorine, lead, virus, bacteria, cysts, particulates and numerous organic compounds from your water. The triple filter design ensures your water is cleaner and healthier, providing peace of mind every time you or a loved one has a glass of water.

Water Filters for the Shower

Water filter for the shower

Most people logically associate water filters with drinking water, but your body also comes into contact with, and absorbs, water while you shower. Shower filters remove chlorine, chloramines, and THMs in order to provide you with a reinvigorating shower free of harsh chemicals that can damage your skin and hair. Read about the multiple stages of filtration we incorporate into our shower filters on our education page.

Our shower filters all use the same filtration technology, but come with different attachments based on your needs:

  • Premium Shower Filter With Head — Our basic shower filter includes a dual-flow shower head so you can switch between high flow and water conservation modes.
  • Premium Shower Filter With Wand — This shower filter comes with a 5-foot wand instead of a shower head for comfort and precision. The choice between a shower head and a wand is mostly one of preference.
  • Premium Shower Filter (No Head) — If you already have a shower head with multiple settings that you love, just order a shower filter without a shower head included. You can use your own!

If you regularly bathe in chlorinated water your skin and hair can become flaky, dry, and irritated. Your skin may be more likely to turn red when it is touched. Hair can become frizzy and damaged. If you dye your hair, the color can fade more quickly. Read more about the effects of chlorine exposure on your skin and hair.

Types of Water Filters for Well Water

Whole home water filter system

More than 15 million homes in America use well water, which is not typically regulated or protected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wells are susceptible to specific contaminants from nearby agriculture, industrial sites, or septic tanks, including:

  • Heavy metals
  • Nitrates and nitrites from pesticides
  • Microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, and parasites)
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Animal waste

Water filters for wells specifically target the contaminants that are affecting your well water. After conducting a water test you can determine what type of water filter will be best for your well. To purify cloudy, rust-colored water you would install a Pelican Iron & Manganese Water Filter, and to take care of a rotten egg smell from sulfates and sulfides you would install a Pelican Sulfur Water Filter System.

Read our full breakdown of well water filters to learn more.

Which Water Filter Is the Best?

The short answer — there is no “best” water filter. To learn what filter you need, consider the specific contaminants, impurities, and water quality issues in your home. Every region of the United States faces unique water quality challenges, and the water contaminants in your drinking water may be different than the ones in the water of your neighbor.

First, you should conduct a water test to determine what contaminants are present in your water. Decide on a budget, and assess the type of home you live in. Whole house water filters are ideal to install in single-family homes, but if you live in an apartment, RV, or small condo you may opt for a compact water filter option like a reverse osmosis filter or our drinking water purification system.

The water filter or combination system that is best for you is the one that addresses your water quality concerns. Below we compare some of our popular water filtration systems and highlight contaminants that are present in many families’ tap water.

Comparing Types of Water Filters

Range of Pelican Water filtration products

We offer dozens of water filtration systems — deciding which one is best for your family can be a stressful process. There are a few questions that you can answer in the above section to narrow down your selection:

  • Do you want a filter for your entire home, or for your drinking water only? Will you want your shower water filtered?
  • Does your water have a bad smell or taste? Are there aesthetic issues with your water?
  • What is your budget?

These questions will help narrow down your choices. Also keep in mind that you may end up using multiple water filtration systems to solve the problems you have — for example, you may install a whole house water filter for your home and then add an RO system for your kitchen sink.

With these considerations in mind, the main differences between all of our water filtration systems are what contaminants they remove. Quite simply, what contaminants are you worried about? What do you need removed from your water? What contaminants or quality issues are common where you live?

Compare water filtration systems based on what contaminants they remove.

Which Water Filters Remove Fluoride?

Fluoride is added to drinking water to prevent tooth decay, but if you brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste then the additional fluoride in your water can lead to dental fluorosis and gastrointestinal issues. Approximately 67% of public drinking water systems in the United States are fluoridated. Check out our fluoride education page to learn more.

Our water filters that remove fluoride:

Water Filter for PFOA and PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short, are a group of man-made chemicals used to manufacture hundreds of products. PFOA and PFOS are the two most common PFAS contaminants, and have been contaminating local waterways near industrial sites, government compounds, and places where spills, fires, and other accidents have occurred.

PFAS contaminants are extremely dangerous — you can learn more about the possible health effects and why they accumulate in your body on our education page. The most concerning fact about PFOS and PFOA is that, until recently, no water filters have been certified to remove these contaminants.

