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Water Purification Systems: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Oct 15, 2013 12:39AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

The human body contains anywhere from 50 to 75 percent water, with infants having the highest water content. Not only is it thirst quenching, water is essential for human life and needed for many of the chemical reactions that occur in our bodies. However, drinking water full of chemicals and other contaminants can do more harm than good. Using water filters eliminates chemicals, bacteria, microbial cysts, rust, and many other pollutants from your home's water. In addition to providing clean, safe drinking water, filtering systems work to improve taste and eliminate odors. Like most products on the market, you have many options to choose from when selecting a water purification system. Different brands offer everything from simple carafes to tap-mounted water filtration systems to permanently mounted water-filter systems that are integrated into your plumbing. Interestingly, water aficionados may note that different brands of water filters can produce slightly different-tasting water. One user who switched brands when a different type was on sale found that her water didn’t taste as good as it had with her previous brand, and quickly exchanged the new one. So you might want to hang onto your receipts in case you want to try a different brand based solely on taste. We will focus on carafes, water bottles, and tap-mounted systems, all types that you can use or install without added costs.

Factors to consider before purchasing:

It is important to know what is in your water. To find out what contaminants are in the water coming out of your tap, check your consumer confidence report (CCR), a form that the Environmental Protection Agency requires water utility companies to provide customers with each year. Do you have well water? Test your supply at home with an inexpensive home testing kit like First Alert. Knowing what is in your water allows you to match the filter to the contaminants present for more effective purification. In addition, consider how much water you consume. This will help you determine the volume size of the carafe you’ll need (these require frequent refilling) or whether you should consider getting the kind of filter that attaches to the tap for ease and convenience. Now you’re ready to take a look at your options.

Brita

Brita dominates the pitcher category (including larger dispensers that sit on the countertop or in the fridge); it also makes reusable water bottles and offers faucet-mounted models. Pitchers hold anywhere from 5 to 10 cups depending on the size you choose and will run you between $25 and $47. All are made with BPA-free plastic, and some have electronic filter-change indicators while others have manual ones. The pitchers all filter out pharmaceuticals (like acetaminophen, hormones, and naproxen), as well as copper, mercury, zinc, and chlorine (both taste and odor). The dispenser is larger, filters the same contaminants, and costs about $45. Reusable water bottles filter out chlorine (taste and odor) and cost between $9 and $19. Faucet-mounted filters cost about $20 to $30 and are designed for easy installation. One model has an electronic filter-replacement reminder while the others are manual. Faucet-mounts filter out the same pharmaceuticals in addition to lead; VOCs; lindane (a pesticide); 2,4-D, alachlor, and atrazine (herbicides); chlorine (taste and odor); and other sediments. Pitcher and bottle filters should be replaced every 2 months or 40 gallons and cost $8, while faucet filters should be replaced every 4 months or 100 gallons and cost $19.

PUR

This brand dominates the market for faucet-mounted systems and offers pitchers and dispensers too (as well as refrigerator water filters). Pitcher volumes range from 5 to 7 cups ($19–$28), with one model offering an electronic filter-change reminder, and all are BPA-free. Pitcher filters remove mercury, chlorine, and pharmaceuticals, and leave behind beneficial fluoride. The dispenser holds 18 cups (a little over a gallon), costs $35, and removes pharmaceuticals, mercury, and chlorine. PUR’s faucet-mounted filters run from $26 to $45, depending on the model, and this company offers a package deal for $85 (on sale currently for $42) that includes enough filters for one year. All of PUR’s models filter out lead, pharmaceuticals, and what the company lists as “other contaminants.” In addition, PUR offers a model marketed for infants (for drinking water and mixing formula), which in addition to the above contaminants claims to filter microbial cysts. PUR faucet-mounted water filters are notoriously easy to install. Pitcher filters should be changed every 2 months or 40 gallons ($11) and faucet filters every 4 months or 100 gallons ($20). Both types of filters are sold in 4-packs that save you a considerable amount of money compared to buying singles. This brand does not offer reusable, portable water bottles.

ZEROWATER

This brand makes only water bottles, pitchers, and dispensers (no faucet mounts), and all are BPA-free. Rather than a carbon filter like the two types discussed above, all ZEROWATER filters have ion-exchange technology, which the company claims is a more-comprehensive filtration system and focuses largely on total dissolved particles. ZEROWATER’s filters have not been tested for removal of pharmaceuticals, though they detect and remove organic substances, which most pharmaceuticals are. They do not remove microbial cysts or bacteria, but they do remove ions such as chloride and hydrogen as well as particulate matter, and they sell the only pitcher/bottle filter certified to remove lead and chromium. ZEROWATER’s water bottle will run you $18 and has an indicator on it that signals when it’s time to change the filter. They offer 8- and 10-cup pitchers that cost $34 and $35 respectively. The ZEROWATER dispenser holds 23 cups and costs $40. Each filter treats about 30 gallons of water (less than Brita and PUR), and a set of two replacement filters costs $30, but you can buy up to 16 at a time for more savings. If you want to purchase this brand, you can find coupons on their website for $30 off, as well as a $10 coupon for every two returned filters through their filter-exchange program.

Which one would you recommend?

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