That’s what makes Pelican Water stand ahead of the competition — we carry two affordable water filtration systems that are certified to reduce the concentration of PFOS and PFOA in your drinking water by 98%. If you are concerned about PFAS invest in either of these affordable water filters:

Which Water Filters Remove Chlorine?

Chlorine is a strong chemical element added to drinking water to destroy microbes, bacteria, and pathogens. While disinfecting your drinking water is very important, chlorine and chloramines can react with organic compounds that are present in your drinking water to create disinfection by-products, or DBPs.

The most dangerous byproducts created are trihalomethanes (THMs), which can increase the risk for stillbirths in pregnant women and cause adverse health effects on the kidneys, liver, heart, and the central nervous system.

Chlorine has an unpleasant odor, and can also damage and dry your skin and hair. To learn more check out our chlorine education page. To remove chlorine from your home’s water install of these filtration systems:

Water Filters That Remove Haloacetic Acids

Haloacetic acids (HAAs) are five common DBPs created by chlorinating public drinking water. Surface water pollution results in greater quantities of HAAs in drinking water, and long-term exposure can induce mutations and DNA damage. HAAs been linked to liver, kidney, central nervous system problems and an increased risk of cancer.

The greatest health risk is in your shower, where you can directly inhale chlorine vapor. Install one of the following water filters to remove haloacetic acids from your water before you step into the shower:

How to Remove Lead From Water

Lead is a toxic heavy metal found in the Earth’s crust that is dangerous to humans even in trace amounts. Drinking water is one of the most common sources of lead exposure, and more than 2,00 water systems in the United States contain harmful levels of lead.

Lead can cause hearing loss, cognitive impairment, slow bone growth, behavioral problems, abdominal pain, fertility issues, cardiovascular problems, and Legionnaires disease. Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of lead.

To treat your water for lead contamination choose one of these water filters:

Which Water Filters Remove Uranium?

Uranium is a radioactive heavy metal that is used to generate power in nuclear power plants. Long-term exposure to uranium in drinking water can cause kidney damage and increase your risk of developing certain cancers.

Uranium can get into your water through dissolved mineral deposits in groundwater and rainwater, and if you draw your drinking water from a private well your drinking water is more susceptible to uranium contamination. Learn more at our uranium education page.

Which Water Filter Removes the Most Contaminants?

Scientist doing a water test from a sample

That’s a great question! While it makes sense to just find the water filter with the longest list of filtered contaminants, it’s important to remember that what water filter you choose should be informed by the unique contaminants and water quality issues in your tap water. However, if you’re looking for water filters that remove a wide variety of contaminants, research the following water filter systems:

What About Other Contaminants?

If you are concerned about a particular water contaminant that isn’t listed on this page, don’t fear! We cover dozens of common water quality issues and contaminants at our education center.

Whether you want to remove chromium, nitrates, arsenic, or water hardness from your drinking water, find the appropriate page for a breakdown of the problem and the best water filter options to remove that problem.

Benefits of Water Filters

Filling a glass from a water pitcher

Installing a water filter in your home will benefit you and your family in a myriad of ways. Here are the top reasons why you should consider a water filter:


The most obvious benefit of a water filter is the cleaner, purer water you can enjoy every day from your tap. Water filters address numerous contaminants, and if you know what water quality problems exist in your tap water you can find the right system or combination of systems to provide you with safer, refreshing water every day.


When you invest in a water filter you want to be confident that your water is free of contaminants. Pelican Water systems deliver high-quality water filtration and are NSF-certified to effectively reduce common contaminants and address water quality issues like water hardness. Be confident when you buy one of the top-rated water filtration systems on the market!

Low Maintenance

Homeowners may imagine constant maintenance to keep their water purer, but with a Pelican Water system virtually no maintenance is required. The only upkeep you need to perform to continue enjoying your filtered water is occasionally replacing the filters inside your system based on the timeline in your user manual. All filter replacements are available for convenient reorder through our website.


At Pelican Water we make it our mission to provide our customers with clear, contaminant-free water while also conserving resources and making products that reduce pollution and waste. Our salt-free systems generate zero waste water and don’t waste electricity. Using a water filter will also help you ditch wasteful bottled water that takes between 450 and 1000 years to decompose. Bottled water isn’t just bad for the environment — read on to learn what contaminants could be lurking in your bottled water.

Water Filter Vs. Bottled Water

Water Filter Vs. Bottled Water Cost

Choosing bottled water at a supermarket

A water filter represents a significant investment in your home’s water quality. Our most affordable models, like the Countertop Drinking Filter System, cost less than $100, while premium water filtration systems for your entire home, like a Pelican Whole House Filter With UV, can cost more than $1000. So, is purer filtered water worth the price when you could just pick up bottled water from the store.

The answer is absolutely. The cost of bottled water per gallon is about 12 cents, and if you have a family of four you would spend about $1,425 per year on bottled water. Do you buy single-serving bottles, instead of gallon pitchers? Then your cost will be closer to $2,158.

Tap water, on the other hand, costs 0.004 cents per gallon. That’s right — bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water. If you switch to filtered water right now and bought the most expensive water filter system you could find, you would still save around $30,000 over the course of two decades. Don’t believe us? Check out our math breakdown of the cost of bottled water on our blog.

Water Filter Vs. Bottled Water Quality

Commuter drinking from a plastic water bottle

We have extensively covered the effectiveness of home water filtration systems above. If you choose a water filter that addresses the contaminants in your home and is certified by the NSF you can expect high-quality, refreshing drinking water with a terrific taste and smell. Your tap water is treated by your local water utility and then receives additional filtration in your home to deliver pristine water virtually free of harmful contaminants.

Consumers may believe that bottled water is at least held to the same quality standards as tap water, but this is not the case. Bottled water is not regulated by the EPA, but is internally regulated by the bottled water industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A four-year study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 33% of tested bottled water violated enforced state standards or exceeded microbiological purity guidelines.

Many bottled water brands position their water as high-quality water drawn from pristine mountain lakes or rivers, but more than one-fourth of all bottled water is simply tap water from local municipalities, subject to the same possibility of contamination. When it comes to quality, the clear winner is at-home water filtration.

Water Filter Vs. Bottled Water Pollution

Plastic bottles discarded on a beach

Plastic water bottles have an extremely negative impact on the environment. Over 38 billion water bottles are thrown away (not recycled!) every year, generating an unfathomably large amount of plastic waste that is non-biodegradable. Despite the plastic pollution crisis bottled water use is on the rise — the consumption of single-use bottled water increased by about 9.5% each year since 1976.

On the other hand, you can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate if you install a water filtration system in your home and fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water before you leave the house. Our filters are eco-friendly, with many models generating zero waste water and using little to no electricity.

Life Expectancy & What to Do Afterward

Woman inspecting water in a glass

What Happens If a Water Filter Is Not Changed?

Per your user manual, you will see instructions to regularly replace the filters inside your water filtration system. After a certain amount of use your water filters will become clogged with the contaminants they remove from your drinking water, and in order for your filtration to be effective you will have to order new filters from our website to use with your water filtration system.

If you do not change your water filter at the time that is recommended, the media in the filter may not remove contaminants at the rate listed in the user manual. A water filter that is past its expiration date can be a breeding ground for bacteria. To keep your water clean and free of contaminants you should replace your filters based on the timeline indicated in your manual.

How to Change a Water Filter

Each Pelican Water filtration system includes detailed instructions in their respective manuals so you know exactly how to remove old filters and replace them with new ones.

Typically, you will first close the shut-off valve and then dispense water to relieve water pressure in the system. Then you will remove the old filter following the instructions provided before inserting the new filter. Ensure the new filter fully snaps into place, and then open the shut-off valve and start to dispense water, checking for any leaks. You will want to flush your water filtration system at least once before drinking your filtered water.

That’s the basic process! For more information contact Pelican Water or consult the user guide of your water filtration system.

What to Do With Old Water Filters

You can dispose of old water filters and cartridges in the garbage, but ideally you should recycle old filters. Most regions will not be able to include Pelican Water cartridges along with their basic recycling — you will need to contact your local recycling center to ask where you can drop off old water filters and cartridges to recycle them.

If you have space in your home, dry old cartridges and store them in a paper bag. Every 6 months (or whenever you change the filter) place the old filter in the bag along with your other old filters. This way you can make the trip to recycle old cartridges once every couple of years.

Have questions?

Purchasing a water filtration system for your home is a great way to remove common contaminants from your drinking water and enjoy the benefits of fresh, purer water without worry of health problems or unpleasant tastes and odors.

Pelican Water offers whole house water filtration, countertop water filtration systems, and UV bacteria disinfection systems that use cutting-edge technology to enable customers to go green. Have a question? Call us today!